Monday, July 15, 2019

Dreams And Trances At Enfield

The hardest Enfield tapes to listen to are the ones that feature the Hodgson children in altered states of consciousness, primarily in November of 1977. The states are often referred to as dreams and trances, so I've titled my post according to that convention, but we can't say much beyond the fact that some altered state of consciousness was involved. In a discussion with Hans Bender, Guy Playfair commented on Janet Hodgson's condition in the closing days of November:

We found the girl screaming, yelling, lying on the floor. She was underneath the table, trying to kick it over…The mother was absolutely desperate, you know. She didn't know what to do. And Luiz [Gasparetto, a Brazilian medium] spent about half an hour with her [Janet], and she immediately became quiet. I have all this on the tape. He talked to her very quietly in Portuguese, and she went to sleep. She went to sleep at 7 o'clock in the evening and she woke up the next morning only at 9 o'clock. That's fourteen hours of sleep. And she never had another hysterical fit. She just had one bad dream, and, after that, there was no more….The mother told me that she doesn't mind the tables falling over, but these hysterical attacks were absolutely too much, you know. She was really very, very distressed. And, I must say, that I was, too. It's one of the most horrible things I've ever seen, because they would go on for three, four hours. They would go on until 3 o'clock in the morning. And she would even wake up in a conversion. She was completely out for four days…Twice we called a doctor, emergency doctor, who gave her an injection of Valium…An interesting detail was that half an hour after she was given an injection of Valium, she was thrown out of bed, right across the room….the two girls would dream together….And we would open their eyes, and we would shine the torches [flashlights], and the pupil [wouldn't] contract. And we would also tickle under the arms, and they were completely asleep. And they would talk to each other….Again, we have it on tape. (tape 39B in Playfair's collection, 0:41)


He mentions a lot of other details as well. I've just included some of the highlights.

He also talks to Bender about the work he (Playfair) had done in Brazil on poltergeist cases and other experiences he'd had with the paranormal. He refers to the black magic he witnessed in Brazil and how he refuses to discuss it in public, out of concern that people may try to duplicate it. Accordingly, it's significant when he comments that Janet's state was "one of the most horrible things I've ever seen".

Not all of these altered states of consciousness were so disturbing. Most of the ones referred to as dreams were of a less distressing nature, often to the point of being trivial and embarrassing. They were frequently nonsensical or vulgar, for example, and sometimes involved Margaret unconvincingly taking on another persona. (Whether the persona was convincing is a subject that's distinct from whether the dream was paranormal. I'll say more about these issues below.) And there's a lot of inconsistency in the phenomena. Screaming or groaning will be followed by something like laughter or talking quietly. One dream will be frivolous, and another will be a nightmare. One state will involve a lot of screaming, and another will involve the poltergeist tickling them and making them laugh. I won't be saying much in this post about why the poltergeist behaved that way. My upcoming post on the voice phenomena will have a lot more to say about the poltergeist's personality.

When I cite the Enfield tapes below, I'll use "MG" to designate a tape from Maurice Grosse's collection and "GP" to designate one from Playfair's. So, MG94B is tape 94B in Grosse's collection, and GP22B is tape 22B in Playfair's.

In their discussion referred to above, Playfair and Bender agree that Janet's trance states could be referred to as "possession", but that the term shouldn't be used (GP39A, 41:13). It would be too easy for the media and others involved to misinterpret the term, for example. But even a term like "trance", or a distinction between one state as a "trance" and another as a "dream", can be misleading. The children seem to have been in some altered state of consciousness, but we don't know much about the nature of those states, how many there were, or how they differed from one another, if they did differ.

