Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Voice And Personality Of The Enfield Poltergeist

If a poltergeist talks, there's potential to get more information from it. But the value of the information you get is going to depend, in part, on the poltergeist's personality.

One of the most controversial aspects of the Enfield case, an aspect that often gets more attention than is warranted, is the voice that allegedly was manifested by the poltergeist. Despite the large amount of attention the phenomena receive, interpretations of the voice, both in support of its paranormality and against it, are usually remarkably simplistic. That's partly because the large majority of people commenting on the subject have only heard a small percentage of what the voice said. But even what they say about that small percentage is often unreasonable.

I'm revisiting the issues surrounding the voice because I finished listening to Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair's Enfield tapes earlier this year. The voice is present or discussed on dozens of those tapes, covering many hours, so that the tapes provide a lot of additional information on the issues involved.

When I cite the tapes below, I'll use "MG" to designate a tape from Grosse's collection and "GP" to designate one from Playfair's. For example, MG102B is tape 102B in Grosse's collection, and GP59A is tape 59A in Playfair's.

I'll be including the voice's vulgar language when I quote it. I don't use that sort of language, and I disapprove of it, but it has relevance to some of the points I'll be making. And given how often the voice is vulgar, leaving out the vulgarity would be too disruptive.

I want to start by summarizing the evidence for the authenticity (paranormality) of the voice. That will provide some motivation upfront for working through these issues. I'll then move on to address some objections to the authenticity of the voice. After that, I'll discuss some other subjects. Since this article is so long, some readers may want to use Ctrl F to find what they're most interested in.

The extent to which the evidence for and against the voice is significant, or even relevant, will vary from one view of the voice to another. If somebody thinks that one or more of the Hodgson children had dissociative identity disorder or some other such condition, for example, then that view has different implications than one in which the children faked everything without any of those other psychological issues involved. I'm offering some general considerations with more than one view in mind.

Evidence For The Voice

Manifestations Independent Of The Hodgson Children

One of the most surprising aspects of the Enfield tapes is how often the poltergeist is reported to have spoken audibly independently of the Hodgson children. I don't remember any radio or television program about the Enfield case discussing any of these incidents, and Playfair's book doesn't mention most of them. The number of occasions when the poltergeist was thought to have audibly spoken independent of the Hodgson children is at least in the double digits. Grosse goes as far as to say that "practically everybody" had heard the poltergeist speaking in a disembodied way (GP97B, 4:37).

The earliest occurrences I'm aware of happened before the Hodgsons even knew that something paranormal was going on in their house. In retrospect, it seems obvious that an explanation is needed for why Janet and Johnny were in a bedroom together on the night when the family first recognized that something paranormal was happening (August 31, 1977). Wouldn't it make more sense for the two girls to sleep in one room and the two boys in another? Yes, and that's how they usually did arrange things. But, as Peggy Hodgson explains on one of the tapes, Billy began saying that he could hear his name being called and was frightened by it (MG65B, 14:03). They assumed Johnny was doing it, so the two boys were separated. But I doubt that Billy would have been so frightened by his brother calling his name, and multiple people later reported hearing the poltergeist calling Billy's name on at least a few occasions, so I suspect the incidents in August of 1977 also came from the poltergeist.

In later months, many people reported hearing a disembodied voice on many occasions (e.g., MG30B, 19:56; MG70B, 5:25; MG71A, 0:49; MG76B, 6:25; MG91B, 24:54; MG92A, 5:43; MG94B, 0:51; GP73A, 22:10, 24:37, 26:17). When discussing one of these events, Peggy commented that she heard the voice "quite clearly" and "definitely heard it" (MG87A, 3:00, 3:57). On another occasion, John Burcombe said that he would "stake my very being" on the fact that he heard a voice (GP73A, 26:31). Some of the voices were heard by more than one person (MG63A, 3:02; MG70B, 6:01; MG76B, 8:59; MG91B, 17:05; GP73A, 22:10). The voices occurred when the children weren't in the room (MG70B, 6:01) or weren't even on the same floor (MG70B, 5:25, MG87A, 2:48).

Peggy refers to indistinct voices she heard in a different part of the house than where she was at the time (MG94B, 0:51). That's reminiscent of what was reported by the Bennetts, the family who moved into the house after Peggy's death more than twenty-five years later.

After the voice began manifesting through the children, witnesses reported that it would sometimes come from a different part of the room than where the children were. During an April 8, 2018 program on BBC Radio, Rosalind Morris and Richard Grosse commented on how the voice sometimes couldn't be traced to anybody in the room and couldn't be explained by ventriloquism. Listen from 24:57 to 25:45 here. There are similar comments from other witnesses on the tapes. During a phase when the voice was manifesting primarily through Janet, Peggy seems to say that she thought she heard the voice coming from some other part of the room, away from Janet (MG53A, 21:39).

It should be noted that the disembodied voices often sounded the same as the embodied ones (MG70B, 6:24). But they often sounded different. For example, Grosse and Paul Burcombe heard a disembodied voice upstairs on one occasion, with none of the Hodgson children in the room, and the voice sounded like Grosse's (MG63A, 3:02). In another context, Peggy heard a voice like David Robertson's (GP52A, 43:38).

I've written elsewhere about a voice manifesting through a dog. That apparently happened on two different occasions.

The voice came through Peggy as well. To my knowledge, the earliest report of the poltergeist speaking through her in some form, though apparently just by making some noises, was in March of 1978 (GP51A, 11:28). She and John Burcombe reported that the voice manifested through her when they met each other in a store, without any of the Hodgson children present (MG87A, 5:49; MG95A, 29:40). On that occasion, the voice was swearing at Burcombe. Given how seldom Peggy swore, how she was so apologetic on the rare occasions when she did swear, and how well she got along with her brother (Burcombe), it seems highly unlikely that a middle-aged woman like Peggy would fake a male voice that swears at her brother in public. When she talked to Grosse about the incident, she said she didn't even know that the voice was coming from her at the time. In another context, in August of 1979, Burcombe comments on how there's been a lot of voice activity from Peggy lately (MG95B, 0:32). Though I don't remember ever hearing him discuss the subject publicly, Grosse acknowledges on one of his tapes that the voice did sometimes come from Peggy (MG101A, 40:33).

It seems that some of the disembodied voices were caught on tape. Unfortunately, some of the references to taping discarnate voices aren't accompanied by much detail about where to find the recordings. For example, Grosse refers to how John Burcombe taped a disembodied voice (MG97A, 20:46), but it's not said whether the tape is in Grosse or Playfair's collection and, if so, where it is in that collection. Charles Moses, who was then with the Southern California Society for Psychical Research, mentions the recording of a disembodied voice as one of the experiences he had at the Hodgsons' house that he considered genuinely paranormal (MG69A, 24:43). He disagreed with Grosse on some aspects of the Enfield case, so he wasn't just uncritically accepting whatever Grosse told him. Moses refers to giving a tape of the voice to Raymond Bayless, a researcher who specialized in Raudive issues, and reports that Bayless considered the tape a genuine recording of a disembodied voice (MG69A, 14:41). But I don't know where that recording is in Grosse's collection, if it's there any longer. Some of the tapes have been lost or have significantly deteriorated over the years. The recording in question may be on one of the Raudive sessions that are still extant in Grosse's collection, but, if so, I haven't noticed it yet. There are some places in those sessions or elsewhere in which I think a voice may be present (MG77A, 10:17; GP94B, 3:46) or probably is (GP94B, 32:19).

The best recording of a disembodied voice that I'm aware of is the one Playfair gives the most attention to in his book (This House Is Haunted [United States: White Crow Books, 2011], 202-3). On February 6, 1978, some thumping was heard in the middle upstairs bedroom while nobody was there (MG78Aii, 3:01). Playfair decided to run a Raudive session in the room, so he set up a tape recorder and shut the door. Everybody was downstairs during the session. Nobody went into the room or even went upstairs (2:42). Playfair stayed downstairs the whole time and monitored what everybody was doing. Grosse was downstairs with him, also monitoring what was going on. Playfair was in the kitchen, and Grosse was in the living room, so they had a good view of everything that was happening on that floor of the house. Playfair explains on page 203 of his book that the poltergeist voice wasn't manifesting from any of the children during the Raudive session. Keep in mind that there were several people downstairs, and Playfair notes in his book that the children downstairs "were chattering away" (203). The lack of noise from people downstairs during the recording can't be because the people down there weren't talking much. At 3:23 on the tape, you hear the poltergeist voice saying "Here I come!", something it had said on other occasions as well. It's a quiet voice, but it's louder than the faint noises you hear coming through the floorboards or from outside at other points in the tape, and it's clearer than those other noises. It's also notable that "Here I come!" fits the context well. Playfair was trying to record a disembodied voice, and that sort of comment is significantly appropriate for the occasion. I doubt that one of the children was producing the voice downstairs, just happened to say something so appropriate for the context, that the child's voice downstairs came through the floorboards in a way that's louder and clearer than the other noises that got through the floorboards, and that Playfair and Grosse didn't notice that one of the children was manifesting the voice and doing it so loudly. Furthermore, the thumping heard in the room before the Raudive test suggests that the poltergeist was already active there. So, it looks to me like Playfair did successfully record a disembodied voice. Shortly after, you also hear a growling noise (3:48) and a yelping noise (4:05), both of which the poltergeist often produced, and those are likewise louder and clearer than the noises that come through the floorboards or from outside. It's highly unlikely that both Playfair and Grosse would have missed the fact that the children were producing such noises downstairs and were doing it so loudly that the tape recorder upstairs picked up the sounds so well.

There's another copy of the recording in Playfair's collection (GP34B, 36:22). The copy in Grosse's collection is only a little more than a minute long. Apparently, Playfair cut out the sections with the voice's "Here I come!" comment and its growling and yelping, put those three sections together, and gave Grosse a composite of those three. The audio is adequate in Grosse's version, but it's somewhat quiet and muffled. Playfair's recording has better audio quality than the one in Grosse's collection, but there's audio from some other recording bleeding into it. And Playfair only has about the first five minutes of the session. It looks to me like Playfair decided to only keep the opening minutes of the session, since the bleeding had diminished the quality of the tape. But the opening minutes are important. They capture some details not found in Grosse's copy. If you only listen to the left speaker or the left headphone when playing Playfair's copy, the bleeding is either eliminated or greatly diminished. The session starts at 36:22. Playfair shuts the door at 36:45. Shortly after, you can hear what sounds like objects moving around the room. So, it seems that the poltergeist was still active in the room even after Playfair shut the door. Nobody was in the room at the time, and it's highly probable that the noises are coming from within the room. They're loud and clear, and they sound like objects being moved. Some of the sounds are thumping, which is what Playfair says they heard in the room before they started the session. It sounds like the poltergeist is lifting one or more objects, then dropping them on the floor, which makes the thumping noises. Or it may be throwing the objects or doing some of each. The "Here I come!" comment is at 38:14. It's significantly louder and clearer than what you hear on Grosse's copy. And it's more evident that the comment is louder and clearer than the sounds coming through the floorboards or from outside. When you combine the evidence from Grosse's copy with the evidence from Playfair's, it seems highly probable that Playfair did capture a disembodied voice on tape.

Connections To Other Phenomena

Another line of evidence for the authenticity of the voice is its connections to other phenomena, often multiple phenomena simultaneously and ones for which we have good evidence. The paranormality of the voice offers a better explanation for why the voice is so connected to other phenomena. While it's possible that a poltergeist or some other paranormal source would act in coordination with a faked voice, a more parsimonious explanation of the coordination is that the voice is also a manifestation of the poltergeist.

I'll start with connections between other phenomena and the voices that manifested independently from the Hodgson children, since I just discussed those independent voices. Peggy Hodgson recounted an occasion when she heard a voice speaking to her while she was in the kitchen, with nobody else on that floor of the house at the time (MG87A, 1:45). She explains that there was a draft at the time as well, and she sensed somebody walking by. A nearby door opened by itself as well. On another occasion, John Burcombe heard the sound of a young child laughing in the kitchen while nobody was in there, then felt a cold draft so strong that it moved him forward, then had a sensation of being enveloped in a vacuum (MG91B, 17:05). Afterward, he felt exhausted, even though he hadn't felt that way earlier. Peggy also heard the laughter and felt the cold draft. In coordination with what Burcombe and Peggy experienced, Billy commented on having a sense of fear.

The incidents involving the manifestation of the voice through the children were also accompanied by other phenomena. In his book, Playfair writes about a cushion being teleported to the roof on December 15, 1977:

"So he [David Robertson] took one of the large and heavy red plastic cushions from one of the armchairs in the living room and handed it to Janet. 'Go on,' he said, 'see what you can do with that.' He turned to leave the room. She could not hide that under the mattress. 'ALL RIGHT, DAVID BOY. I'LL MAKE IT DISAPPEAR,' said the familiar voice as he went out of the door. He 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." (143)

See here for a discussion of some of the evidence for the teleportation of the cushion.

Many other examples of a similar nature could be cited. Janet's bed would often shake in coordination with the voice manifesting through her. For instance, you frequently hear the bed shaking, with multiple other people in the room watching her and commenting on the subject, on tape MG40A. The voice manifesting through her claims to be doing the shaking. At 25:51 on tape MG41A, the voice seems to make some comments to the effect that nobody can make it stop shaking the bed (Grosse had just told it to stop), then there's some unusually forceful shaking (26:03). That was a frequent occurrence. In the opening minutes of tape MG41iA, the bed shaking seems to align with the questions Grosse is asking the voice. He notices the alignment and comments on it (4:07), later suggesting that the poltergeist is bouncing the bed when it doesn't want to answer a question (5:35). During a levitation session, in which Janet and Margaret are being levitated in a bedroom with David Robertson outside the door, he refers to a "really strong force pushing the door" that won't let him get in. The voice then affirms that it's doing that (MG48A, 16:27). While testing what the voice can do in the living room on one occasion, Grosse asks it to move a blanket. It does so in front of a few witnesses, including Grosse (MG49A, 9:06). Peggy would often get premonitory headaches that would anticipate paranormal activity. She commented at one point that she used to get headaches in coordination with furniture moving, but that the nature of her headaches changed with the arrival of the voice (GP32B, 10:14). She describes a time when she saw Janet and Margaret levitated from some chairs they were sitting on. The voice then said it was going to lift Peggy. She felt pressure on her back, but she wasn't lifted. The voice then said she was too heavy to lift (GP32B, 52:08). On another occasion, a voice announced that it was going to levitate Janet, after which she did levitate (GP54A, 19:32). At another point, the voice said it was going to throw Janet out of bed, after which the bed shook and she was thrown (GP81A, 0:36). These are just several examples among many more that could be cited.

