2. a spirit or ghost that manifests itself by moving and influencing objects, usually creating disorder2, 3.
For centuries, a poltergeist was thought to be a ghost or spirit, a culprit that made "things go bump in the night". Poltergeists were accused of opening doors and drawers, throwing small household objects from table to floor, or moving them (or large objects) from place to place within a room and sometimes even from room to room. However, with the advent of modern parapsychological research many different theories about "poltergeist" have been advanced as with other supernatural occurrences.
In the 1930s, noted psychologist and parapsychologist Nandor Fodor theorized that some poltergeist disturbances were caused not by spirits but by human agents, acting as a poltergeist "focus"5.
In the 1960s, William G. Roll, the project director of the Psychical Research Foundation in Durham, North Carolina, expanded this theory and identified it as Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis (RSPK). Roll researched reports of poltergeist occurrences over four centuries, which resulted in his belief that, most often, the "poltergeist" was an angry child or teenager who subconsciously caused the distrubances6. The debate was on.
In his paper, "Theories of Haunting"7, Peter A. McCue points out various theories on poltergeist activity, held by Roll and other prominent parapsychologists, among them:
- In 1943, G.N.M. Tyrell suggested that some poltergeist activity might be the result of a living agent stimulating a spirit or vice versa.
- G.W. Lambert theorizes that at least some reported poltergeist activity is due to location, postulating that the "coastal strip seems to produce an undue number of cases" and that the activity may be the result of the proximity to rivers, streams, and patterns of rainfall as well.7a,7b Lambert believed that large amounts of water seepage had an unsettling effect upon buildings where alleged poltergeist activity occurred and that such seepage was the cause of the disruption in many reported cases.
- After researching a case where the residence sat on a fault line, M.A. Persinger and R.A. Cameron theorized that seismic activity could cause poltergeist activity.7c
- A. Budden (1998) attributes the phenomenon to the "Hutchison effect". Hutchison was a Canadian researcher who found that you can produce poltergeist activity by bringing together certain types of electrical equipment and applying a low level of electrical power to them. Budden suggest that the phenomenon could be created naturally at electromagnetic "hot-spots." 7d
In Roll's research, he found that the average report of an occurrence of poltergeist activity was 5.1 months in duration. Poltergeist activity usually stops as quickly as it started.
Media & Popular Culture
- "Poltergeist" is the name of a movie trilogy made in the 1980s. The movie attracted some controversy with a rumor that the script was cursed, leading to the deaths of several actors under mysterious circumstances.
2. “Poltergeist .” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 21 Jun 2008. 28 Jun 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poltergeist>.
3. Anthony Lewis. Wordwebpro. Princeton University. 2007. 28 June 2008.
4. Douglas Harper. “poltergeist.” Online Etymology Dictionary Nov 2001. 28 Jun 2008 <http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=poltergeist&searchmode=none>.
5. Jill Stefko. “Thornton Heath Poltergeist 1938: Dr. Nandor Fodor, Distinguished Parapsychologist, Investigated.” Suite 101 19 Jun 2007. 29 Jun 2008 <http://paranormal.suite101.com/article.cfm/thornton_heath_poltergeist_1938>.
6. Alan G. Hefner. “Poltergeist.” the Mystica n.d . 28 Jun 2008 <http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/p/poltergeist.html>.
7. Peter A. McCue. “Theories of Haunting.” Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 661.866 (2002): 1-21. 29 Jun 2008 <http://www.richardwiseman.com/resources/theories-of-hauntings.pdf>.
1. Lambert, G. W. (1955) Poltergeists: a physical theory. JSPR 38, 49-71.
2. Lambert, G. W. (1960) The geography of London ghosts. JSPR 40, 397-409.
3. Persinger, M. A. and Cameron, R. A. (1986) Are earth faults at fault in some poltergeist-like episodes? JASPR 80, 49-73.
4. Budden, A. (1998) Electric UFOs: Fireballs, Electromagnetics and Abnormal States.