Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ed And Lorraine Warren's Involvement In The Enfield Case

A movie came out last year that's loosely related to the Enfield Poltergeist, titled The Conjuring 2. The movie, which I haven't seen, apparently portrays Ed and Lorraine Warren as central to the investigation of the case. As a result of the movie and for other reasons, there's been a lot of discussion lately about the Warrens and their involvement in Enfield. A commenter in another thread asked me, about three weeks ago, what I thought of the Warrens. I said, "From what little I've heard about and from the Warrens, their work seems highly problematic. [Guy] Playfair discusses his view of Ed Warren in the MonsterTalk interview I linked earlier (start listening at 26:30). The Warrens' involvement in the Enfield case was negligible." I have no reason to significantly change my view of the Warrens in general, but I have changed my mind about their involvement in the Enfield case.

Since I posted my comments on the Warrens quoted above, I've read an article on the Warrens' involvement in Enfield by Tom Ruffles of the Society for Psychical Research. I've also read Gerald Brittle's coverage of the Enfield case in his book on the Warrens, The Demonologist (Los Angeles and New York: Graymalkin Media, 2013). I've read some comments by the Warrens' son-in-law, Tony Spera, about the Warrens' involvement in the Enfield case. And I've listened to the Warrens' audio recordings of their time in the Hodgson house that have been posted at the web site for The Conjuring 2. (Click on Menu on the left side of the screen, then The Warren Files, then Explore The Case Files.)

I don't understand why these tapes have received so little attention. Brittle refers to them in his book and cites some portions of them, but doesn't discuss the majority of the most important content. (The book doesn't give much coverage to the Enfield case.) I don't recall any other book or any article I've read discussing the tapes in any significant depth. I saw one commenter in one thread, at a web site I don't remember, link to the tapes at the movie's web site, which is how I found out that they were available for the general public to listen to. Spera, the Warrens' son-in-law, refers to the tapes being played publicly prior to the release of The Conjuring 2, but I don't know how extensively the tapes were made available to the general public at that point. The tapes ought to be discussed more than they have been.

I have a lot of problems with the Warrens and their handling of the Enfield case in particular. But Ed Warren and his colleagues deserve some credit for traveling to England, getting entrance to the Hodgson home, and arranging these recordings. I didn't notice anything on the tapes that fundamentally changes my view of the Enfield case or adds to the evidence in any major way, but there are a lot of bits and pieces of valuable information on a large variety of topics. I want to use the rest of this post to give some examples.

The tapes are more than two-and-a-half hours long collectively, and it looks like all of them were recorded in early August of 1979. I don't think there's anything significantly distinct about the second tape, so I'd recommend focusing on the first (Enfield Convos W/Fred) and third (Voices Enfield Interview). The third is the most important. It consists largely of an interview with Peggy Hodgson. See the relevant sections of the post here for my discussion of her significance as a witness. The other two tapes consist primarily of the voice phenomena, which I've discussed elsewhere. As usual, the comments by the voices are largely a mixture of the trivial, the nonsensical, and the incoherent. If you listen to these tapes long enough, you'll probably agree with Playfair's sentiments:

the Voice was a tremendous bore most of the time…

a good ninety-five percent of what it uttered was trivial rubbish….

there was nothing much more we could do with our Voices, except wish they would shut up and go away, which they did not. (This House Is Haunted [United States: White Crow Books, 2011], 164, 203)

Brittle claims that some of the voices on the Warrens' tapes make comments such as the following (The Demonologist [Los Angeles and New York: Graymalkin Media, 2013], approximate Kindle location 4201):

"Let's put the lights out"

"Throw the table"

"Stop him from going into that room"

I didn't notice any comments like those, but maybe they're there. Much of what's on these tapes is difficult to understand. The tapes are old, some of the people talking have heavy accents, some of the individuals who are speaking seem to be far from the recorder, and sometimes there are two or more voices speaking at once.

As far as the voice phenomena are concerned, the most significant part of the tapes that I noticed didn't come from the voices themselves, but from what was said about the voices. Start listening at around 36:30 on the first tape. It seems that both Hodgson girls, Janet and Margaret, and their mother, Peggy, refer to how a voice came from Peggy at times. They also refer to how a voice came from a dog in the neighborhood on one occasion. That's similar to the incidents Playfair discusses in his book, in which the voice sometimes manifested itself in a disembodied form. If Peggy Hodgson acknowledged that the voices sometimes came from her, and she witnessed the incident involving a dog, as the tape seems to suggest, then these claims can't be dismissed as something the girls made up. Arguments for fraud in the Enfield case typically consist of attributing all of the faking to the Hodgson girls. But if the voices sometimes came from Peggy and Billy Hodgson, from a dog, and from no visible entity, how good is a fraud hypothesis involving only the Hodgson girls?

The third tape consists largely of a discussion between Ed Warren and Peggy, apparently while one or more of Warren's colleagues was taking the Hodgson children out to a restaurant. The children arrive back home around twenty-eight minutes into the tape. Once they arrive, it becomes more difficult to follow what's happening. But there's some significant content after the children arrive as well.

If you start listening around 7:30, Peggy recounts an incident that I don't remember hearing about before, in Playfair's book or anywhere else. I don't know when it occurred. To understand the background of it, there were some occasions when doppelgangers would appear around the house. On one occasion, a double of Maurice Grosse was seen on the ground floor while he was upstairs. On the occasion Peggy starts discussing around 7:30 on the third tape, she and Janet were in a room upstairs. Peggy leaned over to pick something up. While she was bent over, she saw hands come down in front of her, holding a string to strangle her with. As the string was pulled toward her throat, she turned around to see a being who looked like Janet, but seemed older. At the same time, Janet was in another location in the same room. This is the only incident in the Enfield case that I've heard of that involved a doppelganger in the same room as the person being doubled. It's also another example of how malevolent the poltergeist was.

Start listening around 24:50 to hear Peggy discuss the levitations she witnessed. She explains that both girls would levitate, though Janet apparently did so more often. Peggy refers to how the levitations would sometimes be faster and other times be slower. Sometimes Janet would levitate across the room, over the top of one of her siblings' bodies. She refers to how, on one occasion, Janet levitated over to Billy, at which point he ran out of the room. Since Billy is still alive, that's an event he ought to be asked about, if anybody ever gets an interview with him. (By the way, both Billy and Johnny's voices can be heard on these tapes, though not often.)

Around 48:30, Ed asks Peggy whether she's a Christian. She discusses her Methodist background.

Playfair and others have often referred to how the poltergeist allegedly went away in late 1978, how there was little or nothing that happened after a minor recurrence in the spring of 1979, or some such thing. Warren's tapes are further evidence, along with what I've discussed elsewhere, that the phenomena continued beyond the spring of 1979.

I no longer think the Warrens' involvement in the Enfield case was negligible. They apparently visited the house at least a few times over a few years. They got some recordings of the phenomena and some interviews with the family on tapes they've preserved and have made public. Some of what's on the tapes is significant. The Warrens' involvement in the case is minor relative to the involvement of other researchers, especially Grosse and Playfair. And a lot of the Warrens' beliefs and behavior are problematic. But their involvement in the Enfield case is more significant than some people, including me, have suggested at times.


  1. For more discussion of the evidence that Janet (and Margaret) levitated, including a scientific experiment, see the relevant sections of the posts here, here, here, and here.

  2. Here's another post I've written about the Warrens and Enfield. It includes a discussion of the material about the Warrens on Grosse and Playfair's tapes.