Category Archives: Poltergeist Investigations

Review: The Enfield Haunting, Sky Living Drama – Part One


So I actually watched it, only two days late! Firstly a note. Enfield produced a crop of iconic images, especially those by Graham Morris. I’m not reproducing them here. You have probably already seen them, and I don’t own the copyrights, and respect the owner’s IP, so sorry. 🙂 If the owner of the famous images reads this and is OK for me to license them for use in the review, drop me a line.

Polterwotsit is a blog about real poltergeist phenomena, not fictional ones, but clearly the two can inform each other. The new Sky Living drama about Enfield has attracted considerable media coverage, and from what I have seen so far good reviews. If it were just a fiction I would never get round to watching it – but it is (very notionally) based upon Guy Lyon Playfair’s This House Is Haunted and hence the Enfield Poltergeist. As such I guess I’d better say something. I have actually reviewed fiction before on my personal blog – you can find my review of the first Paranormal Activity film here.

“Everyone’s a critic” they say, implying that everyone who can’t perform or write themselves allows themselves to make harsh judgments of those who can. It is all too true in my case – as an actor I am appalling, as a screenwriter – well I’m not doing much of it now am I? – and as a writer, er yeah, ’nuff said. I did get an Asst. Director’s credit once when a real director taught me a bit and let me “call the shots”, but what I know about making film or drama can be written on the back of a postage stamp. If you want a considered review based on real knowledge of the paranormal on film go ask Tom Ruffles, he’s your man.

Timothy Spall looks nothing like Maurice in this scene from the drama; but of he get's the voice right I'm happy!

Timothy Spall looks nothing like Maurice in this scene from the drama; good actor though!

Still here is what I thought – the good, the bad, and the so ugly I twice paused it and walked away from the TV to go clear my head and stop being annoyed and shouty before I could continue…

Let me start by saying that as a representation of the events at Enfield, at least as depicted by Guy in This House Is Haunted, this drama is about as much accurate as Cameron’s movie Titanic is to the events described in A Night to Remember and the actual sinking of the Titanic. 

To justify that analogy – the dramatist, Joshua St. Johnston has pulled out strands of story, and woven together a drama, and set it against the backdrop of Enfield – and the sets are loving reconstructions of the 1970’s, with almost perfect verisimilitude in set, costume, and feel just as Titanic gets the ship and costume almost perfect.

I lived in a council house 1981 to 1987, very similar to the one the Hodgsons lived at – and it was pretty realistic, though we lacked slugs and snails and ours was in much better structural shape. Note to Producers – poor does not mean dirty. The pipes looked right, but a lots of working class homes are pretty immaculate. I like the was it was handled here – looked right, and the reconstruction of the girls bedroom was almost perfect. I think the Monopoly set on the wardrobe is a 1982 edition, but otherwise almost perfect set dressing.

So it looks right, the names are right, the period items are right, the atmosphere is 77 – even down to a clip of a famous Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em episode on the TV – the lighting is almost Dogme 95, and the claustrophobic shots build atmosphere – all excellent. It’s a fantastic effort; the Viewmaster-G series toy looked right, and I think the Ker-Plunk set was the correct era too.

This House is Haunted by Guy Lyon Playfair

This House is Haunted by Guy Lyon Playfair

That’s the Good. The Bad now. And here is a confession…

I’m possibly not the target audience for this drama. I am going to guess that less that 50%, maybe less than a couple of million of the viewers of this show, will have ever tried to make sense of what happened at Enfield, written about it, talked to any of those there or describe themselves as “academic parapsychologists” on the dole forms.  I may be in the 20% or so of the audience who have actually read This House is Haunted, and maybe the few thousand who actually have read much on poltergeists. And as far as I know, I’m the only viewer who has a Poltergeist blog, cos this is the only one. Therefore, as this is not a programme made for pretentious nerds like me, I would be an arse to review it. I shall do so anyway, but bear it in mind.

