People often ask why the family didn't move, if there actually was a poltergeist in the house. Note, first of all, that the objection isn't consistent with the usual skeptical claim that the girls were playing tricks. The primary individual who would have made a decision to move would have been Peggy Hodgson, not the girls. If Peggy and her boys had wanted to move, it's doubtful that the girls would have been able to have overridden their desire. Second, they did leave the house at times. But, third, the poltergeist activity would often occur in locations outside their house. A distinction is sometimes made between hauntings and poltergeists. A haunting centers around a location, whereas a poltergeist centers around a person or group. The Hodgsons had evidence that the poltergeist wasn't confined to the house, even though it was there more than anywhere else, so its existence outside the house undermined the motive to change locations. Fourth, they had lived in the house for more than a decade, without previous poltergeist activity, and moving would have taken them away from friends and family in the area (THIH, 8-9). Furthermore, they had two SPR investigators working with them (Grosse and Playfair), who had access to other people who could help and other resources, and those investigators would often stay in the house with the Hodgsons and help them in other ways. Moving would risk losing or diminishing that sort of support, which would be problematic if the poltergeist followed them where they went. Fifth, even if the poltergeist had been limited to the house, there would still be some merit to wanting to resolve the situation by seeing it through. In fact, Playfair had a conversation with Peggy on one occasion in which she said that she wanted to persevere through staying in the house to "get to the bottom of this" (THIH, 83) rather than trying to run away from the problem. She was concerned that the problem would return if it wasn't addressed thoroughly (ibid.). Sixth, the Hodgsons were a low-income family living in public housing, and trying to get moved to another house on the basis of an alleged poltergeist would arouse suspicion. Early on in the case, one of the ways in which George Fallows, a reporter at the Daily Mirror, tried to gauge the sincerity of the family was by asking if they wanted to get moved to a different house. Peggy's opposition to moving was an indication that the family at least wasn't making up the poltergeist claim in an effort to get moved to a better location.
Another objection that's sometimes raised is that the Enfield phenomena developed over time in a suspicious manner. Later alleged events were more advanced than the ones reported earlier. One of the documentaries I linked in my first post refers to suspicions about the reports of apparitions in the summer of 1978, since those reports were a later development (here until 1:00:48). But even if the phenomena developed over time like that, that development wouldn't pose much of a problem for the phenomena's authenticity. If a poltergeist is a manifestation of a living or dead human, the phenomena could develop as the person in question learns more about how to use his power, as he wants to do more harm, and so forth. But did the Enfield phenomena actually develop that way? The dates for the poltergeist's most advanced activities seem to be December 15, 1977 and May 30, 1978, long before the poltergeist ended, if we assume that it has ended. Regarding apparitions in particular, they were reported long before the summer of 1978 (THIH, 44-5, 72, 100). If it was Janet and Margaret's use of a Ouija board that brought on the poltergeist, then, in that sense, the apparition that occurred in connection with that use of a Ouija board was one of the first phenomena in the case.
Critics often object that the lack of video evidence for the phenomena is suspicious. In one of the documentaries I linked earlier, Ciaran O'Keeffe and the narrator claim that there's no video of any paranormal activity in the case (here until 34:11). Ironically, knocking is the next example of phenomena mentioned in the documentary (here). The reason that's ironic is that we do have video of some knocking, as well as the voice phenomena, as the other documentary I linked earlier mentions (here until 23:30). And notice that the knocking in that video occurs elsewhere in the house while the Hodgson girls are sitting on a couch being filmed. If the phenomena were faked by the girls, how did they fake that knocking elsewhere in the house while being filmed sitting on the couch? Furthermore, objecting that we don't have more evidence (video evidence in this case) doesn't explain the evidence we do have. And there are good reasons for not having more video evidence. Poltergeist activity is often unpredictable, so it makes sense that sometimes none would occur where cameras were directed at the time. And as Playfair explains, there were "countless" incidents of video and other types of equipment failing in what seem to be paranormal ways (THIH, 34, 38-9, 228). Grosse and Playfair attained signed statements from equipment operators saying that the equipment failures were extremely unusual, that those failures had rarely or never happened before in their careers working with such equipment, that the failures seem impossible to explain, etc. Playfair and Graham Morris comment on some of the equipment failures in one of the documentaries I linked (here until 34:00). Notice that Morris says he couldn't explain what happened, that such an equipment failure hadn't happened to him before and never has since.
Since I've mentioned the video footage we have of some of the phenomena, I should address an objection that's sometimes raised in the context of that video. To see the relevant segment, start watching here until 1:17. The interviewer asks "How does it feel to be haunted by a poltergeist?" Margaret starts laughing. Janet responds "It's not haunted." Margaret looks at her, says "Shut up!", and continues laughing. Janet then says "I ought to know." Apparently, what some skeptics want us to believe is that Janet was confessing that the phenomena were fraudulent. No haunting was actually occurring. Her sister told her to shut up because her sister didn't want her to confess.
