I’ve mentioned before that my good friend Owen, of the When Write Is Wrong blog, and I have an almost eerie synchronicity. So what happened this past Monday shouldn’t have surprised me. Last October, he informed me that there is a pad that has been dubbed “the world’s most haunted house” located in the next town over from him. I started salivating upon hearing those words and asked if he would write a guest post about the dwelling for my blog. It was too late in the game by that point for him to get it to press in time for last year’s Haunted Hollywood postings, but he promised to pen it for me in 2015. Flash forward to Monday. My mom found out that she was going to have to have emergency surgery on Tuesday due to complications from last week’s foot operation. Because I would be spending all day with her at the hospital, I would not be able to write a post for today. So imagine my shock when I received an email from Owen that afternoon saying that his guest post was ready to go! Not only was I already so looking forward to having an Owen article on my site, but he saved my butt with his timing! I will forever be grateful. So without further ado . . .
Lindsay, friend, Starbucks addict and blogger extraordinaire, asked me to guest-write a post. Being the gentleman I am, I harrumphed and unequivocally turned her down. She cackled and said she’d force me to do it. “Over my dead body!” I screamed gutturally. Long story short, she killed me. Now I’m her, ahem, ghostwriter, a one-man skeleton crew patella-deep in haunted IAMNOTASTALKER posts.
Whatever. Lindsay’s favorite month has just become her worst nightmare. She got an Owen, and it turns out that’s scarier than The Omen. Now I am the puppet master, and her blog is under my control. Mwa-ha-ha!
Today we travel far from California, but we’re still in a liberal, coastal C-state. East Coast, represent!
I live in Fairfield, Connecticut, and recently I ventured, for Lindsay, to Lindley Street in neighboring Bridgeport. The state’s most-populated city, Bridgeport is where I was born, raised and electrocuted, though the latter is a frightening tale for another time. Today we’re headed to 966 Lindley Street. The modest home at this address was, in the mid-1970s, ground zero for poltergeist activity.
Gerard Goodin, a factory worker at Harvey Hubbell Inc., purchased the four-room bungalow in the northern section of the city in 1960. He and his wife, Laura, were new parents at the time; their son, Gerard Jr., suffered from cerebral palsy. Gerard Jr. died in the fall of 1967. He was only 6. Less than a year later the family adopted a 4-year-old Canadian girl named Marcia.
Five years after their son died, as Bridgeport native William J. Hall notes in his 2014 book The World’s Most Haunted House: The True Story of the Bridgeport Poltergeist on Lindley Street, the Goodins called the police to report strange noises. Gerard was more annoyed than frightened by the rhythmic, nighttime knocking; he suspected pranks by neighborhood kids. The fire department inspected the foundation of the single-family home. Gas lines and plumbing were checked as well. The source of the noise, however, was never discovered. Gerard wondered if the mysterious sounds had something to do with the proposal to build condominiums next door — a proposal he had vocally opposed. Were developers making noises to force people to sell their homes? Were they making noises to get back at Gerard?
The noises, you see, appeared to originate from inside the home. Officials checked piping and ductwork in the basement. The Goodins even replaced the furnace. The old furnace was gone, but the noises remained and, during the last weekend of November 1974, they would attract worldwide attention.
In the fall of 1974, Marcia was in fifth grade, and she was bullied more frequently — and more severely — than your average fifth-grader. Marcia’s classmates picked on her because of her heritage. (She was a member of the Iroquois Indian tribe.) Marcia was injured in October when a boy in her class kicked her in the back. Gerard and Lydia removed their daughter from school, and Marcia, forced to wear a back brace, received in-home tutoring.
The Goodins were having dinner in their living room with a neighbor on Nov. 21 when they heard the sound of breaking glass. A lower pane of the master bedroom window had shattered — from the inside. A day later the family was watching TV in the living room when they heard sounds coming from the master bedroom. The curtains of a closed window had fallen to the floor. They put the curtains back, but before they could leave the room, it happened again. They left the curtains down and returned to the living room. Thirty minutes later, the curtains were lying on the kitchen floor. The mystery and unease grew when a knocking sound, gentle and slow at first, built to a rapid pounding. It stopped after a few minutes, and the family went to bed.
