I loved several of the movies based on the cases of Ed and Lorraine Warren – A Haunting in Connecticut, The Conjuring, The Conjuring 2, Annabel… I haven’t seen the Nun yet, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.
The problem is I don’t believe in Ed and Lorraine Warren. Not because I don’t believe in the paranormal, but because often times, the research done by the Warrens was faulty. And there was no corroboration on their cases except the people it happened to. Except I can tell a good ghost story too and it wouldn’t require verification by Ed and Lorraine (although both are now deceased, so maybe I should be concerned about labeling them terrible witnesses and investigators of paranormal/ghostly phenomenon).
The one I believe in the most is The Einfield Poltergeist, the subject of The Conjuring 2. What convinces me there was something going on is the witnesses that weren’t the family and weren’t the Warrens. The scene with the police going into the house, was giving dramatic license for the movie, but it did happen. The police did investigate and they did conclude that they could not explain how Janet was causing the events that happened to them while in the house.
Paranormal investigators and debunkers came to investigate the Einfield Poltergeist, beyond the Warrens. Most walked away convinced Janet was pulling the strings on a massive hoax, but couldn’t figure out exactly how she was doing it.
Janet was a pre-teen with a bit of trouble in her past, which seem to be the perfect circumstance for a poltergeist. Would it surprise me to discover it was a hoax? No. Would it surprise me to learn that it was real? No. Do I think Janet was involved? Oh yes, either as the battery for the activity or as the perpetrator of a hoax.
But no matter how much independent research I do into the Einfield Poltergeist, I’m with the others that investigated, I can’t explain how it was done if it was a hoax. And I’m still not completely convinced it was real. The hardest thing to prove in history is a negative. It was one of my first lessons when I began to formally study history. I can’t prove that Hitler committed suicide in his bunker in Berlin in the last days of the war. I also can’t prove that he didn’t. I can have an opinion and I can conform to accepted historical opinion, but they can’t prove it anymore than I can.
History is full of these paradoxes: unable to prove it did happen, unable to prove it didn’t. It’s a strange thing to deal with, especially when writing fact oriented papers.
Proof in history does not require a photograph or video (although those do help), they require reliable witnesses and something tangible to accompany the witnesses. In the case of the Einfield Poltergeist, the fact that even the debunkers and professional skeptics could not figure out how the hoax was perpetrated gives a great deal of sway to the argument that it wasn’t a hoax.
Interestingly, bias and this historical paradox will make it so neither ghosts or the paranormal can be proven. There will always be something that leaves it unproven. In the case of the Einfield Poltergeist, that reasonable doubt comes from the circumstances of the family. They lived in a council flat (for Americans think subsidized housing and/or Section 8). The family was not in a good way and the mother had asked to be moved to a different house before the poltergeist activity began and was denied.
Which makes one wonder was the Einfield Poltergeist a hoax to try to get a better council flat?