I don't know much about the medical issues involved. Grosse, Playfair, and others ran a lot of tests to evaluate whether the children were in a normal state of consciousness. In his book, Playfair writes, "We used all the tests we could think of to see if the girls really were asleep, shining a torch in their eyes, tickling their armpits and the soles of their feet, and even forcing their eyelids apart and examining their pupils." (This House Is Haunted [United States: White Crow Books, 2011], 102) There are a lot of references to that sort of testing on the tapes. Grosse moves Janet's eyelids and gets no response (MG22A, 19:21). Janet's eyes are turned up (MG22B, 6:20). Grosse refers to somebody (probably John Burcombe) looking at Janet's eyes, then comments on how she's like that because she's unconscious (MG25A, 46:34). Peggy Hodgson comments on how Janet's eyes have been shut "the whole time" during one of these episodes (MG25B, 2:41). Peggy goes on to refer to how Janet knows when somebody is near and refers to it as amazing, apparently because Janet's eyes have been shut the whole time (3:41). After examining the girls on another occasion, Grosse says emphatically that there's "no doubt" that they're asleep (MG30B, 33:05). And so on. In his notes for September 8, 1977, Grosse wrote:

"There was another loud bang. I again rushed up the stairs and found the chair again about four feet from where I had placed it. This time I noticed that the front right leg had been bent. I called Mr. [George] Fallows [a reporter with The Daily Mirror] who went over to examine Janet whilst I watched them. He found her to be in deep sleep (he used the word 'unconscious'). He lifted her hand, then let it go (it appeared to 'flop' - his words), and he gently pushed her head to one side and found no resistance whatsoever. From her sleeping position and posture I felt that she could have been in a trance-like state (her mouth was open and her breathing very shallow). She was securely tucked in bed." (cited in Yvette Fielding and Ciaran O'Keeffe, Ghost Hunters [Hodder & Stoughton: Great Britain, 2006], 54-55)

I should add that Grosse, Playfair, and others involved didn't always claim that they were confident about the results of their testing. For example, after testing whether the girls were asleep in the context of the voice phenomena, Grosse refers to how certain he was that Margaret was asleep when she spoke with the poltergeist voice, whereas he wasn't sure that Janet was asleep when speaking (MG68A, 6:20).

There's a lot of ambiguity in some of these situations, and I don't know how difficult it would be to fake some of these things. But it seems unlikely that both girls would be so good at faking everything involved. These are circumstances in which they had their eyes closed, they couldn't have known whether their eyes would be checked during a particular episode, by whom, or when. If they were able to persuade so many people that they were in some altered state of consciousness so often, then that set of skills needs to be added to the long list of other things the children must have been unusually good at in order to sustain a fraud hypothesis.

Much of what the girls and others involved did during these episodes was against their interests, which is harder to explain if all of the episodes were faked. As Playfair mentions in his comments to Bender quoted above, these states often went on for long periods of time, far longer than would be needed to fake something. On one occasion, Grosse comments on how Janet has been in a trance state for more than two hours (MG23A, 16:02), John Burcombe refers to how much she's sweating (MG23A, 19:49), etc. Grosse comments elsewhere that it's "beyond me" how anybody can have so much energy (MG22A, 28:00). She would bang her head on the headboard, which must have hurt (MG22A, 40:34). On one of the tapes, Grosse is commenting on how Janet is banging her head, and you hear a loud bang that even Grosse is startled by (MG29A, 20:20). On another occasion, while in a trance state, Janet ties her socks together, which doesn't accomplish much and prevents her from moving around more freely (MG22B, 41:51). It makes more sense for her to do that in an altered state of consciousness than in a normal state in which she's trying to fake an episode. When the children would talk in these states, they would sometimes interrupt one another and talk or make other noises that would drown out the other one (MG31B, 31:05). Janet would often speak quietly, would slur her words, her talking would seem to be muffled by a pillow or some other object (GP20A, 28:20; GP71A, 33:58), etc. It's often difficult to tell what she's saying, which makes more sense if the phenomena are genuine. Much of what the girls say in these states is childish, which is something critics often object to when evaluating the voice phenomena. But the term "childish" is too vague. Janet and Margaret were in their early adolescent years. These altered states of consciousness involved childishness well below the age of the children in question, with the possible exception of Billy (7 years old at the time). The girls, at least, surely were capable of faking something of a higher intellectual caliber. Janet would often call out "Mummy", and as Playfair notes in his book:

"There was something odd about the way she pronounced the word, stressing the second syllable and making it rhyme with sky. Mrs. [Hodgson] said that Janet had never addressed her in this way at any age." (91)

