Enfield Poltergeist Story
Livings Spirit's Website
In late August of 1977, Mrs.
Peggy Harper, a divorcee in her mid forties, had put two of her four children
to bed. They were living in a semi detached council house in Enfield, North
London that had three bedrooms. Late at night, Janet, aged eleven and her
brother Pete, aged ten, complained that their beds were "jolting up and
down and going all funny". As soon as Mrs Harper got to the room the
movements had stopped - as far as she was concerned her kids were making it
The following night at 9.30
pm, Peggy was called to Janet and Pete’s room when they complained something
was making a shuffling noise. Janet said it sounded like one of the chairs
moving, so Peggy took the chair out of the bedroom to put their minds at ease.
Saying goodnight to the children once more and turning off the light, she too
heard the shuffling noise. As though somebody was "shuffling across the
floor in their slippers". She turned the light on to see the furniture as
normal and the children under their covers. Turning the lights off again, the
noise started once more.
They then heard four loud
knocks on the partitioning wall of the house and Mrs Harper was astonished to
see a heavy chest of draws moving about 18 inches across the floor, well
beyond the children's reach. As soon as it stopped, Mrs Harper pushed it back
against the wall but as she turned her back, it moved once more to it’s
former position. This time she found it impossible to move. Mrs. Harper
recalls shaking with fear, yelling at the children to get out of their beds
and to go downstairs - she was convinced that something unexplainable was
going on. Seeing that their neighbors lights were on, the Harpers, still in
their night clothes, ran next door for help.
The neighbors searched the
house and garden but found no-one. Soon they also heard the knocks on the
walls which continued at spaced out intervals. At 11pm they called the police,
who heard the knocks, one officer even saw a chair inexplicably move across
the floor, and later signed a written statement to confirm the events.
The following day, the events
continued with small plastic bricks and marbles being hurled around house -
when picked up, they were found to be hot. This ‘attack’ continued for
three days by which time they sought help again, not only from the police, but
a local vicar and local medium. But no-one seemed to be able to stop the
escalation of events. The Harpers eventually turned to the press and the Daily
Mirror sent out a reporter, Douglas Bence, with a photographer, Graham Morris,
who stayed in the house for several hours. Nothing happened and the reporters
decided to leave - they were almost in their car when the ‘flying bricks’
promptly resumed. They were called back and a toy Lego brick flew across the
room hitting the photographer on the forehead as he attempted to take a
picture. Later, as the photographer developed his negative he noticed that it
had an inexplicable hole in it and that the flying brick could not be seen.
Senior reporter at the Daily Mirror, George Fallows, was so impressed by his
colleagues experience that he followed up the story himself. He suggested that
the Harpers call in the SPR (Society for Psychical Research) which in turn
contacted Maurice Grosse, a member and resident of North London.
Grosse arrived at the Harpers on September 5th, a week after the disturbances
had begun. For the next few days nothing out of the ordinary occurred. Then,
on September 8th, whilst Grosse and a journalists from the Daily Mirror were
keeping vigil, between 10 pm and 11 pm, they heard a crash in Janet’s
bedroom. They discovered that her bedside chair had been thrown about four
feet across the room where it was lying on it’s side. Janet was asleep at
the time and no one saw the chair move. But when it happened an hour later,
the photographer Morris was ready and captured the event on film.
Grosse claims that then he
experienced the strange happenings - first a marble was thrown at him from an
unseen hand, he saw doors open and close by themselves, and claimed to feel a
sudden breeze that seemed to move up from his feet to his head.
On 10th September, the Enfield
case made the front page of the Daily Mirror, then the story was picked up by
LBC radio ( a London based station) and that evening, Grosse, Mrs. Harper and
her neighbor took part in a two and a half hour NIGHT LINE programme.
The phenomena continued - there was interference with electrical systems in
the house, electrical faults and mechanical equipment failure, as soon as
camera flashes were recharged they were quickly drained of power, an infra red
sensitive television camera was brought in to do remote monitoring of the
bedroom, but as soon as it began filming the tape would jam. The same thing
was happening to the BBC Radio reporters tapes when tape cassettes were found
to be damaged. Often the recordings were erased, the metal inside
some of the machines would be found bent, and even some of the tape decks
would disappear reappearing several hours later.
Grosse was soon joined in his
investigation by writer Guy Lyon Playfair and the two men spent the next two
years studying the case until it finally ceased.
The knocking on walls and
floors became an almost nightly occurrence, furniture slid across the floor
and was thrown down the stairs, drawers were wrenched out of dressing tables.
Toys and other objects would fly across the room, bedclothes would be pulled
off, water was found in mysterious puddles on the floors, there were outbreaks
of fire followed by their inexplicable extinguishing, curtains blowing and
twisting in the wind when all windows and doors were closed, even accounts of
human levitation - Janet claimed to have been picked up and flung about her
room by an unseen entity (witnessed by neighbors passing by and looking up
into the girls’ bedroom). Both girls claimed that they were being pulled out
of their beds by an invisible force and Janet claimed that the curtain beside
her bed twisted several times in a tight spiral and attempted to wrap itself
around her neck trying to strangle her. This was backed up by her mother who
had witnessed this more than once.
