The Entity case reviewed

‘The Entity’ is a 1982 movie (trailer), “based on a true story”. It’s about a woman, Carlotta “Carla” Moran, who is harassed and raped by a ghost and who seeks the help of parapsychologists.

Just a few days ago, someone posted a youtube link to a video in which parapsychologist Barry Taff, one of the real life investigators on the case, talks about it. I decided to investigate. One result is that I think the youtube clip is originally an extra on the DVD release of the movie (see Cinema of the Psychic Realm: A Critical Survey by Paul Meehan).
Between the case and the movie there is a novel by Frank DeFelitta, who is mostly a writer, director and producer.

A thorough investigation would require interviewing witnesses and, most importantly, reviewing what documentation is available. It is a fact that human memory is malleable, leading to things like False Memory Syndrome. This problem is especially acute in this case because the novel and the movie offer rich sources of entirely fictitious events and imagery. So called source amnesia is very common. That means that you can remember a fact but not where or how you learned it.
For example you may know that the the US constitution asserts the existence of “certain inalienable Rights, [and] that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Where did you learn that? Did you read it? Were you told? Or did you hear on TV?

If you’re saying that you never learned this because it is not actually in the US constitution then grab yourself a cookie, otherwise you have some more food for thought. Either way, I’m sure the point is clear. Memory is not too reliable.

So, basically, a proper investigation must rely on recordings made at the time, photos, video and sound, as well as contemporary written accounts or notes. I will try to do that but I’m only a poor blogger and have only so much time and energy. This post is restricted to what one can find on the net. That said, let’s go.

Sources

The case was investigated by Kerry Gaynor and Barry Taff, of UCLA in 1974. Their findings were apparently published in IEEE publications for some reason. The IEEE is an electrical/electronics engineering association.
A deleted wikipedia entry gives these 2 references:

Taff, B.E. & Gaynor, K., “Another Wild Ghost Chase? No, One Hell of a Haunt”, in Wescon Special Session: “Psychotronics, 1975”, 1975 Wescon Professional Program, Western Electronic Show & Convention, San Francisco, September 16-19th, 1975 (Proceedings of the IEEE) [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.]

Taff, B.E. & Gaynor, K., “Another Wild Ghost Chase? No, One Hell of a Haunt”, in ELECTRO/76, Special Session: Psychotronics III”, Electro 76/Professional Program, Boston, May 11-14th, 1976, (Proceedings of the IEEE) [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, INC.]

Apparently these do not exist in electronic form at present so I am unable to confirm or deny the accuracy of these refs. The TV show Sightings seemed to, at least, confirm that there was something in ELECTRO/76.

Parapsychological articles generally cite a different source.

Taff, B.E & Gaynor, K., “A New Poltergeist Effect”, in Theta: A Journal For Research On the Question of Survival After Death, Journal of the Psychical Research Foundation, Durham, N.C., Vol. 4, No.2, Spring 1976, pp. 1-7

Apparently there are plans to make that archive electronically available but not yet.

What I did find was a sort of reprint in PSI Journal of Investigative Psychical Research, volume 4(1) from 2008. The introduction mentions changes made.

Desiring to set matters straight on what really occurred thirty-four years ago in a Los Angeles suburb, I am reprinting the original article with only minor upgrades and adjustments to compensate for three decades of time and acquired knowledge regarding this type of research.

I hope this only refers to background information. I am basing most of this post on that article.
I also listened to a few interviews with Barry Taff and watched a few segments from TV shows. Notably, a segment in the show Sightings (I think Season 1, Episode 3) featured Kerry Gaynor talking a lot and showing the photos. Unfortunately, that show was first aired in 1992, almost 20 years after the original occurrences and a decade after the movie. Gaynor seems to back up Taff’s article.
California’s Most Haunted is not very informative but has sound bites by Mort Zarkoff.

