EDDIE BRAZIL looks back on a frightening 1950s poltergeist case from Norwood in South London…
The latter half of the 20th century, at least in ghost hunting terms, is often considered to be the era of the poltergeist.
The reasons for and causes of poltergeist phenomena is still today a major area of debate between paranormal investigators.
Author Guy Lyon Playfair who, together with renowned psychical researcher Maurice Gross, investigated the Enfield Poltergeist haunting in 1977, concluded that the poltergeist is a form of disembodied spirit who likes to play games and wreak havoc. Of course, to the scientist and parapsychologist, such ideas as unearthly spectres terrorising and assaulting people in their own homes is nonsense. But is that the case?
In 1947 in an ordinary terraced house in South London, the Greenfield family, Mother and Father, 26 years old Cecil, his younger sister, Pat, older brother, Dennis, together with his wife and her parents moved in to the six-roomed house in Langmead Street in West Norwood.
Soon after moving in the family were puzzled when tapping noises began to sound from the empty attic. The Greenfields put this down to rodents or birds.
Yet, gradually the tapping grew louder until it sounded as if heavy objects were being moved violently about.
Although the family were alarmed and frightened by what was occurring they stoically endured it.
Terror By Night in Norwood
However, one night in July 1951 the haunting took on a new terrifying dimension.
Cecil Greenfield was woken in the small hours by the sound of movement outside his bedroom door.
Thinking that someone must be unwell he opened the door, but all was quiet on the dark, deserted landing.
And then, in almost cinematic fashion, he saw a figure rounding the bend on the stairs and advance towards him.
The young man described it as a tall, grey-white shape without a face.
As the apparition closed in, Cecil found himself becoming increasingly cold with fear and only when the shape was in touching distance did he scream out and the apparition vanished.
His terrified cries awoke the rest of the family and they rushed to his aid.
A few nights later elder brother Dennis and his wife returned home late, and when they opened the front door of the house they saw the same grey -white faceless figure standing motionless in the narrow hallway.
Both were extremely frightened by their experience and fled to a nearby friend’s house.
The shape of the faceless spectre not only appeared during the night.
The Greenfields’ young daughter, Pat, saw the figure within the house one bright afternoon.
The Haunting Continues
The family were understandably at a loss at what to do faced with such extraordinary and alarming phenomena.
Eventually they called in the police, yet, as might be expected, the constables were unable to explain the strange happenings.
Nonetheless, whilst the Police officers maintained a constant vigil on the house the disturbances continued.
A picture crashed to the floor, yet the chord was unbroken and the wall hook still in place. A large photograph fell out of its frame, but the glass front and backing was undisturbed. Bed covers were strewn all over the house.
Brilliant luminous flashes were seen throughout the house by all the family and the officers.
The radio would turn on and off. Kitchen utensils were found strew all over one of the bedrooms. Books were thrown about and torn.
The family were now so frightened that they would not venture upstairs, and all decided to sleep on the ground floor.
The Haunting Ends
And then, just as inexplicably as it had begun, the phenomena ceased.
The puzzled, and no doubt relieved, Greenfield family were happy to be rid of the Poltergeist which had caused them so much stress and fear for four years. In 1951 the family moved out, and the house in Langmead Street was taken over by new tenants, yet throughout their time the following occupants were not troubled by any poltergeist activity.
Then what is a noisy ghost?
Many poltergeist hauntings seem to feature a curious display of intelligence from the invading entity.
An understanding to respond to questions, requests and even commands.
It would seem that the poltergeist is just as aware of the alarmed spectators, as they are of it, and that its actions are premeditated and deliberate.
An evil invading intelligence?
The house in Langmead Street has long gone, and the memory of those curious disturbances of almost 70 years ago has begun to fade.
Yet, is it possible that on a dark night in July, 1951, Cecil Greenfield stepped out of his bedroom and came face to face with a malevolent noisy ghost – a poltergeist?