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Therese Selles, a 15-year-old domestic servant, experiences poltergeist activity in the home of her employer, the Todescini family at Cheragas, Algeria, as featured on the cover of the French magazine La Vie Mysterieuse in 1911.
In folklore and paranormal studies, a poltergeist phenomenon alludes to the apparent yet unexplained manifestation of multiple force reactions caused by a seemingly invisible entity. Most accounts of poltergeist manifestations involve such force being triggered at objects, usually household (destruction and relocation of furniture, levitation of cutlery, knocking on the doors), although some seem to describe accompanying hallucinations, as well as physical attacks on human witnesses. Such actions can include pinching, biting, hitting and tripping the victim, or producing sentient noises (moaning, laughing, talking etc.) without clear source.
Poltergeists occupy numerous niches in cultural folklore, and have traditionally been described as troublesome spirits who, unlike ghosts, haunt a particular person instead of a specific location. Such alleged poltergeist manifestations have been reported in many cultures and countries including the United States, Japan,[1] Brazil, Australia, and most European nations. The earliest recorded cases date back to the 1st century.[2]


The word poltergeist comes from the German words poltern ("to make sound") and Geist ("ghost"), and the term itself roughly translates as "noisy ghost" or "noise-ghost".


Most reports of poltergeist manifestations involve noises and destruction that have no immediate or verifiable cause. Situations include inanimate objects being picked up and thrown; noises such as knocking, rapping, or even human voices; and physical attacks on human beings, such as pinching, biting, and hitting.
Single poltergeist cases often range in duration from a few hours to several months.



Many claimed poltergeist events have proved on investigation to be pranks.[3]
According to research in anomalistic psychology claims of poltergeist activity can be explained by psychological factors such as illusion, memory lapses and wishful thinking.[4] A study (Lange and Houran, 1998) wrote that poltergeist experiences are delusions "resulting from the affective and cognitive dynamics of percipients' interpretation of ambiguous stimuli".[5]
Attempts have also been made to explain scientifically poltergeist disturbances that have not been traced to fraud or psychological factors. The psychical investigator Guy William Lambert proposed a geophysical explanation for poltergeist activity which results from the activity of underground water and other factors. According to Lambert many reported poltergeist incidents can be accounted for by physical causes such as "subterranean rivers, tidal patterns, geological factors and shifts in the house foundation, and climate changes." His theory was that an underground water course may flow under "haunted" locations and that after heavy rainfall the stream could cause structural movement of the property, possibly causing the house to vibrate and move objects.[6][7]
David Turner, a retired physical chemist, suggested that ball lightning, another phenomenon, could cause inanimate objects to move erratically.[8]
Michael Persinger has theorized that seismic activity could cause poltergeist phenomena.[9] Persinger's case studies have also shown a complex interaction between geomagnetism, household electrical equipment and the brain physiology of the individual.[10]
Skeptics such as Milbourne Christopher have found that some cases of poltergeist activity can be attributed to unusual air currents, such as a 1957 case on Cape Cod where downdrafts from an uncovered chimney became strong enough to blow a mirror off of a wall, overturn chairs and knock things off shelves.[11]
Other investigators have postulated that psychopathology or aggression in the subjects themselves may be responsible for the action of movement of objects in poltergeist cases. Nandor Fodor proposed that poltergeist disturbances are caused by human agents suffering from some form of emotional stress or tension and compared reports of poltergeist activity to hysterical conversion symptoms resulting from emotional tension of the subject.[12] Owen (1978) cited a number of poltergeist cases in which the subject displayed signs of hysteria.[13]


Poltergeist activity has often been believed to be the work of malicious spirits. According to Allan Kardec, the founder of Spiritism, poltergeists are manifestations of disembodied spirits of low level, belonging to the sixth class of the third order. They are believed to be closely associated with the elements (fire, air, water, earth).[14]
The parapsychologist William Roll wrote that poltergeist activity can be explained by psychokinesis.[15]

Famous poltergeist cases[edit]

Lithobolia (1698)[edit]

