Friday, June 08, 2018

A Response To Anita Gregory's Doctoral Thesis On Enfield


JSPR = Journal of the Society for Psychical Research

SPR = Society for Psychical Research

THIH = Guy Playfair, This House Is Haunted (United States: White Crow Books, 2011)

For the background to this post and an explanation of why her thesis is important, see here. You can download the thesis here after registering with the site. I'll be responding to her thesis in hyphenated sections. If you aren't interested in the topic covered in one section, you can move on to another by following the hyphens. You can also use the Ctrl F feature on your keyboard to find what you're looking for.

- Gregory's thesis isn't primarily about Enfield, much less the paranormality of that case. But she does often comment on the authenticity of Enfield, and much of what I'll be saying below will be about that subject. Here are some examples of her conclusions about Enfield, in her thesis and elsewhere: "the case was spurious" (xii); she refers to "the negligible value of the evidence for authenticity" (xv); the case is "exceedingly dubious" (296). Near the end of her life, in a letter to the JSPR that she included as supplementary material to her thesis, she commented that most of the evidence for paranormality in the Enfield case is so bad as to be "pathetic" (JSPR, vol. 52, 1983-4, p. 94). There's a stark contrast between Gregory's rhetoric and what she actually demonstrates.

- One of the most striking aspects of Gregory's thesis has to do with how the Enfield case began. She reports that Garry Nottingham, the twenty-one-year-old son of Vic and Peggy Nottingham (the next-door neighbors of the Hodgsons), had an apparently paranormal experience shortly before the August 30 or 31, 1977 date typically cited as the starting point of the Enfield case. Nottingham "had the bedclothes [sheets] pulled off him 'some weeks before the manifestations started at the [Hodgsons]' and came in to his parents' bedroom with mattress and bedding, refusing to sleep alone." (173) To Gregory's credit, she acknowledges that "the [Garry Nottingham] incident might be deemed by some to indicate a measure of initial paranormality after all, but centering on the [Nottinghams]…at the very outset when [Garry Nottingham] experienced his night terrors (which must have been acute for a 21 year old working man to seek refuge in his parents' bedroom) no outside help was invoked (so far as we know)." (192, 201) As Gregory acknowledges, there's no indication that the Nottinghams sought anything like money or fame from this incident, and Garry's behavior meets the criterion of embarrassment. Gregory doesn't propose any explanation of what happened, even though she dismisses the Enfield case as entirely inauthentic.

But does the Garry Nottingham incident actually suggest that the poltergeist initially centered around the Nottinghams, as Gregory claims? No. Keep in mind that both Margaret and Janet Hodgson have reported that they were using a Ouija board prior to August 30, 1977 (the date when poltergeist phenomena were first noticed in the Hodgsons' home). (For more about the Ouija board use, see THIH, 238-39; Janet's comments in her interview with Will Storr in Will Storr Vs. The Supernatural [New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006], 195-96; Janet's comments cited in the article here.) Margaret said that a paranormal apparition associated with the use of the Ouija board occurred a few years prior to the beginning of the Enfield case. And she claimed that the apparition they saw when using the Ouija board reappeared in their house while the poltergeist was active, so that there's more than just a chronological connection between the Ouija board use and the poltergeist. That apparition predated the Garry Nottingham incident. And the large majority of the phenomena that occurred over the years centered around the Hodgsons' home, not the home of the Nottinghams.

- I mentioned that Gregory offered no explanation of the Garry Nottingham incident. She also offered no explanation for a lot of other alleged paranormal events in the case. She refers to the occasion when a fireplace was ripped out of a wall it was cemented into (160), but she doesn't propose any normal means by which the incident could have happened. She provides no hypothesis about the large majority of the most significant events in the case (what happened on August 31, 1977; November 26, 1977; December 15, 1977; May 30, 1978; etc.). Nothing about any of the apparitions. Nothing about the scientific tests conducted on Janet Hodgson by David Robertson and his colleagues. Nothing about Peggy Hodgson's premonitions. The best evidence for levitations is ignored. So is the best evidence for the voice phenomena. Etc. She doesn't even attempt to explain the large majority of what most needs to be explained.

- On the occasions when she does attempt an explanation, her efforts are often unconvincing. She addresses the teleportation of a cushion to the roof of the house, as witnessed by John Rainbow. (She says nothing of Rainbow's testimony about seeing Janet levitating.) According to Gregory, "John Stiles seemed to have had little problem in replicating" the cushion incident (172). She offers no further information. Instead, she refers to the SPR's committee report on Enfield, which currently can only be viewed in the SPR's facilities under special arrangements. Few people would have the interest and means to go to England to look up the relevant information.

How is Stiles supposed to have replicated the event in question? It's not just a matter of getting a cushion on the roof. Rather, it's also a matter of doing it as rapidly as the witnesses report, without being seen or heard by the witnesses inside and outside the house, and doing it with the body of a twelve-year-old girl like Janet. (I don't know what characteristics Stiles had, in terms of his height, weight, strength, etc.) I find it highly doubtful that Stiles even came close to meeting all of those evidential requirements. Rather, he probably just met some of them without meeting the others, which is why Gregory is so brief and vague on the matter.

We've seen this before with other Enfield skeptics. Remember Joe Nickell leaving out major details when trying to explain the incident when the poltergeist was holding Margaret Hodgson's leg on the staircase? Remember Deborah Hyde ignoring major details while discussing the occasions when Janet was pulled out of bed by the poltergeist, which Hyde dismissed as sleep paralysis? On the rare occasions when critics like Nickell, Hyde, and Gregory attempt a somewhat detailed explanation of the most significant events in the Enfield case, it doesn't go well for them. That's why they so seldom even attempt such an explanation.

- Gregory submitted her thesis in 1983. She had no ability to address evidence that would later come to light. But we can't ignore that later evidence.

Peggy Hodgson lived another twenty years, continued to report paranormal events in the house, didn't seek money or fame from the case, and died in 2003 without having ever retracted her claims. Janet and Margaret, though they've acknowledged that a tiny minority of incidents in the case weren't genuine, have also maintained that the case as a whole was authentic. They probably got some money, and they did get some attention, from The Conjuring 2, but that movie and its success couldn't have been anticipated by them in the 1970s. Janet didn't even discuss the case publicly for about two decades, and neither Janet nor Margaret has done even a tenth of what they could do to get attention or money, if they had been lying for that kind of reason. For more about how the Hodgson sisters' behavior in later decades has increased their credibility, see the relevant sections of the article here. The other witnesses to paranormal events in the case haven't retracted their claims either.

Gregory brings up the issue of what would have happened if Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair, the lead investigators, had gone away from the Hodgsons' home for "a few weeks", suggesting that the problems might or would have gone away if that had happened (204). We now have decades of evidence addressing that issue. Paranormal events continued to be reported by the Hodgsons for decades after Grosse and Playfair left. Clare Bennett and her family, who moved in shortly after Peggy Hodgson's death in 2003, reported paranormal events as well.

In 2010, Barrie Colvin published an article documenting that the knocking phenomena in the Enfield case have some characteristics suggesting authenticity.

When The Conjuring 2 came out several years later, Ed Warren's audio tapes recorded at the Hodgson house in 1979 were made available to the public. Those tapes provide some evidence that's problematic for Gregory's view of Enfield.

If her view were correct, we wouldn't expect events to have developed as they have since her thesis was written.

- Gregory also ignored or was unaware of a lot of evidence already available when she was working on her thesis. For example, she casts doubt on an incident reported by Grosse, in which he saw a couch levitate about four feet into the air, turn over, then drop back to the floor (THIH, 74). She tells us that the incident is questionable because John Burcombe, who was said to be with Grosse when the event occurred, didn't remember the incident when asked about it (178-79).

