Saturday, October 26, 2019

Knocking In The Enfield Case

Paranormal cases often involve knocking of some sort. But it's unusual to have as much evidence for the paranormality of the knocking as we do with Enfield.

Since the layout of the Hodgsons' house is significant in some of the contexts I'll be addressing below, click here to see a floor plan. I'll be citing Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair's tapes a lot in the discussion that follows. I'll use "MG" to designate a tape from Grosse's collection and "GP" to designate one from Playfair's, so that MG2B refers to tape 2B in Grosse's collection, GP60A refers to 60A in Playfair's, and so on.

If you click here, you can listen to some of the knocking and watch a few witnesses discussing its characteristics. However, the large majority of the knocking on the tapes doesn't sound as unusual as what's played in the clip I just linked, and the knocking didn't always move around the way Grosse describes. It did sometimes have those characteristics, though, as well as other traits I'll be discussing below. I suspect the qualities of the knocking varied for reasons similar to why an individual's speech patterns, diet, dress, and other characteristics vary in everyday life. The poltergeist could have behaved differently on different occasions depending on how much energy it had at the time, its mood, what it was trying to accomplish, and so forth.

Barrie Colvin published an article several years ago documenting that some knocking he tested on the Enfield tapes and some knocking in other poltergeist cases have a different acoustic signature than normal knocking.

There was one occasion when some of the knocking was caught on video. I wrote an article about that video a couple of years ago, and the article goes into a lot of depth about that knocking. It occurs at a few points in the video, not just on the one occasion typically discussed. The Hodgson girls were being filmed sitting on a couch while the knocking occurred elsewhere in the house, seemingly from multiple locations. The reporter who interviewed the girls, Stewart Lamont, has said that all of the Hodgson children were accounted for at the time and couldn't have faked the knocking (Is Anybody There? [Great Britain: Mainstream Publishing, 1980], 6, 27). So, we have video evidence that some of the knocking wasn't faked by the children. And the large majority of skeptics claim that the case was faked by the Hodgson children, not by anybody else. The video is significant for other reasons as well. I suggest reading the whole article linked above.

Even without video footage, the circumstances in which the knocking occurred often make fraud highly unlikely. Let's go back to the night when the family first realized that something paranormal was going on in their house, then consider a couple of other examples in chronological order.

Go here to listen to Vic Nottingham describing how knocking followed him around the house when he went in to investigate what was happening on the opening night of the case. He goes on to mention how the knocking also followed his son, his father-in-law, and a police officer as they went to various parts of the house. Click here to read more about the experiences of the two police officers who visited that night, including some evidence that they considered the knocking paranormal. It would be ridiculous to suggest that all five of the adults I just mentioned and the others present kept hearing knocking throughout the house, including knocking that followed them where they went, without realizing that one or more of the children were faking it all. And the positioning of the children at the time doesn't line up with a fraud hypothesis. On some of Grosse and Playfair's tapes, Peggy Hodgson comments on where the children were that night. She explains that when Vic went upstairs, with the knocking following him up the steps and continuing to follow him as he walked around upstairs, the children were downstairs the whole time (GP26B, 34:50). She refers to how the children were standing in the middle of the room, not next to any wall, when some knocking occurred in the presence of the police officers (GP49B, 16:55). Furthermore, as I discuss in my article on the police officers linked above, one of the officers apparently commented that he thought at least some of the knocking was coming from the Nottinghams' side of the wall(s), meaning that it was coming from a location the Hodgson children didn't even have access to at the time. Peggy Nottingham commented that the knocking that night sometimes came from the ceiling (MG2A, 20:59). Did one or more of the children use a broomstick, stand on top of a chair, or something like that without any of the adults noticing?