Problems with the Witnesses

I’ve already pointed out that long term memory is not too reliable. Now I must point out that even accounts written directly after an event are problematic. This realization dates back over 100 years. At the time parapsychology was very interested in séances. These took places in dark, even pitch-dark rooms and were lead by a medium.
Supposedly all sorts of supernatural events, objects flying, ghosts materializing and so on, took place. Skeptics explained this as the medium using magic tricks while believers pointed out that what witnesses recounted could not possibly be trickery.
In 1887, Richard Hodgsons, no less than the president of the American Society for Psychical Research, put the skill of witnesses to the test. With the help of magician John Davey, he staged a fake séance for, not exactly unsuspecting people ,but rather people who did not know that anything out of the ordinary would happen.
Their accounts were so incomplete and jumbled that it was impossible to reconstruct the tricks used. In fact, they could be ruled out, in defiance of the facts. (Read more)

Another consideration is that some of those involved have a financial motive to propagate the mystery of the case. They draw revenue from the movie and the novel. That is particularly true for DeFelitta, of course. The woman on whom all this was based also received money until her death or disappearance. I don’t know if she received any immediate, proper compensation for letting dozens of spectators into her home. It would have been fair.

According to my main source, DeFelitta was only present, with camera man Mort Zarkoff, on one evening where nothing much happened. That’s not the impression one would get from TV shows on the case, where he invariably appears. He happily relates seeing things that apparently happened when he was not there…
There were a few sound bites from Zarkoff on a California’s Most Haunted. They make it appear as if he is, like DeFelitta, talking about something he didn’t see, however that could be due to misleading editing.

Gaynor and Taff were technical advisors on the movie. I do not know how substantial the royalties are.

Barry Taff appears in a number of interviews, for example on Coast to Coast. He comes across as a very colorful character. He claims amazing psychic powers for himself, such as the ability to psychically diagnose medical conditions. He also relates how he once was beat up by a ghost, except that he also says that other witnesses saw him get beat up by a young man. As a witness he certainly has a credibility problem.

Kerry Gaynor now seems to be a hypnotist specializing in smoking cessation. At least I think that the guy in the photo of this article shows the same person. I feel he’s the most credible of the bunch.

Another person who appears in TV shows is Dick Thompson, professional photographer. The implication is that he was also a witness but he is not mentioned by name in my main source.

Allegedly, there were over 50 witnesses in total to one paranormal event or another. The problem here is that there are not that many witnesses testifying to the phenomena. We only have these five who testify to the phenomena and to the presence of other witnesses. What those other witnesses would say is simply unknown.

If anyone feels like digging up the original reports in a library, by all means check the following issues of the journals as well. Someone may have written a letter to the editor in which they confirm or deny the accuracy of the account.
However, even someone who saw absolutely nothing might still assume that all the good bits happened on another occasion or that the matter was simply not important enough to follow up on.

In any case, all those people that were present cannot give us much additional trust in the accuracy of the account. With so many people present, the likelihood is higher that one of them would be a “bad witness”. Maybe one of them is not quite sane or not quite honest and will see or say anything with the right prodding.
Also, so many people present does increase the possibility that one of them may have been motivated to play a little hoax.

At the end of the day, that so many people were present is a problem for the paranormal interpretation, rather than a plus.

Recent developments

As late as 2011, Taff said on Coast-to-Coast (23.01.2011) that he did not know what had happened to the female victim. He had not maintained contact with her but he knew from DeFelitta that she had stopped cashing the checks sent to her and that DeFelitta was unable to contact her.
More recently someone surfaced who claims to be the woman’s second child. I don’t know how or if the identity of that person was established. He claims that she died in 1996 from pulmonary disease but otherwise I see no new information. Read more about this here.

I am going to go through what allegedly happened according to Taff’s article in PSI. The article is contradicted in a few details by other sources.

What happened?

