Sunday, 7 February 2010

Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning.

I'm a simple person who enjoys a quiet life. No drama. No hysterics. No white water rafting or jumping out of a plane with only a piece of cloth standing between you and certain doom (Gee Note: By the way I met a guy the other day who tried to cure his vertigo by skydiving. Which is a wee bit extreme if you ask me. I mean couldn't you just stand on a chair or something? Also during the jump the main parachute failed and he had to scramble to use the back up before he became a form of human pâté. Strangely enough this did nothing to help his condition). In fact give me a nice comfy seat, a cup of tea, and a magazine article about how I can get better results switching to a new shampoo and I'm quite content. You can have your chaotic situations and your loud noises Jack. Just leave me be.

Anyway last Thursday I was sitting on my sofa minding my own business when all of a sudden someone stabbed me in my back with a searing hot knife (Gee Note: To be honest with you I had it coming. The future ex-Mrs Davies does put up with an awful lot). Except they didn't. I deduced this after realising that I was the only person in the room at the time, and that there was a distinct lack of blood spurting from me. Still it hurt like hell, prompting me to make a sound not unlike a young lamb getting it's hoof run over by a monster truck driven by a very fat man.

So after about two solid hours of me bravely gritting my teeth and fighting through the pain (Gee Note: Not crying like a small child you understand. Oh gosh no. Why? Who's saying I was? You know, I don't even know how these rumours start up to begin with. Next they'll be saying I like reading articles in women's magazines about which shampoo to use.) I was bundled in to the back of a car and taken to the nearest hospital.

Checking myself in to the local casualty I tried to explain my symptoms to the flunky behind the glass screen. Well that was after some insanely tortuous questions.

"Can I have your full name please?"

"Yes….it's Gareth… ahhh… Rhys… Davies."

"Is that double barrelled?"

"No it's not fuc… No it's not."

"And your address?"

"Umm…. Jesus I don't know! I live in a house! It has a front door. Is this relevant?"

Mercifully this ended after I mumbled my street name and held up a handful of numbers. I was then led to a back room where I was left and promptly ignored for four hours, all while my internal organs felt like they were trying to fight their way out of my back.

And then finally, sweet rapture finally, Doctor Suresh walked in to my life.

Doctor Suresh sat next to me and apologised for the long wait. After asking some probing questions (Gee Note: Vital Statistics 36-24-36. Likes long walks in the park, eating out, and going to the cinema. Dislikes smokers. Unless they're hot of course. In which case they could be a serial killer for all I care) the good Doc gave me his verdict. With a polite smile Suresh informed me that I'd gone and got myself a kidney stone.

No really.

Not to worry though, Suresh had a remedy. "You'll need to take a pain pill" said he. "Awesome." said I. "Yes. A pain pill in the form of a suppository." said he. "Oh f***. Really?" said I. "I can do it for you if you want?" said he. "Umm… if it's all the same to you Doc I'd rather give it a bash myself." said I. "Very well" said he, producing a sachet of petroleum jelly and a pill the size of an assault rifle bullet. "Is… wait… is that it?" said I. "Yes. Yes it is. Good luck sir." said he, and with a hearty slap on my shoulder he left never to return.

Now it should be noted that this was a completely brand new experience for me. And so it surprised me that applying said medicine wasn't as bad as I'd expected. Oh sure it's not the most pleasant feeling in the world. In fact if I never had to do it again, not once in my life time ever, I'd be quite a happy chappy. But here's the thing. It was no where near as bad as I thought it was going to be. In fact considering all that happened that evening the suppository could be viewed as a positive experience. Maybe. I don't know.

Anyway speaking of things inside you that shouldn't be (Gee Note: Smooth), as part of my recovery I've taken to sitting on my sofa and watching a lot of TV. So, you know, business as usual really. The good news is it's allowed me to catch up on the million and one things on my DVR gathering dust. You know like "When Aborigines Attack", and that episode of Law And Order where Fred Savage is a serial rapist (Gee Note: You know, there‘s something odd about Fred Savage playing a serial rapist. It‘s like discovering Barney the Dinosaur spends his downtime hacking up kittens with a meat cleaver. I mean the dude was in The Princess Bride for Chrissakes. Nobody from that movie could really be evil right? Right?). One of those was an thoroughly interesting documentary on the Enfield Poltergeist.

Here's the skinny. On August 31 1977 divorcee Peggy Hodgson and her four children were settling down in their semi- detached council house in Enfield, North London when all sorts of woovy bezerk stuff started happening. Janet aged 11 and her brother Pete aged 10 awoke their mother in hysterics, claiming that their beds where "jolting up and down and going all funny". Believing that her kids were being, well, kids Ms Hodgson rounded them up and sent them back to their beds where the movement had seemingly stopped (Gee Note: By the way, the other day I was listening to Coast to Coast AM's open lines show and George Noory asked a question along the lines of "Was there a monster in your closet? Did it ever come out? Call us now!". Sadly this didn’t lead to what would have been a very entertaining discussion about Bogeymen struggling to confront their own sexuality. "Well I was staying at Grandma's when a monster appeared at the end of my bed crying and saying it was tired of living a lie. Then it asked me if I fancied going with it to the revival of Cats. Freaked me the f*** out let me tell you").

