Thursday, April 01, 2021

How To Begin Studying The Enfield Poltergeist

Different people have different interests, so I'll recommend a broad range of resources. You can choose which ones are best under your circumstances (e.g., what sort of balance of written, audio, and video resources you want).

It's helpful to have some background information on poltergeists in general, so you could start with a Psi Encyclopedia article that provides an overview of the subject. A good book on the topic is Alan Gauld and A.D. Cornell, Poltergeists (United States: White Crow Books, 2017).

I wrote an article that outlines some of the evidential issues involved in evaluating the credibility of witnesses. It provides many examples from the Enfield case.

It's good to know the layout of the house where most of the activity occurred. You can find an image of a floor plan online here. Look over it before you start studying the case, and have it on hand to consult when needed. If you want a paper copy, you can print the one just linked or find it in the first edition of Guy Playfair's book mentioned below. The latest edition of the book, which I'll be recommending below, doesn't have the floor plan.

After you've consulted however much of that background material you're interested in, watch this BBC television segment from November of 1977 as an introduction to the case. It's about twelve minutes long.

The best documentary is one that aired on Apple TV+ in October of 2023. The second-best one aired on BBC Radio on December 26, 1978. The host, Rosalind Morris, was an eyewitness of some of the events, she interviews a lot of other eyewitnesses, and they're given a lot of time to speak.

If you want some other video documentaries, start with Interview With A Poltergeist, which came out in 2007. Another one aired on the Paranormal Channel the following year. It's not as good, but each has some strengths the other one doesn't have.

I've written tributes to four of the most important figures in the case. Those tributes will give you a lot of information about those individuals, their involvement in the case, and their credibility: Peggy Hodgson, Maurice Grosse, Guy Playfair, and John Burcombe. Those posts provide a lot of biographical information and references to other sources you can consult, but the posts aren't biographies. They're tributes that focus on the individuals' involvement in the Enfield case. Though the post on Peggy Hodgson is the longest, it's the one you should read if you only want to read one of them. She's the most important witness in the case, and she's often been underestimated and misrepresented.

The two books to get on Enfield (as opposed to poltergeists in general) are Guy Playfair's This House Is Haunted (United States: White Crow Books, 2011) and Melvyn Willin's The Enfield Poltergeist Tapes (United States: White Crow Books, 2019). Read them in that order.

For an introduction to skepticism about the case, you could start with Anita Gregory's review of Playfair's book mentioned above ("This House Is Haunted, An Investigation Of The Enfield Poltergeist", Journal Of The Society For Psychical Research, vol. 50, 1979-80, pp. 538-41). You can access the article at the Library of Exploratory Science site. Other skeptical overviews have been written by Joe Nickell and Deborah Hyde, among others. You can listen to a 2017 edition of the MonsterTalk podcast to hear from a few skeptics discussing Enfield.

If you want to research the case further, see my series of posts here. That material goes beyond an introductory level (e.g., discussing Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair's audio tapes recorded during their investigation of the case; addressing Anita Gregory's doctoral thesis, which covers Enfield). I reference a lot of articles, books, videos, and other resources along the way, so you can find many more sources to consult there. The page just linked includes descriptions of some of the contents of each post, so you can use Ctrl F to search for what you're interested in, in addition to using a search engine.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The Garden Of Suffering For Our Joy

"Every time we walk in a garden I think we ought to recollect the garden [of Gethsemane] where the Saviour walked, and the sorrows that befell him there. Did he select a garden, I wonder, because we are all so fond of such places, thus linking our seasons of recreation with the most solemn mementoes of himself?" (Charles Spurgeon)

Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Contrasting Ordinariness And Extraordinariness Of The Risen Jesus In Luke

I've often referred to the significance of the ordinariness of Jesus' body in the resurrection accounts in the gospels and Acts (e.g., here). An especially striking example is what we see in Luke's writings. The ordinariness of Jesus' resurrected body comes between the glorious appearance of the angels in Luke 24:4-5 and the gloriousness of Jesus' resurrected body after the ascension in Acts 9:3 (see, also, 26:13-14). Luke recognized the significance of that sort of impressive appearance and wanted to highlight it in passages like the ones I just cited. But he doesn't refer to Jesus as having had such a body prior to the ascension. Instead, he and the other gospel authors describe Jesus' pre-ascension resurrection body in more ordinary terms. That's best explained as a historically accurate memory of what was experienced with Jesus after he rose from the dead, a memory that was contrary to common expectation and reflects significant restraint on the part of the early Christians. We see that in sources other than Luke as well, but what's significant about Luke is how Jesus' ordinariness there contrasts so much with the extraordinariness of the appearance of Jesus and other figures in the nearby context.