The meeting

In real life, the victim/experiencer was called Doris Bither at the time. She was married multiple times and apparently changed her last name accordingly. She is described as having been intoxicated during most of her dealings with the parapsychologists. She had four children, 3 boys aged 10, 13 and 16, which were interviewed, and one daughter, 6, that was never seen.
She lived in Culver city, California in a shabby house that was “twice condemned” by the city.

Her first meeting with the parapsychologists was a chance encounter. She overheard Kerry Gaynor talking with a friend about hauntings in a bookstore and approached them.

The first Visit

On August 22, 1974, Taff and Gaynor visited her small home in Culver city and interviewed the family.

Their accounts were fairly uniform in reference to a particular apparition whom they called “Mr. Whose-it.” The alleged apparition would appear in semi-solid form and was well over six feet in height, according to their testimony. Both Doris and her eldest son claimed to have seen two dark, solid figures with Asian features appear from out of nowhere within their mother’s bedroom, who at times appeared to be struggling with each other.
This particular event occurred several times, with one episode where Doris claimed to have physically bumped into the apparition in the hallway. Neither Doris nor her eldest son would accept the possibility that the apparitions might have been imagined or simply prowlers or intruders who forcibly entered the house.

Doris Bither also reported that she was sexually assaulted on several occasions, suffering large bruises. However, there were no medical records to substantiate this claim and the investigators could not see any bruising. The last attack had allegedly happened weeks prior so that any injuries had healed in the meantime.
The ‘spectral rape’ was pretty much what the movie centered around but there is no evidence, no matter how tenuous, that could corroborate Bither’s claims. By the by, California’s Most Haunted asserts that the investigators saw the bruising complete with a dramatic reenactment in which an actress pulls her top down.

Another incident featured in the movie is simply hearsay as well.

Even more dramatic was Doris’ claim that during one particular attack, her eldest son overheard the scuffle and entered the bedroom. According to Doris, he witnessed her being tossed around like a rag doll by the entities. She alleges that when her son came to her aid, an invisible force picked him up and threw him backwards into the wall. The son corroborated his mother’s story, speaking of the sheer terror he experienced during that struggle.

Apparently these stories are only the tip of the iceberg, for Taff goes on:

I will refrain from going into all the bizarre stories that were related to us for we cannot substantiate them.

The bleak picture that emerges is one of a dysfunctional family, with an alcoholic mother, living in a run down house. If you’re thinking based on this that these interviews promised an intriguing case then Taff and Gaynor would have, reportedly, disagreed with you.

Our initial impression was to totally discount Doris’ claims and simply refer her to one of the psychiatrists at the NPI.

The changed their opinion only because:

However, a few days hence, Doris called to inform us that five individuals outside her family had now seen the alleged apparitions.

There is no mention what exactly was seen, or if the claim was corroborated by asking the witnesses. Presumably it was not.

The second Visit

The parapsychologists return to the house with cameras. They noticed cold spots, a rotting smell and the feeling of pressure on the inner ear. Neither of these reports is particularly odd. Such sensations can be easily induced by suggestion.
There are no mentions of using measurement devices to confirm that any objective temperature or air pressure differences existed. However, I can’t help speculating what it might have been if it was real.
The stench is obviously consistent with the destitute circumstances of the family. On a more speculative note, the stench may also have been connected with the feeling of pressure in the ears. The feeling might have simply resulted from breathing differently. Or there might have been noxious chemicals or mildew spores in the air, coming with the stench from whatever was rotting there. Which might cause swelling of mucous membranes in the nose or ears and so lead to that feeling of pressure. But that’s really a lot of speculation without knowing if there was anything more than suggestion going on.
About the feeling of cold:

An intriguing factor, which in our opinion is highly significant, was that from the very first occasion we entered Doris’ bedroom, we both immediately noticed that the temperature was unusually low in comparison to the rest of the house, even though it was a hot August night and all the bedroom’s windows were closed.

A room can be cold because of closed windows, rather than despite. It will prevent warm air from going flowing in. If the room is also shadowed by the rest of the house, then it will be cooler than the outside or the rest of the house, because it neither receives warm air nor hot sun.