I saw that the Telegraph or someone did a review calling it The Good Life with ghosts. I haven’t read it yet – I prefer to form my own opinions – but I think they have something. There is nothing of Margot & Jerry about it, or the Goods – but in a sense it is about an assault on hegemony, common sense of a society. However The Good Life, like Keeping Up Appearances, The Upper Hand, and pretty much every other 70’s and 80’s sit com was about something we barely understand now – social class. Well we pretend not to, we live in a classless society, but hell it’s rough on lads like me who aspire to rise above their station I promise you. I did pretty well, but like so many of the working class intellectuals of my generation, or maybe in my case pseudo-intellectuals, I ended up broke living in poverty on benefits in a house full of books.

Right now I get you don’t want a Marxist discussion of the base/superstructure model, and what economies generate poltergeists. 🙂 My point is that the 80’s and Thatcher changed so much that unless you were in the 70’s it is hard to imagine the class system, and how pervasive and taken for granted class assumptions were until maybe the early 80’s. And here is the first failing – while The Good Life was about two middle class couples, one of whom dropped out and lived what would not be recognised as a perfectly mainstream organic urban farming middle class existence; the Enfield Haunting has to negotiate class distinctions in 70’s England.

So let’s start with the Hodgsons – plainly working class, poor but respectable. Dad has left. So what is the single most important class indicator for a production like this? Accent. North London accents are divided by class; way more so then but now, and Enfield has an accent. Now luckily they avoided the obvious trap of Cockney – but the family just sound all wrong, shattering the illusion for me.  Eleanor Worthington-Cox sounds middle class, perhaps Cheshire (I’ll probably find out she grew up in Enfield now) and her brilliant performance as Janet is marred by an accent that would put her in the middle classes, not on a council estate in 1977. Now you can live on a council estate and talk posh – someone once said I did for instance, and I notoriously have  a “telephone voice” if someone calls me – but the accents of the family evoke a disconnect in terms of class and time and place. I guess you need fairly neutral accents for TV, but also I was surprised that the familiar diction of North London has gone – and even the choice of words feels wrong. “bleedin'” made far too few appearances. Are  there no North London child actors? Only Peggy really convinced by accent, and she looks like a middle class Oxo ad mum rather than a working class woman of the 1970’s. Still the families acting is superb, so all is good there!

Now as Becky says “this is TV” and Lisa “yes Chris it’s a drama, not a recreation”. Yeah fair point. I just felt stronger play on the language and class aspects would not have harmed the drama, though it may actually make younger viewers uncomfortable. People under 40 often seem uncomfortable talking about class.

mauriceNow it get’s harder for me; Spall and MacFadyen. Why? Because Maurice’s moustache and voice are totally wrong. I can do a pretty good impression of Maurice Grosse – I once dared to do it to his face, and he laughed, which was lucky as while a jolly and good natured chap he could blow up and explode in to harumphing rage if provoked. 😉 However the moustache, and the voice, and a few mannerisms made Maurice pretty unique – and a bit eccentric. Spall has played it safe, by playing Maurice as a more respectable, slightly sad figure – I recall him more as a frenetically driven, sometimes angry, often laughing, usually interrupting kind of bloke – but I liked Maurice, who I knew a little, so I like Spall’s depiction – I just don’t recognise it. So for the 75% of viewers who never ate with Maurice, or talked politics with him – well you guys will have to make up your own minds. Just don’t confuse Maurice Grosse and Maurice Grosse, if you see what I mean. I guess that is true of any fictional depiction of a real person, but I can’t think of any I have seen.  Maurice is odd – because you take away his North London middle class accent – a self made millionaire I believe, Grosse was perhaps working class made good, but he a long away above the Hodgson’s socially.  One lovely tough is Grosse’s red sports car, spot on.