Another way in which the voice is connected to other phenomena is in the resemblance it bears to them. The personality behind the voice seems similar to the personality behind the knocking, for example. As the voice would keep changing its claims about who it was, so did the entity behind the knocking. Like the voice, the knocking would often answer some questions, but not others, with no discernable reason why it didn't answer certain ones. Often, the questions not answered were easy ones. It would often give nonsensical, suspicious, and inconsistent answers to questions when it did provide answers (GP58B, 4:28; 32:51). John Burcombe noticed that whether they would get knocks in response to their questions would sometimes depend on where he was standing in relation to a bed in the room (GP58B, 26:36, 37:11). Something similar occurred with the voice (GP80B, 4:40). Like the voice, the entity behind the knocking showed an interest in joking and playing games. Some of the tapes that have been aired publicly illustrate these characteristics of the knocking. Listen here and here. In the first of the two clips just linked, notice that the throwing of the box, an event witnessed by a few people and highly likely to be authentic, was connected to the knocking. Like the voice, the entity behind the knocking apparently had the ability to cause other types of paranormal events to occur.

The Origin Of The Embodied Voice

If there were disembodied voices and voices from embodied sources other than the Hodgson children, then what was the significance of the embodied voice that originated on December 10, 1977? Why was Grosse trying to get the poltergeist to speak if it was already speaking? My understanding is that there weren't any embodied voices prior to December 10, and the disembodied ones prior to that date were few and far between, highly unpredictable, didn't say much, and only spoke on their own initiative, not in response to others. It seems that what Grosse was looking for was a voice that would interact with them, one that would carry on conversations as a living human would. And he wasn't looking for the voice he was requesting to be embodied. They initially thought the December 10 voice was disembodied, only discovering later in the month that it was manifesting through Janet.

Every witness I'm aware of who comments on the subject agrees that Grosse's desire for a voice like the December 10 one wasn't expressed to the Hodgsons until December 10 itself. He asked the poltergeist to speak that night, and it started speaking shortly after being asked to do so. At a later date, Grosse and Paul Burcombe comment on how abruptly the voice started after Grosse first asked for it (MG63A, 2:45). Playfair also comments on how quickly the Hodgson children would have to have come up with the voice if they had been faking it (GP34A, 12:50; GP38A, 54:47). Peggy says she isn't aware of any attempts at ventriloquism on the part of her children before the poltergeist began (MG63A, 1:34). She also refers to how the manifestation of the voice through Janet occurred "out of the blue" (GP43A, 34:14). In the video here, Janet also refers to the voice starting just after Grosse asked for it, though she misremembers the date as December 12.

The Initial Characteristics Of The Embodied Voice

The voice sounds different on December 10 than it does later. It's louder, more forceful, and more abrupt (e.g., GP73B, 24:38). It comes across as something that hasn't been done before or hasn't been done much. The difference between the voice on December 10 and its later form isn't what you'd expect if somebody had been practicing the voice previously in order to fake it or had been using the voice previously for some other reason. The volume, force, and abruptness of the voice on December 10 give me the impression of something being pushed through Janet's body with a lot of power. Every recording I remember hearing on YouTube fails to capture the full significance of what I'm referring to here, since the recordings I've heard there seem deficient in various ways. (Some of them are played at a slow speed, perhaps in an effort to make the voice sound deeper and more impressive, and that misrepresents what the voice actually sounded like.) Listen here to get some idea of what I'm referring to concerning the different quality of the voice on its first day, though even that recording is somewhat muffled.

The Family's Reactions To The Voice

The girls often don't react to the voice as you'd expect if they were faking it. Here are several examples of the girls reacting to the voice (gasping, laughing, etc.) after it's spoken rather than anticipating what it was going to say, all from the night when the voice originated: MG38A, 11:30, 12:02, 12:41, 12:59, 13:35, 13:47, 14:21, 16:05, 16:26, 16:45, 17:26, 17:47, 18:03, 18:58, 19:17, 21:17, 22:09, 22:18, 23:51, 24:45, 29:13, 32:59, 34:39, 35:23, 36:07, 36:34, 40:00, 41:20, 43:18, 44:05, 44:20, 44:51. At 40:00, for example, the voice says "Shut up!" in response to Grosse, and both girls laugh a lot. They don't laugh until after the comment. The same happens with some swearing from the voice at 43:18. That sort of thing happened many other times as well (MG40A, 5:54; MG47A, 12:27; GP23A, 4:29, 5:46).

And the girls would often criticize what the voice said, including correcting it on factual matters (MG38A, 16:16, 19:21, 36:11, 44:54; MG47A, 13:40, 17:25; MG55A, 9:38; MG87B, 33:40, 39:40; GP75B, 7:16; GP79A, 38:03; GP86A, 36:41; GP98A, 45:02). The first segment I just cited is noteworthy, since it comes so soon after the origin of the voice. After the voice was asked to say Grosse's name, Janet comments that the voice said "Grosse", but Margaret says it was "Gross" instead. Grosse then asks for confirmation that the voice mispronounced his name as "Gross", and both girls seem to respond in the affirmative. Similarly, later on the same tape, Janet mockingly refers to how the voice sounded like it was saying "woof woof" when asked for its last name. If the girls were faking the voice, you wonder why they were criticizing it for making mistakes. They would sometimes indicate that they didn't understand what the voice had said (MG40A, 6:37, 10:02; MG47A, 6:36, 34:00; MG62A, 57:06; MG63A, 5:36; MG64A, 1:30; GP31B, 15:55). When Charles Moses asks Janet whether she always understands the voice's comments, she responds that she understands "sometimes, not always" (MG65B, 8:35).

On the tapes, you often hear family members groaning, sighing, getting angry, etc. in response to the voice. It was often keeping them up late at night, wasting their time, and such, so it would make sense for them to react negatively if the voice was genuine. If they were faking the voice, then they were unusually good at acting as if they were reacting to something real. There are far too many examples to cite more than a small percentage of them. At one point, the voice roars, and you hear what seems to be a quiet whimper from Janet (GP79B, 21:46). She sounds like she's sincerely weary of hearing the voice. In another context, Margaret's reaction to the voice sounds like she's sincerely impressed with what's happening (MG38A, 24:46). And so forth. The larger and more diverse the set of acting skills skeptics want to assign to the Hodgsons to explain these incidents, the more problematic a fraud hypothesis becomes.

The Family Acting Against The Interests Of Faking

In other parts of this article, I address how the Hodgsons acted differently than they should have if they'd been faking all of the voice phenomena. But I want to set aside a section, this one, to address the subject in more depth.

There was a night when the voice was accompanied by what sounded like clapping. Grosse and the family talked about it on a later occasion (MG62B, 4:25). Peggy said that when the clapping noise occurred, she looked around and didn't see anybody clapping. Margaret then says that some people who were watching were clapping in a normal manner. Grosse says that Margaret is wrong, that there was nobody watching who could have been clapping. Why would Margaret make such a comment if she was faking the case with Janet? (It's also noteworthy that when Grosse and the family were discussing the clapping incident, the voice occasionally interjected some comments, including while the girls were talking. If they were faking the voice while carrying on interactions with each other and Grosse about the clapping incident, then that required a lot of skill.)

In the context of testing the voice, Janet had her mouth taped by Playfair. After the tape has been applied, she says, "I can still talk." (GP31A, 29:46) It seems unlikely that she'd volunteer that information if she was faking the voice.

At another point, John Burcombe asks Peggy if the girls can be taken to a psychiatrist who's skeptical of the voice, so that he can test them (GP34B, 0:12). She isn't given much information about the psychiatrist, and she's told that he's skeptical of the voice, but she agrees to do it.

On another occasion, Peggy takes the initiative to say that she saw Janet's lips moving when the voice was just produced through her (GP86A, 11:31).

Margaret asks the voice, manifesting through Billy at the time, to tell them what happened next door recently (GP99A, 33:12). They often tested the voice that way, asking it to do things that it failed to do, often things that would be difficult or impossible to fake.

The actions of the poltergeist in coordination with the voice, not just what the voice says, are often significant in this context as well. On the night of December 15, 1977, Grosse told the voice to put a book through the window, in the sense of teleporting it through the window (MG47B, 8:51). Instead, it threw a book at the window and broke it. It's highly unlikely that the children would have faked something that left them with a broken window in the room where they slept in the middle of December.

These are just several of many examples that could be cited.

Lip Movement, Taping The Mouth, Filling The Mouth With Liquid, And Other Tests

We need to keep in mind that if a poltergeist uses a person's body as an instrument, there's no need for the poltergeist to conceal its use of that body. It may do so, but that's not necessary. If it wants to avoid moving a person's lips when speaking through him, it can do so. If it wants to move the person's lips as the lips would normally move when speech is occurring, it can do so. If it wants to do some of each, sometimes moving the lips and sometimes not moving them, it can do that as well. The same goes for whether it produces any sensations inside a person's throat, how much it moves a person's throat, whether it moves the person's chest, etc. The same is true of our bodily movements in our everyday lives. How much we control our eye movements, whether we keep our mouths closed when eating, etc. will vary from one moment to another, depending on a variety of factors (how much we're concentrating on controlling those things, how much effort we're willing to put into it at a given moment, who's around us at the time, etc.). We wouldn't expect a poltergeist using a body as an instrument to be able to speak in a normal manner if water is placed in the mouth of that body. If it can speak in a normal way under those circumstances, that's impressive, but there's no need for it. People often act as though the validity of the Enfield voice depends on whether it was able to do things like speak without moving Janet's lips and talk normally with water in her mouth, as if a failure to do such things would cast doubt on the voice or even prove its inauthenticity. But there's actually no need for it.

We also should remember that the December 10 voice was initially thought to be disembodied. Doing things like taping Janet's mouth and filling her mouth with water made a lot of sense as means of verifying that the voice wasn't coming from her. But those tests lost their initial significance once it was known that the voice was embodied. They continued running such tests, but we should keep in mind that the tests originated under different circumstances and aren't necessary for supporting the authenticity of the voice.

Having said all of that, the tests produced mixed results. I think Grosse, Playfair, a lot of people in the media (documentary producers, etc.), and others involved deserve some criticism for focusing too much on the successful tests. The unsuccessful ones don't disprove the authenticity of the voice, as I've explained above, but there were a lot more unsuccessful tests than you'd think from reading Playfair's book, watching the typical television program about the case, etc.

Grosse commented in June of 1978 that when Billy and Johnny speak with the poltergeist voice, their lips move a lot (MG1A, 20:11). On another tape, John Burcombe refers to the mixed nature of the lip movement, how you'd sometimes see lip movement accompanying the voice and sometimes wouldn't (MG62A, 36:03). After Janet left the bedroom to go to the restroom downstairs on one occasion, Grosse asked Peggy and Margaret whether they'd been watching Janet and whether they'd seen her lips move with the voice. They responded that they had been watching her and that her lips weren't moving (MG53A, 21:25). At another point, the voice spoke through Margaret at length, and Peggy said that Margaret's mouth didn't move at all (MG56A, 6:37). On another occasion (MG62A, 33:10), Grosse refers to how the voice just came through Margaret with no lip movement. He says that if it was ventriloquism, then it was very good ventriloquism. John Burcombe and Peggy verify that Grosse is correct about how Margaret's lips didn't move at all (33:57, 35:59; 36:49). Grosse goes on to say that it's better than any ventriloquist he's seen, that he can't even see any tremor in Margaret's lips (38:08). Peggy then expresses agreement, then goes on to relate an experience at an optician's office (38:17). Apparently, the voice came from both girls, and somebody in the office said it couldn't have come from them, because he didn't see their mouths moving. Burcombe later mentions that he heard the voice come from Janet with no lip movement and with Janet biting her lip at the time (39:25). Grosse heard Janet's voice say "hello" with her mouth closed tight (41:08).

They'd often put tape over her mouth. Sometimes they'd mention the details, such as referring to the tape as surgical tape (MG48A, 4:57), and sometimes they wouldn't. Later on the tape I just cited, Grosse explains that he's applied two strips of tape and that it would be "absolutely impossible" for her to talk (6:47). The voice speaks shortly afterward, and it sounds somewhat muffled, but discernable. There's a conversation with the voice that occurs from 7:06 to 15:05 while tape is over Janet's mouth. The voice speaks to some extent, and it's again somewhat muffled, but discernable. David Robertson corroborates what Grosse has said about Janet's mouth being sealed during the conversation (14:08). When tape was put over her mouth on another occasion, Janet's normal voice sounds highly muffled (MG51A, 7:56). The poltergeist voice coming through her shortly afterward is significantly clearer than Janet's normal voice, but also substantially more muffled than what the poltergeist voice usually sounds like (9:50). With PVC tape applied at 9:51 on tape MG52Ai, the voice speaks somewhat clearly, though not as clearly as it does without tape on Janet's mouth. Later on that same tape, Grosse puts some tape over Janet's mouth in such a way as to entirely close her mouth, then places a scarf over the tape (11:23). He says Janet's mouth is "completely sealed". Under those circumstances, the poltergeist voice speaks in a highly muffled way, but noticeably more clearly than Janet's normal speech under those constraints. At a March 29, 1978 symposium of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), a video was shown of the voice speaking through Janet while her mouth was taped. I don't think the video is extant. I asked David Robertson, who filmed it, to describe what was on it, and he told me the following in a July 18, 2018 email:

I do remember recording the video you mentioned. We did close up video because by that stage the voice was easy to get and Maurice was trying various means to find out if the sound changed when the mouth was sealed. He had some good sticky tape because he wanted to be certain there were no gaps. We had tried several times before, using insulating tape, this isn't quite as sticky. It was difficult removing the tape used for that video, I think he said it was medical tape, wide if I remember rightly. The problem is that a small gap will enable intonations from the mouth. I took the close up to show the details of tape adhesion more than anything else. I think this was why he moved on to water in the mouth. Maurice was very thorough and careful not to do anything that Janet was unhappy with. (You have to be a bit careful with water, but there weren't any problems.) If she were cheating she could easily have declined. I think the laryngograph came after that. We were trying to find the most definitive description of what was going on. In my opinion the agency can probably connect inside and outside regions similar to objects going through closed windows or a jet of blood from the air which I once saw much later on (not at Enfield)….

I do remember though that the shots were about the best you could do with the tools available to show that her mouth was sealed and yet the voice was still able to speak clearly. It seems that with repetition the novelty wears off and we worked with it. It is a noteworthy change and I suppose accounts for how some of the TV film was made. That was easy, the mouth wasn't taped and the lips open.

The video did seem to surprise people, I suppose they must have been familiar with the difficulty of mouth closed talking. As I say, the novelty wore off for us.

Elsewhere, Grosse reports that the voice has been speaking, making noises, and/or singing while Janet is blowing up a balloon (MG49A, 3:53, 23:54, 24:55). According to Grosse and Peggy, Margaret manifested the voice in her sleep, and she seems surprised to hear it (MG67A, 16:10). Grosse refers elsewhere to how certain he was that Margaret was asleep when she spoke with the voice (MG68A, 6:16). On another tape, Playfair refers to how the voice has spoken while Janet had a lot of food in her mouth (GP26A, 16:54). You hear what sounds like some silverware rapidly hitting a plate over and over. Peggy then asks the poltergeist whether it's been making Janet eat fast, and it replies "Yes"!

