Sunday, November 01, 2020

Further Problems With Anita Gregory's Doctoral Thesis On Enfield

A couple of years ago, I wrote a response to the sections of Anita Gregory's doctoral thesis that discuss the Enfield Poltergeist. But I wrote that response before listening to Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair's Enfield tapes. I've now listened to all of them, and I want to supplement my response to Gregory's thesis with what I've learned since then from the tapes and other sources.

When I make reference to the tapes below, I'll use "MG" to cite Grosse's tapes and "GP" to cite Playfair's. Therefore, MG74B refers to Grosse's tape 74B, and GP15B refers to tape 15B in Playfair's collection, for example.

Some of my earlier posts on the tapes are relevant to this post, and I won't repeat everything I said in those previous articles. See here regarding the tapes of Gregory's visits to the house, for example. And the post here discusses the involvement of police officers in the case, further undermining Gregory's arguments about that subject. What the tapes tell us about the voice phenomena is highly inconsistent with Gregory's analysis of the topic, so go here for my article on the voice. My reevaluation of the amount of fraud in the case also provides further evidence against various claims Gregory made in her thesis. A post I wrote about Peggy Hodgson addresses the inaccuracy of Gregory's assessment of Peggy. And this one addresses Gregory's misrepresentations of a couch levitation that occurred on November 10, 1977. Much of my other material on the tapes, which you can access here, is likewise relevant to Gregory's thesis, whether directly or indirectly.

Jumping Out Of Bed

Among other inaccuracies about her December 10, 1977 visit to the Hodgsons' house, Gregory wrote in her thesis:

"Janet was invited by Maurice to jump out of bed, she said she couldn't, just couldn't - no idea what he meant. When [encouraged she] would give a much feebler leap than what landed her on the floor in our absence - allegedly paranormally. My personal impression is and was that she jumped out of bed at all times in a perfectly normal manner, perhaps making the loud thump afterwards." (161)

See the section on John Beloff here for a discussion of the evidence for genuine paranormal throwing incidents during the night in question. Gregory doesn't address any of that evidence in her thesis. Regarding the evidence for levitations in the case more broadly, not just on December 10, see here.

What about the particular incident Gregory describes above, involving Grosse asking Janet to jump from her bed? Gregory leaves out a lot of relevant details.

The incident (or one highly similar) is found at 41:46 on tape GP73A. Grosse and some other adults had just seen a throwing incident involving Janet. (Go here and do a Ctrl F search for "There are more" to read about it.) Gregory leaves that out. It's significant that multiple credible witnesses had just seen Janet thrown. In that context, it makes sense for Grosse to ask Janet to try to replicate what just happened.

He asks her to jump out of bed, and she immediately cooperates. Apparently, she's about to jump from the bed in a normal manner, but Grosse says "No, no, no, no", and he tells her to try to jump from the bed from where she's "sitting". Shortly after, he refers to how she needs to jump out of bed "like I saw you go then", referring to the incident that just happened. He explains that she needs to "lay down", "a bit further down" to duplicate her position during the event in question. Judging by what's said on the tape, it seems that it would have been difficult, maybe impossible, for Janet to have faked the throwing in question while in such a posture. It's only after Grosse adds such qualifiers that Janet becomes more hesitant and takes longer to try to comply with Grosse's specific directions. She does what he asks, at least two times, and her hesitation in complying is only brief.

After she propels herself from the bed, Grosse comments that the sound of her landing after doing so is different than the sound made during the incident in question. And if you play back the recording, the two sounds are significantly different. Grosse is right about that. As I've noted before (go to the article just linked and do a Ctrl F search for "And it seems"), one of the characteristics of the poltergeist's throwing incidents is that it lands people in an unusually hard manner. So, the genuine throwing incidents would often make a different noise and cause more shaking of the floor and its surroundings. Therefore, it made sense for Grosse to examine the incident that just occurred according to those characteristics.

After he comments that the sound of Janet propelling herself from the bed by normal means was different than the sound produced by the event in question, nobody objects. Neither Gregory nor Beloff (who was at the house with Gregory that night) voices any concern about Grosse's handling of the situation. It should be noted that the sort of scenario I just described was a common occurrence. Skeptics like Gregory and Beloff wouldn't say anything while at the house, but would raise objections later. Why didn't they speak up earlier, when more could have been done to address their concerns and when Grosse would have had an opportunity to explain his reasoning to them?

So, to summarize:

- There was a throwing incident involving Janet that was witnessed by a few adults. It's described as having multiple unusual features (how high Janet went into the air, the sound that was made when she landed).

- Grosse asked her to replicate the event by normal means by propelling herself from her bed. She immediately complied, but Grosse told her to reposition herself first, so that she would be in the same kind of position she'd been in when the event in question occurred. She was then somewhat hesitant - maybe because she wasn't sure just how to position herself, because jumping from such a position was difficult, or for some other reason - but she complied shortly afterward to the directions Grosse gave her.