So fast forward to the following evening. The Hodgson’s are chilling out max and relaxing all cool until about 9.30 when a weird sound starts up in children's bedroom, as if someone was "shuffling across the floor in their slippers". As Peggy turned on the lights to investigate the noise stopped, only for a heavy chest of drawers to move 18 inches across the room. Peggy moved the furniture back to it's original place only for it to go walkabout a second time. A tad worried by this, Ms Hodgson marched her children downstairs before putting in a call to police at 11pm.

According to a television news report from the time, the investigating officer claimed to have heard “unexplainable” knocks coming from the walls of the house, and saw a stationary chair levitate. Said WPC Carolyn Heeps, "It came off the floor nearly half an inch. I saw it slide off to the right about four feet before it came to rest. I checked to see if it could have slid along the floor by itself. I even placed a marble on the floor to see whether it would roll in the same direction as the chair. It didn't. I checked for wires under the cushions and chairs and I could not see any. I couldn't find any explanation at all.". Still rather than take the sensible step of burning the building to the ground, the police shrugged their shoulders and left, claiming that as there was no actual crime committed they were unable to assist any further. (Gee Note: And to be honest I’d have done the same thing. No really if a chair starts being moved by an invisible force in the same room that I’m in, you’d need to chain me to the wall to stop me from getting the hell out of there. Even then I’d probably try and chew my way out of it or something.)

Over the coming months more than 30 witnesses experienced odd goings on in the house, usually marbles and Lego bricks flying around willy nilly and loud knocks on the walls. Desperate to find out what the hell was going on, the family contacted the Society for Psychical Research. The SPR sent (Gee Note: Bill Murray? Dan Akroyd? Ernie Hudson? The other guy? Oh what’s his name? You know, he was in Stripes as well. And he wrote and directed Caddyshask. And Groundhog Day. Damn. William something? No don’t tell me. It’ll come…) two investigators called (Gee Note: HAROLD RAMIS!!! That’s the bugger.) Guy Playfair and Maurice Grosse. Over the next 14 months they studied the Hodgson’s and the house intensely, particularly Janet who seemed to be at the very centre of the hullabaloo.

Late one evening Grosse was going through that day’s findings when he heard Janet’s scream cut the air like it was married to OJ Simpson. Approaching the bottom of the stairs Grosse apparently saw the 12 year old being dragged from her bedroom by an unseen force and flung down the stairs, where she ended up at his feet. A couple of days later a lollipop lady saw Janet through her bedroom window supposedly hovering above the ground.

And then, just when it appeared things couldn’t get any stranger Janet started to speak with a different voice. She would hurl insults at those around her and claim her name was “Bill”, the ghost of a man who had died in that house due to a brain haemorrhage. This voice would seemingly resent being questioned, and either gave joke answers or just criticise the interviewer with a wave of profanity. Astonishingly a wee bit of research revealed that a previous tenant of the house by the name of Bill Wilkins had in fact succumbed to a brain haemorrhage whilst sitting on a chair in the living room.

Spooky huh? Well it is if you believe that the Enfield Poltergeist was just that, a narked off spirit tormenting a suburban family. But the thing is, it might not be so simple. See there’s a ton of debate on the involvement of the Hodgson’s as hoaxers, Janet in particular. For a start the kids did play tricks on the investigators, such as one time when they hid a tape recorder and claimed that “The poltergeist made it disappear”. The recorder was still switched on of course, and Janet herself was caught on tape planning the prank.

Secondly after over a year of disturbances, Janet was sent to a mental health hospital. It is now claimed that the reason for this was so that Janet could prove she wasn’t responsible for the strange activities in the house. However, almost as soon as Janet left the house for her stay at the hospital the poltergeist vanished. By the time she returned all ghostly goings on in the house had ceased to be.

Still others are convinced that the curious case of the Enfield Poltergeist was a genuine, honest to goodness haunting. One of those is Grosse himself, who claimed that the pranks played by the Hodgson children wouldn’t account for the 5 billion other odd things that happened in that house during his time there.

So, was it a disembodied spirit, or the work of a bored girl seeking attention? Well the answer depends on who you believe. There’s really enough evidence to argue it both ways, and it would take someone a lot smarter than yours truly to wade through it all and come to a definitive answer, if that’s even possible.

But I’ll tell you this. I’d rather have a kidney stone in me than a poltergeist. Suppository or no suppository.

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