Lithobolia, or the Stone-Throwing Devil, is a pamphlet that records poltergeist activity that allegedly took place in the tavern of George and Alice Walton in 1682. Two copies of the pamphlet exist in the British Museum. The Waltons' tavern was located in New Castle, New Hampshire, then known as the Great Island. Lithobolia was written by “R.C.,” one Richard Chamberlain, the secretary of the colony of New Hampshire. In 1666 Chamberlain was boarding at the Walton tavern and witnessed the attack.[16] The pamphlet was later printed in London by Chamberlain in 1698. The opening reads:
"Lithobolia", or stone throwing Devil. Being an Exact and True account (by way of Journal) of the various actions of infernal Spirits or (Devils Incarnate) Witches or both: and the great Disturbance and Amazement they gave to George Walton's family at a place called Great Island in the county of New Hampshire in New England, chiefly in throwing about (by an Invisible hand) Stones, Bricks, and Brick-Bats of all sizes, with several other things, as Hammers, Mauls, Iron-Crows, Spits, and other Utensils, as came into their Hellish minds, and this for space of a quarter of a year."[17]

Borley Rectory (1937)[edit]

William Roll, Hans Bender, and Harry Price are perhaps three of the most famous poltergeist investigators in the annals of parapsychology.[citation needed] Harry Price investigated Borley Rectory which is often called "the most haunted house in England."

Rosenheim, Germany (1967)[edit]

Dr. Friedbert Karger was one of two physicists from the Max Planck Institute who helped to investigate perhaps the most validated poltergeist case in recorded history. Annemarie Schneider, a 19-year-old secretary in a law firm in Rosenheim (a town in southern Germany) was seemingly the unwitting cause of much chaos and controversy in the firm, including disruption of electricity and telephone lines, the rotation of a picture, swinging lamps which were captured on video (which was one of the first times any poltergeist activity has been captured on film), and strange sounds that sounded electrical in origin were recorded. Karger stated that "these experiments were really a challenge to physics" and the disturbances "could be 100 percent shown not to be explainable by known physics."[18] Fraud was not proven despite intensive investigation by the physicists, journalists and the police. The effects moved with the young woman when she changed jobs until they finally faded out, disappeared, and never recurred.[2][19][20][21]

Other cases[edit]

  • The Black Monk of Pontefract[22]
  • The Enfield Poltergeist (1977)
  • Drummer of Tedworth (1662).
  • A poltergeist in Japan (1740'), during the Edo period.[1] Eizo Otake, a clerk of court, reported that after his father hired a girl from Ikejiri village, Setagaya, as a domestic servant, objects in the house and in the yard began moving by themselves. The phenomenon continued for several days until the girl was dismissed.[23]
  • The "Wizard", Livingston, West Virginia (1797)
  • The Bell Witch of Tennessee (1817–1872)
  • The Haunting of The Fox sisters (1848) – arguably one of the most famous, because it started the Spiritualism movement.
  • The Great Amherst Mystery (1878–79)
  • Hopfgarten near Weimar (1921).
  • Eleonore Zugun – The Romanian 'Poltergeist Girl' (1926)
  • The Epworth Rectory
  • The Stevenage Poltergeist (2007-2010)
  • Gef the Talking Mongoose (1931)[24]
  • The possession case of Robbie Mannheim (1949)[25][26]
  • The Thornton Road poltergeist of Birmingham (1981)
  • The case of Tina Resch (1984)
  • The Orland Hills, Illinois case located near 170th street and 88th avenue. (1988)
  • Contemporary Oklahoma 'talking poltergeist' case "The Stone-Throwing Spook of Little Dixie" (1995)[27]
  • Stambovsky v. Ackley (1991)
  • The Mackenzie Poltergeist (1998) – Famed for haunting Greyfriars churchyard, Edinburgh.
  • The Canneto di Caronia fires poltergeist (2004–5)[28]
  • South Shields Poltergeist (2005-2006)
  • The Miami Poltergeist (2008)[29]
  • Barnsley near Sheffield in England (2009)[30]
  • Easington Council in County Durham, UK paid half of a medium's exorcism fee to remove a poltergeist from council housing in Peterlee, deemed more cost effective than relocation of the tenant (2008)
  • "Jim", the Coventry poltergeist (2011). In a series of articles during March 2011, The Sun reported the story of Lisa Manning and her children.[31][32][33] According to those articles:
    • The family observed pots and pans being thrown around the kitchen, blinds moving up and down, lights going on and off, doors locking themselves, chairs flying across the room, and cupboard doors opening and banging shut before being ripped off their hinges among other phenomena.[31]
    • The strange occurrences started a couple of weeks after Manning and her children moved into the Coventry council house.[31]
    • The disturbances became more malevolent when the poltergeist pushed the family's two dogs down the stairs, one being injured so seriously it had to be put down.[32]
    • The housing association who owns the property sent a priest who blessed the house, and the phenomena temporarily abated for a couple of weeks before starting up again.[31]
    • Renowned medium, Derek Acorah visited Manning's home, stating that he was able to communicate with the spirit, and that it was called "Jim" and had died from a heart attack at the age of 58 around 1900. Acorah then performed an exorcism ceremony, after which the paranormal activity ceased.[33]
    • The Sun report also includes a video, which shows a closet door opening and a chair moving across the floor with no visible cause. Lisa Manning is quoted as having taken the video via hidden camera.[31]
  • The case of "Croft Street Ghost" Coventry UK 2008 ongoing,
    • Recorded activity in Croft Street, in the workshop, Coventry City centre, of what’s thought to be a middle aged man, it can be often heard slamming tool kits down, making strange "surprised noises", and quite often tools go missing and are found again all in the same place, cats and other small animals have been said to found with what appears to be dusty boot marks on them . Several people have reported to hear a grunting noise in their ear, but when they turn around no physical presence was there. Has appeared on Sky's Most haunted, video and eye witness account appeared in the Coventry Telegraph in late 2011. In December 2012, a live radio show on local radio Hillz FM, had a local medium "Burrinder", try to make contact with the sprit, from the offset the programme was subject to technical faults, the brief part of the show that was audible, Burrinder was reporting saying this one’s a "bad geezer" or PSG. Many were left unsure of due to the poor quality of the interview.
  • The "Kitchen Island Bed" of 7 Queens road (2013)
    • Apparently eyewitness testimonies report strange activities in the early hours of the morning at Tregowan residential home. Reports of raven noises could be heard from the ground floor along with the repeated phrase "It doesn't work, why won't it work?". Witnesses state that physical objects had been moved around the house on their own accord. A double bed was later found placed on the kitchen island fully made. Evidence of water damage could be seen on the floor space that the bed originally occupied. There have been no further incidences reported at this address. An official investigation has yet to be made.