Guy Lyon Playfair likes the drama, and I can see why. The depiction of him is pretty good. Of course there is one of the scenes which lefts me infuriated soon after his character arrives. As I recall Grosse and Playfair were sitting together at a monthly SPR talk  on a Thursday night when the shout went out and they volunteered to go look.  For dramatic purposes that is completely changed here, and – well I’ll get to that in my rant under “the ugly” below. For now what we have to note is Guy is very upper middle class – I find him a little scary, as I find most Cambridge graduates. The depiction of his in this respect seems good – he was good looking, well educated, and knew about poltergeists. He also seems a little more cynical and harder to befriend that Maurice – I always wonder if I am inadvertently “using the wrong knife” round Guy, but we do not meet often these days as I have no money for SPR meetings or conference. 😦 Guy also is extremely intelligent, a little belligerent when defending his case and while not a touch eccentric like Maurice, perhaps a little non-conformist. I like him from the few occasions we have met, but I’m a bit nervous of him, even by email!

The Ugly

There is a lot I actively dislike about the show. The biggest thing was early on, when Maurice and his wife take the call from the SPR (which of course never happened). There is a weird dream sequence in which it seems Maurice is looking at blood on a girl’s  head – I think Janet Grosse was 22 when she died, not a child, and her head injuries in the motorbike crash that killed her went a lot further than a bit of blood – but here the dramatist establishes Maurice was suffering “bad dreams” at the time of the case.

I know nothing of the sort to be true; I did speak to Maurice about his daughter’s death, well he told me, and he told most people – he was obviously very upset by it, and it was why he came to join the SPR – but I still don’t think bereavement effected him. Spall play’s Grosse as vulnerable – I recall him as a an energetic firebrand, but I could be wrong. I was only an acquaintance of his- others should speak on this.   Still this is a drama so that is fine, and the author is cleverly creating multiple potential explanations. enfield2

So what annoyed me in this scene? After Maurice leaves the house, his wife Betty is seen making a mysterious phonecall and saying something like “Ray, I’ve got to see you”. She smiles – and I immediately got an uneasy feeling the implication was that she was having an affair. Now this seems a nonsense from what I know – it serves a narrative purpose, to show that Maurice pretty much dedicated all his time day and night to the case – but Maurice was a family man and he and Betty were devoted to each other. Maurice has a son, Richard – perhaps that is the mysterious Ray, or maybe Ray is a family physician? The storyline will be resolved in the second or third episode I explain innocently enough, but it struck a nerve because of the David Baddiel incidents.

Baddiel wrote a novel featuring a fictional character called Maurice Grosse who has an affair –

GHOSTBUSTER Maurice Grosse did not see the funny side when he read a novel by comic David Baddiel with a storyline about an adulterer called Maurice Grosse.

Now the 79-year-old para-psychologist is suing the Fantasy Football star for libel – and demanding £10,000 damages.

In his book, Time for Bed: A Novel About Sleep, Sex and Skewed Clocks, Baddiel describes a psychic investigator called Maurice Grosse who lives in High Barnet, North London, and runs away with a married woman. The non-fictional Mr Grosse, who lives in Muswell Hill, North London, said: ‘I’m 79 and I’ve been happily married for 55 years.”

They settled out of court, and Grosse characteristically gave his winnings to charity. After he died however, Baddiel used the character again in another novel (and film) The Infidel. I am diplomatically going to avoid saying what I think of this move by David Baddiel…

So with that background, I think the screenwriter should have stayed well clear of teaser storylines about Maurice’s (as far as I know extremely happy) marriage. I was annoyed a bit, and went for a walk to calm down. I’m sure episodes 2 & 3 will as I say dismiss this but…

And then the portrayal of Maurice, and the bond between him and Janet, well it just goes a bit far. He comes over as a kindly uncle, all perfect, but did he sniff that hairbrush? We are viewing this in the wake of the historic sexcrimes investigations of Operation Yewtree and things that were totally innocent often seem dodgy to us in this cynical and perverted age. For a moment i felt uneasy – was Maurice being depicted as a perv, to set up a storyline where at the end of the evidence we learn about his daughters death and his  behaviour is explained? I’m probably too defensive of Maurice, but I felt uncomfortable. Nothing about him was in the slightest sleazy as far as I can recall! 🙂 Quite the opposite.

