Poltergeist - German from Polten meaning ‘to make noise’ and Geist meaning ‘spirit’ literally meaning ‘noisy ghost’.
A Poltergeist is a Paranormal Phenomenon which consists of events which typically include objects moving or being thrown on their own, sentient noises such as knocking, banging or pounding and on some occasions there have been reports of physical attacks on those witnessing such events.’
Since there is no conclusive evidence to support the existence of Poltergeists, they have often been described by folklore and urban legends as troublesome spirits or ghosts who happen to haunt a particular person.
Poltergeists have been given a bad reputation as a malevolent, evil entity over the last few decades, this has been down to bad press, and Hollywood films portraying them as something of an evil presence which wishes to harm all those who encounter it.
This is not the case.
There may be cases where this is may be true such as The Enfield Poltergeist, Borley Rectory or The Thornton Heath Poltergeist. However, even in these cases, there has been no conclusive evidence as such. Only what has been reported in the media and personal accounts but even these cannot be conclusive evidence as such without a full study of the cases as each one is very different from the other.
Another thing that fascinates me about Poltergeist phenomena, At least 95% of cases which I have studied happen in the USA along with other phenomena. The other 5% are from the UK and the rest of the world.
I do not believe that all of the Enfield Poltergeist was true. Since the case was in the media, there have been quite a few books and documentaries on it. The case was first reported in August 1977. It happened in an average house in Enfield, North London. The girls involved have said that much of what happened was faked. What surprises me is that they even managed to fool the much renowned Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair sent by the Society of Psychical Research (SPR) when sent to investigate. Chairs moving, 11-year-old Janet Hodgson apparently levitating over her bed, puddles of water appearing on the floor and a chest of drawers moving were all reported. Even more surprising was when Janet started to talk in an old man’s voice. The man, she said was called Bill Wilkins. He lived in the house and died there, apparently, in a chair in the corner of the lounge.
He said through Janet in a gruff voice ‘Just before I died, I went blind, and then I had an ’aemorrhage and I fell asleep and I died in the chair in the corner downstairs’.I have studied this case many times. Watching the documentaries and reading the books by Playfair and Grosse and looking at the reports by media. I always ask the question; why were so many people be fooled at the same time?
I cannot give you the answer to this question because I was not there at the time, I was only 5 years old. I can only give you my personal opinion. I believe that the girls cooked this up as just a bit of fun to play a practical joke on their mother. This then snowballed out of control and the media were called in to investigate. Before the girls knew it, they were in over their heads and had to keep up the pre-tense for the sake of the world’s eyes on them. They had to stay on top of the media and investigators and so they decided to invent the voice of the old man. Then answer this; how did the girls know about Bill Wilkins? Were they told about it by a neighbour or by their mother before or shortly after they moved into the house in Enfield, London? I think that they were and remembered this. That is how they invented the supposedly `spirit possession’ of Janet.
Another interesting case is the Thornton Heath Poltergeist.
In the 1970s, a family living in Thornton Heath was tormented by Poltergeist phenomena that started one August night. They were woken in the middle of the night by a bedside radio. This had somehow turned itself on and was tuned to a foreign language station. This was the beginning of events that lasted for nearly four years.
A lampshade was repeatedly was knocked to the floor by an invisible force. During Christmas 1972, an ornament was thrown across the room, smashing into the husband’s forehead. `As he fell into an armchair,’ reports Haunted Croydon, `the Christmas tree began to shake violently’. In the New Year, there were footsteps reported to come from the bedroom when there was no one there. In addition, one night the couple’s son woke to find a man in old-fashioned clothes looming threateningly over him.
The family’s fear grew when, as they entertained a group of friends one night, there was a loud banging at the front door. The living room door was then thrown open and all the house’s lights came on.
Having the house blessed by a local priest failed to banish to so called Poltergeist. Objects were thrown through the air, loud noises were heard and the family would sometimes hear a noise, which sounded like a heavy piece of furniture, had been pushed over. When they went to investigate, nothing had been moved much less been pushed over.
A medium was consulted and said to the family that the house was haunted by a farmer whose name was Mr. Chatterton. He said that the family was trespassing on his property. An investigation into public records found out that had indeed lived there in the mid-18th century. Mr. Chatterton’s wife then apparently joined in causing mayhem. The tenant’s wife reported that she had been followed up the stairs at night by an elderly grey haired woman. She wore a pinafore with her hair tied back in a bun. If she were seen, she would disappear back into the shadows. The family even reported seeing the farmer appear on their television screen, wearing a black jacket with wide, pointed lapels, high-necked shirt and black cravat.
After the family moved out of the house, the poltergeist activity ceased, and none has been reported by subsequent residents. This case, to me seems to be centred on the family itself. Is Poltergeist activity connected to a person or to a house? It does sound a bit odd that when the family moved the activity ceased. Then did the family experience more activity wherever they moved to?
