For author William J. Hall, the road to writing The World’s Most Haunted House: The True Story of the Bridgeport Poltergeist on Lindley Street was almost as interesting as the case itself, and he filled us in on that journey along with information about the famed haunting in a recent interview.
Hall has been a magician since he was seven years old, though he’s quick to point out that he wasn’t a very good magician at that age. A lifelong fan of Houdini, it was perhaps his knowledge of the famed escape artist’s interest in the occult and the paranormal that ultimately fueled his own.
“Houdini devoted almost 30 years of his life to the study of what we could today call the paranormal,” Hall explains. “He was a victim of his time, however; spiritualism was what was going on then, and so much of that was faked.”
Spiritualism, a movement that was popular in the early 20th Century, celebrated the existence of spirits and ghost. It unfortunately also gave rise to a whole host of fake mediums and charlatans who preyed on believers often demanding great sums of money to contact the dead in their own intricately rigged parlors.
Still, it never stopped Houdini’s pursuit or his study.
“He really wanted to find proof; he wanted it to exist,” Hall continued. “He had the largest collection of books on spiritualism in the entire world at the time.”
And so, Hall followed in the legend’s footsteps, and has spent years often debunking paranormal phenomena while still holding out hope to find a case that could not be dis-proven.
Oddly enough, Hall grew up not too far away from what could be considered Ground Zero for one of the most active and without a doubt the most witnessed cases of poltergeist infestation the U.S. has ever seen.
The case involved the unassuming home of the Goodin family on Lindley Street in Bridgeport, Connecticut who were plagued by nearly constant activity for more than two years after adopting a young girl named Marcia after the death of their own child. Witnesses, and there were more than you can imagine, reported seeing furniture move, the sound of strange knockings, physical contact with an invisible force, and even audible voices that seemed to come from nowhere.
Hall had heard about the house when he was a child, but it had never really been on his investigative radar as an adult at least in part because of his natural skepticism.
“I would do magic shows later on and I’d have people come up to me and ask me what I thought about the house on Lindley Street I’d tell them anyone could throw dishes around and then call the newspapers,” he says, laughing. “They’d ask me why people would do that and I’d tell them that people do all kinds of crazy things. Rich people commit fraud all the time. Human behavior often doesn’t make sense.”
Finally, after years of this, someone posted in a Facebook group that had been set up for people who grew up in Bridgeport asking if anyone remembered the haunting at the house on Lindley Street. For whatever reason, that post clicked for Hall and for the first time ever he began actually researching the case.
He really had no idea what he would discover, nor the hours, days, weeks, and months the case would consume.
The first thing that struck the author was the scope of coverage of the events. Newspapers as far away as Australia and China had written about the occurrences in 1974 at the height of the phenomena, and Hall began making a list of everyone whose name was mentioned in the articles.
The first person he reached out to, former police officer Joe Tomek, was admittedly hesitant at first. He eventually opened up to Hall, however, telling him that he was about ninety-seven percent certain that what he saw was real.
He also told Hall that the department forced him to be interviewed about what he saw. With that information in hand, he went on to track down Boyce Beatty, the man who, it turned out had conducted those interviews.
“I contacted Boyce as he was listed as one of the investigators who spent time in the house, and mentioned the interviews. He told me he had conducted the interviews himself,” the author explains. “So, I asked if he had access to them and he said, ‘Well, I think so. They’re in my basement.'”
It was Hall’s first really big breakthrough in his research and he quickly made plans to meet Beatty at his home. Beatty told him that the interviews were taken with promises made to the family that they’d be kept private, but that he was willing to share them as the Mr. and Mrs. Goodin were deceased and Marcia had disappeared completely upon reaching adulthood.
Hall left Beatty’s home with 22 cassette tapes plus eight additional hours worth of reel-to-reel tape of police interviews which he had to have converted in order to listen to their contents. By the time he was 22 or 23 hours into the 30 plus hours of recordings, he could no longer deny the validity of what he had heard.
“I told a fellow magician friend of mine, ‘I can’t tell you what happened for certain but I can tell you something happened here,'” Hall says. “It was the first time where you not only had a lot of witnesses but you actually had multiple witnesses describing the exact same incidents in the house from their own perspective.”
Adding to the validity of the witness statements for Hall was the timeline in which their testimonies were taken. Most of them happened within weeks of their witnessing the strange phenomena inside the house, not years or even decades later as is so often the case.
With all this evidence, Hall decided that the story needed to be told in the most definitive way possible, and he set out to write it all down. It was an act that, he would discover later, would provide closure for an entire community of people who had been touched by the goings on in the house.
“It was a weird sort of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon kind of thing,” he points out. “This was Six Degrees of Lindley Street, and even after the book was published, I would have people come up to me at signing and readings to thank me for reporting all of this. Their fathers or siblings or whoever had been witnesses or had been among the crowds who stood outside the house and saw two large stone swans planters move on their own, and this validated what they’d always believed.”
This idea of closure is very important to the author and also to many who were involved in some way at the time. This was, after all, a very human story, happening to an otherwise very normal family who were confronted with not only dealing with the extreme activity going on inside their home, but also the growing crowds who gathered outside hoping to witness something and failing that, to make fun of those who said they had.
“Jerry [the father] was trying to go to work and people wouldn’t stop harassing him and making fun of him,” Hall says. “Their tires were slashed and people would pull their clothes off the line outside. Jerry was a maintenance man and Laura was a housewife and this didn’t just become public. It became extremely public, especially when Ed and Lorraine Warren became involved.”
Ed and Lorraine Warren are almost synonymous with Paranormal Investigation, their many investigations being heavily documented and scrutinized for decades, but they were known to come on a bit strong. Ed especially, perhaps because he wanted so badly to be believed and to show others proof of what he and Lorraine discovered, was notorious for calling the press when they came across an especially convincing case.
“The family became quite angry when Ed called the AP Wire to report the story,” Hall points out. “They were trying to keep everything quiet, and when the Warrens brought in video and other equipment, the Goodins put their foot down.”
When the local police department decided to claim that the entire series of events was a hoax after it was discovered that Marcia had been responsible for certain “events”, they even went so far as to accuse Ed Warren of giving everyone in the house candies laced with LSD.
Through all of this, Hall repeats that it was really the overwhelming amount of witnesses and statements that make this case so compelling. It was a small house and the fact that phenomena would be happening in every single room simultaneously cements the validity of poltergeist activity in the home.
“You simply could not fake all of that without someone seeing it,” he says.
After the police department declared the entire affair a hoax, the crowds began to die down but the abuse and taunts thrown at the family? Not so much.
They moved away, and after she graduated Marcia disappeared completely, though Hall did eventually find that she’d moved to Canada and died at the age of 52 from complications from MS and epilepsy.
“We know that there seems to be a link between epilepsy and poltergeist activity,” he says. “I say seems to be because there just hasn’t been enough research into the subject, but it does make sense to find that out about her.”
When no one came forward to claim Marcia’s ashes, Hall signed for them and kept them himself until a member of her biological family came forward. It was an enlightening experience to learn more about that family and the reasons why she was given up for adoption, which he included in a later edition of the book.
The book itself is one of the most interesting of its kind that I have ever read including transcriptions of numerous interviews, police statements, etc., and presenting its readers with a staggering amount of information, and I kept wondering with the amount of movies we’ve seen in the genre that deal with real life paranormal stories, why it was that no one has stepped in to adapt it for the screen.
Perhaps it’s only a matter of time until they do.
In the meantime, be sure to check out The World’s Most Haunted House: The True Story of the Bridgeport Poltergeist on Lindley Street. It’s available on multiple formats, including and Audible edition.