; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Friday, March 25, 2011

'The Entity' Investigation - Culver City, CA - 1974

A recent photograph of the house on 11547 Braddock Drive (2011)

On August 22, 1974 at 11547 Braddock Drive in Culver City, California an investigation began that was to be like no other that parapsychologists Kerry Gaynor and Barry Taff had ever experienced. "At the time I had a colleague named Barry Taff," said Gaynor. “We were working under the auspices of Dr. Thelma Moss, but Barry and I did most of the research on this case.” Believing that this would be an open and shut case they journeyed to Doris Bither’s house with few expectations.

While in a bookstore, Kerry Gaynor and Barry Taff were overheard talking about the paranormal when a woman approached and mentioned to them that her house was haunted. She gave Gaynor a few details of the haunting, in which Gaynor told her that he would discuss this with his associate. Gaynor and Taff made an appointment to meet at her home to discuss her situation.

Parapsychologist Kerry Gaynor 

Doris Bither, a petite thirtysomething woman, greeted them at her door. Bither lived in the small house with her six year-old daughter and her three sons, ages ten, thirteen and sixteen. The house was in squalor with substandard living conditions and had twice been condemned by the city. There was also an uneasy relationship between the mother and her sons, especially by the eldest. It seemed they harbored dark resentment towards their mother, most likely as a result of their living conditions. Young minds unconsciously troubled by physical and/or verbal abusive and in a negative environment are lightning rods for paranormal activity that can manifest into psychosomatic or poltergeist activity.

Gaynor said that during the initial meeting a two-hour interview was conducted. Gaynor realized fairly soon that she was holding something back. “I kept pushing her," said Gaynor. "Finally she said that a ghost had raped and beat her. Barry and I laughed when we left her home, and I thought she was probably off her rocker. But she called me back a few days later and said that several people visiting her had seen an apparition. This is what we're always looking for...independent verification of the phenomena. I'm a scientist and that's how I approach it. I don't take their stories at face value. Their story is the beginning and I don't discount it, but I'm there to experience the phenomena and document it."

Recent photo of Dr. Barry Taff

During the second visit by Gaynor and Taff, it was starting to become apparent that this was not a simple haunting. Doris claimed that spirits would physically attack her, either bumping into the ghosts while walking through the house or actual spectral rape on occasion. Gaynor and Taff were still skeptical of these claims until they saw the dark bruises on her inner thighs and over much of her body. Doris’ eldest son did admit to seeing his mother being tossed around the room. In one instance he tried to intervene and was thrown across the room by the unseen force. Doris claimed that the spectres were Asian men and that the children had also witnessed the manifestations. The sightings were so frequent that the children dubbed one of the more prominent spirits as “Mr. Whose-it.” People outside the family corroborated through testimony that they had also seen apparitions. Gaynor and Taff did witness some visual phenomena. "We were seeing little pops of light," said Gaynor. "It would happen quickly. We would try to shoot the camera, but they were happening too quickly and we just couldn't catch them. We were shooting with a Polaroid and with a 35mm camera."

How could these investigators prove “spectral rape” or even claim it? The team decided to setup at the location and brought in high-speed cameras and photographers as well as other investigators to help capture something on tape. In the report, all the investigators and equipment, as well as Doris, were in her small bedroom. Uncomfortable and anxious to see any paranormal activity, they decided to have Doris call out to the spirits. Doris began swearing and yelling at the spirits while the investigators hoped for any evidence. Very soon small lights started to manifest throughout the room. As Doris continued to bait the entities, a greenish mist started to form in a corner. The green mist started swirling and growing quickly forming a visible upper torso of a man...very large and defined with muscles was reported. One of the investigators fainted after witnessing the manifestation. Unfortunately, none of the equipment was able to capture the definition of the form, only free floating arcs of light.

The most famous of these photographs is the one that shows Doris sitting on a bed, investigators surrounding her and the free floating arc of light in the middle of the picture. The arc of light appears smooth, even though this is a room with corners and one would expect bends in the arc as when someone uses a projector to display an image and the image hits corners in a room. If this were the case, the image would bend. The photographic evidence produce by the team shows the arc of light floating above Doris with no bends, even though behind it is the room’s corner.

