The Enfield Poltergeist – Joe Nickell Explains All.
Posted on 02 January 2014, 9:57
‘As a magician experienced in the dynamics of trickery, I have carefully examined Playfair’s lengthy account of the disturbances at Enfield and have concluded that they are best explained as children’s pranks.’ This weighty pronouncement comes from CSI (formerly CSICOP)’s chief hit-man and serial cherry-picker Joe Nickell, in whose opinion Playfair is a ‘crank author on paranormal subjects’ who ‘ignores any skeptical literature’. If that were true, I wouldn’t be commenting on his piece in the Skeptical Inquirer (vol.36.4, 2012) which I will now do – briefly - as it doesn’t deserve discussing at much length.
The art of cherry-picking involves selecting such evidence as suits your case and either dismissing or just ignoring all the rest. Nickell has collected quite a basket of unripe and rotten cherries from his ‘careful examination’ of This House is Haunted, while leaving all the ripe ones on the tree, waving his magic wand and making them all disappear. Among many items and incidents he makes no attempt to explain away or even mention, here are just ten:
• The photo taken by Graham Morris at the moment he was hit on the forehead by a piece of Lego thrown hard enough to give him a nasty bruise on his forehead, his photo showing clearly that nobody (visible) had thrown it.
• A sequence on Graham’s motor-drive Nikon showing a curtain twisting itself into a tight spiral and apparently being blown into the room although the window behind it was closed, and another sequence clearly showing bedclothes moving untouched by any incarnate human hand.
• Several photos showing Janet seemingly levitating with outstretched legs and without her bedclothes having been pulled back, as directly witnessed on one occasion by her mother.
• The built-in gas fireplace (luckily disconnected) which weighed about 20 kilos being wrenched out of the wall, bending the connecting brass pipe.
• The large cushion appearing instantaneously on the roof in full view of the tradesman walking towards the house, an experience from which he had not recovered thirty years later.
• The lollipop lady’s clear account, frequently repeated, of seeing Janet levitating to a height of at least two feet and floating around in circles. Again, this was in her direct line of sight, from her post at the school crossing directly in front of the house.
• The book transported into the house next door, which was locked and unoccupied at the time, there being no conceivable normal explanation as to how it got there.
• The laryngograph evidence that the male bass voice repeatedly heard coming out of Janet’s mouth was produced by her plica ventricularis (false vocal folds), which cannot be kept up for long even by trained actors without getting a very sore throat. This was witnessed by a professional speech therapist who was unable to explain it.
• The evidence produced by the ‘Voice’ that nobody in the family knew, such as the fact that the previous occupant went blind and died in a chair downstairs, as was only confirmed many years after the end of the case.
• The anomalous malfunctions of the Pye Newvicon video camera, the BBC’s Uher reel tape recorder, and Graham Morris’s flashguns, none of which could be explained by the experienced professionals concerned.
I could go on, but I think you get the message. As for ‘experienced magician’ Joe Nickell’s comment on Janet’s frequently repeated admission that she and her sister played a few tricks ‘just to see if Mr Grosse and Mr Playfair would catch us, and they always did’, estimating that they amounted to ‘I’d say two percent’ of the incidents we recorded, Nickell spins this into ‘the evidence suggests that this figure is closer to 100 percent.’
What evidence? Oh, never mind. There’s no need for evidence when a sweeping generalization will do, especially if it is unsourced. I see from Nickell’s entry on the site misleadingly called Rational Wiki that his interests include ‘the investigation of bullshit claims.’
Which does not seem to have stopped him making such claims himself.
Guy Lyon Playfair’s books include:
If This Be Magic: The Forgotten Power of Hypnosis
The Flying Cow: Exploring the Psychic World of Brazil
This House is Haunted
It’s amazing what a Ph.D. in English will do for you. Nickell has been able to debunk dozens of paranormal phenomena that occurred even before he was born. Could have, might have, etc., etc.
Michael Tymn, Thu 20 Sep, 07:23
The fact that Joe Nickell has such an extremely impressive education (he’s a Ph.D) and he was a former private investigator, I personally think the man is spot on critiquing claims of the paranormal. His work is undeniable.
Dr’s Nickell and Mike Shermer are two of today’s best advocates for debunking, with proof, the claims of the paranormal.
James Randi is a brilliant talented gentleman even though he’s a high school drop out and never went to college. Randi is a pillar of knowledge and vector of truth.