- She propelled herself from the bed at least twice, and neither effort reproduced the characteristics of the original episode. Grosse noted the difference in the sound that was made.

- Nobody present, including Gregory and Beloff, raised any objections.

And let's recall how Gregory summarized the situation:

"Janet was invited by Maurice to jump out of bed, she said she couldn't, just couldn't - no idea what he meant. When [encouraged she] would give a much feebler leap than what landed her on the floor in our absence - allegedly paranormally. My personal impression is and was that she jumped out of bed at all times in a perfectly normal manner, perhaps making the loud thump afterwards."

That's highly misleading, and it's an inadequate explanation of how the incident in question could have been faked. It seems that a paranormal event occurred, Grosse validated it in an appropriate way, and Janet was honest and cooperative in the process. But Gregory, without mentioning that multiple adults witnessed the event, portrays it as inauthentic, Grosse as incompetent, and Janet as dishonest and uncooperative.


Gregory offers a remarkable summary of the embodied voice phenomena that originated on the night of December 10:

"This evening for the first time the [poltergeist] talked in a low, hoarse voiceless whisper." (162)

Go here to listen to the voice barking and saying "Maurice" and "Dr. Beloff" that night. That's far from a whisper. And here are some other examples, once again from the night Gregory is referring to above, involving the voice barking and talking. Again, that's far from whispering. As I noted in my article on the voice last year, the voice was unusually loud and forceful when it originated. It often spoke that way that night.

The Frivolity Of The Children

In her thesis and elsewhere, Gregory made much of the children's happiness, their smiling, laughing, joking, etc. She highlights those aspects of their character and behavior disproportionately, which leaves her readers with a significantly false impression.

In her notes on her December 10 visit to the Hodgsons' house, quoted in her thesis, she comments that "the children are enjoying themselves; and the mother is ostensibly suffering a great deal" (163). See my post on Peggy Hodgson here for a discussion of some of the evidence that Peggy was sincere about the poltergeist, which makes her testimony devastating to fraud hypotheses like Gregory's. And I've written elsewhere about the evidence for the children's sincerity and the many occasions when they were frightened, sad, angry, and such. See here, for example.

Since Gregory was at the house on the night of December 10, when the embodied voice originated, and her comments above on the children enjoying themselves were made in her notes about her December 10 visit, my article on the voice is particularly relevant here. Notice what I say there about the variety of ways in which the children reacted to the voice. They did laugh at the voice at times, but they also reacted in other ways that can't be summarized as "enjoying themselves".

And keep in mind that even Gregory's earliest visit, which she doesn't say much about, was nearly three weeks after the family realized that something paranormal was going on in the house. Her December 10 visit was more than three months into the case. To get some idea of what state the Hodgsons were in when the case began, watch Douglas Bence, a journalist who visited the house in the opening days, commenting on the subject here and here. And here's both Graham Morris and Bence commenting on the condition of the family. Go here to listen to Peggy Nottingham, in a 1978 documentary, recounting how the children were frightened when phenomena occurred and were "screaming and screaming". Gregory cites that documentary and describes some of its contents in her thesis, so she's responsible for ignoring its contents in contexts like this one.

The notion that the Hodgson children were as frivolous as Gregory suggests is one of the most misleading aspects of her thesis. The children did sometimes laugh, joke, and such, but Gregory puts far too much emphasis on that aspect of their lives in her thesis and elsewhere.

No Events Witnessed By Outsiders?

Regarding her December 10 visit, Gregory wrote:

"What was most striking was that the supposed 'phenomena' were never actually observed by outsiders, including Grosse and Playfair, and yet both behaved as though plainly paranormal marvels were going on." (163)

See my post here, especially the section about John Beloff, for some examples of people other than the Hodgsons observing paranormal phenomena on the night of December 10 (going into December 11).

And it's not as though Peggy Hodgson's testimony can be dismissed just because she was a member of the family. Nor can the children's testimony be dismissed in every context. The situation is more complicated than Gregory's "outsider" framing suggests.

There's also the fact that Gregory is assuming that some phenomena Grosse and Playfair considered genuine (whistling, comments made by the voice, etc.) weren't genuine. That's quite an assumption, and it's one that's probably wrong.

Furthermore, we're just considering one night here. Even if no outsiders had witnessed paranormal events during that one night, so what? They witnessed such events on many other occasions, which is part of what justifies Grosse and Playfair's more positive interpretation of what happened on the night in question.

The Nottinghams' Skepticism

Gregory refers to how Peggy Nottingham said on January 15 of 1978 that she didn't think anything genuine had happened in the case since the beginning of the year. And Gregory mentions that Peggy and her husband, Vic, made similar comments to Carl Sargent in late February of that year (170-72).

Peggy later claimed that Gregory had misrepresented what she'd said on January 15. And even if we were to accept Gregory's report at face value, it would just mean that Peggy and Vic doubted the phenomena that occurred during the opening months of 1978 while accepting the phenomena that occurred during other timeframes. Their doubts about the events of early 1978 would have some significance, but not much.

