Over the course of the Enfield haunting, many investigators, reporters and even spectators passed through the Hodgson home. But there were a few who were integral to the story of Janet Hodgson’s alleged possession, and one of those characters was Guy Lyon Playfair.
In past articles, we’ve mentioned Playfair as an investigator to the Enfield haunting, along with his counterpart Maurice Grosse. But who is Guy Lyon Playfair? Where is he now?
Who is Guy Lyon Playfair?
Guy Lyon Playfair was born in India on April 5, 1935. His interest in the paranormal began at an early age, as his own mother was a member of the Society for Psychical Research. Playfair recalls with affection reading the SPR Journal when he was only a child, and it was that early introduction which inspired his fascination with the supernatural.
It wasn’t until 1972 that Playfair became heavily involved with psychical and paranormal research, however. Working as a freelance writer and photographer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Guy Lyon Playfair was first exposed to the concept of psychic surgery. The first session which Playfair attended was held by psychic surgeon Edivaldo Oliveira Silva, and Playfair quickly became a believer. In later interviews, Playfair claims that Matthew Manning, a British psychic surgeon, cured him of a slipped disc.
Playfair’s experiences in Rio de Janeiro were the inspiration for this first book, The Flying Cow. In the United States, the book is marketed as The Unknown Power. The book was published in 1975, and was followed by the 1976 publication The Indefinite Boundary.
Guy Lyon Playfair spent a considerable amount of time in Brazil, a total of 14 years, both in Rio and in Sao Paulo. In the mid-1970s he returned home to the UK, and it was then when he met Janet Hodgson.
Guy Lyon Playfair and the Enfield Haunting
Guy Lyon Playfair, in close cooperation with Maurice Grosse, spent just about a year investigating the circumstances surrounding the Enfield haunting. He had recently, in 1974, joined the Society for Psychical Research, and the Enfield haunting was one of his first “official” cases with the Society.
Playfair and Grosse, however, were not the only members of the Society for Psychical Research who visited the Hodgson home. There were others, including John Beloff and Anita Gregory. Beloff and Gregory both determined, after spending time investigating Janet and Margaret Hodgson, that the Enfield haunting was nothing more than a series of pranks by misbehaving girls. The girls had been caught in the trickery, and even admitted it to press.
Yet Guy Lyon Playfair stayed on. He elicited a redaction of the girls’ statement from the children, and maintains to this day that the Enfield haunting was a legitimate instance of poltergeist activity.
Following Playfair’s stay with the Hodgson family, he published an expository book on the haunting. The book is titled This House is Haunted: The True Story of the Enfield Poltergeist. While by no means a best seller, the book has sold over 100,000 copies, and remains the most technical, if not accurate, account of the Enfield haunting to date.
Criticism of Guy Lyon Playfair
There’s no refuting the fact that there are skeptics and there are believers. And while it’s likely that it’s the believers who have bought the majority of copies of This House Is Haunted, there are likely a few skeptics who’ve forked out the cash as well.
Perhaps the most outspoken critic of Guy Lyon Playfair is Joe Nickell. Joe Nickell is an American paranormal investigator, who refers to himself as the “modern Sherlock Holmes.” He was formerly a Resident Magician at the Houdini Hall of Fame. Nickell also worked as a private investigator for a “world famous” detective agency. Nickell does not publicly identify the agency.
Following the release of the three part miniseries The Enfield Haunting, Joe Nickell released a scathing critique of both the production and of Playfair. Nickell claims that Playfair was “repeatedly snookered” by the Hodgson girls, and that he has “made a career of first being fooled by tricksters, and then fooling others.”
Deborah Hyde, editor-in-chief of The Skeptic Magazine, also has spoken out about Playfair and the Enfield haunting. Hyde’s criticsm of Playfair was not nearly as harsh as Nickell’s. She did, however, point out that Playfair himself suggested that mass perceptions were a real possibility. That is to say, while Janet had initially seen bizarre events, soon the whole family followed suit.
Hyde was also one of the first to point out Janet’s reactions to the statements of others. It would seem that, in the beginning of the haunting, Janet had no idea what a poltergeist was. Grosse and Playfair would laugh with her as she called it a “poker dice,” and gently correct her. As the events continued, poltergeist phenomena were explained to the girls, and in reaction, the poltergeist would act.
As an example of this, a photographer who spent time with the family explained to Janet and Margaret Hodgson that sometimes poltergeists would cause spontaneous fires. Soon after, and sure enough, the ghost of Bill Wilkins began to light matches.
Whether or not Guy Lyon Playfair was duped by two preadolescent girls will perhaps never be determined. However, one thing is for certain. Guy Lyon Playfair was, and is, passionate about his work. He remains one of the most revered paranormal investigators by those who follow the field.
Where is Guy Lyon Playfair Now?
At the time of this writing, Guy Lyon Playfair is alive and well, at 82 years of age. He is the author of many books on the paranormal, including reincarnation and twin telepathy. Ten of his books have been translated into 15 languages, and he remains involved in paranormal research.
Playfair is still a member of the Society for Psychical Reasearch. In 2004 he was elected to serve as a councilmember. Playfair acted as a consultant for the miniseries The Enfield Haunting, and for the mockumentary Ghostwatch.