By: Noah Ankney
Pol-ter-geist, translated from German, means noisy ghost. Poltergeists are usually mischievous and malevolent manifestations making its presence known by making loud noises, moving objects, and assaulting both people and animals. A poltergeist, which has been around since ancient times, has long been associated with the devil, demons, witches, and everything evil.
Poltergeist in Theory:
There are three common theories that float around with the poltergeist topic. One theory is of a Christian view and that poltergeists are biblical demons. Another is from the mediumistic stance where poltergeists are simply the roaming dead. The last theory is one of the more common theories and that is Psychokinesis (PK), or Recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis (RSPK). The theory suggests that a human agent manifests poltergeists through psychic or psychokinetic powers.
As stated above, the Christian view is in a biblical sense. Most Christians believe that once we die, we either go to heaven or hell and unable to roam earth in a spiritual sense, so therefore poltergeist activity is the work of demons. The thought derives due to the activity that arises from poltergeists which consist of malevolent and dangerous attacks that often lead the victims confused, bewildered, and distraught.
The mediumistic view expresses that the dead can roam freely and are not confined to neither heaven nor hell. The spirit makes a transition into the next life where they can continue their spiritual evolution based on their life activities. This belief coincides with reincarnation…to some.
A more common, well known theory used by many investigation groups or new age groups of today, is that of PK, or RPSK. This theory suggests that a poltergeist is focused around an agent, epicenter, or focal point. The agent usually consists of a young adolescent female either going through puberty or under physical/psychological distress. This theory made popular by Nandor Fodor in the 1930’s and later expanded by William Roll in the 60’s, suggests that the agent whom of which is under intense internal distress, can manifest activity with psychic or psychokinetic powers that cause objects to move, loud rappings in the walls, floors, and other solid objects, and attacks on family and other loved ones. In this type of situation, the agent can not find a way to voice their aggression and they begin to hold emotions inside, constantly building them upon one another. After the emotions have built up as much as the agent can take, there is a breaking point, a sudden snap, where the agent subconsciously lashes out to release the pressure. The lashing out is so concentrated, that a poltergeist can manifest. This could explain why only one person is chosen as an agent. Now it is known to be said, that if an agent gets irate with the poltergeist, and demands that the activity ceases, generally there is an abrupt stop in activity for a while
Poltergeist Activity Explained:
There are a lot of similarities of agents. Extensive research shows that poltergeists tend to manifest around individuals who are dealing with physical or emotional stress. Most cases involve an adolescent going through puberty, most likely a female. Most parapsychologists suggest that poltergeists tend to focus around individuals who have psychological injuries, such as neglect, physical and mental abuse, along with sexual molestation.
Some common occurrences in a poltergeist haunting are knocking and rappings. These sounds can come from any solid surface such as walls, beds, floors, or tables. There is at first no known pattern to the knocks and raps. If the poltergeist persists for any length of time, a primitive form of communication may develop. The agent can ask a poltergeist a question and different sequences of knocks and raps can represent different answers. Most commonly used for yes or no answers. The sounds of rappings that have been reported are that of a hollow, metallic sound.
The most common phenomenon associated with the poltergeist, is the movement of objects. When activity begins, objects come up missing, and later found in odd locations, such as keys in the freezer or on top of a cabinet. The stronger the poltergeist gets, the more the movements will increase as well. Furniture and appliances may be moved, light bulbs would be unscrewed while the lamp is turned on. In the beginning stages there is no direct contact with the agent or family members but moving furniture, stacked dishes, or overturned appliances. This would make any family nervous and/or unsettled.
In the stronger cases, the objects actually can be thrown at the agent and their family members. These attacks are uncommon, and only happen in the most sinister and powerful poltergeist activity. A lot of psychologists suggest that this is an occurrence due to the agents unconscious thought of harming themselves. Most poltergeist activity is short lived, with the range of 3 weeks to 2 years and over that time the activity would fade off or disappear completely with no sign of re-occurrence. So, when investigating a haunting, pay close attention to the family’s lifestyle as well as the age of the agent. After a few encounters, you may notice a distinct pattern in the personality traits of the agent of these events, which will definitely help for future investigations with poltergeists.
5 Stages of Poltergeist Activity
When dealing with a poltergeist type haunt there are five levels that one must account for. These levels of activity can easily be confused with other types of hauntings such as Intelligent, Residual, or even Demonic so careful analysis is a must. The five levels of poltergeist activity are as follows:
1st Level- The Senses Attack
- It is referred to “The Senses Attack” because in the early stages of poltergeist activity everything revolves around the basic human senses. It features: cold spots, strange noises, odd odors and smells, unusual animal activity, and the feeling of being watched.
2nd Level- Communication
- In this stage of poltergeist activity, the sounds, smells, and odors are more direct. While still in the early stages, the activity has kicked up a few notches. This level features: whispers, laughs or giggles, moans or shrieking, moving shadows, breezes in closed areas, visible clouds (base apparitions), and strong static electricity. Marks on floors or walls and small objects being thrown are also commonly associated in this level.
