On August 31st 1977, normal life ended for Mrs Harper and her four children in their modest council house in a hitherto quiet corner of the north London suburb of Enfield.
Compared to what was to come, the initial phenomena were relatively minor – knockings on the walls, and pieces of furniture moving in ways that did not seem normal.
The neighbours came in and searched the house, finding all in order, though they too heard the knocking. The police were called, and were able to witness a chair sliding along the floor. The disturbances went on, getting more intense and more frightening. They were eventually witnessed by at least thirty people.
They included examples of everything a poltergeist can do – overturning chairs and tables, flinging things about, whipping off bedclothes, levitating one of the girls in full view of passers-by, making her speak with the voice of an old man and defying the laws of physics by passing matter through solid matter.
Much of this bewildering and often terrifying activity was captured on tape and film by Maurice Grosse of the Society for Psychical Research and his colleague Guy Lyon
Playfair, who were on the case within days of its outbreak stayed on it until it finally came to an end, with a twist as unexpected and surprising as in any detective story.
No other case of its kind has been so well witnessed from start to finish or so thoroughly documented. Incidents are described as they happened, without embellishment, from some six hundred pages of transcripts of live tape recordings. The Enfield poltergeist is already regarded as a classic in the annals of psychical research. It has been the subject of worldwide press coverage and several radio and television documentaries.
About the author
GUY LYON PLAYFAIR was born in India and educated in England, obtaining a degree in modern languages from Cambridge University. He then spent many years in Brazil as a freelance journalist for The Economist, Time, and the Associated Press, also working for four years in the press section of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The first of his twelve books, The Flying Cow, in which he described his experiences investigating the psychic side of Brazil, was translated into six languages and became an international best seller. His most recent book is Telepathy – the Twin Connection. He now lives in London and is a council member of the Society for Psychical Research.
‘I Can’t Make That Noise’
Mrs Harper came home from the shops one day to find a car parked outside her house, and the woman driver staring at it. She went up to the car and smiled politely at the driver.
‘Is this the house where they’re having the poltergeist?’ the woman asked.
‘Yes, that’s right,’ Mrs Harper replied. ‘Would you like to come in?’ The woman stared at her and drove off at high speed without a word, much to Mrs Harper’s amusement.
On another occasion, a man turned up at the door and offered her £5 to let him stay the night in the house. Though she could certainly have used the money, Mrs. Harper sent him packing at once.
With the sole exception of Peggy Nottingham’s original call for help to the Daily Mirror, nobody at Enfield, including Grosse and myself, contacted any of the news media at any time and Mrs Harper made it plain that she did not intend to exploit her case for either publicity or money.
Yet by December 1977, the Enfield poltergeist was becoming well known. There had been visits from the Daily Mirror, The Observer, BBC radio and television, and the American weekly National Enquirer, and we felt the case had been publicised enough. We did not want to turn the house into a tourist attraction, and we had taken care to insist that the Harpers’ real name and address were not disclosed, and since they were not on the telephone they were spared the crank calls that have often added to the problems of poltergeist victims in the past.
Even so, a couple of strange messages did get through. The local police brought Mrs. Harper a letter sent to them from a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses in California, which she showed me, saying she could not make head or tail of it. It was several pages long, and all about devils and demons. It was never answered.
A woman in southern England who had somehow discovered Mrs. Harper’s real name and address sent her two very strange telegrams, one of which urged her to call a certain number. I offered to do this for her, and spoke to a very pleasant man who told me that his wife, who had sent the telegrams, was now in a mental hospital, seriously ill. (Later, Grosse learned that a London woman had been committed to a mental home after an outbreak of fairly low-level poltergeist activity in her home, and had he not arrived on the case it is quite possible that this would have been the fate of the Harpers, especially in view of the fact that Pete had already been sent to a special school, for reasons we could never establish or even guess at).
I was invited early in the case to write an article for a new fashion magazine, and I accepted after learning that the magazine would not appear until well into 1978, by which time I felt sure the case must be over. The fee covered about half my travel expenses.