On one of the tapes, Grosse comments on how Janet's calling out "Mummy" was accompanied by her sucking her thumb. He refers to how she's "regressing" (MG29A, 13:49). That's childishness, but not the sort you'd expect from adolescent girls. Similarly, much of what they said was nonsensical, such as Margaret repeatedly calling out words like "radio" and "dancing" (GP13B, 20:11). During the phase when the poltergeist was producing excrement and urine, Janet apparently was coerced into assisting it. She seems to have been in a trance state or something like it. Playfair writes in his book:

"The main cause of [Peggy Hodgson's] worry was seeing Janet come out of the bathroom with a strange expression on her face. As though she wasn't 'with it', she said. 'What are you doing in there, Janet?' she had asked. 'I don't know what to do with this. It was in the sink,' Janet replied. Mrs. [Hodgson] did not have to ask her what 'it' was. 'When I looked,' she told us, 'part of the excreta was in the sink, and the other part appeared to be in the [washcloth]. I can't say I saw her do it, because the door was shut, but I just got that feeling that she did it and afterwards realised there was something there, and she sort of didn't know what to do about it.' Even if Janet were capable of such disgusting behaviour, which I could not believe, would she allow herself to be caught so easily?" (230)

There's good evidence for the authenticity of other incidents involving excrement and urine, including evidence that none of the children were in the relevant area at the time. There wasn't any history of Janet acting the way Playfair describes above on other occasions.

Something significant about Billy's involvement in these altered states of consciousness is that he'd sometimes speak more clearly than usual. He had a speech impediment, and he'd speak more clearly when upset. During a shared dream involving Margaret, Janet, and Billy, Grosse and a couple of other people who were present (apparently Sylvie Burcombe and Peggy Hodgson) commented on how Billy was talking more clearly than he ordinarily did (MG13B, 38:01). He did the same on another occasion (MG34A, 2:48), and his mother commented that "deep down" Billy is "very, very nervous" (8:05).

Janet would sometimes have unusual strength in her trance states. Grosse refers to being unable to move Janet with the help of somebody else. He refers to how unusually strong she is (MG22A, 35:45). Elsewhere, Grosse refers to Janet's grip as that of a "very, very strong man", not a child (MG22B, 2:08). Her strength is "absolutely incredible" (2:21), "fantastic" (8:44), and "phenomenal" (12:55). It's "impossible" for a child to have so much strength (14:59). She threw her older cousin, Paul, onto the floor (10:52). Grosse refers to how Janet has "the strength of two men" (MG25A, 31:31). Here's a clip from a 1995 television program in which John Burcombe refers to the "unbelievable" strength Janet had while in these trances. Playfair recounts an occasion when five adults, one of whom was a judo expert, were holding Janet down on a bed, and she was still landing blows on them (GP39A, 40:57). Paul Burcombe refers to how tiring it is to constrain Janet (GP65B, 1:06). Just afterward, Sylvie Burcombe comments on how Janet is right-handed, so that she shouldn't be using her left hand the way she is in this trance state.

The children would sometimes act in coordination with one another during these episodes, sometimes even when in different rooms. Playfair provides a striking example in his book:

"But soon she [Janet] started behaving very strangely, crying and moaning in her sleep, and when I went into the other bedroom to tell her mother, I found that [Margaret] was doing exactly the same. It was as if the girls were sharing a nightmare." (81)

Were both girls able to cry at will, on short notice? They wouldn't have had much reason to expect Playfair to notice one of them crying, go to the other room just afterward, notice the other girl crying there, and connect all of the dots in his thinking. If the girls faked this incident, then it involved some unusual skills and subtle planning, all in an attempt to create an impression in Playfair's mind that could easily have failed to occur (Playfair may not have noticed Janet crying, he may not have gone to the other room just afterward, etc.). The event might have been faked, but why prefer that explanation? And even if we did prefer it, that would lengthen the list of unusual skills we have to attribute to the Hodgson children in order to maintain a fraud hypothesis.

Grosse refers to "convulsions" and other phenomena that the girls went through around the same time while in different rooms (MG22B, 0:08). Elsewhere, Grosse refers to a variety of phenomena the two girls experienced at the same time or close to the same time while in different rooms of the house (MG23A, 29:26). During an alleged shared dream, not only do the girls' comments suggest that they're sharing a dream, but their body movements are almost identical as well (MG30B, 29:15). Margaret was thrown from her bed in one room around the same time that Janet started getting more violent in another room (GP65B, 0:33).

