Monday, July 08, 2019

Police Officers Involved In The Enfield Case

An aspect of the Enfield Poltergeist that's impressed a lot of people is that some police officers reported witnessing paranormal events on the case's opening night. That auspicious start to the case is so formidable that even Enfield's most prominent critic, Anita Gregory, admitted its force and went to a lot of trouble to try to undermine it. I've responded to her arguments elsewhere (here and here), and I won't be reinventing the wheel in this post. Rather, I want to supplement what I wrote earlier with some material I've come across since then, while listening to Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair's Enfield tapes.

My citations of the tapes below will use "MG" to designate a tape from Grosse's collection and "GP" to designate one from Playfair's. So, MG7A is tape 7A in Grosse's collection, and GP40A is tape 40A in Playfair's.

In her doctoral thesis, Gregory writes:

"She [Carolyn Heeps, one of the police officers who visited the Hodgsons' house on the opening night of the case] 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)

I've already discussed some of the problems with Gregory's speculation in my responses to her linked above. For example, Hyams is standing next to Heeps in the video of their BBC interview, and it makes far more sense for Hyams to stand next to Heeps if the two agree about at least most of what's being said. It's doubtful that they were fundamentally contradicting each other, yet were standing together for the interview, with Heeps doing all of the talking. And I discussed the interview with Stewart Lamont, the reporter who conducted it, a couple of years ago. In that discussion, Lamont told me that Hyams' comments didn't add anything substantial to Heeps', so they only aired Heeps' remarks. And the Enfield tapes give us more reason to reject Gregory's hypothesis.

In late January of 1978, Charles Moses, then with the Southern California Society for Psychical Research, visited the Hodgsons' house. After he left, he sent Grosse a tape containing his (Moses') thoughts on the Enfield case (MG69). On the tape, he explains that he thinks the case is a genuine one, but he disagrees with Grosse on some aspects of it. So, he wasn't just uncritically accepting whatever Grosse told him. On that tape, Moses comments:

"I did call the police on the following day, and spoke to Sgt. Hyams, who was first in on the case in August, and he went back in November, he said, to recheck on it. He verified for me about constable Carolyn Heeps actually seeing the marbles move and another object, I suppose, and also telling me that there were raps and knockings on the house next door. And that was the end of that, and I think they checked in November, and I don't think there were any more paranormal activities happening at that time." (MG69A, 17:48)

It's clear that Hyams was supportive of Heeps' testimony and considered the events paranormal. He confirmed to Moses that Heeps "actually saw" some objects move, which makes less sense if he's referring to normal object movements. Why say that somebody actually saw something normal happen? Furthermore, since the Hodgson children were in the Hodgsons' house when the police officers were there, the reference to knocking occurring next door (at the Nottinghams' house) is more naturally taken as a reference to knocking occurring independently of the children. And Moses goes on to refer to how there weren't more paranormal activities when the officers visited in November, which, again, implies that the August events were perceived as paranormal.

I don't recall anybody other than Moses mentioning any paranormal movement of marbles witnessed by Hyams or Heeps. There was a lot of paranormal activity involving marbles early in the case, though, so what Moses reports fits well with what other sources reported. However, it's possible that Moses was misremembering or misinterpreting something Hyams said. In the BBC video I linked earlier, Heeps refers to using a marble to test if the floor was slanted after seeing a chair move by itself. It could be that Hyams commented on that use of a marble, and Moses misunderstood or misremembered what Hyams said. But unless some evidence surfaces that gives us reason to doubt what Moses reported, I think we should accept his report at face value.

On another tape, Peggy Hodgson comments that when the knocking occurred on the walls while Hyams and Heeps were visiting, the children were standing in the middle of the room (GP49B, 16:56). So, that's a further problem for any hypothesis that the children were faking the knocks.

Vic Nottingham was in the Hodgsons' house when the police officers visited, and he often spoke about what happened on that occasion. On one of the tapes (MG98B, 21:51), he said that Hyams commented that there's "definitely" something in the house, but that he can't see it and, therefore, can't do anything about it. That's further evidence that the officer held a paranormal view of the events on that night.

