Enfield Poltergeist
The poltergeist that for several years disturbed the home of
a family in the Enfield section of London in the 1970s has become
one of the best-documented incidents in modern parapsychology.
The story began in 1977 when Mrs. Harper and
her three children moved into their new residence in Enfield.
One August evening after putting the children to bed, Mrs.
Harper was called to their room and witnessed a large chest of
drawers move. She returned it to its place, and it moved again.
Knocking was heard. She called the police, and they also heard
the knocking coming from the walls and saw a chair move. The
phenomena continued for the next week. A priest and a medium
were called in. They could do nothing and the knocks and
unusual movements of objects continued. Next they invited the
news media. Their patient waiting was finally rewarded with a
host of flying objects, including a pan that hit the photographer
on the forehead.
At this point the Society for Psychical Research was called
in. Thus, for the next 13 months, Michael Grosse and Guy
Lyon Playfair made extensive observations and kept detailed
records of the paranormal phenomena. They recorded over
2,000 unexplained events. They also tried means such as wiring
down a bed to stop the phenomena. In the case of the bed, the
wire was snapped and the bed moved regardless. They were
continually frustrated in their attempts to photograph or make
sound recordings of the phenomena.
A medium, Annie Shaw, was brought in to communicate
with any possible spirit entity who might be in the house. She
suggested that there were several entities feeding off an energy
leakage in the aura of Mrs. Harper and one of the children,
Janet, who had been especially associated with the unusual happenings.
Shaw fixed the leakages and the phenomena were
quelled for a short period, but when they reappeared a few
weeks later, they reached a new level of violence. Over the next
months Grosse and Playfair observed and recorded, and gradually
focused upon Janet. In December of 1977, a voice began
to speak through her. He claimed to be an old man whose family
had once lived in the house. In succeeding weeks Janet levitated
on several occasions, was bombarded with objects, and
had a pillow stuffed in her mouth.
The number of incidents began to decline in the spring of
1978. By this time several additional psychics had been involved,
including Dutch psychic Dono Gmelig-Meyling. He
brought to light an outside factor, Grosse’s involvement in the
case was due to his grief reaction to the untimely death of his
daughter two years previously. Grosse and Playfair went on to
write a book, This House Is Haunted (1980). Two years later
Janet was given a test at Birkbeck College, and to the surprise
of all she was able to move the marker on a weighing machine
by a kilogram.
Explanations of the Enfield poltergeist have divided those
who accept a paranormal explanation between those who attribute
it to a spirit entity and those who attribute it to telekinetic
power emanating from one or more of the children, especially
Janet. A more skeptical perspective was offered by Anita Gregory,
who tried to explain the phenomena away as having been
fraudulently produced by the children, though a number of the
incidents do not seem to yield to such an analysis. The case remains
one of the most spectacular in parapsychological records.
Gregory, Anita. ‘‘Anatomy of a Fraud.’’ Annals of Science 34
Playfair, Guy Lyon. This House Is Haunted. London Souvenir
Press, 1980.

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