Saturday, October 01, 2022

A Reconsideration Of The Enfield Voice

A few years ago, after I'd finished listening to the Enfield tapes, I wrote at length about my view of the voice allegedly produced by the poltergeist. I've listened to the tapes again since then. I want to revisit the issues surrounding the voice, which are large and complicated, to supplement what I said earlier.

My citations of the tapes will use "MG" to designate one from Maurice Grosse's collection and "GP" to refer to one from Guy Playfair's. Thus, MG33B is Grosse's tape 33B, GP90A is Playfair's tape 90A, and so on.

The large majority of what needs said about the voice was addressed in my earlier post linked above and in other articles. What I want to do here is summarize my overall view and revise or add to what I wrote earlier in order to address some weaknesses in my previous comments. Part of the reason why I'm writing this post is that so many of my earlier comments were scattered across multiple posts. It's helpful to put things in a more concise and orderly form here.

I still think the voice was paranormal. The large majority of the intellectual content of the voice either sounds like one or more of the Hodgson children or something they could easily have faked. At times, Grosse went as far as to conclude that the voice couldn't say anything it didn't get from the children's minds. He later retracted that view, rightly, but it is true that much of the voice's intellectual content resembles the Hodgson children. However, much isn't all, the voice consisted of more than intellectual content, it frequently manifested from sources other than the Hodgson children, it was highly coordinated with other paranormal phenomena for which we have good evidence, and its resemblances to the Hodgson children are easy to reconcile with its paranormality. You can read my earlier post on the voice for a lengthy treatment of issues like those.

After that 2019 post, I wrote about some indications that the personality of the poltergeist, including in its voice, differed from the personalities of the people around it. The article here expands on what I said in the 2019 article about the voice's relation to religious and occultic issues. And here's a post from 2021 that discusses a line of evidence for the voice brought up by Will Storr, which hasn't gotten much attention. Here's a post from earlier this year that discusses the voice's activities in musical contexts. My post last month discussed the cleverness of the poltergeist, including some incidents involving the voice. I started the Enfield Miscellany series shortly after my 2019 post on the voice, and that series sometimes addressed matters that are relevant here. One of the subjects covered in the first post in the series was the whistling of the poltergeist. The second post discussed an example of the poltergeist voice apparently being influenced by what was on television, whether by directly watching television itself or more indirectly. That sort of thing happened periodically. It wasn't an isolated incident. In a later installment in the Enfield Miscellany series, I discussed some incidents involving the voice that happened in a store, when the Hodgsons were shopping during the Christmas season of 1977. The episode illustrates how the voice would sometimes manifest in public, the motives the children had for avoiding faking the voice in some contexts, and how the voice would sometimes correspond with Peggy Hodgson's premonitory headaches. Read the section of the post titled "A Triple-Digit Number Of Witnesses" to find the relevant material.

My 2019 post on the voice divided my comments into sections about different topics. I'll take the same approach for the remainder of this post, which will supplement the points I made earlier.

Variations In The Physical Quality Of The Voice

I don't think my earlier posts gave enough attention to how the physical quality of the voice varied from one occasion to another. The most significant tape I remember in this context is MG61A. The poltergeist had been behaving unusually badly on the night of that recording, with a lot of manifestations of the voice from both girls. There are portions of the tape in which the voice coming from Margaret, apparently, keeps breaking up, sounding sort of like somebody would if she were in the process of losing her voice. Margaret spoke with a normal voice when she talked, but the poltergeist voice speaking through her sounded weaker and more inconsistent than usual. My 2019 article on the voice explained why it would make sense for a paranormal voice to be inconsistent in some ways, such as in the degree to which it would move the lips of the person through whom it was speaking. You can read the relevant sections of that article for more information, if you're interested. The same principles apply here. Whatever the source of the poltergeist - whether it was the minds of one or more of the Hodgson children, a deceased human, a group of deceased humans, or whatever else - its voice was manifesting through bodies that had certain limitations. Just as putting water in Janet's mouth should be expected to inhibit what the poltergeist can do through that mouth, it's to be expected that the children's vocal cords and whatever other parts of their bodies were being used would wear down at times. And there are occasions when the poltergeist doesn't even seem to be making much of an effort to speak deeply or loudly. It would vary in its physical qualities, such as its depth and volume. There's a lot of continuity, and it's usually recognizable as a distinct voice, but it varied somewhat.


I don't know much about British accents. I can't make much of a judgment about any accents the voice had. But Playfair referred to how the Hodgsons had a Cockney accent and said that the voice's accent was somewhat different than Janet's (GP29A, 25:14). Unfortunately, the tape just cited is in a bad condition, and it's difficult to hear some of what's being said. It seems that Playfair says something to Lawrence Berger about how the voice's accent compares to Janet's or the Hodgsons' in general, then Berger says something that's difficult to discern, then Playfair comments on how Janet's normal voice has an accent "very similar" to that of the poltergeist voice that manifests through her. My impression is that he (perhaps with Berger agreeing) thinks that Janet's accent is close to the voice's, but not the same. In another context, after playing a segment of one of his tapes for someone, Grosse mentioned that the voice on the tape he'd just played had no Cockney accent (MG101A, 20:59). The people he's playing the tape for (Terry Wilkins and his wife) seem to express agreement.