But the failure of Burcombe to remember the event during a particular phase of time when he was asked about it doesn't have much significance. For one thing, how much of the event is Burcombe supposed to have seen? Grosse, according to his own testimony, was looking directly at the couch at the time and witnessed the whole event. But what if Burcombe wasn't looking at the couch the whole time, but only saw the end of the event, perhaps only seeing the couch hitting the floor, for example? If so, the incident wouldn't stand out to him as much as it did to Grosse. And Burcombe had witnessed a large number of paranormal events, probably including many involving the moving of furniture. That sort of incident is common in poltergeist cases and happened frequently in the Enfield case. If Burcombe didn't have a recollection of this particular event when asked about it during the timeframe in question, so what? He may have been exercising a high level of caution, trying to avoid affirming an incident he thought could easily have been confused with others of a similar nature (the moving of furniture). His lack of memory of it at that point undermines the historicity of the event to some extent, but not much.

The event in question was caught on audio tape. Did Gregory ask Grosse or Playfair to let her listen to it? If so, she gives no indication in her thesis of making such an effort. Did she ask Grosse and Playfair if they had any signed witness statements, which they often acquired, for the event in question? Grosse and Burcombe weren't the only people present on the occasion under consideration. Other people were in the room or nearby. Did Gregory ask any of those other individuals for relevant information? The incident in question here is discussed in Playfair's book. Several eyewitnesses of the Enfield case signed a statement saying that the book is accurate:

"Thanks also to John and Sylvie Burcombe and to Vic and Peggy Nottingham who, with [Peggy Hodgson] and Mr Grosse, have read the manuscript of this book and signed a statement to the effect that it is true." (Guy Playfair, This House Is Haunted [Briarcliff Manor, New York: Stein and Day, 1984], 11)

Not only did Burcombe sign it, but so did Peggy Hodgson, who also was present on the occasion in question. Burcombe's lack of memory of the event during a certain timeframe doesn't carry as much weight as the evidence we have that the event did occur.

Gregory repeatedly ignores that kind of evidence, even though she was aware of it at the time or should have been aware of it. For more examples, see how often she cites the BBC's December 26, 1978 radio documentary on the Enfield case, yet ignores much of what's in that documentary. I'll have more to say on that later. It's remarkable how many documents, tapes, radio interviews, television interviews, and other sources Gregory doesn't address and often contradicts. She wasn't writing a two-page article for laymen or a private letter to a relative who trusted her and didn't want documentation. She was writing a doctoral thesis about highly controversial matters. You'd expect her to have put more work into it.

- She offers the following excuse for ignoring most of what's in Playfair's book: "Playfair's book, however, as pointed out in my review is confusingly written, and has not been used as a source of information concerning facts." (157) That's suspiciously convenient. Some of her criticisms of the book are right, but she's mostly wrong. See my article responding to Gregory here for more details.

One of her criticisms of Playfair, which she repeats at length in her thesis, is that Playfair's book is confusing about the timing of the use of video cameras in the Hodgson house. But, as I document in my article just linked, there's nothing confusing about the subject in Playfair's book. The problem isn't with the book, but with how Gregory misread it. Ironically, she ends up being confused and confusing as a result. She also makes confused and confusing comments elsewhere. For example, just two pages after her comments about Playfair's book quoted above, she refers to how her first visit to the Hodgson house was on September 18, 1977. But that contradicts a claim she made elsewhere that her first visit was on December 10 of that year, when John Beloff visited (Parapsychology Review, vol. 13, September-October 1982, "Investigating Macro-Physical Phenomena", 13; see supplementary material G in Gregory's thesis for a copy of that article). On the same page of the article just cited, Gregory refers to how the poltergeist started "Early in 1977", even though its origin is usually dated to August of that year and is so dated by Gregory in her thesis (158, 173). And when she dates it to August in the thesis, she doesn't mention what happened on August 30, but instead starts with the events of August 31. And so on. Given how often Gregory was wrong or difficult to understand, she shouldn't be so dismissive of Playfair's material.

Furthermore, whatever confusing elements Playfair's book actually has, a large percentage of what he says is undisputed, easily verified, corroborated by other sources, etc. You can't use the presence of such a small number of allegedly confusing qualities in a book to dismiss as much of the remainder of that book as Gregory does.

And she was well aware that Playfair's book was based on a large number of audio cassettes, signed witness statements, and other types of evidence she could have consulted without having to rely solely on Playfair's book for information. Why did she make so little effort to consult those other sources, then?

Besides, even though she said that Playfair's book "has not been used as a source of information concerning facts", she does use it as a source for facts (e.g., 173-75). It seems that she wanted to use the book at times, when she didn't think it significantly hurt her case, but wanted to ignore it in contexts where it's more harmful to her position.

Ironically, though she refers to Playfair's book as "confusingly written", Gregory's ignoring of so much of the book and so much other evidence and the unreasonable conclusions she reaches are highly confusing.

- Her overly dismissive approach toward Playfair's book is accompanied by an overly dismissive approach toward his testimony in general. She referred to how "Mr. Playfair, when it came to the crunch, [was] claiming to have witnessed relatively little" (JSPR, vol. 52, 1983-4, p. 94) Yet, on page 160 of her thesis, Gregory refers to how Playfair claimed to have witnessed "a series of very major episodes" on October 15, 1977. And anybody who's read his book knows that he refers to his experiencing a large number and variety of phenomena, including some of major significance.

When Gregory refers to Playfair witnessing "relatively little", what's it relative to? And what significance does that relative relationship have?

Another problem with Gregory's assessment is that she may be using "witnessed" too narrowly. If she's defining it in terms of sight, then why place that sort of restriction on it? Playfair experienced a lot of the knocking phenomena, for example, which involves hearing something. If he saw that the children weren't producing the knocking, though, sight could be included in that sense. On page 59 of his book, for example, he wrote, "The knocking began at once, with me in the room. I could see without any doubt that nobody was doing it on purpose." Much the same can be said of the voice phenomena. He didn't see the fireplace ripping out of the wall it was cemented into, but he heard it being ripped out. What's the plausible scenario in which the children would have faked an incident creating that sort of noise? Playfair also saw furniture and other objects moving in paranormal ways. He saw Janet in her trance states, experienced her unusual strength in those states in the process of trying to restrain her, witnessed Peggy Hodgson doing automatic writing that he authenticated, saw the poltergeist leaving impressions on beds, etc. These things are spelled out in a lot of detail in Playfair's book and elsewhere.

If Gregory is objecting that Playfair didn't refer to much that he'd witnessed when addressing the SPR's Enfield committee, so what? Apparently, some witnesses didn't respond to the SPR's request for information at all, and those who did respond may have been selective, even highly selective, about what they reported. They'd have a lot of potential reasons for being so selective (lack of time, thinking that giving some representative examples would be sufficient, thinking that only the most evidential examples would be of interest to the committee, thinking that the committee would be unlikely to evaluate certain types of phenomena reasonably, etc.). You can't assume that what a witness reported to the SPR's committee represents everything he experienced, all of his experiences that probably are authentic, his most evidential experiences, or some such thing. What people reported to the SPR's committee is just one portion of what we need to take into account.

Besides, even if it were true that Playfair had "witnessed relatively little", where's Gregory's explanation for what he did witness? She claimed that there wasn't good evidence for anything paranormal in the Enfield case, so it isn't enough for her to dismiss Playfair's testimony on the basis that he claimed to witness "relatively little".

