Thursday, June 06, 2019

The Number Of Enfield Witnesses

I recently finished listening to Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair's audio cassettes pertaining to the Enfield Poltergeist. Those tapes mention many witnesses who aren't discussed in Playfair's book on Enfield or in other material that's easily accessible to the public. So, it's useful to reassess the number of witnesses involved in the case.

In my experience, the number of Enfield witnesses is typically described as being thirty or more, such as the "at least thirty" reference in the preface to Playfair's book (This House Is Haunted [United States: White Crow Books, 2011], ix). That's a highly conservative estimate, though. I would estimate that the number is a triple-digit one. A lot depends on factors like what qualifies as a paranormal event and whether you require testimony from each witness or only reports about witnesses. One difficulty is that the terminology involved is often ambiguous. A plural term will be used to refer to who was present when something happened, but the number of people involved isn't specified beyond the use of the plural. At this stage of my research into Enfield, I would say that the number of people who witnessed at least one paranormal event affiliated with the case is at least in the upper double digits and probably in the low triple digits.

And there's a lot of potential for the discovery of other witnesses in the future. Not all of Grosse's signed witness statements have been made public, for example. And paranormal events associated with the case were reported as recently as the mid 2000s. A man in his twenties who witnessed an event in the year the case started, 1977, might only be in his sixties today. So, even witnesses of the earliest events in the case could easily still be alive and continue to be alive for multiple decades to come. For a variety of reasons, people who witness something like a paranormal event sometimes don't tell anybody or many people about it initially, but tell more people later. We also need to keep the surroundings of the Hodgsons' house in mind. They lived on a highly-traveled road.

The significance of that fact was impressed upon me when I began listening through the Enfield tapes. I eventually went to tape 1 in Grosse's collection and worked my way through all of the tapes, but I had decided ahead of time that there was one tape I wanted to listen to before I began that process. It was tape 32B in Grosse's collection, the recording of Janet being dragged out of bed by the poltergeist a couple of times at around 1:30 in the morning on December 3, 1977. Something that struck me about that tape, which I wasn't expecting, was how often you could hear vehicles driving by even at that time of day. As I would eventually learn, that's a common feature of the tapes. It was a busy road, even late at night. Grosse was impressed by the heavy traffic, and you can hear him asking John Burcombe about it on one of the tapes. I thought I had made mention of that conversation in my notes, but I can't find it at the moment. As I recall, the recording didn't pick up the conversation well, but Burcombe seems to say something about how the street was commonly used as a shortcut to get somewhere else. Since the family wanted the lights kept on at night, the house would have stood out from the others around it, and people driving by would have been able to see inside to some extent. You wonder how many people saw objects levitating or other significant events while driving by, perhaps often without recognizing the significance of what they'd seen. But given how fast most of the vehicles drove by, I doubt that there was much that happened along those lines. Still, it's worth keeping in mind. And there were times when vehicles had to drive more slowly, or even stop, outside the Hodgsons' house. There was a school directly across the street. In fact, the crossing guard, Hazel Short, stored her stop/go sign in front of the Hodgsons' house. She witnessed a levitation of Janet on December 15, 1977 through the windows of the house while performing her crossing guard activities.

The presence of a school there is significant for other reasons as well. A lot of school staff and students would be there, many people would park nearby, etc. Last year, I asked David Robertson about the possibility that more people than the four who are usually discussed may have witnessed Janet's December 15 levitation, and he responded:

With the December 15, 1977 levitation of Janet, there were people outside on the other side of Green Street collecting their children [from the school that was there]. I suspect there were more than four, but some probably didn't want to be interviewed. Some were quite frightened. Maurice and Guy dealt with this as they had the audio recorders and collected statements. All I can say is that if you could identify the school and class, you might get others.

Grosse interviewed Robertson about the December 15 events on the morning of December 16. On that tape, Robertson comments on the teleportation of some objects through a bedroom window to the front of the Hodgsons' house. He mentions that "a lot of people in the school opposite were watching" (48A, 1:47).

Curtains would often obstruct a view of the inside of the house. However, in addition to occasions when the Hodgsons kept one or more of the curtains open, the poltergeist often moved the curtains, and even removed them entirely, as I discussed in another post. The December 15 witnesses were able to see inside the house because of a couple of factors like the ones I just mentioned. The poltergeist was blowing at least one of the curtains inward, and it had entirely removed the curtain from one of the windows.

If you want to get some idea of how well people could see the front of the house even from the other side of the road, where the school is, here's a video of the outside of the Hodgsons' house that was recently recorded. At one point in the video, you can even see a woman who now lives there (presumably) walking out of the front door.

Given these and other factors, I think it's highly likely that there were a lot more than the roughly thirty witnesses often referred to. The number on record seems likely to be in the low triple digits, and it could easily grow in the years to come. I have lists with names and documentation, but I'm still working on some of the details and looking into some other possibilities. It's useful at this stage, though, to provide an approximation of the number of people involved.

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