Still, it's worth looking into how likely it is that what Gregory and Sargent reported is true. At the outset, I should say that I think it's unlikely that Gregory and Sargent would both be entirely mistaken about the same subject, in the same way, so independently of one another. I suspect Peggy (and Vic) did comment on doubting the phenomena of early 1978, but that the extent of their doubt was misunderstood. A rejection of some phenomena was mistaken for a rejection of everything.

Some of the earliest tapes of 1978 feature reports of paranormal events involving Peggy Nottingham. On January 4, Grosse interviewed Peggy, along with John Burcombe, about paranormal events that had been occurring recently outside the Hodgsons' home (MG57A, 0:07). Peggy refers to many events that had occurred in her house at the close of 1977, including on New Year's Eve. She then refers to some banging that occurred, which she apparently considered paranormal, "lately" (3:44). The implication seems to be that the banging occurred after New Year's Eve, which places the events in January.

Less than a day later, just after midnight on January 5, Peggy commented on sensing a presence in the Hodgsons' house, and she even took the initiative to say to Grosse, "Things are happening downstairs. You wouldn't like to come sit with us, would you?" (MG57B, 56:01). She and John Burcombe went back downstairs shortly afterward, then they came back up to report that Peggy's cigarettes and lighter had been moved (apparently by the poltergeist) while they were away. The cigarettes and lighter were found in a location where they couldn't have been before (where Peggy had been sitting), so she and Burcombe couldn't have been imagining things. This seems to be an incident that's highly likely to be authentic, witnessed by two individuals widely considered credible. Peggy was one of those witnesses, and the event occurred a few days into the new year.

In a January 6 conversation, Peggy refers to how some items had disappeared in her house late in 1977, one of them on Christmas day (GP85A, 5:58). She explains that the items had reappeared in their kitchen, and she seems to think that both the disappearance and the reappearance were paranormal events. It's possible that the reappearance happened in late December, but a January timeframe makes more sense, since she isn't telling the Hodgsons about it until January 6.

Later in the same conversation, Peggy Hodgson refers to something the poltergeist voice did "the other night" (MG59A, 21:10). Apparently, the voice referred to going to the house next door to take a drink from a little girl's glass. Peggy Nottingham confirms that when her niece was visiting recently, there was a lot of paranormal activity at the Nottinghams' house, including an incident in which her niece's glass was knocked over.

Tape 81B in Grosse's collection wasn't able to be digitized, but Melvyn Willin wrote a description of its contents in his notes on the tapes. Part of his entry for the tape in question reads: "16th February 1978 (Nottinghams). MG narrates; Vic Nottingham relates experiences of a man he was working for – not Enfield; poltergeist-like events; MG offers to help if needed". If Vic and his wife had such a negative view of how Grosse and Playfair were handling the Enfield case, as reported by Gregory and Sargent, why would Vic have the sort of conversation with Grosse described above? Vic may have done that just to pass time, to accommodate Grosse, or something like that. But a scenario in which Vic's view of Grosse was less negative than Gregory and Sargent suggest makes more sense of the situation.

The next day, February 17, Peggy Nottingham was present during a discussion about the voices that had been manifesting through the children earlier that day. There had been a lot of discussion of how impressive the voice manifesting through Janet had been, how they didn't know how Janet would be able to fake it. They contrasted that with how much less impressive the voice was when manifesting through Margaret. Peggy then commented on how Margaret said earlier that day that the voice had stopped manifesting through her. Peggy suggested that Margaret may have lost the paranormal voice she had and may now be faking it (GP97B, 12:29). Peggy goes on to say that she doesn't think the voice manifesting through Billy is authentic. Given that Peggy doesn't express any objections to the positive comments being made about Janet's voice and suggests that Margaret may now be faking a voice in contrast to a genuine one she had previously, it seems likely that Peggy thought there were some genuine voice phenomena in early 1978. Though she thought a portion of the voice was faked, she didn't think all of it was.

Furthermore, many of the alleged paranormal events in January and February were witnessed by adults, and some happened when none of the children were around. It's highly unlikely that Vic and Peggy thought all of the events were inauthentic and that all of the adult witnesses were mistaken. I doubt they even thought the children were mistaken in every context.

Rather, I suspect they considered some of the events in January and February inauthentic, perhaps enough of them that they referred to the situation as a whole as "nonsense", the term Gregory attributed to Peggy Nottingham. She was referring to the situation as nonsense because she thought so much inauthentic phenomena accompanied the genuine events, not because she thought everything was inauthentic.