Peggy Nottingham reported that the police were called again the next day, but that they said there was nothing further they could do (GP26B, 31:05).

At this point, I should address some apparent inaccuracies in what the Nottinghams reported about Hyams and Heeps. The testimony of the Nottinghams on these issues is mostly consistent with what other sources reported, but there are inconsistencies on some of the details.

Vic sometimes referred to how frightened he was on the first night of the case, and he referred to how frightened the police officers were. Go here and here to listen to some examples. Vic commented that after the officers left that night, they weren't seen again. Peggy Nottingham made a similar comment, though she put it in the form of a question: "We never seen them again, did we?" (GP26B, 31:02) It sounds like Peggy Hodgson says "no" afterward, confirming Peggy Nottingham's impression that they never saw the officers again. Peggy Hodgson also mentioned, on another occasion, that the police officers were "quite stunned" by the paranormal activity they witnessed (GP35A, 27:54). An article written less than two weeks after the events noted that "one policewoman [presumably Heeps] is too scared to return to the house." (George Fallows and Douglas Bence, The Daily Mirror, September 10, 1977, "The House Of Strange Happenings", 1) However, as quoted above, Charles Moses said that Hyams told him that he went back to the house in November. Given that a few different sources seem to disagree with Moses (Vic Nottingham, Peggy Nottingham, Peggy Hodgson), with corroboration to some extent from a fourth source (The Daily Mirror), I suspect Moses misunderstood or misremembered what Hyams told him. Perhaps Hyams said that "we" went back to the house, referring to the police in general as "we", and Moses misunderstood him to be claiming that he and Heeps went back to the house. Whatever the case, it's a minor discrepancy, one that can easily be explained without attributing any substantial dishonesty or carelessness to anybody involved.

Heeps referred to the chair she saw move as a large one. See page 187 in Gregory's doctoral thesis. By contrast, Vic refers to the chair as a smaller one, an ordinary chair that you'd use at a kitchen table (MG98B, 23:11). I suspect Heeps is correct. She witnessed far fewer paranormal events in the Enfield case than Vic did. Vic had much more potential to confuse one movement of a chair with another. The movement of chairs was a frequent occurrence in the Enfield case. Furthermore, there's agreement that Heeps was in the living room at the time, and it makes more sense for a larger chair rather than something like a kitchen table chair to be in the living room. The best explanation of the disagreement seems to be that Vic was confusing one chair movement with another. That's understandable and, again, is only a minor problem.

The most significant discrepancy is something Vic said about what Heeps did after the chair moved. When some representatives of the Society for Psychical Research were questioning him in May of 1979, he commented that Heeps left the house in fear just after she saw the chair move and didn't investigate the chair's movement any further (MG98B, 22:36). But, in the video I linked earlier, Heeps referred to how she examined the chair before leaving the house, to see if there was any way it could have moved normally. Every other witness I've heard from on the subject, and there were several in the room at the time, agrees with Heeps. Playfair's book refers to Heeps examining the chair (This House Is Haunted [United States: White Crow Books, 2011], 5), and some of the people who were in the room at the time of the event, including Vic, signed a statement saying that Playfair's book is an accurate account of what happened in the case (This House Is Haunted [Briarcliff Manor, New York: Stein and Day, 1984], 11). They could have signed that sort of statement without agreeing with every detail in the book, but it's significant that Playfair, after consulting so many of the witnesses, reported that Heeps examined the chair. Keep in mind that Vic's account under consideration here came almost two years after the events in question. By contrast, on September 10, 1977, less than two weeks after the events, Heeps signed a sworn affidavit that refers to how she examined the chair after seeing it move. Click here to watch a BBC reporter reading the relevant portion of Heeps' statement in a program that aired in November of 1977. And most likely, the people in the room who noticed the chair moving were thinking more about what they'd just seen than about what Heeps did in reaction to the chair's movement. Vic could easily have been thinking about something other than Heeps' activities, talking to somebody else in the room, or doing whatever else rather than giving attention to what Heeps was doing just after the chair moved. If he didn't start paying attention to her activities again until after she examined the chair, his memory of what Heeps did may have gone directly from her seeing the chair's movement to her departure from the house. Even if he'd noticed Heeps' examining of the chair, his memory of her fear may have overshadowed his memory of her examination of the chair over time. When Vic recounted the opening night of the case on various occasions, he put a lot of emphasis on how frightened the witnesses were, including his own fear, and he may have eventually developed an exaggerated memory of how frightened Heeps was.