What also strikes me as odd is that both of these cases are from the 1970s. Why is it that later on in the 20th Century, and indeed into this Century that the cases have become fewer and fewer? Search YouTube and you will find many video’s supposedly containing Poltergeist activity. 99% of these are without question fake. A lot of them are made by kids and adults having fun, playing pranks on their friends and family. The amount of posted video’s increased dramatically after the release of the Paranormal Activity films. Search the internet for yourself and another interesting fact is that since these cases have been reported over here you hardly, if ever see any other cases in the media. It’s funny though that there appears to be many cases reported in the United States. Maybe the UK is too cold for them or they just prefer our cousins across the pond perhaps. On the other hand, maybe because America is much more open as a nation to such notions of the paranormal this is why there are far more cases reported. The US as a whole is much more open to the paranormal in general. Over here in the UK, it is still very much the taboo subject and is often laughed at. It is also much harder to get in to places of historic interest to conduct an investigation. Maybe they think that it would ruin their reputation if something were found there. They don’t consider the fact that it will generate an additional income.
However, those that do open their doors to paranormal groups often charge so much money for the privilege that they are too expensive to even consider for any investigation team unless they are either rich or can sell tickets and take the public along.
Poltergeist activity is not always by some malevolent, nasty spirit or entity.
It can simply be an item going missing and turning up a few days later. Ornaments being moved of their own accord, coming down in the morning to find the front door open that you know you locked the night before. There are many different variations on what a Poltergeist is. However, it is not necessarily by some evil presence. It could even be that the spirit is just trying to tell you that they are there, want you to know that they can see you and maybe even communicate with you. It does not even have to be activity on a regular basis. Even something happening just the once by something unseen and unexplainable can be classed as Poltergeist activity.
This type of activity has been reported as far back as the medieval times and maybe even as far back as the 1st Century A.D. Even to this day, some scientists who acknowledge them are even debating the cause of Poltergeist activity. Some typical Poltergeist activities may include foul odours, loud noises and crashes, bangs, footsteps stomping around, unexplained electrical circuit or appliance failure, light bulbs breaking etc.
This is one case of a Poltergeist haunting we were asked to help with: We were asked to go and help a young couple who were experiencing an apparent Poltergeist haunting. We went and interviewed the couple and asked what had been happening.
They were living in a flat on a council estate not too far from where we are based and the above flat was empty, completely devoid of carpets, furniture, and curtains. Ring any bells yet?
They said that they had been experiencing knocks, bangs footsteps and the sound of what was described as a marble being throw against the wall and across the floor. They also said that they had been hearing the disembodied voice of a dog barking.
So off we went after interviewing them. They told us that the noises were very frequent and happened every night at the same times. So we expected to hear at least something whilst we were round there. We also took a voice recorder with us in the hope that it would pick up something we may miss.
We also took photos of the couple and the flat as well as photos of the above flat from outside. At this point, we could not get into the flat above as the local council had the keys. They had apparently changed the locks 3 times on the place. This was because the couple had complained to the council about the noise coming from the above flat. The council had told them that it was supposed to be empty but had probably been broken into by squatters so they would come and change the locks and check just to make sure.
They arranged to get the keys for us so that we could conduct a proper investigation so we waited a few days for a call to say that they had the keys and the council had agreed to let us go in there.
Our first visit to the flat was arranged and off we went with our equipment. This was on a Wednesday night so the full team was not there. What we did pick up was interesting though. Alison picked up three spirits present in the flat but said that none of them was making the reported noises. Alison did
help them to leave as they all wanted to go. What we did say to the couple was that as the place was empty and with wooden flooring throughout there was nothing to soak up any noise from outside. The flat was one big acoustic chamber and any noise penetrating the walls was bouncing around inside and echoing downstairs.
We said that we would be back at the weekend though with the rest of the team and that they most likely would not be hearing any more noises as whatever had been there had now gone. We went away confident that we had sorted things for them and their nights would be a lot quieter.
The next day I had a phone call from the couple to say that the noises were still there. They said that they started to happen about 10 minutes after we left. Now how convenient is that?
I told them not to worry as it would all be over by the weekend but how strange it was that we never heard anything whilst we were there and how convenient it was that they started when we left.
On the Saturday, we had most of the team there, a few more pairs of eyes and ears, as well as more, recording equipment. This time two of us made a thorough search of both their flat and the one above. We discovered a few things that were most likely the cause of some of the sounds but we still had more to consider. We checked the flat above as well. Which way were the floor joists running? Which way were the central heating pipes running? We were also told that the electricity meter was also still running up on consumption even though everything was switched off in the flat. This I checked as I am a qualified electrician and I found that it was not switched off. It was powering two double sockets in the flat below under the stairs. Plugged into said sockets was a fridge freezer, washing machine and a tumble dryer. One mystery was solved within 5 minutes of being in the flat!
