Tag Archives: Society for Psychical Research

Paranormal Activity: The Enfield Poltergeist

16 Nov

In all the annals of the investigations of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), whose history stretches back almost 150 years, there is no account as chilling as the affair of the Enfield Poltergeist. This is the name given to a period of apparent poltergeist activity in the Enfield borough of London at the end of the 1970s. Poltergeist is a term of German derivation literally meaning ‘noisy ghost’ and refers to a paranormal phenomenon which consists of events alluding to the manifestation of an imperceptible entity. Such manifestation typically includes inanimate objects moving or being thrown about, sentient noises (such as impaired knocking, pounding or banging) and, on some occasions, physical attacks on those witnessing the events. Poltergeists have traditionally been described in folklore as troublesome spirits or ghosts which haunt a particular person, although no conclusive scientific explanation of the phenomenon exists. The Enfield case exhibited all of the classic hallmarks of poltergeist activity, including  furniture reported to have moved by itself, knockings on the walls, and items said to have been thrown around and to have been too hot to touch when picked up. 

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Arthur Gray and the Ghost Club

27 Sep

Sir Arthur Gray , the author of Tedious Brief Tales of Granta and Gramarye, one of the most obscure (and oddly titled) of all collections of ghost stories, was a friend and contemporary of M R James as well as a key member of the Chitchat Society (see my previous post on M R James). A Cambridge don like James, Gray was the Master of Jesus College and contributed to a number of respected literary periodicals such as The Cambridge Review during the early years of the 20th century. Also like James, Gray was an antiquarian and writer of ghost stories under the curious pseudonym of Ingulphus, possibly to hide his supernatural tastes from potentially disapproving academic colleagues. Gray’s interest in both antiquarianism and the paranormal tended to be confined to quite a narrow field – that of his own college, with its long, lurid and occasionally bloody history.

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The Visions of Eleanor Jourdain

26 Sep

Eleanor Jourdain (1863–1924) was an English academic and author, as well as the Principal of St Hugh’s College, Oxford, between 1915 and 1924. Neither her studies nor her writing, however, ever propelled Eleanor to such fame as her connection to the supernatural, for this particular Oxford don was known throughout her life to have strange ‘visions’. The first of these occurred in her student days, when on an occasion in North Oxford she saw a medieval gallows attended by executioners, priests and onlookers. More famous was the so-called Moberley-Jourdain incident, when she and her predecessor as Principal of St Hugh’s, an equally respected academic by the name of Charlotte Moberley, claimed that while on a trip to Versailles they slipped back in time to the period of the French Revolution. In An Adventure, an account of the escapade published later, they claimed that they took a wrong turn and suddenly found themselves in the company of people from eighteenth-century France, including Marie Antoinette herself.

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