Most of the tests involving placing water in Janet's mouth either failed or were only mildly successful (e.g., MG49A, 44:53, 45:07, 45:36). But Melvyn Willin's recent book on the Enfield case cites Hugh Pincott discussing a liquid test that seems to have been more successful:

"Simply fill her mouth with a coloured liquid, tape it closed and see what happens. Maurice felt Mrs Hodgson would not allow this: I asked her and she had no objection at all. So Janet willingly filled her mouth completely with cold tea, and we taped it closed securely. But…the Voice continued to speak with undiminished clarity! By this stage, several of us for whom the spiritistic hypothesis was not a first choice, hunched our shoulders and looked around warily! And on removing the tape, Janet spat out a complete mouthful of tea." (The Enfield Poltergeist Tapes [United States: White Crow Books, 2019], 122)


It seems that the poltergeist had the ability to read people's minds to some extent, though not at will. You get the impression that it had the ability to do so sporadically, depending on factors not entirely within its control.

When Richard Grosse (Maurice's son) visited the house, the voice claimed to be able to read his mind (MG44B, 24:26). That would be an unnecessary and counterproductive claim to make if the voice was entirely faked. Watch the video here in which Grosse discusses an example of his mind apparently being read by the voice that night. And here you can read what seems to be a report Grosse wrote about his visit to the house. (As I've said before, the web site I just linked seems to contain genuine Enfield documents, but when I wrote to the owner of the site for confirmation a couple of years ago, I didn't get a response. Given how well the report attributed to Grosse lines up with the tapes from the night when he visited the house, I think it's highly probable that the document is authentic.) He mentions that the voice seemed to exhibit telepathic abilities on multiple occasions on the night when he visited, not just on the one occasion discussed in the video I linked.

The voice, manifesting through Janet, also seems to have had some sort of connection with Margaret's mind (MG47A, 23:35, 26:14). It's unclear whether it was getting information from her mind or placing information there, but it seems that something of that sort was going on.

Peggy likewise refers to the poltergeist, and the voice in particular, reading her mind (MG87B, 15:16).

I suspect the poltergeist read Janet's mind more than anybody else's. And given the embarrassing nature of so much of what the voice said, Janet had some motivation for denying that the poltergeist was reading her mind or underestimating how much it was doing so. I'll have more to say on that subject later. For now, I'll note that Janet denied, with apparent anger, that her mind was being read (MG56B, 36:35). She occasionally seems hesitant when asked about the relationship between her thoughts and what the voice was saying (GP98A, 56:57). On one occasion (GP83B, 3:04), though, she acknowledged that the poltergeist was using her mind and Margaret's, but insisted that what the voice says doesn't represent their thoughts. Grosse responds by saying that the poltergeist is picking out bits and pieces from their minds.

In his book on Enfield, Playfair discusses a visit to the house by John Hasted, a physicist at Birkbeck College. Playfair explains that a ceiling light had been seen swinging around with nobody near it (229). The bulb in the light went out, and Hasted examined it. He 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." I doubt that the entity behind the poltergeist just happened to have studied lightbulbs at some time in the past, had come across such detailed knowledge of lightbulbs in the afterlife, or some such thing. It seems that telepathy is the best explanation for how the poltergeist knew how to break the bulb in a way that would be significant to Hasted. It got the information from Hasted's mind.

And it seems that people affiliated with the poltergeist sometimes acquired telepathic abilities. One of the tapes picked up a conversation Peggy was having with Billy, apparently while Peggy was washing dishes at the kitchen sink. Billy seems to be upset. She tells him that she's concerned about him and about Janet, and she goes on to say that "You've got to know what these things do to you." She asks Billy whether he had read somebody's mind. He says "Yeah", and he sounds upset about it. She responds, "Well, leave it at that, will you? Because I can read people's minds." (MG76A, 20:20) Both of them sound upset. You get the impression that they would have preferred to have not experienced any telepathy.

Knowledge Below The Children's

There's a lot of evidence that Grosse was correct about the poltergeist picking bits and pieces from the girls' (and others') minds, and it often took those bits and pieces out of context. That's one of the ways in which the entity behind the poltergeist can be distinguished from Janet and the other Hodgson children. People often focus on looking for evidence that the poltergeist exhibited abilities higher than the children's, but exhibiting abilities lower than theirs is important as well.

Janet seems to have been somewhat bad at math, and so was the voice. But at 9:25 on tape MG55A, there's an example of Janet correcting the voice, while it's manifesting through her, on a mathematical issue.

In another context, when speaking through Janet, the voice guesses at the kind of car Richard Grosse drove to the house that day and gets it wrong (MG45A, 23:47). By contrast, Janet seems to have typically slept in the bed next to the front windows and often looked out the windows to see who was entering and leaving the house. Anita Gregory sometimes commented that when she would leave the Hodgsons' house after visiting, Janet would wave goodbye to her from one of the windows. You often hear Janet making comments on the tapes about what she sees going on outside. I doubt that Janet would have been incapable of describing Grosse's car. But maybe she didn't look out the window on that occasion, it was too dark for her to see much, or whatever. I wouldn't assign much significance to this incident, but it seems to add a little weight to the notion that the poltergeist was ignorant of some things Janet knew about.

The voice would sometimes claim to have a dog or group of dogs with it. It would refer to the dogs as large, strong, and loud. Grosse asked it, when it was manifesting through Janet, what type of dogs it had (GP75B, 6:07). It said that the dogs are Chihuahuas (6:11). That answer is significant for a few reasons. Margaret mentioned that she had been thinking of Chihuahuas before the voice gave its answer (6:13). The poltergeist probably picked up its answer from her mind. After it gave the answer, Janet made a comment that's somewhat unintelligible to me, but she sounds surprised and critical of the voice's response. She seems to comment on how small Chihuahuas are (6:14). I think she says "That's spriteful things!" Who wouldn't know that Chihuahuas aren't big, strong, or loud? Grosse responds by explaining that the voice's answer doesn't make sense, since Chihuahuas don't have the attributes the voice claimed its dogs have (6:23). Margaret and Janet go on to refer to Labradors (6:40), so they were familiar with the name of at least one type of dog that aligns more closely with the characteristics the voice claimed that its dogs had. Janet showed interest in dogs and discussed them on other occasions, sometimes even naming particular types or hearing other people name them, including types that come much closer to what the voice described than Chihuahuas do (MG64B, 14:30; page 171 in Playfair's book). Apparently, none of the people in the room were as ignorant about dogs as the poltergeist was. It looks like Margaret had been thinking of Chihuahuas for some reason, and the voice picked that up from her mind without knowing much about Chihuahuas, so it gave an answer to Grosse's question that nobody else in the room at the time would have given. This incident illustrates both the voice's telepathic abilities and its ignorance of information that Janet, through whom the voice was manifesting at the time, was aware of.

There's a similar incident involving one of the voice's identity claims. On one occasion, it said it was a man named George Mace (MG51A, 45:46). It originally identified itself as "George", then added "Mace" as the last name when asked for one. Peggy responds "George Mace?" incredulously. There's an eruption of laughter, and Janet, from whom the voice was coming at the time, comments, "Oh my God! He's not that old [unintelligible]!" Margaret comments, "He's a living person!" Peggy goes on to say, in response to the voice's identity claim, "That's a lie, if ever I heard one." George Mace was the name of a friend of Peggy's ex-husband. Billy goes on to make a comment suggesting that he was skeptical of the voice's identity claim as well. The entire family considers the voice's claim ridiculous. Janet and Margaret both sound surprised by it, laugh at it, and ridicule it. The voice goes on insisting that it's Mace, then angrily comments on how it wants the door shut and causes Margaret's bed to collapse. (It would often respond in anger like that when challenged.) The subject is changed as the voice starts claiming to be a man named Barney, and there's a discussion of what to do about the beds collapsing so often. Not much later, though, a chair goes over, and the voice says that George did it (MG51B, 1:01). So, the George Mace identity comes up again. Somebody makes a comment to the effect that Mace is a friend of the family (1:06). Peggy apparently overheard the discussion from another room, and you can hear her yelling, "He's not dead. He's the best friend of my husband." (1:24) It was rare for the voice to claim to be somebody who was still alive. I only remember it happening twice, this time and one other time. I suspect it was a mistake both times. Grosse tells the voice that Mace is alive and asks the voice if it knew that (1:15). There's a pause, then the voice makes some unintelligible comments. As best as I can make it out, the voice says "Who is he, then?" at 1:20. If that's what the voice says, it's highly unlikely that Janet would have made such a comment. She'd already commented, multiple times, on who George Mace is, and it's unlikely that she'd have wanted to fake that sort of ignorance on the part of the poltergeist. A little later, Grosse asks the voice to explain why it's claiming to be Mace. It responds, "I just call myself that." (1:29) I doubt that the voice ever wanted to identify itself as a living individual. People normally associate poltergeists with deceased individuals, if they associate them with people at all. Peggy explains on another tape that she would estimate that Mace is currently 56 years old (GP95B, 10:34). And you'd expect the friend of a middle-aged man (Peggy's ex-husband) to still be alive, even without knowing his precise age. Janet, like her mother and siblings, surely would have known that Mace probably was still living. So, it looks like after the voice made a reference to its name being George, one or more of the people present started thinking about George Mace. The poltergeist then picked up that name from Janet's mind or somebody else's, but was unfamiliar with the surrounding context. Janet knew who Mace was and that he probably was still alive. The poltergeist didn't know that.

Knowledge Above The Children's

There's also evidence that the poltergeist can be distinguished from the children by its exhibiting knowledge above that of the children (and often others involved in the case). The instances of telepathy I've cited above fall into that category, and I'll provide some other examples.

Peggy doesn't think Janet knew the location of some knives, though the voice, apparently manifesting through Janet at the time, knew where the knives were (GP31A, 7:52). The voice seems to know the cost of something, claiming that it saw the person buy it (GP34B, 10:34). Grosse is impressed by the incident. Shortly after, on the same tape, Peggy reports that the voice knew what time somebody had knocked at the door when nobody was home (10:57). She verified the time with the person who had knocked at the door. Though she doesn't say much about it, Peggy remarks in another context that she thinks the voice has some paranormal knowledge (GP53A, 39:40). Margaret comments that the voice that's been manifesting through her has communicated some information she was unaware of (GP88B, 20:12). Elsewhere, Grosse comments on how the voice has been expressing information that was unknown to the family (GP96A, 5:59).


The differences in vocabulary between the voice and the children fall into both categories above. Sometimes the voice is unfamiliar with words the children are familiar with. And sometimes the voice is familiar with terms the children are ignorant about. Or words often used by one aren't used as often or at all by the other. Both the voice and Janet expressed a lot of ignorance of vocabulary issues (MG44B, 35:19, the voice not knowing "disintegrate"; MG47A, 10:37, the voice not knowing "dimension"; MG49A, 58:46, Janet not knowing "conscious"; GP37A, 7:53, Janet not knowing "stabilizer"). That could create a false impression that the voice was being faked by a child who didn't have much of a vocabulary. But that sort of general ignorance of vocabulary issues doesn't explain the differences in the details of which terms the voice was familiar with and which terms the children were familiar with.

I've already discussed an occasion on which the poltergeist seemed to be ignorant of what a Chihuahua is. By contrast, the Hodgson children showed a lot of interest in dogs and apparently knew more about Chihuahuas than the voice did.

The voice called Grosse a snob at one point (GP83A, 42:01). He asked it what a snob is, and it defined a snob as "a woman". Grosse then asked Janet what a snob is. She hesitated somewhat, but then replied that a snob is somebody who's "posh". That's not quite what a snob is, as Grosse notes, but it's somewhat accurate, and Janet's answer suggests she was more familiar with the term "snob" than the voice was.

In another context, the voice referred to Grosse and Lawrence Berger as "a rabbi", a remark it made many times (GP79A, 37:58). Janet corrected it and commented that the voice doesn't know what a rabbi is.

Charles Moses asked Janet whether she was familiar with all of the words used by the voice, and she said that she wasn't (MG65B, 8:37). I'll give a few examples that seem to illustrate that.

One of the voice's most famous comments was about the circumstances surrounding its death. It claimed to have had a hemorrhage. It seems unlikely that Janet would have been familiar with that term. On an April 8, 2018 radio program, at 24:08, Richard Grosse said that his father asked Janet what a hemorrhage is, and she didn't have an answer.

When Matthew Manning was visiting, he told the voice that his name isn't actually Matthew Manning. That's just a pseudonym. The voice responded, "Like hell it is." (MG50A, 16:25) Playfair notes in his book (223) that John Burcombe later asked Janet what "pseudonym" means (without telling her why he was asking), and she wasn't familiar with the term. It seems that the poltergeist knew what "pseudonym" means, whereas Janet didn't.

Playfair also notes in his book that the poltergeist used a variation of the word "quillet" on one occasion when writing on a bathroom mirror (222-23). It's doubtful that any of the Hodgson children knew about that term in its modern spelling, and it's even more doubtful that they knew of the variation that was on the mirror.

The voice, while manifesting through Janet, used "monstrosity" on one occasion (MG55A, 43:57). There's a reasonable chance that Janet knew that term and would have used it on her own initiative, but it seems unlikely, given her age, social status, poor vocabulary and grammar in general, etc. My sense is that the voice's use of the term adds some credibility to the voice's authenticity, but only a little.

Janet frequently adds the word "right", followed by a question mark, to the end of a sentence (GP53B, 26:07; GP54A, 38:20, 38:28; GP54B, 3:24; GP57A, 1:54; GP57B, 22:28). I don't recall ever hearing the poltergeist do that.

The poltergeist would often repeat the words "yes" and "no". It would say "yes, yes, yes" or "no, no", for example (MG44B, 4:25, 10:48, 23:10, 31:40, 32:45; MG45B, 15:14; GP24A, 3:33, 12:28; 19:00; GP25A, 21:19). I don't remember any of the Hodgson children doing so, much less doing it as often as the poltergeist does.

The poltergeist would often say "That was good!" or some variant after doing something paranormal (MG53B, 0:28; MG68A, 21:27). I don't remember any of the Hodgson children using that phrase as the poltergeist did.