Moving on…

The first of many to come, seemingly inexplicable happenings, occurred while Gaynor was talking to the elder son in the kitchen.
Gaynor was standing approximately one foot away from the lower cabinets when suddenly the cabinet door swung open. A frying pan flew out of the cabinet, following a curved path to the floor over 2.5 feet [ca. 75 cm] away, hitting with quite a thud. Now, of course, the immediate thing to surmise is that the pan was leaning against the cabinet door and finally pushed it open as it fell out. But we cannot accept this explanation for the trajectory of the pan as it came out of the cabinet was elliptical. It was seemingly propelled out of the cabinet by a substantial force.

2.5 feet does not suggest much force to me. Moreover it suggests a very short flight. It seems doubtful that either Gaynor or the son were paying much attention to the cabinet. Which raises the question of how much of the flight path was really seen rather than just subconsciously surmised. This event is only as inexplicable as eyewitness testimony is reliable. That can be summed up in three words: Not at all.
By the by, over the years the pan has begun flying further. In California’s Most Haunted, Taff says that it flew across the kitchen, many feet. Retroactive PK at work, perhaps?
As are as I am concerned the falling hypothesis is entirely viable. Of course, it’s also possible that one of the kids played a prank. Come to think of it, the report doesn’t even say that Gaynor and the elder son were alone in the kitchen.
By the way, the term “elliptical trajectory” is nonsense in this context. That shows a lack of formal physical knowledge but whether that is relevant here is a different matter.

During this visit, an alleged psychic and friend of Bither called “Candy” was also present. At some point she called that she felt a presence in the bedroom. Taff rushed in from the kitchen and immediately took a Polaroid photo. At the time, there were no digital cameras. Normal cameras took a chemical film which had to be developed in a lab but Polaroid cameras produced pictures that developed on their own, on the spot.
So they could immediately examine the picture. It was completely “bleached” white. Taff uses the word “bleached”, to me these photos simply look overexposed. Psychic Candy felt a presence several more times and each time either Gaynor or Taff took another photo.
It’s not particularly remarkable that they would have produced a number of bad photos. Electronics in th 1970ies was not as advanced as now and so cameras required a lot of manual adjustments. The question is rather why the photos for which Candy indicated a “presence” were overexposed.
One answer may simply be that this is selective memory. Maybe they just didn’t bother mentioning pictures that came out normal when Candy shouted.
Another point may be that when Candy shouted they simply did not have the time to adjust the settings properly. They may also have held the camera differently at those time, covering the a built-in brightness sensor. It may also be possible that the sensor was not fast enough to adjust to different conditions when they rushed from one room to another.
Whatever the case may be, a few overexposed photos hardly deserve to be called evidence.

In one close-up of Candy, which was taken when she said the presence was right in front of her, her face is “bleached” but the surroundings not as much. That can happen when using a flash. The bright flash is reflected by the face but quickly dissipates over longer distances.

One more picture showed “a small ball of light” but no one of those present had seen it. White spots may result from damage to the photographic material. The specific camera used, the SX-70, was popular among artists, not just because it was the first instant camera but also because the pictures could be manipulated by applying the right kind of pressure afterwards.
I haven’t seen the specific photo, though.

Standing there in amazement for several minutes discussing this phenomenal picture, I happened to glance over toward the bedroom’s eastern window and suddenly observed several rapidly moving, electric-blue balls of light.

The most obvious explanation here is that Taff simply saw a car’s headlights, or whatever, reflected in the window glass. No one else saw anything.

What is interesting is that these are the first strange lights mentioned. There is no mention that the family had ever seen any strange lights.
Now something appears on a picture that they interpret as a ball of light and immediately Taff sees a strange light.

The last paranormal phenomenon of the day:

[...]the Polaroid suddenly and inexplicably took the last photograph by itself.

duN-dun-DUNNNN! Boo!
I have to ridicule this because I have absolutely no explanation for this. File under total proof.

