Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Animals In The Enfield Case

A dog doesn't have a human's capacity to be biased or carry out a hoax. For that and other reasons, the involvement of animals in paranormal cases deserves more attention than the subject typically gets. That's true of the Enfield Poltergeist. I want to address several incidents in that case that involved animals. Some of those incidents are ones I've never seen discussed publicly.

It could be argued that the animals were manipulated by humans. But that would come at the cost of further complicating a fraud hypothesis. In addition to arguing that the Hodgson children were unusually skilled at magic, ventriloquism, acting, etc., you'd have to maintain that they also had such skill at manipulating animals, that some highly unusual coincidences occurred, or that there was some other such factor or combination of factors involved.

When I cite the Enfield tapes below, I'll be using "MG" to designate a tape from Maurice Grosse's collection and "GP" to designate one from Guy Playfair's. So, MG32B is tape 32B in Grosse's collection, and GP85A is tape 85A in Playfair's.

In his book on Enfield, Playfair writes about the behavior of a dog in the neighborhood at the time of Janet Hodgson's December 15, 1977 levitation and teleportation:

Two doors down the road at No. 88 Mrs Barton noticed her dog behaving strangely. Bess, a friendly old spaniel almost never barked. But now she became very agitated for no reason Mrs Barton could see and began to pant hard.

She let the dog out into the back garden, and Bess ran straight to the fence, looked towards the [Hodgsons'] house and began to bark furiously, although there was nobody in sight. (This House Is Haunted [United States: White Crow Books, 2011], 141)

The next day, David Robertson conducted a levitation session with the Hodgson girls, part of which he recorded on tape MG48A. It seems that Janet and Margaret were both levitating around their bedroom and teleported through at least one of the walls. I'll probably be saying more about that levitation session in another post. What I want to focus on here is something else that happened while that levitation session was going on. Partway through it, Robertson went downstairs and out the front door a couple of times, apparently to see if he could get a view into the bedroom, through the windows, to see the girls levitating. While he's going in and out, you can hear a dog barking loudly a few times, so loudly that it seems to be next to the Hodgsons' front door (17:45, 17:56). And you can hear Robertson talking, apparently to the dog (though I can't make out all of what he said), which also suggests that the dog was near the front door. I've listened to hundreds of hours of audio recorded in and near the Hodgsons' house. You can sometimes hear dogs barking off in the distance. I don't recall any other occasion when you could hear a dog barking so loudly, and doing so right in front of the Hodgsons' house, as seems to be occurring on the tape under consideration here. It would be a remarkable coincidence if one or more dogs just happened to direct their barking at the Hodgsons' house at the times when levitation and teleportation were occurring on December 15-16. It doesn't seem that the barking was done in reaction to something like a large amount of noise or seeing somebody (Robertson) go out of or into the front door. There are a lot of other noisy occasions and occasions when people go in or out of the Hodgsons' front door on the tapes, and there's no such reaction from dogs on those other occasions. A lot of levitations were caught on tape without that sort of barking, so I doubt that levitations alone elicited the dog's behavior. It seems more likely that the dog's reaction was caused by something like the teleportation of a person through a wall or the amount or type of energy involved in such a high level of poltergeist activity (levitation accompanied by teleportation, the manifestation of the poltergeist voice, etc.). The events of December 15-16 were similar, and something about those events seems to have caused a reaction from at least one dog in the neighborhood.

The poltergeist voice was reported to have manifested from a dog on at least one occasion, probably two. Peggy Hodgson told Grosse that the children's grandfather and a woman (probably another relative) visited, and they apparently brought a dog with them (GP51A, 9:33). A growling noise, like the poltergeist voice often made, came from the dog. That sort of growling sounds significantly different than the noises a dog would ordinarily make, so it's unlikely that ordinary dog noises would have been mistaken for the poltergeist's growling. You can listen to the poltergeist's growl in the video here, just after Margaret comments on how most of the poltergeist's personas are rubbish. My impression, though, is that the poltergeist growl was usually louder than that and even more distinct than what you'd hear from a dog. But that video gives you some idea of what's involved. And Peggy mentions, "That dog is very quiet. As a rule, it doesn't make a noise." She reports that she had the impression that the poltergeist voice was manifesting itself from the dog, and she mentions that the children's grandfather had the same reaction. Janet and Margaret corroborate her account. It should be noted that the children weren't the only ones who thought the voice was coming from the dog. Two adults who were present reached the same conclusion. However, John Burcombe (with confirmation from Peggy) mentions that the children's grandfather has hearing problems, which diminishes the significance of his experience. Still, the children's grandfather apparently agreed with Peggy and the girls that the poltergeist voice was manifesting through the dog. Margaret goes on to say that the voice also said "hello" through the dog. She mentions that she heard it "plainly" (10:59). On the first of Ed Warren's Enfield tapes at the web site for The Conjuring 2 (under The Warren Files), at 36:48, the family talks about an incident when the voice manifested through a dog, and it seems to be a different incident than the one discussed above. They refer to the dog as one who belonged to a neighbor, and they refer to how a cat who was present seemed to be startled by the voice coming from the dog.

There are other events involving cats. The Hodgsons spent the night at the Burcombes' house on November 14, 1977. The Burcombes' cat jumped up on Janet's bed and lied there for a while. During that time, Janet was thrown out of bed by the poltergeist. On some of the other occasions when she was thrown, Janet and her mother reported that Janet teleported through the covers of her bed (MG87A, 12:40). Her body went through the covers without disturbing them. What stands out about this November 14 incident is that the cat wasn't disturbed. He kept lying there, as he had before, as if nothing had happened. Grosse repeatedly comments on how remarkable it is that the cat wasn't disturbed, and Sylvie Burcombe (who owned the cat and would have been familiar with his usual behavior) seems to refer to how it doesn't make sense that the cat hasn't moved (MG22A, 11:15). It could be that Janet teleported through the cat. Something happened that prevented the cat from moving as it normally would.

