William J. Hall is the author of The World's Most Haunted House: The True Story of the Bridgeport Poltergeist on Lindley Street, which is the story of the 1974 incident that became one of the most documented cases of an alleged poltergeist infestation.
Hall was born and raised in Bridgeport, and was 10-years-old when the events in the book took place. A former magician, he penned a syndicated column "Magic and the Unknown," which ran for six years and explored the unexplained. He still resides in Connecticut.
He graciously took some time recently to talk about the events on Lindley Street and the his new book, which officially is available as of Aug. 25, 2014.
If you have Flash installed, you can listen to the interview here.
Damned Connecticut: You obviously put in a lot of time and effort—how long did it take you to research the book?
William J. Hall: I would say the research part of it was . . . I would say about four months or so. I think it would've taken about 10 years without the Internet and social media! I was lucky in two respects. One, the research was probably about 50 percent of that part, and the other 50 percent of the investigation was new interviews. So listening to the tapes—I just listened to them everywhere I went. If I got in the car, I had to play a tape because there was just hours and hours—probably about 30 hours on tape and I did another over 10 hours myself of new interviews. So I didn't listen to music for a while. It was all Lindley Street! [laughs]
DC: I should say that for people that haven't read the book yet, you actually got access to—and you talk about this in the book, and part of the book is transcriptions to all this stuff—but you actually got a lot of the original interviews from the files taken at the time of the events, right?
Hall: Yes, yes, all of them. The data sheets from each incident were catalogued and each person was interviewed individually, so there could be ten incident sheets all relating to one incident by the ten people who witnessed it. So it was truly unique to have that kind of documentation to look at what the interview said versus … sorry, hold on . . . [short interruption] . . . in looking at what the person being interviewed, what they said in conjunction with the data sheet in conjunction with what everyone else said with those data sheets. So that was truly unique to have that kind of documentation around.
DC: Maybe I should back up a little. Why don't you take us briefly through the story, if you could, in a nutshell. Obviously, you have the whole book to talk about the whole Lindley Street event. And I know you actually have a personal connection to it, but could you just take us through it briefly, if you would.
Hall: Sure. The story is very similar in concept to those people that have seen Carrie. That movie kind of captures the typical kind of poltergeist experience. But in a little tiny bungalow in Bridgeport, Connecticut—in 1974, when it really broke out to the public—was a family that started experiencing all kinds of things happening in the house. Things moving, dishes flying and a variety of things. Didn't know what to do. Had lived with it for one day already. And in a panic, called on their neighbor, who was a police officer, and also their neighbor up the street, who in turn, called the police.
The Goodin family, who are the subject of the book, didn't actually call the police themselves. The police came, they didn't know what to do; they called the fire department. The fire department came, they didn't know what to do, so they called the fire department priest. The priest came and he blessed the place, and said, you know, "All get out of here!"
The story continued. After a few days, thousands of people were outside the house, traffic blocked for miles. And after a few days, they blamed it on the little 10-year-old adopted girl, Marcia, saying that she kicked the furniture and did all the events, and then everybody went home!
That's it in a nutshell! [laughs]
DC: It's interesting. Even though they blamed it on her—and actually at one point, I think she even admits to be being the cause of it—but the eyewitness accounts from everyone in the house tell a different story, don't they?
Hall: Oh yeah. The real interesting part that I often wonder is what would've happened with the Lindley Street story if Marcia was not caught tapping the TV with her toe. That's what really set it off.
Down at the police department, it was a much different story. There were about 16 police officers all who said, "Yeah, yeah, it's going on there," and everyone knew it was real. And there were a few police officers who didn't see all the stuff before and when they saw that, they were like, "Hoax! She did everything!" They didn't see the stuff that happened before. And when it got back to the police department, that was the perfect out to end it, and they were looking for a way to end it.
I often wonder what would've happened if that didn't take place. I mean, because if it keeps going on that it's real, things keep getting worse. They already saw that. They had to block the street off, they had barricades, traffic and all. So they were really worried if this thing didn't stop, what was going to happen because they saw the crowds getting more and more. In fact, they tried to burn the house down, so it was really, really getting out of hand. And then they came across that convenient report by a police officer on Tuesday morning, after a few days of this going on, and the inspector was like, "Oh, that's my out. Close it up." So . . . .
DC: As I was reading through the beginning of it, you had a bit of a personal connection to this case. You were actually on the scene, right?
Hall: I just saw it on TV. I was 10-years-old at the time. I saw it on TV.