They also had an infrared camera but due to mishandling the film was exposed. They do not consider the possibility that it was malicious manipulation by the entity.

The third visit

On this occasion they take a professional photographer with them. Unfortunately, just on that day they did not obtain any photographic evidence. What a strange coincidence. Or maybe the work of a malicious spirit?

Our third to Doris’ house was most notable in that it was the first occasion where we both collectively witnessed identical visual phenomena. On more than twenty separate occasions, all of us present in the bedroom, including Doris and the female photographer, simultaneously observed what appeared to be small, pulsing flashes of light. It was at this point that we decided to further darken the candle-lit room and hung several heavy quilts and bedspreads over the windows and curtains. Our attempt partially succeeded in that we significantly attenuated the outside light.
The change in light intensity within the bedroom did not affect our most unusual luminous “friend” that now appeared even more brilliant against the darkened surround. It should be noted that we both alternately watched the various window areas in the hope of determining if the source of light was originating from outside the house, perhaps from a passing vehicle or neighbor’s flashlight.
After several such attempts, we were satisfied that whatever these moving, pulsing lights were, they were not originating from outside the house as the thick quilts draped over the window curtains would have easily told us of such an photonic intrusion. The sudden and rapid appearance and disappearance of the lights on this night made it virtually impossible to obtain any photographs, regardless of the fact that it appeared over ten times on the front of the bar area alone.

I don’t know what I should say to that. I don’t understand how they became satisfied that the lights did not come from outside.
If I had to guess than my guess would be that it was light from outside after all.
Whatever, with a bit of creativity I can think of other causes for such elusive lights. One is reflected, flickering, candle light, or perhaps light from equipment. Also, it just might be that someone played a trick on them. The three teen-aged sons seem ideal suspects.
Another possibility is misperceptions in the low light environment, aided by suggestion.
The quirks of the human vision will also make it more difficult to track down a dim light source in a dark room. The human retina is not equally light sensitive everywhere. The edges of our vision are much more light sensitive than the center.
So we might see a light, that is really there, out of the corner of the eye and then lose it when looking straight at it. An occasional glance into a bright candle may leave afterimages.

We learned the next day that our attractive female photographer, after being dropped off by us at her apartment, became so overpoweringly ill from the effects of the bedroom’s malodorous environment that she regurgitated heavily before retiring.

They don’t say why they consider this particular detail noteworthy, nor why they feel it necessary to point out that the photographer was attractive. I suppose the implication is that she suffered because of the rapist ghost.
One might also conjecture that she, or maybe all of them, was (accidentally or not) drugged or poisoned which caused them to see lights and her to throw up. That is not be the most likely possibility, though, in my opinion.

The fourth visit

On their fourth visit they brought a number of other people with them and conducted a séance. The séance thing is usually glossed over in documentaries, for some reason. They only mentioned dozens, or whatever witnesses. Perhaps the producers fear that saying that they were there for a séance detracts from their credibility.

The séance circle consisted of someeight individuals, including more than ten spectators, many of who came with cameras loaded with high-speed infrared film with IR flashes, and high-speed black and white film with deep-red filtered strobes.

There is no mention of who these people were or how they were recruited. There is neither mention that any written testimonials were collected.

On this night we all observed what appeared to be extremely intense lights, which were not stable either in size or luminosity. The lights were at times three- dimensional in nature, reaching out between various individuals within the circle. Judging from the rapidly changing size, dimensional characteristics and intensity of the lights observed, it is our opinion that these manifestations were not fraudulently created, nor the result of collective hallucinations.

Apparently the lights were different from those on the previous night. That suggests a different cause.
Taff asserts that these lights could only have been “faked” using lasers and spends several paragraphs arguing that a concealed laser apparatus is an impossibility. It does not at all argue for the assertion that it would have required a laser.