I suspect the poltergeist voice was what the Nottinghams primarily had in mind. It was highly active in the opening months of 1978 and was manifesting through more of the children at that stage than earlier. And the large majority of what it said was of a trivial nature. It was in late February of 1978, just before the Nottinghams had their discussion with Carl Sargent, when Margaret Hodgson's alleged confession to the Daily Mirror occurred. (See here for more about it.) That controversy with the Daily Mirror centered around the voice phenomena. The fire incidents that were so prominent in February may have played a significant role as well. Since the Nottinghams' house was attached to the Hodgsons', they had a lot of reason to be upset about incidents involving fire and to be more critical of the Hodgsons and how the case was being handled accordingly.

I think it's likely that Gregory and Sargent misinterpreted some comments the Nottinghams made about rejecting some of the phenomena in early 1978, as if they were rejecting all of them. But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Gregory and Sargent were right about what the Nottinghams said. The fact would remain that they were supportive of the authenticity of the case as a whole, affirmed the authenticity of many events before January of 1978 and after February of that year, and even made the comments I've cited above in support of the case during the two months in question.

Photographs And Videos

Gregory writes:

"The Enfield photographs are also peculiarly unsatisfactory since, as Harris showed, the camera was triggered by actions performed by the children themselves when it suited them. As he pointed out, video evidence would have been particularly important since this would have shown the entire action, and could not have been interfered with by the children." (181)

I addressed film issues to some extent in my initial response to Gregory's thesis, and I've addressed them elsewhere. But I want to add some points related to Grosse and Playfair's tapes.

On the tapes, you sometimes hear a remote-controlled camera go off without anything done by the children to trigger it. The adults operating the camera were free to set it off whenever they wanted.

And many photos were taken in a normal manner, without a remote, sometimes in a way that anybody faking poltergeist activity wouldn't be able to anticipate. Do a Ctrl F search for "They made a lot" here for a discussion of the subject.

Furthermore, a video of the poltergeist voice manifesting through Janet, with her mouth taped shut, was shown at a symposium held by the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in 1978. Gregory was at that symposium. Go here and do a Ctrl F search for "I do remember recording" to read what David Robertson told me about the contents of that video. (He was the one who recorded it.) To my knowledge, Gregory never addressed the video's contents, at that symposium, in her thesis, or elsewhere. At the symposium, Grosse made the following comments just after Gregory spoke as a member of the audience and made some dismissive remarks about the voice. So, it seems that Grosse is responding directly to Gregory. I'll leave out some comments made by other people, such as remarks people made from the audience, so that we can focus on what Grosse said:

The remark was made just now that the voice was possibly not paranormal. Well, I'd be very interested to know if anybody - you see, you've just seen something yourselves, and you don't realize what you've seen. You've actually seen a voice talking without the lips moving. Her mouth was absolutely sealed. Now, you saw that for yourselves [on the video shown earlier at the symposium], but for some peculiar reason, you didn't see it, because - at least somebody didn't see it, because somebody said that was quite normal [an apparent reference to Gregory]. Well, I challenge anybody, anywhere in this world, to produce me a person who can talk with their mouth closely closed. Impossible. Absolutely impossible. I may be, I may be too dogmatic, but I, alright, then you produce me somebody who can speak with their mouth closed, and I will, if, you give me somebody who can speak with their mouth closed, and I'll give you five hundred pounds. Alright?...

You heard her [Janet] say "hello" when her mouth was with water and taped up. You heard the voice say "hello" [an apparent reference to an audio tape, not the video in question]….There was no other girl in the room. [said in response to an audience member suggesting the voice may have been produced by Margaret while Janet's mouth was filled with water and taped shut] Amazing….

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. (MG83B, 50:22)

Maybe Grosse was wrong. But, if he was, Gregory didn't do anything I'm aware of at the symposium, in her thesis, or elsewhere to demonstrate it. She doesn't address the video in question in her thesis.

She also doesn't address Stewart Lamont's video of both the voice phenomena and some knocking. See here for my analysis of that video.

So, while Gregory refers to how valuable video footage would be, she didn't have much to say about the videos that were provided.

She refers to how some video equipment set up in the Hodgsons' house in September of 1977 malfunctioned "in the most bizarre manner" (182). Here's what one of the members of the filming team said in a 1978 documentary, which Gregory doesn't interact with:

And on this occasion, I went through the sequence, pressed the button, and all the lights on the recorder came on, one after the other, which is absolutely impossible. And there's no way, which we know, that this can happen at all, because the recorder had particular facilities on it for editing and sound dubbing and so on, each of which had separate buttons you had to press. And when you pressed these buttons, they lit up. And so there was no way, logically, that these buttons could, in fact, light up simply by pressing the on switch. But not only that, we found the machine wouldn't function. It jammed itself up completely. And when we eventually managed to retrieve the cassette from the machine, we found that the tape had come out of the cassette and wound itself around one of the [unintelligible], underneath the actual cassette itself. Now, we've never had this happen before, and I've never had it happen since, and I would say it's probably one chance in a million that that could actually happen.

Anybody who's interested can search my Enfield posts for further comments on film issues. I've only provided several examples here of the many that could be cited to illustrate how inadequate Gregory's treatment of the subject is.

