THE ENFIELD POLTERGEIST
This case became known as a perfect example of a poltergeist haunting which began as genuine... and devolved into trickery, thanks to media attention and the imagination of two little girls.
The case began in Enfield, in North London, in a perfectly ordinary suburban townhouse. It was occupied by a woman named Peggy Harper and her four children; Rose, age 13; Janet, age 11; Pete, age 10; and Jimmy, age 7. The disturbances which would make this house famous began on the night of August 30, 1977, shortly after Janet and Pete retired to the bedroom they shared. The other children slept with their mother in another room of the small home.
The activity was first reported by Janet to her mother. She stated that their beds began bouncing up and down and "going all funny". By the time that Peggy got to the room, the movements had stopped, leading her to believe that perhaps the children were making it all up. All remained quiet for the rest of the night, but the following evening, the events began in earnest.
Around 9:30 the following night, Peggy was called to Janet and Peteís room by their excited laughter. This time, they claimed to hear noises coming from the floor. Janet said that it sounded like a chair moving, so Peggy took the only chair with her out of the room and downstairs. She believed this would calm the children down and get them settled for the night. Then, from downstairs, she too heard something odd. It was the same shuffling sound that Janet had mentioned. She hurried up to their room but found both children lying in their beds asleep.
Then, four distinct knocks were heard from the wall which adjoined the neighboring house. This prompted Peggy to turn the lights on once more, but she saw nothing out of the ordinary. Then, a heavy chest of drawers moved out away from the wall about a foot and a half. Peggy shoved it back again, but the chest moved back to its former position. The next time she tried to shove it into place, the chest refused to budge! Shaking with fear, the family left the house and went next door to the neighborís house. The neighbors investigated, as did the police.
The officers also reported hearing the knocking sounds, now coming from all different walls. One of the officers was in the living room when a chair suddenly slid several feet across the floor. He examined it closely, but could find no explanation as to how it had moved.
The next day brought more phenomena, like flying toys. The police were unable to help, so the Harpers and their neighbors turned to the press. The Daily Mirror sent out a photographer and a reporter, who stayed in the house for several hours. Nothing happened during their stay, until just as they got ready to leave. Suddenly, both men were assaulted with flying marbles and Lego bricks. A piece of a Lego flew across the room and hit the photographer so hard that it left a bruise which lasted over a week.
The newspaper contacted the Society for Psychical Research about the case and they in turn, contacted Maurice Grosse, a resident of North London and an investigator. Grosse arrived at the Harper house on September 5, exactly one week after the disturbances began. His presence seemed to have a calming effect on the family and for a few days, nothing out of the ordinary occurred.
Then, on the night of September 8, Grosse and three reporters were keeping watch when they heard a crash in Janetís bedroom. Investigation showed that her bedside chair had been thrown about four feet across the room. Janet was asleep at the time and no one had seen the chair move. However, it did happen again an hour later... and this time one of the photographers captured the event on film!
Shortly after this, Grosse was joined in the investigation by author Guy Lyon Playfair and the two men spent the next two years studying the case.
The case had a couple of aspects in common with standard poltergeist cases, including the involvement of two adolescent girls. In this case, one had already gone through puberty and another was about to. The case also had another feature typical of such cases, personal tension. Peggy had never altogether resolved her feelings surrounding her divorce from the childrenís father. After she realized this might have something to do with the phenomena, she came to term with her volatile emotions and the disturbances ceased.
Or rather, they took a short break. When they started up again, they had a somewhat different character. Now, more than ever, they seemed to focus on the two girls, Janet and Rose, and on Janetís bedroom. Investigators quickly came to the opinion that this new phenomena was more the work of human trickery than the work of a human agent. Two SPR investigators later revealed that reports from the two girls, usually unsubstantiated, seemed very contrived.