We decided that the case had now been publicised enough, and that we would do our best to keep the British press away from now on. But we still encouraged other researchers to come along and see for themselves, and on 10 December 1977, Grosse and I were joined by two psychologists from the SPR. These were Dr John Beloff, head of the Edinburgh University psychology department, and Anita Gregory from North London Polytechnic, who had already made one brief visit.
It turned out to be quite a night, and it marked the beginning of a week in which totally bewildering phenomena followed each other so thick and fast that even with the almost full-time help of David Robertson, we were unable to keep up with them.
David was doing a good job studying the physical side of the case, and we hoped our colleagues would be able to help on the psychological side, for poltergeist cases offer rare opportunities to study the interactions of mind and matter.
Dr Beloff is a most amiable and open-minded scientist, who has written a good deal on many aspects of psychical research and carried out a number of experiments on his own laboratory in the field of parapsychology His findings have almost invariably been negative, for reasons nobody can understand. It is a case of what is called ‘experimenter effect’ and it is not confined to parapsychologists. The physicist Wolfgang Pauli, for instance, only had to walk into a laboratory, it is said, for some machine or other to break down mysteriously. (On the other hand, some scientists such as Professor Hasted actually seem to encourage positive results).
At first, it seemed that Dr Beloff’s luck had changed, for as soon as the girls were in bed they were apparently flung out again, though never while any of us was in the room, which understandably made our visitors rather suspicious.
Throughout the early evening, we heard the curious whistling and barking noises coming from Janet’s general direction that we had been hearing for several days. The whistles were very loud and piercing, and seemed to imitate the way Vic Nottingham always greeted his wife when he came home from work. Janet vehemently denied making the whistling noises on purpose, and her mother assured us that she had never heard Janet whistle. Moreover, she had large teeth and usually wore a brace, which made it almost impossible for her to whistle at all.
The barking noises were even more mysterious. ‘Listen,’ Janet said to me the first time I heard it, ‘I’m not doing it. I can’t make that noise.’ Then she added, to my surprise, ‘That’s what we got when we were on our holiday.’ I checked this later with Pete on one of his weekend visits.
‘We heard these noises,’ he agreed, ‘and it got worse and it go so worse [sic] that Mum thought it was us doing it, but it wasn’t.’ Janet had mentioned the noises during her hypnosis session, and made it quite clear that she thought it had been Pete, for it certainly had not been her. And since Pete was away from the house most of the time, it certainly could not be him now.
Even so, the barking and whistling did sound rather phoney, and I could sympathise with Dr Beloff and Mrs. Gregory, who were not very impressed, either by the noises or the repeated falling out of bed.
Shortly after midnight, Grosse thought the time had come to carry out Professor Hasted’s advice and challenge the poltergeist to speak.
‘Charlie,’ he began. (We had decided the poltergeist should have a name). Do you think you could make those noises in the back room?’ Dr Beloff and Mrs. Gregory were sitting in the back room discussing the case.
Charlie couldn’t, or wouldn’t, but as Grosse left the bedroom there were two very loud barks, which Rose assured him seemed to come from under Janet’s bed. It did not sound like the kind of vocal sound you would expect from a twelve-year-old.
Grosse tried again. ‘Come on, Charlie, you can whistle and bark, so you can speak. I want you to call out my name, my complete name — Maurice Grosse.’ He went out of the room again, for at this stage there would never be any barks or whistles while he was near Janet.
As soon as he was out of the room, Charlie barked out:
‘0…MAURICE… 0…’ Grosse did not hear this at the time, as he was saying something to us in the back bedroom. But it is clearly audible on the tape, as is Janet’s normal voice saying:
‘It went “Maurice Grosse”.’ Then her bed started to creak loudly, she complained that she was ‘going up and down’, while Rose said something was trying to pull her pillow out from under her head. Grosse went in and out of the room several times, repeating his request for a clearly spoken name, but got only an assortment of whistles, barks, and ‘0’ sounds.
‘Tell you what,’ said Grosse, ‘I’ll give you a good name to say. Say Doctor Beloff. Come on, let me hear you say that.’
