What Are Poltergeists?
By Matt Posner
Oct 17, 2010
ARE POLTERGEISTS REAL?
Yes, poltergeists are real. Why do I say this? Because there are thousands of cases reported throughout history, over hundreds of years. This means there is more consistent evidence for poltergeists than even for UFOs, which began to be a significant phenomenon in the 1950s. Nearly all the evidence for poltergeists is anecdotal, but anecdotal evidence is still convincing in quantity, and in the case of poltergeists, there is a huge amount.
What do I mean? ANECDOTAL evidence is evidence based on trustworthy eyewitness accounts. It does not include the more traditionally persuasive categories of evidence such as scientific records, photographs, videos, and so on. (These things do exist to some extent with poltergeist cases, but they are difficult to locate online and not usually persuasive.) Anecdotal evidence becomes persuasive when it accumulates to a large degree, or when all possible information indicates the eyewitness has no reason to lie and has not been the victim of deception.
In the hundreds of poltergeist cases I have read about, not one has been demonstrated to be a fraud. Some have been shown to be caused psychosomatically (mind over body) by mentally disturbed individuals, but none have ever been shown to be the result of other phenomena, like wind, building subsidence, or other manmade or natural accident.
While individual reported elements of poltergeist cases may be falsified, or rendered inaccurate by recollection, the existence of some errors does not outweigh the amount of anecdotal evidence. So, yes, poltergeists are real.
WHAT DO POLTERGEISTS DO?
A poltergeist case usually starts with raps, knocks, and bangs. The German term "poltergeist" means "noisy spirit" ("geist" is "ghost"). The noises are generally perceived as coming from walls and tables. When recorded and electronically analyzed, the sounds are found to be different than man-made bangs on the same surfaces, meaning that the sounds are generated by the poltergeist's energy, not by physically knocking.
Sometimes -- often -- these noises have been used by the poltergeist-plagued household as a means of communication with the poltergeist. Poltergeists are lousy communicators, however -- they lie and screw with people. I'll explain why shortly.
Many poltergeist cases don't go further than these noises, but poltergeists can make loud noises, too. One case described by Colin Wilson (a frequent source of mine) featured a noise described as sounding like a piano falling down a staircase.
The noises get on your nerves, but that's not all poltergeists do. They can manipulate physical objects. They can move furniture, throw small objects around, stick and unstick doors, pull covers off of people in bed, lift chairs and beds, break dishes, ring doorbells, dump out food containers, and even injure people. In one case in an office in Germany, a poltergeist made overhead light fixtures swing back and forth and made telephone calls to an automated clock at superhuman speed.
Let me talk about throwing objects to point out the unusual way that these entities operate. When an object is thrown across a room, it doesn't move the way it would if you threw it. Rather, it kind of wobbles and hovers as if it's being carried, not following a typical trajectory. If you saw the episode of Ghost Adventures with the moving brick, that's what it looks like. (I'll write about ghost hunting shows another time.) When a poltergeist-thrown object hits you, it doesn't injure you, and rarely leaves a mark, but it will probably scare you, it may hurt, and it will definitely be a distraction.
Poltergeists can also make objects appear out of nowhere. They can be objects in another room of the home where the poltergeist is, or objects that come out of nowhere. For example, if you are on good terms with your poltergeist, you can say "Would you get me my water bottle from upstairs?" and the poltergeist can drop the water bottle on the floor near you. It can also give you anomalous objects, like old foreign coins, that have no previous association with your household.
CAN POLTERGEISTS TALK?
Yes, some of them do. Others communicate by making a code language with raps, as described above. As I understand from my research, their recorded voices are electronically different from human voices and sound kind of like the EVPs you hear on ghost shows.
CAN POLTERGEISTS HURT YOU?
Most of them don't, but yes, it's possible. Poltergeists can bite you -- leaving what look like human bite marks -- can lift people and throttle them or throw them around, can cause welts and cuts, can choke you. This is not the same as waking up with something pressing on your chest -- "Old Hag Syndrome" -- which isn't a poltergeist thing. There is only one anecdotal report of a poltergeist killing someone, the Bell Witch case, and I don't consider that part of the story persuasive. The overwhelming likelihood is that if you are dealing with a poltergeist, you will not get injured, but yes, it is possible.
WHAT ABOUT THAT POLTERGEIST MOVIE STEVEN SPIELBERG MADE?
Good movie. No relation to real poltergeists at all. Cursed movie, killing off its cast and crew? No, I doubt it.
WHAT ARE POLTERGEISTS?