Other paranormal events would often happen while these episodes were going on. Denise and Sylvie Burcombe saw Margaret thrown from her bed (GP13B, 18:55). The poltergeist pulled the plug from John Burcombe's tape recorder while the girls were undergoing one of these experiences (GP64A, 11:43). In the context of another one of these episodes, Peggy Hodgson and Sylvie Burcombe heard footsteps without anybody being around to cause them (MG25A, 43:14). Janet would sometimes suggest that she was being attacked by some sort of entity during these experiences, so the footsteps may be related to that. On another occasion, Janet was removed from her bed and pushed underneath another bed in the room, wedged facedown between the bottom of the bed and the floor, apparently unconscious the whole time (MG27A, 22:08). On the tape, you don't hear any of the sounds you'd expect to hear if the incident was faked. Rather, you hear a loud thump, then a light and quick brushing sound. It does sound like Janet was pulled off the bed, that her body made the loud thumping noise when she hit the floor, and that she was quickly dragged under the bed, making the light and quick brushing noise in the process. Shortly after, you hear Grosse saying "Where is she?", and he sounds astonished. There's more than a minute of some quiet comments made by Grosse and some rustling noises, presumably from Grosse looking around for Janet and pulling her out. It sounds like he says "Incredible!" at 22:50 on the tape, apparently after finding her under the bed or noticing that she was unconscious. (The reason why he talks so quietly is that the other children are asleep in the same room.) Shortly after, he explains that he found Janet under the bed. He had a hard time getting her out. See pages 91-92 of Playfair's book for further details. He refers to how Grosse shone a flashlight in Janet's eye just after the incident and didn't get the contraction of the pupil that should have occurred if she was conscious. Elsewhere in his book, Playfair writes about another incident:

"During one of the girls' shared dreams, [Margaret] kept saying 'I want to speak to Peggy next door' over and over. On an impulse, I went down to the kitchen, where Mrs. [Hodgson] was tidying up, and asked her to try some automatic writing. I showed her how to do it, and the very first words she wrote, in the characteristic form of [this] type of writing which I am sure she could not have faked, were: 'I want to speak to Peggy next door.' This seemed a remarkable coincidence. She could not hear [Margaret] from the kitchen" (103)

A few witnesses noticed that Janet's behavior under other circumstances seemed unusual leading up to and following these altered states of consciousness. Sylvie Burcombe and Grosse refer to how Janet would act strangely, such as after coming home from school, in the hours leading up to her trance states (MG22B, 6:42). Grosse and Peggy Hodgson commented that Janet would act abnormally the day after these incidents (MG91B, 10:59).

I've referred to several relatives and researchers who witnessed these episodes and considered them paranormal. Some other witnesses with a more distant relationship to the family should be mentioned as well.

There are occasional references on the tapes to somebody named "Mrs. Edwards". I don't recall hearing her first name mentioned, but her first name may be brought up somewhere on the tapes. It seems that she worked for the school Janet attended. She's referred to as a local government official. She's some sort of welfare worker and a former police officer (GP95B, 11:42). In a meeting Grosse had with school officials, a woman speaks who sounds like the Mrs. Edwards who speaks elsewhere on the tapes, and she refers to how she takes Janet to and from school (MG4A, 3:51). Peggy Hodgson refers on another tape to how Edwards drives Janet to school (GP45B, 19:37). So, she seems to have been a government and school official with a background in police work. One day in the middle of November of 1977, she was present at the Burcombes' house, where the Hodgsons were spending the night. After witnessing a lot of paranormal events, including some altered states of consciousness experienced by Janet and Margaret, she had the following exchanges with Grosse:

Maurice Grosse: Well, Mrs. Edwards, I mean, it's a dreadful thing to watch, but I'm very pleased to see perhaps there will be a few less skeptics in your place now.

Edwards: Well, as I said to Mrs. Hodgson, I've never disbelieved it.

