Friday, May 24, 2019

A Reassessment Of The Warrens And Enfield

Lorraine Warren's death last month has been getting a lot of media attention. The stories I've seen often mention the Conjuring series and the movies associated with it, including The Conjuring 2 in particular, and the Warrens' involvement in the Enfield Poltergeist. Given the success of the Conjuring series and affiliated movies (another one's coming out next month), we'll probably be hearing a lot about the Warrens over the next several years. And they'll be discussed for many years to come for other reasons. I don't know much about the other paranormal cases they've been involved with, but I do know a lot about Enfield. I recently finished listening to Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair's Enfield tapes, and some of those tapes include discussions with or about the Warrens. To my knowledge, much of the material on those tapes has never been discussed publicly, and some of it is highly significant. Since the Warrens are getting so much attention, this is a good time to address those tapes.

Some of the coverage of Lorraine's death has portrayed her positively. See, for example, this article by the Horror News Network that includes a lot of references to her kindness, generosity, and such. By contrast, a Hollywood Reporter article in December of 2017 noted:

It appears that top studio executives were made aware just weeks after the first [Conjuring] film opened in 2013 of allegations that, in the early 1960s, Ed Warren initiated a relationship with an underage girl with Lorraine's knowledge. Now in her 70s, Judith Penney has said in a sworn declaration that she lived in the Warrens' house as Ed's lover for four decades….

In May 1978, in her 30s, Penney became pregnant with Ed's child, she has said. In the declaration, she said Lorraine persuaded her to have an abortion because the birth of a child could become public and any scandal could ruin the Warrens' business. Though Lorraine has claimed to be a devout Catholic, Penney said her "real god is money." In a tearful recording obtained by THR, Penney recalled: "They wanted me to tell everyone that someone had come into my apartment and raped me, and I wouldn't do that. I was so scared. I didn't know what to do, but I had an abortion. The night they picked me up from the hospital after having it, they went out and lectured and left me alone."

Penney also has claimed Ed was sometimes abusive to Lorraine. Early on, she said, she witnessed him backhand his wife so hard she lost consciousness. "Sometimes Ed would actually have to slap her across the face to shut her up," Penney said in one recording. "Some nights I thought they were going to kill each other."…

Lorraine's attorney Barkin tells THR that Judy and Tony Spera, the Warrens' daughter and son-in-law, never saw any of the alleged conduct during the decades they spent with Ed, Lorraine and Penney. "The Warrens opened their home to Ms. Penney when she was 18 and had nowhere else to live following a childhood of neglect," writes Barkin in an email. "During much of their career, Ed and Lorraine were on the road, working on cases and giving lectures — and Ms. Penney lived at and watched their house."

And here's a segment of an interview with Ray Garton in which he discusses the Warrens' unethical behavior when he was writing a book for them about one of their cases.

Before I address the ethics of the Warrens' behavior in the context of Enfield, I want to discuss their involvement in the case more broadly. In a post I wrote a couple of years ago about the Warrens and Enfield, I concluded that their involvement in the case was minor, but more significant than often suggested by their critics. That's still my view. But it ought to be supplemented by what I've learned since then.

There are more than 200 tapes in Grosse and Playfair's Enfield collections. The large majority of the tapes were recorded from 1977 to 1979, but some are from the 1980s or later. As far as I recall, the Warrens are only discussed in two contexts. One of them (on tape 1 in Grosse's collection and tape 100 in Playfair's) is a recording of a June 16, 1978 interview Ed and Lorraine did with Grosse, John Burcombe, and other Enfield witnesses when the Warrens were visiting England. The other context, on tape 95B in Grosse's collection, is a conversation about Ed on August 14 of 1979, just after the Warrens had visited again. The participants in the August 1979 discussion were Grosse and John and Sylvie Burcombe. Outside of those two contexts, I don't think anybody says anything about the Warrens. They aren't mentioned by the Hodgsons. Or their relatives. Or their neighbors. Or any of the researchers. Nobody from the media, including people conducting interviews years after the case began, says anything about the Warrens. That tells you something about how insignificant their role in the case was.