There was also more common poltergeist activity noted during the investigation. “I was standing in the kitchen talking to the woman's 16 year-old son when a lower cabinet door slammed open and a pan came flying out," said Gaynor. “It flew out and landed about three or four feet from the cabinet. I immediately tore the cabinet apart to see if there were any tricks, or if anyone was hiding in the cabinets. But there was nothing.” Not long after this occurred Doris screamed, “it's in the bedroom.” Gaynor explains “we ran in there and that's when all the lights started happening. That's when we got the Polaroid shots. Again Doris shouted, 'the ghost is in the comer'. We snapped the picture, but it was bleached out and not very interesting. She shouted again, 'it's in the corner' and again the photo was bleached. At this point, I thought the camera wasn't working. So I took two control pictures. I asked her if the ghost was gone. She said yes. The picture came out perfectly. A few seconds later I took another one….perfect picture. But then we got the most interesting Polaroid. Doris said, 'It is right in front of my face.' Those were her exact words. So we took a shot. And in the photo you can see the curtains and the buttons on her dress, but her whole face is obliterated. We took a second picture when she once again said, 'it's right in front of my face.' Amazingly, her face was obliterated again, but you could see details in the rest of the picture.”

The investigative team observed lights and poltergeist activity for about two and a half months. As time went by, the activities decreased. Doris was attacked about 15 times during the ten-week investigation. "But she got stronger," said Gaynor. "And she was able to realize that she wasn't crazy and that there really was something going on. She got stronger, and in my opinion, she outlasted it." Doris moved five times, but the attacking entity followed her. She eventually moved further away. "As she moved," Gaynor said, "the phenomena diminished, and after about two years the attacks stopped altogether.”

Regardless of the evidence a few factors must be pointed out. Barry Taff notes that Doris moved from Culver City to Carson, CA. Then from Carson to San Bernadino, CA , then from San Bernadino to Texas. She eventually found her way back to San Bernardino. Doris reported that the phenomenon followed her and the family to every place they moved. This seems to support the theory that the poltergeist activity was a manifestation of the unstable environment and diseased mind. Doris was addicted to alcohol and she was very abusive and belligerent on a daily basis. Her refusal to deal with her own personal issues intensified negative energy in the home that eventually manifested as poltergeist activity. According to the reports paranormal activity was more intense ONLY when Doris was present in the home. Doris’ intoxication would attract the desired phenomena. It was also noted there were times when Doris was present with the team and sober. As expected the activity did not manifest during these periods. Because of the negative energy provided by Doris’ addiction and temperament combined with the resentment of her son’s towards her because of the abuse and poor living conditions it is rather easy to see why dark entities were attracted to the location.

NOTE: According to her son, Brian Harris, Doris McGowan Bither had a very turbulent upbringing. Both her parents were alcoholics and were not suited in providing a well-rounded environment for a child even though she was raised in an upper middle-class family. Harris states, “living in that home was hell.”

“…we all experienced some form of attack.” “…there were about 4 entities in the home, and they made themselves known by appearing all the time.” “…we were so used to the poltergeist, that we just got to a point where we wouldn’t even care.” Harris continues, “The rapes were real. My room was right next door to my mother’s. I would hear the attacks happening. Things being thrown and her screaming.” “…she would come out of the bedroom and have all these bruises on her legs, her inner thighs.”“…there were times where we would see it happen in front of us. It was like if a man was standing in front of my mother and would start to beat her. You could see her being picked up and thrown around. Sounds of slaps…but there was no one there to actually do it.”

Actress Barbara Hershey played the role of Carla Moran in the Hollywood film version of "The Entity"

Harris disagrees with many of the assessments made by the investigation team as well as how they were treated. “…well it was hell. Between Barry’s team of 30 or so people crammed in a small, and I mean, small room. Cheering and yelling at this thing. I was in the next room trying to watch television. I tried to mind my own business.” Harris continues, “The investigation lasted about 2 or 3 months, but it wasn’t like Barry was there every single day. So for him to say that this could have been some sort of telekinetic thing that my mother was creating is all bullshit. She didn’t want to have this happen….it’s a possibility, but it’s not like he knew what we were really going through. He was only there for three months. And from that, he would show up every Thursday or so.” “…when the team would show up, I knew as soon as they left, they (the entities) would become so angry that the house would come alive!”“The place we moved to was hell….in the bad part of Carson, CA. There was very little paranormal activity happening. It was hell because of the neighborhood. It was a bad neighborhood and school. The paranormal stuff was very rare at that point.” Harris adds,

Harris says that his mother passed away in 1995, from pulmonary arrest.

The book 'The Entity' written by Frank deFelitta (and subsequent film by the same title) was based on this case.

Click for video
The video contains a segment on the Doris Bither / Entity case

"Sightings: The Real Entity Case" - Susan Michaels - 1996
"Weird California: The Entity Haunting" - Greg Bishop, Joe Oesterle, Mike Marinacci, Mark Moran, Mark Sceurman - 2006
Orange Coast Magazine - 10/1989