A Different Personality

The poltergeist, and the voice in particular, sometimes identified as a woman, but usually as a man. None of the Hodgson children were nearly as angry, dishonest, or vulgar as the voice. For some examples of that sort of behavior, see the video here. Janet was respectful of religion and showed some interest in it, especially Christianity, but the voice was much more anti-religious. In response to a question asking why he doesn't leave the house and go on to heaven, the voice responds, "I don't believe in that….I'm not a heaven man." (MG40A, 19:16) (You can listen to it here.) Peggy said that the voice called her a "religious old bag" when she read a prayer Playfair gave her, and it apparently made noises in response to the prayer (MG55B, 11:08). It expressed a dislike of prayer on other occasions as well (MG87B, 23:41). It would often call people "a Jewish rabbi" as an insult. On one occasion, you can even hear it apparently getting angry at Margaret (a teenage Gentile girl) and calling her "Jewish rabbi" (GP85B, 34:33)! At one point, the voice calls Grosse and Lawrence Berger "Jewish rabbis", and Janet laughs and tells it that they're not rabbis (GP79A, 37:58). It was often misogynistic. Earlier, I cited the example of it defining the word "snob" as "a woman". It made a lot of other comments of a similar nature (MG49A, 15:28; GP74A, 31:57). And it would express interests that seemed different than those of the girls. From about 13:00 to 16:00 on tape GP94A, for example, the voice keeps making comments about Grosse and Playfair and other matters, even though the girls are focused on discussing other issues at the time. It eventually makes a comment about how it's not going to speak again (15:38), then starts knocking (16:04). You get the impression that it was upset that the family wasn't paying much attention to it. There's a somewhat similar situation around 24:00 on tape GP98A. That sort of thing happened many times. The voice comes across as another person in the room, with different interests, a different focus, and such than the other people present.

We shouldn't begin with a default assumption that a person is mentally ill, but might one or more of the Hodgson children have had some kind of psychological disorder, like multiple personalities, or some similar condition? I'm not in much of a position to comment on the subject. I don't know much about the relevant psychological states. But both of the Hodgson 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). Some of the testing that was done doesn't seem to have involved much analysis, but at least the testing done on Janet by Peter Fenwick and his team at the Maudsley Hospital seems to have gone into a lot of depth.

Hostility Toward Janet

The voice would sometimes make positive comments about Janet, including ones that are suspiciously positive, and I'll have more to say about those later in this article. But it should be noted that the voice sometimes reacted negatively to her as well.

On one of the tapes, the voice swears at everybody in the room by name, including Janet (MG41A, 15:49, "Fuck off, you, Janet"). Elsewhere, Grosse tries to get the voice to reveal something nobody in the house knows. Janet says she already knew something the voice said about the Nottinghams. The voice responds, "She's just saying that." (MG62B, 3:13) The voice accuses Janet of being too nosey, which gets an angry response from her (GP75A, 20:31). When the voice was speaking one time, Peggy commented that she could see Janet's lips moving (GP86A, 11:31). After Peggy makes that comment, the voice says "Yeah!" enthusiastically, as it often does, apparently through both girls (one just after the other). Janet then objects, with a lot of emotion and sounding as if she's crying or about to cry, "It's not my fault, is it?" (11:37). Peggy then explains that she didn't mean it that way (i.e., didn't intend to suggest that Janet was faking the voice). I doubt that Janet would have enthusiastically said "Yeah!" after Peggy's initial comment if Janet was faking the voice. (Regarding why Janet's lips would move with a voice she wasn't faking, see my comments earlier on the subject.) Many of the paranormal events that had a close connection with the voice exhibited some degree of hostility toward Janet. The events of December 15, 1977, for example, were closely connected to the voice, and the levitation that occurred that day seemed to disturb Janet and involved forcefully banging her against one of the windows. The voice was closely connected to the choking incidents I wrote about in another post. Those events exhibited hostility toward Janet, and the voice would occasionally accompany the chokings with comments like "I'll kill her [Janet]." (MG53B, 0:33)

Hostility Toward The Voice

The children were often critical of the voice, sometimes even taking the initiative to do things that would be counterproductive if they were faking the voice. After the voice claims to have a dog named Goober the Ghost, Janet mentions that Goober the Ghost is the name of a cartoon character (MG41B, 7:06). When Grosse was trying to get the voice to speak in foreign languages, it sang a song in Italian. Margaret responded by saying that the song sounds familiar (MG49A, 33:20), and Janet mentioned that one of their friends has a record with some Italian singing on it (33:30). The girls repeatedly do that sort of thing. They offer less impressive potential sources for where the voice derived its information, even though the voice's comments would seem more impressive if they hadn't provided such information. When Grosse was explaining why he was putting objects in Janet's mouth, to demonstrate that the voice was able to speak without any significant diminishment in spite of the objects being in her mouth, Janet or Margaret (I can't tell which) objected that the voice did sound significantly worse when objects were placed in Janet's mouth (MG47A, 35:01). On another tape, Margaret goes as far as to say that the voice "always" mixes things up, such as by having Janet's voice answer when Margaret's is asked something (MG62A, 35:49). Even though Janet kept saying that her throat didn't hurt after the voice spoke through her (MG64B, 31:37; see here for Janet discussing the subject in a video), and saying that there's no pain is more impressive, Margaret repeatedly takes the initiative to say that she does often have a sore throat after the voice speaks through her (MG64A, 7:03; MG64B, 31:51). Janet makes a comment that diminishes the significance of the manifestation of the voice through Billy, saying that she thinks Billy can imitate it (GP96A, 18:27). You wouldn't expect her to say that if the children were working together to fake the voice. Margaret asks the voice why it sometimes only speaks when people are facing the wall or go out of the room (GP24A, 25:31). (I'll say more about the concealment issue below.) The voice once claimed to have a name that was the same as that of a boy in Janet's school (GP98A, 45:00). She immediately responded by saying that the voice isn't who it claims to be, that the name it's provided is the same as the name of a boy in her class. Not only did that discredit the voice, but it also was something Janet could easily have avoided saying. None of her siblings went to the same school, and it's doubtful that any of the adults involved would have recognized the name in question. If Janet hadn't said anything, the voice would have seemed more credible (less discredited).

Consistencies Among The Children's Voices

It wouldn't be too difficult for the children to fake a voice that would be consistent to some extent, such as often being angry or vulgar. But the more consistent the voice is from one child to another on lesser details, which would be harder for the children to notice, remember, and duplicate, the more difficult the consistency is to explain under a fraud hypothesis.

The tendency of the voice to say "yes" and "no" multiple times (e.g., "no, no") is repeated when Margaret speaks with the voice (GP94A, 2:33). The voice manifesting through Billy and Margaret showed the same sort of hostility toward the Burcombes that was exhibited through Janet (GP55A, 5:33; GP88B, 19:28; GP97A, 7:04). On the last tape just cited, Billy's voice says it doesn't like Paul Burcombe, but Peggy comments that Billy does like Paul. That illustrates how the voice would sometimes express sentiments different than those of the person through whom it was manifesting, and it illustrates the continuity in the voice's manifestations among the children. They kept expressing hostility to the Burcombes, even when the person manifesting the voice didn't have that hostility. Elsewhere on tape GP88B, Margaret's voice repeats other characteristics manifested through Janet's voice: singing simple songs (13:41), raising its voice for no good reason (15:00), saying "hello" to people for no apparent reason (15:16), interest in people's ages (15:30), going through the names of each person in the room and addressing each one (17:44), saying "uuuh" for no apparent reason (18:01), referring to John Burcombe as "nosey" (19:33), referring to people with glasses as "four eyes" (21:31), referring to a "goose chase" (23:20), etc. A significant aspect of these comments on tape GP88B is that the voice, manifesting through Margaret, wrongly refers to Grosse as 59 years old (15:30). In fact, it refers to him as 59 three times. He was actually 58 at that point. The previous month, the voice, manifesting through Janet, gave the same wrong age for Grosse (MG41iB, 32:23). If there was one entity behind the voice, then that offers a better explanation for why the same wrong age was assigned to Grosse both times. The voice was bad at math when operating through Janet, and it was bad at math when speaking through Margaret (GP89B, 6:00).

Tape GP99 provides a good illustration of how extensive the continuity is among the voices. The tape was recorded during a time when the voice was manifesting a lot through Billy. The degree to which he speaks with the voice is significant, given how little Billy commented on paranormal issues and participated in paranormal events during the rest of the case. He was often silent, talking about other issues, playing with Legos, watching television, etc. During most of the tapes, he's a background character, to the extent that you notice his presence at all. The frequency of his manifesting of the voice on this tape is striking. And the number and variety of parallels between Billy's voice and those of his siblings are large.

Frequent Speaking For Lengthy Periods

Critics have made much of the fact that there were pauses between the voice's comments. Even if the voice spoke for much of a three-hour period, for example, it wasn't always speaking during that timeframe. It would say something for several seconds, stop for a while, say something else for a few seconds, stop for a while, etc. Here's a video in which Mary Rose Barrington makes that point. In her doctoral thesis, Anita Gregory wrote that "in my experience 'the voices' spoke in brief snatches" (184). Given how little time she spent with the people manifesting the voice, what she experienced doesn't have much significance. But is it true that the voice only spoke in brief snatches?

Before getting to some of the lengthier comments of the voice, I want to address the issue of pauses. The large majority of human communication involves a lot of pausing. Sometimes people give speeches or talk continually for lengthy periods in some other context, but that's unusual. And even in a context like a speech, there are small pauses from time to time. Pauses make it easier to distinguish words, discern when a sentence has ended, etc. There's no reason to expect the poltergeist voice to have no pauses or only the briefest kinds of pauses for lengthy periods. So, when Grosse and Playfair referred to the voice talking for periods of up to three hours, meaning that it was frequently speaking during such a length of time, that's a reasonable way of framing what happened. Yes, the fact that such a three-hour period involved a normal pace of conversation, with a lot of pausing, diminishes the significance of what the voice did. A three-hour speech would have been more impressive than a three-hour conversation, in which the voice was able to pause while its conversation partners were speaking and so forth. But so what? How many people listening to Grosse and Playfair's initial claims thought that they were referring to something like a speech? Given how quickly people tend to hurt their throats when speaking like the poltergeist voice does, frequent speaking during a three-hour period is impressive, even though it's less impressive than continuous speaking.

There are some tapes of the voice speaking during a large majority of a double-digit number of minutes. From 35:17 to 55:24 on tape MG61B, Janet's voice speaks for the large majority of about twenty minutes. Tape GP90A is significant in this context as well, though it's harder to quantify. The voice speaks extensively through both Janet and Margaret, sometimes simultaneously. There are some pauses, but they speak for a large percentage of more than half an hour.

Evaluations By Professionals

On January 26, 1978, a speech therapist analyzed the girls' voice production, and she provided some comments about her findings on tape. The speech therapist is Daphne Pearce, who was affiliated with Middlesex Hospital in London at the time (MG68A, 0:34). She comments that the poltergeist voice could be produced deliberately in a normal manner for a "very limited" period of time involving "a few words". She doesn't know how the children are able to sustain the voice for "a longer conversation". After producing such a voice for weeks, the normal voice of the individual should have been affected, making the normal voice more "husky". The Hodgson girls' normal voices are in the typical range, however. She doesn't know how the voice is being produced or sustained. In response to Grosse, Pearce affirms that she thinks it would be impossible for somebody like Janet to produce such a voice without results like the ones she'd discussed (hoarseness, etc.) showing up. She refers to how "sensitive" the relevant organs are. Grosse and Playfair seemed to expect her to say that some kind of clearing of the throat would be necessary when speaking with the voice for lengthy periods, but Pearce denies that it would be needed. So, she wasn't just saying whatever Grosse and Playfair wanted to hear or whatever they suggested to her. She discusses how the coughing of the girls doesn't have the hardness and gruffness you'd expect if the voice were being faked. Grosse asks her if she considers the voice a "mystery". She says, "Yes, absolutely." She explains, on her own initiative, that the voice is so different than what she'd expect from a female that she considers it a sound rather than a voice. She's examined "quite a few" children of the Hodgson girls' age, but that's not something she's specialized in. She's never had a child come to her with a disorder that produces something like what the Hodgson girls are manifesting. She's emphatic that the Hodgson girls show no sign of any voice disorder. Their voices are within the normal range. Pearce initiates a discussion of how she'd expect the children to have made up something like a whisper if they were going to fake a voice.

During a presentation on the Enfield case at an SPR symposium on March 29, 1978, Grosse commented:

"I am getting a little tired now of people saying to me that 'this is happening' and 'that's happening', the girls are doing it [producing the voice by a normal means]. I have continually challenged everybody to tell me how this girl does it if she does do it deliberately. And nobody - nobody - has been able to come up with an answer: speech therapists, phonetic experts, and doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists. You name them, I've asked them." (GP38B, 53:10)

Playfair adds that a science editor of The Daily Mirror wasn't able to explain it either (53:35). In a later discussion with Hans Bender, Playfair says that a speech therapist (discussed above), a laryngologist, and a doctor have all told them that the voice isn't normal (GP39B, 14:26). He noted that the speech therapist asked Janet to cough, which should reflect the full range of a person's voice, and Janet's range didn't line up with that of the poltergeist voice (14:42). He refers to how ventriloquists use a high-pitched voice rather than a low one (13:41). He's "never" come across a ventriloquist who lowers his voice (13:56).

Evidence Against The Voice

I want to address some common objections to the voice and some potential objections, including ones I think have little or no merit. Since some of the objections raise issues that turn out to be supportive of the voice's authenticity, some of the discussions below will supplement the points made above in support of the voice.


Expectations have a big influence on how people evaluate something. In the thread following one of the most popular YouTube videos on Enfield, the most popular comment reads, "who is coming after watch the conjuring 2". At the time I'm writing, there are about 2600 up votes for that comment. It's unsurprising that the person who wrote the comment didn't capitalize "who" or the name of the movie, used "watch" rather than "watching", and put no question mark at the end. The same sort of mindset that's behind that comment leads many other commenters in YouTube threads to focus on mocking Janet Hodgson's physical appearance, claiming that they know the entire case is fake because Janet said "It's not haunted." when interviewed by Stewart Lamont, and complaining that the case is so different than a horror movie they just watched. If you come to the Enfield case with ridiculous expectations, then you're probably going to evaluate the case in a ridiculous way.

Some critics are more reasonable than the ones you typically encounter on YouTube. But even the more reasonable critics often don't apply enough scrutiny to their expectations.

Even if the subconscious of a living individual, the spirit of a deceased person, or a demon, for example, is behind a poltergeist, it doesn't follow that a voice produced by that poltergeist should simply be equivalent to that subconscious, deceased person, or demon speaking. There can be a combination of factors involved that produces a mixed result. There's no need for every poltergeist to have the same sort of cause.

I think different sources are involved in different poltergeists. Some cases seem to be best explained by living agent psi, meaning that the phenomena are being produced by a living human. There's no dead person or demon involved. I think the best explanation for the Enfield case, though, is that a deceased person is involved, but one with some sort of mental impairment and who often drew information from the minds of living people and often expressed their thoughts for various reasons. He was largely acting in a parasitic way.

Whether my view of the entity behind the Enfield case is right or not, that kind of potential explanation needs to be kept in mind. There are a lot of explanatory options for a poltergeist. Critics (and believers) need to make more of an effort to familiarize themselves with those explanatory options.