She cites the SPR's committee saying that "only [Grosse], of all the investigators, really witnessed events that cannot be explained away" (178). But what does "cannot be explained away" mean? Given how much Playfair is described as witnessing in his book and elsewhere, with so much supporting evidence, it seems that the committee were requiring that too high a standard be met before they accepted an event as something that "cannot be explained away". I think some of what Playfair witnessed meets a standard of high probability, but even a low probability is sufficient.

- Then there are the excessively negative comments Gregory makes about so many of the people she disagrees with:

* She refers to Playfair's "general credulity at all times" (163). She often includes unnecessary and inappropriate comments in her thesis, such as when she quotes a note she wrote to John Beloff in which she commented "I could not get [Playfair] off the phone - a phenomenon you experienced yourself." (164) She could easily have left that line out, and should have, but she decided to include it instead.

* When Hugh Pincott suggested that there might have been some paranormal phenomena at the house on a particular visit, Gregory didn't want even that much to be said: "Pincott seems to have entertained the possibility, at any rate by the time he came to write up the night's events nine months later, that there might have been paranormal events that evening. So far as I am concerned, this cannot be contemplated with any vestige of rationality." (166) So, Pincott is publicly rebuked as not having "any vestige of rationality" when he leaves the door open to the possibility of paranormal events that evening.

* In an apparent reference to David Robertson, Gregory refers to "these young men whose time was their own, and who didn't know what it was like having children and what children were like" (167). Later on the same page, she approvingly quotes John Burcombe allegedly telling her about how "young David just eggs them [the Hodgson children] on; a young man like that, no idea of how to deal with children, just all of them larking about in the dark, what do you expect?" Gregory goes on to refer to Robertson as "the lad" (168).

I emailed him about Gregory's comments. He told me he was twenty years old when he started working on the Enfield case. He had two younger sisters, the younger of the two being only three years older than Margaret Hodgson. He "entertained neighbours' children during the holidays in previous years". And he had a background working with children in paranormal research, in collaboration with John Hasted.

Besides, Gregory can't have it both ways. If Robertson was a "lad", to be criticized for being so young, what sense does it make to turn around and simultaneously criticize him for not knowing what it was like to be a child at that time in history? If he was so young, then he had recently been a child himself.

* Remarkably, Gregory includes some material that reflects poorly on the younger Hodgson children, Billy and Johnny, even though she could so easily have avoided including that material. Why did she have to include the details she includes on page 173 regarding why Johnny was sent to a boarding school? Wouldn't it have been better to have avoided the details, given the humiliating nature of the circumstances? He was only ten years old or just about that age when the events in question occurred, and the details Gregory includes could easily have been left out. She included them anyway. Why humiliate Johnny publicly, and so soon after he'd died of cancer as a teenager, when there's no significant reason for humiliating him?

* On page 198, she refers to how Billy was "far too immature and limited to verbalise a sophisticated judgment", how he may have been "observant" rather than "stupid", but that it's more likely that he was just "parrotting" what he heard somebody else say on a particular occasion Gregory is discussing. Again, why make such negative comments, this time about a boy who was seven or eight years old and had a speech impediment, when that kind of negative assessment could so easily have been avoided?

* Gregory refers to "the heavy and continuous dogmatic pressure exerted by…Grosse on everyone involved in the case, and the extent to which testimony was obtained by leading questions". She refers to how people may have been told by Grosse "authoritatively what to report and what to expect", which "coloured and then fixed their recollection of earlier incidents". She refers to his influencing people by expressing "doctrinaire certitudes night after night." (191)

Yet, on page 290, she writes, "There can be little doubt that the Enfield 'investigators' would barely have lasted a week in a less deprived and more sophisticated household." On the one hand, she suggests that Grosse and Playfair were so persistent and influential that they so fully convinced such a large number and variety of people (and not just the more deprived and the less sophisticated) that they'd witnessed things they hadn't actually witnessed. On the other hand, she tells us that Grosse and Playfair were so irresolute and uninfluential that they "would barely have lasted a week in a less deprived and more sophisticated household".

Apparently, Gregory didn't recognize the irony involved in her comment that "it would be difficult to imagine anyone more deeply out of sympathy with the stated aim of the Society 'to investigate dispassionately and in a scientific spirit' (see above p. 3) than Mr. Grosse" (201). How much is she acting "dispassionately and in a scientific spirit" when she makes so many comments like the ones I've cited above?

- She makes much of the fact that Grosse and Playfair would sometimes ask the children to try to duplicate alleged paranormal events by normal means. For example, if the children claimed to have been thrown from their bed by the poltergeist, Grosse and Playfair would ask the children to jump from the bed, to demonstrate the different results that would occur if they jumped rather than being thrown. Gregory responds:

"Neither of them [Grosse and Playfair] seems to appreciate that to ask the children to imitate the feats they may be thought to have brought about by normal means is hardly an adequate control!" (162)

The problem seems to be with Gregory interpreting what Grosse and Playfair did in a ridiculous way. Who denies that asking the children to try to duplicate the events is insufficient by itself? It is significant as one step among others in a cumulative case, though. Yes, Janet could put little effort into jumping from her bed, for example, to try to give a false impression that she couldn't jump far. But Grosse and Playfair surely were aware of that possibility and were taking other factors into account (their assessment of Janet's honesty, based on a large number and variety of factors; what they'd seen of her jumping abilities in other contexts, such as when she was playing with her siblings; what they knew of children's jumping abilities in general; etc.). One of the factors they would have been taking into account was that the children weren't the only ones they'd seen thrown by the poltergeist or who claimed to have been thrown by it. See pages 74 and 178 of Playfair's book concerning Peggy Hodgson being thrown, for example. It's more difficult to dismiss the children's claims about being thrown when people other than the children are having such experiences as well. Gregory never addresses that factor. She also seems ignorant of another factor when she comments that "[Janet] could perfectly well have walked to the spot, thumped the floor and shrieked" (193). See here, though, where Graham Morris explains how easy it was to hear people moving around upstairs in the house.

Rather than Grosse and Playfair being as ignorant and undiscerning as Gregory makes them out to be, a more likely scenario is that they were taking a lot of factors into account that Gregory is ignoring, and they weren't attempting to make a full case for their conclusions on the occasions Gregory describes. Rather, they were just making a partial case for their conclusions, and even that partial case involved a lot of reasoning that Gregory was ignoring.

There's a similar problem with something she writes later about the poltergeist voice:

"Grosse and Playfair actually insisted with some vehemence that the standard four-letter vocabulary employed by 'the voices' proved their spirit origin, a testimony, as I see it, to the sheltered existence the two investigators must have led to date, sheltered, that is, from modern children, schools and working class families generally." (198)

The suggestion that they lived such sheltered lives is absurd, as is Gregory's simplistic interpretation of what they said in the context she describes. In his book, Playfair makes the point that the vulgar language of the poltergeist voice wasn't characteristic of the children. He (and Grosse) based that conclusion on a lot of time spent with the children, what their mother said about how they usually talked, etc. They could have faked a poltergeist voice that was so vulgar anyway, but that observation misses the point. What Grosse and Playfair were saying about the vulgarity issue doesn't have to be certain or prove the authenticity of the voice by itself in order to add some weight to a cumulative case. There's nothing wrong with noting that the voice's vocabulary was different than the children's. To respond to that observation the way Gregory does above is unreasonable.