In Sightings Gaynor mentions the possibility that it might have been a flashlight but dismisses the idea based on a photo. I wonder why that is not mentioned by Taff. The photo he bases his dismissal on was apparently taken during the next visit, according to my primary source so it is discussed below.

As far as photos on this day go:

With three 35 mm. cameras continuously firing at these oscillating greenish white, three-dimensional lights, only one photograph depicted anything significant. The camera loaded with Kodak Tri-X black and white film with a deep-red filtered strobe captured what appears to be a small ball of light flying across the corner of the room. The sixth obtained photograph displayed an object bearing strong resemblance to a comet with a tail behind it.

And later:

However, several other pictures showed what appeared to be faces or figures outlined in light against a sliding closet door. But, as these images are highly subjective in nature, much like a Rorschach, we did not subject them to further analysis. Another photograph depicted an intense light against the south-facing wall in several separate frames.
The professional photographer who took these pictures was convinced that this exposure could not be explained away as irregularities in paint or a “hot spot” of reflection. The photographer was similarly convinced that the flying ball of light, discussed earlier, which he also caught, was not an artifact of overdeveloping or scratch marks on the negative.
The criticisms raised against the facial and figure outlines on the walls were, in most respects valid, in that the lack of uniformity of paint on the bedroom walls in conjunction with the slight penetrating power of the pushed Kodak Tri-X film could have conceivably accounted for these unidentifiable figures, which unfortunately were not recognizable by everyone examining the photographs.

The phenomenon of seeing shapes in random patterns is known as pareidolia. There is no mention of who examined the photographs.
The assertions of the professional photographer can be believed or not. That he reportedly denies pareidolia harms his credibility but whether that matters is a different matter.

So what happened that night? No one knows, remember the limitations of eye witness reports. Nevertheless. I will indulge some speculations.

Green afterimages are seen after a bright red light. This could be a candle or the aforementioned red strobe. Particularly in a dark room such an afterimage can appear as a three dimensional glowing mass. It would require an iron will to believe to not see it for what it is though.
Whether this will is present in the witnesses from who we heard, you decide.

Lights from outside may also have played a role.

Then, there is still the possibility that someone, one of the family’s kids or a spectator, played a prank with a flashlight. It seems to me, though, that there should be more photos with a bright light then. Still, an iron will to disbelieve might lead one to dismiss such photos, especially if the light was perhaps usually turned less bright. So, who knows.

The fifth visit

Our fifth visit to Doris’ house resulted in a large-scale magnification of all phenomena. We began by duct taping large black poster boards up on the walls and ceiling of the bedroom, all of which were numbered and identified with a magnetic orientation. White duct tape was placed between the dark panels that formed a grid network, like graph paper, therein providing us with a reference for further attempts at photographing the lights. Black poster boards were also used to seal off all the light entrances into the bedroom that rendered the environment almost pitch black.
With over 30 individuals, some of whom were volunteers from our UCLA Parapsychology laboratory, the lights returned and were even more brilliant than before, as well as demonstrating a direct responsiveness to our verbal suggestions. The three-dimensional lights seemingly reacted and responded to our jokes and various provoking remarks, especially those of Doris.

They asked the lights to blink on a certain panel which it did.

[...]two blinks in panel three for “yes” and four flashes in panel six for “no.”

There is no full account of the questions asked, nor the answers given. In short:

The answers we received could not be confirmed, and never really made any sense.

These answers are interesting because if everyone saw the same answers then that would indicate that there really was a light, regardless of origin.
Unfortunately, I don’t think that can be taken as a given. They were sitting around in the dark waiting for something. Now if someone just shouts out that they see something then, quite possibly others will go along. That someone would buck the trend and say that he or she does not see something seems less likely. They might figure that their night sight is not good enough.
And then there’s the question to what a degree Taff and Gaynor would have been willing or able to credit skeptical remarks.

This night produced the best piece of evidence in the form of this photo.

