Tag Archives: Enfield Poltergeist

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

Drama, Controversy and Confusion: The Legacy of The Enfield Poltergeist


Polterwotsit has been rather a dead letter for a couple if years now; Becky has completed her PhD, my ghost group GSUK has not met, and Parasoc has quietly disbanded. Ironically I have been just as busy, if not more so, as always in studying poltergeist cases, and as this is as far as I know the only poltergeist dedicated blog on the web I think it is time to revive it.

The spur has come from a new Sky Living drama based on the Enfield Poltergeist, which begins tomorrow (Sunday) night and my friend Hayley asking me to answer some questions to assist with her writing for her piece on the case in The Skeptic magazine.

Unfortunately my answers were rather longer than the whole piece, so obviously could not be used — so I ran them past Guy Lyon Playfair – I have no idea if he read them, but we chatted amicably by email –  and shall present them here.

This House is Haunted by Guy Lyon Playfair

This House is Haunted by Guy Lyon Playfair

Why are my opinions on a case that occurred a decade before I joined the SPR important? That may not be, probably aren’t — but I think if I can be taken as at least a little representative of the “next generation” of parapsychologists, my responses to Hayley’s questions may have some interest, and perhaps throw some light on the case for those whose interest is slightly more recent.

Obviously the real people to talk to are the family, and those who were there – Maurice is gone, but Guy still has plenty to say, and there is a vast amount of physical evidence that is not being studied.

This is not a primer to the case, or an introduction. It assumes some knowledge of what transpired, though even watching the drama might suffice, I don’t know I have not see it. (GLP seems to think it is good I’m relieved to say; that of course is not the same as “accurate” – accuracy is not usually a concern in drama!) If you haven’t read Playfair’s classic account of the case you should – This House is Haunted – and this Channel 4 documentary is superb too.

Anyway, here are my thoughts in response to Hayley’s questions…

Were the initial experiences significant/worthy of investigation?

A few years ago I made a calendar info-graphic of the case, showing the development of different symptoms, and compared them with those in the 500 cases collected by Gauld and Cornell from across 5 continents and many centuries for analysis in their 1979 book Poltergeists. Yes very much so…

The early part of the case is extensively detailed in GLP’s This House Is Haunted; the very first part of the case was recorded by BBC radio reporter Rosalind Morris who made several visits to the house in the period before the 45 minute broadcast on Radio 4 during The World This Weekend programme on September 11th 1977.

The case began on a quiet note, with two of the children’s beds shaking, which Peggy dismissed, but on the 30th August an unusual sound puzzled her enough to ask neighbour and builder Vic Nottingham in, who called the police.

WPC Carolyn Heeps saw a chair move, and it was clear the family were very distressed. WPC Heeps has always stuck to her statement “I’m absolutely convinced no one in that room touched that chair or went anywhere near it when it moved. Absolutely convinced”.

The next day Peggy Hodgson claims she saw an extraordinary sight – a chest of drawers ‘shuffling’ towards her. The children were at this point apparently terrified “just screaming and screaming”.

By the 4th September the Nottingham’s has called the Daily Mirror – and after considerable persistence (having been sworn at and cut off) they convinced the Mirror to send reporters.
Douglas Bence and Graham Morris came over – Graham was the photographer. Channel Four have done parapsychology a favour by recently recording extensive candid interviews with the two men for the show Interview with a Poltergeist – and it is clear that both men still believe something absolutely extraordinary was happening at Enfield, before Grosse and Playfair arrived.

I regard the amount of testimony from those who were present in the earliest phase of Enfield to be unusually good, and it is hard to believe that reporters, by nature a cynical bunch, would have been easily deceived.

So yes, the case was in every respect worthy of investigation at this point: it stood to tell us more about poltergeist cases, and the family’s distress was extreme.

Is the eye-witness testimony of the police officer who saw a chair move considered better? Does it make a contribution to the case?

WPC Carolyn Heeps gave more than one statement. The police officers returned to the station and logged the call out; however the statements usually discussed are those given to Maurice Grosse in writing and dated 10th September, and the February 1978 statement to BBC Scotland.

In a later (1982) statement to Mary Rose Barrington there were discrepancies – but five years had elapsed, and if I have shown one thing beyond reasonable doubt in all my years in psychical research it is that contrary to the “flashbulb memory” and confabulation models of memories of paranormal experiences, they erode with time, like any experience, only becoming ‘fossilised’ to some extent by constant re-telling, but losing detail, not gaining it. 

The 1978 statement given to Scottish BBC television director Peter Lamont reads

“The chair was by the sofa, and I looked at the chair and I noticed it shook slightly. I can’t explain it any better, and it came off the floor oh, nearly a half inch I should say, and I saw it slide off to the right about three and a half to four feet before it came to rest…I’m absolutely convinced no one in that room touched that chair or went anywhere near it when it moved.

