Top positive review
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on 5 July 2011
In a 1995 book titled Bizarre Beliefs, the authors emphatically stated that "there are no ghosts, no poltergeists, and no hauntings. They are all mistaken, imaginary or fakes." Much of mainstream science shares this view, but Guy Lyon Playfair, the author of this book, knows better, as he has been involved in investigating a number of poltergeists, including the Enfield Poltergeist, one of the most intriguing cases in the annals of psychical research and the subject of this book. He will agree with the "bizarre" part, but definitely not with the denial of such phenomena.
The Enfield case took place during 1977 and '78 in the northern London suburb of Enfield. It involved a divorced mother, Peggy Harper, and her four children, Rose, 13, Janet, 11, Pete, 10, and Jimmy, 7. The phenomena included large pieces of furniture being overturned, objects flying through the air and floating through walls, dancing slippers, levitations, coins falling from the ceiling, strange voices that often responded to questions, people thrown from their beds and chairs, mysterious writing on the walls, electronic disturbances, a number of ghostly apparitions, stones seemingly falling from the sky, excreta appearing in the sink and on walls, inexplicable outbreaks of fire, and mysterious knocks and footsteps.
As a member of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), Playfair, a Cambridge graduate who spent many years as a freelance journalist for The Economist, Time, and the Associated Press, was, along with fellow SPR member Maurice Grosse, asked to investigate the anomalous activity at the Harper home. Beginning in September 1977, the two researchers devoted some 14 months to investigating the case, often spending nights at the Harpers' home and observing first hand some of the bizarre phenomena, which gradually declined and ended in early 1979.
This book gives a near blow-by-blow account of the intriguing phenomena, which will no doubt exceed the boggle threshold of many readers. I must confess that although I am very much interested in paranormal phenomena, the subject of haunted houses has not been of particular interest to me. However, I found this book difficult to put down once I started it. There are a dozen or more photos in the book.
There were three alternative the researchers faced: Was it fraud? Was it a dissociated fragment of the personality of one of the girls? Or was it a mischievous spirit or a number of spirits? Playfair thoroughly examines the three alternatives and provides some updates to his original book, which was first published in 1980.