The other thing we noticed in the flat was that you could hear everything going on in the flat below as well as outside. You could hear traffic using the road outside and on the next road up. Sometimes they said that they heard the sound of a steam train going through the flat. This was nothing more than a bus using the bus route on the next road up. The sound of the train tracks was the bus tyres over the concrete slab road. Nothing paranormal there. Next thing to be debunked was the dog barking. They said that none of their neighbours had dogs yet I counted three when I was there. One lived in the flat next door above them. And there was a Jack Russell terrier 2 gardens over. This was the dog that they were hearing echoing in the flat. That was the second mystery solved.
They had also told us about what sounded like footsteps on the stairs. This was very easily explained away. You see the stairs were made of wood. Wood naturally expands and contracts with the heat and cold. It also moves when there is any weight placed on it i.e. walking over it. Thus when you walk up or down stairs they will move under your weight, when you have passed they will move again back into their natural rest position. The other thing about these stairs was that directly below, as mentioned earlier, were the appliances in the flat below. Heat thrown off the condenser unit on the freezer as well as heat from the washing machine and tumble dryer when they were working was causing the stairs above to expand and creek. The sounds from the stairs were echoing around the empty flat and were sounding much louder than they actually were as well as sounding like somebody on the stairs. Then, when the stairs cooled back down the same sounds were again heard.
This they all took in their stride and accepted the logical explanations. We even prepared a full statement of the facts for them and for the council of our findings. A couple of days later they said that the noises were back again and one of their friends had gone into the flat above and discovered blood up the stairs, across the landing and in the bathroom. This I thought was a bit farfetched to say the least. But, again, we returned to the flat on their request.
We got there and immediately went into the above flat. As we walked up the stairs, we saw what appeared to be spots of blood on the staircase. We followed them through the hallway where they were spattered up the doorframe and across the ceiling of the lounge. They were also splashed on the bathroom floor and in the bath. I turned to Alison and said straight away that this was either chickens blood or some other animal blood. She had already picked this up. What was really funny was how fresh it was and that some of it was still wet. One of the couple’s friends had joined us in the flat and was showing us the blood. How stupid did he think we were? He was the one who had put the blood there because he had not noticed that he had spilled some on his shoe.
I pointed this out to him and he said he had been in a fight the night before. Funny how he had no other marks on him to prove this. No black eye, split lip, bruised knuckles, nothing. We said that this was fake to the couple downstairs but by this time, they had convinced themselves that it was paranormal. We told them once again that there was nothing paranormal about it but they were not listening by this time. They wanted their 5 minutes of fame.
Personal I think that they did not like living there anymore and cooked up this story so the council would move them. There is nothing wrong with their flat and the council knew this, so they refused to move them. A few days later, we heard that another team had been called in because they were not satisfied with our explanations.
This other group apparently went in with two mediums and filmed the whole investigation. They told the couple that a great evil was occupying the flat and that a demon was watching the flat from the garden. Really? They also told the couple that the demon had been brought there by a friend of theirs. Come on, really!
Said group have a website and they film ‘professional’ investigations and post them on their site. I have never seen the film of this investigation or heard anything from them since. But what I heard next about them is even more disturbing.
They told the couple their findings and the couple then told their friend what the team had found. They accused him of bringing the demon into their lives and the flat and said they never wanted him anywhere near their flat or them ever again.
This person was so distraught by all of this that it sent him into depression and was committed to a mental unit of the local hospital for his own protection. He spent over a month in this unit before he was in a well enough mental state to look after himself again.
Now who on Earth in their right mind would say that to a person? What right does this group have to do this to someone? This is very different from being a professional paranormal investigation team.
Suffice to say quite few people, including the poor chap’s family emailed them, and complaints were also filed with the local police force. The investigation is still under way at the time of writing this.
I will probably upset a few people by writing this but quite frankly, I really don’t care. This puts all honest paranormal investigation teams in a bad light. It’s hard enough to be taken seriously at the best of times by the majority let alone when bad investigations like this emerge in the public eye.
The lesson to learn from this is to be honest at all times, look at things logically and not through rose tinted glasses. Be very careful what you say to people when giving your reports. Above all, don’t ever tell someone that they are bringing demons or any other malevolent spirit into someone’s home.
In all my years as an investigator, I have only once seen Poltergeist activity on an investigation. I have heard strange sounds, things knocking and what sounds like something being dragged across the floor. I have even put trigger objects in places and found them to be moved and once never found the item.
However, I have only once witnessed something move with my own eyes. This was in Pevensey Courthouse and it was a set of wooden scales. We even moved the scales as we thought that vibration from cars travelling up the road outside was the cause of it. This was not the case and even the sceptic in our team is still baffled to this day, as to what was causing it. Was it a Poltergeist? Sadly, they do not allow investigations there anymore so we are unable to study them further.
Therefore, I cannot say without any doubt whether the phenomenon is real or not. Until I actually witness something else that cannot be logically explained, I remain largely unconvinced.