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The Enfield Poltergeist

The Enfield Poltergeist has fascinated people and been the subject of debate ever since reports of poltergeist activity began appearing in national newspapers in the late 1970s. Psychic investigators who spent months investigating the case obtained photographs and audio recordings of poltergeist activity. They became firmly convinced that the Enfield Poltergeist was a genuine case of a poltergeist infestation. Guy Lyon Playfair, one of the investigators involved in the Enfield Poltergeist case, later wrote a book on the subject entitled This House Is Haunted. However, there are those who remain skeptical and say that there is insufficient evidence to prove that the Enfield Poltergeist was nothing more than a hoax developed by the children involved in the alleged poltergeist demonstrations.

The Enfield Poltergeist case centered on a family living in the north London suburb of Enfield. The family consisted of a divorcee, Peggy Harper (his pen name for her from the famous book This House is Haunted, not her real name), and her four young children. Poltergeist activity centered on the family’s youngest daughter, Janet, who was eleven when the strange events began in August 1977. The Enfield Poltergeist remained active in the house until September 1978.

The first manifestation of the Enfield Poltergeist occurred one night when Janet and her brother, Peter (then ten years old), complained to their mother that their beds were shaking in a strange way. The movement had apparently stopped when her mother came into the room and turned on the light. At first, Mrs. Harper dismissed the occurrence as a prank by the children and the event would have been forgotten, but more strange things began to happen. That same night, Mrs. Harper and the children heard noises that sounded like feet dragging on the carpet.

Having introduced themselves, the Enfield Poltergeist became yet another nuisance that night. Ms. Harper and the children heard loud banging coming from the walls of the house and saw the furniture move, apparently of its own accord. The experience so frightened the family that they ran out of the house to seek help from the neighbors and called the police to investigate. Police found no trace of any human intruder, but one of the police officers reportedly witnessed a chair move several feet across the floor without human intervention.

The day after this, the poltergeist became even more active and toy bricks and marbles flew through the air as if thrown by an invisible hand. When they picked up the toys, they were warm to the touch. Mrs. Harper sought the help of a local vicar and a psychic medium, but they were unable to explain or stop what appeared to be a paranormal attack in the family.

Desperate, Ms. Harper turned to the press and the case was reported in national newspapers. One of the reporters suggested that Ms. Harper call the SPR (Society for Psychical Research). One of its members, Maurice Grosse, who lived in north London, went to the house and began his investigations only a week after the disturbing events began. Although the evidence gathered during investigations on behalf of the SPR was inconclusive, Maurice Grosse became convinced that the Enfield Poltergeist was a genuine case of poltergeist activity and remained steadfast in his convictions until his death at the age of ninety in October 2006.

As the haunting continued, Poltergeist activity intensified. Throughout the time that the Enfield Poltergeist was in residence, the Harper family experienced almost every type of Poltergeist activity recognized by psychic researchers. Furniture banging and sliding was followed by overturned furniture, drawers opening and closing, footsteps, the sighting of apparitions including a small child, an old woman, and a man in old-fashioned clothing. The Poltergeist became interactive by first communicating through rapping and then speaking through Janet and her brother Jimmy (the harsh male voices were apparently produced through the use of fake vocal cords). Janet was thrown around her room by an invisible force and there were unexplained malfunctions in the haunted house’s electrical equipment.

I vividly remember reading about the Enfield Poltergeist in the newspapers in 1977/78. The Harper house was close to where I lived, and my oldest daughter was only a year younger than Janet Harper. Although the Harper children did not attend the same schools as my children, they might as well have played together at the local park. One of the things that made the Enfield Poltergeist so haunting was the fact that the haunting took place in a completely unremarkable three-bedroom local authority terraced house. In some ways, the haunting seemed creepier because it took place in such an ordinary setting. We expect ghosts to appear in isolated manors, haunted mansions, or Transylvanian castles. The feeling that ghosts might appear in an ordinary family home with rugs and children’s toys and a television must have caused many people to look uncomfortably over their shoulders to identify the source of any strange noises or unexpected drafts. I certainly felt that way. Though my curiosity was strongly piqued by the sensational newspaper coverage, I didn’t dare take a walk beyond the haunted house in case some malevolent unseen presence decided to follow me home.

The Enfield Poltergeist case has not been proven to be an actual case of poltergeist activity but, on the other hand, the Enfield Poltergeist has never been proven to be anything other than a genuine ghost.

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