When the Goodins returned home the following evening after a day trip to see relatives in Dover Plains, New York, Gerard saw Marcia’s TV on her bed, screen down. In the kitchen he found “dishes rising out of the sink and flying across the room,” according to The World’s Most Haunted House. The knife block, screwed to the wall, freed itself. The kitchen table flipped over, spilling groceries all over the floor. The refrigerator started to slide and rise, hovering six inches off the ground. A 23-inch TV near the sink fell on Laura’s foot, bloodying her toes.
Things quieted down — but not for long. After dinner, Gerard felt a presence in the kitchen, and towels and toiletries flew around the bathroom while Marcia was in there. Despite the strange happenings, the Goodins managed to get to bed around 3 a.m. They would be w-i-d-e awake the next day…
When he went to make breakfast on Nov. 24, Gerard found the kitchen table flipped over, even though he hadn’t heard any noises at night. The refrigerator was inexplicably blocking the kitchen door that led to the outside. Gerard went to the bedroom to tell Laura, at which point a crucifix and picture of Jesus pulled from the wall and crashed to the floor. Another crucifix, this one above the door in Marcia’s bedroom, fell, breaking into pieces. Living room chairs tipped back and forth — while the rest of the room remained still. The frequency and intensity of the events were increasing, and the Goodins were beginning to feel threatened. They went outside the house and spotted the teen daughter of John Holsworth, a cop who lived across the street, walking her dog. They asked her to summon her father.
Holsworth arrived a few minutes later. “Help us!” Gerard said. “Something evil is wrecking our house!” Holsworth ventured inside and saw a house that looked like it had been robbed. While he was there, the living room TV rotated 35 degrees, recliners shook and the fridge slid across the floor, making no sound and leaving no marks. He searched for a reasonable explanation for what he was witnessing but couldn’t find one. Holsworth, who later reported “he felt sure he was witnessing something supernatural,” called for backup.
Two officers on patrol nearby arrived first, followed by a second patrol car. When four policemen were in the kitchen, the fridge floated about six inches off the floor without making a sound. All this time, Marcia watched cartoons in the living room, showing no fright, no hysterics. Was she accustomed to the commotion? Was she the mastermind behind a hoax, a frustrated, lonely girl seeking attention?
Evidence didn’t support the latter hypothesis, because things happened in one room while the parents and Marcia were with an officer in a different room. A bureau fell in Marcia’s room even though nobody was in the room at the time. A wooden cross on the wall began swinging like a pendulum — slowly at first, then faster — before pulling away from the wall, nail and all, and hitting one of the officers in the chest.
When 10 firemen, traveling in three units, arrived, along with the firehouse chaplain, the 738-square-foot house was brimming with people — and chaos. Chairs moved. Dishes rattled. Shelves shook. An officer swore he heard the Goodin’s cat, Sam, talk. The priest reported a heaviness overtaking him. He attempted to perform a house blessing, but a vial of holy water tipped over when he reached for it — twice.
A neighbor with knowledge of poltergeists knew of a theory in which children served as unconscious “agents” for the activity. Could Marcia, a shy girl overprotected by her mother and picked on by her peers, be acting as a gateway for a poltergeist?
The same neighbor phoned famous paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who arrived with a priest and a 21-year-old seminary student. (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga portrayed the Warrens in The Conjuring, a 2013 movie based on a true story about a haunted house in Rhode Island.) The Warrens were present when the recliner in the living room started to rise — with Marcia in it — and flipped in midair, dropping the young girl to the floor.
By 4 a.m. reporters from New Haven and New York stations began to arrive. The events at the humble home built in 1923 were soon nationwide, courtesy of the Associated Press. Perhaps piqued by the demonic movie The Exorcist, which had come out less than a year before, a crowd on the relatively quiet two-lane street swelled to more than 2,000. Some people hurled questions at the police. An enterprising few sold snacks. Others threw garlic toward the front steps. Many in the crowd said they saw a pair of concrete swan planters on the front stoop slowly turn toward each other. [Editor’s note – the photograph below, from a 1974 edition of The Bridgeport Post, shows the swarms of people gathered outside the Goodin home.]