Grosse and Playfair were evaluating the events they witnessed when Gregory was present based on a combination of what was happening at that time and the background information they had. They'd spent a lot of time with the family, knew far more about them, their house, and their circumstances than Gregory did, and had reached conclusions about what the children were capable of doing and were likely to do under various circumstances. Regarding the whistling Gregory mentions in her account of the events of December 10, 1977, for example (161), Playfair notes that they had some reasons for thinking that Janet wouldn't have been producing the noise (THIH, 114). When Gregory just mentions whistling, without that background information, it makes the phenomenon seem less significant than it actually was and leaves a false impression that Grosse and Playfair were more credulous than they actually were. Similarly, Playfair recounts how, on the night in question, he agreed with Gregory's colleague and fellow Enfield skeptic, John Beloff, that the new voice phenomenon would need to be tested further, such as to see if it was being faked by means of ventriloquism (THIH, 117). Gregory doesn't mention that part of their exchanges with Grosse and Playfair, but instead leaves the impression that Grosse and Playfair were far more credulous than they seem to have actually been. I recommend supplementing Gregory's accounts of events like the December 10 ones with other accounts, such as what Playfair wrote in his book (THIH, 113-18), to get a fuller picture of what happened.

Later in his book, Playfair makes some other comments that are relevant here. He refers to how they did some testing on Janet that confirmed a claim she had made about the poltergeist voice. Because that testing confirmed what she'd told them, "it led us to be more inclined to believe other things she told us" (THIH, 169). Grosse and Playfair were going by that sort of background information, which Gregory often ignores.

I think there's some validity to Gregory's criticisms. No investigator is going to handle everything the way he ought to. Grosse and Playfair probably were credulous at times and probably didn't explain their reasoning to people like Gregory as well as they should have at times. The question is to what degree they did so. It's very unlikely that they were as incompetent as Gregory suggests on the occasions she's referring to.

- Her account of another of her visits to the house (164-66) illustrates what problems can result when we don't make appropriate distinctions between the children joking, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the faking of poltergeist phenomena in a way that's meant to be deceptive. Since Gregory, by her own admission, often initiated playful, joking interactions with the children, I suspect that much of what they did in response to her was intended in the same spirit. But their behavior on those occasions shouldn't be placed in the same category as what happened under significantly different circumstances. Yet, Gregory uses experiences like what she describes on pages 164-66 to justify her conclusion that the whole Enfield case was inauthentic.

In the sort of situation she describes on those pages, it can be hard to differentiate between genuine phenomena and what isn't. Joking could have been accompanied by poltergeist activity. Gregory noted that:

"The only thing I did manage to catch out of the corner of my eye was a moving curtain, but Janet's hand was lying nearby, though it appeared placid." (166)

When somebody like Gregory acknowledges that sort of evidence for a paranormal event, you have to take it seriously. But even if some of the phenomena that day were genuine, it's best to place events like what Gregory describes on pages 164-66, which occur in a context of joking or play, in a different category than what normally occurred in the Enfield case.

- She sometimes comments on how Janet had the sheets of her bed pulled over her mouth when the poltergeist voice manifested (165-66, 168). But if you look at photographs of the Enfield case, like the ones in Playfair's book, you see that Janet is often shown awake in bed or sleeping with the covers close to her head or covering part of her head. Apparently, that's how she often placed the blankets while in bed, including in contexts that didn't involve the poltergeist voice.

- On page 168, Gregory recounts conversations in late 1977 and early 1978 in which Playfair and Grosse said that the Hodgson girls had been caught cheating on video. Grosse is quoted as saying that the poltergeist voice "came from the girls".

Regarding the videos in question, see David Robertson's comments here. Apparently, Grosse and Playfair initially misunderstood what was going on with the videos, which Robertson started filming under the guidance of John Hasted in December of 1977. Gregory places the conversations in question in late December of 1977 and early January of 1978. I don't know what level of knowledge Grosse and Playfair had during that timeframe about what Robertson was doing. Grosse later wrote, "Both these videos were made after we asked the girls to produce levitation and metal bending 'to order'. We could not get the girls to take the tests seriously…The children, in January 1978, were perfectly aware they were being video taped, and no attempt was made, as in June 1978, to disguise the camera." (JSPR, vol. 52, 1983-4, p. 92) Robertson, who did the filming, is in agreement with Grosse that the children knew they were being filmed. So, their behavior could only be considered "cheating" in some lesser sense (e.g., playing, joking, not doing what they were told to do, bending spoons with their hands rather than paranormally in order to get the people testing them to leave them alone). Assuming that Gregory is reporting the conversations in question accurately, Playfair and Grosse may have only been referring to cheating in one of those lesser ways, not cheating in the sense of attempting to deceive people into thinking that poltergeist activity had occurred when it hadn't. It's also possible that Playfair and Grosse were misjudging the circumstances surrounding the videos at that point in time, since, as Robertson has suggested, they didn't yet fully understand the reasoning of Hasted and Robertson and what they were doing in the context of the videos.

Keep in mind that we're going by conversation summaries provided by Gregory. While she uses quotation marks to describe what Grosse said about the poltergeist voice, she doesn't use quotation marks when describing what Playfair and Grosse said about cheating. The "cheating" term may be one that Playfair and Grosse didn't use. Instead, it's Gregory's summary of what she thinks they meant. Given the circumstances (e.g., Robertson doing filming work about which Grosse and Playfair had so little knowledge, Gregory summarizing conversations she'd had with Grosse and Playfair), there's substantial ambiguity about what the people involved knew, said, and meant by what they said.

The situation with the poltergeist voice is less ambiguous. It's highly likely that Gregory misunderstood what Grosse meant. Since the voice was initially thought to be disembodied, a comment from Grosse to the effect that the voice "came from the girls" could, and very likely did, mean that the voice was manifested through the girls as instruments. He wasn't saying that the voice was faked by them. Rather, an initial impression that the voice was disembodied developed into a belief that the voice was manifested through the girls (and others). Playfair refers to how, in late December of 1977, they were able to "get several close looks at Janet's face" while the voice was speaking, and "her mouth seemed to be moving" (THIH, 164). So, they initially didn't have that sort of evidence that the voice was being produced through people rather than being disembodied. Watch the video here to see Grosse recalling a conversation he had with Janet when he began suspecting that the voice was being manifested through her.

But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Gregory is correct about both of these issues, what Grosse and Playfair said about the videos and what they said about the voice. All that would follow is that they thought the alleged poltergeist phenomena under consideration had been faked during the timeframe in question. It wouldn't follow that they thought all of the activity was faked up to that point, that all of it was faked, or that later phenomena were inauthentic as well. Grosse, Playfair, the Hodgson girls, and others involved have acknowledged from the 1970s onward that a small percentage of what happened was inauthentic. The issue here isn't whether there was ever any phenomenon in the case that wasn't authentic. Rather, what's at stake here is whether Grosse and Playfair acknowledged at a particular time that a particular group of phenomena weren't authentic. There's some significance to what Gregory is alleging, if true, but not much.

- A lot of what Gregory wrote about the Enfield case over the years relied on highly questionable assumptions and innuendo. Take, for example, what she reads into an exchange of smiles with Margaret Hodgson. Gregory is writing about an occasion when the poltergeist voice manifested through Margaret:

"When she lapsed into this voice - and the notion that a throat mike is needed to trace whence it comes is quite ludicrous - I looked at her, grinned, and she grinned back. Occasionally I would put on a similar deep tone (nothing to it!) and she would grin again: it was really a pretty open game." (170)

I'll be addressing the voice issue later. It's extremely unlikely that Gregory ever came close to duplicating all of the voice characteristics that Grosse, Playfair, and others documented. Most likely, there was "nothing to it" for Gregory because she wasn't doing much.

She doesn't seem to understand what Grosse and Playfair were doing with the throat microphone. As far as I know, when a throat microphone was used, it was an issue of documenting how the voice manifested itself through the body, not whether it came from the body. Playfair discusses the use of the microphone in the timeframe Gregory is addressing, and he says that it was used "to see if the vibrations she [Janet] claimed she felt when the Voice spoke could be recorded" (THIH, 169). They were recorded, as Playfair goes on to explain, and Gregory ignores that evidence, as she ignores so much else that Playfair and Grosse documented.

