BILL WILKINS -
BBC Radio 4 broadcast on Friday 13th April 2018 in their 'The Reunion' series a programme on the 1977 Enfield Poltergeist [https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09yck6b], and provided on the Web a remastered version of an earlier 1978 programme [https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0641x05]. These rekindled my interest in the case. The persons involved were Mrs Margaret (Peggy) Hodgson 47 at 284 Green Street, Enfield, London and her children, principally Janet 11 and Margaret 13; the next door neighbours Vic and Peggy Nottingham; and the investigators from the London Society for Psychical Research the late Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair (unbeknown to me Playfair had died on the 8th April 2018).
The most striking feature of the events portrayed in Playfair's book 'This House is Haunted' [Souvenir Press 1980] and that which has caught the public's imagination (leading to endless repetition on the Web and social media), is that the entity identified itself by name, gave its age, claimed to have died in the house of a given disease, and be buried in a named cemetery. All of which information is verifiable, but which the two principal investigators (and indeed no one else) seems to have sought to check at the time, or fully since.
I take these extracts from the 'This House is Haunted' in which Playfair used pseudonyms for 'Hodgeson' and 'Wilkins':-
Grosse and Playfair interviewed the entity via Janet Hodgeson (aged 11) on Monday 12th December 1977:
'You're dead; didn't you know?
YES, I COME FROM OUT THE GRAVE.
You come from out the grave?
YES, IN DURANT'S PARK'. [p 142]
'It began to speak in bursts, as if with some effort, one or two syllables at a time.
Richard Grosse (solicitor son of Maurice Grosse) interviewed Janet on Tuesday 13th December 1977:
'What happened when you died?
I WENT BLIND, AND I HAD A HAEMORRHAGE, AND I FELL ASLEEP AND I DIED ON A CHAIR IN THE CORNER DOWNSTAIRS,' [p 147]
The entity also subsequently claimed on 16th January 1978 in a message in red insulating tape on the bathroom door
An entrance to Durants Park is off Green Street. Adjacent to the park and surrounded by it on two sides and no doubt enterable from it, is a municipal cemetery actually called 'Hertford Road Cemetery'. This is clearly what is meant in the above exchanges.
284 Green Street, Durants Park and Cemetery
Strangely Playfair does not recount any follow up to this eminently checkable information, nor does he relate any reaction to it by the Hodgsons or their next door neighbours the Nottinghams, who were supporting them throughout the traumatic events.
So I asked myself: Did Bill Wilkins exist? If so did he die in 284 Green Street, and when, and what of, and where is he buried?
Firstly I checked the Electoral Roll for Green Street.
Inhabitants from the Electoral Roll of Enfield Parliamentary Borough (Polling District JX up to 1962; 1963 -
284 Green Street: in 1960, 61 & 62 William C & Ethel M Wilkins; then Ethel M Wilkins in 1963 & 64; then in 1965 Anthony S & Margaret Hodgson. In 1977 Anthony S & Margaret Hodgson.
282 Green Street: in 1960, 61, 62, 63, 64 & 65 Frederick R and Catherine B Nottingham. In 1977 Victor J & Peggy M Nottingham and Gary V Nottingham.
This established that Wilkins and his wife had lived at 284 Green Street immediately prior to the Hodgesons and gave an approximate date for his death of 1962/3.
With this information I checked the Registrar General's Birth Marriage and Death Certificate indices:-
William C L Wilkins died aged 61 in June 1963 (Edmonton 5e 381) and Ethel M Wilkins died aged 64 in June 1972 (Enfield)
Frederick R Nottingham (died 1973 Enfield) married (Edmonton 1919) Catherine B Slight
and had Victor J Nottingham (born 1934 Edmonton) who married (1956 Edmonton) Peggy M Richardson
and had Gary V Nottingham (born 1956 Leicester) who married (Enfield 1979) Gloria M Sutton
Anthony S Hodson married (1962 Edmonton) Margaret (Peggy) Burcombe
I obtained William C L Wilkins death certificate, which showed he did die in 284 Green Street on 20th June 1963 but of a coronary thrombosis -
With his exact date of death I obtained his burial record from Enfield Council, and to my surprise found he was not interred in Durants Park (ie Hertford Road) Cemetery, which certainly was the nearest, but in Grave C-
After a difficult search I found the grave and was gratified to find it had a monument -
The inscription on Bill Wilkins grave, Lavender Hill Cemetery, Enfield
TREASURED MEMORIES OF
A DEAR HUSBAND AND FATHER
WILLIAM CHARLES WILKINS
DIED 2OTH JUNE 1963
AGED 61 YEARS
ETHEL MAY WILKINS
DIED 19TH APRIL 1972
AGED 64 YEARS
This is an entirely original discovery not known before.
So, in summary, in 1977:-
A Bill Wilkins HAD lived in the house and HAD died in it in 1963. Bill Wilkins and then his wife had lived at 284 Green Street since at least 1960 (and probably long before) till 1964, when they were replaced by the Hodgsons. Fred Nottingham who had died in 1973 and then his son Vic Nottingham lived next door at 282 Green Street since at least 1960 (and probably long before).
The Nottinghams (so helpful to the Hodgesons) therefore must have known the elderly Wilkinses well, and no doubt helped them too -
I find it very odd that apparently the Nottinghams never said after the above utterances by the entity "Oh yes, Bill and Ethel Wilkins did live in your house for a long time, and we knew them well, and that's how he did die" or that Mrs Peggy Hodgson (or even the children) never said "Oh yes, that's the Bill Wilkins that the Nottinghams told us about". Maurice Grosse had to wait for 19 years before the information was confirmed by Bill Wilkins's son Terry, who contacted Grosse in 1996 after hearing him speak on the case and play the tape; Grosse obtained Wilkins' death certificate and this seems to be the first time the information had been verified.
Notice that the entity also identified itself as 'Fred', the name of Vic Nottingham's father, who lived next door and died when Janet was seven.
William (Bill) Wilkins death certificate
Relationship of Durants Park and Lavender Hill Cemeteries, Enfield
Bill Wilkins grave in Lavender Hill Cemetery, Enfield
So the entity got two items right (name and place of death) but three items wrong (age, cause of death, and most importantly place of burial). The items it got right could have been known to Janet, whereas she was unlikely to know the items it got wrong, especially the cemetery, which was not the one on her doorstep.
"I Am Fred" [p 194]