Enfield Poltergeist

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Enfield Poltergeist

The poltergeist that for several years disturbed the home of a family in the Enfield section of London in the 1970s has become one of the best-documented incidents in modern parapsychology. The story began in 1977 when Mrs. Harper and her three children moved into their new residence in Enfield. One August evening after putting the children to bed, Mrs. Harper was called to their room and witnessed a large chest of drawers move. She returned it to its place, and it moved again. Knocking was heard. She called the police, and they also heard the knocking coming from the walls and saw a chair move. The phenomena continued for the next week. A priest and a medium were called in. They could do nothing and the knocks and unusual movements of objects continued. Next they invited the news media. Their patient waiting was finally rewarded with a host of flying objects, including a pan that hit the photographer on the forehead.

At this point the Society for Psychical Research was called in. Thus, for the next 13 months, Michael Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair made extensive observations and kept detailed records of the paranormal phenomena. They recorded over 2,000 unexplained events. They also tried means such as wiring down a bed to stop the phenomena. In the case of the bed, the wire was snapped and the bed moved regardless. They were continually frustrated in their attempts to photograph or make sound recordings of the phenomena.

A medium, Annie Shaw, was brought in to communicate with any possible spirit entity who might be in the house. She suggested that there were several entities feeding off an energy leakage in the aura of Mrs. Harper and one of the children, Janet, who had been especially associated with the unusual happenings. Shaw fixed the leakages and the phenomena were quelled for a short period, but when they reappeared a few weeks later, they reached a new level of violence. Over the next months Grosse and Playfair observed and recorded, and gradually focused upon Janet. In December of 1977, a voice began to speak through her. He claimed to be an old man whose family had once lived in the house. In succeeding weeks Janet levitated on several occasions, was bombarded with objects, and had a pillow stuffed in her mouth.

The number of incidents began to decline in the spring of 1978. By this time several additional psychics had been involved, including Dutch psychic Dono Gmelig-Meyling. He brought to light an outside factor, Grosse's involvement in the case was due to his grief reaction to the untimely death of his daughter two years previously. Grosse and Playfair went on to write a book, This House Is Haunted (1980). Two years later Janet was given a test at Birkbeck College, and to the surprise of all she was able to move the marker on a weighing machine by a kilogram.

Explanations of the Enfield poltergeist have divided those who accept a paranormal explanation between those who attribute it to a spirit entity and those who attribute it to telekinetic power emanating from one or more of the children, especially Janet. A more skeptical perspective was offered by Anita Gregory, who tried to explain the phenomena away as having been fraudulently produced by the children, though a number of the incidents do not seem to yield to such an analysis. The case remains one of the most spectacular in parapsychological records.


Gregory, Anita. "Anatomy of a Fraud." Annals of Science 34 (1977).

Playfair, Guy Lyon. This House Is Haunted. London: Souvenir Press, 1980.