Friday, May 5, 2017
Some Thoughts On The Enfield Poltergeist
The word poltergeist derives from the German for noisy ghost and it would appear the name is well deserved. Of the various haunting phenomena that of the poltergeist is one of the best attested to and documented. With most if not all cases sharing a broadly similar set of features, those being loud noises, missing or moved objects, levitation, objects appearing or disappearing out of or into thin air and even physical attacks on the living. One of the best-recorded cases is the Enfield poltergeist, the phenomena reported and the cases supporters and detractors have lots in common with many other poltergeist infestations so perhaps by examining this one case, we can say much about some of the other cases as well. In august of 1977, the recently divorced Peggy Hodgson made a phone call to the police claiming to be experiencing knocking sounds from the wall and moving furniture. Two police officers were duly dispatched to the house and were met by Peggy and a neighbour. A later made police reports stated. “I heard 4 distinct taps on the wall then silence 2 minutes later more tapping from a different wall an accompanying officer checked the walls and the pipes but could find nothing. The eldest boy of the family pointed to a chair next to the sofa I then saw the chair slide across the floor it moved approximately 3/4 feet and came to rest I checked the chair but could find nothing to explain how it had moved”.
In another witness account of the same incident, a neighbour said: “the police wanted to get out they were as frightened as I was”. Within a few days with the police at a loss, the press was called in only to experience not only knocking and moving furniture but being pelted by stones and toys that seemed to appear from nowhere. Out of desperation, they, in turn, called the Society For Psychical Research who sent two researchers to the home one Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair. So, what are the main claims and counterclaim made about poltergeists first and foremost is that of the classic disembodied dead, cursed to roam between worlds acting out some repetitive memory whose recipient has long since passed or indeed interacting directly with the living. Next is that of trickery or fraud carried out in the name of mischief, monetary gain, attention or desperation and lastly the psychic manifestations of a disturbed mind via telekinesis. I postulate the theory that in this case at least all three are correct.
Upon arrival, Maurice said, “I could see the family were disturbed the mother was disturbed the children and the reporters from the daily mirror everyone was disturbed I said the word poltergeist and none of the family had a clue about what it meant”. Within a few weeks, both investigators had begun camping out in the home, both convinced they had a genuine poltergeist on their hands especially after Maurice and other witnesses saw a heavy cast iron fireplace ripped from the wall levitated 4 feet over a bed and dumped. One of the common features of a poltergeist haunting is the presence of an adolescent child in the home, this child often displaying signs of stress or mental health issues, the Enfield case having two girls in that stage of life Margret 14 and Janet 11 and the whole family going thru a rather traumatic divorce. This could fit two of our explanations for the phenomena, that of trickery/attention seeking and psychic disturbances using telekinesis. But what evidence have we of the classic ghost? Well as the case continued one of the girls Janet began to occasionally vocalise a deep gravelly voice which claimed to be that of a previous tenant of the house, it also said its name and how and where death had occurred. The voice confirmed by a neighbour as being that of the tenant with the name and cause and place of death also being correct. So, could a spirit or ghost have hijacked the minds of two adolescent girls? Well, both girls were in a vulnerable position as was the whole family and indeed the previous tenant had died in the house. Had he returned to drive the family from a house he considered his own? And what of trickery, a hoax Maurice and Guy were not the only investigators who the SPR sent to the home Annita Gregory and John Beloff also stayed in the house they both felt all the phenomenon were deliberate hoaxes on the part of the children. Janet later being hypnotised by a doctor when asked do you know who’s doing all this? She said “me and my sister…… I don’t know who it is”. she then said “I got thrown out of bed,” the doctor asked what did it feel like? she said “cold hands gripping me around the body” the doctor later said, “the impression I formed was this was not fraud they are doing some of it but why are they doing it something is forcing them to do it”. The case continued until 1979 with many twists and turns, more than I have time to go into unfortunately but my theory is this. That two troubled girls at an anxious stage in life from a family under tremendous stress made contact with or had some sort of sympathetic relationship with a disembodied entity allowing them and maybe it to act out in previously unacceptable ways perhaps our ghost wanted the family to leave or just take notice and maybe the girls needed to express the anxiety and anguish they were going through as a family and as people and, not forgetting, of course, gaining the attention of a number of adults. We see in this case evidence for all three explanations of the poltergeist phenomena ghost trickery and telekinesis and so maybe this is true of all such cases.