Tuesday, September 01, 2020

A Tribute To John Burcombe


(This post will make some references to Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair's Enfield tapes. I'll use "MG" to refer to tapes from Grosse's collection, and "GP" will refer to those from Playfair's. So, MG63B is Grosse's tape 63B, and GP40A is tape 40A in Playfair's collection.)

When the Hodgson family first realized that something paranormal was occurring in their home, they headed for the Burcombes' house. It was only after they noticed the lights on at the Nottinghams' house next door that they decided to go there instead. Though none of the Burcombes were present at the Hodgsons' house on the opening night of the case, the first people the Hodgsons thought to go to for help were John Burcombe and his family. They would often be a source of refuge for the Hodgsons as the poltergeist developed.

John Burcombe was the brother of Peggy Hodgson, and he had a reputation similar to his sister's:

"John Burcombe…like his sister struck all who met him as the most reliable of witnesses…We both [Playfair and Grosse] considered John Burcombe to be the best of witnesses." (Guy Playfair, This House Is Haunted [United States: White Crow Books, 2011], 222, 236)

Melvyn Willin's recent book on Enfield cites other sources referring to Burcombe's credibility. Mary Rose Barrington found Burcombe a sincere witness (The Enfield Poltergeist Tapes [United States: White Crow Books, 2019], 79-80). Enid Grattan-Guinness referred to his "seeming integrity" (82). Bernard Carr found Burcombe "honest, but possibly gullible" (90). The committee that reinvestigated the case for the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) considered Burcombe "an intelligent and careful observer" (92).

Even the foremost critic of Enfield, Anita Gregory, acknowledged, "John Burcombe and Mrs. Nottingham seemed to me sensible and reliable witnesses." (Journal Of The Society For Psychical Research, vol. 50, 1979-80, p. 539)

He often appears on Grosse and Playfair's tapes, in a large number and variety of contexts. I found him to be a credible and unusually valuable witness.

Initially, he was skeptical that anything paranormal was going on (MG2A, 0:42). When he read about poltergeists before the Enfield case began, he thought to himself, "What a right load of old rubbish." (MG99A, 15:02) Even after he began witnessing events, he referred to how he'd sometimes disbelieve what he had seen (MG2A, 15:15). Anita Gregory said that she'd had a conversation with Burcombe in which he expressed skepticism of some of the phenomena. It seems that Gregory misrepresented some of what Burcombe said, but she probably was right about his being skeptical to some degree. See the relevant section of the post here (do a Ctrl F search for "claims about John Burcombe") for further discussion of the issue. He would often acknowledge when he didn't have some information Grosse or somebody else was looking for, that he didn't witness something, that he didn't remember various details, and so on. If he was a dishonest witness, then it's harder to explain why he so often refrained from making claims he could easily have made to strengthen the credibility of the case and why he so often made claims that weaken the credibility of the case when he could so easily have avoided doing so.

I'll highlight a significant example here, one that Gregory makes much of in her doctoral thesis (178-79). Grosse reported that he saw a couch levitate, turn over, then fall back to the floor upside down. Gregory tried to cast doubt on the event by objecting that Burcombe, who was supposed to have been in the room with Grosse at the time and to have witnessed the levitation, didn't remember the incident.

There are a lot of problems with Gregory's reasoning. She ignores most of the relevant evidence. There's a tape of the event, which happened on November 10, 1977. On the tape, Burcombe doesn't say that he saw the couch levitate, but he also doesn't object when Grosse mentions that the couch just levitated and that it happened in front of everybody in the room (MG20Ai, 4:31). Furthermore, shortly after Grosse's comment, Burcombe tells everybody to calm down and not get excited, and he says a little later, "Right, now who's going to, who's going to put the kettle on?" (5:03) Notice that he seems to have been nervous enough to repeat himself ("who's going to, who's going to"). And as I discussed in a previous post, Burcombe seemed to make such comments about tea when he was upset by something he'd just experienced, which suggests that there was something significant that he just witnessed. If it wasn't the couch levitation, what was it? In the original edition of Playfair's book, he comments, "Thanks also to John and Sylvie Burcombe and to Vic and Peggy Nottingham who, with [Peggy Hodgson] and Mr Grosse, have read the manuscript of this book and signed a statement to the effect that it is true." (This House Is Haunted [London, England: Souvenir Press, 1980], 11) The book refers to this couch levitation and describes Burcombe as being present and commenting on the event at the time (88). It seems, from the tape and Playfair's book, that both Peggy Hodgson and Peggy Nottingham were present as well, so that they're two other witnesses to the couch levitation who signed the statement about the accuracy of Playfair's book. Judging by the screaming, nervousness, comments that are made, and other details on the tape, it sounds like Grosse was right that everybody in the room (he names eight people at 6:32) saw the couch levitate.