Absolutely convinced I checked to see whether or not it could have possibly slided on the floor. I placed a marble on the floor to see whether or not the marble would bear the same direction as the chair did and it didn’t; it did not at all. I checked for wires under the cushion of the chair – I find no explanation at all”.

The 1977 Statement from 40 days after the event read

“On Thursday, 1st of September 1977 at approximately 1:00am, I was on duty on my capacity as a police women when I received a radio message to Green St., Enfield. I heard the sound of knocking on the wall that backs onto the next-door neighbours house. There were four distinct taps on the wall and then silence. The eldest son pointed to a chair, which was standing next to the sofa. I looked at the chair and noticed that it was wobbling slightly from side to side. I then saw the chair slide across the floor towards the kitchen wall. It moved approximately 3 or 4 feet and then came to rest”.

WPC Heeps was the only police officer to give a written statement, but not the only police officer to experience or be present during the phenomena, I think it would be worth trying to contact her colleagues now, before it is too late. As an external witness who was there right at the start when unidentified banging noises were suddenly joined by object movement phenomena, I think WPC Heeps testimony is important.

I find the minor variations over the years in how so she gave her statement more indicatives of truthful testimony than a made up story as well; however I have one caveat.

There is a tendency to rate “trained observers” as more reliable than others in terms of testimony. WPC Heeps seems to have no motive as an outsider to lie to us; I hesitate however to believe that because she was a policewoman she was any better equipped than anyone else to make accurate observations. Eyewitness testimony has been shown to be fallible by Loftus and many others; however these studies rarely dealt with the truly bizarre. One may fail to note an accurate description of a stage murder: however can one be sure the same rules apply when a kitchen chair moves unaided towards you in defiance of logic and physics? I don’t know!

My caveat is simply — don’t assume a police officer’s testimony is any more accurate than any other witness statement . Maybe, may be not. Depends on the person, the situation, and many other things.

If this scene happened now I would immediately think of the movie Poltergeist (1982): it is important to recognize this happened five years before that film came out, and the film drew from GLP’s This House is Haunted, not vice versa. (Likewise the name Gozer in Ghostbusters came from this case, not the other way round!)  I am inclined to think WPC Heeps description is highly accurate, but only because in one of the very few ‘paranormal’ experiences in my life I saw a coffee cup move in a very similar manner at a pub in Offchurch, Warwickshire in the mid-90’s. The vibration before the movement, the lifting and ‘flight’, are exactly what I an two others observed on that occasion. I was not aware to the best of my knowledge of the police officer’s statement before that date – I did not, perhaps surprisingly, read This House is Haunted properly until 2011.

Were there issues with the investigation? If so what?

Yes, of course. There are issues with any investigation. After a major police investigation the Home Office sometimes order a review to look over the case and see what lessons can be learned; the SPR did something similar with the Committee on Enfield under barrister and parapsychologist Mary Rose Barrington . Here we are fortunate; as well as the somewhat scanty reports in the literature, we have the at times almost confessional This House is Haunted, as well as the SPR review written by those unconvinced by the case.

It is clear that Grosse and Playfair were self critical; and there was a continual scrutiny by the press, and various sceptics and scientists who visited. In fact so many people visited Enfield at one time or another that I find it hard to imagine how more scrutiny could have been applied.

Of course I never went to the house: I was 8 years old the week it all began, and it was a decade later before I heard of the SPR, which I did not join until 1992. As such I freely admit my opinions are not worth much: in writing this I have drawn on notes from conversations in the period 1994 to 1996 with Maurice Grosse and Tony Cornell, who held very different attitudes to Enfield, and to the written sources.

I think it is fair to say that most of the SPR members who visited Enfield believed that some of the phenomena were genuine – and that the main investigators, who knew the family and case intimately and observed much of the phenomena first hand, Grosse and Playfair, were utterly convinced.

I think however that other members of the SPR who visited were far from convinced: they still however accepted that at the core the case had been genuine, at least that was my reading of Mary Rose Barrington’s position in the Enfield report. It was Mary Rose who first taught me that wonderful phrase of Renee Haynes, “the boggle threshold”. Some of the phenomena at Enfield fall close if not just over my boggle threshold: I find them hard to accept. I turn to the magisterial work of Gauld and Cornell, neither particularly impressed as I recall by Enfield, and I find by looking at the tables in their book Poltergeists that actually many of the phenomena are pretty normal for poltergeist cases.

So were there issues in the case? Yes, but one of the major ones seems to have been the reluctance of the SPR to fully commit to a full scale investigation. This is really a result of the actual constitution and set up of the SPR – it holds no corporate opinions, and members reflect all manner of beliefs. As such the opportunity was there to bring many perspectives on the case: but of course SPR members have jobs, families and lives outside of psychical research, and here Playfair and Grosse as relatively ‘junior’ members may not have had the back up they deserved.