Maurice Grosse: I know you haven't, but now you've seen it yourself. I'm really pleased you have….

[later that night]

Maurice Grosse: Well, I'm sorry you've had a very disturbed night…You're now a witness to the fact we're not all mad…

Edwards: I'll tell you what, my shoulder's a witness to the fact that we're not all mad.

Maurice Grosse: Perhaps you can tell one or two people in the council who seem to think that we are…When you've had the proof, that you've seen those children thrown out of bed quite a number of times… (MG22B, 8:24; MG23A, 32:46)

What he says after that is somewhat hard to hear, but he apparently goes on to refer to other paranormal events Edwards witnessed. It seems that she experienced a wide variety of phenomena. Edwards' reference to her shoulder being a witness seems to be an allusion to getting injured at some point during the night. On one occasion, Grosse refers to being unable to move Janet with the help of Edwards, while Janet was in a trance state and exhibiting unusual strength (MG22A, 35:47). Edwards may have had her shoulder injured on that occasion.

Janet was examined by some doctors and a psychiatrist during the timeframe when she was experiencing these episodes. Playfair wrote in his book that she received "three different diagnoses in three days" (91). Nobody who examined her had an answer as to what was going on or a solution. The episodes continued.

One doctor's emergency visit to the Hodgsons' house was recorded on tape by both Grosse and Playfair. It was on November 26, 1977, the night when Janet received an injection of Valium and was thrown across the room by the poltergeist while apparently unconscious under the effects of that injection. I've discussed that event elsewhere. Graham Morris, who was at the house that night, has referred to how the doctor who administered the Valium said that it was enough to "put a horse or an elephant out". Unfortunately, you can't hear much of what the doctor says on Grosse's recording. But Playfair's recording seems to have been done in another room of the house after the injection had been administered. And on Playfair's recording, the doctor's comments are much more discernable. He has a foreign accent, though, and sometimes talks quietly and is hard to understand. Grosse asks the doctor what he thought of the condition of Janet's eyes after looking at them, apparently referring to the doctor's examination of Janet prior to the Valium injection. The doctor says that Janet's "pupils were dilated and not reacting to light" (GP12B, 36:08). At 36:31, there's a conversation between the doctor and Grosse. The doctor seems to have referred to Janet's condition or the larger situation as "very strange". Regardless of whether the doctor made that comment, Grosse goes on to say "It's a very strange thing, of course. This is like we used to call 'possession.'" The doctor then says "Yeah." He later seems to say that Janet received a "full dose" of Valium (38:59). For whatever it's worth, Playfair commented elsewhere that the syringe with the Valium in it was completely filled (GP39B, 3:03). He was in the room at the time and writes in his book that "We all saw this [the injection] go in" (88). The doctor is asked how long the Valium's effects should last, and he says "six to eight hours" (GP12B, 39:08). While Grosse's recording doesn't pick up much of what the doctor said, it does pick up a lot of details about Janet's state. At 11:56 on tape MG25B, Grosse announces that the injection is being administered. Janet is screaming loudly at the time, and she had just done something to John Burcombe that caused him some pain, which you can hear him reacting to (10:10). So, she was still highly active in her trance state at the time when the injection was given. Within five minutes, she's much more subdued, so the Valium had made a big difference that early. Playfair's book tells us that the doctor's report listed the time as 11:10 P.M. (88), and Playfair says that the throwing incident happened at 11:55 P.M. (89) At 28:21 on tape MG25B, Grosse refers to how Janet is quieting down in response to the injection, and he says that the current time is 11:25. He had referred to the injection occurring at 11 minutes and 56 seconds into the tape, so Grosse's comments line up closely with the doctor's report. The injection happened at or close to 11:10 P.M. So, it looks like there was a span of about forty-five minutes between the time of the injection and the throwing incident. Given that the injection had such a big impact on Janet within five minutes, she shouldn't have been in a condition to have faked the throwing incident around forty minutes later.