On the photo you see two arcs of light. Which is not what was seen, according to the report.
The smaller one on the left looks to me like a “kink mark” (don’t google that at work). That’s what happens when a chemical film is roughly handled and bent which causes the light sensitive chemicals to be displaced.
Often, the smaller, left arc is cut off, leaving only the large arc above Doris Bither. Much is made of that.
The arcs are interpreted as traces of the balls of light, left because the shutter speed was not high enough. On its face that seems plausible but notice how the arcs fade out at the ends. That points rather to a kink mark in my opinion.
In either case, I have to agree with the often made argument that these arcs cannot be light projected on the background since otherwise there should be bends and discontinuities. This is particularly true for the left arc that covers someone’s head. Though for some reason Taff always points to the larger arc not being bent by the corner.

I don’t see any poster boards on the walls or windows. That could mean that Taff is mixing up dates and this photo was actually taken the previous day.
Or it may be that it simply was not taken in the bedroom. That would indicate that it was not taken during the séance when the lights were seen.
Either way, it is a worrying discrepancy.

When Adrian Vance, the West Coast Editor of Popular Photography examined the negatives of these photos, he was as perplexed as we were. According to Vance, the very nature of optical glass in a 35 mm. SLR camera prohibits such inverted arcs from occurring. Yet here they are. Vance could not conceive of any known artifact or anomaly to account for such images.

I find it hard to believe that the smaller arc is not a kink mark as it matches the examples I have seen. I don’t know about the bigger one.
There is reason to believe that Vance judges the likelihood of errors in pictures differently than many of his colleagues. That is that he is or was also an occasional UFO researcher who validated some UFO photos. Whether his judgment is more or less accurate than that of his colleagues, I cannot say.
The photo was published in the magazine. It would be very interesting to know what letters-to-the-editor that produced. (“UCLA Group Uses Camera to Hunt Ghosts”, Popular Photography, May 1976, pp. 102 & 115.)

They also had a Geiger counter which gave no reading at one point during the evening. This is interpreted as radiation being actually shielded rather than the device simply malfunctioning. No comment.

In the same night, the poster boards were pulled from the walls. It was suggested that maybe the heat could have weakened the adhesive tape but Taff asserts that some paint and plaster had been pulled from the wall as well and was still sticking to the tapes.
The possibility that one of the family was responsible was not discussed. In some interviews the idea that Doris Bither may have done it herself is repudiated by saying that she was petite. I think ladder technology had already been developed by 1974 but whatever. When I hear of petty vandalism, I’m thinking teen-age male.

The sixth visit

Our sixth session at the house took place five days later and in most respects was a repeat performance of our fifth visit with the exception that the lights repeatedly began to
take shape; forming the lime green, partially three-dimensional, apparitional image of a very large, muscular man whose shoulders, head and arms were readily discernible by the more than twenty individuals’ present. However, no salient facial characteristics of this apparition were discernible.

Nothing is made of it but this is the first time an apparition is seen by outsiders, similar to what the family had claimed.
Allegedly two persons, called Jeff and Craig, fainted when they saw the apparition. Perhaps fainting is not so unusual in the California heat in a crowded, ill-smelling room.

The display of lights this evening was so intense that they easily illuminated the numbered poster boards covering the walls of the bedroom’s corner. Even the clothes of the individuals observing the lights from outside the séance circle were brightly lit by the luminous activity. In fact, so piercing were the lights that they were seen to reflect off the camera’s aluminum frame and lenses, all of which were aimed directly at the corner where the optical display was concentrated.

Not surprising to us, considering the past two attempts at photographing the lights, all the negatives were perfectly clear, as if no light whatsoever was present to expose the film.

Undoubtedly, that was the most amazing night. If there was real light then someone must have very skillfully manipulated seven cameras unnoticed which seems just implausible.
The apparition is attested to by both Gaynor and Taff. Could they have convinced each other of having seen something that was not there at all? The answer is yes, of course. And while this  as an explanation is not implausible it is deeply unsatisfying to me. What really happened there?

