Bridgeport, Connecticut is a charming and historic seaside city located along the Long Island Sound shoreline, and is well known for having once been the home of the great showman P.T. Barnum, who also for a time served as the mayor. It is also the birthplace of the Frisbee and the home of the first Subway restaurant, as well as being steeped in a long history going back to the very first days of European colonization. Bridgeport is also known for a famous series of supernatural events, centered around what has often been billed as the most haunted house in the world.
In 1960, Gerald and Laura Goodin moved into a modest little one-story, four-room bungalow on Lindley Street, and they had a rough time when their only son died in 1967 at the age of 6 due to cerebral palsy, dashing their dreams of raising a family at their new home. The grief stricken couple then adopted a girl by the name of Marcia, a full-blooded Five Nations Indian girl from Canada, and not long after they began experiencing various unexplainable phenomena around the home. It started innocuously enough, with objects misplaced or lights turning on or off by themselves, and there were sometimes heard strange bangs or thumps in the floor or walls. They would also sometimes see a disembodied hand and doors opening and closing on their own This was all spooky enough, but it gradually escalated in intensity.
Much to the astonishment of the family, furniture began moving on its own accord, the kitchen table would regularly fall over, lightbulbs would shatter, chairs would fall away from the table, landing on their backs on the floor without any warning, and an ashtray was flung across the room to smash against a wall. The banging on the walls got worse, happening at all hours of the day and never with any explanation found. The bizarre paranormal activity continued on into the 1970s, and by then the family had had enough and reached out to authorities, who could find nothing to account for what the family claimed to have experienced. With this, word got out, and the case captured the attention of the famed paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who went to investigate along with a priest called Father Charbonneau.
It was quickly ascertained that the strange activity only ever seemed to happen when Marcia was around, making the Warrens suspect that she might be behind it all. The idea at that point was that the girl was somehow causing all of these disturbances for attention, a sort of prank, and indeed she seemed to be delighted to have the Warrens, the police, and a growing crowd of neighbors at the house. The police also thought that the girl was most likely behind it all, and they went through efforts to try and get her to admit it, but Marcia insisted that she was not behind it and that it was not her fault. Nevertheless, Ed Warren was fairly sure that the girl was behind it all, and made sure that there was always someone with her to make sure she didn’t try anything. He would say of it:
It is common in hoax cases for the child to be the perpetrator, and is also frequently a contributor in legitimate paranormal cases. Children are great imitators, and they quickly learn that once the chaos quiets down, people leave. One way to get them to stay is to help things along.
There was a lot of skepticism orbiting the story, but then a series of very intense paranormal events would be witnessed by all present, and show that this was beyond a child’s mere trickery. It all began when two officers were doing a sweep of the hallway and heard a sound coming from the master bedroom, which they entered to see a large crucifix float off of the wall to hover momentarily before slowly coming down to rest against the bed, much to the surprise of the puzzled policemen. At the time Marcia was not there and there was no one else in the room. Still not believing what they had just seen, they went back to the living room, where Marcia was sitting in a recliner talking to some other officers. At some point the recliner then started to rise off the floor in full view of everyone present. It levitated there for a moment and then completely flipped a full 360 degrees, in the process smacking an end table and dumping Marcia onto the floor, causing her to hit her head and start crying uncontrollably.
As everyone stood there in astonishment, a light bulb suddenly exploded and Father Charbonneau sprang into action, dousing the room and that recliner with holy water. This elicited three very loud bangs on the kitchen door and the lamps began rattling. When Ed went to check the kitchen he saw “knives on the floor rotating and swiveling into various positions,” and when others came to see, the kitchen table flipped over to send cups and dishes crashing to the floor. In the meantime, some rosary beads were found to be jumping about and slapping against the wall and some wind chimes began tingling even though there was no wind. If there had been any doubts that the home was haunted, those had all been completely dispelled by this point, and the case was even officially called into Police Superintendent Joseph Walsh as poltergeist activity. The whole incident had been witnessed by the Warrens, several police officers, and members of the Fire Department, who completely examined the house and could find no rational explanation for any of it. There were even electricians and plumbers brought in to examine those systems, but there could be found nothing wrong, and as they were there the refrigerator allegedly began levitating off the floor.
One of the officers even tried an experiment, going into Marcia’s room and trying to talk to the ghost or spirit. He asked it to move something, and immediately everything on Marcia’s wall, including pictures, a cross, and a rosary began to shake and twitch, to “come to life” as he put it. Oddly, the wall itself was not vibrating, just those items. He then told whatever it was to stop, and the room went quiet again. This would convince him that the entity, spirit, demon, or whatever, was intelligent and a bit of a trickster at that. The police would eventually leave, but the Goodins would call them several more times to report mysterious disturbances, which seemed to go on constantly, and included even more bizarre phenomena such as a talking cat and a misty figure who would walk around the house.