Still that was because by the time other SPR members arrived on the scene, things had developed in to the more questionable latter stages of the case – the voice, the levitations, the pillow moving through the roof, etc. I can’t at this distance really tell you what happened: I do however think it highly dangerous, if not a little absurd, to privilege those critics who visited the house once over those who spent many months there like the journalist and Playfair and Grosse.

enfield2The two main objections I have heard are both directed at Maurice Grosse, no longer here to defend himself, but quite willing to do so, to court if necessary I feel, when alive.

The first is what I call the ‘Good Man’ critique – Maurice was a thoroughly decent fellow, who was genuinely moved by the appalling poverty and hard conditions the Hodgson’s endured. He therefore “helped out” financially, and also emotionally, becoming something of a surrogate father figure to the kids whose own father had left.

There are problems here; although the father had left the kids, he was in contact and visiting – and may well have been a kind and loving chap for all I know, though clearly the situation was distressing at some level. Secondly, while the family were poor, from the pictures and accounts they do not sound markedly more so than my own family when I was that age. Thirdly, while Maurice struck me as a kind fellow – he bought me dinner at an Italian restaurant a few times as I recall after SPR meetings – so did many other people – he was far from daft. I’m not convinced he was buying the kids presents on a regular basis, or helping out ot the degree where fraud was motivated by cash. I’ve never seen any hard evidence to suggest it anyway.

The second critique of Grosse is the “Bereaved” notion – like many people Grosse came to the SPR after an odd experience made him question if life after death was real, following the loss of his daughter Janet.

At the very end of This House is Haunted Playfair discusses how Grosse had come to wonder if Janet was somehow attempting to communicate through the case to him, but this may have been a slightly whimsical suggestion: I never came to know Maurice intimately, or even well – we were acquaintances at best, and I probably had just a handful of conversations with him after SPR meetings over dinner – but I do not recall him ever suggesting such a thing to me. He was however extremely critical of critics of the case, and he was overly defensive enough to put backs up I feel.

One such critic was Tony Cornell, that charming, and at time belligerent cynical old curmudgeon I came to admire greatly (and who did not speak to me for his last decade; the admiration was one way!). Tony was pretty direct in his critiques – he felt the girls played games, and played Maurice at times for a fool as I recall. Memory could be misleading me; but even Tony admitted there was a real case underlying what he was as tomfoolery and nonsense later on. Now I can’t be certain – more than twenty years have elapsed since Tony and I used to chain smoke outside SPR meetings and he delivered his marvelously well informed and often scathing critiques on all aspects of psychical research.

I thought Tony planned to write a book on Enfield – unless Investigating the Paranormal (2002) was the book in question, which doubtless gives his opinions on the case ( I have lent my copy to a friend so can’t check), I don’t know exactly what he was critical of.

This brings me back to where I started this section: the SPR could have supported Playfair and Grosse better than they did it; but the organisation was riven by internal politics. Lab based psi research was “in”, and about this time we see the beginnings of the renaissance in British Parapsychology that flowered at Edinburgh with the KPU under Bob Morris. Spontaneous cases were out of favour, and physical phenomena doubly so – poltergeists were plain unfashionable.

While Playfair and Grosse stayed with the SPR, by 1981 a sizeable number of members left to found ASSAP, an organisation with far more emphasis on spontaneous cases. Now of course Cornell and Gauld certainly had a strong interest in poltergeist cases, as did Mary Rose Barrington – so that was not the sole problem with Enfield – but generally the SPR were moving in a more “respectable” and scientific direction, and observational fieldwork may have been unwelcome in some quarters 🙂 Playfair’s Spiritist beliefs may have also caused some raised eyebows.

To me, well I think the case was a triumph. Almost every avenue was explored, it was well documented, and from the beginning Playfair and Grosse put the families welfare slap bang at the centre of their agenda. They went above and beyond what could be expected in bringing in expert help, going to considerable efforts to help the family get Janet examined at the Mausdley Hospital by Dr Peter Fenwick and liaising with schools and social workers. There is an odd dynamic there – but that probably is best discussed elsewhere. Overall I think they did better as investigators than I could ever hope to, and their persistence diligence and courage did not harm in the long run, and may have helped the family greatly. I guess it depends partly on what you see the key responsibility of the investigator is: to me it is to help the family make sense of their experience, move on and get through it. `

Was there evidence that activity was faked?