The Hodgsons didn't have a cat, but there were several apparently paranormal events involving cats in their house. On one occasion, a black cat appeared in the main bedroom upstairs, was seen by a few people (including Peggy), and scratched one of the children. He showed the wound to Grosse, who discussed the incident with some of the Hodgsons on tape (MG87A, 23:22). On another occasion, Paul Burcombe (apparently) refers to how he thought he saw a black cat in the same bedroom (GP76A, 15:03). Peggy repeatedly had a sensation that she described as feeling like a cat was sitting on her legs, and those events happened in circumstances in which the children couldn't have faked what was going on (GP5A, 4:40). Like other poltergeist cases, Enfield had instances of the paranormal appearance of liquids. On one occasion, John Burcombe (who worked for a local hospital) had some of the liquid tested, and the results indicated that it was cat urine (MG87B, 13:12). On another occasion, they heard cats meowing and fighting when none were visibly present (GP98A, 9:10).

They also heard dogs when none were there. Here's a segment of a video in which Grosse plays some examples. He refers to the barking as "quite extraordinary". Skeptics could accuse the Hodgson children of being good at imitating a dog and not getting caught doing it, much as they accuse them of being good at ventriloquism and such, but, then, the fraud hypothesis becomes larger and more complicated accordingly.

I don't recall any instance on any of the tapes of an animal accidentally getting into the Hodgsons' house. And the incidents discussed above happened during different weeks, and even different months, so they can't all be explained by one occasion when a cat or dog got inside. Besides, the events with the black cat occurred upstairs at nighttime, and the family normally slept with the lights on and the door closed. In fact, Peggy usually kept doors closed even during the day and when nobody was in a room (GP96A, 23:30). I doubt that a cat would have accidentally gotten inside the house, then gone upstairs, gotten in the room without any of the people there noticing, scratched one of the children, then left. Even if all of that had happened, how did the cat get out of the room with the door still closed, then get out of the house? You could propose a series of accidents and/or frauds involving letting the cat in and out a few times, without Peggy or any other reliable witness noticing or saying anything about it, but that would be highly unusual.

The urine incident doesn't make much sense as a faked event either. If one or more of the children wanted to fake something with urine, why not use their own rather than going through the trouble of getting cat urine? They apparently had no reason to anticipate that the urine would be tested. And though poltergeists often involve feces or urine, I'm not aware of any pattern in earlier poltergeist cases that would have led the children to think that people would be expecting cat urine in particular to appear. There were a lot of incidents involving feces or urine in the Enfield case, and my recollection is that all of them other than the one under consideration here involved human rather than animal waste (e.g., the location of the events in a bathroom). I'm not aware of any reason why anybody would have been expecting a poltergeist, especially this one, to produce animal urine. Since producing human waste is what this poltergeist did on other occasions, faking an incident with human urine would be so much easier, and there was no reason to expect the urine to be tested, why would such young and uneducated children living in a lower-class home go to all the trouble of using cat urine? Again, the issue here isn't whether that sort of faking is possible. It's a matter of what's more likely. And the more often skeptics appeal to the kind of fraud I just described, the more problematic their fraud hypothesis becomes.

Notice that the independent events involving cats are mutually reinforcing as well. The pattern suggests the poltergeist's interest in cats.

Playfair's book discusses the death of three pets the Hodgsons had, and I've discussed the death of those pets in previous articles. Two goldfish were found dead at the same time on December 23, 1977, and a pet bird was found dead two days later. The timing of the latter, on Christmas day and so close to the death of the fish, was likely intentional, especially since the poltergeist, which was a chronic liar, kept referring to how good it was going to be for Christmas. The poltergeist admitted to killing the fish, but dubiously claimed that it was an accident. Playfair's book says that the poltergeist was silent about what happened to the bird, but it seems that Playfair overlooked some comments to the contrary on one of the tapes. On GP97B, somebody (apparently Peggy Nottingham) comments that the poltergeist did claim to have killed the bird, and somebody else who's present expresses agreement (0:55). Earlier on the same tape, Grosse comments that the fish were only about one-and-a-half years old, whereas he's had goldfish who lived as long as 7 or 8 years (0:11). Somebody else who's present, apparently Ivor Grattan-Guinness, comments that something like pollution in the water could have killed both of the fish around the same time and when they were so young. That's true. But that would be a somewhat unusual scenario, and it wouldn't explain the death of the bird, the timing of the bird's death, and the close proximity between the death of the fish and the death of the bird. Furthermore, it's unlikely that the children would have been willing to kill all of their pets, especially when there were so many other ways of faking poltergeist phenomena if they'd wanted to do so. Nobody seems to have been expecting the poltergeist to kill any of the pets, much less all of them. Why fake something like that? Typically, pets who are brought into a home like the Hodgsons' are brought in primarily for the children. That's especially true of animals like fish and birds. The tapes record some examples of the children showing interest in the pets (e.g., the children talking about and to the bird on GP8B, 19:37). After the death of the pets, Janet and Margaret were asked what they thought of their death, and both girls sound sincere in expressing how upset they were (MG64B, 39:47). Both girls were examined by doctors and psychiatrists, and neither showed any signs of mental illness (MG84A, 8:35, GP53A, 8:03; GP54B, 19:14; page 247 in Playfair's book cited above). It's unlikely that they had a desire or willingness to kill their pets.

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