Later that day, with the crowd growing even larger, the Warrens returned, making their way through the police barricades. Lorraine became nauseous, especially in Marcia’s room, and got a burn on her left hand that formed a blister. People in the house noticed a sulfur smell coming from Marcia’s room, though no one could explain it. Ed was convinced the events were caused by “poltergeist activity” through Marcia. The Warrens felt an exorcism was necessary, and they headed home to arrange it.
According to The World’s Most Haunted House, the air in the tiny home became “heavy” before a force revealed itself. It “resembled a large, cohesive assemblage of smoky yellowish-white ‘gauzy’ mist” and separated into four entities. One entity picked up Marcia and threw her. Everyone in the house went onto the front lawn in a cold, November rain. The Warrens returned around 9 p.m.
Back inside, tables moved and chairs reclined. Marcia was pulled through the air in the kitchen and slammed into the wall. Occupants felt a cold sensation, though there were no drafts in the house. Coats moved. Desk drawers opened. The TV pivoted. Marcia … confessed?
One of the officers claimed that during questioning Marcia had admitted to banging on walls and floors, pushing the TV with her feet, knocking a crucifix to the floor, throwing pictures, making Sam talk and causing other unusual things to happen. Still, some people who had witnessed the strange events firsthand refused to believe that a 10-year-old girl could pull off such a hoax. Some suspected that the Warrens played a part, as a means to build their reputation, and may have even paid the Goodins to play along. (Lorraine, they surmised, put her hand under hot water to get the blister.) The Goodins, appalled at the notion that the Warrens may have exaggerated the incident to bolster their career, told the paranormal investigators to leave and never return.
Police superintendent Joseph A. Walsh told the press that “the incidents have been officially classified as a hoax and the case has been closed.” He added that Marcia was being referred for psychiatric help, and that everything that occurred in the house had a rational explanation. Witnesses “were victims of the power of suggestion,” Walsh said.
The Goodins denied perpetrating a hoax. How could their 10-year-old girl, who a month earlier had been injured, budge heavy furniture or move objects nowhere near her? They claimed the occurrences were classified as a hoax to abate hysteria and disperse crowds.
Closing the case failed to diminish the crowds; curious onlookers continued to gather outside 966 Lindley Street, hoping to catch a glimpse of something from another realm. Gerard smelled smoke after returning from his brother’s house on Thanksgiving. An officer working crowd control found a small fire that had been started near the foundation. That night, two men seen running through woods behind the house were charged with arson. They claimed they were trying to rid the home of evil.
Police continued to patrol outside the house into December, though by that time crowds had dwindled. Despite the ongoing police presence, the Goodins couldn’t escape the disruptive notoriety. Their home was egged and their windows were broken. Their car tires were slashed, too. The Goodins wanted to get away, so on Jan. 10, 1975, they put the house up for sale for $21,500. Unable to sell the small bungalow after a year on the market, Gerard painted it white and removed the recognizable swan planters. [Editor’s note – Owen found the below image online. It was taken in 1974 by Boyce Batey, who was part of a scientific team that investigated the house at the time. Notice the infamous swan planters flanking the front door.]
The house never sold. Gerard and Laura remained on Lindley Street — and remained mum on the events that transpired in the mid-’70s — for the rest of their lives. They were still living there in 1987, when the condos that Gerard opposed in 1972 were built. Laura died at 68 in a 1993 car crash. Gerard died of natural causes four years later. He was 78.
Marcia was not mentioned in either obituary.
For some grammar fun (is that an oxymoron?), check out my blog, When Write Is Wrong.
Big THANK YOU to Lindsay for allowing me to partake in her annual Haunted Hollywood postings. [Editor’s note – You’re welcome! And a big THANK YOU to you for the riveting article! I’m heading to Amazon right now to order The World’s Most Haunted House!]
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: “The world’s most haunted house” is located at 966 Lindley Street in Bridgeport, Connecticut. If you stalk this location and see anything otherworldly, run!