Nobody Watched The Other Children?

It should be noted that in her thesis, she raises the objection that the voice phenomena may have been produced by one girl while the other girl's mouth was filled with water, taped shut, or whatever (198). Grosse addressed that objection at the symposium discussed above, but Gregory raises it in her thesis as if the objection hadn't been addressed.

To make matters worse, Gregory even goes as far as to claim that, during the testing of Janet's voice, "no one watched the other children, notably Margaret" (ibid.). How would Gregory know that? There are many instances of testing Janet's voice in the manner under consideration here on Grosse and Playfair's tapes, and Gregory didn't listen to those tapes. But she somehow knew that nobody had watched the other children during these tests?

She then comments that "hardly anyone seems ever to have paid any attention to Billy" (199). Again, how would she know that? There's quite a bit of discussion of the voice's manifestations through Billy on the tapes. Do a Ctrl F search for "Billy" here for some examples.

Criticisms Of Grosse's Behavior

My initial response to Gregory's thesis addressed her excessively negative comments about Grosse. I should say more about the subject in light of what's on the tapes and other information that I've become aware of since my earlier response to the thesis. Gregory claims:

"Mr. Grosse habitually, apparently without suspecting any incongruity, emphatically suggests to anyone discussing any matter relating to the Enfield case with him, his own usually intensely paranormal interpretation of events; if he is contradicted, even gently or by implication, he becomes, in my experience, exceedingly distressed and agitated and, if the offender persists, Grosse loudly shouts at him for quite long periods and becomes increasingly angry and abusive. Miss O'Keeffe, Ms. Wilson, Mr. Cornell, Mr. Harris and others as well as myself have certainly experienced this sequence of ostensibly entirely unconscious and unsophisticated attempts to exert pressure on others.…One of the points illustrated is that it was not at all easy for researchers other than Grosse and Playfair to do any investigating. One was given to understand quite plainly that one was there on their terms, even by their invitation, and there can be no question but that intensive pressure was brought to bear to see and report things their way." (186, 205)

Grosse is present on a large percentage of his and Playfair's tapes, spanning years of time and a wide range of circumstances, including occasions when he was interacting with people who disagreed with him on Enfield matters. His behavior in those contexts is far from what Gregory describes above. And she made those comments after having been permitted to visit the Hodgsons' house several times and having disagreed with Grosse publicly on Enfield issues on many occasions. The "intensive pressure" Grosse (and Playfair) allegedly placed upon her didn't prevent her from doing so much work as a critic of the case for so many years. It seems unlikely that Gregory was pressured as much as she suggests. Grosse and Playfair did mishandle some things (see the discussion of litigation issues in the comments section here, for example), but not in the manner Gregory alleges above.

There are many places on Grosse and Playfair's tapes where Grosse is involved in discussions with people he disagrees with on Enfield issues. I've provided some examples above from a March 1978 SPR symposium. Grosse did often argue with his opponents on matters pertaining to Enfield, and he sometimes raised his voice. See, for example, the occasions I've highlighted with italics in my quotes from the symposium above. He was deeply interested in Enfield, excited about it, enthusiastic about it, and troubled by how many people were neglecting and misrepresenting the case. And at least for the most part, it was appropriate for him to see things that way. Gregory's portrayal of how he conducted himself is a ridiculous exaggeration.

At the same SPR symposium I quoted earlier, Grosse responded to some points Gregory made by saying, "I personally stand corrected on that. I don't mind. I definitely stand corrected." (MG83B, 50:12) When Ivor and Enid Grattan-Guinness visited the Hodgsons' house with Gregory on February 17 of 1978, the Grattan-Guinnesses expressed their skepticism of some aspects of the case without getting the sort of response from Grosse that Gregory attributes to him in her thesis. In fact, he's often silent in response to their criticisms and lets the discussion move on to other subjects without defending himself or his position. Gregory was present to witness Grosse handling the exchange that way.

I don't think examples like these can be dismissed on the supposition that Grosse was putting on an act for the tape recorder, whereas he behaved as Gregory describes when he thought he'd be held less accountable for it. For one thing, we don't begin with a default assumption that people are behaving that way, and there's no reason to attribute that sort of inconsistency to Grosse. And the people being recorded on these tapes seemed to occasionally forget that they were being recorded, which makes sense given how extensive the recordings are. It's likely that Grosse sometimes forgot he was being recorded, especially when the taping was being done by Playfair or somebody else other than Grosse. Furthermore, it's not just likely in the abstract that Grosse sometimes forgot he was being recorded, but we even have some occasions we can single out as probable instances of it. There were times when Grosse seemed to accidentally leave his recorder on after leaving the Hodgsons' house, so that it would still be running when he went to his car and was driving away. On one occasion, you keep hearing the recorder banging against something, jostling around, or whatever as Grosse is leaving the house, apparently because he accidentally left the recorder on or accidentally turned it back on (MG84A, 33:01). There are similar occurrences on other tapes. On one of them, Grosse is driving Playfair somewhere, so there's a recording of their conversations during the ride. You hear the sort of jostling noises described above, which don't seem to be intentional, starting just as Grosse is leaving the house (MG20Bi, 23:29). During his exchange with Playfair during the ride, the two of them discuss some issues they disagree about, and part of the discussion is about a disagreement over whether to get another person involved in the case and what they think of that individual. Grosse holds a negative view of the person and doesn't want him involved in the case. So, there's a lot of opportunity for Grosse to behave the way Gregory describes. He doesn't. Maybe he did on some occasions, but those seem to have been exceptional rather than normative if they did occur.