So, why did Burcombe not remember the event when asked about it later? I discussed the subject in my response to Gregory's doctoral thesis in June of 2018 (do a Ctrl F search for "couch" on the page just linked). It wasn't until the next month that I got the digitized version of Grosse's tapes, so I wrote my response to Gregory without having yet heard the recording of the event. Not only did Grosse get a recording of the couch levitation, but he also recorded some members of the Enfield committee of the SPR interviewing Burcombe about the incident. It seems to be the discussion Gregory refers to. John Stiles of the SPR asks Burcombe about the couch incident at 2:25 on tape MG98B. Just after, Grosse offers some further details to help Burcombe remember the surrounding context. He mentions that it was Janet's birthday, for example. Burcombe recalls seeing a levitation of Janet that happened shortly after the couch levitation (also recorded on the same tape), but he has trouble remembering the levitation of the couch. He comments, "So many of them, wasn't there?" (5:12) He goes on to describe other levitations of that couch that he remembers seeing (7:07). Then Grosse rightly notes, "you're asking him a question as though he'd only seen one episode. That episode of what I described to you, which was particularly strong with me, was not particularly strong with him. He'd seen so much of it, you see, going over." (7:43) While Grosse is making that remark, you can hear Mary Rose Barrington of the SPR in the background saying "Yes.", as if she at least understands, and perhaps even agrees with, what Grosse is saying. Burcombe then comments, "It's like Maurice has said." (8:05) Burcombe then asks the committee members to move on to the next question and come back to the couch incident later, so that he'll perhaps remember it at that point. But later on (16:08), he says he still can't remember it, and his frustration is obvious. And he took the initiative to say that he still couldn't remember the event.

Not only is there good evidence that the couch episode did occur, but there's also good evidence that Burcombe witnessed it. His failure to remember it more than a year later isn't much of a problem under the circumstances. His interview with the SPR, in which he tells the interviewers that he doesn't remember the incident and takes the initiative to reinforce the fact that he doesn't remember it, is strong evidence of his honesty and integrity.

One of the reasons why he saw so many furniture levitations and other events and had difficulty remembering some of them and distinguishing one from another was that he was at the house so often. That had to have been of great benefit to the Hodgsons, especially since Burcombe was often the only man around. There are many references on the tapes to his watching the house while the family was away, making repairs around the house, counseling his sister about how to handle various situations, helping take care of her children, etc. How would you go about numbering how many times, across so many contexts, he provided that kind of assistance?

And the highly unusual nature of the context needs to be kept in mind. Go here to watch a portion of a documentary that discusses some of the disturbing experiences he went through in the process of assisting the Hodgsons as I've described. And the documentary leaves out some of what Burcombe said when Grosse interviewed him. During the discussion of the incident when he went to the Hodgsons' house to get an alarm clock, he told Grosse, "I honestly think if I hadn't have known the history of this house, I'd have probably jumped out the window [upon seeing the door in the bedroom open on its own]." (MG91B, 8:21). He persisted in helping the family, for years, under such circumstances.

His frequent presence at the Hodgsons' house is also impressive in light of the fact that his job involved working unusually lengthy shifts. He'd often arrive at the Hodgsons' house shortly after working a long shift, then stay at the house well into the night, often under disturbing and miserable circumstances.