3rd Level- Electrical Control
- In this stage, the poltergeist is making its presence felt. Lights and other electrical appliances turning ON/OFF, unseen hands grabbing or touching people, writings on walls or pattern markings, doors that OPEN/CLOSE or LOCK/UNLOCK, hearing voices or words clearly, full apparitions or dark figures, showing levels of communication with living people, and strange telephone calls. In the first two levels, it is within our logical tendencies to explain away such occurrences due to natural explanations. However, in the 3rd level of poltergeist activity the individual(s) being affected now fear what is going on and have exhausted all logical suggestions. The individual(s) are more inclined to believe something paranormal is occurring. In this level, fear takes over all emotions and has been said to “feed” the activity
4th Level- The Trickster Stage
- This is the stage where an advanced Poltergeist begins to gain momentum. The Poltergeist develops at a more rapid rate, always moving closer to the danger level and continuing to pick up a clearer sense of consciousness. At this stage objects disappear or are hurled across the room. Furniture tends to violently shake. Spontaneous fires may start around the home. Unseen faces may violently push people. Scary voices may start shouting out obscenities and gibberish. Sometimes, it may seem that a playful ghost is doing the actions at this stage. It is also theorized that at this stage the Poltergeist may start gathering and obtaining knowledge on what the people around it consider frightening. At the next level it is theorized that it will usually use this knowledge to create an atmosphere of terror which it will use to feed itself and continuously build up its energy.
5th Level- the Danger Level
- At this level the Poltergeist is at its highest energy point and should be considered dangerous. Serious violent and life-threatening actions may occur. This level can be horrifying to all of the people involved. The time frame here, and with all stages listed, will vary depending on the Poltergeist. It could end in days, months or even years. At the end of this stage the Poltergeist USUALLY goes dormant for a period of time and then begins this cycle all over again starting back at the first level. This fifth level will usually involve violent physical attacks on those involved sometimes resulting in brutal injuries. Biting, scratching and even sexual assaults may occur at this level. Dangerous household objects may start flying about aimed at specific individuals. Blazing fires may start in rooms where people are asleep. The Poltergeist energy does everything it can to lash out at the individuals in its environment.
Key Players in Poltergeist Research:
The development and increase in psychical research in the late 19th and early 20th century helped confirm that poltergeist activity was indeed genuine. Among the earliest investigators were the two founders of the Society for Psychical Research, Sir William Barrett and Fredric W.H. Meyers. Meyers believed in the genuineness of poltergeist activity and that they were distinguishable from ghost hauntings.
Poltergeist type haunts have been around since ancient Rome, but it wasn’t until the 1930’s when Psychologist and Parapsychologist Nandor Fodor theorized that Poltergeist activity was not just spirits, but that of the human mind of those suffering intense anger, repression, and sexual tension. In 1938, Fodor said he successfully put that theory to the test when he investigated a house in England. A woman, who was under repression, apparently caused a poltergeist outbreak and even a vampire attack. Fodor was heavily criticized for such claims however won a libel suit against a Spiritualist Newspaper.
In the 1960’s looking to expand on the Psychokinetic research, William Roll, the project director for the Physical Research Foundation in Durham, North Carolina, starting reviewing 116 documented poltergeist reports dating over four centuries and covering one-hundred countries. In the process, Roll found a distinct pattern in such cases in which he labeled “recurrent spontaneous “psychokinesis” or RSPK. Roll discovered that poltergeist activity was centered on a focal point, most often a child or teenager who was unknowingly expressing their anger without the fear of repercussions. Roll stated that even though the focal point or agent unknowingly was causing such manifestations, they were pleased with what was going on. Also following Fodor’s footsteps, numerous others have expanded on the working theory of PK or RSPK.
However, the RSPK theory has been disputed by other researchers including Alan Gauld and A.D. Cornell as they stated that the psychological testing was invalid. Psychiatrist Ian Stevenson proposed that spirits rather than RSPK are more to blame for poltergeist type haunts than realized. In his study of cases involving agents and spirits, he noted significant differences. The phenomena in living agent cases was without purpose and often violent, while cases involving spirits of the dead featured intelligent communication, purposeful movement of objects, and little violence.
In the late 1970’s, two parapsychologists Alan Gauld and A.D. Cornell completed a computer analysis of poltergeist claims dating back to 1800 till their present time and identified sixty-three general characteristics of poltergeists haunts.
- 64% involved the movement of small objects.
- 58% were most active at night.
- 48% featured raps.
- 36% involved the movement of large objects.
- 24% lasted longer than one year.
- 16% featured communication between the agent and poltergeist.
- 12% involved opening and closing of doors.
Before the 19th century, most poltergeist haunts were contributed to the Devil, demons, witches, and/or the dead. The analysis conducted by Gauld-Cornell concluded that only 9% were attributed to demons, 7% to witches, and a mere 2% to the dead. A majority of the cases involving demons and witches were in non-western civilizations. Based on the levels of poltergeist activity, the similarities between poltergeist activity and the other types of hauntings such as Residual, Intelligent, and Demonic are very close so again, it is very important on how you analyze each case involving the paranormal. Pay special attention to who is involved, who is affected, and what the claims are. And most importantly, be thorough with the investigation!