Noisy Ghosts

Image credit: Ganando Enemigos

Image credit: Ganando Enemigos

For my generation (that would be those of us described by the letter X), our introduction to the word “poltergeist” came from that famous 1982 movie of the same name by Steven Spielberg. Objects moved of their own accord, chairs stacked themselves, and a little girl famously told her family, “They’re here!”

And don’t even get me started on that clown. *Shiver*

But I’m not here to talk about Hollywood poltergeists, angered by housing construction on Indian burial grounds. I’m here to talk about actual poltergeists and the dearth of shows (read: two) coming out this month profiling two famous poltergeist cases.

The word “poltergeist” is German for “noisy ghost” and it is this entity that is most often blamed for activity that can include object movement and levitation, tappings and knockings on walls, disembodied voices, and pinching, biting, hitting, and tripping people. But wait, you cry, all of that sounds bad and… demonic!

Well, there’s a big difference. Think of the poltergeist as your annoying little brother and think of the demon as a serial killer and you get the idea of the gulf between the two.

There are many theories out there as to what poltergeists could be. Many skeptics point to the fact that well-known poltergeist activity tends to focus on one or two people at a time, only occurs for a handful of years, and can be easily faked. In addition, many of these cases occur around children going through adolescence (a time in our lives when we crave attention). Some scientists theorize that poltergeist activity could be caused by seismic activity or underground water flows. And a third group, paranormal researchers, feel that poltergeists could be due to psychokinesis.

Yep, those are some across-the-board ideas.

Let’s go the skeptic route first. When we hear of a client who possibly has poltergeist activity, the first question we ask is, “Do you have any adolescent children/teenagers in the house?” Typically, these types of cases occur around children entering their teenage years. The second question we ask is, “Has there been any familial strife in the house, such as a death or divorce or family quarrels?” Because we all know that if you have teenagers in the house who have just gone through, or are currently going through, a family crisis/upheaval, then it’s fertile ground for a child who is seeking attention because they feel they aren’t getting it by any other means. It’s pretty easy to fake poltergeist activity if one is so inclined. But, faking poltergeist activity does take quite a bit of effort and time and can involve hurting oneself, on purpose, in the process. To fake this type of activity takes patience, wherewithal, and nerve. LOTS of nerve.

Second is the scientific route. Some geologists theorize that movement of ground water under a house, or seismic activity (due to earthquakes or traffic) could cause the house to pop and crack and objects to move. The main problem with this idea is that you would have to have pretty significant and frequent earthquakes to make objects move and said earthquakes would be noticeable. Also, this doesn’t explain object levitation, disembodied voices, or physical harm to the people in the house. Even though this idea is faulty, it has merit, which is why we ask for dates and times when the activity occurred and match that to local seismic history, as well as geological information of the property.

Lastly is the idea that poltergeist activity isn’t spirit activity at all, that it’s actually caused by psychokinesis. This is another reason why we ask the ages of the people in the house and if anyone has gone through any recent health traumas (major illness). It has been theorized that children going through puberty or women and men experiencing a mid-life hormonal shift can psychokinetically cause poltergeist activity without meaning to do so, that the poltergeist activity is an external manifestation of inner mental and physical turmoil. The same can be true of someone who has just dealt with a major illness or medical procedure. Many of our questions to our clients can seem invasive, but it’s a way for us to understand the undercurrents in a paranormal case. And if the possibility of a hoax and geologic activity have been ruled-out, then this last explanation may be the only viable one.

Of course, Hollywood likes to over-dramatize poltergeist cases and this month’s offerings are no exception. This Friday, at 10PM EDT, on A&E, is The Enfield Haunting. This dramatized show presents the story of the 1977 to 1979 case of two teen girls, in Brimsdown, Enfield, England, who claimed to be the focus of poltergeist activity. The Enfield case was the subject of many books, documentaries, and reports and, during the activity, received considerable media coverage in the British press. Psychologists claim the girls faked the evidence for attention due to their parents’ recent divorce while paranormal researchers swear the case is real.

And finally, on Monday, October 26, A&E will premier the first episode of Cursed: The Bell Witch a reality-documentary series which follows a man who claims to be a direct descendant of the Bell family and who wants to end the Bell Witch curse before his son comes of adult age. The Bell Witch was the name given to a poltergeist that is said to have terrorized the John Bell, Sr., family, of Adams, Tennessee, in 1817. Historians claim it’s an exaggeration of local folk lore while residents and descendants still claim that the Bell family property is haunted and that the poltergeist is still active.

So, I leave it to all of you, dear readers, to decide what poltergeist activity is and whether it’s fake, natural, or real. Make sure you set your DVRs to record and have a spooky October!

TV Show Recommendation Disclaimer: I am writing this review of my own free will. Neither A&E Network nor the The Walt Disney Company, nor anyone associated with the above shows, paid me with money or promises of future poltergeist adventures. I just felt like bringing spooky October programming to everyone’s attention all while educating people about poltergeists. No FTC disclosures needed.

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About Heather Scarbro Dobson

I wish I was Wonder Woman, but I'm actually a wife, mother of three, author, paranormal investigator, and a stay-at-home astronaut. When I'm not terrorizing the Bible Belt PTA with my purple hair and "Hail Satan" shirt, you can find me at home, binge-watching "Charlie's Angels."
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