Though he was afraid at times and sometimes lost his temper, for example, his demeanor was commendable for the most part. Better than what you'd get from the average person, I think. That had to have done a lot to calm and encourage the Hodgsons. It's especially commendable in light of the fact that the poltergeist was often unusually hostile to the Burcombes. The poltergeist voice was often vulgar toward John in particular and sometimes screamed at him. Grosse comments that he thinks the poltergeist is involved in "a deliberate attempt to cause dissension between the two families [the Hodgsons and the Burcombes]…a very calculated move on the part of the entity to cause dissension" (MG19A, 17:38).

There were many times when Burcombe helped the investigators do something they wouldn't have been able to have done, or would have had much more difficulty doing, if he hadn't been around (lifting large objects, restraining Janet while she's in a trance state, etc.). He frequently was the only witness of a paranormal event, provided important information about an event that nobody else brought up, or was involved in the case in some other way that had a lot of significance. He didn't just do what the investigators and others involved asked him to do. He also took the initiative on many occasions, including making his own recordings of some paranormal events.

It's far easier for us to do something like read a book or article about the case or watch a documentary about it than it is to live through it, as Burcombe did. Think of what it was like for him to go through the events of the night of October 15, 1977, for example, when he had what he considered his worst experience of the case. You can go to the page just linked to read about it. Imagine hearing a baby crying upstairs, when you know there's no baby in the house and nobody upstairs. Then you decide to go upstairs by yourself, knowing that it's nighttime and that the poltergeist could shut the lights off, or do whatever else it wanted to do, without warning. Then you have the experience on the stairway that he describes. See my article here on Janet's trance states for more examples of the hardships involved. Imagine living through events like those, all the while knowing that there's so much potential for more of them, not just for days, weeks, or months, but for years.

Some of the medical help Janet received in the context of the poltergeist (and thus the medical documentation we have for the paranormality of some of the events) was brought about through Burcombe's efforts. His medical connections, because of his job, contributed substantially to the value of the Enfield case in a series of contexts, and not just the ones I've mentioned above.

His knowledge of the case and the significance of what he experienced have been persistently underestimated. I don't recall anybody in the media asking him some of the most important questions he could have been asked. Even Grosse and Playfair seem to have significantly underestimated how much more effectively his testimony could have been used for good purposes. For example, see here regarding how his testimony supports the authenticity of the levitation photographs that critics of the case so often highlight and object to. Go here for a discussion of what he experienced in the context of Janet's being dragged out of bed by the poltergeist on December 3, 1977. I don't remember anybody in the media asking him about Janet's gaining weight during that episode or the connection to her positive results in the weight gain experiment done at the University of London in 1982. I doubt that anybody in the media knew of the issue, so asking him about it never would have crossed their minds. I don't recall Grosse or Playfair ever discussing it either. In these and many other contexts, a lot has been lost by the failure to make better use of what Burcombe has had to offer.

He was sometimes a spokesman for the Hodgsons, keeping in contact with the investigators on the family's behalf and often interacting with the media. When Peggy Hodgson's health broke down in November of 1977 (apparently at least primarily because of distress over the poltergeist), Burcombe took the Hodgson children into his house and participated in a BBC television program on the case. Go here to watch the segment in which Burcombe appeared, and notice how nervous he is. We should keep in mind how difficult it can be to interact with the media, especially under the circumstances being considered here. And the fact that somebody appears on television doesn't mean it's easy to do so. People who appear on television in the sort of context Burcombe was involved with are often criticized and mocked, as you can see by reading the comment threads under the Enfield videos on YouTube. Even before the web and YouTube came along, the Enfield witnesses were getting ridiculed by much of the public. See Vic Nottingham discussing an example here.

There are two individuals on Grosse and Playfair's tapes who especially stood out to me as seeming more mature than you'd expect for their age. One is David Robertson, who was only twenty years old when he started on the case, but comes across as significantly more mature than a twenty-year-old. The other is Paul Burcombe, John's son, who was only thirteen when the case began. Paul's maturity reflects well on his father. Denise, John's daughter, also conducts herself well, but she was a few years older than Paul, so her maturity is more expected. But the conduct of both of John's children reflects well on him.