I wrote a column and often investigated these kinds of things—kind of like your website, that type of thing—and Lindley Street was never really one I kind of delved into, probably because of what was reported: The girl admitted it, things rolled and life went on. I bought the story like everyone else did. But many years later when I was looking at the newspaper reports with a different eye—because I didn't look up any reports throughout the years, I just didn't look into the story—and it was way too much. Way too many witnesses, especially of that credible variety, to have been fooled by a 10-year-old girl.
DC: I think it's interesting that in the preface of the book, you mention Occam's Razor, the idea that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.
Hall: Yes. And it was quite a journey because every day I would listen to these tapes knowing that any point I could face this thing being a hoax or there not being a book there. You know, I didn't know what I was going to find. And there came a point . . . I remember talking to a close friend of mine, sometimes almost daily, and he'd say, "What do you think?" "What do you think now?" "What do you think now?" And I'd say, "I don't know. It's sounding good," and then the next day, "I'm not really sure," and then there came a point where there was no question—the tipping point has been reached!
Proving it's real is much easier than proving it was a hoax. I mean, it just came to that point where it obviously was not a hoax. There's no way, no how. You can argue to what it was, but it definitely was not a hoax.
And the family, they were the best possible witnesses you could ever have. Well respected, very religious, known to be wonderful people, you know, they're in their fifties . . . and of course, the little girl just wasn't . . . if you look at the events, it just not even plausible. I mean, plenty of things happened and she wasn't even in the house! And police officers were saying that things were happening in every room.
It's funny, Joe Tomek, the first responding police officer who I spoke to, he gets quite mad when you . . . you know, I was telling him what somebody said, what the newspaper said, and he gets mad because he's saying, "What do they think, that I'm stupid?! We saw the refrigerator move. It didn't waddle or jump or any of those kinds of things that a malfunctioning refrigerator did. It floated! We tipped it over, we looked underneath, we looked on top, we went in the basement—we're not idiots!" And things were happening in every room.
So, it was just an easy out, they saw it and took it and a lot of people didn't blame them, you know? It was a tough situation the police were in.
DC: As you started going through all the information and researching, and all the tapes and everything, is there something that kind of surprised you while going through all this stuff?
DC: You know, other than some of the claims.
Hall: Yeah . . . the big revelation is during an interview tape, it's at the police station and [Anthony] Fabrizi, who was one of the guys who came forward and said, "Yes, it was a hoax," and even though having the tapes and stuff, you wonder—well, I don't have him on tape, and you see things in reports—but it was interesting when one police officer is being interviewed and he's interrupted, and the interview is interrupted saying, "Hey, we have nobody to patrol over here," and the guy says, "Oh, you're in an interview? No, Fabrizi wants you here." That was shocking. The guy who insists it's a hoax doesn't want the interview to be interrupted so that he could cover a police matter when they're shorthanded. He'd rather have him be in the interview. That was cool. That was as close to his [admission] as you can get.
The other thing that was shocking was the different pieces coming together. Joe Tomek said he was forced to be interviewed, and said that they set up the room at the police department, which then [investigator] Jerry Solfvin told the same story. So, I didn't rely on just what one person said. I really tried to get multiple people to validate these things. Even when I knew it was true, I didn't want to take what one person said and write a whole book based on it, you know what I mean? I really wanted to get to validation of it. And there were some things that were probably true that I don't know or can't prove—the witnesses were too young then for them to be credible in my mind—I just left it out of the book. Or put a footnote in the back saying, "Hey, we think this may be the case, but I couldn't get there, couldn't prove it."
DC: To me, one of the more compelling arguments in the case, in the situation, is all the testimony from police, and how many police officers, going through the book, who did not dismiss it as a hoax and just could not explain what they had seen.
Hall: Yeah, and another one of the things not only with the police officers but everybody was that there was an almost overwhelming disbelief in the paranormal by probably 70, 80 percent of the witnesses. They were not believers, especially police officers. I mean, people, just about all of them didn't run, they went to find out why things were doing what they were doing. They were unknown things that they couldn't understand and they wanted to figure them out, and the police did that, too.
But yeah, the amount of police officers . . . you had about 14 fireman and about 16 police officers, two priests, reporters . . . reporters going in, ready to record and have a good time and then realizing, "Hey, this is serious!" [laughs]
A chilling thing for me was talking to somebody who was a neighbor who wanted their name withheld, heard the screaming in the house. Said, "How could they be fake? We heard the family just screaming!" You know, it's just crazy.