That's a ridiculous way to interpret that section of the video. Janet didn't deny that there was a poltergeist. She only denied the "haunted" qualifier. And if the girls were so interested in carrying out a fraud that they went to such lengths to do it, why would Janet confess to the fraud while being interviewed and without the interviewer putting any pressure on her to confess? If Margaret didn't want her sister to confess, why would she make the situation worse by laughing and saying "Shut up!"?
There's a far better explanation for what's going on in that part of the interview. Grosse, Playfair, and other people involved in the case provided the family with information about poltergeists. They discussed what a poltergeist is, different views of what causes a poltergeist, what tends to happen in poltergeist cases, and so on (THIH, 8, 20-1, 82-4, 187, 242-3). A distinction is often made between a poltergeist and a haunting, and that distinction may have been explained to Janet. Even without being told about the distinction, Janet and Margaret could easily have been aware that the term "haunted" has connotations that aren't applicable to some views of a poltergeist. On some occasions, Playfair tried to encourage the family by disingenuously telling them that the poltergeist might be the spirit of a child playing games, might not know what it's doing and might not intend any harm, etc. (ibid., 36-7, 82). Some of what Playfair said on those occasions seems to have sometimes been reflected in Janet's comments and behavior, so she may have accepted those sentiments expressed by Playfair to some extent and may have taken a less negative view of the poltergeist at times. And it was in her interest to try to convince herself that the poltergeist was of as little an evil nature as possible.
All that the video segment under consideration here requires is that Janet found the term "haunted" objectionable for some reason. So, when Janet heard the interviewer referring to being haunted by a poltergeist, she corrected his choice of words by saying "It's not haunted. I ought to know." The reason why Margaret laughed and said "Shut up!" was because she anticipated Janet's response to the question and found it ridiculous and amusing that her younger sister was acting as if she was highly knowledgeable about such matters and was correcting the reporter's terminology rather than just letting it pass, as she should have. The reason why Margaret anticipated Janet's response to the question, and started laughing, most likely was that the subject of distinguishing between a haunting and a poltergeist had come up before, so Margaret knew how Janet was likely to respond.
Janet wasn't objecting to the reference to a poltergeist. She was only objecting to the "haunted" qualifier. To conclude that she was therefore denying that anything paranormal was going on is absurd.
I should say that the degree to which the girls are smiling and laughing in the video isn't representative of the case as a whole. Playfair and other sources often refer to how distressed the family was when the poltergeist began and at other points and often refer to the girls crying, screaming, etc. It's evident from the audio recordings taken by Grosse and Playfair that the entire family, including the girls, were often upset by what they were going through. At the time of the video linked above, they had become highly accustomed to much of the phenomena, as Margaret mentions in the video. The lights were on, they were surrounded by a lot of people, etc., so the context of the video was significantly different than what they went through on other occasions. Like other young adolescents, they often smiled, laughed, joked with people, and so on. That's not representative of the Enfield case as a whole, though.
Life isn't a movie. A poltergeist case isn't a two-hour effort by Hollywood to move your emotions in the direction of a particular genre, such as horror, with background music and special effects. If you experience a poltergeist over a period of time that's far longer than a movie, you're going to go through a wide range of circumstances, thoughts, emotions, etc. Just as Janet and Margaret sometimes joked, laughed, and so on during the lengthy period when they were living with the poltergeist, so did other members of their family, researchers, reporters, etc. It doesn't follow that they didn't believe in the existence of the poltergeist.
Part of the reason why the family wasn't more upset than they were is that Grosse, Playfair, and others involved did so much to comfort the family, encourage them, amuse them, spend time with them, withhold information from them that would have upset them further, etc. Even in the midst of years of contentious exchanges with Grosse in the JSPR, Anita Gregory acknowledged that "she [Peggy Nottingham] stressed over and over again Maurice Grosse's marvellous kindness to the family, to which I also can testify….I never attributed to Mr. Grosse any but the most kindly concern for the family's welfare….Nobody doubts Maurice's good faith and kind intentions, certainly not I" (vol. 50, 1979-80, p. 541; vol. 51, 1981-2, p. 115; vol. 52, 1983-4, p. 95). Stewart Lamont, the man who interviewed the girls in the video under discussion here, wrote about the Enfield case, "Fear has never been allowed to get an upper hand, perhaps because of the calming attitude of the researcher." (Is Anybody There? [Great Britain: Mainstream Publishing, 1980], 28) Some of the girls' comments in this video are highly reminiscent of what Grosse and Playfair had said on other occasions (the distinction between a haunting and a poltergeist, Margaret's comment at 1:24 about "learning to accept" the phenomena; see the video here for an example of Grosse using similar terminology ["start to accept"] to counsel a woman involved in another paranormal case). It's evident that the girls had been influenced by Grosse and Playfair. It's ironic that they contributed so much to the positive demeanor of the girls in the video under consideration here, yet that demeanor is being appealed to as evidence that the case is a fraud.