‘DOCTOR,’ the voice rasped as soon as Grosse had shut the door behind him. ‘GROSSEGROSSE’. Charlie seemed to have become confused.
It was a most extraordinary noise, which I could clearly hear through the closed door, with my ear against it. It was loud and harsh, and it was unquestionably the voice of an old man. I thought at once of Anneliese Michel, starving to death during her exorcism sessions in Germany, and the ‘harsh male voice’ coming from her. I thought of the many other reports I had read of similar vocal phenomena. Well, here it was. We had got it, and we had got it because we had asked for it.
Grosse finally persuaded Charlie, after much coaxing, to say the names ‘Doctor Beloff’ and ‘Anita Gregory’. ‘Now,’ he went on, ‘can you tell me what your name is?’
‘JOE’, came the prompt reply And pressed for a surname, he added:
‘That was very good indeed,’ said Grosse, going back into the room. ‘I knew you would talk. That was a man’s voice, wasn’t it?’
‘Yes,’ said Rose. ‘It’s not ours.’
‘And did you live in this house?’
‘How long ago did you live in this house?’
There was no reply. Grosse repeated his question, getting only a loud grunt and four knocks for an answer.
‘Gawd,’ said Rose, ‘it’s going off its head!’
Grosse pressed on patiently with his questioning, but got only faint growls and grunts. He then let Mrs. Harper have a go, but she got no response at all. Then I whispered something to Grosse.
‘Do you know you are dead?’ he asked, on my behalf. This time, the reply was immediate.
‘SHUT UP!’ Charlie, or Joe as we now called him, sounded very angry. I took over the interrogation from Grosse.
‘Listen, brother Joe,’ I said. ‘It’s time you realised you are not alive. You are discarnate. You are dead. You are a ghost. You are a spirit. You are also wasting a lot of people’s time, including your own. Why don’t you move up towards the light, where you will find people to help you and give you what you are looking for? Get off this plane — now!’ I went out, leaving the door open.
There was an ominous silence, Grosse looked round the door.
‘Are you going away now, Joe?’ he asked.
‘Listen Joe, old sport,’ I went on. ‘We would like to help you. But you’ve got to tell us what you want. We’re not getting mad with you. I’m sorry for you because you’re causing yourself a lot of trouble, and you’re going to pay for all this in the future. You’re going to be made to suffer in exactly the way you’ve made all these innocent people suffer here. The sooner you realise that, the better — for you. See? All we want to know is what you want. And we will give it to you, if we’ve got it. And if we haven’t got it, we can’t give it to you, can we? OK? Are you with me so far?’
‘FUCK OFF,’ growled Joe as soon as I was out of sight. I decided to have one more go.
‘I don’t mind whether you believe me or not,’ I said. ‘Will you just think it over? Good night. Sleep well.’
‘SHIT,’ said Joe as I left the room. Then Janet spoke in her normal voice for the first time since the arrival of ‘Joe’.
‘Did you hear what he said? He said “s-h-i-t”?’ She seemed reluctant to say the word. Grosse then invited our visiting psychologists to have a go.
Dr Beloff went into the bedroom. ‘Come along, Joe,’ he said quite kindly, ‘I’ve come a long way. Tell me something. Tell me what’s troubling you. Tell me what’s going on. You can talk. See what you can say?’ Apparently, Joe had nothing to say.
Anita Gregory had more luck, but in reply to her innocent question ‘Tell me how you are?’ she was greeted with a grating ‘BUGGER OFF’. Undeterred, Mrs. Gregory kept at it, getting nothing but abuse in reply. Then John Burcombe took over, asking Joe (at my suggestion) if he would like a drink, or anything. But all Joe seemed to want was some music, and since it was now nearly one in the morning we said he would have to wait until tomorrow.
We had certainly made contact, but with whom, or what? I hoped our psychologists, of whom we had now had four at Enfield, would make some useful suggestions, for the first two had said absolutely nothing. But they were as tired as we were after a very long day.
