What is a Poltergeist
Poltergeist (German for “loud ghost” or “noisy spirit”) is a type of ghost or spirit responsible for physical disturbances such as loud noises or objects being moved or destroyed. Most claims about poltergeists show them as being capable of pinching, biting, hitting or tripping people. They are also depicted as being capable of moving or levitating various objects.
Poltergeists differ from normal ghosts in several basic characteristics:
- ghosts rarely harm people
- ghosts rarely move objects
- ghosts create EVPs
- ghosts have EMF changes
Unlike ghosts, poltergeists cannot form an apparition. Their activity can be seen or heard, but they themselves never can be. This is not certain however, as some sources state that poltergeists do sometimes manifest physically, as a smoky or a misty apparition which may take on a human, animal or part-animal form. Wet spots may also manifest which smell like urine.
Poltergeists generally haunt a particular place or a person. According to Allan Kardec, poltergeists are manifestations of disembodied spirits of low level, belonging to the sixth class of the third order. They are believed to be closely related to the elements (fire, air, water, earth).
Poltergeists tend to have preferences in their haunting. A person-focused poltergeist tends to haunt a female adolescent who is suffering from emotional turmoil when the activity begins. Not all focal agents are teenagers, however – William G. Roll found the age of people reporting the poltergeist activity to vary from eight to 78 years. Likewise, males may also be haunted. Unlike place-focused poltergeists, person-focused poltergeist cannot be rid of simply by moving to another place. Most of the protection and clearing techniques used for ghosts do work for spirit-based poltergeists, however.
Poltergeists like to mess with people’s stuff. Their activity starts with minor isolated incidents, such as unexplained sounds, or familiar objects such as keys or a phone moving from their usual place. Poltergeist activity is typically short-lived, but can sometimes last for several months. It can also range from poltergeist producing merely some loud noises, to serious disturbances such as objects being thrown about, scratches and bite marks appearing on person’s skin without explanation, or animals perishing. Poltergeists are believed to even have killed people, such as in the cases of Jack Bell (mentioned in Bell Witch). Woman named Doris Bither also claimed to have been raped by the poltergeist. Poltergeists have also been claimed to have protected specific people from danger.
Some ghost hunters and paranormals propose that poltergeists are actually the emotions of troubled individuals built up during times of stress. This theory, called the Spontaneous Recurring Psychokinesis, suggests that this built-up stress is unconsciously projected outwards in the form of mental energy, affecting the physical environment and producing the phenomena attributed to poltergeists. This is not a widely accepted theory however. Others believe that poltergeists are spirits of the dead, as people who experience them percieve an underlying intelligence and meaningful communication with an otherworldly being.
Five Stages of Poltergeist Haunting
During the first stage, most people are not aware that there is anything wrong. Anything poltergeist does – such as pictures falling off the walls – is dismissed as a freak occurence. There are few signs of the poltergeist being present:
- Pets acting strangely. A dog may look into a dark corner and growl, and a cat may run under the bed – a lot.
- You may feel cold spots – not just cool spots, but deathly or ice cold, while other people feel just fine.
At this point, cold spots increase. Entire rooms may feel colder. There may also be unexplained scratches or cuts on the furniture. Some people may find light scratches, and pets may avoid the person targeted by the poltergeist.
At this stage, poltergeist’s presence becomes undeniable. Appliances begin turning on and off, locked doors and windows open. People start hearing banging in the house. In some cases poltergeist scratches people so hard they bleed.
The poltergeist begins to target an individual in the house. This is usually an adult with emotional distress or a teenager, but it could be someone as young as ten years old. It will throw objects at its target or targets, doors will slam closed on people. Usually, a successful attack will not seriously hurt the target – all they will receive are a few bumps and bruises. However, poltergeists have been known to throw people over the railings or down the stairs.
At fifth stage, leaving the house is recommended. The poltergeist now has the power to kill someone. Anyone at the house is at risk, but especially the targeted individual. Scratches seem more like gashes. Furniture is destroyed. Small fires spark at different places, and if they get on drapes and furniture, they can burn the house down.
Eight Stages of Poltergeist Haunting
This is a list different from above, and is based on Rupert Mathews’ book Poltergeists.
Stage One: Beginnings
The activity usually begins with faintly registered sounds, typically a scratching noise, which may be disregarded as being made by rodents or as the sounds of water pipes. These noises are usually only heard at night.