Yes. Margaret Hodgson is on record as saying about 2% of the phenomena was the girls playing around, and Janet has admitted they cheated at times, but were always caught. One incident where fakery was detected is reported in This House Is Haunted – it involves them hiding a tape recorder, and discussing what they were doing while it continued to play. No teenager is that daft: they wanted to be caught there. There is another incident, where the girls were persuaded a journalist to confess – and immediately afterwards retracted their confession. I believe a newspaper story ran at the time with reference t the alleged confession – if so it would be interesting to see it. It certainly proves the girls were pliable and eager to please, but today, nearly forty years on, both insist the phenomena was genuine.

I was 12 in 1981, a couple of years later. Looking back on that period when some major changes in my life occurred, and I moved home and changed schools and lost most of my friends, well I have only the most fragmentary memories of it all. These were huge changes in my life, that massively effected me – but I can’t recall more than a few tiny snippets of that traumatic summer. I’m guessing the Hodgson girls struggle to recall 1977 the same way, and remember more odd bits, and what they have read and been told since. Does anyone really know what happened at this remove? Only the press coverage, radio interviews and recordings can bring it back; that and This House Is Haunted. Maybe even the sisters don’t know exactly what the truth is after forty years?

People say that although some of the activity may have been faked a lot was genuine? Do you believe that this is true? Why do you think people make this distinction?

There is no doubt some of the activity was faked – absolutely everyone involved with the case, from the sisters to the journalists to Grosse and Playfair accept that. The girls were 11 and 13 when it all kicked off; and they acted like teenagers anywhere. At first they were terrified, but soon they began to enjoy it all, and if I recall correctly Tony Cornell was particularly put off by the way he though Janet was loving every moment and endlessly amused by the investigators failure to get to grips with it.

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; but of he gets the voice right I’m happy!

The more conservative SPR faction tended to think the later part of the case was faked: they accept some original simple poltergeist phenomena in most cases (though at least one SPR member who visited the house once would not allow even that, calling hoax). Maurice Grosse was perhaps the most open to all the phenomena – the journalists seems to suggest he was at times a little credulous, though actually I suspect Maurice may have been being kind, and giving the family the benefit of the doubt.

Once again forces are at work which are possibly not immediately obvious to those who have not spent some of their youth kicking around with the SPR. It might be partly political, but also there is a well establish SPR tradition dating back to the 19th century that once a medium or psychic claimant is caught in fraud, that is it, game over, they are totally discredited. If they cheat once, then nothing they do afterwards, no matter how spectacular, can be taken seriously. Eusapia Palladino fell victim to this – perhaps uniquely she was given a second chance, but it was well known she would crudely cheat as a psychical medium if not carefully controlled.

So when the SPR felt there was strong evidence the girls were playing around, that was it. The case was tainted – by the normal rules of play of almost a century it was time to pack up and go home. Except Grosse and Playfair didn’t – they persisted. In doing so so they went against the culture of the SPR, which was traditionally dismissive of those who practice “mixed mediumship”, that is sometimes cheated to “help along the phenomena”. I can’t also help wonder if there was a bit of a class divide here: this was 1977, and while Playfair had been in Brazil, and Grosse was a self-made man, most of the SPR probably inhabited a very different world to that of the council estate dwelling Hodgsons. However to be fair to the SPR, when I joined the Society just over a decade later the council estate dwelling CJ was welcomed and never encountered any class prejudice at all, indeed quite the contrary – I was embraced with enthusiasm for a few years before my being caught up in the fall out of an SPR intrigue led to my fall from grace and exile from the SPR for 15 years.

Anyway the question is not was anything faked; the question is how much? I could look at the phenomena and critically assess them, but at this remove it would be wasted words. I was not there!

What do you think might have been happening if there was activity that wasn’t faked?

I actually don’t know. I’m not at all sure. I suspect the phenomena were playing along with Playfair’s and Grosses expectations; they appear to be intelligent, elusive and quite unpleasant, but with art times a sense of humour – albeit a malicious one. I’d say it was a poltergeist, as it acted just like poltergeists have from China to Brazil for over a thousand years, and probably far longer. I don’t think the Hodgson’s would have known a lot about poltergeists, but Enfield had a case before I think, and certainly the Battersea poltergeist and other cases used to occasionally show up in the papers. I don’t know what was going on – I really don’t. I’ve read a lot, talked to everyone I could at the SPR at some point or another, and you know – I’m still little clearer. I believe the family were upset, had no strong motive for fraud, but yes I think fraud occurred at times. Still, you know what I’m going to say – I wasn’t there…

There are ways we could make an assessment. Grosse recorded 180 hours of reel to reel tape of Janet. That could be digitised and made available to researchers. The photographs could me made available in an archive not the handful published, any. The Radio 4 broadcast should be readily available. Someone should collect the recordings, clippings, and oral testimony from Playfair, Janet, Margaret and others. What about the scientific readings taken by Prof Hasted? The recordings by the guys from Pye? The testimony of sceptics like Christopher Milbourne and celebrity ventriloquist & sceptic Ray Allen? The SPR report. All of this could be published now, maybe with a few small redactions to grant the family some privacy. It is one such redaction that puzzles me the most – we hear time and again about the two daughters, but little about the sons. Yet while one son was away from the house apparently at boarding school, the other Johnny appears to have been present throughout. Yet he does not seem to ever appear, and like his brother has not chosen to speak as far as I know yet? Maybe he was too young to recall,and I have no desire to pry in to the familiy’s privacy further, but the boys seem curiously absent from the narrative…

Anyway I am puzzled as to why the materials gathered during the case are not preserved in the British Museum or some scientific institute, or even a university. They really should be, for posterity.