The skeptics who cite this video don't have much of an explanation to offer when the same video goes on to interview two police officers who witnessed some of the poltergeist phenomena. The officers aren't smiling or laughing at all.
There's a YouTube video that's about another alleged confession by Janet. The video is referring to what she said while under hypnosis. She was asked who was causing the trouble in the house, and she replied that she and her sister were causing it. The YouTube video and some of the commenters below it suggest that Janet was therefore confessing that she and her sister faked the Enfield phenomena. But Janet's comments are ambiguous, and these skeptics are interpreting what she said in a way that's highly unlikely to be correct. Playfair has an account of the hypnosis session in his book (103-6). Maybe the skeptics on this YouTube page didn't read the book. Maybe they have read the book, but they're being astonishingly careless or dishonest. I don't know. But if you read Playfair's account of the hypnosis session, you'll see that it's implausible to argue that Janet was confessing to fraud. Both earlier and later in the session, she refers to the Enfield phenomena as genuine. To single out the one comment this YouTube video is singling out, as if that comment is a confession of fraud, is erroneous.
Why did Janet say that she and her sister caused the trouble in the house, then? Ian Fletcher, the man who guided Janet through the hypnosis session, went on to ask her how she and her sister were causing the trouble. She said she didn't know. Apparently, then, she had an impression that the situation was her and her sister's fault, but didn't know why or didn't want to give the reason. There are at least a few potential explanations for why Janet saw things that way. One is that she concluded that she and her sister must be to blame because so much of the phenomena occurred to and around them. So, she thought the two of them must be to blame, though she didn't know why they were to blame. Another possibility is that she had a sense that she and her sister were to blame because of their use of a Ouija board. She either didn't want to confess to their use of a Ouija board or didn't know that their use of it was what had given her the impression she had that she and her sister were to blame. A third option is that she says that she and her sister were causing the trouble because she was alluding to the stress hypothesis concerning how poltergeists originate. Grosse, the primary investigator of the Enfield case, was a proponent of that view. Supposedly, stress (such as the stress caused by the recent divorce of Janet and Margaret's parents) would bring on or be a factor in bringing on a poltergeist. Janet may have been influenced by Grosse's perspective and therefore have been blaming herself and her sister for bringing on the poltergeist through their unhappiness. Later in the hypnosis session, she does make reference to their unhappiness when asked about what caused the trouble in the house. Playfair thinks that's the best explanation for what Janet was referring to when she said that she and her sister were to blame. But whatever Janet had in mind, we know from the surrounding context that she wasn't saying that the poltergeist phenomena were faked. Fletcher, the doctor and hypnotist who carried out the hypnosis session, later told a reporter that "on the evidence I have, I cannot believe this case is a fraud" (THIH, 207). Go here (until 32:43) to watch some video footage of Fletcher discussing the hypnosis session and his conclusion that Janet sincerely believed that the poltergeist phenomena were authentic. It's the skeptics who are engaged in fakery when they take Janet out of context.
One of the best-known photographs in the Enfield case is sometimes portrayed as evidence that the case is fraudulent. See here for a photo of Janet's body hanging over a radio on a dresser in one of the bedrooms. Her uncle, John Burcombe, is in the foreground, looking toward the camera. The context of the photo is that Janet had recently been injected with 10 milligrams of Valium by a doctor who visited the house during one of Janet's violent trance states, and she supposedly was thrown across the room by the poltergeist while unconscious under the effects of the Valium (THIH, 88-9). Some skeptics point to the positioning of her arm in the photo, though, as evidence that she was holding herself up and, therefore, wasn't unconscious at the time.
I should say, first, that I don't know how 10 milligrams of Valium would affect a 12-year-old like Janet. I don't know how unconscious she would have been, whether she could have put her arm out to hold something while unconscious to some degree, etc.
There's a good chance that her body was moved before the photo was taken. Watch the video here for Graham Morris saying that Burcombe went in the room first. In the photo, Morris is in the room with Burcombe, taking the picture. It's possible that Burcombe moved Janet's body to stabilize it just after he found her there. He may have moved her arm, to help keep her propped up. Even at the time of the photo, Burcombe's hand is on Janet's leg, which may be because he was concerned about keeping her from falling over. If Burcombe did move her body, including her arm, before the photo was taken, then the position of her arm at the time of the photo is irrelevant.
