Ghost Club members Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair were central to the real-life paranormal investigation of The Enfield Haunting in the 1970s. Ghost Club chairman ALAN MURDIE says having known these men and spent time examining the evidence of the case himself, he is sure there’s more to this infamous poltergeist case than kids “mucking around”…
Both the late Maurice Grosse (1918-2006) and Guy Lyon Playfair were involved The Ghost Club from the early 1980s, and speaking to the Club on a number of occasions regarding their research both at Enfield and in other poltergeist cases.
At a number of truly memorable meetings, they shared evidence from the case and extracts from the extensive audio recordings made during the investigation.
Although the events in the television show have been hugely dramatized and fictionalised in The Enfield Haunting, a full range of poltergeist effects were described were reported at the house in Enfield, North London from 31 August 1977 through until 1979.
The research at Enfield was extensive with over 1000 hours of observations, arising from approximately 180 visits between September 5 1977 and June 1978, including 25 all-night vigils.
Over 140 hours of tape recordings were made and transcripts of events run to over 500 pages. (a number of other recordings have not been transcribed).
In addition, the SPR (Society of Psychical Research) conducted a follow-up investigation which concluded that genuinely paranormal incidents occurred, as discussed in The Enfield Poltergeist Investigation Committee – The ‘EPIC’ Report, SPR 1981.
In addition to a wide range of well-attested and recorded poltergeist incidents, including raps, object movements, fires and levitations, many detailed in Guy Lyon Playfair’s book This House Is Haunted (1980,2009) Enfield was remarkable for a strange voice, resembling that of an old man, which emerged from an 11 year-old-girl Janet Harper, and which has never been satisfactorily explained.
All with the exception of the apparitions and certain assaults and apparent inter-penetration of matter were experienced by external observers and neighbours, apart from the family.
The Enfield case has been subjected to various sceptical attacks by writers and journalists but it is easily demonstrated that none of these critics have actually examined the primary data, interviewed the key witnesses or considered the totality evidence as a whole.
All too often the allegations of trickery turn out to be based upon partial and garbled claims by earlier commentators and secondhand rumours rather than having an demonstrable foundation.
The one exception to this unvarying avoidance of evidence was, Dr Melvyn Willin, archivist for the Society for Psychical Research has examined any quantity of the Enfield data, principally audio recordings.
His published opinions, including an email to myself (Alan Murdie) in 2012: “Yes, having listened to all the tapes (over 100) and sifted through Maurice’s letters etc I changed my mind from being dismissive (“It’s kids mucking about”) to believing that there was far more to this case than simple tomfoolery.” (email to Alan Murdie 14 Feb 2012). Dr Willin has continue repeat his change of views elsewhere, including at the Ghost Club’s 150th anniversary event in November 2012.
Perhaps the most significant discovery with respect to Enfield recordings is that rapping sounds obtained at Enfield 1977-78 contain an anomalous acoustic signature found in other poltergeist recordings.
This effect was identified in 2010 by Dr Barrie Colvin, and is detectable only on an instrumental analysis.
The effect shows up on samples of the raps at Enfield attributed to the poltergeist, but not with raps deliberately made by the contemporary investigators in response, trying to encourage the phenomena.
If the Enfield raps were a trick, how were they accomplished?
This poses as an explanatory puzzle for those who claim the manifestations were faked, as any imagined hoaxer would not only have to had to create the original raps but also possessed the advanced knowledge to devise traces detectable only by instrumental analysis, and only identified some 33 years later. (See Colvin, Barrie ‘The Acoustic Properties of Unexplained Rapping Sounds’ in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research  Vol 73.2 Number 899 pp 65-93.)
Enfield is a case where more proof arises, the more the primary data and evidence is examined
Indeed, for those who have examined any of this evidence or heard testimony direct from both Maurice and Guy it soon becomes apparent that the Enfield case is not readily explicable and in fact is better documented than many other historic and contemporary events.
ALAN MURDIE is the chairman of The Ghost Club (founded 1862) and Spontaneous Cases Committee chairman for the Society of Psychical Research. A lawyer by occupation, Alan has written and broadcast extensively on ghosts and poltergeist phenomena and writes a monthly column on ghosts for Fortean Times magazine. You can follow the The Ghost Club on Twitter here.