‘Of course,’ said Beloff as we drove back into London, ‘the possibility of ventriloquism must be investigated.’
‘It will be,’ I promised.
I arrived home at three a.m., opened a bottle of beer and played back all my tapes of the evening. On tape, the deep voice sounded even more weird than it had at the time. It was very loud and guttural, nothing at all like Janet’s normal voice — which, I noticed, stayed normal even after the long interrogation session. If she had been doing it on purpose I was sure her vocal cords would have been banged to pieces. Yet she never once coughed or even cleared her throat.
Was I really listening to the voice of a dead man? Was Janet a brilliant ventriloquist as well as one of the country’s leading conjurors? I did not know. All I knew was that the case had taken an interesting turn. We had asked for a voice and we had got it, straight away.
The following day. I called Dr Fletcher and brought him up to date. Knowing of his experience in magic, I asked if he thought Janet could be using ventriloquism.
‘I can’t say without hearing for myself of course,’ he replied. ‘But remember, the word ventriloquism is a misnomer. It is not speaking from the stomach — the ventriloquist moves his dummy’s lips and keeps his own still, so that you think the sound is coming from the dummy but of course it is not. It comes from the man’s own throat.’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘I think it’s an astonishing noise for a girl of twelve to make. And, actually, Rose did say at one point that she thought it came from under the bed rather than from Janet.’
‘I would have thought,’ said Dr Fletcher, ‘that a girl trying to imitate a ghost would have put on a sort of stage whisper,’ He reminded me that similar hoarse voices had been reported on other cases, so I went off to the SPR library and took T.K. Oesterreich’s huge volume Possession, Demoniacal and Other off its shelf. I found what I wanted at once.
‘At the moment when the countenance alters, a more or less changed voice issues from the mouth of the person in the fit ...The top register of the voice is displaced, the feminine voice is transformed into a bass one.’
Was it, now! Oesterreich mentioned several examples of vocal transformation that had been well witnessed at the time. Justinus Kerner, a German doctor of the nineteenth century, described how a girl of eleven suddenly began to speak in a ‘deep bass voice’. The pioneer French psychologist Pierre Janet mentioned ‘now the sound of a masculine, now that of a feminine voice’ issuing from the mouth of a possessed woman. A writer named Eschenbach reported that a supposeed demon ‘spoke today in a voice resembling more than ever a man’s bass’. But best of all was another case described by Kerner:
‘Suddenly the little girl was tossed convulsively hither and thither in the bed, and this lasted for more than seven weeks; after which suddenly a quite coarse man’s voice spoke diabolically through the mouth of this eight-year-old child ... Often she tried with a diabolical face to beat her father and mother and the onlookers, or else she insulted them, which was not at all in accordance with her character.’
Kerner might have been writing about Janet Harper in 1977, as might the researcher who described a dialogue between a twelve-year-old girl and the priest who was trying to exorcise her:
‘Priest. As you know so many things, do you also know how to pray?
Girl. I shall shit down your neck.’
Then there was the 1889 case of Dinah, aged eleven, the adopted daughter of George Dagg:
A deep gruff voice, as of an old man, seemingly within four or five feet from him, instantly replied in a language which cannot be repeated here ...
The piercing whistling sounds we had heard at Enfield had also been reported, one case, described by a Calvinist minister, dating back to 1612 and concerning the ‘devil of Mascon’, who had possessed the body of a young maidservant:
‘In the presence of us all ... he began to whistle three or four times with a very loud and shrill tone, and presently to frame an articulate and intelligible voice, though somewhat hoarse.’
Two centuries later, the phenomenon was still around. The family involved in the ‘Bell Witch’ case sought to make the ‘witch’ talk through the mouth of their teenage daughter:
‘Finally, it commenced, developing until the whistling sound was changed to a faltering whisper, uttering indistinct words. The voice, however, gradually gained strength ...The talking was heard in lighted rooms, in the dark, and finally in the day at any hour.’
