Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Some Enfield Photos Rarely Seen

In 1983, the now-defunct magazine The Unexplained ran a series of articles on the Enfield Poltergeist. The first two were written by Guy Playfair, and the third was written by Anita Gregory (vol. 11, issue 121, "Enfield: The Trouble Begins", 2401-5; vol. 11, issue 122, "Enfield: Whatever Next?", 2426-29; vol. 11, issue 123, "Enfield On Trial", 2458-60). All three articles feature a lot of photographs, with accompanying captions providing some context. Many of the photos are ones I'd never seen before. What I want to do here is post several that I consider the most significant ones. I don't think they're available anywhere else on the web. I'll provide some additional information based on what I know of the context of the photos. I also want to discuss some significant information provided in the caption for one of the photos that's better known.

Go here to see a floor plan of the house where the poltergeist's activities typically occurred. References to Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair's tapes will use "MG" to designate Grosse's tapes and "GP" to designate Playfair's. MG43A is Grosse's tape 43A, GP32A is Playfair's tape 32A, etc.

What's below is a picture of Janet Hodgson either leaving a bed or landing (on her neck or head) during a throwing incident. The photo is attributed to Grosse. I doubt he'd have told the magazine (or have told Playfair, if Playfair gave Grosse's photo to the magazine) that Janet was being thrown if that wasn't the context. Based on what I know of his behavior on his tapes and elsewhere, I'd expect him to have had good evidence that what he was photographing was a throwing incident. When the subject of levitation comes up, people usually talk about the photos of Janet in a posture that resembles jumping, but the poltergeist lifted her or threw her in a large variety of ways. There are some photographs, like the one below, in which Janet's posture doesn't resemble jumping. (And see here for evidence that the ones with a jumping posture are authentic.) The magazine has two photos overlapping. The upper right portion of the photo below is covered by the bottom left of another one:

The picture below was taken on December 17, 1977. That was the day Matthew Manning visited. The people in the photo, from left to right, are: Peggy Nottingham, David Robertson, Margaret Hodgson, Matthew Manning, Janet Hodgson, and Billy Hodgson. The photo was taken by Grosse. This is the only photo I've seen of David Robertson or Matthew Manning at the house.

This is a photo of the stairway, with the front door at the bottom. A lot of significant events happened in that area of the house. The poltergeist pulled Janet up or down the steps on some occasions, Margaret had her leg held by the poltergeist while going down the steps one time, Milbourne Christopher (dubiously) claimed to have caught Janet on the verge of faking an incident on the steps, John Burcombe saw a light on the steps that terrified him (discussed in a post last week), etc. One event that's especially relevant to this photograph is the appearance of a doppelganger of Grosse on the night of November 7, 1977. Denise Burcombe came to the house and knocked on the bay window (just outside the range of this photograph, to the right). The curtain of the window was pulled back, and Grosse looked out at her. But nobody opened the door. She then looked through the windows on the door, which you can see in the photograph below, and saw Grosse walking up the steps. She kept knocking, and Peggy Hodgson eventually went downstairs and let her in. She was upset with Grosse for not opening the door, but they explained to her that he and everybody else had been upstairs the whole time. The incident was caught on tape (MG13B, 10:28). The tape recorder was in the main bedroom, so you hear things from there. You hear a knock in the distance, which is Denise knocking to try to get somebody to let her in. A few minutes later, Denise comes into the room and explains what had just happened, to get it on record on the tape recorder. I don't know the date of the photo below, but it was taken by Grosse, and the caption near the photo says that the poltergeist had moved the bedframe to the bottom of the steps. There's no explanation of whether the bedframe was thrown, teleported, or moved in some other way.

The one below is the only photograph I've seen that shows most of the smallest bedroom, often referred to as the boxroom. There's a black-and-white photo of a small portion of the room in the original edition of Playfair's book, but I don't remember seeing that picture online. The photo below shows most of the room in color. The brown object on the right is a wardrobe that's against the right wall, which gives you some idea of how small the room is. This is the room Playfair was sleeping in the morning the fireplace was ripped out of the wall in the main bedroom. I don't know if this is the same bed (they often moved the beds around), but it's positioned about the way Playfair's was. He was lying in bed and could see the main bedroom in front of him, across the hallway. He heard some noise there on the morning of October 26, 1977, so he used a remote control to activate a microphone. Several minutes later, the fireplace was torn out of the wall. In the following photo, the poltergeist apparently had just pulled the bed's covers back, something it often did. Notice that the papers or posters on the wall are also pulled back and in the same direction. The poltergeist may have done that as well.

Here are two photos together that are part of the same sequence. Both photos are Grosse's. A couch in the living room was thrown by the poltergeist, and the first photo shows it in the process of moving. Grosse is widely considered an honest witness. Even Anita Gregory, after years of acrimonious disputes with him, wrote, "Nobody doubts Maurice's good faith and kind intentions, certainly not I" (Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, vol. 52, 1983-84, p. 95). Given how large the couch is, it's highly unlikely that one or more of the children would have picked it up and thrown it without Grosse realizing that the event had been faked. So, it's very likely that the first of the two photos below shows a genuine paranormal event in the process of happening. Keep in mind that the subject of the photography here is poltergeist activity. It's often unpredictable, it usually happens quickly, and it's coming from an entity of a mischievous nature, who enjoys frustrating people, confusing them, angering them, and so on. On Grosse and Playfair's tapes, you hear many instances of failed attempts to film the poltergeist in action. If something like a couch starts moving, you typically aren't going to have time to position your camera just where you want it, focus it just right, get the lighting just as you want it, etc. Instead, you may only have time to lift the camera up quickly, press the button, and hope something significant was captured. In this case, unlike many others, something significant was captured, though it's less than ideal:

Here's a photo of a kitchen cabinet with large scorch marks on it from one of the fires started by the poltergeist. This photo is also one of Grosse's. The caption near the photo says that the fire "mysteriously died out". Poltergeists not only start fires, but often put them out as well. Notice the largeness of the scorch marks. There are two of them, one being at the bottom and further back, making it harder to see. Only a large amount of fire would be able to create these marks:

This seems to be Margaret on the floor in a house other than the Hodgsons', apparently after being thrown by the poltergeist. I previously thought the photo was taken at the Burcombes' house, but a Facebook post here says the Hodgson family has denied the photo was taken there.

Here's one of Anita Gregory. I don't know where she was at the time, but she's not at the Hodgsons' house. The picture is credited to "A. Cornell", presumably the famous paranormal researcher Tony Cornell:

In closing, I want to mention that there's some significant information in a caption for one of the photos that's been widely distributed for a long time. According to the magazine's caption for the photograph here, the man in the center at the top of the photo, who's turned away from the camera, is Garry Nottingham, the son of Vic and Peggy. If that's Garry, then I suspect the man in the lower right of the photo here, next to Grosse, is him as well. The woman at the other side of the room, behind Graham Morris (who's the man in the middle operating the camera by remote control) may be Garry's girlfriend. Both of them had some paranormal experiences (one of Garry's occurring in the summer of 1977, before the Hodgsons even knew they had a poltergeist), and they're interviewed by Grosse on his tapes.


  1. I've corrected my previous description of the photo of Margaret on the floor. My previous understanding of where the photo was taken seems to be incorrect.