Magnus, Tue 18 Sep, 01:40
“After all of these years Joe has proven he isn’t a true skeptic. The “Real Deal Skeptical Thinking Individual” is never a continuous straight ticket. Across the board Joe has always gone digging for that on bit of information or research that just isn’t quiet right and then uses this “bit” to trash facts. He did this with one of my books. Was I shocked? Heavens no. Such rigidity in thinking always reminds me that this man is addicted to self righteousness. He is not a true skeptic. His sense of self righteousness is his religion. And he is addicted to his extreme form of religion. So why should any of us be surprised by his responses this time? No, I see this weekly in my office. Only difference is that Joe has taken his addiction and made a lucrative business out of it. So the pay off is now too high for him to even consider breaking out of his mind set. Very sad.
Carla Wills Brandon, Tue 7 Jan, 22:41”
Carla Willis Brandon could write a blog post about this on this site.
Ben, Thu 15 Oct, 09:14
The strident sceptics used to worry me quite a lot until it eventually dawned on me that they are in fact the very opposite of what they claim to be.
They do not meet any dictionary definition of ‘sceptic’; they are in fact all running on dogma. Their dogma is that this can’t possibly exist, therefore it doesn’t. Since dogma cannot be justified by facts, it can only be supported by carefully selecting items of information that might support the dogma and studiously ignoring all information that does not.
This form of fanaticism parallels religious fanaticism with its attendant dogma. Whilst I am quite happy to categorize all dogmatists as seriously unhinged, the open question is what drives them.
What is so important about the matter of the survival of the human consciousness that they are endlessly prepared to make total goats of themselves? They seek the highest soap boxes from which to loudly demonstrate their deep ignorance. Does anyone understand the psychology behind this amazing behaviour?
I am an engineer and in my branch of the profession, it is never acceptable for anyone to say “Nah, that isn’t possible”. Such an opinion is never entertained unless it is accompanied by a point by point refutation as made open to discussion by peers. I apply the same parameters to this field. Notably absent are critical analyses like this one, in which individual points are laid out and carefully examined.
I look forward to the day when a ‘sceptic’ comes up with analytical thinking in the same order as David Fontana but I might be waiting for a very long time!!
Leslie Harris, Wed 6 May, 05:42
If anyone is interested I just completed an article about Joe Nickell and Patience Worth. It can be found at http://www.patienceworth.com/nickells-worth/ - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Sun 12 Jan, 21:43
This is a bit like that other idiot who tried to ‘disprove’ the cross-correspondences but using a few books in a library. As someone said these people spend a few hours on their ‘research’ where others, like ourselves, spend years painstakingly give our time and effort.
tricia, Fri 10 Jan, 10:45
After all of these years Joe has proven he isn’t a true skeptic. The “Real Deal Skeptical Thinking Individual” is never a continuous straight ticket. Across the board Joe has always gone digging for that on bit of information or research that just isn’t quiet right and then uses this “bit” to trash facts. He did this with one of my books. Was I shocked? Heavens no. Such rigidity in thinking always reminds me that this man is addicted to self righteousness. He is not a true skeptic. His sense of self righteousness is his religion. And he is addicted to his extreme form of religion. So why should any of us be surprised by his responses this time? No, I see this weekly in my office. Only difference is that Joe has taken his addiction and made a lucrative business out of it. So the pay off is now too high for him to even consider breaking out of his mind set. Very sad.
Carla Wills Brandon, Tue 7 Jan, 22:41
Hi Guy, unfortunately I do not know their name. The various IP addresses they’ve used (2 in Hertford and 1 at a nearby technical college) just give me a sense of where they are. But their internet providers would know. You can look up any number of articles and draw the connections. With the exception of two minor edits by other people they wrote this entire article on Kathleen Goligher: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Kathleen_Goligher&offset;=&limit=500&action=history
Simo, Mon 6 Jan, 15:10
“Blastfighter” is an old account of theirs. When they found out they couldn’t hide the connection to Fodor Fan they added this message to the page:
“This username is an alternative account of Fodor Fan.”
They also used their IP address and the Fodor Fan username to edit the page. Now look up “Kathleen Goligher Rational Wiki”. The same ID that wrote that article, David1234, also wrote your Rational Wiki article.
What happened to Simo’s posts?
Amos Oliver Doylw, Mon 6 Jan, 14:16
Simo - thanks for wading through that can of worms. Very instructive. Is there any way we can find out the real names of these individuals - assuming that they have them and are not, as I’m beginning to suspect, earthbound entities who have forgotten who they are, or were? I don’t think they should be allowed to lurk in the undergrowth protected by their pseudonyms.