Yes, the Enfield voice is disappointing if you come to it expecting to hear the expressions of a highly intelligent and deeply evil dead human or demon, as you would see in a movie or fictional literature. But it's simplistic to think that such explanatory options are the only alternatives to fraud. The Enfield voice is disappointing in the sense that it expresses such a low intelligence, provides so much less useful information than it could have, doesn't seem as evil as many people expect such an entity to be, and so forth. But it does seem to be a paranormal voice, and we shouldn't let the disappointing aspects of it prevent us from deriving what useful information we can.

Resemblances To The Hodgson Children

There are some ways in which the voice resembles one or more of the Hodgson children, which raises suspicions. The more the resemblance departs from the characteristics you'd expect the entity behind a genuine poltergeist to have, the more suspicious the resemblance is.

Some of the most famous similarities between the Enfield voice and the Hodgson children are its comments on various sexual issues. It asked why girls have periods, for example. As Playfair wrote in his book, "The idea that a dead old man would be obsessed with the details of menstruation was a bit too much for me" (130). Janet was at the age of puberty, so the voice's questions about such issues would make more sense originating from Janet than from one of the male identities the poltergeist typically claimed for itself. Similarly, the voice often expressed a romantic interest in men, such as Richard Grosse and David Robertson (GP24A, 19:37). The voice says it's never seen a man's penis (GP25A, 10:36), which doesn't make sense coming from a man.

Janet seemed to have some hostility toward the Burcombes. The voice expressed a lot of hostility toward them.

On one occasion, the voice was asked why its laugh sounds so much like Janet's (MG44B, 31:11). The unconvincing response was that it likes copying her. It then refers to how it "loves" her.

The voices of the children and the poltergeist voice would often interrupt one another or coincide in some way suggesting a similar mindset (e.g., both laughing around the same time). During singing sessions, for example, the voice would be quiet while Janet is singing, and Janet would be quiet while the voice is singing. Or the comments of the poltergeist voice would be interrupted by laughter from the child through whom the voice was manifesting.

I've only provided several examples here. There are others.

But there's more that ought to be said about these issues. It's doubtful that Janet (or Margaret) would have been unaware that something like asking why girls have periods or showing romantic interest in a man would be inconsistent with a male identity. We're not just talking about one or two comments the voice made, which could be attributed to brief lapses of judgment on the part of one of the children who was faking the voice at the time. Rather, the issue of why girls have periods, for example, was brought up repeatedly over a lengthy span of time. Something that rarely gets discussed is that the voice kept asking the question even after it was answered at length, with a lot of detail, by Hugh Pincott. He gave the voice a lengthy explanation of the science behind periods on the night of December 14, 1977. The next night, the voice is asking the same question, as if no answer had been given (MG47A, 18:06). As Playfair later noted, the voice kept asking why girls have periods even after having an answer provided (GP38A, 33:57).

My impression is that one or more of a few things is going on. Janet did have thoughts of a sexual nature at times, and the poltergeist sometimes picked up on those and articulated them. It may have done so for the sort of reasons why any immature mind (a young child, a mentally ill person, etc.) keeps repeating what it hears other people saying. Or it may have intended to humiliate Janet by expressing thoughts she had that were of an embarrassing nature. Or it may have intended to cause confusion. Grosse referred to the entity behind the poltergeist as "a psychic joker". In a letter to the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, he commented, "This remarkable case taught me one lesson I will never forget. It is a lesson that has been confirmed in other cases I have investigated, namely: be as clinically scientific in your approach as you wish, but if you choose to play 'Hunt the Poltergeist'—'Confusion' is the name of the game." (vol. 51, 1981-82, p. 195) The poltergeist in the Enfield case was of a mischievous nature, and it did seem to enjoy confusing people (among other things).

The romantic interest in men sometimes expressed by the voice was far outweighed by expressions of a traditional male identity, including romantic comments directed toward women. The voice showed romantic interest in Richard Grosse on the day he visited (December 13, 1977), but it had shown romantic interest in Denise Burcombe earlier that night (MG42A, 2:30). The voice repeatedly asked women to marry him (e.g., Grosse's wife and daughter when they visited), to the point that Grosse commented that the voice seemed to want to marry every woman in the house (MG47A, 15:43). Playfair wrote in his book, "'YERR…I KISSED HER [apparently referring to Peggy's hairdresser],' the Voice replied lecherously. This did not sound like Janet, whose conscious mind was already firmly fixed on boys." (170) Similarly, on another occasion, the voice was talking about looking up a woman's skirt (MG64A, 14:05). There's a lot of confirmation on the tapes and elsewhere that Janet's "mind was already firmly fixed on boys", as Playfair put it. Look at the nature of the posters on the walls of her bedroom, for example, which you can see in many of the Enfield photographs that have been released to the public. She married at an unusually young age and went on to have a few children. As I documented earlier, the voice was misogynistic, in addition to showing a lot of romantic interest in women and expressing a traditional male identity in other ways. The much more unusual occasions when the voice expressed a traditional female perspective seem best explained along the lines of what I've discussed in the paragraph before this one. I suspect the entity behind the poltergeist was the spirit of a deceased heterosexual man who, on unusual occasions, expressed Janet's romantic interest in men, for reasons like those discussed earlier.

Concerning hostility toward the Burcombes, the evidence suggests that Janet's hostility toward them was much less than the voice's. It looks to me like the voice would often take something it picked up from somebody's mind and distort it, such as by exaggerating it. Its hostility toward the Burcombes, especially John, was taken so far as to be amusing. It would, at times, yell at John, using vulgarity, calling him a woman, etc. (MG49A, 17:50) There's nothing even close to that level of hostility expressed by Janet on the tapes or anywhere else I'm aware of. As I mentioned earlier, the voice manifesting through Billy once said that it doesn't like Paul Burcombe, but Peggy commented that Billy does like Paul. The voice's hostility toward the Burcombes may be something it originally got from Janet's mind, but the voice seems to have developed that hostility into something that went well beyond Janet's thinking.

Regarding the incident when the voice said that it likes copying Janet, the larger context needs to be taken into account. The voice's comments came shortly after the voice originated, when it was still thought to be a disembodied voice. It seems that the voice wanted to conceal its use of Janet's body at the time. So, when it was asked why its laughter sounded like Janet's (Janet's laughing interrupted the voice just before the question was asked), it said that it likes copying her. I'll have more to say about the issue of concealment (e.g., the voice's desire to initially conceal its use of Janet's body) below.

Whether it's problematic for the children's voices and the poltergeist voice to interrupt each other and coincide as described earlier depends on the circumstances. If two entities are using the same body (e.g., Janet and the poltergeist using Janet's body), then the two are going to influence each other to some degree. If one is laughing while the other starts to say something, then the latter's comments may sound like somebody breaking up with laughter, even if the person speaking doesn't intend to laugh. The children, like other people involved in the case, would often laugh at the absurdity of what the voice was saying, which would mean that the voice's comments would be coming through a body that was laughing, even if the poltergeist didn't intend to laugh. In other words, what comes out of a body manifesting the poltergeist voice could represent only the sentiments of the person who's normally in control of the body, only the sentiments of the poltergeist, or the sentiments of both. And there are many forms the last kind of scenario could take. So, it's a complicated situation, and we need to be careful in evaluating it accordingly.

There are some rare occasions when the voice seems to make a noise through Janet while she's making a noise of some other type. The voice makes some sounds while Janet is humming (MG41B, 32:16). In his notes on his visit to the Hodgsons' house, Richard Grosse refers to an occasion when Janet may have been recorded speaking at the same time as the voice. He may be referring to 17:56 on tape MG45B, where one of the girls seems to be humming or singing quietly while the voice talks. And there's a good chance that the voice is singing with the girls during the singing that begins at 30:29 and 37:35 on tape GP22B, though it's hard to tell. But even if the voice and the person through whom the voice has been manifesting are making noises or speaking simultaneously, it doesn't follow that an embodied poltergeist voice is speaking at the same time as the person in question. As I discussed earlier, there's good evidence that the poltergeist spoke with a disembodied voice at times. That could be going on in one or more of the four contexts I've cited above.

The voice does resemble the Hodgson children at times. But it's also different than the children in other ways, and the similarities can be reconciled with the paranormality of the voice without much difficulty.

The Voice's Failures

The voice often makes claims that are false or is asked to do things that it fails to do. But the issue of expectations comes up again here. Why expect a genuine poltergeist voice to never make false claims or never fail to do what's asked of it?

The voice seems to enjoy lying to people. It's a habitual liar and sometimes makes claims that aren't just false, but are obviously so. On one occasion, the voice was asked to make a coin disappear and kept saying "Gone!", even though the coin was still sitting where it had originally been placed (MG50A, 26:03). At another point, the voice agreed to move a slipper that was inside the house, so that it would appear outside the house. It claimed that it had done so, even though the slipper was still in the room (MG52B, 15:12). The voice would contradict itself within a short period of time for no apparent reason other than that it enjoyed telling a lie (MG44B, 16:27). It tells David Robertson to leave, then tells him not to leave just afterward (MG47B, 4:15). It tells somebody to shut the door, then says to leave the door open just after it's shut (MG51B, 21:52). In one of its many contradictory claims about who it is, the voice claims that it has some children and that its third child is named Henry, then identifies him as Jeffrey just afterward (GP25B, 19:58). And so on.

But the failures are accompanied by success. On the night Richard Grosse visited, he and some of the other people present, especially Paul Burcombe, kept challenging the voice to do various things, which it often failed to do. They criticized it for those failures, which often elicited an angry response from the voice. See the examples that I linked from a documentary earlier. I think all three of the clips that are played in that portion of the documentary come from the night Richard Grosse was at the house. And there are a lot of other segments like those from that night. The voice probably was angrier on that occasion than at any other point, at least on tape. Yet, as I've mentioned earlier in this article, the voice did produce some genuine paranormal events that night.

Probably the best illustration of that sort of combination between failure and success comes in the last few days leading up to Christmas in 1977. The voice would often fail to do anything paranormal or would do something different and less impressive than what was asked (e.g., moving the curtain near Janet's bed rather than moving the curtain that was out of her reach). It kept making false claims and contradicting itself. It claimed to have recently visited Maurice Grosse's house, for example, but kept giving wrong answers to questions about what it supposedly witnessed there. But it also produced some highly impressive phenomena alongside the ridiculous behavior I just mentioned.

After initially failing to move a dressing gown it was asked to move, it did later move the gown (MG52B, 9:59). Although the poltergeist kept refusing or failing to move the curtain that was out of Janet's reach when Grosse asked it to do so, it later moved that other curtain on its own initiative (MG53B, 11:22). It began moving the carpet in highly impressive ways. Grosse comments that it would have been "impossible" for Janet to have moved the carpet as it was moved on one occasion and comments on how impressive it is (MG52B, 3:55). Margaret and Peggy confirm that they saw what happened and that Janet didn't do it. The carpet is pulled up several more times that night, with confirmation that nobody in the room did it. On one occasion, Grosse says that he could "quite clearly" see Janet as the carpet was pulled up, and she not only wasn't touching it, but was lying in bed under the covers at the time (12:11). Peggy refers to the event I just cited as a "very good" demonstration from the poltergeist (12:45). She also saw the carpet move by itself while keeping Janet under observation and confirming that Janet didn't do it (MG53A, 36:30). After one of the carpet movements, Grosse comments that it was "literally…impossible…absolutely impossible" for Janet to have done it (37:43). Grosse goes on to describe the "very strange" way in which the carpet will "billow out" and how he can't duplicate it by normal means (38:21). John Burcombe says the same (47:00). After another moving of the carpet with Burcombe in the room, he confirms that nobody in the room could have done it (50:43). Grosse calls the carpet movements "first class phenomena" and "indisputable" (50:53). A slipper moves without anybody touching it, with Peggy in the room and verifying that Janet didn't do it (MG52B, 21:34). Some rapid knocking occurs, which sounds like it came from multiple locations in the room, and Peggy comments that "Nobody moved." (MG53A, 2:13) She describes how the poltergeist was moving the covers on one of the beds as she was watching (40:24). While Grosse is taking a photograph of the carpet that's moved under one of the beds, a paper tissue materializes above him and drifts down and lands on his head (44:56). Peggy and Burcombe saw it happen, and Peggy refers to the event as "incredible" (47:50). As on other occasions, Janet's bed would often shake. At one point, Burcombe is standing on the bed to adjust the curtain next to it and comments that he can feel vibrations going through the bed (MG53B, 2:59). Later, Grosse comments on how he and Burcombe are trying to hold Janet still in bed, and it's "becoming an impossible job" (52:50). Grosse goes on to comment on how "incredible" the force of Janet's shaking is and how he's almost being thrown up in the air as he tries to hold her down. Shortly after, he refers to how he saw the bed come off the floor (55:25). Later that night, he and Burcombe see Janet go "flying across the room" (MG54A, 0:14). The shade of a lamp in the room bends over by itself to a 45-degree angle, stays there for a while, then moves back to its original position (1:30). Grosse was in the room at the time and refers to the event as "fantastic".

If you were to single out all of the voice's failures and suspicious behavior in the days leading up to Christmas, you could make the voice and the case as a whole seem fraudulent. But if you take the successes into account as well, it's a much different situation.


The voice would often conceal its activities. It would tell people to face a wall or leave the room, for example. It would wait until somebody had turned to look in another direction before acting. It initially tried to hide the fact that it was speaking through Janet. It gave ridiculous reasons for why it wanted the door shut at times (MG40A, 20:54). When John Burcombe asks it why people sometimes have to stay outside the room, the voice says that it just likes having things that way (MG44A, 21:10). The voice even claims that it wants the door shut in order to keep germs out (MG44B, 30:18). That kind of behavior raises suspicions about the voice being faked.

But there are a lot of potential reasons why a genuine poltergeist would conceal some of its activities. We can think of those reasons in terms of two categories, psychological and mechanical.

A few examples of potential psychological explanations are mischief, suspicion, and embarrassment. Poltergeists are often of a mischievous nature. They're trying to disrupt people's lives, upset them, anger them, confuse them, and so on. Suspicion could also motivate concealment, much as one nation's military conceals information from the military of an opposing nation. Or as a magician wants to keep people from finding out how he performs his tricks. If a poltergeist doesn't want people to learn how it operates, or wants to minimize the opportunities people have to prevent it from acting, it may conceal what it's doing. And people often conceal something when they're, for whatever reason, embarrassed by it.

This particular poltergeist seems to have been more ignorant than people often expect a poltergeist to be and seems to have gradually learned how to do some of what it did. David Robertson once asked the poltergeist if it was embarrassed to have people looking at it (MG46A, 57:43). I think Robertson was on the right track in thinking along those lines. Poltergeists have some strengths that humans don't normally have. It doesn't follow, though, that they don't have weaknesses as well, sometimes even weaknesses that make them inferior to the humans they're interacting with in some ways.