The third  thing that really annoyed me was the whole Playfair versus Grosse set up.  As noted above, the two had previously met at an SPR event or two, but only really got to know each other after they came to Enfield. In reality they both volunteered at the 4th August SPR 1977 meeting. Except in the drama Guy arrives at the house, and joins the investigation, and then forces Maurice briefly out, having talked some utter bilge (I assume) about being sent by Prof Beloff to stop Maurice and protect the good name of the SPR!  Would John Beloff have roared with laughter, or sued? I suspect the former, but it is a nonsense.

The SPR since its inception in 1882 has not held corporate opinions.  Members of the SPR may investigate cases, may have even been sent out by John Stiles and the Spontaneous Cases Committee, but they are investigating as private individuals and their opinions are there own, as the SPR does not hold collective opinions. If you don’t know much about the SPR ( http://www.spr.ac.uk ) you might want to have a quick look at this old blog piece of mind from my personal blog.  Whatever the case, I don’t think the SPR sent anyone to “shut down Enfield”. I may be wrong, but I very much doubt it, and it certainly was not Guy Lyon Playfair. Maybe a rivals dynamic is more interesting, and Guy is depicted in the role of all the Sceptics he had to answer, then and today, putting their critiques to Maurice, who refutes them. An interesting dramatic measure, making Guy Lyon Playfair the villain, but not what I understand happened. Both investigators were pretty self critical and sceptical, and I can’t imagine Guy rounding on Maurice with “I am the expert.” Good drama, don’t confuse it with the real dynamic. I think Guy here represents the other SPR members who came along and were woefully unimpressed, but “bandying the SPR name about?”. Really???

Holy Levitating Lyon Playfairs Batman!

The moment at the end of episode one where Guy is suddenly hurled to the ceiling by the poltergeist nearly became a major contribution to psychical research in its own right, in that it nearly killed me. I was eating a packet of crisps, and physically fell off the sofa crying with laughter. For a show about a poltergeist investigation – and it is about that rather than the poltergeist, the phenomena is firmly relegated to the background, with usually good but occasionally irritating sound – actually well done music but occasionally distracts rather than adds, blame the mix not the sound’s composer  I guess – indicating “this bit is spooky” the actual haunting effects are absolutely bollocks.  Janet sees an old man (is that Guy Lyon Playfair made up to look old and scary? You only see him for a second and I did wonder if he was playing a cameo!) through the Viewmaster toy – really? – the Mirror journalists are relegated to the role of barely adolescent wonks (they play a significant role in events) and the string of visiting experts seems boilded down to a cameo of what I guess are the guys from PYE.  The weird shot from Graham Morris showing the curtains blowing in turns in to a Hollywood horror movie sequence of the curtains strangling Janet…

The story is told higgledy piggledy, without regard for the   actual chronology of the phenomena, and while in places the phenomena are served well – the marbles which take the place of the marbles and Lego bricks that hit the Daily Mail guys scene is shot in such a way there is ambiguity about how it occurs, and if the kids chuck things, but seriously, the “creepy old man apparition” glimpsed through windows etc a la Mr Pipes feels more like a homage to Stephen Volk’s Ghostwatch than anything to do with Enfield, unless it is supposed to be the chap Vic Nottingham saw at the table? (You will look in vain for the Burcombes, the Nottinghams, or most of the others who came to Enfield in episode one. I guess introducing the girls and investigators enough – Peggy hopefully gets  screen-time more in episode 2, and Graham Morris too. WPC Heeps gets a mention – but the problem with this simplification for good screenwriting, reducing an endless list of characters to a handful who perform their narrative function, is it severely reduces the strength of the testimony, and some twonks will make up their mind on Enfield not from the people, physical evidence or written sources, but from this drama 😉 Such people really exist, and I seem to meet them! 😦 ).