Would you have conducted the investigation in the same manner?

No. I would have done far worse 😉

Do you have any other comments?

It’s taken me so long to write this I had best call it a night

So That’s was my response to Hayley. I don’t know if it was any use, or of any interest, but hey I tried. Feel free to comment, or email me at the usual address chrisjensenromer@hotmail.com

CJ x

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Poltergeist Breakthrough? JSPR publishes Dr Barrie Colvin’s research


Firstly, what can one say but sorry it has been so long. Becky was made redundant, and is now shuttling between Cheltenham and Derby, and I am ridiculously busy — something which should ease up about mid to late August.  I will of course be trying to catch up on what has been happening in the world of spooks in the meantime, and hope to keep the blog interesting.

However, readers will recall that in my previous comments on this or my personal blog I referenced the fascinating work of Dr. Barrie Colvin. At that time the work was unpublished — and even in my Paranormal Review review of the SPR Study Day No.58 on Poltergeists: Then and Now I refused to reveal any details of the hypothesis  until the journal article was out. Well now it is, in the April 2010 Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, and I want to briefly discuss it here.

I’m involved in an internet debate on a Dawkins successor forum, http://www.rationalskepticism.org (Richard Dawkins closed his own forum back in February, and this is one of the communities set up by emigres from there) where I had briefly mentioned Dr Colvin’s work in passing. Once the JSPR piece was published i wanted to discuss it more fully — and owing to tiredness and time pressures I may have made a hash of it, but I wrote a brief precis of key themes, which I thought may interest readers of this blog. However really you should read the original article, because it may be the single most important thing written on the poltergeist phenomena so far this century, in fact it probably is.  It is ‘ The Acoustic Properties of Unexplained Rapping Sounds’ in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research [2010] Vol 73.2 Number 899 pp 65-93.”

At the time I last brought up Dr.Colvin’s research it was unpublished: now fortuitously it is in print, and we can discuss it in a little more depth.
Remember, this is not a lab experiment. Even if it was, we would want a plethora of different microphones to rule out the possibility that the equipment, not the sound itself, was causing the unusual acoustic characteristics. Instead we are looking at ten recordings from ‘the field’, from cases in which Dr Colvin was for the most part not involved – Andover (1981) being the exception. The other cases which provided recordings were

Sauchie, Scotland (1960) – from Broadcasting House, from the BBC recordings taken at the time.

http://www.p-e-g.co.uk/Web/Articles/ART … icle23.htm

has more on the case for those not familiar with it – Owen, A.R.G. Can We Explain the Poltergeist? New York: Helix Press / Garrett Publications, 1964 gives a full account by the principle investigator.

Thun, near Bern, Switzerland (1967) The recordings were taken from a CD.

http://www.last.fm/music/Okkulte+Stimme … iale+Musik

Schleswig , Switzerland, (1967) taken from a CD.

http://www.last.fm/music/Okkulte+Stimme … iale+Musik

Pursruck, Germany (1971) – from a recording by Prof. Hans Bender (16-bit stereo, 44100Hz)

Ipiranga, Brazil (1973) – recording by Guy Lyon Playfair taken during the IBPP investigation. More on the case can be found in Playfair’s 1975 book The Flying Cow.

La Machine, France (1973) – recording by Dr Alfred Krantz.

Enfield, England (1977) – from original reel to reel tapes, which was running “at the rather slow speed of 15/16 of inch per second” (Colvin 2010); recording taken by SPR investigator Maurice Grosse. A recent Channel 4 documentary on the case well worth watching can be seen here —

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/inte … oltergeist

– you can see the equipment used and context.

Andover, England (1981) – investigated by Dr Colvin.

Santa Rosa, Brazil (1988) – taken from a recording made of a television broadcast (by TV Globo) on the case.

Euston Square, England (2000) This case has recordings by both Maurice Grosse and Mary Rose Barrington available.