We don't know much about the mechanics of how poltergeists operate. But it's easy to think of some potential mechanical reasons for a poltergeist to conceal its activities. The voice would sometimes speak more quietly when people were near Janet. Grosse asked it, "We take your energy away, don't we?" (MG53B, 43:27) There may be some truth to that. The famous events of December 15, 1977 were concealed from people inside the house, yet people outside the house were allowed to see what was going on. Why would the poltergeist simultaneously conceal the events from people inside while letting people outside watch its activities? As in the situation I just cited from tape MG53B, it could be that the people outside the house on December 15 were far enough away to not interfere with what the poltergeist wanted to do.

And interference could take a variety of forms. It wouldn't have to be something as overt as somebody holding down an object the poltergeist wanted to move or putting a hand over Janet's mouth to prevent the voice from speaking. It could be something more subtle. Perhaps the activities of people's brains or their immaterial minds could interfere with what the poltergeist wanted to do. Telling people to leave the room, turn their backs, get under the covers of their beds, etc. would be an effective way of breaking up the mental concentration of observers. It would be harder for people to mentally concentrate on the poltergeist and/or its activities if they were further from it and not looking at it (or the medium it's working through, such as Janet). There are indications that whether people were close to the poltergeist and looking at it weren't always, if ever, its primary concern.

There was an occasion when Peggy refused to get under the covers of her bed when the voice told her to. After she refused, the voice made a comment that's hard to discern on the tape, but Margaret repeats it for us (MG52Aii, 2:07). She says that the voice told Peggy to put her hands up. As she's repeating what the voice said, Margaret laughs, presumably because what the voice told Peggy to do is so absurd. What would it accomplish for Peggy to put her hands up? Why make that sort of demand? It's possible that this is just another instance of the voice being irrational or joking. But it's also possible that the voice didn't have much concern about whether Peggy got under her covers or put her hands up, as long as she did something that would diminish her mental concentration on the poltergeist and what it was doing. We can't tell from the tape whether Peggy complied with the voice's demand that she put her hands up, but it does go on to paranormally move a curtain in the room with Peggy watching. It seems that though the poltergeist often did something like tell people to leave the room or tell them to get under their covers, its concern wasn't always, if ever, with being seen. It was concerned about something else.

Just as people in everyday life have different moods at different points in time, as well as different degrees of health, energy, and so forth, the same could be true of a poltergeist. It may have the energy needed to do something at one point in time, but not have it at another point. It may need to break up the mental activities of people who are observing it in order to act in one set of circumstances, but be capable of overcoming the mental activities of observers without doing anything to break them up under another set of circumstances. Presumably, the workings of a poltergeist are highly complicated, much like the workings of a normal human.

The attempts at concealment sometimes failed. On one occasion, when the voice was supposed to move some slippers, it told Margaret to get under her covers. She did so, and acted like she was complying with what the voice wanted, but she actually was able to see around a section of the covers well enough to observe the slippers (MG52B, 8:06). She saw the poltergeist move them. It was a genuine paranormal event. And she commented on seeing it just afterward. At 10:23 on the tape, after Margaret had referred to seeing the slippers move, the voice begins screaming at her and swearing for over half a minute. (If Janet was faking the voice, you wonder why she screamed so loudly and so forcefully for so long when it was so unnecessary to do that.) Even though it had attempted to conceal the event, it failed to do so, and its concealment wasn't meant to cover up fraud. It may be that even though the poltergeist was able to move the slippers with Margaret watching, her observing it made the process more difficult in some way, which is why the voice told her to get under her covers and was so angry that she wasn't fully complying.

In another context, the voice tells Grosse to shut the door, but allows him to remain in the room (MG47A, 56:31). John Burcombe refers to how the voice talks with Peggy in the room and "sometimes" with him in the room (MG44B, 29:39). Grosse points out how inconsistent the voice is, in that it talks a lot upstairs, without so many restrictions, then is more restrained downstairs (MG51A, 5:42). The voice tells some people in the room (apparently Milbourne Christopher, Lawrence Berger, and Grosse) to face the door, so it seems that at least one of them had been watching Janet for a while as the voice spoke through her (GP79A, 42:53). So, it would let people watch it speak through her for a while, then disallow it for a while. Even after it was known that the voice was manifesting through Janet, it would sometimes not speak when people were looking at her or would get quieter when people were closer to her. On the one hand, the voice spoke through Janet with Grosse and John Burcombe standing next to her and looking at her (MG53B, 41:33). On the other hand, several minutes later, the voice isn't speaking much and seems reluctant to speak, and it keeps pulling Janet's bed covers up to her face, as if it's trying to conceal any speaking it does through her (MG53B, 48:45). Grosse and Burcombe try to reason with the voice about how there's no need to keep concealing its speaking, since they know it speaks through Janet. Who it would or wouldn't let in the room at a given time would often vary. People like Grosse and Peggy were allowed in the room while the voice was talking just after the voice originated on December 10 (MG40A, 21:41; MG41B, 5:33, 16:47). It seems that Playfair is sometimes in the room when the voice speaks shortly after December 10 as well (MG41A, 16:40). People would be allowed in the room on one occasion, but not on another. It could be that the poltergeist was sometimes more concerned with the number of people in the room than who was there. It may have been easier for the poltergeist to operate with fewer people around or with fewer people doing something in particular, such as concentrating on the poltergeist or its activities.

But the identity of the people who were around does seem to have mattered somewhat. The most obvious example is Peggy. She was frequently allowed in the room and allowed to watch what was happening while there. The voice would sometimes tell her to get under the covers of her bed, turn in another direction, or some such thing, but not nearly as much as it told somebody like Grosse or Burcombe to do so. I suspect the reason was efficiency. Peggy wasn't just visiting the bedroom. She was sleeping there. It would take more time and effort to get family members to get out of bed, leave the room, etc. So, I suspect the poltergeist generally let the family stay and tried to get other people to leave when it wanted fewer people around. If the children were faking the whole case, they should have made more of an effort to get their mother out of the room, since she's widely acknowledged to have been an honest witness. I've discussed some of the reasons why she should be considered trustworthy in previous posts, and I'll have more to say on that subject in the future. There are many occasions on the tapes when she's watching the children, accusing them of faking something, criticizing them for joking when they shouldn't be, telling them to do what the researchers have instructed them to do, etc. Her frequent presence in the room is a major problem for skeptics and a major problem for any hypothesis that suggests that the poltergeist's concealment efforts were intended to avoid having any reliable witnesses. Peggy was frequently allowed to be a witness, and she was a highly reliable one.

Another factor that needs to be taken into account is that the voice would sometimes try to prevent concealment. It tells Margaret to not get under her covers, then angrily repeats itself (MG50A, 20:39). At another point, after Janet and Peggy have gotten under their covers, the voice tells them to get out from their covers (MG52B, 9:03). In another context, everybody in the room is told to get out from their covers, and the voice then moves a curtain in front of all of them (MG52Aii, 16:44). I think the most significant incident of this sort is the removal of one of the curtains on December 15, 1977. A few people (at least) outside the house were able to see Janet levitating in the bedroom, and they were able to see in the room so easily because the poltergeist had removed one of the curtains earlier that day (page 143 in Playfair's book). I don't believe anybody had asked the poltergeist to move the curtain, and none of the previous events in the day seem to have required the curtain's removal. The removal happened just before Janet's levitation. So, it seems that the poltergeist was removing some concealment, so that people outside the house could more easily see what was going on. At the same time, people inside the house (David Robertson, Peggy Nottingham) were prevented from seeing the levitation. It may have been at least partially a matter of distance. Witnesses at more of a distance (those outside the house) didn't have as much potential to interfere with what the poltergeist wanted to do, so it removed some concealment for them while adding concealment for the people who were inside the house. We see something similar on other occasions, which I've mentioned elsewhere, when Grosse and John Burcombe noticed that the poltergeist's knocking and its voice would get quieter as they moved closer to Janet and louder as they moved away from her (MG53B, 43:21; GP58B, 26:35, 37:12; GP80B, 4:51).

There's no need to provide one explanation for everything the voice did in the context of concealment. I doubt that it had just one psychological or mechanical reason for how it handled concealment issues. Rather, I suspect it had multiple reasons for doing what it did, and those reasons probably varied at times. But here's a summary that I think plausibly explains a large percentage of what happened.

The family was allowed to stay in the room, since moving them around was unnecessary and would be more difficult than getting other people to move. Individuals outside of the family, like Grosse and Burcombe, sometimes were allowed to witness events and sometimes weren't. The number of people in the room often mattered more than who was there. If the poltergeist had a lot of energy, little interference from other minds, or some other advantageous situation at a given moment, it would allow a larger number of people to witness its activities. It even desired a larger audience at times, sometimes to the point of telling people to get out from under their covers, come into the room, and so forth. So, it not only tried to diminish its audience at times, but also tried to expand its audience on other occasions.

And surely there were many other factors involved. The poltergeist's desire to be mischievous. Its anger. Its vindictiveness. Its desire to keep people from figuring out how it was operating. Whatever mental problems it had. And so on. The poltergeist's efforts at concealment can be explained well without a fraud hypothesis, and a fraud hypothesis fails to explain much of what happened in these concealment contexts.

How Could Janet Have Been Ignorant Of The Voice's Use Of Her Body?

It's understandable that it wasn't until later in December that other people figured out that the voice was being produced through Janet. But how could she have taken so long to reach that conclusion? And if she knew of it before other people did, as she surely would have, why didn't she say so?

Janet often described the sensations she had when the voice spoke through her. She would often refer to feeling something on the back of her neck (MG49A, 18:40; MG53A, 1:13; MG57B, 42:37). You can watch her describing what it felt like in a video here. In addition to those sensations she experienced, she would have noticed that the voice sounded like it was nearby. And she should have noticed that some of the content of the voice's comments reflected her thoughts to one degree or another. What about the voice interrupting her or her noticing that she was able to interrupt the voice? How could she go through all of those experiences, along with whatever else, and not have a good idea of at least the general parameters of what was happening?

I suspect she knew more than she was letting on. She would have needed some time to piece everything together, but it doesn't seem like she should have needed so many days to do so. Why didn't she tell anybody else what was happening, then? If the voice is a genuine poltergeist phenomenon, then I would think that Janet initially went through a stage of ignorance, not knowing what was going on, followed by confusion. But even if she needed some time to discern what was going on, why did she stay quiet about it beyond that?

I suspect embarrassment was a factor. Not only was the voice itself something she wouldn't want to be associated with, but she also wouldn't want to be associated with the content of what the voice said. As I mentioned earlier, Janet would sometimes deny, with apparent anger, that her mind was being read by the voice (MG56B, 36:35). She occasionally seems hesitant when asked about the relationship between her thoughts and what the voice was saying (GP98A, 56:57). On one occasion (GP83B, 3:04), though, she acknowledged that the poltergeist was using her mind and Margaret's, but insisted that what the voice says doesn't represent their thoughts. Apparently, she was claiming that the voice uses information from their minds, but distorts that information and combines it with its own sentiments. So, it's clear that she wanted to distance herself from much of what the voice said. But she may have also wanted to feed the voice certain thoughts at times, to get it to say things she found amusing, for example. Even if "feed" is too strong a term, she may have at least noticed the voice taking the initiative to express some of her thoughts, and she may have found it amusing at times or appealing in some other way. Some variation of such a scenario might be occurring in the video I linked above. Watch here. Notice that Janet seems to be acting in agreement with the voice when it says "Yeah!" after Grosse mentions that Playfair might have something to say. That's typical of Janet's personality at the time. She was easily excitable, often happy, and frequently found situations amusing. But, just after that, when the voice says "By making powers!" (or something like that), Janet has her head down and isn't acting the same. It's not the sort of comment Janet would typically make. That sequence in the video might illustrate a distinction between the voice's expression of a sentiment closely aligned with Janet's mind ("Yeah!") and its expressing a sentiment that comes more from its own mind ("By making powers!"). On other occasions, Grosse and Playfair noted that they sometimes saw the children move their bodies in accordance with what the voice was expressing through them or not move their bodies in accordance with it. There was some of each, like we see in the video just linked (MG49A, 58:11; MG68A, 6:16; GP33B, 11:10; page 246 in Playfair's book).

There are some occasions when it's either highly possible or probable that Janet had some control over paranormal events that were occurring. After the poltergeist moved a lamp on one occasion, Grosse told it to do so again. After some waiting, Janet says, with a voice that sounds tired, "Go on, Margaret." (MG54A, 6:28) Grosse asks her what she meant by that, and she doesn't respond, at least in any way that's discernable on the tape. There's good evidence that the initial lamp movement was a genuine paranormal event (the lamp was out of reach of the children at the time; multiple adults were in the room, making it highly unlikely that any of the children could have gotten away with faking the event; Grosse saw the ring of light from the lamp moving across the ceiling, so he could easily have seen the shadow of anybody faking the event, if it was faked; there are no sounds of any children moving around on the tape; see page 167 in Playfair's book). There's a good chance that when Janet said "Go on, Margaret.", Janet was telling her sister to paranormally move the lamp. She realized that she shouldn't have made the comment out loud, so she didn't say anything when Grosse asked her what she meant. She may have meant something other than what I'm suggesting here, though. I don't think we can conclude that it's probable that Janet was telling Margaret to do something paranormal, but there's a significant possibility that she was doing so.

Something similar occurs at 40:04 on GP96A. Janet is having a discussion with David Martin of the BBC. He asks the poltergeist to move an ornament that's on top of the television. Janet responds, "Ask her [apparently Margaret] that. I can't do it anymore." She then sounds flustered and corrects herself, commenting, "I'm sorry, I didn't know what I was saying." Just as she apparently was tired during the previous incident, which happened late at night, she was sick on this occasion when she was talking to Martin. It may not be a coincidence that she made these comments when tiredness and sickness left her more unguarded than she normally was. As with the previous incident, there's a lot of ambiguity. I don't think we can say anything more than that there's a strong possibility that Janet was referring to how she and her sister have some paranormal abilities.

But there are other contexts that don't involve so much ambiguity. David Robertson documented Janet's ability to bend metal and change her weight at will. So, the issue here isn't whether the children could ever perform paranormal acts at will, but rather the degree to which they could.

Grosse once commented that Janet seems to think she has more control over the poltergeist than she actually does (GP45A, 20:40). He doesn't go into much detail, but he refers to having evidence to that effect. I think Janet and Margaret had more control over the paranormal events that occurred than they let on, but I suspect the events were largely out of their control as well. For example, though Janet was successful at bending metal to some extent, some of her attempts failed. I suspect Grosse was correct in his perception that Janet overestimated her abilities.