And notice that she criticizes them for trying to get documentation of something she considers obvious ("the notion that a throat mike is needed to trace whence it comes is quite ludicrous"), which is a criticism she brought up elsewhere as well. Yet, if they didn't get such documentation, wouldn't she criticize them for that? She would often alternate between saying that they weren't concerned enough about documentation and criticizing them for trying to document too much. It would be an understatement to say that, when it came to Enfield, Gregory was hard to please.

Margaret could have smiled at Gregory for a variety of reasons. When you smile at somebody, the person often smiles back. People often smile in an attempt to hide discomfort. She may have been smiling in response to the absurdity of a middle-aged woman putting on a bad imitation of a poltergeist voice.

Even if Gregory's highly speculative interpretation of what was happening were correct, it wouldn't follow that the entire Enfield case "was really a pretty open game". Children often imitate what they see. And they often joke. When you evaluate something like the poltergeist voice, you don't assume that the least evidential aspects of the phenomena disprove the most evidential aspects. Rather, you allow for the possibility that highly evidenced genuine phenomena will be accompanied by other phenomena that are ambiguous, fraudulent, produced in an attempt at humor, produced by a child imitating what he's seen somebody else do, etc. If Margaret's voice fell into one of those latter categories on the occasion in question, that doesn't have much of an effect on the highly evidential manifestations of the voice that occurred on other occasions.

Elsewhere, Gregory commented, "I certainly received the impression (which isn't evidence, of course) that the children were positively relieved that I, at least, was treating the dialogue and pelting as games and a bit of a joke" (JSPR, vol. 50, 1979-80, pp. 539-40). Though she admits that her impressions "aren't evidence", she frequently appeals to those impressions in her comments on Enfield.

- On page 171, there's a sentence that's much more significant than Gregory seems to realize. She's probably unaware of what she's admitting:

"Maurice played us some tapes with a voice saying 'no' and 'look at Tom': he said he was there when the tape was made, and there was nothing to explain them."

Gregory treats this experience with Grosse as if it's evidence of how credulous he is. To the contrary, it seems to be evidence of Gregory either misunderstanding what Grosse said or deliberately misrepresenting it. At the time in question (February 17, 1978), Grosse was aware of Gregory's skepticism of the poltergeist voice. So, he surely didn't think that just playing the voice on a tape, especially instances of the voice saying so little, would be persuasive to Gregory. But there's a passage in Playfair's book that seems to explain what's going on. On pages 202-3, he discusses recordings that he and Grosse took of the poltergeist voice manifesting in a disembodied state (the voice speaking in a room with nobody in it). Playfair says that one of those recordings taken by Grosse has the disembodied voice saying "no". And the recording was taken in January of 1978, shortly before the February occasion Gregory is describing. It looks, then, like Grosse was playing tapes of manifestations of the voice in a disembodied state. And Gregory acknowledges that what was on the tapes involved "a voice saying". She doesn't tell us that Grosse thought he heard something on the tape that wasn't actually there. Rather, she seems to be corroborating Grosse's claim without realizing that she's doing so.

- On page 176, there's a list of witnesses in the Enfield case and whether they reported any relevant paranormal experiences. The list doesn't have much significance. It's Gregory's summary and assessment of what was reported by the SPR's committee that studied the case. The list only includes a small percentage of all Enfield witnesses, ones who responded to a request from the SPR that they submit a report. She refers to "Reports submitted as a result of letters sent out by the Committee" (175). Many of the witnesses listed only visited the house once or only had some other small amount of relevant experience. Some of the reports are confidential. Most people reading Gregory's thesis won't have read those confidential reports for themselves. And we have a lot of reason to be suspicious of what Gregory tells us about what supposedly is in those reports. Furthermore, as we'll see below, other information we have about the individuals whose reports she discusses illustrates how misleading it is to only take into consideration what Gregory says about the reports in question. We need to take the totality of the evidence into account, not just what Gregory tells us about those reports.

A good example of the problematic nature of the list is the entry for Douglas Bence. Go here and here for Bence describing what he experienced and referring to how he doesn't think the Hodgson children caused it. On his web site, Bence writes, "Guy Playfair’s 1980 book ‘This House is Haunted’ was honest and objective, but contains errors." So, even though Bence is skeptical of some aspects of the case and disagrees with Playfair on some issues, he doesn't seem be as skeptical as Gregory or as dismissive of Playfair's book as she was. I don't know how accurate Gregory's summation of Bence's report to the SPR is, but even if her summary is correct, we have to supplement Bence's report with information like what I've cited above.

Gregory's entry on John Hasted is problematic as well. She lists him as somebody who "witnessed something conceivably paranormal but without commitment" (176). On page 172, she explains that Hasted heard a "bang" and that a light bulb broke in a way he found "surprising". But Playfair explains in his book that the bulb was in a ceiling light, that the light had been seen swinging around with nobody near it, and that a chair had been knocked over, once again apparently with nobody near it (THIH, 229). Hasted examined the bulb and found that the manner in which it had broken was "very rare". As Playfair goes on to explain, "It was strange that this happened in the presence of an investigator who would have thought of examining the bulb to see exactly what had broken." So, it seems that there's good evidence for a series of paranormal events that Hasted witnessed while visiting the house.

- Gregory writes about how the Enfield photographs are "unsatisfactory evidence" (181). They do need to be supplemented by other evidence, but they're good in that supplementary role. Take, for example, the famous photograph shot when Graham Morris was hit in the head by a Lego brick that was moving around the room. The picture doesn't prove a paranormal event by itself, but it's an important part of a cumulative case. It tells us where Morris was at the time of the photograph. It also tells us where his colleague, Douglas Bence, was, who's shown facing Morris from the opposite side of the room. Combine that information with the testimony of the two men. They've both referred to how they saw objects, such as Lego bricks, moving around, and they've both referred to how they were watching the children. They both say that the children weren't throwing the objects. Since they were on opposite sides of the room at the time, facing each other, as the photograph demonstrates, they were well-positioned to know what was going on in the room. See here for Morris' testimony and here and here for Bence's. While Morris' photograph doesn't prove by itself that a paranormal event occurred, the photo is a significant part of a cumulative case for a paranormal event. Much the same can be said of other photographs.

There are many photos that show one of the Hodgson girls or both in the process of allegedly being thrown by the poltergeist, often being thrown from their bed. Some of those photos show somebody else in the room, such as Peggy Hodgson or John Burcombe, looking directly at the girl(s) when the throwing was underway. The larger the number of such photographs critics dismiss as trickery on the part of the girls, the harder it becomes to maintain that argument. The more often one or both girls would fake throwing incidents in front of both a camera and one or more other individuals looking at them, the more difficult it would be to keep getting away with it.

The same reasoning should be applied more broadly. To not only fake something like a throwing incident, but to even do it when you know there's a camera focused on you and a person looking at you who wouldn't approve of that sort of faking, requires certain characteristics. You would have to be fast enough, have the effrontery required, etc. It's unlikely that two or more of the Hodgson children would simultaneously have all of those traits (physical, mental, moral), especially two as different than one another as Janet and Margaret. While advocates of the authenticity of the Enfield case should acknowledge that it would be easy to fake a throwing incident behind a closed door when there's no camera and nobody near you, advocates of the inauthenticity of the case should acknowledge that faking is much more difficult under other circumstances.

- Gregory goes on to make a lot of false claims about Enfield videos (181-84). See my previous posts discussing the subject, such as here, here, and here.