Something important that he did that often gets mentioned only briefly and in passing, if it's mentioned at all, is how frequently his home was a refuge for Peggy Hodgson when she otherwise would have been home alone, such as when the children were away at school. Peggy went so far as to say that she "practically lived" in the Burcombes' house during the opening weeks of the case (MG67A, 37:04). An official with Janet's school commented that Peggy spends "most of the days" at the Burcombes' house while the children are away at school and that the whole family sometimes stays overnight there (GP45A, 9:02). Though the poltergeist was generally less active outside the Hodgsons' house, it would often follow them to the Burcombes' to some extent. It would sometimes be active at the Burcombes' when none of the Hodgsons were around, but the poltergeist was active in the Hodgsons' house before it became active at the Burcombes' (MG98B, 1:40), and the arrival of one or more of the Hodgsons would generally increase the poltergeist's activity at the Burcombes'. They were taking on that additional burden when they took the Hodgsons in.

I think that in some respects this case has been remarkable for the amazing way that the people involved in it - the Hodgson family, the Burcombes, and the Nottinghams - have behaved during the whole of the investigation. They have behaved with an enormous amount of common sense. The incredible lack of hysteria at any time has been quite remarkable, considering that some of the things that have happened have been very frightening indeed. Mr. Burcombe and his son, Paul, have been of great help to us during this investigation, and I can't praise them too high. (Maurice Grosse, MG14A, 18:42)

8 comments:

  1. Another interesting piece Jason. There's also some new information here from my point of view. I seem to recall that Burcombe did give one or two further interviews in his later years but it generally seems that video footage of him and the Nottinghams is confined to the 1970s. Do you know if the Burcombes and the Nottinghams ever went on record during, say, the 1980s, '90s and perhaps even later? Furthermore, are the Burcombes and the Nottinghams all now deceased, save for their children?

    I have always been impressed by Burcombe's no-nonsense manner. And of course, if he wasn't willing to be certain about a comparatively minor event such as a couch overturning, then how likely is he to relate the kind of extraordinary event he experienced at the Hodgson home while the family was in Clacton-on-Sea, if there was any doubt about it? I've always thought that event seriously undermines those who would be inclined to attribute Enfield entirely to RSPK. Surely whatever it was that so blithely opened doors for Burcombe had some kind of objective existence. I still take that view even though at the present time I am reading S.D. Tucker's interesting book 'Blithe Spirits: An Imaginative History of the Poltergeist'. Although Tucker offers persuasive arguments that it is not possible to describe or categorize the poltergeist as being any one thing, I fail to see how we can account for Burcombe's experience if we do not accept that there was some kind of objective and intelligent force acting on the doors. Perhaps there are those who would contend that the RSPK theory can explain his experience, on the grounds that Janet - either consciously or unconsciously - externalized something into being, though that raises a whole host of difficult questions.



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  2. And in relation to Burcombe's alarm clock experience and the witness of Maurice Grosse's doppelganger, it would be interesting to read your own views, Jason. I am still working my way through your earlier writings on Enfield so don't know if you have expressed any views as to which viewpoint you think best accounts for Burcombe's experience and the Grosse doppelganger. These are mind-boggling events and I wonder if even Anita Gregory tried to address them.

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    1. Good to hear from you again, Anthony.

      I considered adding some material to my post that would address Burcombe's later involvement with the case, but decided against doing so. I don't have much information about him beyond the 1990s. Given his age, his history of smoking, and how his involvement in the Enfield case was so prominent until the late 1990s, then stopped, I suspect he became unavailable for health reasons or died either in the late 1990s or the 2000s. But I've never seen any report that he died. He may still be alive, but it seems highly unlikely.

      I can provide documentation of Burcombe's ongoing involvement with the case into the 1980s if you want, but I'll focus on some examples from the 1990s. You can watch a clip of Burcombe from a 1995 television show here. Grosse appeared on another television show in 1998. I think the man with an appearance like Burcombe's toward the center and left of the screen in the audience here at 0:35, here at 1:28, and here at 1:37, behind the woman hosting the show, is Burcombe. And that's the last public appearance he made in an Enfield context that I'm aware of. I've only seen a brief YouTube clip of that 1998 program, and Burcombe doesn't speak on air during any of it. I don't know whether he spoke on air during the remainder of the program. But he surely was there to support Grosse and support the authenticity of the Enfield case. It's to his credit that he was so involved with so much of that sort of work for more than two decades. The vast majority of paranormal witnesses don't do that much.