DC: Also at the center of the case were Ed and Lorraine Warren. What's your take on them and their involvement this case?
Hall: Ed and Lorraine were very comforting to the couple. They did increase the crowd problem, which was probably a mistake. They're not really known to call in the press when the family doesn't want it. There's plenty of cases where they've done where no press was called. The press was already there, they just expanded it faster. I'm sure it would've expanded anyhow, but they helped it along by calling out-of-staters.
Ed's whole opinion was, "We have to let the world know." He was very big on that, where as other investigators are like, "Let's help the family." I mean, they wanted to help the family but Ed, he had a very important vision that the world should know that this stuff is real. And because of that, the family did have a few bones to pick with them when they made toll calls from their house, especially being how poor that they were.
But other than that, I can tell you that they were were very helpful and supportive toward the family. Hearing Ed and Lorraine on tape, there's really nothing like their chemistry between each other. It's really amazing. It just seemed like they really loved each other. I mean I could be wrong, but about after five minutes, the first thing that goes through your mind is, "Wow, they really seem to be in synch." You know?
DC: I remember seeing a couple times back in the 80s when I was in college. I was always impressed by Ed and his ability to tell stories and make the presentations very entertaining, which is part of the deal—I get it—but also his genuine affection and his protection of Lorraine. A lot of what they did, he always seemed to be Lorraine's protector. Like he would never let her get overly probed or overly questioned. He was always quick to deflect skepticism away from her and step in. I always thought that was very sweet.
Hall: Yeah, you're absolutely right. And the Lindley Street case is no exception—she wasn't interviewed but she was in the background and stuff but Ed would do all the talking and he would save her from any of that type of stuff. She would add in if she had a correction. "Oh Ed, I think it's this." But he really did take that duty away from her because I think that he knew that what she was doing was exhausting enough.
When a burn formed on her wrist at the table, I have that actual incident from Lindley Street on tape as it happened, which is like, really cool. And that's where Ed says, "You should get out of the house, you know, because I'm concerned about spontaneous combustion." And then "Oh don't worry Ed. If something worse happens, then I'll leave, but I think I'll be okay."
I even asked [investigator] Paul Eno, being a magician, "Was it even really a burn? How do you know it was a burn? There are things that look like a burn that aren't really a burn." I tried to go as deep as I could, saying, "Let me be objective about this." Paul gave me his background, he'd had some medical training, and he said, "No, it was definitely a burn." He examined it. So I said, "Okay, good. I can check this off my list." [laughs] Because we always assume when somebody sees something and says, "It's a burn" and it looks like a burn but is it a burn? I can take a bottle cap and make an indentation, you know, and it could look like something it may not be.
So even though by that time, I wanted to understand it was real and cover every base in case somebody said, "Well, how do you know it was a burn?" I could answer it.
DC: One of the things I found interesting as I was going through the book and looking at all the pictures and everything was the house itself. I wonder if that made the case a little more interesting. Because the house is so unassuming, the house it happened in. It wasn't like when you're driving down a road and you see a house and you're like, "Oh that looks like a haunted house." But that was like the most unassuming little house.
Hall: Yeah, yeah. I bring that up. It doesn't even look as though it qualifies to be a haunted house. Bob Crane from "Hogan's Heroes" lived in that house, and so did my very first boss. His family owned that house and he grew up in that house part of the time. I asked him about it many years ago and he said that he never had any problems. He said, "I think that the house is too small for any spirit to want to be there." [laughs]
But being a poltergeist, I wouldn't expect there to be trouble in the house before or after with the nature of what it was. But yeah, it's a very tiny house, still there today. I tried to contact the owners, knocked on the door and stuff, but nobody responds to me. Wonder why? [laughs] I wanted to have the book launch party there, I thought it'd be so cool because I'd be able to say, "Here's where it happened, right over here was . . . ." You know, but unfortunately, I couldn't get there.
DC: One of the things you just mentioned, I'd like to back up a little—you talked about the type of thing being a poltergeist situation as opposed to a haunting, which is a little different because poltergeists traditionally attach themselves to a particular person rather than a house, and usually an adolescent child, which was at the center of this case, the girl Marcia. Why do you think that is?