I leafed through the introduction to Oesterreich’s book, which gave an interesting account of the life of the author, a respectable university professor who had been forced into silence by the Nazis. It was clear that he had made a very thorough study of his subject, and the writer of the introduction concluded that the phenomena he described were still very much in need of an explanation. ‘It would be very simple for me and acceptable to others if I were to say that all these people were dupes, frauds, lunatics and psychopaths, and to suggest that this constitutes some sort of explanation’, said the writer, who turned out to be our colleague Mrs Gregory, using her maiden name, Anita Kohsen.
The following day, I received a note from Anita Gregory and John Beloff, accompanying the report they had written jointly the morning after their visit in Enfield. It was their opinion, they told me, that the girls were playing tricks with us.
Maurice Grosse and I, who knew that they were not playing tricks with us, at least certainly not all the time, plunged back into the battle on 12 December. There was a good deal more we wanted to learn about our new voice.
Almost as soon as everybody was in bed, a halfpenny coin dropped from the ceiling and hit the floor very close to my recorder. Grosse was in the room at the time, and was certain nobody in the room had thrown it. Then Rose’s bed began shaking up and down after she had apparently gone to sleep. She said nothing, and neither did we.
At the start of the second session with the Voice, Grosse at first got nothing but silence, muffled grunts, or abuse. It did not sound particularly malevolent; Grosse would be told to ‘shit off’ as if the speaker could not think of anything else to say. The only time the Voice sounded really angry was when the door was left open; it refused to speak unless it was closed, which naturally made conversation rather laborious, and also frustrated our early attempts to watch Janet’s mouth while the sound was produced.
However, Grosse kept at it, and before long he was getting quite long sentences in reply to his much-repeated questions. Tonight’s Voice, which sounded exactly like ‘Joe’, said his name was Bill, and that he had lived in the house — or rather that he still was living in it. He was sixty years old, and had a dog called Gober the Ghost.
‘Can you tell me why you keep on shaking Janet’s bed?’ Grosse asked.
‘I WAS SLEEPING HERE.’
‘Then why do you keep on shaking it?’
‘GET JANET OUT’ This was certainly what he seemed to be trying to do and quite often succeeding in doing, for Janet ended up on the floor again and again, often accompanied by Rose. Mrs. Harper told us that the beds were constantly interfered with even during the day, whether the children were at home or not. Once, she had actually seen the bedclothes being whipped back, just as if Bill or Joe was indeed sleeping there, and she had repeatedly seen indentations on beds neatly made that morning as if somebody invisible were still lying on them. The feeling that all of us had of there being somebody else living in the house was very strong.
The bed shaking became so violent that I thought the bed would collapse, as later it did. The Nottinghams could hear it from next door, and the only way to stop it was to sit on the bed and literally hold Janet still. The Voice would never talk while one of us was this close to Janet, but the second we were out of the door, it would start. This naturally looked a little suspicious, but Janet repeatedly denied that she was doing it on purpose.
‘I can’t make that noise!’ she protested, and I believed her. I could imitate it quite well, but would get a painfully sore throat after a few seconds. How could a girl of twelve keep it up for an hour?
We tried to settle the matter by seeing if Janet and the Voice could speak simultaneously, and since claimed to like music, we decided to have a sing-song, inviting him to join in.
‘What’s your favourite song?’ Grosse asked.
‘SCARLET FEVER,’ came the prompt reply, and we all burst out laughing. Even poltergeists can be funny at times, and we always took any chance to relieve the tension.
I called Grosse into the back bedroom for a quick consultation.
‘Get them singing,’ I said, ‘and I’ll listen from here through my headphones. My microphone is under the double bed.’ Grosse went back into the bedroom and led the girls into ‘Daisy Daisy’. He asked Bill to join in, and promised to keep his face to the corner by the door, if he was so coy about being watched.
This seemed to satisfy him, and there followed what must surely be one of the strangest sing-songs in recorded history. For Bill did indeed join in, growling away in his powerful bass. At one point, we thought we had recorded Janet, Rose and Bill at once, but on playing back the tape we noticed that every time Bill joined in, Janet would drop out. The change form one voice to the other was so quick that not a beat was missed; and at one point Bill started laughing, and his guttural bass suddenly blended into Janet’s girlish giggle. It was as if they were laughing in octaves. I wondered if a ventriloquist could do that.