Of course there isn't solid scientific proof, but the best explanation is that poltergeists are reflections of the psychic energy of disturbed young people. They probably aren't ghosts -- spirits of the dead -- nor are they demonic entities (a term I use here as shorthand, which I will likely reject in a later blog entry). Whenever there is a poltergeist, there is an emotionally upset young girl or young woman. (Maybe, very very occasionally, it's a boy.) Not every emotionally upset young female produces poltergeist phenomena, obviously. She needs to have a strong amount of some kind of indefinable energy, probably electromagnetic energy, which all human bodies generate to varying degrees. She has to be in or near puberty, or growing, or very hormonal. Her level of upset is always very severe, far beyond what most of my readers have experienced. It is usually triggered by severe psychological traumas such as emotional, sexual or physical abuse. We call this young woman the "focus" of the poltergeist disturbance.
Poltergeist events take place only when she is nearby. If anyone is attacked, it is her, or occasionally someone who has upset her. She NEVER has control of the phenomena, so far as I can tell from reading many accounts. Usually she hates the poltergeist and would gladly get rid of it. When researchers appear, the poltergeist may refuse to show itself, depending upon her emotional state.
Because the poltergeist represents the uncontrolled action of the mind of the focus, its communication is not rational or sensible. It makes as much sense as your dreams make. As a result, poltergeists lie, deceive, make stuff up, tease and threaten in a way that, while not random, is not coherent either. As an example, the poltergeist will often create a personality or identity and tell stories about a past life in the house, but they always prove to be fabrications.
Because poltergeist events follow the focus around, they aren't localized to a home unless she is in that home all the time. If she moves, the events may follow her. If they don't, there is a reason they don't, which I am about to explain.
HOW DO YOU GET RID OF A POLTERGEIST?
To get rid of a poltergeist, identify the focus, and then provide that focus with psychological healing. If it is an abused girl, get her away from the abuser and into a supportive, loving environment, and then provide her with counseling and other professional treatment.
The only other way to get rid of a poltergeist is to wait it out. These phenomena always disappear as the focus becomes older and moves further away from puberty. There is no age cut-off for the phenomena; obviously, it varies among individuals. However, it will go away given sufficient time.
WHAT ARE FAMOUS CASES?
The most famous poltergeist case is the Bell Witch, which took place in Tennessee. This was a poltergeist from the 19th century that tormented a family for years, interacted with famous people, and gave extended speeches. The account is old, and by reading between the lines, I've concluded that most of what has been said about it is untrue. Thus, I wouldn't suggest taking the story at face value, but it makes for exciting reading. This story has its own website and book and has been detailed in various other paranormal books.
For a more recent case, I recommend you read the book Unleashed! by William Roll. It tells the story of William's investigation of Tina Resch, who was a poltergeist victim he both researched and helped to parent. Roll, who lives in Georgia, is a paranormal investigator you may have seen on TV. Although it was many years ago, I have corresponded with Mr. Roll and believe him to be sincere in his presentation. Tina Resch was later jailed for killing her own child, adding a level of drama to this story that will certainly intrigue you.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD I READ?
Roll wrote a book called The Poltergeist in 1972. Colin Wilson also wrote a book called Poltergeist! in 1980 which I believe to be a very entertaining set of theories and case studies. (He presents an alternate explanation for the phenomenon, involving discarnate entities and a "psychic football," which you will find intriguing.) One of my prized possessions is a first edition copy of Haunted People by Hereward Carrington and Nandor Fodor. This 1951 study features older cases and also talks about Fodor's psychiatric treatment of poltergeist victims. All the books are still in print.
READ MY BOOK
By the time you read this, my novel, School of the Ages: The Ghost in the Crystal will be for sale for two e-readers, Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook. This is a novel about a magic school in New York City. It features ghosts, elementals, time travel, young love and loss, and ultimate tragedy. Please take a look at this book and buy it if it interests you. I can't afford to buy advertisements as a self-publisher, and I have priced the book very low because I am more interested in getting readership than making money right now. This column is designed to show you that I'm a good writer and I know what I'm talking about. I promise you the book is excellent and you will not regret buying it.
For more information, see the book's website at http://schooloftheages.webs.com and click "like" on my Facebook page for "School of the Ages Series." Please tell people about my book, my website, and this blog. Word of mouth is the only way to get attention in this age where big-media conglomerates have priced advertising out of the range of a small-time author like me.
HAVE YOU EVER EXPERIENCED A POLTERGEIST?
No, I haven't. If I had had such an experience, I would have alerted the media.
Matt Posner is a featured contributor to this WorldOfTheStrange website.
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