Concerning the charge that Grosse interfered too much with the research of others, I doubt Gregory was in much of a position to judge the situation. How often would the typical researcher - not only from England, but also from the United States, Japan, and other locations researchers visited from - have any interaction with Gregory? Did people like Charles Moses say anything to Gregory about their experiences with Grosse in the relevant contexts? I doubt it. I'm sure she heard from some researchers on these issues and heard about some other researchers she didn't interact with, but she probably only had highly partial or no information in many instances. My impression is that Grosse and Playfair weren't even at the house when Carl Sargent visited. Grosse didn't get along well with Ed and Lorraine Warren and disagreed with them on a lot of issues, but he didn't prevent them from visiting the Hodgsons when neither he nor Playfair was present. On one of the tapes, after being told how Ed Warren had been behaving during recent visits, Grosse commented, "Well, why didn't somebody say they weren't welcome?" (MG95B, 10:03) He disapproved of how Warren and his team were acting and didn't want them there, but they didn't need Grosse's permission to visit, and Grosse objected to their behavior, not their failure to get his approval. Nobody involved - the Hodgsons, the Burcombes (the people Grosse is talking to on the tape in question), Warren and his team, or Grosse himself - seems to think Grosse's permission is needed before somebody visits. The Warrens spent decades publicly discussing their views of Enfield, which Grosse significantly disagreed with. It doesn't seem that he did much to prevent them from disseminating their views.

It's to be expected that the first and in other ways primary investigator of a case would act like the lead investigator and would be more protective of the family and more concerned about the case and its reputation than other investigators are. We need to keep in mind how multifaceted the situation was. It's not just a matter of an individual choosing to make himself the lead investigator of a case. Other people would be involved in the process as well. The family at the center of a case will tend to identify somebody as their primary source, the person they go to more than anybody else for information, guidance, etc. If somebody like Grosse is singled out that way, as he was by the Hodgsons, it's not just a matter of what he's taken upon himself. He had good reason to view himself as the lead investigator of the case, multiple reasons, and he wasn't the only one who viewed the situation that way.

He probably did mishandle the situation at times, as anybody would, but not to the extent Gregory suggests. It's ironic that she was so critical of Grosse on these matters, given how much access she was given to the case and how much she abused that access.


  1. I'm not sure if Anita Gregory's stance on the Enfield case now holds much water, in light of your critique here and elsewhere, Jason. As Playfair noted in a 2017 interview, despite having written a 'marvellous' book on the medium Rudi Schneider - in which I assume she argues for the reality of mediumship, though I haven't yet read it - Playfair observes that she had a rather odd attitude about witnessing paranormal phenomena for herself, almost as if she preferred that it remained a theoretical or academic problem. Once full membership rights are able to be restored by the SPR, I intend to renew my membership, and it will be interesting to read her SPR obituary. I don't know if you have read it and what her other psychical interests included and what other SPR colleagues made of her.

    If what Maurice Grosse told Will Storr was true, then clearly Enfield had forced her to recognise that the paranormal was not simply a theoretical or academic problem. It's a pity that Grosse, being aware of what a vocal critic of the case Gregory was, did not take photographs of her notebook when it came into his possession by pure chance. Grosse strikes one as a man of probity and to do that would perhaps be out of character for him, but it's a pity he wasn't more adroit here. If he had done that, would he have had to resort to the threat of litigation? Gregory was long dead of course by the time Grosse told Storr that in his opinion, she had behaved mendaciously. It's tantalising to think that, in fact, she was singularly bewildered and afraid by the events in the house.

    By the way, I attended an interesting online discussion last week between the writer Kate Summerscale and Melvyn Willin, about her new book, 'The Haunting of Alma Fielding'. This poltergeist case - which is usually known as the 'Thornton Heath poltergeist' - occurred in London in 1938, and was investigated by Nandor Fodor, who viewed the poltergeist through the lens of psychoanalysis. Although Willin mentioned Enfield in the context of his own work, there wasn't enough time for a discussion between what may be some similarities between Janet Grosse and Alma Fielding. Although Fielding was considerably older than Janet when her own outbreak started, from the initial chapter and the index it may be that there will be some interesting and illuminating comparisons to make. You may well wish to read the book yourself.