Disagreements like these are commonplace in witness reports. Vic was an honest and generally accurate witness, despite sometimes making mistakes. The large majority of what he reported is in agreement with what other witnesses said. And where there are disagreements, we're often able to determine which account is more likely.

Peggy Nottingham referred to a third police officer who apparently witnessed something paranormal. She commented on the subject during a radio program that she, Peggy Hodgson, and Grosse participated in on the night of September 10, 1977. It's on tape GP35A. She commented on the subject again, providing some additional details in the process, on tape MG2A. One of the things the poltergeist would often do would be to leave impressions on beds. There would be an impression of a small girl's body on a bed at a time when no small girl had recently been in the house, for example. Or there would be an impression of a portion of a body, without any of the surrounding body parts visible. They tried to duplicate the effect by normal means, but weren't able to. The bed impressions left by the poltergeist didn't match what any person or object in the house at the time could have produced, were much clearer impressions than you'd get by placing a body on a bed in a normal manner, etc. Peggy Nottingham explained that earlier in the day, Peggy Hodgson told her that there had been some poltergeist activity in the house. Peggy Nottingham noticed that a police officer happened to be walking down the street at the time, so she called him into the Hodgsons' house to see if he could help. One of the Hodgson girls commented about how an impression had been left on one of the beds, apparently by the poltergeist. Peggy Nottingham and the police officer went upstairs, and there was a clear impression of a body on one of the beds, which she was unable to duplicate (GP35A, 9:22). She comments that it was as if somebody had dropped on the bed from the ceiling and had somehow left the bed by being lifted off of it, without leaving any marks on the side as you normally would when getting up from a bed (MG2A, 25:04). And the impression so clearly resembled the impression of a human body that it looked as if somebody was currently on the bed. But nobody was visibly there. She moved her hand across the top of the bed, with the impression still there, and felt nothing.

There's a good chance that one or more other police officers witnessed paranormal activity at the Hodgsons' house. Later in the radio broadcast referred to above, there's a break in the program (for a news segment, apparently, which isn't part of the recording). It's possible that, during the break, the host had a discussion with the guests about another incident involving a police officer. Shortly after the program returns after the break, the host says, "I gather, when the policewoman first came in, there was something happening then." (28:20) Peggy Hodgson responds, "Yes, I saw her outside, and I called her inside to witness what was going on." Peggy then explains that her children were arriving home from school and how paranormal activity was happening around Janet as she was walking around the house. Unfortunately, the discussion shifts to a focus on the events that were happening as Janet walked around, and nothing more is said about the police officer. But since the host said that it was his understanding that paranormal activity was going on when the policewoman came in, and Peggy responds by saying "yes", it seems that the police officer was present during at least one event. Since the scenario under consideration here is described as happening just after the children got home from school, Peggy can't be referring to the visit of Hyams and Heeps on the opening night of the case. And she can't be referring to the visit of another officer on the morning of September 10, the one described above that was witnessed by Peggy Nottingham. September 10 was a Saturday. Furthermore, the officer on the September 10 occasion is referred to as a male. Peggy is referring to a female officer who visited on an afternoon in early September of 1977, and the comments that Peggy and others made on other occasions suggest it's unlikely that Heeps was visiting again. So, it seems that a minimum of four police officers were in the house when paranormal activity was going on, on at least three different days and three different times of day, and at least three of those four officers witnessed paranormal activity.

1 comment:

  1. See the comments section of the thread here for my interaction with a report in a 1996 book about two other police officers who allegedly visited the house and experienced paranormal phenomena there.