It should be noted that she cites John Hasted referring to "lessen[ing] the energetic input" of the poltergeist (160) and "the levitation game" (172). She doesn't seem to realize the significance of those comments. She's, apparently unknowingly, corroborating what David Robertson has said about Hasted's philosophy and how he (Robertson) was applying that philosophy while doing his filming (and other) work in the Enfield case. See here. If Robertson is correct, as the evidence suggests and as Gregory has unknowingly corroborated, then Gregory's arguments about the Enfield videos are fundamentally wrong.

- She questions the notion of paranormal equipment failures, such as the failure of cameras to work as they normally would, in the Enfield case (181-84). She acknowledges that "according to a BBC broadcast, some engineers from Pye had been on the scene in September 1977, and found their instruments malfunctioning in the most bizarre manner" (182). However, she doesn't mention other incidents of a similar nature, and she suggests that the equipment failures may have had normal causes without addressing the problems with that kind of explanation (183-84). Playfair refers to how there were "countless" incidents of video and other types of equipment failing in an unusual manner, and he gives many examples in his book (e.g., 34, 38-39, 228, 243-44). He and Grosse obtained 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 in normal terms, etc. Listen here until 17:10 for Graham Morris discussing the subject in the same documentary Gregory cited regarding what happened to the individuals from Pye. Grosse and Playfair describe another incident in which "The technician was completely mystified, and refused to give a statement." (JSPR, vol. 55, 1988-9, p. 214) In email correspondence, David Robertson has told me that he remembers some other equipment failures in the Enfield case that also seemed paranormal. Some of these individuals said that the equipment malfunctions they experienced when covering the Enfield case were ones they'd rarely or never experienced before or afterward. How likely is it that so many malfunctions that are so rare or unprecedented would happen to occur with Enfield? These occurrences were much more common in the Enfield case than Gregory suggests, and she didn't offer a sufficient explanation for them.

- She refers to the testimony of Carolyn Heeps as "The only ostensibly impressive testimony for macro PK [psychokinesis] in the Enfield case emanating from an outside source that I have been able to find" (185). Gregory didn't provide a sufficient explanation of the testimony of inside sources, so it's not as though we're in need of outside ones. Regardless of whether we classify them as inside or outside sources, many witnesses' testimony was ignored by Gregory both in her thesis and in all of her other treatments of Enfield that I've seen. An example is Graham Morris. He was skeptical of the paranormal and still is, rejects some of the Enfield phenomena, and spent far more time in the house than Gregory did. Yet, he claims to have witnessed events in the Enfield case for which he thinks there's currently no scientific explanation. Gregory didn't address his testimony. She also ignored other witnesses or only offered a highly inadequate partial explanation for what they reported: Hazel Short, John Rainbow, Peggy Hodgson, Vic Nottingham, Garry Nottingham, etc.

- There are a lot of problems with her attempt to dismiss the testimony of Heeps, which I've discussed in another article. Most of the problems I bring up there aren't addressed in Gregory's thesis, but she does address some of them.

Before I get to those, I want to note that what she says about her phone conversation with Heeps in her thesis is significantly different than what she said in the JSPR. I don't know which of the two was written first. In the thesis, Gregory refers to how Heeps said her conclusions were influenced by Grosse and "more mature reflection". So, Heeps didn't just refer to Grosse, according to the thesis. By contrast, Gregory only mentions Grosse's influence on Heeps in the JSPR. And the thesis account of the conversation, like Gregory's JSPR comments, only uses quotation marks for a small percentage of what Heeps allegedly said, though different words are in quotation marks in the thesis than in Gregory's JSPR comments.

Her thesis interacts with a point I made in my previous article, regarding how Heeps' fear on the night she was at the Hodgson house suggests she thought something paranormal had occurred at the time. Here's how Gregory responds to that argument:

"Now the fact that she felt fear, if it is a fact, is not evidence for anything paranormal: it must be thoroughly unnerving to arrive at a house in the early hours of the morning, and be expected to take charge of a situation where eight to ten people are crammed into a small room in a state of acute terror, switching off the lights at intervals, whereupon amid shrieks, objects fly about, chairs move and fires are started!" (190)

Police officers face a lot of dangerous situations. Visiting a house with children, aged seven to thirteen, playing pranks to make their house seem like it has a poltergeist is nowhere near the top of the list. If Heeps believed that she was witnessing paranormal phenomena, that's a much better explanation for her fear than the explanation Gregory offers.

Since Gregory cites a BBC documentary regarding how afraid Heeps was, listen to what Vic Nottingham said about the subject during that documentary, here. Keep listening until 5:17, where Nottingham explains that the two officers who were there that night weren't seen in the area again. He mentions their absence as if it's something abnormal. And watch here for Nottingham explaining that the officers seemed afraid the same way he was, and his fear was a reaction to a belief that he was seeing paranormal events. In the first clip linked above, he explains that the female officer was so afraid that she left the house as fast as she could. He also reports that the male officer said that they couldn't do anything else to help the family, since there was something strange in the house, he didn't know what it was, and whatever was causing the problems wasn't visible and therefore couldn't be arrested. Why would the officer make such comments if he and his colleague had believed at the time that the children were playing tricks? An article written less than two weeks after the events corroborated Nottingham's account: "one policewoman [presumably Heeps] is too scared to return to the house." (The Daily Mirror, September 10, 1977, "The House Of Strange Happenings", 1) Furthermore, Playfair's book (THIH, 5), which corroborates much of what Nottingham said (e.g., Heeps had no explanation for how the chair moved; the officers commented on how there was nothing they could do about the situation and said they couldn't arrest any invisible source that was causing the disturbances) was endorsed as an accurate record by another person who was present on the night in question, Peggy Hodgson (This House Is Haunted [Briarcliff Manor, New York: Stein and Day, 1984], 11). Notice how many sources and details reported by those sources Gregory has to dismiss in order to maintain her position.

- Regarding the male police officer who accompanied Heeps to the Hodgsons' house, Gregory writes:

"She [Heeps] may also, and this is purely speculative though quite reasonable, have had to contend both with Sgt. Hyams, the colleague who was with her, who was apparently unmoved, and with her own original case notes for the events of the early hours of 1 September 1977." (191)

Gregory offers no justification for her "apparently" comment. I'm not aware of any evidence that Heeps' colleague was "unmoved" in the sense of being unconvinced that something paranormal occurred. To the contrary, we have a lot of evidence that he agreed with Heeps in concluding that they'd witnessed paranormal events at the Hodgsons' home. See my discussions of Heeps' colleague here and here.

- Gregory repeats her claims, made earlier in the JSPR, that John Burcombe and Peggy Nottingham expressed doubts to her about the genuineness of some of the Enfield phenomena. I've responded to those claims elsewhere, but I want to supplement what I said there.

Gregory strengthens her claims about Peggy Nottingham by citing an audio tape Carl Sargent is supposed to have recorded, in which Vic and Peggy Nottingham express their doubts. I tried to contact Sargent for further information, but was unsuccessful. It seems that what Gregory said about Nottingham is likely to be true (with the qualifiers discussed in my post linked above), and it appears that Nottingham's husband, Vic, expressed the same doubts or similar ones.

On the other hand, I think Gregory's thesis weakens her claims about John Burcombe. As far as I know, there's no equivalent of Sargent's tape to corroborate Gregory's claims about Burcombe, and some of what she says about Burcombe in her thesis casts doubt on her allegations. On page 167, Gregory expresses one of her concerns about the Enfield case:

"So I said it was all very well for these young men whose time was their own, and who didn't know what it was like having children and what children were like."