Some of the alleged activity had the girls literally "flying" out of their beds at night
In addition, a video camera secretly set up in the bedroom caught Janet bending spoons and attempting to bend an iron bar in an entirely normal manner. She was also seen bouncing up and down on the bed, from where she would later claim she was thrown.
Despite how this case concluded, there seems to be some strong evidence to say that the initial disturbances in the house were genuinely paranormal.
THE TINA RESCH CASE
In 1984, a Columbus, Ohio family was plagued by another case of poltergeist phenomena and in spite the claims of skeptics, many researchers believe this was a classic case of genuine activity... at least for a time.
John and Joan Resch first attracted publicity in late 1983 when a reporter from a local newspaper, the Columbus Dispatch, came to their home to chronicle the coupleís extraordinary work with foster children. Over the years, the couple had taken in more than 250 homeless and disturbed children. At the time the article was written, the family consisted of John and Joan, their son, Craig, their adopted daughter, Tina, and four foster children.
Five months later, the Resch family would be in the news again. Apparently, their 14-year old daughter Tina had become the focus for a strange and very frightening series of events. On a Saturday morning in March 1984, all of the lights in the Resch home suddenly went on all at once, even though no one had touched a switch. John and Joan assumed the incident had been triggered by a power surge and they telephone the local utility company. It was suggested that they call an electrician, which they did. An electrical contractor named Bruce Claggett came to the house, thinking that it was merely a problem with a circuit breaker. He was unable to keep the lights from turninff on. Claggett even tried taping the light switches so that they stayed on. Closet lights which operated with a pull string would be turned out, but seconds later, the bulbs would be glowing again. Claggett finally gave up, unable to explain what was going on.
By evening, stranger things were being reported like lamps, brass candlesticks and clocks flying through the air; wine glasses shattering; the shower running on its own; and eggs, rising out of the carton by themselves and then smashing against the ceiling; knives were flying from drawers; and more. A rattling wall picture was placed behind the couch, only to slide back out again three different times.
As the weekend wore on, a pattern began to develop. The intensity and focus of the activity seemed to be Tina, who was even struck by a number of the objects. A chair was seen tumbling across the floor in Tinaís direction and it was only stopped from hitting her because it became wedged in a doorway. The fact that Tina was the object of the activity is important. Family members, neighbors and unrelated witnesses actually saw Tina being hit and smacked by flying objects, which came from parts of the room where she was not located!
Near midnight on Saturday, the Columbus police were summoned to the house but there was nothing they could do. The only respite from the strange events came on Sunday, when Tina left the house for church and then again in the afternoon when she went out to visit a friend. On Sunday evening, three elders from the Mormon Church had been summoned by a relative and, laying their hands on Tinaís head, attempted a prayer blessing to dispel the force which was creating havoc in the house. Unfortunately, it didnít work.
By Monday morning, the house was a wreck and literally dozens of reliable witnesses, including reporters, police officers, church officials and neighbors, had reported unexplained phenomena in the Resch home.
During an interview, a photographer snapped a photo of the telephone in action and was printed in the newspaper the following day. The publication of the photograph touched off a media furor. Television crews and newspaper reporters from across the country descended on the Resch home, all hoping to witness some other manifestation of the supernatural. The newspaper reports also gained the attention of parapsychologist William Roll, who flew to Columbus to see the events first-hand.
While he was there, a picture flew from the wall in front of him and his own tape recorder flew over seven feet under its own power. Roll was convinced that RSPK was at work.
Skeptics werenít so sure and wisely began investigating the other photographs on the roll of film shot by the photographer on Monday morning. In one of the photos, Tinaís hands had clearly been in a position to have manipulated the telephone cord and base. Soon, there was other damning evidence as well. During an extended visit by television reporters, a camera that had accidentally been left running recorded the girl grasping a table lamp by its cord and jerking out toward her. At the same time, she let out a cry of horror.
When confronted, Tina admitted that she had faked some of the later phenomena. She explained that she had been bored by the lengthy interviews and irritated by the constant attention. She hoped that the press would leave once they got their story. For the skeptics, the film and the confession were proof positive that the poltergeist had been Tina all along.