The poltergeist began using knocking to carry on conversations on the night of October 23, 1977. You can listen to a little over a minute of one of the tapes from that night here. In a previous post, I quoted a witness statement, signed by ten people who were present in the house that night, about what happened. The statement mentions, "We were unable to give any physical explanation whatsoever to the knocking. A strong vibration in the floor and walls could be distinctly felt during the knocking." Vic Nottingham and John Burcombe "examined the house thoroughly while some of the knocking was taking place but they could find no agency to serve as an explanation". Some adults were in the bedroom during the knocking as well, and they were monitoring the children (e.g., MG9Bii, 7:38). At one point, Grosse explains that the knocking is moving across the room on the floor, and he can feel it, and it sounds like it's moving a lot: "I can feel the vibrations of the knocking on the floor very, very clearly, indeed. The vibration is quite heavy….The knocking is actually moving backwards and forwards. It appears to be moving backwards and forwards on the floorboards, underneath the bed, across the room, and back again." (MG10B, 44:07) Recalling this night several months later, John Burcombe commented, "What really convinced me was the night of the knockings….we're all looking at each other, we've got our hands visible, and nobody in that room was knocking." (MG1A, 53:37, emphasis his)

There was a lot of knocking on the night of November 5 that year as well. Playfair writes in his book that Grosse "was soon satisfied that none of the children was doing it. The knocks came from several parts of the floor, skirting boards and even the walls, and he could see all the children's hands." (This House Is Haunted [United States: White Crow Books, 2011], 68) After some exchanges with the poltergeist on other issues, Grosse asked it how many years ago it left the house. It knocked 53 times and knocked twice for "yes" when asked for confirmation that it had left the house 53 years earlier (68-69). It would be absurd to argue that one or more of the children did the knocking all 55 of those times without Grosse or any other adult present thinking to look at what the children were doing or without noticing that one or more of them had been doing it. With regard to some knocking that had occurred earlier that night, Grosse commented, "We've watched them [the Hodgson children] all the time." (MG12B, 25:27) And why would they fake such a lengthy series of knocks when they could so easily have done fewer or none? Not only was Grosse monitoring the children, but he also was looking for other means of verification. The children were told to put their hands under the covers of their beds, it was verified that they'd done so, and one or more of the adults present tucked the sheets in (MG12A, 0:26). Grosse told Janet to knock on the side of her bed, so that he could compare the sound of her normal knocking to the sound the poltergeist was making, and he watched her bed to see how it would move while she was knocking (MG12A, 8:16). So, he was taking multiple steps to authenticate what was going on.

The November 5 events illustrate a factor I've highlighted when discussing other phenomena. There are connections between one type of event and another. The poltergeist voice and the knocking seem to be connected, for example, which means that the phenomena are mutually reinforcing. Shortly after the sequence of 55 knocks on November 5, which I discussed above, the incident with a box being thrown at Grosse's head occurred. The knocking began giving nonsensical answers to Grosse's questions, so he asked, "Are you having a game with me?", at which point the box was thrown at his head. You can listen to the episode here. (The audio there is edited. What comes before Grosse's question in the video just linked isn't the same as what came before his question on the original recording. On the original, Grosse made some comments about how nonsensical the knocking had become just before he asked the poltergeist if it was playing a game.) It seems that the entity behind the knocking was also able to perform other phenomena, like the throwing of the box.