We then asked Janet to interrupt Bill every time he spoke, and she promised to try. But every time she did so, Bill would stop short. Clearly, there was some connection between the two voices.
‘Bill,’ Grosse said, ‘when we spoke to you on Saturday night, you said your name was Joe. Was there somebody here on Saturday called Joe?’
‘YES,’ Bill rasped.
‘Oh there was? So there are two of you?’
‘No — TEN.’
This reply produced an immediate reaction of surprise from the girls, and I gave such a start that my headphones fell off my ears. We had told the girls nothing about their shared dreams and accounts of the ‘ten naughty things’ which they had never mentioned while awake. Well, now they knew.
Again, I called Grosse for a quick conference. He agreed to my suggestion, and I went into the bedroom. Ask him everything you want to know,’ I told the girls. ‘just talk to him quite naturally, as if it was me. And keep going. Don’t stop. We’ll leave you alone for five minutes.’
I hurried back to the other room, retrieved my headphones, and listened as Rose and Janet chatted with their invisible playmate well beyond their allotted five minutes.
‘What do all these men do?’ Janet asked in her normal voice. The reply, in the now familiar deep growl, came at once. ‘SLING FURNITURE.’
‘Where do they sleep?’
‘SHUTTHEFUCKINGDOOR.’ It sounded like a single word. Bill had a real obsession about the door. It let the air and the germs in, he explained. ‘Why do you use bad language?’ Rose asked.
‘FUCK OFF, YOU,’ Bill replied, not unkindly.
‘Oh!’ Rose exclaimed.
Janet chimed in. ‘Why, what, why do you like playing about with us?’ she asked.
‘I LIKE ANNOYING YOU.’
‘Have you got ten dogs as well?’
‘Bleeding hell!’ Janet exclaimed. ‘Sixty-eight dogs!’ Her surprise sounded very real. Could any actress, I wondered, put on a dialogue with herself like this, changing instantaneously from her natural voice to this extraordinary sound?
Rose then asked if Bill meant to torment Peggy next door, ‘YES. I KNOCKED A BOTTLE OFF HER SHELF,’ came the prompt reply.
Rose did not hear him correctly. ‘You’ve learned an awful lot about her?’ she asked.
‘NO! I KNOCKED A BOTTLE OFF HER SHELF ON THE WALL,’ Bill replied, speaking more slowly. Something had indeed done this, in the presence of both Grosse and Sally Doganis of the BBC. I could not recall our having mentioned this incident to the children, though Peggy Nottingham may have.
‘Where do you all come from?’ Rose then asked.
‘Where do you what?’ Janet replied, in her normal voice. It seemed for a moment that she had slipped up and replied in the wrong voice, but perhaps she just wanted to hear Rose’s question correctly.
‘Where do you all come from, those friends of yours?’ Rose repeated.
‘THE GRAVEYARD.’ No mistaking that voice.
‘The graveyard! Ooh!’ Rose sounded quite agitated. Then Janet asked:
‘Where do the dogs come from?’
‘FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT,’ came the unexpected answer. Janet let that pass without comment.
‘How long have you been in this house?’ she went on.
‘SINCE AUGUST THE THIRTY-FIRST. I CAME TO TORMENT YOU.’
‘What have you come to torment us for? Is there any reason?’
‘I WANT SOME JAZZ MUSIC. GET ME SOME NOW.’ Bill’s habit of suddenly changing the subject just as a dialogue seemed established was very frustrating. It was a habit Janet also had, I had noticed.
Then followed a disjoined sequence during which Bill said he was going to eat all the chocolates up at Christmas, among other things.
‘Why did you pick this house?’ Rose wanted to know. ‘BECAUSE I USED TO LIVE HERE.’
Janet giggled. Then she asked a question I had told her to ask.
‘You’re dead, didn’t you know?’
YES, I COME FROM OUT THE GRAVE.’