It could be, though, that Janet didn't know much about what was happening during the earliest days of the voice. Peggy referred to not feeling anything at times when the voice spoke through her (GP51A, 13:09), and she didn't even realize that the voice was coming from her when it manifested on the occasion when she was in a store, which I discussed earlier (MG95A, 29:38). And though Janet usually referred to sensations in the back of her neck, she also mentioned at one point that the sensations had moved to the top of her head (GP92A, 19:53). On one occasion, Grosse refers to Janet not feeling anything as the voice speaks through her (MG53A, 13:55), so there may have been phases when Janet, like her mother, had no sensations accompanying the voice. Though Janet often referred to sensations she had when the voice spoke through her, maybe she didn't have those sensations early on or had them to a lesser extent. And on December 15, less than a week after the voice originated, Janet took the initiative to comment, "It's on top of me, ain't it?" (MG47A, 35:20) On December 17, Janet initiates a discussion of how she keeps getting a pain in the back of her head (MG49A, 18:40). She says she feels something like a vibration in the back of her head when the voice talks. She explains that it's more like an echo than a vibration, and she says the voice sounds loud to her when it speaks. So, she was providing information to some extent, even on her own initiative, during the earliest days.

Still, it seems likely to me that she knew more than she was letting on and did sometimes use the voice for her own purposes (trying to get it to say things she found amusing, not making as much effort as she could have to stop the voice when she was told to stop it, etc.). We'll see more evidence to that effect later on.


I'm including a vocabulary section in each of the first two segments of this post, since so much of the voice's vocabulary can be cited either for its authenticity or against it. I think the overall balance on vocabulary issues favors authenticity, but I want to address some counterarguments.

The poltergeist often referred to Peggy as "Mum". Like the Hodgson girls, the voice typically referred to Grosse as "Mr. Grosse". It would refer to middle-aged people, like Peggy and Grosse, as "old".

That may initially seem like a convincing argument that the voice was faked, but it doesn't hold up well under scrutiny. To begin with, it's doubtful that the Hodgson children were ignorant of the fact that using different language would have made the voice less suspicious. Given how frequently Peggy is referred to as "Mum", for example, the children would have to have been remarkably incompetent, trying to get caught, or some other such thing if they were faking the voice, and none of those scenarios make much sense.

It's more likely that the poltergeist was calling Peggy "Mum" in a way similar to how people do the same sort of thing in other contexts. Parents refer to a child's grandfather as "Grandpa" when talking to the children, even though the man in question isn't the parents' grandfather. Unsurprisingly, since it's such a common practice, we find examples of that on the Enfield tapes. Peggy refers to herself as "Mum", and I noticed an example of Grosse referring to her that way (MG52Aii, 8:10; MG68A, 19:00). And the voice wouldn't always refer to Peggy as "Mum". At times, it refers to her as "Mrs. Hodgson" (MG44A, 27:45) or "Peggy" (MG50A, 21:06), in addition to sometimes referring to her by various insulting terms. Furthermore, the "Mum" language was used in contexts for which we have good evidence of paranormality. As I mentioned earlier, Peggy described an incident when she saw Janet and Margaret levitated from some chairs they were sitting on. The voice then said it was going to lift Peggy. She felt pressure on her back, but she wasn't lifted. The voice then said she was too heavy to lift (GP32B, 52:08). And she was addressed by the voice as "Mum" in that context. Just as the voice sometimes referred to Peggy by a term other than "Mum", it also sometimes referred to Grosse as something other than "Mr. Grosse" (MG55A, 21:42). The best explanation for why it usually used identifiers like "Mum" and "Mr. Grosse" seems to be that those were the terms most often applied to those individuals in the contexts in which the poltergeist was active. It was just repeating the typical way it heard those individuals being addressed.

The "old" language doesn't have much significance as an argument against authenticity either. David Robertson, who was only 20, was referred to as "old" (MG55A, 32:28). So was Denise Burcombe, who was only in her mid teens (GP74B, 33:05). The voice refers to wrapping the curtains around Janet's "old" neck (GP83B, 39:37), so the terminology was even applied to her. That's also an example of the language in question being closely connected to events for which we have good evidence of paranormality. See my earlier post on the choking incidents, which are highly evidential events that the voice was involved with to a large extent. The voice often applies the term "old" to people and things without much regard for whether they actually are old by typical standards, including people as young as Janet and Denise, so its use of that term doesn't tell us much about how old the entity behind the voice was. After seeing Janet thrown out of bed on one occasion, Grosse refers to "poor old Janet" (MG39A, 2:11).

Janet And The Voice Answering For Each Other

I noticed some occasions when Janet responded to somebody speaking to the voice or the voice responded to somebody speaking to Janet. David Robertson calls out Janet's name, and the voice responds (GP25A, 10:48). Janet responds just afterward, and what she says is the same as what the voice said ("Yeah."). Robertson later calls out the name the voice is using at the time (Bill), and Janet answers. The voice then answers as well, but refers to itself as "Janet" in the process, which it then corrects (GP26A, 13:05).

Given the rarity of these occurrences and the nature of the poltergeist in question and Janet's personality, I don't think we can conclude much from these events. People sometimes answer when somebody else's name is being called. That sometimes happens when people are inattentive, distracted, or whatever. And the poltergeist involved in this case was highly mischievous and seems to have had some mental problems. Then there's Janet's personality. Given how often she was frivolous and involved in joking, she may have been joking around on one or more of these occasions, but you wouldn't be able to extrapolate from that to some sort of fraud hypothesis to explain the entirety of the voice. These incidents do add some weight to a fraud hypothesis, but not much.

There's also the question of the nature of the fraud involved. If Janet pretended to be another entity, but was performing genuine paranormal phenomena in the process, then that is a form of fraud. But it's a form that involves genuine paranormal events. Just after the second of the two incidents I described in the first paragraph of this section, the voice says it's going to levitate Janet. And it does sound like a levitation occurs just afterward. The poltergeist would often keep doors shut in a paranormal manner when levitations were going on. You can hear Playfair, apparently, pounding hard against the door, and he's unable to open it. It does seem that some paranormal events happened on this occasion, and those events were anticipated by the voice. That's harder to explain if the voice was inauthentic.

Margaret's Confession

Margaret was reported to have confessed to The Daily Mirror and Ray Alan (a famous ventriloquist) that she had faked the voice. I consider it unlikely that she made such a confession, for reasons explained elsewhere. However, some comments made by Playfair on one of his tapes provide the best evidence I've come across that such a confession did occur. Playfair says that Bryan Rimmer, the reporter at The Daily Mirror before whom Margaret is supposed to have confessed, mentioned that Margaret had given a "long" confession. Rimmer also told Playfair that he'd had Margaret repeat the confession for him (GP34A, 11:57). Those descriptions of what happened seem inconsistent with Margaret's claim that she just nodded her head while Rimmer and Alan were talking, without paying much attention to what they were saying.

But there still are a lot of problems with Rimmer's account of what happened, problems I discussed in the earlier post linked above. Even with the additional claims by Rimmer added to the situation, I find Margaret's account more likely on balance. I haven't found any contact information for Rimmer, and I don't know whether he's even alive. It would be good to ask him for a response to Margaret's account, and he ought to be asked why neither he nor Alan, as far as I know, ever replied to the account of what happened that's found in Playfair's book. Since the book has been out for a few decades and has gotten a significant amount of attention, you wonder why neither Rimmer nor Alan would have said something publicly if Playfair's account is substantially inaccurate. Alan didn't die until 2010, so even he had a few decades to respond, which he apparently never did.

Can Margaret's side of the story be reconciled with what Playfair says he was told by Rimmer? Perhaps, if Margaret's alleged long confession and repetition of her confession only consisted of nodding in response to what Rimmer and Alan said. That would be an unusual way of describing nodding, though.

Some of what's on the tapes provides further support for Margaret's account. According to John Burcombe, Clifford Davis of The Daily Mirror acknowledged that the girls could be producing the voice without realizing they're doing it (GP98B, 28:31). Why would Davis give credence to such a view if Margaret had made the confession in question? Was he unaware of the confession at that point?

Burcombe also notes that he didn't hear Ray Alan say anything about any confession of faking (GP98B, 28:50). Again, you have to wonder why so many people from The Daily Mirror's team kept failing to mention the confession on so many occasions when you'd expect them to have mentioned it, and didn't quote any part of the confession in the story they published, if such a confession occurred.

There's no easy explanation for what happened. I think the balance of evidence favors Margaret's side of the dispute, and the tapes add further support for her claims. But the tapes also provide additional support for the other side.

Even if Margaret did make such a confession, it was only a confession about her involvement in one type of phenomenon (the voice). That sort of confession would be significant, but it would still leave the large majority of the Enfield case, including most of the voice, unexplained.

Janet's Resistance To Testing

Janet sometimes resisted attempts at testing the voice. For example, she was resistant to putting something in her mouth at one point, apparently a pencil (MG47A, 32:47). In another context, it seems that Janet is somewhat uncooperative with Grosse's efforts to look at her face, since he has to keep telling her to turn her head (MG53A, 6:01) She sometimes was told to stop turning her head away, remove her bed covers from around her mouth, or some other such thing, which raises the possibility that she was trying to cover up what was going on with the voice. She also frequently failed to take steps to silence the voice when told to do so.

But, like many other children her age, Janet was willful in a lot of contexts, not just ones that would raise suspicions about faking paranormal events. In his book, Playfair refers to Janet being uncooperative with a medium who visited the house (51), and that occurred in a context that wouldn't involve Janet faking something. The tapes provide many examples of Janet not doing what she's told in contexts that are irrelevant to faking the paranormal (MG50A, 33:03, 34:09; MG62A, 26:46; GP6B, 0:29).

Regarding the incident when Janet resisted having a pencil placed in her mouth, it should be noted that she initially was cooperative. She later resisted, citing concerns about hygiene. She does express a concern about germs elsewhere. On one of the tapes, she had been told to take her brace out for the night. She says that she wants it placed in a handkerchief (GP97B, 26:10), so it seems that she sincerely had concerns about germs.

And she was often cooperative about testing the voice. I've already cited David Robertson and Hugh Pincott referring to her cooperativeness in running some tests that provided good evidence for the paranormality of the voice. She even took the initiative at times. She encourages putting water in her mouth to test the voice again (MG51A, 2:17). At another point, Janet had her mouth taped by Playfair. After the tape had been applied, she said, "I can still talk." (GP31A, 29:46) It seems unlikely that she'd volunteer that information if she was faking the voice. In another context, Grosse was trying to get the voice to sing along with Janet (GP77B, 13:31). Grosse asked her if she knew the song "Old MacDonald", and she quickly acknowledged that she knew it and agreed to sing it. She could easily have claimed to not know the song or have made some other excuse for not cooperating.

I do think Janet was often disingenuous about stopping the voice. Margaret probably was at times, too, though she seemed to stop her voice more often than Janet stopped hers. To some extent, it makes sense for them to be reluctant to stop the voice even if the voice is genuine. For one thing, stopping it would require a significant amount of effort. That would be difficult to keep up, especially in a nighttime setting, when you're tired. Telling somebody else to stop the voice is one thing. It's something else if you're the one who has to do it. Would you want to have to keep concentrating on stopping a voice that could start at any moment, with no warning, and sometimes would talk frequently for hours on end? And I suspect both girls, especially Janet, sometimes found the voice humorous or enjoyable to have around in some other way. I suspect their efforts to stop the voice from speaking were often half-hearted, if even that. To an extent, you can't blame them. Playfair got so frustrated at one point that he told Janet to "make your mind up" about whether she could stop the voice, as she sometimes claimed to be able to do (GP33B, 13:00). But they did sometimes make a substantial effort to stop it. On one of the tapes, Grosse tells Janet to stop her voice by opening her mouth and putting her tongue out (MG62B, 1:06). She apparently does so, and her voice stops for a while. There are occasions when Janet deliberately interrupts the voice when it's manifesting through her (GP25A, 2:55, 18:48, 20:08). On another tape, Margaret makes an effort to prevent the voice from speaking by counting out loud (GP33B, 31:59).

Other Issues

How Much Of It Is Authentic?

The voice seems to be paranormal to some extent. I doubt that every manifestation of it was genuine. Grosse believed that Billy sometimes imitated the voice by normal means, for example (GP53B, 3:01). Like other young children, Billy often imitated other people and things, so it would have been surprising if he hadn't imitated the voice. Even the adults who were present, like Grosse and Anita Gregory, would sometimes imitate the voice while commenting on it, when joking about it, and so on. We can't determine with much precision how often the voice was produced by normal means, but I think we can say that a paranormal voice was manifested at times and probably accounts for a majority of what's heard on the tapes in the relevant contexts.

Even if the children faked all of the voices that came through them, it would be hard to deny that there's an authentic core to the phenomena in the disembodied voice and the one manifested through Peggy. I doubt that all of the voices that manifested through the children were faked, but we need to keep in mind how inadequate a fraud hypothesis involving faking on the part of the children would be even if we were to accept it. While it would explain what happened with the children, it wouldn't explain what happened on so many other occasions that involved a voice independent of the children.

How Much Precedent Is There For Such A Voice?

Other poltergeist cases have involved a voice of some sort. And those voices have often resembled the Enfield voice to some extent. There are many references to such characteristics (in both poltergeist and haunting cases) in Alan Gauld and A.D. Cornell's Poltergeists (United States: White Crow Books, 2017), for example (e.g., approximate Kindle locations: 1504, talking "loudly and unnaturally…in a rather uninhibited and hysterical way"; 2141, a voice of "a scurrilous and abusive character"; 2380, "a breathy and toneless voice" that "generally reflected the child's [poltergeist agent's] interests of the moment"; 3027, claiming multiple identities; 3220, making animal noises; 3802, whistling). Grosse commented at one point that what the voice says is absurd, and Charles Moses responded by saying that that's always the case with poltergeist voices (GP91A, 33:26). So, it seems that Moses thought poltergeist voices always behave that way. Hans Bender suggested that the Enfield voice is similar to what's occurred in other cases (GP39A, 25:22). He thought the voice content came from "unconscious fantasies". He referred to a case he recently had that involved a young boy who manifested a distorted voice (GP39B, 17:24). Grosse talked about the rarity of voices in poltergeist cases, but he referred to how they're deep voices when there is one (MG100B, 3:36). In his book, Playfair refers to other cases involving a voice with similar characteristics (118-20). Playfair said that barking and whistling often go before speaking in paranormal cases (GP43B, 9:04), and that's what happened with Enfield.

A Female Voice

Though it was highly unusual for the Enfield voice to do so, it did sometimes manifest in what seemed to be a female manner. Peggy and the girls described an occasion when a woman's voice manifested through the children (MG87A, 4:57). Peggy described another incident when she and the children were walking through a park (MG89A, 5:39). Stones were thrown at her and the children with nobody around who could have thrown them. A woman's voice came from Margaret, saying that Janet will be levitated, and she was levitated. Peggy was "sure" Janet did levitate.