The seventh visit

Again, the poster boards had been torn down. Also Doris Bither and two of her sons reported other psychokinetic phenomena. She showed a large bruise on her arm which supposedly resulted from having been hit by a candelabra thrown by an invisible force.

Accompanying us on this evening was Dr. Thelma Moss, head of our laboratory at UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute, various assistants from the lab, several psychiatrists from the institute who professed an interest in such phenomena, and Frank De Felitta, a renowned writer,
producer, and director of The Stately Ghosts of England (NBC, 1965).

This appears to be the only occasion on which DeFelitta and Mort Zarkoff accompanied them, despite how it sounds in interviews.

There were some faint glimmerings of light, but they were in no way intense enough to
cause any real excitement.
[..]
Sadly, those attending only on this evening did not witness the “magnificent” display of swirling, three-dimensional lights or the apparition that had occurred within the house.

The obvious question is why no show? An obvious but speculative answer is the presence of some more skeptical authority figures in the form of Thelma Moss and several psychiatrists. If the lights were really just afterimages and hysteria then a few more sober persons, not going with the flow and not afraid to voice doubt, would have been quite a damper.
Of course, it’s also possible that a hoaxer simply lost interest, was not invited or any number of other things.
Taff remarks that Bither was much calmer during that visit and for the first time not intoxicated.

However, at one point during the séance, Gaynor suggested to the “presence” in the house, whatever it was, that it should demonstrate its strength by again tearing the poster boards off the walls, but this time, in our presence. As if in immediate reply, within five seconds following Gaynor’s request, several of the poster boards directly over Doris’ head were suddenly torn loose from their position and sharply struck her in the face.
Both Gaynor and I, as well as others in the room, could easily observe the bizarre sight of the duct tape being pulled, again as if by unseen hands, from the boards on the wall.

That sounds quite amazing and even more so when you hear Gaynor relating that in an interview.

Needless to say, the opinions of some of those attending only for the seventh visit to Doris’ house were anything but positive, as our claims were only marginally supported. As far as the activity surrounding the poster boards was concerned, many of those present felt that their sudden removal from the walls and ceiling was explainable under the heating and humidity hypothesis discussed earlier. Yeah, right. And pigs can fly too.

This is a remarkable passage. It reveals that there are two completely different views of the happenings. And it is the only passage that reveals that. I also wonder why it should be needless to say that.
Apparently what Gaynor and Taff witnessed was a solidly fixed board being torn from the wall and flying straight at Bither, right on cue. What the others witnessed was boards just falling down. I wonder if these less impressed witnesses would even agree that it happened on cue. Witness reports are often unreliable with regards to timing.

Needless to say, Frank and Mort were absolutely amazed by even this, less than expected, occurrence. Unfortunately, when they had their special films processed, it did not reveal anything significant as related to what we all had observed that night in Doris’s bedroom.

That nothing remarkable was caught on camera means either that it was not pointed at Bither or the right poster boards at the right time, or that the falling boards did not look impressive.

Note that Taff refers to events that all witnessed. That makes one wonder about the other occasions where supposedly many people saw something. Did really everyone see something amazing or just something?

The last visit

The 8th and last visit took place on Halloween 1974. It is described as even less remarkable than the previous one. No more details are given.

1 Comment

  1. Bex said,

    November 1, 2013 at 4:02 am

    It’s so easy to dismiss what we don’t see with our own eyes…yet of course most strange occurances are to any degree…possible!…it would make more sense to at least have the opinion ‘maybe’ rather than dismiss it completely as a load of tosh! People in their millions kneel before a ‘so called God!!!’, yet I have at no point in my 43 years on this exceptionally confused planet, ever met anyone who has actually seen this so called ‘God’ with their own eyes! Yet, we generally accept this without argument! Ha ha ….what hypocrites eh?! Of course spirits are a possibility…perhaps fairies are too…who knows eh…anyone that can prove irrefutably that they are totally fiction…come forth and lay down your evidence. Cheers…Bex


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