Soon an extraordinary harsh
rough male voice was heard - coming from Janet’s throat. Janet claimed to
have no control over the voice, and would even appear to be in a ‘trance’
like state when the voice occurred. The voice claimed to be several
identities, often speaking in obscene language. One character who did keep
reappearing was ‘Bill’ who claimed to have died in the house. Out of all
the voices, this was the only one that could be verified. ‘Bill’ was a man
who had allegedly died in the house, and event that none of the Harpers knew
Psychiatrists and local
doctors were brought in to see whether this was indeed Janet being mischievous
or if a second personality was developing, or perhaps there was indeed a
paranormal ‘entity’. Maurice Grosse spoke to speech therapists who
suspected that the voice was not coming from Janet’s usual vocal chord
equipment but by the second set of vocal chords all people have. Actors can be
trained to speak using these ‘false chords’ to produce a deep gravely
voice, however it can be a painful process. This theory was soon backed up by
a recording of ‘the voice’ on a laryngograph (registers patterns made by
frequency waves as they pass through the larynx). However to keep up this ‘gravely’
voice for hours on end would naturally have consequences on Janet’s normal
voice. But Janet’s voice did not seem to be affected.
Grosse deemed that the source of the poltergeist activity seemed to have
intelligence of some kind, since it would rap out answers to simple questions
- one rap for no, and three for yes. During a session, Grosse asked how many
years ago the supposed entity had lived in the house - there followed 53 raps.
Mediums were brought in to
help and Janet spent six weeks in Maudsley Hospital in South London where she
underwent extensive tests for any signs of physical or mental abnormality -
but none were found and during this time the poltergeist activity ceased.
Professor Hasted, head of
physics at Birkbeck College, University of London, assigned his assistant to
help identify the problems in the house, especially the spontaneous metal
bending and snapping that appeared to be occurring around Janet.
Not everyone was as willing to
believe that this was entirely paranormal activity as Grosse and Playfair
seemed to be - further researchers were sent by the SPR (Society for Physical
Research) - Anita Gregory and John Beloff. Gregory was convinced that all the
activity stemmed from Janet’s trickery. She claimed that they were excluded
from the children’s bedroom when the phenomena was said to occur and that
they would hear a ‘thump and a squeal’ from Janet’s room and upon
entering they would find Janet sitting in the middle of the floor claiming she
had been flung there by the ‘entity’. Another occasion, Gregory was
allowed into the room but had to stand with her head towards the door to allow
the poltergeist activity to occur - it proceeded by throwing objects at her
head whilst she heard the children giggling. Gregory believed the voices to be
muffled voices of Janet and her thirteen year old sister Rose covering their
mouths with their bed sheets or averting their faces whilst producing this ‘phenomenon’.
During her visit, Gregory ‘caught’ Janet cheating - a video camera had
been set up in a room next door to Janet that recorded her bending spoons and
attempting to bend an iron bar by sheer force, as well as "bouncing up
and down on her bed, making flapping movements with her hands". Janet
admits to having done this. She claims that she "wanted to see if the
investigators would catch her out - they always did".
Gregory also claims that Janet’s
Uncle, John Burcombe had told her that he believed that Janet had taught
herself to talk in a deep voice and that she had always been a mischievous
child, enjoying misleading strangers. Janet was also an athletic girl who
could have quite easily jumped from her bed to the floor when she claimed she
was being ‘thrown’ by the ‘entity’.
After two years, the events
subsided and the Harper family continued their normal lives.
Was this genuine phenomena? If
not, why did the Harpers have their household disrupted for two years, invaded
by investigators, psychiatrists, mediums? Because the Harpers went to the
newspapers in the very beginning, skeptics argue this was a hoax. Did Maurice
Grosse, the paranormal investigator, who had lost his young daughter Janet in
a car accident only a year earlier, want to believe too easily in the
paranormal? Was the Poltergeist activity caused by frustrations externalising?
Some researchers believe that sexual frustration can aid the activity - such
as Janet beginning menstruation and her mother going through the menopause?
Was the recent divorce of Janet’s parents a contributing factor? Two years
later, why did the activity mysteriously stop? It was also claimed that Mrs.
Harper was trying to get to the top of the housing queue as it was becoming
quite common for council tenants to have created ‘haunted houses’ -
however Mrs Harper refused to leave her home.
It is widely believed that
this case began with genuine phenomena, but soon turned to trickery. As the
media demanded paranormal activity, eleven year old Janet and thirteen year
old Rose, were not going to allow them to go away disappointed, and reveled in
Photo Strip - in the photo
strip pictures above, the curtain by Janet's Bed mysteriously wraps itself
around her bed sheets and attempts to pull them off.
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