Ten cases, none recent, because recordings of acoustic phenomena associated with poltergeists are by their nature difficult to collect: one need a poltergeist after all! The two Swiss cases are from a digital CD recording commercially available of recordings of parapsychological phenomena – it is impossible to say to what extent they have been edited and processed, so I would say they were VERY weak evidence. The Brazilian cases rely on recordings taken by Guy Lyon Playfair at the time, and by him off the TV, and he was present at Enfield – yet fraud seems unthinkable, given the dates, unless he somehow had access to very high end studio equipment and knowledge of acoustics in a pre-digital sound age. Therefore, I think that so long as we trust Dr Colvin’s acoustic analysis, the sound signatures he claims to detect in his varied collection of poltergeist sounds are authentic. Colvin’s claims are checkable — at least some of these recordings – the Enfield sounds and the two from the CD, and possibly if you are willing to approach the BBC Sauchie – are available in their original form to interested independent parties wishing to check the results. I suspect someone with appropriate acoustics knowledge could acquire copies of all the recordings by request to the SPR. (http://www.spr.ac.uk)

Adobe Audition http://www.adobe.com/products/audition/ was used for the analysis, in case anyone fancies trying a replication. I do favour a hands on approach as you all know by now!

So what does Colvin claim to have found? Well let’s start with a normal waveform. It follows a characteristic pattern – a wave form showing a sharp rise in amplitude or immediately to maximum amplitude, followed by a gradual decrease to zero. Adobe Audition has a free trial, but there is plenty of freeware on the web you can download which allows you to experiment with banging various substances yourself. I did so, analysing some sounds submitted by Wayne Morris from his paranormal investigation at Landguard Fort, Felixstowe last year, and found that the banging noises there followed the same type of acoustic signature I could get by kicking the wall or banging my desk – the above pattern, suggesting a normal explanation for those (non-poltergeist) sounds. Simple experimentation with a large number of substances demonstrated that the pattern is consistent, and that Colvin’s comment on this is completely correct. I encourage everyone reading to try this for themselves, to familiarise themselves with the standard way the amplitude and frequency can be analysed and the common pattern one sees.

Colvin gives a couple examples of frequency ranges in mundane sounds – a hammer hitting an oak desk gives a frequency band of mainly 50Hz to 300Hz – a teaspoon on a crystal glass 300Hz to 3000Hz, with a decay of amplitude lasting three seconds. What one might expect in short. However, once again I strongly suggest a few minutes experimentation at home, and posting the results??? Really, do try!

So how do the acoustic properties of the raps in the ten cases in question vary? They show a consistently odd rise in amplitude, a waveform that slowly rises rather building to a sudden peak and then falling away. One can test this on the knocks from the Channel 4 shows recordings from Enfield I guess, or armed with some money, order the CD Colvin took the Swiss cases from: I have too date done neither. Given the fact the JSPR article is clearly copyright, I shall simply reproduce just two of the figures here, showing a knock deliberately made by Grosse at Enfield as he tried to replicate the noises,and one of the anomalous raps…

Image

So why do the waveforms show these unusual characteristics? Colvin thought of a possibility, which shows his critical thinking and thoroughness —

Dr. Barrie Colvin, [i]JSPR[/i] 73.2, Number 899, April 2010 wrote:
One of the possible normal explanations put forward to explain the results is that certain types of microphones may give rise to the anomalous results because of their inherent qualities and mode of operation. A microphone is simply a sensor that converts sound in to an electrical signal. The most common types consist of a thin membrane that vibrates in response to sound pressure.

I actually did not know much about how microphones work. This was helpful!

Dr. Barrie Colvin, [i]JSPR [/i]73.2, Number 899, April 2010 wrote:
This movement is subsequently translated in to an electrical signal using one of several techniques. Most examples use electromagnetic induction, capacitance change, piezoelectric generation or light modulation to convert the mechanical vibration of the signal to an electrical signal. The question that arises is relation to a short impulse such as a rap is whether or not there could a be a delay between production of the sound and vibration of the membrane. Could the inertia of the membrane, particularly with microphones dating back to the 1970’s, lead to a relatively slow increase to maximum amplitude when subjected to a short burst of acoustic energy?

This is why I suggested in a lab set up we would require several microphones, of different makes, models and manufacture. Colvin experimented making raps with a number of microphones dating from 1959 (including the Phillips EL3549A & the EL3782 with impedance 583 ohms) to present day microphones, looking at the waveforms, to falsify this hypothesis. Again, with old microphones common in attics if my house is anything to go by, I suggest interested parties can do at home…

However there is another reason to believe the results are not an artefact of the microphones. Three of the recordings include the investigators making their own raps. These investigator produced raps possess the normal waveform, not the slow rise in amplitude associated with the “poltergeist knockings”. As such, we have an inadvertent control, which demonstrates the microphone was NOT the source of the unusual waveforms.