There was at least one occasion when an instrument was used to attempt to detect paranormal activity during a dream episode. It was on December 5, 1977. Grosse, David Robertson, and Hugh Pincott (secretary of the Society for Psychical Research) were there that night. Robertson had brought a strain gauge to the house and apparently set it up in the bedroom where Janet was. During her dream, something was activating the strain gauge, and you can hear the three men mentioned above discussing what was going on starting at 31:33 on tape MG33B. Based on what's on the tape and a discussion I had with Robertson about this incident, it looks to me like the strain gauge activity provides some evidence that something paranormal was going on.

One other incident that bears mentioning here is that Margaret reported having a premonitory dream (MG50A, 35:46). She doesn't go into much detail about it, though, and I don't know that she told anybody about the dream before its fulfillment. Still, it's worth noting that a premonitory dream was among the experiences that were reported.

Given the evidence I've outlined above, I think it's very likely that the altered states of consciousness in the Enfield case were paranormal to some extent. The unusual strength exhibited by Janet, the automatic writing done by Peggy Hodgson to confirm the contents of Margaret's dream, the doctor's comments when he visited the house on November 26, the throwing incident while Janet was under the effects of Valium that night, and some other lines of evidence seem especially strong. To fake everything involved would require a remarkable amount of knowledge, unusual skill in a large variety of contexts, favorable coincidences, willingness to go to such lengths to deceive without any motivation that seems to be sufficient, etc.

But there's reason to doubt some of the phenomena as well. I'll provide some examples.

I want to quote an excerpt from one of the tapes to give people an idea of what the shared dream episodes were often like (MG30B, 32:40). This doesn't represent all of the dreams, but it does give you some idea of the nature of much of what happened:

Janet Hodgson: [panting and groaning for several seconds, followed by screaming] Margaret! Help! [panting and groaning]

Maurice Grosse: I've just examined the girls again.

Janet Hodgson: [yelling] Margaret!

Maurice Grosse: No doubt whatsoever that they're asleep. No doubt.

Janet Hodgson: [yelling] [unintelligible] Look at it! It's worse than [unintelligible].

Margaret Hodgson: What's going on in the [unintelligible, perhaps "barn"]? It's all coming out.

Janet Hodgson: [yelling] No, I don't mean that. I'm not worried about that. It's jumping all over the roof.

Margaret Hodgson: [screams before talking] Look [unintelligible]!

Janet Hodgson: Look at Gloria's nose! [Margaret making gasping noises as Janet talks] It's gone red. Look at Gloria! She's [unintelligible]! Look at her!

That's what you hear during one minute of the tape, from 32:40 to 33:40. On other occasions, there are a lot of references to excrement, how Grosse has "gone bionic", etc. Most of these episodes aren't centered around paranormal topics or what would commonly be considered frightening subject matter. Even when that kind of subject comes up, such as Janet referring to ghosts or Billy referring to skeletons, what's said is typically simple, trivial, repetitious, nonsensical, and such. These altered states of consciousness come across largely as manifestations of the minds of the children involved, with the involvement of some other entity to an extent, but not in the way you'd see in a horror movie. I'll have more to say about the nature of the poltergeist and what I think it was doing in contexts like these when I discuss the voice phenomena later this year.

I mentioned how Margaret would sometimes take on an unconvincing persona during these episodes. She sounds like a young child who's bad at acting. She often uses sentence fragments in an unnatural way, draws out her words unnaturally (e.g., "waaaaater" rather than "water"), is suspiciously hesitant at times, and seems suspiciously aware of her surroundings for a person who allegedly is in an altered state of consciousness. Tape MG31A provides a lot of examples of these characteristics. After a dream on the tape I just cited, Margaret is asked what she remembers about the dream, and she says she doesn't remember anything (20:08). She sounds insincere. Just afterward, somebody, apparently Margaret, makes a noise that resembles a sound Margaret would often make during the dream sequences. And she starts claiming she remembers portions of the dream shortly afterward. During one of the episodes, Margaret says "cubber" over and over again, and Grosse thinks she's mispronouncing "cover" as a young child would (MG31B, 11:19). He asks Peggy Hodgson whether Margaret used the term "cubber" to refer to covers as a young child, and Peggy confirms that Margaret did that. During that exchange, Margaret says "cubber" more loudly and starts doing other things of a childish nature. The timing, coming just after the beginning of the exchange between Grosse and Peggy, is suspicious. In one of the sequences, Margaret responds jokingly to John Burcombe and laughs at times while she's allegedly in a dream or trance state (GP69B, 0:15). Her tone of voice changes as well. It's highly unconvincing, especially because of how inconsistent her joking and tone of voice are with the surrounding context. On another occasion, while a dream episode is going on that involves both girls, Peggy starts talking about somebody who just came to the door. The girls then get suspiciously quiet, as if their attention has been diverted to who's visiting (GP71A, 42:29). At one point, the poltergeist voice, apparently manifesting through Janet, says to look at Margaret, calling attention to how she's asleep. Peggy comments that Margaret does look as though she's asleep, and just afterward Margaret says "Fanny Buckridge" (the name of a neighbor, apparently) in a voice like somebody who's asleep (GP97B, 37:21). The timing is suspiciously convenient.