      Everything I've come across that's available to the general public falls well short of conveying the quality of Burcombe's character and his value as a witness. Playfair's book comes the closest. But the tapes provide a much fuller picture.

      I don't have any significant information on what's happened recently with the rest of the Burcombes. I have some information on the Nottinghams, but not much.

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    2. John and Sylvie Burcombe and Vic and Peggy Nottingham signed a statement saying that Playfair's book is accurate. I think they signed the statement in 1979, but the book didn't come out until June of 1980. So, they would have anticipated continuing to be involved in the case to some extent beyond the 1970s. And John Burcombe and Peggy Nottingham spoke with Grosse about an Enfield dispute he was having with Anita Gregory in the early 1980s, and Grosse talked about it publicly, so the Nottinghams were still somewhat involved publicly until at least that point. I don't recall coming across anything from them after that, though. Melvyn Willin says in his recent Enfield book that he contacted "the Nottingham family" (117), but received no response. I suspect he got the contact information from Playfair. But whatever Willin's source, his ability to get that information and the lack of any accompanying report that the information was outdated suggests that the Nottinghams had made themselves available up until some time in the recent past. Playfair sometimes referred to his staying in contact with the witnesses, and he and Grosse would sometimes refer to the fact that none of the witnesses had recanted after so many years. Given the prominence of the Nottinghams in the case, they surely would have been near the top of the list of people Playfair wanted to keep in contact with. I doubt he would have had contact information for them that was outdated by some large number of years. Maybe Playfair hadn't gotten any response from the Nottinghams for many years, but kept the contact information anyway, but that's a less likely scenario.

      Keep in mind that it's commonplace for paranormal witnesses to say little or nothing publicly. It's significant that so many of the Enfield witnesses have done as much as they have in that context.

      Regarding doppelgangers of Grosse, see my article on apparitions here. A doppelganger of Grosse was seen at least four times.

      The issue of the identity of the entity behind the poltergeist is large and complicated, and I still want to do a lot more research on it. I've occasionally discussed the subject, such as in my article on the voice and personality of the poltergeist. I agree with you that the entity was a personal agent. I think the poltergeist was likely a deceased human with a mental impairment. And I see no need for there to be only one type of entity behind every poltergeist. One poltergeist could involve a deceased human, whereas another involves a living human, for example. Some kind of impersonal entity could be involved at times. But my view at this stage is that the entity in the Enfield case probably was a deceased human.

      Concerning whether Anita Gregory ever addressed the episode in which the bedroom door opened for Burcombe or the doppelganger episodes, I'm not aware of her ever addressing them. There's a lot of evidence supporting the case that she apparently never addressed in any source that's extant.

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  3. Thanks Jason. I think it’s safe to say that’s Burcombe in the studio audience, given the marked resemblance to the way he looked in the 1995 documentary. I think it also safe to say that, along with Vic Nottingham (whom Margaret Hodgson refers to in the past tense in the 2007 documentary), Burcombe is now deceased. However, Peggy Nottingham seems a little younger than her husband, and may not yet be in her eighties. I quite agree that as the stolid, dependable brother of Peggy Hodgson, Burcombe was an important witness, and also note your point that this is enhanced by his input on the tapes. I’m also increasingly fascinated by the psychological dichotomy, as it were, which separates skeptics and believers in cases like this. Why it is that some of us are able to accept witnesses like Burcombe as credible, whilst those like Chris French are unmoved, regardless of what such witnesses say, is almost as fascinating and puzzling as the phenomena themselves. The only place I can think of where this issue has been tackled to any degree is in Robert McLuhan’s excellent book ‘Randi’s Prize: What Skeptics Say About The Paranormal, Why They Are Wrong and Why It Matters’.

