Friday, December 13, 2019

Enfield Miscellany (Part 2)

(For an explanation of what this series is about, see part 1 here. I'll cite Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair's Enfield tapes below. I'm using "MG" to refer to a tape from Grosse's collection and "GP" to refer to one from Playfair's. MG13A refers to tape 13A in Grosse's collection, GP44A refers to 44A in Playfair's, and so forth.)

Apports And Teleportation

Objects would often appear in a paranormal way, such as by seemingly falling from a ceiling. Probably the most significant apports in the case were the ones that occurred on May 30, 1978, which I've discussed before (e.g., here) and are discussed in Playfair's book (This House Is Haunted [United States: White Crow Books, 2011], 226-27). A particularly significant episode on another occasion involved a large number of objects appearing from the ceiling and walls of the main bedroom upstairs, witnessed by a few members of the family, including Peggy Hodgson (MG84A, 4:28). The items included marbles, pieces of plastic, and Legos. Apparently, a lot of them came out of the ceiling and walls in rapid succession within a short period of time. The poltergeist would sometimes make coins appear, often dropping them from a ceiling. Talking to the poltergeist voice on one occasion, Grosse commented, "But I want to know how you make them [coins] come into this house and drop from the air onto the floor. I mean, we've seen this happen, and I've got some of those pennies." (GP24B, 4:55) Playfair refers to how John Burcombe saw a coin drop in front of him (GP26B, 23:43). Billy Hodgson saw a coin fall from a ceiling as well (MG59B, 49:25). Peggy and Margaret Hodgson saw some plastic spoons appear in a standing position (GP51A, 5:30). Shortly after (6:59), Peggy discusses an incident in which some ice cubes from the Nottinghams' house teleported through a wall into the Hodgsons' kitchen. In another context, Peggy was looking for Billy's socks, and they apparently were teleported to her and dropped at her feet while she was in one of the other bedrooms by herself (MG48A, 42:49, 44:02)! Peggy also mentions that a coin dropped around the same time the socks appeared. There were many other such incidents, like the teleportation of a cushion onto the roof on December 15, 1977, which I've discussed before. I'm just providing several examples here.


The poltergeist voice calls Grosse "snowman" on one occasion (MG51A, 14:27). I don't think it called him or anybody else a snowman at any other point. He responded by saying he's never been called that before, and he didn't seem to understand why the voice was doing it. I suspect the poltergeist was referring to Grosse's resemblance to Sam the Snowman from the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas program:

They have similar mustaches, and both wear dress clothes. I don't remember ever seeing a photograph or video of Grosse at the Hodgsons' house without a suit and tie. (Even when wrestling with Janet while she was in a trance state!) Those kinds of similarities are probably enough to explain the voice's comment, especially since the comment was made during a Christmas season (December 19, 1977), and the voice made television references in other contexts.

Was The Television Undisturbed?

In a 2015 article that's critical of the Enfield case, one I've responded to elsewhere, Deborah Hyde wrote:

Touchingly “the television … was almost the only object in the house never disturbed in any way throughout the case”. I’m the same age as Janet, and well remember the importance of the box in the corner in an age before iPads and X Boxes.

Apparently, Hyde is implying that when the Hodgson girls faked the poltergeist, they avoided damaging the television, since it was so important to them. The quote she provides from Playfair's book (page 94 there) is an accurate quotation, but what he says there is either poorly expressed or mistaken. On one of the tapes, Grosse reads some notes taken by Peggy about recent paranormal events: "They were all inside, about to eat dinner, and a piece of slate stone shot through the back door and hit the screen, the television screen, and bounced on the floor." (GP54B, 6:08) And that wasn't the only time the television was in significant danger of getting damaged. Read what Playfair wrote in his book about the poltergeist's activities on the night of New Year's Eve in 1977, going into January 1. Objects were being thrown around the living room, where the television was, and books "shot everywhere…it just literally turned the place upside down" (178). And there were plenty of occasions when some other object the children wouldn't want damaged was either damaged or in serious danger of being damaged (e.g., the window that was broken in their bedroom in the middle of December of 1977, which I discussed in another post).

John Burcombe's Worst Experience

Burcombe is one of the most important witnesses in the Enfield case. On the night of October 15, 1977, he had what he considered his most disturbing experience. Playfair briefly describes it in his book (43-44), but I don't think he mentions anywhere, nor do I recall seeing anybody else mention publicly, that the event was recorded on audio cassette.

For help imagining what happened, see the floor plan of the Hodgsons' house linked here. I suspect Burcombe had both doors near the bottom of the steps (the front door to the house and the door to the living room) closed, and what he saw seems to have appeared on the wall at the bend in the steps. I think the reporter in the video segment here is standing at that bend.