The case of the Lindley Street haunting would gain national attention and draw thousands of curiosity seekers to the home, hoping to get a glimpse of something strange. Numerous paranormal investigators did their own examinations of the place, and the activity would continue well into 1974, making headlines around the world. Author and stage magician William J. Hall, who has written the definitive account of these events in his book The World’s Most Haunted House, went into the case as a skeptic, thinking it was all a hoax, but after spending years tracking down various witnesses, poring through police reports, and digging through audio interviews, newspaper articles, city records, and other matters of public record he became convinced that this was a genuine case of poltergeist activity. He has said of it:
I have a belief. I now realize it really happened. There were over 100 witnesses. It was probably the most witnessed and well-documented hauntings in history, as far as the type, the amount, of credible witnesses. Newspapers, radio and television stations throughout the U.S. and as far away as Australia and Israel told of the strange things happening there: Police officers reported seeing a 300-pound refrigerator float up off the floor and rotate; objects flying off walls; an amorphous, misty figure appearing to a house full of people; a talking cat; and even little Marcie being forced through the air until she hit the wall behind her.
Hall believes that the phenomena was firmly anchored to Marcia, and that it was a case of what is called “Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis,” or RSPK, in which the victim’s mind subconciously lashes out to move objects and cause other disturbances, usually without them even realizing it is happening. It is often girls going through or just about to go through puberty, and the victim has almost always gone through some sort of trauma. In Marcia’s case, Hall believes that the trigger was being bullied at school, and her relationship with her adopted mother, who was allegedly overbearing and overprotective, causing her latent psychokinetic powers to manifest, helped along by certain geological features of the location that made it more powerful. Hall says of it:
The match was the dysfunction in the family. Poltergeists normally come into play with a young girl, a teenager or young teen. Due to her olive skin color ... Marcie was picked on relentlessly at school. The bullying peaked when she was beaten up by another child and, as a result, found herself in a body brace. This incident only fueled her mother's destructive, if well-meaning, overprotective instincts. The little girl's frustration and loneliness boiled within her as she struggled to quietly hold it all inside. There was also an underground spring, and oils and high water tables, things that conduct electro-magnetic energy. One aspect that distinguished this phenomenon from other similar situations was that it morphed into a very public matter. During November of 1974, the bizarre antics of the little house leaked to the public and attracted crowds that swelled to over 2,000 onlookers. Lindley Street was barricaded and traffic was backed up for a mile or more in all directions.
Not everyone agrees with this theory, as the activity began when Marcia was just 4 years old, the activity was often witnessed when she was not in the room, it displayed intelligent behavior on occasion, and it was far more potent than usual cases of this nature. Paranormal researcher Loyd Auerbach has said of his thoughts on RSPK in relation to the Lindley Street case:
Over the 35 years of my own field investigations, I've been witness to the aftermath of incidents in poltergeist cases, as well as actual object movements by ostensible apparitions and RSPK cases. None have been as intensely physically disruptive as the Goodins' case, nor had as many witnesses to unexplained physical activity. Finding a case in the literature with the same degree of both would be a task I'm not sure would have a positive result. Though certainly more violent and chaotic than the vast majority of reported poltergeist cases, this case does generally seem to follow the general description of RSPK cases. This includes Marcia faking some activity, claiming later she was trying to get the attention off the family. However, there are some glaringly different elements, especially if Marcia is identified as the agent.
First, considering that the initial activity happened in 1968 shortly after Marcia was adopted at the age of 4, the timeline for this case is quite a bit longer than for the majority of reported RSPK cases. Additionally, a 4-year-old RSPK agent would be yet another extremely unusual element. This would even be the case with Marcia at age 10, during the height of the activity. Naturally, we could look to another, perhaps Laura Goodin, as the potential agent. Second, there were incidents witnessed while Marcia was not present, including apparent movements of objects when the entire family was out of the house. Consequently, it's difficult to be sure one of them was the RSPK agent even though there are cases in the parapsychological literature in which the assigned agent was rather far away from the activity on more than a single occasion.
Another theory was put forward by seminary student Paul Eno, who was with the Warrens during their initial investigation of the case. Eno would come to the conclusion that it was due to entities from other worlds and dimensions of the multiverse, interdimensional interlopers he calls “parasites,” and that the case was the result of “cross-world interaction that disrupts the physical laws we know.” Eno would take this all a step further and go as far as to blame these interdimensional overlaps on everything from ghosts to UFOs to cryptids and other paranormal phenomena.
As to what became of the Goodins after this, details on their ultimate fate are sketchy. It is known that they moved away from the house shortly after their case began bringing in droves of people, but after that it is unclear. Hall tried to track down the family, in particular Marcia, with a private investigator but didn’t find much. He discovered that she had changed her name to Marsha Godin, and that she had last been reliably seen when she was in her late teens. He was able find information that she had gone back to Canada for a time in an effort to track down her biological family, but after this the trail went cold up until her obituary, which showed she had died at the age of 51 in Shelby, Ohio, taking any secrets she had to the grave with her. Hall has said of his efforts to find her:
I was looking for her during the writing of the book. I would've liked to know what happened with her and her parents afterward. She left the home mad at them. I don't know if that was a regular teenaged reaction or something more, that was more of the dysfunction that started the poltergeist invasion.
In the end it is all very odd, indeed. What was going on with this family and what happened to them? What strange forces were orbiting them and why were they targeted? Was this poltergeist activity, interdimensional forces, a hoax, or something else? There is no way to know, and the case of the Lindley Street haunting remains one of the most well-witnessed and intense hauntings on record.