    I agree with you that the nature and identity of the poltergeist is indeed a most vexatious question – indeed, it is the central question. When I first started to read about the Enfield case, sometime in the mid-1990s, I was firmly of the view that a parade of spirits had invaded the Hodgson home – and in fact, I seem to recall that at one point, the voice claimed that a motley crew of spirits had come direct from the local graveyard. But after reading books like ‘Contagion’, my thinking has shifted significantly. As I mentioned, I am also in the middle of Tucker’s ‘Blithe Spirits’, and that is giving considerable food for thought. After that, I intend to read Anthony Peake’s ‘The Hidden Universe: An Investigation Into Non-Human Intelligences’. In the course of your research, I recommend that you obtain these volumes, since they may well undermine your current view that the Enfield phenomena was caused by a deceased human with a mental derangement. The problem with that view, it seems to me, is why it should be that a plethora of other poltergeist cases should bear such a marked and suggestive similarity with the events at Enfield, unless we assume that a great many poltergeist cases are indeed the spirits of deceased, low-rent humans who may occasionally be mentally defective. An alternative (and arguably more plausible) view, would be that the poltergeist has a non-human provenance. That it is a non-human intelligence that belongs to a similar class of non-human intelligences and which share collective and immutable characteristics that generally tend to emerge and progress in the same way – which is why the phenomenon tends to begin with raps and bangs before progressing to footsteps, fires and apparitions etc.

    At any rate, I offer my views in the spirit of open discussion, in the hope of in turn eliciting your own responses and indeed those of any other visitors to this site. I should be interested to learn as well what else you intend to write about Enfield in the coming months.

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    1. Thanks for the book recommendations! I have the one by Tucker, but haven't read it yet.

      There's an advantage to a hypothesis that appeals to a known type of being (e.g., humans) rather than an unknown one. And the entity's interest in humans, especially over as long a period as the Enfield case lasted, makes more sense coming from a human. There's also the issue of the impressions of those most involved in the case. As I mentioned in my article on the voice and personality of the poltergeist, there seems to have been a consensus that developed that the entity involved was a deceased human. That was in spite of the fact that some individuals involved began with a different view, were undecided, or wavered in their view over time. Grosse, for example, seems to have favored a living agent psi view initially, but later adopted the view that a deceased human was involved. As I mentioned in my article referred to above, the impressions of the people most involved in a case aren't infallible, but they aren't worthless either. They may have been picking up on something that's difficult or impossible to articulate in a more objective manner.

      Regarding similarities among poltergeist cases, I don't think they're as similar as they're often made out to be. And the alleged progression of events that you referred to frequently isn't followed. It wasn't followed in the Enfield case. I consider the apparition in the context of the use of a Ouija board (notice the connection to deceased humans again) the first incident in the case. The movement of Garry Nottingham's bed covers followed in June or July of 1977, after which there were various phenomena in August prior to the starting date normally assigned to the case (appearances of water, a voice calling Billy's name, etc.). Anita Gregory reported that, in her 1982 discussion with Carolyn Heeps, Heeps referred to fire breaking out in the kitchen when she visited on the night of August 31 to September 1. So, it seems that the fire phenomena started early in the case, earlier than Playfair suggests in his book.

      I think there's a good chance that many poltergeists involve a mentally impaired deceased human, which would go well with how nonsensical so many of the phenomena seem to be. But other beings could behave somewhat similarly for various reasons (e.g., the subconscious of a living human with a mental problem).

      We also need to keep in mind that the abilities of the entities involved aren't all that needs to be taken into account. We also need to consider the nature of the environment in which they're operating. Similarities across poltergeist cases could come from either source or both.

      Keep in mind, too, that there's substantial evidence for the involvement of some sort of disordered mind in the Enfield case, which needs to be explained. I give some examples in my article referenced above, and there are other examples I could cite. You could argue that the entity was just acting as if it had a mental problem, but that has the disadvantage of being a more complicated explanation. And some of the evidence I'm referring to here is of a highly subtle nature. Much of it is evidence I've never seen anybody else mention before, which I noticed while listening to the tapes. Was the entity not only interested in faking a mental problem, but also wanted to do it in such a subtle manner and leave so much of the evidence for it so unnoticed for so long? Furthermore, there's a significant downside to faking a mental problem, since that makes the entity seem weaker, less frightening, less interesting, etc. Did the entity want to fake a mental problem anyway? That's possible, but we're after the best explanation here, not just possible explanations.

