Friday, January 04, 2019

Maurice Grosse's Interview Of John Rainbow

I recently listened to an interview Maurice Grosse conducted with John Rainbow on April 9, 1978. Rainbow was a witness of what happened on December 15, 1977, one of the most eventful days in the Enfield Poltergeist. The interview is highly significant and includes some material I haven't seen discussed publicly.

Before I get to the interview, those who are unfamiliar with the December 15 events can go here for a brief overview from a documentary. It's mostly accurate, but not entirely. It gives the date as December 14, which is wrong. Go here to listen to Rainbow briefly describing his experience in a 1978 documentary. And here he is in a video produced many years later.

The interview between Grosse and Rainbow is about 18 minutes long, and it consists mostly of comments from Rainbow. His wife occasionally joins the conversation. Most of my citations that follow are from tape 84B in Grosse's Enfield collection.

Though it doesn't come up until late in the interview, I should say at the outset that Rainbow was a skeptic of the Enfield case prior to what he experienced on December 15. He'd heard about what was supposed to be happening at the Hodgsons' house, but he didn't believe it and considered the case "a bit of a joke" (14:28).

He worked for a bakery and spent part of his day making deliveries on foot. Though Peggy Hodgson wasn't one of his customers, a neighbor nextdoor was. He was walking to that neighbor's house late in the morning of December 15, still about one or two hundred yards away, when he suddenly noticed a red cushion on the roof of the Hodgsons' house. "One second I never saw it, then it appeared on the edge of the roof….It just appeared on the edge of the roof." (1:21) Later in the interview, his wife seems to say that her husband saw the cushion appear on the roof, as if he witnessed the moment when it went there, and he says "yeah" in response to her comment (10:48). Unknown to Rainbow at the time of the December 15 events, David Robertson was inside the house attempting to get the poltergeist to perform for him. It teleported the red cushion to the roof of the house, and Rainbow witnessed the end result. After the cushion had drawn his attention to the Hodgsons' house, he noticed some banging noises coming from the upstairs windows. Although the windows were closed, he could see the curtains blowing inward, as if some wind was going through the room. He then saw Janet's head bobbing just above the window, in a horizontal position, and he saw between four and six objects (a book, linen, etc.) hitting the window, after which they would continue in a circular, clockwise levitation at the same height around the room instead of falling to the ground as an object normally would after hitting a window. (If you watch this documentary segment, which I linked near the beginning of this post, you'll see Grosse moving his hand around to illustrate the manner in which the levitation occurred.) Rainbow saw Janet levitate in a horizontal position in the same circular pattern as those objects, and he saw her go by the window in that manner twice. As she went past the window, she was thrust hard against it, like the other objects that were levitated, so much so that Rainbow thought she was going to break through the window and land on the street.

He spent some time outside the house, apparently waiting to see what would happen next and talking to somebody. Janet eventually came outside, and Rainbow commented that she looked "completely vacant", that her eyes gave him the impression that she "wasn't with it". She didn't look like somebody who had just been joking around or faking something (12:28).

During the interview, he puts a lot of emphasis on how frightened he was. His wife joined the conversation to note that for two days after his experience, he was incredulous, had goosebumps, looked as if he'd seen a ghost, and felt cold (9:19). It seems that the experience had a major impact on him that was noticeable to other people.

He's cautious in the claims he makes. At one point, Grosse asked him if he'd had a clear view of what was going on in the room. He responded by saying that there were no curtains covering one of the windows and that he could see "partially, not entirely" through the other one (3:19). Grosse later asked if he'd noticed any of the levitating objects appearing a second time as they went around the room, and he replied that he hadn't noticed any of the objects going around more than once, though he had noticed Janet going around twice (6:32). When asked further about the cushion incident, he said that he "can't elaborate" much, since he was so far from the house at the time when he first saw the cushion (10:20). Though he's cautious in what he claims to have seen, often including a lot of qualifiers, he said that he "definitely" saw Janet levitating around the room in a horizontal position (7:31).

He comes across as a credible witness. Since he and the other December 15 witnesses had experiences that were both visual and audible, and they agreed with each other about so many details that are so unusual (a red cushion on a roof, objects banging against a particular window of a particular house at a particular time, a particular girl levitating, etc.), any argument that they were hallucinating or imagining things would be deeply problematic. It's not just a matter of explaining an apparent levitation of Janet. It's also a matter of explaining so many other paranormal events accompanying Janet's levitation (the teleportation of the cushion, the movement of the curtains, etc.).