Hall: The best explanation I've heard, and I'll be stealing this from Paul Eno, is that they each get something out of the relationship. The entity, whatever people believe they are—and I don't really see them as a demon kind of thing, I think that's our own kind of very primitive way of labeling them, and I could be wrong—but they each get something out of the relationship. So Marcia's frustrated, she's isolated, overbearing parents, picked on and beat up at school, stuck at home with the overbearing parents . . . .
So she has all these things that she can't express, you know. The entity, or parasite, whatever you call it, feed on this fear and negativity and anger, and basically forms a bond with the prepubescent girl or boy—but girls 2 to 1 over boys—and they each get something out of it. Almost like an unhealthy relationship of sorts, you know? And when peace comes, or whatever causes that . . . for some, it's religion or others it could be a joke book, or however it happens . . . but once usually the situation is resolved, and it can't feed any more, it goes away.
That, to me, seems to be the best explanation I've heard, but I know that Ed believed it was demonic. Father Charbonneau, who was one of the priests involved, and Father Doyle, thought it was an evil spirit. And the Goodins had all sorts of theories. The family said that they did not believe in the supernatural. But as you see throughout the book, they waver and try just about anything, not knowing what to do.
DC: Going through it, was there one incident that you came upon or read that really kind of disturbed you more than anything?
Hall: Really, the incident with the entity going around Paul, the young seminarian who was only 21-years-old at the time, going to go around him and bumping into him, and he felt bone structure. That was something that he didn't talk about for many years since then—probably didn't start talking about it until five years ago or so, and had talked about it with me. That was very fascinating. He said the realization that this was a physical of sorts being. It had bone structure—it felt like a bird, it had a thin, bony structure. So that was quite fascinating.
The madonna with the thumbs cut off and missing . . . there was a statue incident, that was kind of freaky! [laughs] There was so many things that happened that were that way. But I'd say the more benign ones must've been just as scary. You know, tables flipping, things like that. But the madonna with the thumbs cut off.
The Christmas tree was very interesting because he put the Christmas tree in a bucket of cement and it kept coming down. He was going to save Christmas, basically, Jerry the father, and he put it in a bucket of cement and put wire around it and everything, and the thing came through the wire, it didn't fall like it normally would have, and that just perplexed all of them. The investigators were there at that time and the main investigator, Boyce Beatty, looked at it as one of these materialization things that sometimes happen in these instances but . . . .
That and all the ornaments, off the tree and now being in a little neat pile—that's kind of freaky. [laughs] Things like that, I wouldn't want to come home to.
DC: And don't forget about Sam the talking cat!
Hall: Yes, yes! Audio phenomena. A lot of people said, "Oh, that's crap! The cat didn't talk." And I believe that they're right. I don't believe that the cat talked, I don't believe that the swans talked. But there was audio phenomena. There were footsteps, there were the banging sounds in the walls. Jerry never saw the cat talking from the basement but he said that it would bang on the door and yell things at him. And you blame the cat because it's the only thing down there but I think it's part of the audio phenomena like the police recorded the swans making guttural noises. They said it was the swans because whatever is nearby when you hear a noise—that whole proximity effect, for the audiophiles out there. They would equate those things.
Father Charbonneau doesn't know if the cat really reacted that way when it heard something else or it came from the cat, but he was pretty convinced the cat did say, "Jingle bells!" where other people said the cat said, "Help!" Some of the things it said in the way it was related to what was going in the house was quite interesting.
I think Marcia had just gotten hurt at the time when one of the police officers thought the cat said, "Help!" Which, that's scary.
DC: Sometimes, it's one of those things if you're on edge, what might just be a normal sound, you're trying to give a human sound to . . . that's a different phenomena. But you're right—there are plenty of other things, minus the cat, that are unusual in this case.
One of the things I was just thinking about. It's 1974, and now it's 40 years later and we're still talking about this case. Why do you think that is?
Hall: It's one of those things that got much bigger than these things usually get. It went around the world, virtually. I mean, Israel carried the story, Australia . . . I mean this thing was virtually around the world and in so many papers. And that's because of the witnesses. When you have that many credible witnesses, word gets around like that, and it goes haywire. Because of that, that's why I think it's still talked about. It's the same reason why Roswell is still talked about. It's that same kind of explosion across the newspapers until finally it's announced a hoax and everybody goes home.
DC: There's still a big interest in it because when I posted on the Damned Connecticut Facebook page that I got this book, the response—people are very excited about it, they can't wait to get a hold of this book, are looking forward to buying it and reading it. I've been reading through it the past couple of days and it's been great, so I think you're going to do real well with this. There's big interest in it—you'll be pretty popular for the next couple of months.