    1. Thanks, Anthony!

      I don't know much about the Thornton Heath case. But when you compared Alma Fielding to Janet Grosse, did you intend to refer to Janet Hodgson instead?

      I don't recall much about the obituaries of Gregory I've read over the years. She was held in high regard by some of her colleagues, but I don't remember reading many people commenting either way about their views of her. I've cited some of David Robertson's comments on her elsewhere (see here). Do a Ctrl F search for "Pincott" here to read about how Hugh Pincott went out of his way to comment on Gregory, and probably intended the comments to reflect negatively on her, in his remarks on the Enfield case in Melvyn Willin's book.

    2. Regarding Maurice Grosse and his account concerning Anita Gregory's notebook, readers who aren't familiar with the subject can consult the final section of my earlier response to Gregory's thesis for an overview.

      Judging by the contents of Grosse and Playfair's tapes and what Gregory says in her thesis about her visits to the Hodgsons' house, it seems likely that December 10-11, 1977 and February 17, 1978 were the only days when Grosse and Gregory were at the house together. Grosse refers to how "If I'd have been clever, I'd have kept that book." (in Will Storr, Will Storr Vs. The Supernatural [New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006], 219) He seems to be suggesting that he had reason to consider her a skeptic at the time, so that he would have kept her notebook if he'd been clever. But I don't think she made much of an issue of her skepticism, if she mentioned it at all, until after the December 10 visit. Grosse refers to returning Gregory's notebook the day after he accidentally took it home with him, so the timing doesn't line up with December 10. Furthermore, December 10 was a Saturday, and both he and Gregory left the house well after midnight. The tapes record Grosse still at the house past 2:30 A.M. In his book, Playfair refers to still being at the house at close to 1:00 A.M. and not getting home until 3:00 A.M. after driving Gregory and Beloff to London (This House Is Haunted [United States: White Crow Books, 2011], 117). There would have been fewer occasions for Grosse and Gregory to meet again on a Sunday than on some other day of the week (public meetings were scheduled on Sundays less often, etc.), and their meeting again on the morning of December 11 is even more unlikely given how late they were up the previous night. By contrast, February 17 was a Friday, and I'm not aware of any evidence that the two of them were up so late that night. Additionally, Playfair's book (page 120) refers to how Gregory and Beloff were composing their report on their December 10 visit the next morning, which makes Grosse's giving her the notebook that morning even more unlikely. Grosse giving the notebook back to Gregory seems to make more sense on February 18 than on December 11. It seems highly likely, then, that if the notebook incident occurred, it happened on February 17.

    3. By that point, more than two months had passed since she and Beloff had filed their negative report about the Enfield case. In her thesis, she refers to how, on December 22, "Playfair was there and seemed to have forgotten all about our past disagreements." (166) She goes on to refer to how friendly and forthcoming Playfair and Grosse were toward her during meetings outside the Hodgsons' house in late December and early January. In mid January, John Hasted (who was working closely with Grosse and Playfair on the case) hosted Gregory at Birkbeck College and showed her the video she would later describe as depicting Janet faking phenomena. Shortly after, Gregory hosted David Robertson at her house, drove him to the Hodgsons' house, and provided for somebody to assist him in setting up camera equipment there. On the February 17 tapes, she and Grosse seem to be getting along well. So, by the time February 17 arrived, I doubt Grosse had much reason to expect Gregory's behavior in later years. She'd expressed skepticism in her December report, but more than two months had passed since then, and she seemed to be on somewhat good terms with Grosse (and Playfair, Robertson, and Hasted). I doubt she told them much about how extensive her skepticism was. As you said, it would have been good if Grosse had taken some photos of Gregory's notebook, but he apparently knew much less about her skepticism in the February 17-18 timeframe than he would learn later on. He knew she had some skepticism about the case, and he therefore noticed a contrast between that skepticism and her notes, but he probably was far from realizing how useful photos of the notebook would be in later years.

      In my previous article on Gregory's thesis, I mentioned that it seems that somebody was making an issue in the early 1980s about Gregory's Enfield notes. She seems to have been unusually defensive about keeping the notes private. That provides some significant corroboration of Grosse's account. I also discussed some other reasons for believing him. But it would be good to have more evidence. I don't know if Gregory's Enfield notes are extant. Another potential source of information would be Grosse's material from the relevant timeframe (his notes, letters he sent, etc.). I suspect there's a lot of that material in the SPR's archives, and I suspect much of it has never been researched by anybody. It would also be good to ask people who knew Gregory and Grosse in relevant contexts if they ever heard either talking about such a notebook incident prior to Grosse's interview with Storr.

      Something else that's relevant is the timing and number of Gregory's visits to the Hodgsons' house. She went there on September 18, December 10, 20, and 22, January 15, February 17, and May 21. After the February 17 visit, she waited more than three months to go again, and the May 21 visit apparently was on an occasion when only the family was there. Her waiting a few months to go back, then only returning once, when none of the investigators were around, fits well with the occurrence of the notebook incident Grosse referred to if it occurred on February 17. That's not much evidence to go by when considered in isolation, but it does add a little more weight to the overall argument that the notebook incident did occur and happened on February 17.