The authenticity of this incident of the poltergeist allegedly throwing Janet has to be judged by the evidence as a whole. Here's the context in which she was injected with the Valium:
We could hear the screams [of Janet] from six houses away, although the windows in both houses were shut. She must have woken up the whole street. I hurried back to [the Hodgsons' house] with [Peggy Hodgson] to find Janet, Maurice Grosse and Graham Morris looking as if they had just finished a bout of all-in-wrestling….
He [Grosse] was holding her arms, while Graham had his arms round both her legs….
Janet was screaming as I had never heard anybody scream before, even in a horror film. She writhed on the bed, her face twisted into a mask of diabolical ugliness, while in between her screams and attempts to bite Maurice's arms she whimpered like a little girl half her age….
We decided we would have to call a doctor, and Peggy Nottingham went next door to telephone the emergency service. By the time the doctor arrived, half an hour later, we were all worn out. I had once helped control a man who was having a grand mal epileptic seizure that had lasted for twenty-five minutes, and holding on to Janet was just as exhausting. (THIH, 87-8)
But she apparently fell asleep after being injected with the Valium, so it seems to have had a major effect on her. It was about 45 minutes later when the throwing incident occurred (ibid., 88-9).
In addition to noting that Janet was under the effects of that Valium, it should be pointed out that the people who were there at the time thought she seemed to still be asleep when they took her body down from the dresser (ibid., 89). And what people heard during the incident supports its authenticity. Not only did they hear a loud crash at the time when Janet's body allegedly was thrown across the room, but they also didn't hear the sort of creaking of the floor and other noises they should have heard if Janet had walked across the room and climbed onto the dresser rather than being thrown. Morris had spent a lot of time in the house and was familiar with and was listening for the sort of noises that should have been heard if the incident had been faked. Instead, he heard nothing like that prior to the crash. (Playfair's book goes into some detail about how he, Morris, and others who spent a lot of time in the house researching the case had learned about the house's layout, what to look for, what to listen for, etc.) The distance from the end of Janet's bed, where she'd been left, to the dresser seems to have been several feet, judging by the videos, photos, and other information I've seen. The bed was unusually low to the ground, so it would have required a higher jump than a normal bed would have required to get on top of the radio on the dresser. It's unlikely that she could have made that kind of jump, even when she was in the best of health. But, at the time of the events in question, she had just worn herself down in a violent trance state that ended in her being injected with 10 milligrams of Valium. She wasn't in much of a condition for jumping. And that sort of jump from the bed should have made creaking noises that would have been heard. Watch here until 6:10 to see Morris discussing this line of evidence.
In that video, he mentions a screaming sound that apparently was heard just before the crash. He initially seems hesitant about identifying it as a scream, but refers to it as a scream without qualification afterward. What is he referring to? Maybe it wasn't a scream, but instead was just something that sounded similar. It's possible that Margaret was in the room with Janet and screamed. But Playfair's book implies that Margaret was staying at the Burcombes' house that night (87), so I doubt that she was with Janet. Another possibility is that Janet screamed. She may have done so in response to something in a nightmare. Playfair's book cites many incidents in which Janet and Margaret had nightmares, including ones they seemed to share. Or Janet may have screamed in response to being thrown. The scream may suggest that Janet was at least somewhat aware of her surroundings, and maybe she was aware enough to have used her arm to hold her body up after being thrown, as depicted in the photo under consideration here. Playfair says that she was "whimpering faintly" after being thrown (89), and that whimpering may reflect some level of awareness of what was going on. The Valium seems to have had enough of an effect on her to have taken her from a violent trance state to a state of sleep or something close enough to sleep for her to have been left in her room alone while everybody else went downstairs. Even if the Valium didn't make her entirely unconscious, it seems to have at least put her in a highly incapacitated state.
I think this throwing incident probably is authentic. But you don't have to accept its authenticity to realize that the position of Janet's arm in the photo is insufficient evidence that the incident was faked.
The biggest problem I'm aware of with this incident isn't the position of Janet's arm in the photo, but something Janet said about the incident in a documentary several years ago. She refers to how she was screaming and asking how she got on top of the dresser. But the other witnesses refer to her being unconscious to some extent under the effects of the Valium and remaining that way after she was found on top of the dresser and taken down. Playfair refers to her whimpering, so I guess Janet could be remembering something she whimpered as if she had been screaming. Maybe she had intended to scream at that point, but didn't. Or Janet may be confusing the incident in question with another one. Peggy Hodgson reported that there was another occasion when Janet was thrown on top of that dresser (THIH, 81). I suspect that, in the documentary linked above, Janet was confusing two or more events. She says "I think" a couple of times, so she seems to be somewhat hesitant about her memories in this context.
(Later posts in this series will be linked here when they become available: part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8.)