Paranormal investigators and Parapsychologists dream of finding the holy grail of the paranormal – a Poltergeist Case. An argument rages, however, as to the source of Poltergeist phenomena.

Stones being thrown, spontaneous fires, loud knocking and levitating furniture are the hallmarks of a classic poltergeist case. Some Parapsychologists view the phenomena as the result of PK rather than spirits, whilst other scientists dismiss all cases out of hand as mere child perpetrated fraud. 

Poltergeist phenomena are commonly defined, in Parapsychology, as ‘displays of energy that induce movement of objects which are ordinarily held in place by inertia and gravity’.  It is a word derived from German, meaning, literally, ‘noisy spirit’ (poltern – noisy, geist – spirit) and phenomena can also include loud noises, the appearance of water, apports and asports (i.e. objects appearing and disappearing), and even spontaneous fires.  Poltergeist phenomena are characteristically violent, physical and occur for a short time period (as opposed to longer term hauntings). Parapsychologists also refer to poltergeist as recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis or RSPK.  The reason for this is recognition of potential causes of the phenomena as being more to do with living people in a location rather than spirits.  William Roll, the parapsychologist most well-known for researching poltergeist cases, feels that poltergeist events reflect psychological tension between a central person involved in the case and others, including, perhaps, investigators.

The idea that poltergeist activity is centered solely around a young girl, often a teenager, has been aided, in no small part, due to a popular film from 1982.  In this film a family are plagued by the movement of household objects (e.g. kitchen chairs) and apparitions, before being confronted with an apparent door ‘to the other side’.  The implication is that the activity is focused around Carol Anne, the youngest daughter in the family.  Though there is commonly held belief that pubescent girls are the catalyst for such events, the origin for it actually comes from late 19th century psychical researchers.  Households in the late 19th century would have been comprised of large families with children undoubtedly being members.  It is no surprise also that when rowdy, undetermined disturbances such as banging and flying objects occurred, the clear culprits would be youngsters with uncontrollable energy and prankish tendencies.  Indeed, poltergeist research is plagued by the discovery of fraud and trickery.

Poltergeists are the most fascinating aspect of paranormal investigations but also the most frustrating.  They are fascinating because in addition to the phenomena mentioned above there is a multitude of exciting phenomena poltergeists are said to produce.  Aswell as the usual “raps, taps, thumps, thuds, crashes, bangs and bombinations,” poetically phrased by the renowned investigator/researcher Alan Gauld, there could be the movement of objects, musical instruments playing, fires, the deluge of water, interference with electrical equipment (e.g. radios, TVs, light bulbs etc), clothes tearing…the list continues.  It’s rare to find a case where all this phenomena occurs.  Indeed, many paranormal investigators have reported experiencing simple taps or thumps (check the water pipes!), or the movement of objects (try and capture it on film!) but to have experienced everything from paranormal arson to clothing vandalism in one case would be truly out-of-this-world!

Further Reading

The Poltergeist.  William Roll (Wyndham Publications Ltd, 1976).