‘You come from out the grave?’ The girls giggled nervously.
‘YES, IN DURANT’S PARK.’ This is the name of one of the graveyards in the Enfield area.
I went into the room to give Janet some more briefing. She told me that a couple of months before the trouble started, she had been out for a walk in Durant’s Park with Pete and got involved in a fight there with some other children. I told her not to worry about that, but to ask Bill why he was still hanging about. ‘Ask him why he doesn’t go up to where all the other dead people go,’ I said, as I left the room. Rose immediately repeated my question.
‘I DON’T BELIEVE IN THAT,’ came the answer, in a new tone of voice altogether. It sounded almost sad.
‘Why? What’s so different about being up there?’ Rose asked.
‘I’M NOT A HEAVEN MAN.’ Again, Bill sounded wistful. He seemed to have lost his usual aggressive cheekiness.
‘You’re not a heaven man? What’s . . . But the Voice interrupted Rose with quite the most remarkable sequence of all our conversations with it. It began to speak in bursts, as if with some effort, one or two syllables at a time.
‘MY — NAME — IS — BILL - HOBBS* — AND — I — COME — FROM — DURANT’S — PARK — AND — I — AM — SEVENTY — TWO — YEARS — OLD — AND — I — HAVE — COME — HERE — TO — SEE — MY — FAMILY — BUT — THEY — ARE — NOT — HERE — NOW.’
It gave me the most vivid impression of the voice of a lost and wandering mind looking for its former surroundings. But once again, just when I felt we were getting somewhere, the spell was broken, as Bill interrupted Rose’s next question with an angry outburst:
‘YOU FUCKING OLD BITCH, SHUT UP, I WANT SOME JAZZ MUSIC. NOW GO AND GET ME SOME, ELSE I’LL GO BARMY.’ This was the old Voice again; it was just as if two people were fighting to use the same telephone, one grabbing the mouthpiece from the other.
Rose kept going with admirable persistence, and put another question I had given her to ask:
‘What did it feel like to die?’
‘I DIDN’T DIE,’ came the angry reply. Then followed a confusion of monotonous abuse and isolated phrases about jazz music, and although we put Rose’s recorder under the bed and invited Bill to have a blow, we got no further sense out of him, and Rose decided at about 1 a.m. that she was through for the night. ‘I’m going to sleep now,’ she said, adding crossly ‘Go away, you animal!’
‘I WILL NOW’ came the surprisingly docile reply. But again he failed to keep his word, and he kept going for another hour without talking any sense at all. Eventually, we had to put Janet in the back bedroom on her own and stay with her until she went to sleep.
During our three-hour conversation, Bill had apparently been to work on our tape recorders. Fortunately, we used three that night, and managed to record the whole session, but only just. I found that one of my cassettes had one of its tabs cut off, which is very hard to do by accident, while another had either failed to record or had been wiped clean on one part of one side. This is also rather hard to explain, as there was nothing wrong with either the tape or the recorder. Finally, we found that Grosse’s machine had been switched off in the middle of one of his tapes. We were beginning to get used to this kind of thing, and from then on we kept checking all our equipment all the time, using two recorders whenever possible.
We played the session back the next day, after I had managed to copy and reconstruct the whole three-hour session.
‘You bring me a girl who can imitate that voice for three hours,’ Grosse said, ‘and I’ll give you five hundred pounds.’
I duly asked the eleven-year-old daughter of a friend if she could imitate a ghost for me. She made a few moaning sounds and spoke in a faint little whisper.
‘No,’ I said, ‘like this,’ and I did my best to imitate Bill.
She tried, but immediately clutched her throat. ‘Owl’ she exclaimed, ‘that hurts.’ I decided I was not going to get Grosse’s money off him.
Whatever the opinion of our psychologist friends might be, Janet was not having us on.
This House is Haunted: The Amazing Inside Story of the Enfield Poltergeist by Guy Lyon Playfair is published by White Crow Books and available from Amazon and all good onine book stores.
This House Is Haunted
Publisher: White Crow Books
Published February 2011
Size: 229 x 152 mm