Hall: Yeah, yeah. It started as what I thought would be a little e-book with what I thought would be more questions than answers and then thanks to Boyce Beatty—just a wonderful, wonderful man who was just so happy that somebody was going to put it together and tell the story. It was really just a joy handing him that book and giving me a hug that day. I said, "Hey Boyce, you need to get credit for what you've done." I said, "I know you're a humble guy but this is a story that I'm glad we were able to tell. You did an amazing job here."
DC: That was one of the things I really enjoyed about the book myself. I like that there's so much in the back of the book in terms of maps of the house, floor plans, drawings, the police reports, the transcripts—all that data there for people to read on their own. You also tell the story but there's enough evidence there for people to kind of look through it on their own and decide how they feel about it.
Hall: Yeah, I was really happy with those parts. Part of my examination was whether Marcia was nearby, could she have done it, and that's why I decided to put that table in there. When I sorted it, I realized how often she just wasn't around. So I thought all those pieces did well, and of course, thanks to Joe Tomek, who mailed me the original police report that he kept, which of course, are no longer available.
That was the greatest thing, to get that thing in the mail. Because he said, "Maybe I'll mail it to you." He was iffy and it took a long time for him to warm up because I was a stranger calling on him. He's a good policeman—you can tell because . . . you knew you were talking to a police officer, you know? Retired or not. [laughs] He said, "Maybe I'll send it to you, maybe I will." And it must've been seven weeks after. I thought I was never going to get it. Then all of a sudden, I see a letter and I see his return address and I was like, "No, is it really?" and I opened it up and there was the police report. And I was like, "Oh, this is great!"
DC: That's awesome. I know while you were doing the research, you connected with a lot of people who were involved with the case. I hope that you're able to connect to a few other people who were involved that maybe didn't come forward at the time or you couldn't connect to but when they hear about the book, maybe now they'll come forward.
Hall: Yeah, absolutely right. There's just so many people—it's like that whole Kevin Bacon six degrees! [laughs] Goodin family members came forward, and I still had people even after the book was with the publisher, people were coming forward. Luckily, it was not new information, thank god! [laughs] Although that's not a problem—if we do a reprint, we could put it in. But that was my biggest fear, that somebody would come forward with a really, really important part that really needed to be in there! I think that's anybone's fear when they do a book like this because you really want to do the whole story as best you can.
Yeah, but I'm sure more people will come forward. Some I just simply couldn't get in touch with. Some were, surprisingly, quite friendly after. I bothered one poor guy who had the same name! [laughs] No wonder why they never returned my call. [Former WICC news director] Tim Quinn was one who I kept calling and writing and calling and writing, and finally, I got a different number and called and got him, and he was just a nice guy, wonderful. "Sure, interview," and was very excited about the book and everything. I told him I was trying to contact [reporter] Bob Pantano—I called his agent, and this and that, I didn't get any call back. And he was like, "No, no! That's not the same Bob Pantano!" [laughs] No wonder the guy's not calling me back! He was like, "No, he got out radio a long time ago." So then I had to call back and say, "I'm sorry that I kept bothering you. You were the wrong one."
So you know, there was some of that, too. But yeah, I'm sure more people will come forward. There's just so many people who were in the crowd and that were connected to it in some way. It really impacted a lot of people. I have friends who went to school with the sons and daughters of a lot of the witnesses that are in the book, which is just one of those things.
DC: Well, I appreciate you taking the time to talk. Just one final question: I know it's in the book, but what's your final take on the case of the world's most haunted house.
Hall: What's my final take? My big takeaway is that this shows that no matter how much proof, no matter how many witnesses, that none of this will come to a definitive "Yes this exists or no it doesn't." It won't come to that unless it happen to that person, or they have an open mind. In other words, the only people who are going to look at evidence and be open to it and accept it are people that really don't need that degree of evidence unless it hits the world.
I know that's a long, drawn-out answer. I think I'd summarize by saying that this proves that it doesn't matter how many witnesses you have. Recently, they've recorded where newspeople that go in and caught on camera things and nobody cares. Either they believe or they don't.
So I think the saying that sums it up well, which of course, not my own, to those who believe, they don't need any proof, and to those who don't believe, no amount of proof will do. I think I messed that up, but that's what that proves. It reminded me of Hudson Valley where thousands of people saw this craft, and Roswell—look what happened with that. And Lindley Street! It's one of the many times that things got much larger than normal and the research shut off.