Tape 95B is the most important of the tapes involving the Warrens, but tape 1 provides some noteworthy background. The Warrens' interview of some Enfield witnesses on tape 1 took place at the Burcombes' house. Everybody who's on tape 95B was on tape 1 as well. John and Sylvie Burcombe hosted the Warrens at their house during the interviews the Warrens were carrying out. Everybody on tape 95B (Grosse and the Burcombes) was congenial toward the Warrens on tape 1. I didn't notice any indication of hostility. Rather, hostility developed as Grosse and the Burcombes observed the Warrens' later behavior. Given how cooperative and friendly Grosse and the Burcombes initially were toward the Warrens, it would be difficult to argue that their later assessment of the Warrens was due to some sort of bias they had at the outset, competition with the Warrens, or some such thing.

With that background in mind, let's move on to tape 95B and the ethical component of the Warrens' involvement in Enfield. In the Hollywood Reporter article quoted above, Judith Penney is quoted referring to how Lorraine's "real god is money". Playfair had a similar view of Ed. Go here to listen to some of Playfair's comments about an exchange he had with Ed in the 1970s (probably August of 1979). As we'll see, tape 95B corroborates the charges of Penney and Playfair, and it reflects poorly on Ed in some other ethical contexts.

The tape is about 18 minutes long, and it consists of an interview Grosse conducted with John and Sylvie Burcombe. For those who don't know, the Burcombes are major witnesses in the Enfield case. John is the brother of Peggy Hodgson, the mother in the family the poltergeist was centered around. John and Sylvie lived down the street from the Hodgsons, and the Burcombes, especially John, spent a lot of time in the Hodgsons' house and witnessed many of the paranormal events there. Both are highly credible witnesses, for reasons I've discussed before and will expand upon in future posts. What they said about Ed Warren's behavior, so soon after Warren and his team had visited the Hodgsons earlier in August of 1979, is important.

Near the beginning of the conversation, John refers to how the Warrens and their team had said they'd arrive in the evening, but instead came at about 8:30 A.M. and caused "mayhem" at the Hodgsons' house (1:55). John then refers to an exchange Playfair had with Ed, but doesn't provide many details (2:51). It seems to be the exchange Playfair described in the interview I've linked above. So, Playfair's claim to have had that sort of encounter with Warren isn't something he made up or misremembered years later. He was talking about it shortly after Warren's 1979 visit. Just after mentioning the exchange between Playfair and Warren, John says that, on another occasion, Warren was "once again, talking about money" (3:08). John had arranged for the Warrens' visit, but Peggy Hodgson said she hadn't wanted them to come and wished that John had spoken to her about it before agreeing to let the Warrens visit (3:32). John and Sylvie go on to make references to Ed Warren's ingratitude (3:50), arrogance (6:23), and carelessness or dishonesty (8:40, 16:50). He seemed to be trying to turn the Hodgsons against Grosse and Playfair (11:00). Sylvie refers to how annoying Warren was to Peggy Hodgson (4:09). According to Sylvie, Peggy "had a go" at Ed and asked him why he didn't express any gratitude for the assistance they were providing him, after which Peggy and Ed "had a few words" with each other (4:25). Given how friendly Peggy was in general, even under highly difficult circumstances and toward people who were skeptical about the poltergeist, it's significant that she was so upset with Ed Warren. Sylvie also refers to Warren's preoccupation with money (6:02), and John comments on how Warren was "on about money" again (7:09). John goes on to refer to how Warren is trying to "capitalize" on the Enfield case (8:08). You get the impression from John and Sylvie that Ed was inordinately focused on financial and legal issues and was often inaccurate and untrustworthy in the claims he made, among other ethical problems.

One of the reasons why the Burcombes have a lot of credibility is that they were often skeptical of the Enfield phenomena. They believed in the authenticity of much of the case, but doubted some of it. They didn't think all of the allegedly paranormal events that occurred when Warren and his team visited were genuine, but they thought some of them were (11:45, 12:44, 16:27). It seems likely that Warren and his team did witness some paranormal events at the Hodgsons' house, but misrepresented much of what they experienced there.

1 comment:

  1. "I don't know much about the other paranormal cases they've been involved with, but I do know a lot about Enfield."

    I think if you're talking to skeptics about the Warrens, the first thing you're going to encounter is their positive appraisal of the Amityville case. This case is considered to be an outright fraud and skeptics believe this slam-dunks the Warrens' credibility. Of course, skeptics tend to think that any purported instances of the supernatural are outright frauds, so that's neither here nor there.

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