You are not going to learn much about poltergeist phenomena from this – go to the book. Unbelievably Becky claims most people do not actually WANT TO learn about poltergeist phenomena(!!!), and if they did they might not try a Sky Living drama. 😉 It’s like Lisa says “CJ, you simply don’t understand fiction and a good story: it’s entertainment”.  While a few phenomena were absolutely spot on – marbles stopping dead for instance – seriously, don’t confuse the real case (more dramatic at times) and the rather dodgy special effects here.

Overall

A few aspects of the case seemed a bit personal to drag out for a drama; the oldest boy Johnny sent off to an Approved School, the girls periods etc. I’m guessing Guy has good relations with the family and he approved the screenplay I believe; I was surprised to find I know a couple of people related to the current residents of the house, and I hope they are not being harassed by “ghosthunting kids” and that Sky Living make it worth their while. I’m not sure I’d want my childhood on primetime TV, but hey, that ain’t ever gonna happen so I can sleep easy. 🙂

A good intelligent drama, as entertainment 7/10, mainly for good acting and great backdrops and period feel, but the script is not what I would have hoped for. I could not do anywhere near as well though, so bravo! to all involved. 🙂 I am probably not the person to review this. 😀

CJ x

QA

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Filed under Poltergeist Cases, Poltergeist Dramas, Poltergeist Investigations

A Cheltenham Poltergeist Investigated


I have only the vaguest recollection of this case now! From the mid-90’s…

A Local Poltergeist?

Tonight I have been privileged to investigate a possible poltergeist case, albeit of a minor nature, which has been troubling a personal friend. I was informed of the case some two weeks ago but owing to other commitments was unable to give it much attention until tonight. I will use a fairly self-explanatory structure in this report, which unfortunately must use pseudonyms.

Persons Present

The Garden (basement) flat (above ground level in the main, from the rear of the house) is home to two students. Cathy, aged 22ish is a English student, and Tom, about the same age is a mathematics- and science-orientated teacher trainee. They share the kitchen of their flat with Simon, who is also a student and does bar work at a local pub, but who has a room in the main (upstairs) part of the house which is occupied by the [[ B]] family. The [[B]] are a couple in their fifties, who live upstairs with their 18 year old daughter who Cath describes as a “sporty type”, quite happy and pleasant enough. The events are as far as we are aware confined to the downstairs flat, Cath having not broached the subject with her landlords.

Cath has been resident in the flat since September ’93, and after a troubled relationship with another girl, who left the flat in February ’94, lived there alone until September ’94 when Tom moved into the house. Relations between Tom and Cath are very good, the couple enjoying a strong platonic relationship. Simon is not communicative with Tom, while not hostile. Apparently he got on better with Cath before Tom moved in.

Layout

The flat consists of four rooms: kitchen, Cath’s room, bathroom, Tom’s room. The kitchen is shared with Simon. All of the rooms connect via Cath’s room, and during the daytime Simon must walk through first Tom’s and then Cath’s room to get to the kitchen, and Tom must pass through Cath’s room to leave the house or enter the kitchen or bathroom. At night Simon walks around the outside of the house to use the kitchen. All the same Cath must get very little privacy, although she does not seem to overly resent this.

The “Haunting”

When Cath first moved into the flat Simon (already resident upstairs) said that he could feel a presence in her room, sitting in a chair. He later admitted this was only to tease and frighten her, in which he succeeded, Cath being fairly timid about such things.

No futher mention was made of the “ghost” until Cath had a schizophrenic friend called Mary come to stay. While Cath was in the toilet and Mary was on the bed in Cath’s room Daphne, Cath’s then flatmate wandered through to the kitchen. On her return she looked startled and asked Mary if she had been on the bed all the time, insisting she had looked and failed to see her there on her way to the kitchen. This amazingly trivial incident seemed full of psychical significance to Mary and Cath who discussed it at great length. I would say it was evidently a perfectly normal case of misperception.