Janet is generally much more believable in these states, for reasons like the ones I mentioned earlier, but her behavior is sometimes problematic. The degree to which she sometimes describes what she's seeing in her dreams, as the dreams are going on, is suspicious. (See tape MG30B, for example.) It comes across as somebody performing for an audience. People don't normally spell out what they're seeing like that. On tape MG36B, at 14:54, Janet sounds like she's in a dream or trance state briefly, but then Grosse tells her to get to sleep and threatens to slap her. She stops just afterward. The timing may be coincidental, but it seems suspicious.

What I've outlined in the two paragraphs above comes from many hours of tapes over multiple months. Putting these examples together in a couple of paragraphs, as I've done above, can be misleading. There were a lot of other events accompanying the ones I've just summarized, including events that were more credible and a lot of evidence for paranormal activity. Both girls have admitted to joking, faking incidents, and such to some extent, but I don't recall anybody ever asking them whether the altered states of consciousness in particular were faked on any occasion. These dream and trance episodes don't seem to get much attention, from skeptics or believers.

A lot of qualifiers could be added to what I've said about suspicious behavior by the girls in these contexts. Regarding the personas Margaret would take on, people often take on another persona without any intention to deceive. Children do it when playing games, when pretending to be somebody they aren't, etc. Adults do it in some contexts as well. If the poltergeist, Margaret's subconscious, or some other source moved her to take on another persona in a dream, does the unconvincing quality of the persona imply that the dream is inauthentic? I don't think so. If bad acting was the only type of acting Margaret could do, then she would put on an unconvincing act if the poltergeist or some other source was leading her to take on another persona. (And that works against the idea that Margaret was putting on an act when she seemed sincere elsewhere on the tapes. If she was bad at acting, then that trait should have manifested itself on the many other occasions when skeptics allege that she was acting.)

Having some awareness of your surroundings isn't necessarily a problem either. We often refer to people moving in and out of consciousness, for example, people in comas having some awareness of their surroundings at times, and so on. Whether somebody has been in an altered state of consciousness is a different issue than whether the person has consistently been in such a state. And even where the state is consistent, we're addressing a paranormal condition here. Do we know that an altered state of consciousness produced by a poltergeist shouldn't involve any awareness of surroundings? No, we don't know that. So, while awareness of surroundings should be noted and does raise some concerns, and it does make the experience more similar to normal consciousness, we can't say that awareness of surroundings by itself disproves the paranormality of the experience.

Concerning the occasion when Margaret claimed to not remember anything about a dream, after which she made a sound that she'd made in the dream and started referring to details she remembered about the experience, she may have been joking when she made her initial comment about not remembering anything. She does sound insincere. She may have thought it would be amusing to initially tell Grosse, who often tried to gather information about events like these, that she didn't remember anything. If she was joking, then the noise she made just afterward may have been an effort to communicate the fact that she was joking. And she does go on to recall some of the details of the dream. If she was joking, then her comments don't have much significance. That kind of joking isn't the same as the sort of deception we're concerned about here.

Janet's practice of sometimes providing descriptions of what she's dreaming about as the dream is occurring is mitigated somewhat by the fact that the dreams were often shared ones. A common theme of the dreams was flying through the neighborhood and commenting on what was happening with the people, animals, etc. they saw. If she and Margaret were flying far apart from one another in the dream, and Margaret wasn't always facing in the same direction, then that would to some extent explain why Janet was screaming and kept describing what she was seeing.