  2. Thanks Jason. Yes, my oversight, I meant that it seems there might be some similarities between Alma Fielding and Janet Hodgson.

    I too got the sense that Gregory was held in high regard by her colleagues. As Playfair noted in his 2017 interview, she was friendly with his mother, and was married to the distinguished astronomer C.C.L. Gregory. I suppose we can't now be sure that the notebook incident did occur, but as I said, I would be very surprised if Grosse fabricated the incident. Given that Anita Gregory was found wanting in her attitude towards Enfield on a number of levels, I am prepared to give credence to Grosse's allegation that her conduct was disingenuous. It is difficult to reconcile the fact that, when she made her acerbic criticisms of the evidence of the Enfield case in the JSPR in the 1980s, she was doing so in the full knowledge that she had to all intents and purposes conceded in her notebook that the Enfield phenomena was genuine and had left her shaken. Grosse was less diplomatic about her in his conversation with Storr, and I don't recall ever reading that any SPR colleagues came out in Gregory's defence after Grosse gave that interview in the early 2000s.

    On a separate note, I don't suppose you could point me to any articles you've written about the evidence for Christianity and any concerning demons and exorcism? I have assumed that your family life and social milieu is the major reason for your espousal of your particular strand of Christianity, but I am very much intrigued as to what evidence persuades you of the truth of Christianity. Given your rigour and analytical approach towards the Enfield case, I wonder if you've always had a similar attitude towards Christianity, with faith having a much lesser role.

    1. Faith is a synonym of trust, and we should want evidence that the object of our trust is trustworthy. Faith ought to be concerned about evidence, even though it's become popular in some circles to suggest otherwise. If God exists, he could persuade people apart from evidence, but that would be his choice, not something we should be presumptuous about. We have a standing obligation to reason our way through religious issues, as we do other issues in life.

      I wrote a post earlier this year about how to begin to argue for Christianity. In that post, I link somebody else's material on philosophical and scientific issues, but I link some of my own posts on issues of history. My focus over the years has been on historical matters. I'm much more knowledgeable about those than I am about issues in philosophy and science.

      People often begin with the historical evidence for Jesus' resurrection, and there's some merit to doing that. It's one event, which makes it easier to address than something that's larger and more complicated, such as a series of prophecy fulfillments. But the argument from prophecy has some advantages. Some of the fulfillments have occurred in the modern world and therefore have better evidence supporting them accordingly, and some of the fulfillments in the ancient world are widely acknowledged even by non-Christians. A series of prophecy fulfillments, especially ones that cover many aspects of history over a long period of time, will have some evidential advantages over a single event, like a resurrection.

      Here's a collection of resources on Easter (resurrection) issues, which I posted earlier this year. And here's a post that recommends some issues to start with when evaluating Jesus' resurrection. Since the apostle Paul was a prominent enemy of Christianity who wrote so early and converted upon allegedly seeing Jesus risen from the dead, his testimony would be a good place to start. Or you could start with the evidence for the empty tomb, such as acknowledgement of it among the early opponents of Christianity. I provide some links to posts on such subjects on the pages referenced above.

      Here's a collection of links to our material on prophecy. If you go to the bottom of the page, you'll find some of my latest posts on prophecy issues. Those latest posts have largely been focused on developing an argument from prophecy based on common ground with non-Christians (e.g., prophecies whose fulfillment is widely acknowledged among non-Christians).

      There's a lot more that could be cited, and a lot more relevant material in our archives, but Jesus' resurrection and prophecy fulfillment are two good places to start in the context of historical evidence. If you're more interested in philosophy or science, here's a resource you could start with.

    2. Regarding demons and exorcism, I haven't studied the subject much. I provide an outline of my view of possession issues here. The New Testament scholar Craig Keener published a two-volume work on miracles several years ago, and it has some appendixes on demon possession and exorcism and spirit possession more broadly (Miracles, vol. 2 [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2011], 769-856). Here's a collection of our posts with the Exorcism label. You can click Older Posts at the bottom of each page to see more of the relevant posts. My late colleague here, Steve Hays, wrote an overview of the relationship between Christianity, the paranormal, and the occult, and that post addresses possession and related issues to some extent.

  3. Thanks for taking the time to share those links, Jason. I think there is a tendency - now considerably more pronounced following the emergency of 'New Atheism' - to assume that those who engage in evidence and ratiocination must inevitably end up in embracing atheism. But though I'm not religious myself, I don't believe that's true. Apart from yourself, there was Frederick Copleston SJ, who wrote a monumental, multi-volume history of philosophy, and who also engaged in fascinating debates with Bertrand Russell and A.J. Ayer. The mental processes by which people decide either to embrace or reject religion, atheism or, say, the reality of the Enfield phenomena fascinates me.