From this point nothing occurred until the Christmas vacation ’93/’94. The next incident was related to Cath and Tom by Simon. Tom and Cath were away, and the [[B]]’s were leaving so Simon would be alone in the house. The building has a burglar alarm which is set and turned off by a key, although the [[B]]’s own two copies. Just before they left they discovered one key was missing.

On New Year’s Eve Simon was working at the pub. On his return in the early hours of New Year morning he was astonished to see the missing key on a table with the container which held the other one, in plain sight. He was sure it was not there when he went out, but he was the only inhabitant in Cheltenham at the time.

At the risk of casting Simon as villain in this suburban melodrama, there is a perfectly rational explanation. Simon is, as we shall hear again, prone to fiddle with things and distractedly carry them about. Is it not likely that he was carrying the other key all the time, having forgot to replace it? He may have been too embarrassed to admit to the family he was still carrying it, but as they asked him to look around for it in their absence he did not need to invent such an extraordinary story. “It was down the back of the sofa!” would have done just as well. Then again, conscious deceit is far from necessary. He could easily have used it to disarm the system without thinking, and then noticed two, not one keys, in front of him. I don’t think I’m too harsh if I say barmen are not renowned for their sobriety in the early hours of New Year’s Day. Then again perhaps this really was Small Object Displacement.

On January 9th Tom and Cath both returned back to the flat. Tom immediately noticed that his set of three juggling balls was missing from it’s usual place on top of the piano. He assumed that Simon had borrowed them and absent mindedly forgotten to return them; Cath also noticed evidence that Simon had entered her room and played some of her music tapes. Two of the balls have since been located; one appeared in the kitchen, and the other on Tom’s bedroom floor. Both were placed in plain sight. Cath believes this piecemeal return makes Simon’s involvement unlikely; he would just have returned them all. Tom is not convinced.

The spot where the balls normally “live” in plain sight is marked with a J on the sketch map. They are just to the right of Tom’s door through which Simon must pass to reach the kitchen, and on top of the upright-style piano are at roughly chest height. The compulsive twiddler Simon probably picked them up absently as he wandered in and out. I have a theory that Simon is not sneakily returning them but simply playing with them as he wanders down to the kitchen and discarding them en route, without thinking. I suspect the missing ball will be returned or another vanish soon. This theory is strengthened by the fact that Cath and Tom have not liked to ask Simon if he’s seen them!

Poltergeist Effects?

The case however, even if we discard the apparent Small Object Displacement must surely be proven or disproven in the two most dramatic incidents, which share several things in common. Both objects apparently moved, both were items of personal significance to Cath and both were in Cath’s room at the time.

The first object may be presumed to have moved during Cath’s absence during the vacation. The item which moved was a photograph of Cath’s mother, which was in a relatively inaccessible postion on a shelf some 6′ off the ground and standing behind two other photo’s which were untouched.

The photograph weighs the 3g and moved about 6″ upwards and 6″ to the left. Although Simon had apparently entered her room and played tapes, etc, etc, during the vacation Cath finds it highly unlikely that he would move a photo of her mother. If he wished to consult the photo albums it is unlikely that he would move the photo; this was simply unecessary. However, I would like to suggest that this explanation, while highly improbable, could be seen as less improbable than invoking poltergeist activity!!!

The relationship between Cath and her mother is at the moment very good, and is generally amiable. Cath noticed the photo had moved shortly after her return, and believes it probably moved during the vacation. Cath is unable to state if she noticed the occurrence on the day of her return or the next day.

The photo (which resides in a cardboard frame) could not have fallen to the face down position in which it was found without having:-

1. Previously been moved to the top of the albums, and then fallen. Cath denies she did this, and that seems reasonable enough.
2. Been physically picked up and moved, presumably by Tom, Simon or Cath. There are no cats or other pets to confuse the issue!
3. Performed a strange and “paranormal” flight!

