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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.
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on 8 July 2015
Fantastic insight into one of the most famous hauntings in the world. I've been interested in this story for such a long time, and actually had no idea this book had been written until quite recently. The recent TV series prompted the search, and I have to say the book tells the story so much better, and makes you realise the TV series really didn't do it justice. Guy Playfair is a very engaging story teller which makes this book a great read. Highly recommended.
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on 12 June 2011
I had wanted to read this book for a long time and was delighted when it was re-printed. Although Janet and her sister admitted faking a small percentage of the occurences they were usually caught out. On looking at some of the dubious web sites you would think that the whole haunting had been faked which would have been impossible. The case was well researched and documented and events were witnessed by reliable sources such as the police. This is not a book for someone who wants a scary read although it must have been terrifying for the family involved but it is a fascinating read for those genuinely interested in poltergeist activity and things that cannot be explained by science.
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on 17 March 2016
Being a paranormal investigator myself and running a ghost hunting event’s company for the general public, I simply had to purchase this book covering the Enfield Poltergeist case. I have of course heard all sorts of stories from varying sources pertaining to this – perhaps the most infamous poltergeist case in history – throughout the years, but decided that I need to read the story from the horse’s mouth, so to speak; Guy Lion Playfair was one of the two main investigators on this case (the other of course was the delightful Maurice Grosse). I found this book an absolutely fascinating read – in fact I am planning on reading again shortly – and one that I could not put down for too long. It is a detailed account of the incidents that the family who were living in the Green Street residence were encountering, some of which were truly frightening. If you saw the recent (2015) three-part miniseries The Enfield Haunting then you really owe it to yourself to read this book. Nothing is embellished. A worthy addition to any paranormal enthusiasts collection.
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on 19 March 2012
First off; the bad points...

This paperback version of the book is in urgent need for proof-reading and editing. Considering it was first published in 1980, I was astonished at just how many syntax errors, punctuation and spelling mistakes there were in this edition. Quotation marks were missed out far more times than I care to mention, paragraphs ended in semicolons, margin indents all over the place and words which should have been edited out were left in, the result being some very odd sentences that made no sense at all. These and other 'school-boy' errors cropped up all over the place throughout this edition of the book. A real shame!

I'm sure that if Guy Lyon Playfair, (who obtained a degree in modern languages at Cambridge) actually read this edition, he would be horrified by the poor presentation of his fine work.

The good points...

Guy Lyon Playfair has an easy air about his writing, avoiding hamming up the story purely for sensationalism. Refreshingly, this book has not been produced for the sole purpose of massaging the author's ego, rather it is an honest, almost understated account of what could only be described as a terrifying experience for those involved.

Not withstanding the editing comments earlier, this is actually a pleasure of a book to read. Each chapter covers a specific about the case, allowing the reader to gain a better grasp of the situation as a whole.

This book is certainly on a par with the likes of
Poltergeist: A Classic Study in Destructive Hauntings
Book Of Trinity: True story - Poltergeist activity, possession and a failed exorcism in Slapton, Buckinghamshire UK
providing the reader with a wonderful insight into the mysteries of the spirit world.
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on 13 April 2014
The investigators are known to me personally. They are fastidious researchers and one hundred per cent honest. I have the advantage of having heard the tapes from the investigations. The number of reliable witness testimonies to the phenomena should alone give one of open mind food for thought. As I always say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and the 'person' causing the problems was identified as a previous tenant of the building. This is a classic case and should always be remembered. Well done Guy!
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on 16 April 2015
I first read a library 2nd edition of this book (published 2007) and it gave me the heebie-jeebies for want of a better term! As soon as I saw a trailer for the "Enfield Haunting" (to be released 3rd May 2015 Sky Living) I knew I had to read this book again and purchased the 3rd edition.

"Mention of spirits invariably polarises people into either fanatical believers or total sceptics" p. 82 I fall into neither camp. I can't say I believe in spirits as I have never seen an apparition or experienced poltergeist activity but I have an open mind and whilst I enjoy reading the scientific arguments against such paranormal activity, I'm not a total sceptic either.

What is great about this book is that the author presents the facts of the case together with some theories and he allows you to make your own mind up, there is no dogma at all so this book should be enjoyed by believers, sceptics and people 'on the fence' like me, alike. The Enfield case is one of the most documented poltergeist cases in history which makes this book worth reading as the author was one of the lead investigators on the case.

For anyone who has watched 'The Exorcist' or the Stephen Spielberg 'Poltergeist' films, you will recognise much of the phenomena in this case: raps and knocks, apparitions, malfunctioning of electronic equipment, furniture being moved/overturned, materialisation/dematerialisation, levitation, fires and even spoon bending! I liked the scientific approach taken to the case by the investigators who meticulously recorded the events and they never assumed that everything was paranormal as they often tried to catch out the children involved to see if they were playing tricks.

A range of experts were consulted from police officers, journalists, mediums, psychiatrists, hypnotists, doctors, physicists, exorcists, ventriloquists and even a member of the Magic Circle! Even if you consider this book a work of fiction, it is a fascinating read which is very unnerving in places.

There is an appendix to the 3rd edition with afterthoughts (2011), suggested further reading and 'what to do with your poltergeist.' If you enjoy this book, I also recommend reading 'The Poltergeist Phenomenon' by John and Anne Spencer which wasn't included in the author's suggested reading list. If I remember correctly, it was the Spencer book which first introduced me to the Enfield case and inspired me to the read the 2nd edition of this book when I came across it in the library.

After reading this book, my immediate thoughts were that this would make a great film, if done correctly. As interesting as the case itself is, there is a particularly interesting back story to one of the lead investigators on the case (Maurice Grosse.) I just hope the Enfield Haunting to be aired on Sky Living dose the case and this book justice, as it would be a real shame if the televised drama was a flop. Apparently the film 'The Conjuring 2' will also feature the Enfield case in 2016. Needless to say, I'll be watching both.
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on 17 January 2011
This is the record of the investigation into what must still be one of the longest poltergeist disturbances ever, running as it did into a couple of years rather than the usual couple of months or so.

As ever with this subject, accusations of hoaxing persist. But I find it very hard to believe that anyone who reads this book from start to finish could seriously think that what happened was all down to the trickery of children.

Guy Lyon Playfair is an open-minded writer who at the same time never ignores the possibility of a rational explanantion, if feasible. But in this case, it often isn't.

See what you think. I was absolutely hooked by this book, and I'm sure it will stay with me for a long time yet. I'm glad I didn't read it when I was a kid though, I think it would have freaked me out completely!
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For anyone fascinated, as I am, by alleged real-life hauntings, this is a must-read - the Enfield Poltergeist case is extremely famous and this is an eye-witness account of it by one of the paranormal investigators who spent time with the family supposedly targeted by an angry spirit. For that reason alone, it's worth reading.

However, it doesn't really stand up as part of an objective investigation, and really raises as many questions as it answers. If you absolutely 100 per cent believe in ghosts, you might well be nodding along with Playfair's assertions: if you are in the slightest bit sceptical, however, you will find many things to question here, which makes it a frustrating read.

What does seem pretty certain is that *something* very strange was going on at this otherwise unexceptional surburban council house - whether that was a ghost, however, or something entirely different, is certainly not a question answered definitively by this book, whatever Playfair claims.
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on 19 May 2015
Watched the TV adaptation on Sky and was motivated to read the book at the same time. This is a well written account of what happened in Enfield and how the situation was eventually resolved. Not as melodramatic as the TV series but a good account and worth reading.I also recommentd Mr Playfair's book from his time in Brazil.
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