Knocking often occurred in circumstances in which it would have been difficult, sometimes extremely difficult, to fake what was going on. For example, there was knocking underneath a bed Peggy Hodgson was lying on at the time (MG6A, 1:41). How would one or more of the children have moved far enough to knock on the bottom of the bed without Peggy noticing it? At another point, Peggy was in a bed with both of the girls, with a few other people nearby in the room, when some knocking occurred (MG12B, 5:06). There was a knock on the bedroom door at a time when all of the children apparently were in bed, with Grosse in the room with them (MG15A, 32:47). Elsewhere, Grosse explained that the knocking would sometimes move around rapidly (MG19A, 42:15; cf. GP7B, 7:25; GP8A, 18:01), occasionally coming from multiple locations simultaneously (MG19A, 42:43). Playfair also referred to hearing multiple knocks simultaneously (MG83A, 26:24). On one of the tapes, there's knocking that sounds like it's coming from multiple locations rapidly, and Peggy comments that "Nobody moved." (MG53A, 2:13) At 2:48 on that tape, there's more knocking, and Peggy again confirms that everybody's hands were in bed. Elsewhere, Peggy was watching during some knocking and didn't see anybody doing it, and Janet had her hands up at the time (MG70B, 35:35). Later on that tape, Peggy comments that she thinks some knocking came from the middle of the floor, which couldn't have been faked (37:50, 42:19). In his book, Playfair describes a time when he was monitoring the children well enough to be confident that they hadn't faked the knocking: "The knocking began at once, with me in the room. I could see without any doubt that nobody was doing it on purpose." (59) On another occasion, Peggy heard knocking while she was the only person in the house (MG63B, 7:57; GP33B, 29:21). Playfair referred to "repeated testimony" from the Nottinghams that they heard knocking within the Hodgsons' house on occasions when the Hodgsons weren't home (MG83B, 54:58). Peggy referred to sharp knocking on a cupboard right in front of her, in the kitchen at the Burcombes' house, with none of the Hodgson children in the house at the time (MG2A, 36:17). David Robertson told me of an occasion when:

I had knocking from the bedboard right next to me when Janet was on the other side of the room and no one else on that floor of the house….They [the knocks] came from the front room bedboard next to my head. They weren't insects or anything like that. They didn't come from somewhere else. They were loud knocks on the wood right next to me, as if you hit it with the back of your hand or a hard object. No one was there faking it. It was just creepy. There isn't any doubt about this. That's why it is a bit unnerving. It was quite apparent that it was genuine.

On page 20 of the March 30, 1978 edition of the Daily Mirror, there's an article on the Enfield case by Bryan Rimmer, titled "Ghost Story". Toward the end of the article, there's a section about Robertson's experiences with the case. The article refers to how he "heard knockings from empty rooms - one that he locked himself." So, not only did knocking come from empty rooms on multiple occasions witnessed by Robertson, but the knocking even came from an empty room after he himself had locked it.

Playfair would sometimes interact with the knocking while in a different part of the house than the family. He would get a response from the knocking, even though the family wasn't in a position to hear what he was saying (GP39A, 25:30; MG83A, 26:28).

The knocking often went on for a long time. Vic referred to knocking that went on for about two-and-a-half hours, past 2 A.M. (MG6B, 6:13) Peggy Nottingham goes on to refer to how some knocking in another bedroom continued "most of the night" (7:43). Peggy Hodgson refers to an occasion when some furniture movement and knocking went on for a double-digit number of minutes (GP31A, 0:49). On tape GP93B, there's a long series of knocks accompanied by Peggy describing where some of them are coming from (23:34). She mentions that she watched the children and didn't see any of them doing the knocking. How would the children fake the knocking for so long without getting caught, and why would they want to do it for so long to begin with? Not only would it be highly unnecessary and highly risky, but it also would be tedious and painful.

The acoustic qualities of the knocking were often noted by the witnesses. Peggy describes how unusual the knocking noises were at the opening of the case. They sounded like they were coming from the inside of the objects that were knocked (MG65B, 16:39). On another tape, both Peggy and Grosse comment on how they used to get knocks that had a hollow sound to them. Peggy describes a more recent incident that involved that sort of sound, even though it was happening less often than it did around the beginning of the case (MG92B, 8:44). On one occasion, there's a wide range of knocking sounds, seemingly coming from different places and with other differing characteristics (GP29B, 23:39). It seems unlikely that one or more of the children would have been faking all of that. In another context, there's a series of loud pounding and vibrating sounds (MG68A, 21:26). Margaret comments on how "all the walls" are vibrating, and Peggy adds that a lamp in the room was vibrating as well. How would the children have repeatedly pounded the wall hard enough to get so much vibrating to occur and have done it without their mother noticing? Playfair wrote in his book that "almost all the bedroom floor was covered with a thick carpet, and yet the knocks I had heard from below were definitely not muffled. It seemed they were coming from inside the floorboards….[the knocks] sometimes faded and came back just like a radio programme from a distant station." (57, 63-64)

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