I personally have to come down in favour of option (b) but do acknowledge that option (c) is interesting. If (c) is the case then I would suggest two further immediate possibilities, being (1) PKE (or psycho-kinetic energy, whatever that may be) generated by a human agent, or (2) a disembodied spirit. Before we consider these options let us look at the two further incidents of “haunting” reported to me.

Perhaps one or two nights after her return Cath was startled awake at 4 a.m. by feeling something falling on her bed. She was frightened by this, not unreasonably, and on turning on the light to investigate found it was a plastic cow wristband which makes a “moo!” sound when a button is depressed. This novelty item was given to Cath just before her return, and was sitting on her bookshelf. It weighs exactly 1 oz and had travelled some twenty inches, in a downward curve (I estimate 8″ horizontally, 12″ down).

The bookcase is open at the back, more of a shelving unit really, and is relatively stable. I bounced up and down all over the floorboards without disturbing anything on it! The “moo-er” had been sitting on a pile of books, and Cath demonstrated that if it had slipped off naturally it would have fallen on the floor. By experiment we discovered the “paranormal” flight could be replicated by pushing it hard from the other side. If this was done the “ghost” would then have had to dash into Tom’s room (door closed), the bathroom (door closed) or the kitchen. In any of these eventualities Cath would have noticed as she was startled awake.

The cow-thing incident is hard to explain, but it is possible that the object merely slipped and that the flight path was more natural than myself or Cath realised. I wouldn’t like to rule out a natural or paranormal explanation for this one….

The next incident is undoubtably the most curious, and pushes back my personal boggle threshold another millimeter or two. On Thursday, 12th January Cath was suicidal. Her depression is rooted in stress of college work and uncertainty as to her direction in life more than any problem with her personal relationships, although she had just chosen to end a relationship with a chap she had been seeing as a “partner”, although neither particularly emotionally or sexually entangled with the aforesaid male. Presumably she had washed her hair, for she was drying her hair when she noticed something extremely odd. The hairdryer was plugged in but the switch was at the off position. The hairdryer continued to function when she unplugged it, completely isolating it from the power supply. She eventually turned the device off, puzzled. Despite many attempts she has never managed to repeat this.

What happened? Well two possibilities immediately spring to mind. One; the incident never happened except in Cath’s mind. Her depression caused her to hallucinate the episode in some way, and this false memory provided a stimulus and mystery which eventually helped jolt her from her ennui and depression. It is of course possible Cath was lying; I have only her testimony for almost all the events although Tom certainly doesn’t believe this to be the case, and neither do I. I think we can rule out conscious falsehood, if only because most of the incidents were of such a trivial character and Cath remains interested in getting to the bottom of them.

That leaves option two; that the hairdryer was operating while disconnected from any obvious electrical current. Rational explanations do not spring readily to mind. Was there a secondary power supply based on batteries, which ran flat before her second attempt? I only briefly examined the offending device, but could find no battery port. Does the hairdryer have capacitors or backup power supply internally? I can’t say but if so would expect Cath to suceed in her attempts to reproduce the effect. Could Cath have been in contact with an exposed wire and powering the hairdryer herself? She should have noticed a continual 240V shock, to say the least! No obvious source for such a “live” wire (literally!) theory could be found….

This does not necessarily invalidate the idea of a (nonlocal) power source. My stereo when sitting idle though plugged in frequently comes to life with taxi cab radio messages. While extremely unlikely, I can not rule out a remote power source.

So what are the possibilities of PKE being behind the events? Cath returned from her vacation on January 9th. She had been staying with a penpal (male) with whom she has a warm relationship via mail, although she finds it harder to communicate in person. The penpal’s home is over one hundred miles from Cheltenham, so if Cath was creating PKE effects during the vacation then the energy decay curve for psycho-kinesis is to say the least interesting! [Roll, 1977 is probably the best authority for this; under his theory this is an impossible action]. There is some evidence that a PKE-field or battery can be created and discharge itself when the focus is no longer present. If forced we could invoke this; however there is no proof that the object moved during the vacation. It could have occurred before Cath left or since she returned.