More About Mechanical Issues

I should add to what I said earlier about the mechanical reasons poltergeists may have for acting as they do. I referred to the possibility that mental concentration interferes with a poltergeist's, or at least this poltergeist's, operations. That may explain some of the voice's comments. At one point, it said, for no apparent reason, "Look at Margaret." (MG53B, 40:24) That may have been an attempt at breaking people's concentration, and I've referred to other occasions of a similar nature. In a discussion in January of 1978, Charles Moses, Grosse, and Margaret, perhaps Janet as well, agree that the voice doesn't manifest through the girls or has a harder time doing so when they're concentrating on something else, like answering the questions Moses was asking them (MG67A, 25:28). Grosse refers to having seen that sort of thing many times. Elsewhere, Margaret says that the voice seems to start up when you stop talking. If your mind is occupied with something, that prevents the voice from speaking (GP91B, 26:35). Perhaps it wasn't just concentration on the poltergeist and its activities that interfered with its operations. Maybe concentration more broadly did so. Or it could be that multiple types of concentration interfered with the poltergeist's activities, but to different degrees.

The activities of poltergeists are seldom caught on video. There were a few occasions when the poltergeist in the Enfield case was filmed while manifesting its voice and doing some knocking. Other poltergeists have occasionally been filmed in action as well. The poltergeist in the Enfield case often showed hostility toward cameras, especially video cameras. We have good evidence that it sometimes caused cameras to malfunction. Go here and do a Ctrl F search for "equipment" for a summary of the evidence. There are plausible psychological explanations for why a poltergeist, or this one in particular, would often interfere with filming. Given the mischievous nature of many poltergeists, including the Enfield one, there may be a desire to disrupt the researchers' (and others') efforts to document what was going on. Since film evidence is commonly considered the best type of evidence, especially videos, that's a plausible explanation for why a poltergeist would be uncooperative with filming. And to whatever extent poltergeists want to prevent people from discerning how they operate, there could be an effort to avoid filming, especially videos, accordingly. But there may be one or more mechanical explanations as well. Filming often involves long periods of concentration, with a person behind the camera watching what the camera is focused upon. So, cameras may be closely associated with the concentration issue I discussed above. It's also possible that there's something about cameras, maybe especially video cameras, that mechanically interferes with the activities of poltergeists.

The Voice In Later Years

There was still a lot of voice activity in August of 1979, when Ed Warren recorded his Enfield tapes, which include segments with the voice. On an August 14, 1979 tape, John Burcombe refers to how the voice has been highly active lately (MG95B, 0:32, 1:10). Peggy Hodgson died in 2003, and Clare Bennett and her four sons moved in after Peggy's death. They reported ongoing paranormal activity in the house. Part of what they reported, in the article just linked, was that Clare Bennett's "sons would wake in the night, hearing people talking downstairs." That's reminiscent of Peggy's report of hearing indistinct voices in a different part of the house than where she was at the time (MG94B, 0:51). Keep in mind, as I discussed earlier, that there seems to have been a paranormal voice early in the case, which resulted in Billy being moved to another room. That's why Janet and Johnny were sleeping in the same room on the night when the Hodgsons first realized there was paranormal activity in their house. So, it looks like voice phenomena occurred at least as early as August of 1977 and as late as shortly after Peggy's death in 2003. The phenomena didn't just occur in the much shorter timeframe people often think of.

The Witnesses' Impressions About Who It Was

My impression is that the people most involved in the case perceived the entity behind the poltergeist as a deceased human more than anything else. They were often undecided on the subject or changed their views from one occasion to another, but I think the view most commonly expressed by the Hodgsons, the Burcombes, the Nottinghams, Grosse, Playfair, and others who were prominent in the case was that a deceased human was involved (e.g., GP38A, 34:29). They may have been wrong. The impressions of the people most involved in a case aren't infallible. But they aren't worthless either.

It Wasn't Bill Wilkins

It's been popular over the years to suggest that the poltergeist was the spirit of a deceased man who used to live in the Hodgsons' house, named Bill Wilkins. Probably the most famous comments the voice made, the ones most often played and quoted, are its comments about how Wilkins, the individual the voice was claiming to be at the time, died. You can listen to the (somewhat edited) audio here. The video here is an example of how the media are often overly focused on Bill Wilkins when discussing the Enfield case. For another example, see the discussion of Wilkins at the end of the 1995 television program here.

It's highly unlikely that the entity behind the poltergeist was Wilkins, for too many reasons to go into here. The voice claimed to be a lot of different individuals. Wilkins wasn't even the first person the poltergeist claimed to be, and the voice originally referred to Bill Wilkinson rather than Wilkins (MG45A, 5:13). A lot of information about Wilkins would have been easily accessible to the Hodgsons, since Wilkins had lived in their house not too long ago and had been known by some of their neighbors. Some of what the voice said about Wilkins was accurate, and some wasn't. There are some tapes of interviews Grosse did with people who had known Wilkins, and Grosse and those individuals refer to how some aspects of the voice and its claims line up with Wilkins and others don't. For example, the voice seems to have been correct about Wilkins' wife living in an apartment after his death and where the apartment was (MG100A, 17:40). It was wrong about her dying there, though. Charles Kennedy, the husband of a sister of Wilkins' wife, says that the acoustic qualities of the voice Grosse has played for him sound like Wilkins' voice (10:19). Kennedy thinks the tapes reflect Wilkins' personality (13:17). But he only heard a small percentage of the relevant material, in addition to reading Playfair's book. And he thinks Wilkins differed from the Enfield voice in some ways, so he seems to only be referring to a general similarity that includes some exceptions. Elsewhere, Kennedy refers to some of the voice's characteristics and claims as inaccurate (MG100B, 0:22). Grosse also interviewed Terry Wilkins, the son of Bill. A woman present during the interview, presumably Terry's wife, comments that the tapes Grosse has played don't accurately reflect Bill Wilkins' personality (MG101A, 40:12). Terry seems to have come to the conclusion at some point that the poltergeist was his father (see here; Paranormal Review, Summer 2016, Issue 79, pp. 22-23), but he sounds wavering or skeptical of it during this interview. Grosse notes that the voice was wrong about where Wilkins was buried (19:31). And so on. Even if some of the accurate information about Wilkins had been obtained paranormally, it wouldn't follow that the entity behind the poltergeist was Wilkins. As I discussed earlier, there's good evidence that the poltergeist had some telepathic abilities. It could have acquired some information about Wilkins without being him. The idea that the poltergeist was Bill Wilkins ought to be abandoned.

A Disordered Mind

Earlier sections of this article have discussed some of the characteristics of the voice and the poltergeist as a whole (a male, misogynistic, unusually angry, unusually vulgar, highly mischievous, often operating in a parasitic manner, etc.). A characteristic that doesn't get discussed enough is its apparent mental impairment. Peggy referred to how "mindless" the poltergeist was (GP87A, 43:02). Margaret referred to the poltergeist as a "nutcase" (GP86A, 23:03). On the night the voice originated, Janet referred to how it was "going off his head" (MG38A, 36:11). Playfair referred to how poltergeist behavior is so pointless, mysterious, and such (GP40A, 12:14). Why do they keep throwing things around? Why do they not say what they want when asked? A malfunctioning mind would explain much of what Playfair refers to. As I mentioned earlier, the voice would often seem ignorant of information that even a young child would typically know. It would often make nonsensical comments. After it killed the Hodgsons' goldfish, it commented that it wanted to touch the fish, but accidentally killed them in the process (MG53A, 16:56). Who thinks or talks that way? Who, other than a young child or somebody who has a mental problem, would want to touch some fish, would try to do it, then would tell other people about it? And what kind of person would accidentally kill the fish in the process or would want to kill the fish, then would lie about it? On one occasion, Playfair advocates a view in which the poltergeist exists with some sort of simple mind, not even knowing its own name (GP30A, 15:24). Grosse referred to the poltergeist as a "psychic joker", but what should we think of somebody who jokes so much, carrying it to such lengths and keeping it up for so long? That seems to suggest some kind of mental problem. The voice claimed to have a mental impairment (MG47A, 12:52). In the context just cited, it asks, "I'm fucking mental, ain't I?" On one occasion, Grosse asked the voice what they could do to make it easier for it to talk (GP25B, 23:05). Its response was, "Make my brain work right." The conversation eventually turns to joking and laughter, but it didn't start that way. The voice initiated the comment about wanting help with its brain, and it didn't laugh at the time or do anything else to suggest that it was insincere. Grosse initially misunderstood what it said, and the discussion became more frivolous as it went on, but the initial comment about the voice wanting its brain to work rightly sounds sincere. Even if it wasn't sincere, the comment seems to accurately reflect the situation. That remark from the voice probably represents the nature of the poltergeist more than anything else it said.


  1. Haven't read all of this article yet. But I can't help thinking how this entity is sometimes like the Unman in C. S. Lewis' Perelandra.

  2. Very informative! I wonder if someday it might be worth turning all your Enfield posts into a book or ebook.

  3. Jason,

    In relation to this part:

    "Its response was, "Make my brain work right.""

    In your opening sentence, you are open to the idea of getting (true) information from the poltergeist. Consistent with this, you analyse its behaviours and words.

    It seems to me that a reference to a "brain" not working right (given your assumptions above) implies that the poltergeist is the disembodied 'soul'/'spirit' of a deceased human as opposed to an originally disembodied mind/being such as a demon.

    Is your view that the poltergeist is the disembodied 'soul' or 'spirit' of a deceased human?

    1. AMC,

      Yes, I think the entity behind this poltergeist was a deceased human. I discuss the subject in some of the sections of the original post in this thread, and I've discussed it elsewhere in my Enfield posts.

      Your distinction between a brain and a mind is significant, and that's part of what I was thinking of when I cited that comment from the poltergeist as representative of its nature. Given how ignorant the poltergeist was, the low quality of its vocabulary, and its use of the present tense ("Make my brain work right."), I doubt that it had the brain/mind distinction in view when it made that comment. But the comment is reminiscent of a distinction between humans and some other beings, like demons. There are multiple reasons why I think that comment from the poltergeist is significant, and the distinction you're making between a brain and a mind is one of them.

  4. I've added the following to the section of the article addressing how the voice would use the term "old" to describe people:

    "After seeing Janet thrown out of bed on one occasion, Grosse refers to 'poor old Janet' (MG39A, 2:11)."

  5. I've rewritten the paragraph on the voice's claim to be George Mace. The relevant material starts a little earlier on the tapes than what I discussed in the paragraph as I originally wrote it. What follows, below, is the original paragraph, then the new paragraph:

    "There's a similar incident involving one of the voice's identity claims. On one occasion, it said it was a man named George Mace (MG51B, 1:01). Janet, through whom the voice was being produced at the time, clarified who the voice was claiming to be (1:03) and volunteered the information that Mace is somebody her mother knows (1:08). Peggy's ex-husband had a friend named George Mace. Somebody makes a comment to the effect that Mace is a friend of the family (1:06). Peggy apparently overheard the discussion from another room, and you can hear her yelling, 'He's not dead. He's the best friend of my husband.' (1:24) It was rare for the voice to claim to be somebody who was still alive. I only remember it happening twice, this time and one other time. I suspect it was a mistake both times. Grosse tells the voice that Mace is alive and asks the voice if it knew that (1:15). There's a pause, then the voice makes some unintelligible comments. A little later, Grosse asks the voice to explain why it's claiming to be Mace. It responds, 'I just call myself that.' (1:29) I doubt that the voice ever wanted to identify itself as a living individual. People normally associate poltergeists with deceased individuals, if they associate them with people at all. Peggy explains on another tape that she would estimate that Mace is currently 56 years old (GP95B, 10:34). And you'd expect the friend of a middle-aged man (Peggy's ex-husband) to still be alive, even without knowing his precise age. Janet, like her mother, surely would have known that Mace was likely still living. Janet refers to him in the present tense, as if he's still alive, just after the voice claims to be him. Shortly before it claimed to be George Mace, the voice referred to how 'George', without a last name, was responsible for throwing a chair that had just moved (MG51B, 0:49). So, it looks like after the voice made that reference to George, one or more of the people present started thinking about George Mace. The poltergeist then picked up that name from Janet's mind or somebody else's, but was unfamiliar with the surrounding context. Janet knew who George Mace was and that he probably was still alive. The poltergeist didn't know that."

    1. "There's a similar incident involving one of the voice's identity claims. On one occasion, it said it was a man named George Mace (MG51A, 45:46). It originally identified itself as 'George', then added 'Mace' as the last name when asked for one. Peggy responds 'George Mace?' incredulously. There's an eruption of laughter, and Janet, from whom the voice was coming at the time, comments, 'Oh my God! He's not that old [unintelligible]!' Margaret comments, 'He's a living person!' Peggy goes on to say, in response to the voice's identity claim, 'That's a lie, if ever I heard one.' George Mace was the name of a friend of Peggy's ex-husband. Billy goes on to make a comment suggesting that he was skeptical of the voice's identity claim as well. The entire family considers the voice's claim ridiculous. Janet and Margaret both sound surprised by it, laugh at it, and ridicule it. The voice goes on insisting that it's Mace, then angrily comments on how it wants the door shut and causes Margaret's bed to collapse. (It would often respond in anger like that when challenged.) The subject is changed as the voice starts claiming to be a man named Barney, and there's a discussion of what to do about the beds collapsing so often. Not much later, though, a chair goes over, and the voice says that George did it (MG51B, 1:01). So, the George Mace identity comes up again. Somebody makes a comment to the effect that Mace is a friend of the family (1:06). Peggy apparently overheard the discussion from another room, and you can hear her yelling, 'He's not dead. He's the best friend of my husband.' (1:24) It was rare for the voice to claim to be somebody who was still alive. I only remember it happening twice, this time and one other time. I suspect it was a mistake both times. Grosse tells the voice that Mace is alive and asks the voice if it knew that (1:15). There's a pause, then the voice makes some unintelligible comments. As best as I can make it out, the voice says 'Who is he, then?' at 1:20. If that's what the voice says, it's highly unlikely that Janet would have made such a comment. She'd already commented, multiple times, on who George Mace is, and it's unlikely that she'd have wanted to fake that sort of ignorance on the part of the poltergeist. A little later, Grosse asks the voice to explain why it's claiming to be Mace. It responds, 'I just call myself that.' (1:29) I doubt that the voice ever wanted to identify itself as a living individual. People normally associate poltergeists with deceased individuals, if they associate them with people at all. Peggy explains on another tape that she would estimate that Mace is currently 56 years old (GP95B, 10:34). And you'd expect the friend of a middle-aged man (Peggy's ex-husband) to still be alive, even without knowing his precise age. Janet, like her mother and siblings, surely would have known that Mace probably was still living. So, it looks like after the voice made a reference to its name being George, one or more of the people present started thinking about George Mace. The poltergeist then picked up that name from Janet's mind or somebody else's, but was unfamiliar with the surrounding context. Janet knew who Mace was and that he probably was still alive. The poltergeist didn't know that."

  6. Here's a post that addresses more of the religious and occultic aspects of the case.

  7. Here's a post in which I offered a later reassessment of the voice after further thought and research on the subject.