Colvin has managed to find similar acoustic waveforms to those recorded in these ten cases – in recordings of seismic activity. His paper gives two examples – a recording of an earthquake at Ascension Island in 2007, and a British Geological Survey recording of a seismic event at Folkestone in 2009, described as being “like an explosion”. Colvin theorises that the sound signatures associated with the poltergeist events imply they are caused by a sudden release of tension or alteration in the substance of an object, not with as one would assume a rapping of one thing on another. An intriguing suggestion, but clearly one that requires further high quality recordings to test adequately.

It’s a fascinating article, one of the best I have read in a long while. I want to experiment now, and above all to try and collect more recordings from cases to give to Dr Colvin. I strongly suggest all reader of this blog try to lay their hands upon the latest JSPR to read the article as soon as possible…

cj x

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Cheshire Poltergeist in Picture Pose?


Poltergeists are like buses — You wait ages for them, then they all turn up at once; or so it would seem. Well of course I have not been waiting ages — this blog is only a couple of weeks old, and already we have looked at Cork (last week) and York (earlier today). I am slightly annoyed with the paranormal-powers-that-be that they have no provided another case, published just two hours ago in a Cheshire newspaper.  Any of my readers in the Stockport area?

OK, I will try and give this one the love and attention it deserves, but a chap can only comment on so many cases in once day! It seems ironic I signed off my last piece on the York poltergeist just an hour or two ago saying people ask “where are the poltergeists today?” and stating that the answer was no one was looking — well I think this proves my point. I shall certainly send a message to the SPR Spontaneous Cases Committee drawing attention to this blog, and then they can proceed as they see fit with each of these cases. Becky and I would love to follow them up — but I simply do not have the money to do so (Indeed I  simply do not have any money at all, as readers of my personal blog will appreciate!).

Ghostbusters called in to pub after party pic terror

March 31, 2010

A landlady has called in a team of ghostbusters after things went bump in the night at her pub.

The ghostly happenings came to a head when Janice Wright held her 45th birthday party at the Stock Dove in Romiley.

An unidentified figure appeared in photos taken at the bash, held on Saturday, March 20.

Now she has called in paranormal researchers Club Zero Ghost Group to investigate.

Mrs Wright said: “I could not believe it when I saw the pictures – it is really freaky. We seem to have a resident ghost. We have heard whistling, screaming and crying and been tapped on the shoulder. My 19-year-old son Philip moved out of his bedroom after the furniture moved.”

So immediately this one is different: the emphasis is very clearly on a traditional “ghost” interpretation, and the landlady has chosen to call in a local group (never heard of Club Zero Ghost Group but nice website,  but will have to get in touch with them, I’m friends with a bewildering number of paranormal groups!), but in this case the ghost appears to have been photographed. Best take this  bit at a time…

An unidentified figure appeared in photos taken at the bash, held on Saturday, March 20.

Sadly the photo is not reproduced anywhere in the article, which is a puzzling oversight. One wonders if the mystery guest might just be a gatecrasher? I’d be curious to see it, but obviously with photos with extra people in them like this the usual explanation is that someone else was present, and simply not identifiable by the photographer afterwards. I must say I have seen photos of me in which I am unrecognisable to me! I will make some enquiries, but I am really unsure what to say about this until I have actually seen the images.  However Mrs Wright is unnerved by the photo – but could that be because of the other phenomena?

We seem to have a resident ghost. We have heard whistling, screaming and crying and been tapped on the shoulder. My 19-year-old son Philip moved out of his bedroom after the furniture moved.”

There is an awful lot of phenomena packed in to that short sentence. What is interesting is the differences to what we saw reported at York and Cork.  “Whistling, screaming, crying”… The whistling sets an icy tingle down my spine, not least because the motif is used in William Hope Hodgson’s supernatural fiction,  but because whistling has been a feature of a number of cases. Screaming and crying? One wonders when this will resolve in to voices — and if a voice does emerge, I really want to know more. I am not going to speculate further here on this simply because I am making predictions about what would happen and the nature of the voice if that did occur — I’m hoping for something more like the Rougham Poltergeist in Suffolk in the 1980’s than the questionable voices of Enfield.

Janice Wright (c) Stockport News 2010

Janice Wright (c) Stockport News 2010

I’m Always Touched by Your Presence, Dear…

Now Becky is about to do a major study (well she has started) for her Ph.D on apparitional experiences, funded by the SPR and supervised by Dr Ian Hume at Coventry University. Before she began Becky and I conducted a piece of research we call the Accidental Census of Hallucinations, which we hope to publish an article based upon in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research.  Drawing on the work of the SPR in the 1880’s and 1890’s and Dr Donald West’s fascinating studies later, the details are not important here but we closely analysed (using a methodology called Grounded Theory) sixty accounts of unusual experiences. (I’m sure we will write much more on this topic in the future, so I’m passing quickly over it here.)