The last item I mentioned that raises suspicions, the occasion when one of Janet's episodes ended just after Grosse threatened to slap her, may not even be relevant. It sounds like Grosse is close to Janet when he's talking to her, so he may be in the process of trying to wake her up from the state she's been in. If he did wake her up as he was talking to her or just after, then the timing of when the episode ended may be due to her being woken up, which was only coincidentally close to the time when he made the comment in question. The reference to slapping could be a reference to what Grosse would sometimes do to wake her up from a dream or trance state. He'd sometimes slap her. If that's the sort of slapping he has in mind, instead of slapping Janet as a form of punishment, then this incident isn't even relevant to the issue of faking. Since Janet seemed to have some awareness of her surroundings at times during these episodes, Grosse's reasoning may have been that reminding her that she'd have to be slapped in order to get her out of that state would provide her with some motivation to try to pull out of it. He does seem to react to what's going on as if it's an authentic event, not an occasion in which he's caught Janet faking something.

I've only given a few examples of the sort of qualifiers that could be added to what I said earlier about Margaret and Janet's suspicious behavior. I wouldn't claim that these qualifiers satisfactorily explain everything. But I do think they satisfactorily explain some things.

My overall assessment of the altered states of consciousness is that it's highly probable that at least much of what happened was paranormal, but that some of it is suspicious, sometimes even highly suspicious. A lot of what occurs during these episodes is trivial, immature, vulgar, nonsensical, and embarrassing. I'd expect many people to dismiss the phenomena because they're so different than what's commonly expected from a poltergeist. But common expectations are often poorly informed. And the suspicious aspects of the phenomena have to be evaluated alongside the evidence we have for the paranormality of the events. You can't focus on the former while ignoring the latter. I've made some comments in the past about why the poltergeist may have behaved as it did on occasions like these. I've also discussed why people would sometimes fake incidents in a genuine paranormal case. I'll have more to say about both subjects in later posts.

But I want to conclude this post with some comments about the personal aspect of paranormal research. I opened the post by referring to how the tapes on these altered states of consciousness are the hardest ones to listen to. That's primarily because of the personal implications involved.

Tapes 22 through 24 in Grosse's collection have stood out in my mind in this context. They were recorded in the middle of November of 1977, on a night when the Hodgsons were staying at the Burcombes' house. Janet was in one of the bedrooms, Margaret and Billy were in another, and Peggy was in the third. Peggy was ill at the time, so much so that she couldn't take care of her children. (See the segment here in a November 1977 television program that alludes to the situation.) In his book, Playfair refers to how Peggy had "collapsed in total exhaustion" and had a "breakdown" around this time (81, 88), and it's sometimes said that she had a nervous breakdown at least once during the case. Both of the girls were going in and out of altered states of consciousness, often screaming, crying, groaning, and such, with Janet exhibiting unusual strength and being violent at times, as levitations and other paranormal events went on simultaneously. Grosse was frequently moving back and forth among the rooms, trying to keep up with everything that was going on, moving his tape recorder from one location to another, and directing the other people involved. He got some help from the Burcombes, and Mrs. Edwards, who I referred to earlier, was there. But it had to be a miserable experience for Grosse. As he tells Edwards on that night, "it's a dreadful thing to watch". I don't know how anybody could listen to these tapes without having a lot of respect for Grosse and appreciation for the difficulty of the work he was doing.

But you sympathize with the Hodgsons more than anybody else. In some ways, what Janet went through was worse than what anybody else experienced. For the most part, her trance states (as distinct from her dreams) come across as highly convincing and agonizing experiences. But it's hard to tell just how much she was aware of at the time, and she didn't seem to remember much about the experiences afterward. By contrast, Peggy had to watch what her children were going through without being able to do much about it, and she remembered it. During one of the episodes, she commented that "It cuts you in pieces inside." (GP20B, 13:35)

There are a lot of reasons why the neglect of paranormal research is so appalling. We should think about the effects that neglect has on the people who go through these experiences. We should also consider the implications for a culture when people don't care or think much about these issues.

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