Poltergeists in fiction[edit]

  • In the 1941 Noël Coward play Blithe Spirit poltergeist activity is due to the ghost of the central character's first wife—and later to the ghosts of both wives. The play was adapted into a successful movie in 1945, and a musical (High Spirits) in 1963, besides enjoying multiple adaptations to radio.
  • The depiction of demonic possession in William Peter Blatty's 1971 novel The Exorcist and its 1973 film adaptation is consistent with typical poltergeist activity.
  • In the Poltergeist movies (1982, 1986, 1988) poltergeist activity in a family home was caused by actual ghosts attracted to the youngest daughter.
  • A poltergeist named Peeves appears in the Harry Potter series, who is described by the series author J.K. Rowling as not a ghost but an "indestructible spirit of chaos."[34]
  • In the TV series Afterlife, Alison encounters many poltergeists, including the ghost of her mother who rearranges Alison's objects, moves her bed, and creates noise.
  • In Tales to Astonish #1 "I Know the Secret of the Poltergeist", a paranormal investigator explains various poltergeist incidents but is biased in his explanation.
  • In the bullet-hell shooter series Touhou the three sisters; Lunasa, Merlin and Lyrica Prismriver are poltergeists and each play a different instrument. They also live in the Poltergeist Mansion in Gensokyo.
  • In Season 5, Episode 22: "The Children's Parade" of the TV show Ghost Whisperer, Melinda Gordon investigates a poltergeist in a hospital.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 4, Episode 25: In Theory, Captain Picard jokingly refers to one of the dark matter distortions as a poltergeist.
  • In Supernatural (U.S. TV series) Season 1, Episode 9 "Home": a poltergeist haunts the Winchester's family home.
  • In The X-Files Season 1 Episode 6 (Shadows), Agents Scully and Mulder encounter a poltergeist of a deceased CEO.
  • In an episode of the 1970s TV series The Waltons, called the Changeling, (Season 7 Episode 5) Elizabeth Walton, who is turning thirteen, sees a chair a banging up and down, a vase breaking itself, a rag doll changing position, and various other strange activities, which disappear immediately after she declares her fear and anger on the night of her slumber party. According to an older John Boy, the strange events "never happened again", and Elizabeth had a normal birthday.
  • In the game series S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Poltergeist depicted as spirits or entities that attack anything near its range of sense. It was also depicted in two different looks, a Fire-type and a Shock-type. In the S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, the player would encounter two Poltergeist in the escape in Agropom Undergrounds on the mission to help the Duty to stop the monsters in Agropom, in the way a radio message from the Clear Sky leader, Lebedev appeared in the player's PDA, and says about that the player is very near to Fang's PDA signal. In the end, after killing some bandits in the underground, you would go out to Agropom via the underground's ventilation stairs to a ladder to a ventilation access gate, in the way through the stairs, the two poltergeist would attack the player with fire beams. The player would have to kill both poltergeist or just ignore them, just to get out the underground facility.
  • The movie Apartment 143 featured a poltergeist disturbance.
  • Is named in the film "Hui Buh" in The Apears Exam.
  • The 2013 American supernatural horror film Insidious: Chapter 2's main villain and entity is a poltergeist, vowing to take over Josh Lambert's body.