Stage Two: Noises
Sounds will become harder to ignore. The noises resemble knuckles knocking on wood or other objects such as glass. There may also be very loud cracking or banging noises, or objects may be felt to vibrate. At this stage, activity may also be heard during the daylight hours.
Stage Three: Moving Objects
Sometimes, stage three may begin at the same time as stage two. Objects may be moved inexplicably, and stone-throwing (lithobolia) is very common. This activity usually focuses around a certain type of object such as specific ornament or keys, and it is rare to actually see the item moved. Items may be hot to touch immediately thereafter.
Stage Four: Apports and Disapports
Apport (object appearing from nowhere) and disapport (object disappearing into nowhere) are rare, but had both been reported in relation to poltergeist activity.
Stage Five: Communication
In some cases, communication is established through a code of kocks. This may be two knocks indicating a “yes” and one knock indicating a “no”, or some other established pattern. Sometimes speech is achieved. In almost all of these cases there seems to be a gradual process which starts with whistles, slurps, growls and so on. Actual speech will first appear as mutterings or distant voices, and then the voice may develop into a robotic one. Finally, regular speech will be achieved. The poltergeist will then be able to speak like a normal person, often claiming to have been a murderer, a victim, or even a famous person. These claims are usually false, and poltergeist will typically not have knowledge outside the events widely known within the community. Many spirit-contacts through Ouija board also share the same characteristics of deceit.
Stage Six: Climax
The poltergeist activity will suddenly increase to a point it had never reached before. This may last several hours to several days. If the poltergeist can talk, it may state that it is going to be leaving soon. Unlike previous claims, this will generally turn out to be true.
Stage Seven: Decline
This is typically the shortest stage, much shorter than the build-up. The poltergeist will lose its abilities in reverse and gradually become weaker.
Stage Eight: Endings
The activity may slowly peter out on its own. Alternatively, the poltergeist activity may reach a dramatic conclusion, or else exorcisms or blessings may prematurely kill the activity. Sometimes, the focus person leaving the premise may cause the activity to cease.
In Finland, famous poltergeist cases are “Mäkkylä Ghost”, which received attention in the press in 1946, and the “Devils of Martin” in Ylöjärvi in the late 19th century, for which affidavits were obtained in court. Samuli Paulaharju has also recorded a memoir of a typical poltergeist, the case of “Salkko-Niila”, from the south of Lake Inari in his book Memoirs of Lapland (Lapin muisteluksia). The story has also been published in the collection of Mythical Stories (Myytillisiä tarinoita) edited by Lauri Simonsuuri.
Rosenheim Poltergeist was active from the summer of 1967 to January 1968, operating in Rosenheim in southern Bavaria (which is in Germany, for all Americans reading the blog). During this period, office equipment of the lawyer Sigmund Adam allegedly operated itself, and local journalists, police and physicists were unable to explain the phenomenon.
It was reported in front of witnesses that the lights in the office were reported to have turned themselves off and on again, telephones have rung without anybody calling them, photocopiers have spilled their copier fluid, and desk drawers had opened without being touched. Post clerks installed instruments which recorded numerous phone calls that were never made. Within five weeks the instruments recorded roughly 600 calls to the speaking clock, at times made at rate of more than six per minute even though all the phones in the office were disabled and only Adam himself had the keys required to enable them. In one 15-minute period speaking clock had been called 46 times, sometimes at a rate impossible to achieve with the mechanical dialling system of 1967. In October 1967 all bulbs went out with a huge bang. Pictures were filmed rotating around their hooks, with this being first filming of a psychokinetic process under convincing control. A heavy filing cabinet is also reported as have been pushed across the floor by some invisible force, and paranormal noises are said to have been heard.
The famoust parapsychologist Hans Bender was called in to investigate after all normal avenues had failed. He concluded that during all of these events a 19 year old office secretary named Annemarie Schneider was always present, and suspected her to be an innocent victim of RSPK. This view was concurred by two physicists brought in from the Max Planck Institute, Friedbert Karger and Gerhard Zicha. Bender was able to document on video how the lights immediately started to flicker once Ms. Schneider entered the office. It was claimed that a lampshade would swing violently when she walked beneath it. This state of affairs continued until January 1968 when Ms Schneider left the employment of Herr Adam.
Some more stories can be read here.