Yet not everyone shared that view, including the majority of the supposedly skeptical journalists. Many of them remained sure they had witnessed genuine, unexplained activity. They also pointed out that the skeptics had conveniently forgotten (and isnít that normally the case?) about the scores of witnesses who would swear that activity had been directed toward Tina, not originating from her. William Roll, a trained scientist and observer, was also convinced of phenomena that he witnessed. He conceded that he had not been observing Tina under "controlled conditions", but continued to assert that Tina seemed to have demonstrated authentic RSPK.
What caused the manifestations? Researchers believed that it was a case of repressed anger and anxiety seeking release. Apparently, there had been recent problems at home over the fact that Tina, against the wishes of John and Joan, had recently been searching for her natural parents. Also, Tinaís best friend of two years had ended their friendship just two days before the events began. All of this apparently combined to create an outward transference of energy. How exactly? We may never know.
For those who question whether or not, emotional problems can cause poltergeist-like activity to take place should look at what happened to Tina after the TV cameras and reporters went away. According to a 1993 report, Tina, then 23-years old, was awaiting trial in Georgia for the murder of her three-year old daughter. The child had been badly beaten and had died from injuries to the head. What the outcome of the trial was, and whatever became of Tina is unknown.
CHRISTINE M. CASE
Several years ago, I was contacted by a young woman who reported that strange phenomena was occurring in her home. She was 18 years old at the time, although the incidents had been taking place since she was 14. According to her letters and follow-up calls, her house was very active and the phenomena included doors opening and closing; cabinet doors banging open; dishes being thrown about and broken; footsteps in the hallways at night; scratching sounds and most disturbingly, violent physical assaults that were directed at Christine. It was no uncommon for her to receive large bruises, cuts and scratches from an invisible source.
After meeting with Christine and her family and arranging an investigation of the house, I was contacted privately by her mother who explained that the strange happenings had begun shortly after Christine became pregnant in high school and starting having problems in school and with her friends. She became even more stressed after having the baby and the events escalated. All of it was centered, her mother explained, around Christine.
The investigation that was conducted did seem to show that the activity revolved around her. Although nothing was actually observed during the initial investigations, we did hear slamming noises and doors closing in a sealed-off section of the house. Kitchen cabinets were also seen during unexplained movement. There was no one else present at the time and we were unable to explain away the sounds. A follow-up trip revealed the photo at the top and the globe of what seems to be energy was actually observed by two investigators. No natural explanations could be discovered for the photo.
A short time later, Christine began to see a psychologist and counseling seemed to have a very positive effect on the situation. The strange phenomena in the house began to dissipate and eventually stopped altogether. Her mother reports that Christine is happy and well-adjusted today and there has been no repetition of the phenomena.
The Ghost Hunterís Guidebook by Troy Taylor (1999/ 2001)
The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits by Rosemary Ellen Guiley (1992)
Mind Over Matter editors of Time-Life Books (1988)
On the Trail of the Poltergeist by Nandor Fodor (1958)
On the Track of the Poltergeist by D. Scott Rogo (1986)
The Haunted House Handbook by D. Scott Rogo (1978)
The Haunted Universe by D. Scott Rogo (1977)
ESP, Hauntings and Poltergeists by Loyd Auerbach (1986)
The Poltergeist by William Roll (1972)
Poltergeist! A Study in Destructive Hauntings by Colin Wilson (1981)
Poltergeist over England by Harry Price (1945)
This House is Haunted by Guy Lyon Playfair (1980)
Poltergeists and the Paranormal by Dr. Phillip Stander and Dr. Paul Schmolling (1996)
Aliens Above, Ghosts Below by Barry Taff (1997)
The Awful Thing in the Attic by Brad Steiger (1996)
The Poltergeist Phenomenon by John and Anne Spencer (1997)
(C) Copyright 2001 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.