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  4. You make some valid points, Jason, and I remain open-minded. Certainly, one can see how those involved at Enfield took the view that the Hodgson home had been invaded by the spirits of deceased humans. Aside from the things you mention, there was also the footsteps; the cold hands Janet felt on her and the impression that someone had been lying on a bed that Peggy Hodgson had only recently made. But against that view, we have to account as to why the deceased soul of an elderly man would take an interest in menstruation; and how it can be that, after bodily death, discarnate humans acquire the ability to impersonate the forms of people who are alive. Many people assume as well that traditional hauntings simply involve the ghosts of deceased humans, but the fascinating Tony Cornell case - ‘The Battle of Edge Hill’ – suggests that the truth may be more complicated. The three-hour clash between Parliamentarian and Royalist forces, which might have left as many as 3,000 men dead, was replayed on four successive Saturdays and Sundays. William Wood, a justice of the peace, was among a number of people to witness the phenomenon, and the matter was brought to the attention of King Charles II. He duly sent a commission of officers to investigate the reports and the Colonels and Captains who made up the commission witnessed the phenomenon for themselves. What is particularly interesting about this case, however, is that, though the replay did of course feature many of those who had actually perished in the battle, it also featured the mounted figure of Prince Rupert, who had *survived* the actual battle. Thus, going on the traditional explanation of hauntings and ghostly apparitions, the presence of someone at this spectral scene who was actually still earthbound introduces a complicating factor.

    Though I am increasingly skeptical of the notion that cases such as Enfield offer evidence and hope of post-mortem survival, I certainly don’t rule it out or discount the involvement of a disordered mind (perhaps even minds). On the question of who that mind belonged to, incidentally, I recall the footage of Maurice Grosse interviewing Terry Wilkins, with Grosse playing the recording of the voice which purported to be that of Bill Wilkins. Apparently, Terry Wilkins gave a confirmatory response – but do we know if he was confirming that the voice was actually that of his late father, or was he simply confirming that the voice’s account of the way in which his father died was accurate? Sorry if my question leads you to repeat yourself as I’ve not yet arrived at your piece about the voice and personality of the poltergeist.

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    1. My article on the voice and personality of the poltergeist does address the Terry Wilkins issues and some of the other subjects you've brought up. I don't think we can identify who the person behind the poltergeist was.

      There's no need for one explanation for all poltergeists, all hauntings, and so forth. I suspect there's a diversity of causes and entities involved. I think an impersonal explanation, like the stone tape hypothesis, is best in some circumstances. I don't have much familiarity with the Battle of Edge Hill case you've referred to, but it may be best explained by the stone tape view or something similar. It's reminiscent of an account that's been given by Michael Medved, a movie reviewer and political talk radio host in the United States. He witnessed something that seemed like a replay of a Civil War battle. From what I've heard him say about it, I suspect it involved some variation of a stone tape phenomenon.

      Regarding "how it can be that, after bodily death, discarnate humans acquire the ability to impersonate the forms of people who are alive", there's a lot we don't understand even about living humans! We frequently accept that living people do things before knowing how they do those things.

      Keep in mind, too, that poltergeists and other types of paranormal phenomena are far more diverse than you'd often think from reading summaries. There's some usefulness in organizing something like poltergeist cases and referring to commonalities among them, but such summaries are often misleadingly simple and ignore some significant variations. For example, I plan to post an article on events involving the operation of machinery in the Enfield case sometime next year, probably in January. Hundreds of years ago, there were no poltergeists operating automobiles the way the Enfield poltergeist did, since automobiles didn't exist yet. Noting some similarities the Enfield case has with other cases of previous centuries doesn't address the differences that exist alongside those similarities. And even among modern poltergeists, what one does with a car is different than what another does with one.

      I referred earlier to the relevance of the environment in which an entity like a deceased human operates. Something like telepathy or an ability to operate more rapidly than we do in this life may be part of what's a required or standard way of living in the environment under consideration. What seems advanced to us may be commonplace in that setting.

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