In 355 CE, a curious string of events was occurring at a farm in a small village in Germany. The events began innocently enough with strange knocks in the night. As time went on, the occurrences became more violent in nature. Kitchenware was tossed around the kitchen, and the knocks turned into what sounded like a dozen sledgehammers pounding the walls in a deafening chorus. The family was terrified, believing that their home was being invaded by demons hell-bent on ruining their lives.
1500 CE, Remy a self, described witch hunter and demon fighter described a similar story in the house of a wealthy merchant. One difference was the “demons” pelted family members with rocks thrown by an unseen agent. Again the Prince of Darkness and his minions were to blame.
These are two of the earliest known cases of a violently aggressive unknown power that descended upon the lives of these two families and made their lives a living hell with its relentless almost childish antics. Those who were involved, victim and witness alike, believed that their lives and homes were being invaded by evil spirits that clawed their way out from the bowels of hell. Thanks to the work of parapsychologists, we now know that this relentless, invisible force are not demons but something else entirely, a poltergeist.
The poltergeist has always been one of the most misunderstood, although common, forces of anomalous phenomena. Those who experience this odd force all report pretty much the same strange and frightening phenomena. Household objects are violently tossed around the room, sometimes breaking and sometimes not. Loud knocks and stone-throwing appear to be quite common. And the more uncommon but most terrifying of antics, starting fires without an accelerant. These do sound like the antics of a demonic spirit or at the very least a very unhappy human spirit; however, they are neither. So if nothing spiritual is involved, what in the world are these poor families being attacked by? The answer is: Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis (also known as RSPK).
The best way to explain RSPK is like this: Imagine a balloon. As we all know a balloon can only take so much air or water before it pops, causing a watery mess. RSPK works in the same way. When a poltergeist is experienced, there is usually a person, sometimes an adolescent but not always, who is going through some kind of emotional turmoil. Mix that with a latent psychic ability, psychokinesis, and blammo, you have yourself the aforementioned violently aggressive force that enjoys breaking your favourite, china. Children going through the travails of puberty and basically growing up are usually the prime suspects of being the “poltergeist agent.” However, this really is a bad rap because many poltergeist agents have been people well past puberty.
Two cases that came to mind occurred approximately at the same time 1967, in two different countries. Let’s start with the lesser known of the two: in Miami, Florida, a warehouse filled with knickknacks that your typical tourist would buy. Ashtrays, glasses, and mirrors, presumably emblazoned with Miami, were seen by the warehouse workers flying off shelves and crashing to the floor. The warehouse owners were becoming concerned; they were losing thousands of dollars in merchandise a day. Believing a practical joker was at work, the police were called to investigate. But this was something they were unqualified to investigate.
The police set up a sting in the hopes of capturing the joker at work so they could arrest him per the directions of the warehouse owners. As the police were watching for a living miscreant, several ashtrays flew off the shelf at one end of the warehouse. When they went to investigate they heard a loud crash from the area they had been previously. The police were stumped and told the owners that the warehouse was haunted. No business owner ever wants to hear that. Then something strange happened. The activity abruptly stopped.
It is believed by parapsychologists that the activity came to a halt when a young Cuban man well into his 20’s quit. Was this young man a clever prankster that hated his job and took his displeasure out on the products in the warehouse? Or was he an unwitting poltergeist agent? No one is really certain. However, the next example involving an older poltergeist agent is pretty much cut and dry.
Across the Atlantic in the city of Rosenheim, Germany, a law office was experiencing some pretty bizarre and unexplained activity. It all started with someone calling the international time and date number. Not just one or two times, but several hundred times a day in quick succession. Lights flickered on and off, chandeliers swung violently, and photocopy machines were spitting out paper as well as toner. Employees of the law office were frightened, believing their work place was haunted by ghosts.
Not so, said German parapsychologist Hans Bender. They were plagued not by ghosts, but by a poltergeist. When Bender arrived to investigate, he quickly identified the poltergeist agent, a young office worker, Annemarie Schaberl. Bender came to this conclusion when he discovered the 19-year-old woman’s life was a train wreck. She was estranged from her family, involved with an abusive boyfriend, and hated her job. She was the poltergeist focus.
Bender’s suspicions were confirmed when Annemarie was fired. The law firm partners didn’t buy into the supernatural explanation; but they believed she was responsible for the activity in the law office. According to Hans Bender she was, but subconsciously.
So, we’ve determined that poltergeists are not the spirits of the dead. Nor are they red-jimmied guys sporting pitchforks. What of the stories of apparitions being seen during a poltergeist outbreak? Two come to mind, as well as a possible explanation.
The first case I will talk about became known as the Black Monk of Pontefract. This case happened to the Pritchard family in Pontefract, England. The family was experiencing typical poltergeist activity until the ominous apparition of a monk in a black robe began appearing in the house.
The second case is the famous Enfield Poltergeist. Again, the family experienced usual activity, including bangs, things flying around, and a levitation or two. However, things became vastly more interesting when the spirit of an elderly man began speaking through the daughter who was believed to be the poltergeist agent.
The spirit claimed to be that of a man who died in the house many years before the affected family moved in. Many people, including England’s famed Society for Psychical Research, believed that the girl was making the voice up. But not Maurice Grosse, the SPR member who was involved in investigating the strange occurrences. Through diligent research he discovered an elderly man, named Bill, died in the home from a stroke. The spirit claimed to be Bill. The supposed poltergeist agent had no prior knowledge of this man or his death.
So what about these two cases where spirit activity was clearly experienced? I have long believed that the psychokinetic energy released into the environment is so powerful that it can either “wake” a dormant spirit up or draw transient spirits in. With the Enfield event, Bill came out because the energy awakened him. As for the apparition of the black-robed monk in the Pontefract case, it was not too far away from the town where there were ruins of an ancient Cluniac monastery. It’s possible that this spirit was drawn in by the expelled psychokinetic energy.
As with anything I write, I like to make it clear that this is just theory. Because theory really is all we have. With that being said, I believe poltergeists are nothing more than a psychic temper tantrum thrown by an unknowing person. This would mean that people like Ed and Lorraine Warren are wrong, as well as the countless TV shows, that claim poltergeists are demons and not psychokinetic energy as claimed by parapsychologists. My money is on parapsychology.