Burcombe and his daughter heard a baby crying, though there was no baby in the house at the time (MG98B, 12:45). He thought the sound came from around the top of the steps leading to the upper floor. He took a tape recorder with him as he looked around for an explanation of what he'd heard. He got to the bottom of the stairs and looked up, and that was when he had the experience in question. While discussing it the day after it happened, he commented:

"I was petrified….the nearest I would describe it, on reflection, what looked like to me a twelve-inch florescent light behind frosted glass….at the top of the stairway….It was equivalent, I would say, of approximately twelve inches vertical, and it looked, nearest I could describe, it looked like a florescent light behind frosted glass, which burnt fiercely and gradually faded away….It was, I would say, roughly waist height [above the bend in the steps]….I was bloody petrified. I've never seen anything like it, and the feeling that I had was one of fear, absolute fear, like there was somebody standing right by me and watching. I've never known such a feeling in my life….There was no doors open, and there was no way any light could have shone in from the outside." (MG6B, 12:07)

Almost a year later, Burcombe talked to Grosse about an experience he had of seeing an apparition of a man in the Hodgsons' house while he was alone there. You can listen to part of what he told Grosse about that experience in a documentary here. That clip ends with Burcombe saying, "I left the house like a rocket….I was scared, and I, quite honestly, I came back and said to my wife, I said, 'I'm sorry, no way do I go in that house again on my own. The bleeding place is haunted.'" The discussion between Grosse and Burcombe continues for a while longer on the tape. Burcombe goes on to say emphatically, "That scared me. That really did." (MG92A, 23:30) Grosse responds, "Did it scare you more than when you saw the light on the stairs?" Burcombe answers, "No. That was the piece that really scared me….It [seeing the apparition of a man in the house] wasn't fear like, you know, last year when I saw that light." It's significant that the light incident disturbed him more than anything else, given how much he experienced prior to making those comments (people levitating, Janet's trance states, the paranormal strength she had in those states, Janet being dragged by the poltergeist, fires, doors opening on their own, etc.).

On the recording of the event (MG99A, 1:37), you don't hear much aside from Burcombe talking. Before the section I just cited, he explains that he'd heard a baby crying and was looking for the source of the sound, which he didn't find. He tried to get a recording of the crying, but was unsuccessful. It seems that he was by himself when he got to the stairway. He talks somewhat quietly. He explains elsewhere that Peggy was already upset about events earlier in the day, so that he didn't want to upset her further. And he knew his tape recorder was running, so he had that additional motive for keeping himself composed. I'll quote all of what he said during the relevant segment of the tape. To avoid the false impression that I'm leaving material out, I'll use commas and sentence fragments rather than ellipses. There are lengthy pauses between some of the words on the tape. This is what he says during a span of about two minutes:

"Five past nine. I'm sitting on the stairways. I'm sitting on the stairway. On the top of the stairs, on the wall, there is a, a light. It's approximately, it look, it, well, it's like it's a shadow. It looks like an illumination. It's about twelve inches long and like, like a light. Bloody hell. The wall is now, it looks like somebody's shining a torch on it. The temperature's dropped. Bloody hell. Somebody's just walked over a grave. The light's still there. It doesn't seem to be doing anything. Bloody hell. Oh, excuse me. It's a very weird sensation. It's fading a bit now. Now, now, if you forgive me, it's, well, I don't know how to describe this. I've never seen anything like it. I'm getting a sensation like, the best I can describe is, I'm not alone. This shadow is still there. I think it's about time I, I have a cup of tea or something."

Judging by what he said elsewhere, I think he decided to stop looking at the light at that point and walked away. He made a similar comment about tea when a couch was levitated a month later. Just after the levitation, you can hear Burcombe saying on the tape, "Right, now who's going to, who's going to put the kettle on?" (MG20Ai, 5:03). Playfair refers in his book to "the ingrained British tendency to make cups of tea at moments of crisis" (74). Though Burcombe's choice of words and delivery are somewhat awkward, we need to keep in mind that his attention was divided. He was experiencing something he found terrifying while trying to leave a record of that experience as it happened. Grosse encouraged the Hodgsons and others involved in the case to produce records of their experiences when possible, and it's commendable that Burcombe made the effort to do so in this context. He went back to the stairway later that night, and the light was gone.

Other Enfield Tapes

I've just discussed a tape that was recorded by Burcombe. He and his son, Paul, did some recording related to the case from time to time. At least some of those tapes are in Grosse's collection. A couple of years ago, I wrote about Ed Warren's Enfield tapes. And I've commented on a tape Carl Sargent recorded. David Robertson did some recording when a tape recorder was left with him on at least one occasion, which I discussed in another post. Grosse mentioned once that he'd left a tape recorder with the Hodgsons, for them to use (MG87A, 7:53). I don't recall any occasion on which they were reported to have used it, though. Perhaps the family made some recordings on their own initiative in later years. Lawrence Berger did some recording during his visits to the house. So did Charles Moses. Rosalind Morris made some tapes during her work on the Enfield case, and I suspect some other journalists did as well. I doubt that any of these individuals produced even a tenth as many tapes as Grosse and Playfair did. But if you add up all of the tapes outside of Grosse and Playfair's collections, I suspect there would be a double-digit number. There's also the issue of duplicates of Grosse and Playfair's tapes. Some of the tapes circulating on YouTube, for example, have a significantly different audio quality than the versions in the collections of Grosse and Playfair. I suspect at least some of the YouTube versions were copies Grosse and Playfair gave people over the years, recordings from conferences or other gatherings where the tapes were played, etc. So, there is the possibility of such copies circulating that are in some way of better quality than the ones in Grosse and Playfair's collections (e.g., a better copy of Playfair's tape of the fireplace being ripped out).


  1. Maybe when you finish your Enfield case study, you can put in a PDF or some e-format that is easily downloadable, that way people can have it immediately available like a book to read. Thanks for all the hard work, and hope you have a Merry Christmas.

    1. Thanks! And I hope you have a good Christmas as well.