G.L.Playfair, Sun 5 Jan, 18:26
One final thing Guy, once this person finds out about these posts they are going to contact you and Michael and plead with you to remove them, which is perfectly understandable considering they’ve spent years trolling and defaming people online. They’re desperate that people not find out who they are. They will claim that they weren’t the person responsible for all the abuse. They may even have a friend contact you from another IP address to try and convince you. It’s total bs and you will see from their earliest days of getting banned on Wikipedia it’s a tactic they’ve regularly used, ie, “It wasn’t me but someone else that makes me look bad.” But if you look at the Wikipedia and Rational Wiki edit histories of the names I’ve provided it’s clear- this is one sick individual and no one is trying to impersonate him to make him look bad. He’s done quite a good job of that already. Always keep in mind you’re dealing with someone who is not completely sane and for whom lying seems to come naturally. And when they find out about these posts, and given how obsessed they are with you and Michael Tymn they probably will find out about them, they will desperately try to get you to remove them. The last thing they want is to be revealed given all the people they’ve defamed.
Simo, Sun 5 Jan, 17:52
It needs to be understood by everyone that Wikipedia and especially RationalWiki are not reliable sourses of information. We all need to broadcast that fact. My interest is Patience Worth and that article on Wikimedia, which I helped write, stood the test of time from 2005 until 2013 when Ivy, Forrest, Trees, Honestskeptic etc. decided that he would rewrite it, eliminating reliable sources of information such as Dr. Stephen Braude, PhD who considered for many years the Patience Worth phenomenon and wrote a detailed intellectual chapter about it in his book “Immortal Remains” and Irving Litvag a St. Louis journalist who studied Patience Worth for many months/years and wrote “Singer in the Shadows”, one of the best factual resources about Pearl Curran/Patience Worth in St. Louis and replacing them with information from
Amos Oliver Doyle, Sun 5 Jan, 16:50
‘opinionists’ Joe Nickell and Joseph Jastrow who spent a few hours in the library and declared their expertise of the subject. The article was totally destroyed and my attempts to repair it were met with adolescent babbling and bullying from ‘Ivy’ He would revert anything I edited. The so-called ‘rules’ of Wikipedia are impossible to know by an average contributor and are interpreted by the imbecils who dominate that site to their own advantage. The Wikipedia program is out-dated and impossible for a novice to use. - AOD
Thank you Simo. Without a doubt you have the evidence on them. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Sun 5 Jan, 16:17
Ammos Oliver Doyle, Sun 5 Jan, 02:55
Rational Wiki should have no credibility with anyone; Wikipedia-ditto. Those who control Rationalwiki are all mentally ill minimally educated idiots. Honestskeptic has harassed me under many sock puppet names including Ivy, Forrest, Trees etc. and he is a main contributor to RationalWiki and Wikipedia pages dealing with parapsychological and other so-called ‘fringe’ topics. He is an absolute Aspergers adolescent in his mental abilities with obsessional and compulsive drives to destroy anything and anybody with whom he does not agree. Unfortunately he is successful in that he apparently has unlimited time and motivation to continue to harass people until they just give up. I recommend Craig Weiler’s new book PSI Wars,TED, Wikipedia and the Battle for the Internet for enlightenment regarding this issue. EVERYONE should read it. I don’t exaggerate! - AOD
Good post. Indications are that people like Nickell will still refuse to believe in the paranormal and spiritual even after they have died, at least for some time, however time is measured in that apparently low realm. I grieve for them.
Michael Tymn, Sat 4 Jan, 01:54
Isn’t it just wonderful that all of these idiots know so much better!! Great response Guy, worthy of all your years of research…and I would expect nothing else. Of course you will not expect a reply to your itemised response. His deaf ear will come into play.
Tricia, Fri 3 Jan, 16:59
What can I say? Joe Nickell indeed picks all the rotten cherries he can find and then spits out the seeds as facts. His opinion pieces are just that—-his opinions, nothing more. His grandiose generalizations and insinuations are unfortunately cited by uneducated teenagers and mentally ill adults as evidence of something—-I don’t know what because those who use him as a source certainly never reference any real evidence of the paranormal. Good article Guy, more people need to know what an incompetent egotist Joe Nickell really is. AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Fri 3 Jan, 00:26
Thank you for setting the record straight. Nickell is not a sceptic he is an auto-denier.
Sue St Clair, Thu 2 Jan, 23:03
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