Compare that to a comment she attributes to Burcombe in the next paragraph:

"And young David [Robertson] just eggs them on; a young man like that, no idea of how to deal with children, just all of them larking about in the dark, what do you expect?"

The problem here isn't just that the comments are so similar, as if Gregory is projecting her sentiments into Burcombe's mouth. There's also the problem that the concern being expressed is so ridiculous to begin with. Are we supposed to believe that Burcombe shared Gregory's concern about the youthfulness of David Robertson and, like Gregory, simultaneously thought that Robertson didn't know how to relate to children, even though he was so young and had so much experience with children, including experience working with children in paranormal contexts? It seems unlikely that Burcombe had the same irrational, inconsistent concerns that Gregory had.

To make matters worse, Gregory even goes as far as to say that Burcombe may not have believed that anything paranormal occurred in the Enfield case up to that point (late December of 1977). The idea that he didn't believe there was any paranormality to the case is contradicted by a lot of evidence, such as what Burcombe said when interviewed prior to that date and what Playfair reports about what Burcombe experienced during the relevant timeframe.

I suspect that Peggy Nottingham and John Burcombe did express doubts about some of the phenomena in discussions with Gregory, but that she's made their doubts seem more significant than they actually were. As I noted in my previous response to Gregory linked above, it's clear that Nottingham and Burcombe were highly supportive of the authenticity of the Enfield case on balance, even though they expressed some doubts to Gregory on the occasions in question.

When Nottingham and Burcombe denied that they'd said what Gregory attributed to them, she responded by suggesting that they probably issued those denials under the influence of Maurice Grosse. In her thesis, Gregory writes:

"None of us, as I now see it, myself included, made sufficient allowance for the heavy and continuous dogmatic pressure exerted by Playfair and especially Grosse on everyone involved in the case, and the extent to which testimony was obtained by leading questions. Once the [Nottinghams] and [John Burcombe] had been persuaded that 'the experts from the Psychical Research Society' knew what they were talking about and thought it all paranormal, once they had been told authoritatively what to report and what to expect, this may well have coloured and then fixed their recollection of earlier incidents, just as it did in the case of WPC Heeps….[Burcombe] and Mrs. [Nottingham], on the other hand, were exposed for months to Grosse's and Playfair's, especially the former's, doctrinaire certitudes night after night." (191)

In other words, Grosse (with Playfair) had convinced all of these people that they witnessed things they didn't actually witness. Not only is that scenario ridiculous on its face, but it's even more absurd when you consider the willingness of the Nottinghams and Burcombe to express doubts. All three of them had been skeptical prior to witnessing paranormal events themselves, events they believed that they'd witnessed before they'd ever met Grosse (or Playfair). And they were "exposed for months" to interactions with Grosse before expressing their doubts in December of 1977 and January of 1978. If Grosse had so little influence on them during those opening months of the case, why are we supposed to think he led all of those people to believe him so uncritically thereafter?

Gregory initially referred to how John Burcombe was a "sensible and reliable" witness (JSPR, vol. 50, 1979-80, p. 539). A few years later, her thesis dismissed him as "extremely vulnerable to suggestion", and Gregory commented that she "would not be totally surprised" if Burcombe sometimes "succumbed to the general atmosphere of noisy hysteria, to the point of hallucinating" (193).

- On page 189, Gregory cites a December 13, 1977 letter from John Beloff to Guy Playfair, in which Beloff refers to how the Hodgson girls were "enjoying enormously" what was going on. That's reminiscent of Gregory's overly positive portrayal of the girls' demeanor. They did smile, laugh, joke, and such a lot, as children their age often do. But many witnesses refer to the girls' fear, crying, screaming, and such on other occasions, and many of those occasions were caught on tape. Playfair provides a lot of examples in his book. Listen here for Peggy Nottingham describing how terrified the children were. See here for Graham Morris' testimony about how frightened the children were during a paranormal event he witnessed. Shortly before the date of Beloff's letter, Janet was experiencing violent trance states in which she was distressed and screaming and had to be restrained, to the point of being injected with Valium by a doctor who was called to the house. Describing events two days after Beloff's letter, John Rainbow commented that Janet "looked very vacant, and certainly not like a child, who had just been playing about" (THIH, 145). The children went through a broad range of demeanors, as you'd expect when considering such a lengthy period of historical contexts that were so diverse. But their demeanors were often negative, even highly negative, far more often than you'd conclude from listening to critics like Gregory and Beloff.

- It's commendable that Gregory acknowledges that it would be "crude and simplistic" to think that "any play-acting by the children" proves that nothing paranormal occurred in the entire case (189-90). That's a common theme in Gregory's thesis. She repeatedly acknowledges that the faking of some phenomena isn't sufficient grounds for dismissing the whole case. She rightly cites cases, like Eusapia Palladino, that involve a mixture of genuine and fake phenomena. It would be good if more people were as reasonable as Gregory on this issue.

- She reports that, early in the Enfield case, the children of John and Sylvie Burcombe went to the library and looked up information on poltergeists (194). That's a significant point and one I don't recall having come across before. It weakens the appeal Playfair often made to how ignorant the Hodgson family would have been about poltergeists and how hard it would have been for them to have faked a poltergeist case. While Playfair cites some significant evidence suggesting that the Hodgsons didn't know much about poltergeists, Gregory's point that they could have gotten information on the subject from the Burcombe children is important.

- On page 195, she says that Peggy Hodgson "made virtually no claims" about paranormal experiences when talking to Gregory and during a December 26, 1978 BBC documentary. But if you listen to Hodgson's claims beginning at 1:00, 6:09, 15:11, 19:04, and 39:05 in the documentary, you can hear her referring to a large number of paranormal events she experienced, some of them highly significant. And Playfair's book and other sources provide many other examples. This is another illustration of how there's often a big contrast between what Gregory tells us about the sources and what we see when we look at the sources themselves.

- Her material on the voice phenomena ignores most of the evidence for authenticity. For discussions of some of the evidence she ignores, see the relevant sections of the posts here and here. She refers to the voice coming from "the children" (197). She says that the voice manifested from Johnny (171), not just the other three children, which I don't remember having heard about before. But she says nothing of the multiple reports of the voice manifesting in a disembodied form. And as documented in my second post linked above, the voice was also reported to have come from a dog and from Peggy Hodgson (both reports having been corroborated by Hodgson herself). Remarkably, after ignoring the large majority of the evidence for the authenticity of the voice, Gregory concludes by referring to how it's "entirely clear" that the voice isn't "a paranormal issue" (199).

- She says that she doubts that the SPR researchers who visited the house on November 12, 1977 behaved as badly as Playfair describes in his book (160, 205). First of all, I want to remind the readers of something Gregory never acknowledges in her thesis and never acknowledged anywhere else, as far as I know. Several eyewitnesses signed a statement saying that Playfair's book is at least a generally accurate account of what happened in the Enfield case:

"Thanks also to John and Sylvie Burcombe and to Vic and Peggy Nottingham who, with [Peggy Hodgson] and Mr Grosse, have read the manuscript of this book and signed a statement to the effect that it is true." (Guy Playfair, This House Is Haunted [Briarcliff Manor, New York: Stein and Day, 1984], 11)

Other eyewitnesses have made similar comments about Playfair's book, but what I want to focus on here is the fact that two of the ones named above (Peggy Hodgson and Maurice Grosse) were present at the house on the occasion in question. So, we don't just have Playfair's testimony. We also have support for his testimony from two other people who were present.