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  3. Jump up ^ Terence Hines. (2003). Pseudoscience and the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. p. 98. ISBN 978-1573929790
  4. Jump up ^ Leonard Zusne, Warren H. Jones. (1989). Anomalistic Psychology: A Study of Magical Thinking. Psychology Press. p. 192. ISBN 978-0805805086
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  6. Jump up ^ Et cetera: Volume 18, International Society for General Semantics, 1961, p. 352
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  8. Jump up ^ Muir, Hazel (2001-12-20). "Ball lightning scientists remain in the dark". New Scientist. Retrieved 2011-01-15. 
  9. Jump up ^ Persinger, M. A.; Cameron, R. A. (1986). "Are earth faults at fault in some poltergeist-like episodes?". JASPR 80: 49–73. 
  10. Jump up ^ Houran, James (2004). From Shaman to Scientist: Essays on Humanity's Search for Spirits. Lanham: Scarecrow Press. p. 11. ISBN 0-8108-5054-0. 
  11. Jump up ^ Christopher, Milbourne (1970). ESP, Seers & Psychics: What the Occult Really Is. New York: Crowell. p. 142. ISBN 978-0-690-26815-7. OCLC 97063. "A heavy mirror fell from the bedroom wall and an ash tray that had been resting on a table with a glass top slammed against the surface with such force that the glass was shattered." 
  12. Jump up ^ Fodor, N. (1964). Between two worlds. West Nyack, NY: Parker Publishing. 
  13. Jump up ^ Owen, A. R. G. (1978). "Poltergeist phenomena and psychokinesis". In Ebon, M. The Signet Handbook of Parapsychology. New York: Signet. pp. 365–374. ISBN 0-451-08406-3. 
  14. Jump up ^ Allan Kardec, Le Livre des Esprits. (2000). chapter 106, Jean de Bonnot. p.46.
  15. Jump up ^ James Houran and Rense Lange. (2007). Hauntings and Poltergeists: Multidisciplinary Perspectives. McFarland. p. 290. ISBN 978-0786432493
  16. Jump up ^ Salem State, "Lithobolia"
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  19. Jump up ^ Fairley, John; Welfare, Simon (1984). Arthur C. Clarke's World of Strange Powers. London: Harper Collins. pp. 28–31. ISBN 0-00-216679-8. 
  20. Jump up ^ Fabienne Grow. "Poltergeist von Rosenheim". Retrieved 2009-08-19. 
  21. Jump up ^ "Trivia on Biography of Electric Psychokinetic Anne-Marie Sch. Part 1". Trivia Library. Retrieved 2009-08-19. 
  22. Jump up ^ "Pontefract". Ghosts. Retrieved 2009-08-19. 
  23. Jump up ^ Tozuisha "Kokon-zodan-omoide-zoshi", 1839 - (東随舎『古今雑談思出草紙』)
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  25. Jump up ^ Paranormal Experiences. Unicorn Books. Retrieved 2010-04-02. "A thirteen-year-old American boy named, Robert Mannheim, started using an Ouija board at the insistence of an aunt inclined towards spiritualism. A few days later, poltergeist activity in the form of raps and scratches was heard in some parts of the house." 
  26. Jump up ^ Good Spirits, Bad Spirits: How to Distinguish Between Them. Writers Club Press. Retrieved 2010-04-02. "On Saturday, January 15, 1949, Karl and Phyllis Mannheim went out for the evening, leaving Robbie and Grandmother Wagner alone in the house. Not long after...Grandmother Wagner heard a dripping sound. She and Robbie checked every faucet in the neat, well-maintained house. The could not find the source of the dripping...They finally decided that the dripping came from Grandmother Wagner's bedroom under the sloping ceiling of the second floor. They entered and while listening to the loud dripping, saw a painting of Christ begin to shake, as if some-body were bumping the wall behind the painting." 
  27. Jump up ^ "The Stone-Throwing Spook of Little Dixie"
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  34. Jump up ^ "The Leaky Cauldron and MuggleNet interview Joanne Kathleen Rowling: Part Two". 2005. Retrieved 2007-06-01. 

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