Now let us consider the well known agent theory for poltergeist activity for a moment. There seem to be three immediately obvious agents for a poltergeist focus, but if the “paranormal” hypothesis is correct who is it?

Is it a) Tom, the mild-mannered flatmate?

If Tom was at the centre of the occurence then why did Cath’s objects move? If he is unconsciously using PKE to apport or SOD objects he is unaware of this latent gift. Tom is highly intelligent, sociable and shows signs of diverse tastes in his reading matter, amidst which I was happy to note H.H. Munro (Saki) and M.R. James. He is scientifically inclined and puts the “haunting” down to Simon fiddling with things. He stated that he was under no particular stress at the moment, though he has been helping Cath through her bad patch.

So what about b) Cath, the sweet student eco-guerilla?

Cath is also highly intelligent, and has a strong interest in things occultish and paranormal. Before you ask, attention seeking can be safely ruled out; I can only offer my personal testimony on this but feel I am the last person Cath would try to demonstrate preternatural abilities to, being well known to her for my cynicism and scepticism. She takes a rational stand on matters paranormal, although she does possess a crystal ball and tarot cards. She is amused by how unpsychic she seems to be, and perhaps a little disappointed.

She offered me the chance to investigate in casual conversation, and in the two weeks before I contacted her made no attempt to raise the subject again. She was happy to participate in the study, and did not seem at all miffed by the fact I remained dubious of paranormality in this instance. She is furthermore a friend of my girlfriend and previous partner and very much part of my social “scene”, and took a risk of ridicule by allowing the investigation to occur at all from these two formidably sceptical ladies.

Cath was following the vacation in a state of deep depression, and college stress was undoubtably partly to blame. She has reached a kind of intellectualised nihilism in which all meanings are negated, and on the day of the hairdryer incident was suicidal. Tom talked her out of this mood. Following this her mood has fortunately improved drastically. She believes that her mental unbalance and depression may underlie the “poltergeist”, and is amused and interested by this.

I have frequently referred to poltergeist activity as a “nervous breakdown taking place outside of the head”, and Cath thinks this is the most likely cause. I am disinclined to agree simply because Simon seems such a perfect villain, but am willing to accept this as a possible cause.

So what of c) the villainous Simon?

Does Simon act as a poltergeist agent? I feel not, although he does certainly have a habit of fiddling with things. I myself have observed Simon pick up and play with small objects as he moves around the flat, and on one occasion he moved a “Cuddly frog” toy from Cath’s bedroom to the kitchen while wandering through. This and other “SOD”, “JOTTLE” or apport type events were ascribed to Simon because he was seen doing it. However Simon was the only person present throughout the time when the purportedly paranormal events, and if we are going to invoke the agent theory of the PKE poltergeist then we really must consider Simon as a primary suspect.

What about the other possibility? It is of course possible that a disincarnate spirit or “ghost” is behind the events. I personally feel it unlikely and offer the following points against:-

1. There is no evidence of an attempt at communication on the part of the ghost, unless it’s mind is totally alien to us.
2. There is no known legend of the house being “haunted” until the comparatively recent events, exceptions noted above.
3. No easy identity can be provided for the apparition, and there is no known person who may wish to haunt the property.
4. There are no sightings of, or sounds of, a “disincarnate” visitor.

I admit that the above is largely negative evidence, and I may well be proved wrong. The “haunting” at first glance seems to be focussed on Cath, but events have also happened to Tom and Simon. I personally believe that it is unlikely that all the events are misperceptions, Simon or other normal causes. It is however extraordinary unlikely that a poltergeist is involved – so I must favour the former. I leave the individual reader to judge for themselves and would welcome comments.

cj x

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