Furthermore, Gregory herself acknowledges part of the behavior Playfair criticizes the SPR researchers for, the fact that so many of them showed up on the same day (174). And there's some behavior not mentioned in Playfair's book that Gregory acknowledges was inappropriate (205). The most problematic behavior Playfair attributes to any of the researchers in question is his claim that one of them jumped in bed with the Hodgson girls after they said that their bed was shaking (THIH, 79). We have a photograph of the incident (Tony Cornell in bed with the Hodgson girls), and that photograph carries more weight than Gregory's comment that "I myself decline to believe that an experienced senior trio of veteran researchers behaved in the clumsy and ridiculous fashion ascribed to them by Playfair" (205). I doubt that she had ever seen the photo or had even heard about it. And the problem isn't just that it was inappropriate for Cornell to get into bed with two teenage girls. It's also that he was taking such a frivolous approach toward the girls, which Gregory sometimes did as well. In his book, Playfair goes on to refer to how Cornell set up water balloons that eventually got thrown around, causing a mess in the house. It's easy to see somebody who did what's pictured in the photograph above setting up water balloons in the house as well. When people like Cornell and Gregory behave that way toward children, the children will often respond in kind. That ought to be kept in mind when critics of the Enfield case object that there was too much smiling, laughing, joking, and such on the part of the children.

I think Playfair goes too far in his criticism of the three researchers on page 80 of his book, where he suggests that they're "phoney investigators". However, he later recommends a book two of the researchers wrote on poltergeists (270, 277), a recommendation that isn't found in the original edition of his book. The 2011 edition of his book also carries an endorsement from one of those researchers, an endorsement I haven't seen in copies of the first edition.


We don't have to know why Anita Gregory was wrong in order to know that she was wrong. But why did she ignore so much of the evidence supporting the Enfield case? Why was she so often so unreasonable when discussing Enfield issues and so acrimonious toward so many of the people who disagreed with her on these matters?

I doubt that there's one answer. Because of the nature of the circumstances, her motivations have to have been multifaceted. And there's a lot we can't reconstruct. But there are some indications of where she was coming from in her thesis and elsewhere, and I want to close this article with a discussion of those indications.

It's striking that she's so negative about the Enfield case in the context of her earliest visits to the Hodgsons' house. That can't just be a matter of a later negative view of the case coloring what she said about her earliest involvement. Even what she quotes from her notes taken around the time of those earliest visits is conspicuously pessimistic about the case. I've given examples of how unreasonably negative she was in evaluating the behavior of Grosse and Playfair, her ridiculous criticisms of David Robertson before even meeting him, her tendency to substantially overestimate weaknesses in the case while substantially underestimating its strengths, and so on.

One potential reason for how critical she was of the case so early on is that she'd made an early decision to use Enfield as an example of a largely or entirely inauthentic case in her thesis. Once that decision was made, a lot of work would have been invested in acting upon it, and her reputation would have been tied up with that decision as she interacted with her colleagues and academic superiors. It would have become increasingly difficult to reverse her decision under those circumstances.

And her interactions with her opponents, especially Grosse and Playfair, would have grown increasingly contentious, partly because of her faults and partly because of theirs. I'm far more in agreement with Grosse and Playfair than with Gregory on Enfield issues, and I think she's more responsible for what went wrong than they are. But it would be simplistic to suggest that only one side is to blame for how the situation degenerated.

Two other factors I'll discuss here, among others that could be mentioned, were brought to light by Grosse in an interview with Will Storr shortly before Grosse's death. Go to my article on Anita Gregory here and do a Ctrl F search for "gruff" to get to the relevant section. According to Grosse, he inadvertently came across some of Gregory's notes about her visits to the Hodgson house, and those notes were inconsistent with her public comments about Enfield. He also refers to how he and Playfair threatened Gregory with legal action over her doctoral thesis.

Both of those situations would have made her more adverse to the Enfield case and to Grosse and Playfair, especially Grosse. And she criticizes Grosse more than anybody else in the Enfield material in her thesis.

The thesis offers partial corroboration of what Grosse told Storr. Gregory acknowledged that some of her notes on Enfield are of a more personal nature and weren't intended to be released to the public. Especially noteworthy are her comments on the subject in a 1982 article based on a presentation she gave in 1981 (Parapsychology Review, vol. 13, September-October 1982, "Investigating Macro-Physical Phenomena", 13; see supplementary material G in Gregory's thesis for a copy of that article). She not only acknowledges the existence of the sort of personal notes Grosse claimed to have seen, but even offers a defense of keeping those notes private. That kind of defense wouldn't normally be expected or offered. She even refers to how it's "inevitable" that such notes will be kept private, yet she goes on for a few sentences to offer a defense of keeping the notes private. What made Gregory so defensive? The scenario Grosse described to Storr isn't the only potential explanation, but it does explain the situation well. If Gregory knew that Grosse had seen her private notes and/or Grosse was calling on Gregory (privately, publicly, or both) to publish her notes, that would explain her defensiveness.

And I noticed that legal issues came up a lot in her thesis. For example, she makes the following comment in the introduction, a comment she acknowledges to be unusual:

"In addition, as is well-known though hardly ever referred to in print, threats of litigation are by no means uncommon [in paranormal research] and may actually hamper the exchange of views, and certainly of their publication." (25)

And in her chapter on Enfield:

"Clark, clearly a kind, concerned and competent professional not unnaturally resented the unloving description of himself thinly disguised in Playfair's book, but eventually decided he had better things to do than sue for libel." (203)

These comments I've cited from Gregory don't prove that everything Grosse said in his interview with Storr is true. But Gregory's comments do offer partial corroboration.

And we have to ask how likely Grosse would have been to have lied about these issues. He didn't initiate the discussion. Storr did. And Grosse was in his eighties and almost dead when he made the claims. You'd think he would have been more motivated to lie about that sort of thing, if he was going to lie, earlier in life. And why claim that Gregory was so agnostic about Enfield in her notes ("I don't know what the hell's going on here", "It doesn't make any sense")? If Grosse was lying, why not make up a story in which Gregory acknowledged the authenticity of the Enfield events? And what he said about threatening legal action surely wasn't made up. People usually react negatively to that sort of thing, as Storr did in his book and in the interview. Storr and others who tried to get Gregory's thesis over the years weren't able to get it, and there has to be a reason for that. I don't know of any better explanation than what Grosse offered. He probably could have made himself look better by offering some other explanation or by using different terminology to refer to the legal threat. He could have referred to how he "expressed some concerns" to the people involved, or he could have resorted to some other euphemism. If he was being so blunt about the legal situation, that lends some credibility to what he says in the nearby context about seeing Gregory's notes.

There are some problems with Grosse's claims. They require that he and Gregory had notebooks that looked somewhat similar or that both of them were so careless as to confuse two notebooks that didn't look similar. And taking the wrong notebook home with you doesn't often happen. The scenario Grosse refers to would be a somewhat unusual one, which raises suspicions about his account.

On the other hand, the other factors I've mentioned in the paragraph before the last one support the account, I think Grosse's general credibility supports it, and it does offer a good explanation for why Gregory was so defensive about keeping her notes private in the 1982 article cited above. On balance, I believe Grosse, but I don't have much confidence in that conclusion.

I'm much more confident that Gregory was wrong about the authenticity of the Enfield case. Whether she had one or more of the motives I've suggested for being so wrong is another matter. But potential explanations for her being so wrong aren't difficult to find.

Update On 11/1/20: I've written another response to Anita Gregory's doctoral thesis on the basis of the contents of Grosse and Playfair's tapes and other information I'd learned since my initial response above.


  1. Here's a post with more information about the police officers involved in the Enfield case, based on the tapes of Grosse and Playfair.

  2. Here's a fuller evaluation of the voice and the personality of the poltergeist, written after I finished listening to Grosse and Playfair's Enfield tapes.