Fair play, so the adage dictates, includes turnabout. Well, that may be overstating it a bit, but after reading Joe Nickell I decided to give the other side a shot. Guy Lyon Playfair’s account, This House Is Haunted: The Amazing Inside Story of the Enfield Poltergeist, was originally written in the aftermath of the truly bizarre happenings at that location in the late 1970s. My reason for reading the book, as maybe you’ve guessed, is that Ed and Lorraine Warren had a hand in the story. Or at least a finger. The movie The Conjuring 2 was based on the Enfield case and it placed the Warrens front and center in its resolution. This is Hollywood, however, and since I’m working on a book on demons I need to try to dig beneath the surface a bit, into regions where tenure-seeking academics often fear to tread.
Interestingly, the Warrens are not even mentioned in Playfair’s book. The edition I read was updated in 2011. Playfair himself was one of the two primary investigators from the Society for Psychical Research. The other was Maurice Grosse (who features in the movie). Before eyeballs start rolling, it’s worth noting that the Society for Psychical Research is actually a respectable academic association. As Playfair makes clear in his book, many of the members are skeptical and few believed that the evidence gathered by Grosse and Playfair indicated anything paranormal at all. The book isn’t shy about dropping the names of the many investigators who dropped in—some uninvited—to either study or debunk the infamous poltergeist. The incident, however, went on to inspire the movie Poltergeist by giving it free license to change almost all of the details. Of the many investigators the Warrens remain unmentioned.
On this blog I’ve been chronicling the on-going struggle of trying to figure out what Ed and Lorraine Warren were up to. Those who met and interviewed them invariably state that they were/are sincere. They didn’t accept payment for their investigations, and often seem to have been genuinely interested in helping the people plagued by what mainstream science claims simply can’t exist. Nevertheless, they had and have detractors even amid the parapsychology crowd. Playfair’s account is quite interesting. Called in early after the onset of strangeness on Wood Lane, Playfair recorded and recounted what he saw. He caught some trickery and wasn’t shy about pointing it out. At the end of the episode, however, he remained convinced that something unexplained had happened there. Nickell dismisses it all with a sentence or two. In the interest of fair play it would seem only right to hear the other side of the story.