I'm not confident about what to make of all of this. In addition to my ignorance of British accents and the poor audio quality of Playfair's tape cited above, there's also the problem of how much we should expect a poltergeist voice to have an accent similar to or different than the accent of the person through whom it's speaking. The answer would depend on what poltergeists are and how they operate, both of which are highly controversial issues. But it seems that at least a few people believed that the voice at least sometimes had an accent distinguishable from the family's and Janet's in particular.


My 2019 post says a lot about vocabulary issues. I don't have much to add.

However, I think the article gave too little attention to how similar the voice's vocabulary was to that of the children at times. It was also different to some extent, as the examples I provided in that 2019 post illustrate, but I want to say more here about the similarities. For example, it seems at one point that Janet says "You silly old sod." (GP33B, 19:50), apparently in response to something Billy had done that upset her. As I've discussed in previous posts, the voice would often use the "old" qualifier, and it frequently used the "sod" insult. However, that tape I just cited was recorded in late January of 1978. The voice had already been using that sort of language for a long time. It could easily be the case that Janet was repeating something she picked up from the poltergeist. Children often imitate what's around them, including in the context of language. I'm confident that the poltergeist at least used that sort of language much more often than Janet did, and I don't recall Janet ever using the "sod" insult before the voice used it. (And keep in mind that there are many tapes with Janet on them before the voice in question originated on December 10, 1977. There was plenty of opportunity for her to manifest the qualities of the voice that would later develop, including its vocabulary, if those qualities were coming from her.) Another similarity I noticed between the voice and Janet was its occasional use of "Well," followed by a pause (e.g., GP74B, 13:09, 19:17), which is a way Janet often spoke. But a lot of people speak that way. When people call into a radio program, are interviewed on a podcast, etc., it's common for them to respond to a question or comment by saying "Well," followed by a pause. So, I wouldn't assign much significance to this similarity between Janet and the voice, but it is somewhat significant. More similarities could be mentioned, but I don't think their overall effect does much to tell us what entity was behind the poltergeist, much less to tell us whether anything paranormal was occurring. Even if the voice was always and explicitly identical to Janet in its vocabulary and in other ways, we'd still have to consider the possibility that she was paranormally producing it. In fact, that's a common view of poltergeists, that they come from the mind of one or more living individuals. I think a deceased human was involved in the Enfield case, for reasons I've discussed in other threads, but I also think he was using people's minds, including the children's, at times and was sometimes reflecting their vocabulary, interests, and such for other reasons. We should expect some degree of overlap, given the nature of poltergeists and the nature of life more broadly.

A difference between the voice and the children that I don't recall having brought up before is its common practice of reversing the normal order of words or including unnecessary ones, particularly by adding "you" (e.g., "Get out, you!", MG54A, 30:21; "Silly old sod, you.", MG61B, 13:36).

The Speed Of The Voice Transitions

Something that often distinguishes poltergeist activity from what a human would normally be able to do is the speed of the activity. For example, a poltergeist will turn a table over much faster than we could by normal means. In a February 17, 1978 discussion with Ivor Grattan-Guinness, Grosse made a good point about how that sort of speed can be seen in the voice phenomena as well. The transitions from the voice of the person through whom the poltergeist was manifesting to the poltergeist voice and vice versa were more rapid than you'd expect anybody to be able to fake. Janet would speak in a normal manner, then the poltergeist voice would suddenly manifest through her in a way that sounds much different than her voice, then she would speak again just afterward in a normal manner. The transitions back and forth would often be rapid and not involve the sort of more gradual transition you'd expect if the voice were being faked. Grosse commented, "It's just, it's too quick, it's too sharp, it's too, it just doesn't fit….the quick reply, the sudden change of tone, from normal, normal tone to, to this, you know, to this voice. It's so fast that nobody could do it. I mean, you'd have to be a fantastic ventriloquist or impersonator to be able to do it." (GP97B, 6:48)

Knowledge Different Than The Children's

My 2019 article gave some examples of the voice expressing knowledge lower than the children's on some occasions and higher than theirs on other occasions. I want to add another example.

In my 2019 post, I mentioned that the voice got Grosse's age wrong on a couple of occasions, giving the same wrong age both times, once while manifesting through Janet and once while manifesting through Margaret. It also got Margaret's age wrong while manifesting through one of the girls (MG62A, 45:58). I doubt that either of them would have gotten Margaret's age wrong.

Unusual Noises

The voice would sometimes have audio qualities you wouldn't expect the person through whom it was manifesting to be able to produce by normal means. A good example is found at 16:32 on tape MG52B. The voice, apparently manifesting through Janet, makes some sort of unintelligible comment or noise that sounds like a deep and loud male voice that you wouldn't expect Janet or any of the Hodgson children to be able to fake. It sounds significantly different than anything else I remember hearing on the tapes. The noise in question happens just before Janet is thrown and a slipper in the room is moved in an apparently paranormal manner, so the noise seems to correspond with multiple paranormal events. That increases the likelihood that the noise was paranormal.

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