In that sample 21.3% reported a tactile hallucination, that is a  feeling of being touched, as Ian did. 53.8% of those who did reported other phenomena: in 46.2% it was the sole experience reported.  In 69.2% of those who claimed tactile hallucinations it only happened once: the remainder had multiple experiences of this sort.  In only one case  it is  an ongoing experience, that happens semi-regularly. There was nothing unusual about the gender or age of the people having the experience compared with other anomalous experiences (such as say seeing apparitions) – two thirds of those reporting the experience were female. 32% of the reports mention specifically being touched on the shoulder.

So what does this tell us? Actually, not much, apart from the fact one can have the distinct impression of being touched with out any other “ghostly” experiences. I therefore make the following suggestion: the sense of being touched may be a relatively common physiological or neurological phenomenon – a somatosensory hallucination. In fact it may be about as common as hearing someone call your name, but there not being anyone there. Now the account is not clear how many times this has happened, or to whom, but if it has only happened once or twice then it may just be a coincidence of a trivial but not uncommon experience, and maybe then suggestion.

The problem with my hypothesis is that in about half the cases Becky and I found the experience of being touched was linked to other phenomena. While my idea is that these cases are recalled precisely BECAUSE of the other phenomena, I am not convinced that can necessarily account for such a high correlation. I have tried a little experiment on Facebook, and asked

If you read this can you answer yes or NO (and I do want negative replies) as a comment, please! I’m trying to do a really quick rough and ready straw poll. The question is “have you in the last month had the feeling of being touched by an invisible person?” Don’t worry it does not mean you are mad or ill – I’m just …curious about this fairly common experience…

I received over a day 37 responses: 12 positive.  I think this strongly supports my hypothesis the experience is extremely common, but under normal circumstances simply ignored and forgotten?

The Usual…

Moving on we get to the really interesting (to me) bit —

“My 19-year-old son Philip moved out of his bedroom after the furniture moved.”

Bedrooms again, furniture moving again (these poltergeists should get in to the Removals business: might need someone to drive the truck though!) Are we seeing a pattern yet folks? Now of course it could just be that everyone from York to Stockport to Cork reports similar experiences because actually they are all drawing on the same films, TV, or popular culture motifs. Yet somehow, I find this unlikely — the experiences seem (to me anyway) rather trivial compared with the ones you see on the TV.

The Stock Dove

The Stock Dove - cliick for the pub website

Wayne from the Bury St Edmund’s research group messaged me earlier and said he was wondering when we would see another Enfield poltergeist but you know what? I suspect that any of these cases could be as big, if the SPR got hold of them and sent Guy Lyon Playfair and Mary Rose Barrington  or Tom Ruffles or whoever over.  Enfield just got a blaze of press attention (did the story break in the August “silly season” when news is slow  by any chance?), and has had much discussion, writing and books on it. Most of these little cases I am chronicling here strike me as having very bit as much interest — but I doubt in 20 years time people will be referencing them…

There is another curious parallel with the Cork case – the timings —

Janice reopened the pub with her business partner last August after it had been closed for 11 months.

Now thinking back to Cork, the family moved in last August, after the house had been empty for a while. I can not see any reason to think this is more than coincidence, but I think we should watch out just in case any patterns emerge, and we can find hypotheses we can test.  As I said in the Cork case, one would expect people to mistake ordinary noises and house settling, pipes etc,  for something weird in the first weeks after moving in. Here as in Cork the family had settled in for maybe eight months.

Janice Wright seems to take a very level headed view of the phenomena —

She said: “I think we must have disturbed the ghost. I have been told stories by some of the customers about how a girl came for a stay here when it was a coach house and was murdered, and it is thought she is moving things in my son’s room as that is where it happened. I can’t wait for Club Zero to come in to see what they can find out.”

So once again a dead guy – or in this case a dead gal – is to blame? Was the Stock Dove ever a coaching inn? I have no idea, but if I saw the building I could probably make a good guess. No for the story to make sense the murder must have been discovered, and most murders leave written records, so perhaps some local historian will be able to confirm the truth of this one.  It sounds like folklore to me, or people inventing explanations, but I wonder — I have been wrong on this before, most notably on the Old Bell, Dursley Case. I will keep an open mind for now.

The rest of the article simply deals with the impending visit of Club Zero –

Club Zero Ghost Group was founded in Stockport by Chris Andrews in 2003. It will visit the pub in April. Carole Webster, 56, the club’s events manager, said: “We are looking forward to going in to do an investigation. We will take along our equipment including EMS, an infrared system and a video camera. We will then put together a report and a DVD. There will also be a medium present.” For more information see clubzero.co.uk .

I assume EMF meter is intended by EMS, but I could be wrong – this look like a journalistic typo, and I wonder if a DVD is standard for ghost groups now. Seems sensible to keep a record fo the investigation anyway. Well I will do some digging and see what I find out, but for now I’ll call it a day.

cj x

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