On another tape, 80A, Grosse and Playfair took some measurements in the room where these events occurred and examined the window and Janet's bed (4:28). Playfair estimated that he could only barely get the cushion on the roof by leaning out the window, with a lot of effort and putting himself in a lot of danger in the process. But he was 5'11" at the time, whereas Janet was only 5'6". The window made a lot of noise when opened and was highly visible from the outside. If the cushion teleportation was faked, the witnesses inside the house and outside it should have heard the window opening (they didn't), and the witnesses outside should have seen Janet leaning out the window (they didn't). Furthermore, the cushion got on the roof far too rapidly for Janet to have placed it there. Playfair wrote in his book that, after leaving the cushion in the room, Robertson "had barely got through the doorway when Janet called out excitedly. He turned round to see that one of the curtains had disappeared, although the window was tight shut, and the cushion was nowhere to be seen." (This House Is Haunted [United States: White Crow Books, 2011], 143) Regarding the levitation, Grosse and Playfair found that Janet would have to have gone at least 28 inches above the bed in order to have been seen as she was by the witnesses outside the house. Playfair tried bouncing on the bed while on his back (the horizontal position Janet was in when she was seen), and he couldn't get up into the air at all, much less the more than 2 feet that would be required. If you watch this documentary segment linked earlier, you can see Hazel Short, one of the witnesses outside the house, saying that she went home soon after the events in question and tried to duplicate what she saw happen with Janet, but was unable to. Keep in mind that Janet was flailing her arms and legs and bobbing her head while going up and down above the bed, which isn't the sort of posture that would be conducive to bouncing high. She also levitated around the room in a clockwise circle while in a horizontal position, which can't be explained by any sort of bouncing on a bed. And Janet bouncing on a bed doesn't explain the levitation of other objects in the room or the movement of the curtains. Nor does it explain why Robertson was unable to open the unlocked door while the events were transpiring or how objects from Janet's room were found in the house nextdoor after Janet claimed to have levitated through the wall around the same time as these other events. There's no normal explanation that even comes close to adequately explaining what happened.

Rainbow also discussed an event that occurred shortly afterward (15:26). After the events of the morning of December 15, he went to his customer's house next to the Hodgsons. While there, the woman at that house expressed her skepticism of the Enfield case. But when he returned to her house the next day, she had a "different state of mind" (17:32). As Rainbow had walked to her house that day, he'd noticed a broken window in the Hodgsons' house and another one in the house of the neighbor he was visiting. The woman at that house explained to him that a rock had crashed through the window the previous night while she and her husband were watching television. He went out quickly, but couldn't see anybody around who could have thrown the rock. Apparently, the unlikelihood that anybody threw it led the woman to reconsider the possibility that something paranormal was going on. John Burcombe also discussed an incident in which a stone went through a neighbor's window, apparently the same event Rainbow refers to (48A, 34:51). Burcombe explains that he was outside with Janet at the time and that Margaret was in the house upstairs. Neither of the girls threw the rock at the window nextdoor, and Burcombe said that nobody else was around at the time who could have thrown it.

It's significant that the incident nextdoor lines up so well with the breaking of the window in the Hodgsons' house. Both windows were broken shortly after the events of the morning of December 15, and the incident at the Hodgsons' was caught on tape (47B, 8:51). It seems to have been paranormal. I suspect that the incident at the neighbor's house was related to the event at the Hodgsons'. And the events of the morning of December 15 involved the poltergeist thrusting Janet and various objects against a window as they levitated around the room, so those events offer additional evidence that the poltergeist was interested at that time in throwing objects at windows. It's more likely that the event at the neighbor's house was something the poltergeist did than that some normal event of such a similar nature happened to occur around the same time.

Rainbow also made some significant comments about Peggy Hodgson. He remarked to Grosse that he felt sorry for her and had noticed that the poltergeist seemed to be taking a toll on her, that her physical appearance had been deteriorating lately (14:19). That's an indication that she was sincere rather than faking the poltergeist. It's also significant that when the neighbor Rainbow talked to expressed her initial skepticism, she thought the Hodgson children were likely faking the whole case (16:32). She didn't accuse their mother of doing it. There seems to be a widespread consensus, including among both the earliest skeptics of Enfield and more recent ones, that Peggy Hodgson was an honest person and wasn't involved in faking anything. And she's the most important witness in the case. She probably experienced more of the phenomena than anybody else.


  1. I've been following Enfield on and off to some degree (nowhere near the level of Jason - Jason's just an animal!), and some of the astonishing incidents that took place simply defy a normal explanation. And quite frankly, as some of us have pointed out in the past, most if not all of the 'explanations' given for those incidents have been awful. Just awful. When the number of truly fascinating incidents are taken into account, including all the surrounding facts, only those in denial can continue to fob Enfield off. They cease being sceptics. It's simply denial at this point.

    But I can still hear Velma now: 'But there *has* to be a rational explanation. We *know* that poltergeist's don't exist. There *has* to be a natural explanation.'

    I understand, Velma. It's hard. But No, we don't know that poltergeist's don't exist. And you're assuming a 'rational' explanation logically entails a 'natural' explanation. Being a fan of logic, Velma, you ought to see that your a priori dismissals are nothing more than question-begging.

    For the umpteenth time, Jason, I appreciate your graft on Enfield. The way you bring the facts together in such a coherent and engaging way is a talent.