A poltergeist is a paranormal phenomenon which consists of events alluding to the manifestation of an

imperceptible entity. Such manifestation typically includes inanimate objects moving or being thrown about, sentient noises (such as impaired knocking, pounding or banging) and, on some occasions, physical attacks on those witnessing the events.

Since no conclusive scientific explanation of the events exists up to this day, poltergeists have traditionally been described in folklore as troublesome spirits or ghosts which haunt a particular person, hence the name (see etymology). Such alleged poltergeist manifestations have been reported in many cultures and countries including the United States, Japan,[1] Brazil, and allEuropean nations, and the earliest recorded cases date back to the first century.


The word poltergeist comes from the German words poltern ("to make noise") and Geist ("spirit"), and the term itself literally means "noisy 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.[2]



[1][2]Allan Kardec believed that poltergeists were spirits associated with theelements

Poltergeist activity has often been believed to be the work of malicious ghosts. According to Alan 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).[3]


In parapsychology, Nandor Fodor proposed that poltergeist disturbances were caused by human agents suffering from some form of emotional stress or tension. William G. Roll studied 116 different poltergeist cases and found that the agents were often children or teenagers, and supposed that recurrent neuronal discharges resulting in epileptic symptoms may cause recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis (RSPK), which would affect the person's surroundings.[2][4][5][6][7] The case of the Rosenheim Poltergeist, where none of the disturbances could be explained via physical means, was suggested to be caused by psychokinetic forces.


Poltergeist disturbances that have not been traced to fraud have been attempted to be explained scientifically. David Turner, a retired physical chemist, suggested that ball lighting, another phenomenon, could cause inanimate objects to move erratically.[8] Some skeptics propose that poltergeist activity might be caused by simpler phenomena such as static electricity,electromagnetic fields, ultrasound, infrasound, or ionized air. Hallucinations, like the sounds of bells or footsteps, may be caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.

[edit]Famous poltergeist casesEdit

[edit]Lithobolia (1698)Edit

Main article: Lithobolia

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.[9] 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."[10]

[edit]Borley Rectory (1937)Edit

Main article: Borley Rectory

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."

[edit]Rosenheim, Germany (1967)Edit

Main article: Rosenheim Poltergeist

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 tophysics" and the disturbances "could be 100 percent shown not to be explainable by known physics."[11] 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.[12][13][14][15]

[edit]Other casesEdit

  • 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.[16]
  • 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
  • Gef the Talking Mongoose (1931)[17]
  • The possession case of Robbie Mannheim (1949)[18][19]
  • The Black Monk of Pontefract[20]
  • The Enfield Poltergeist (1977)
  • The Thornton Road poltergeist of Birmingham (1981)
  • The case of Tina Resch (1984)
  • The Orland Hills, Illinois case located on 169th Street. (1988)
  • Contemporary Oklahoma 'talking poltergeist' case "The Stone-Throwing Spook of Little Dixie" (1995)[21]
  • Stambovsky v. Ackley (1991)
  • The Mackenzie Poltergeist (1998) – Famed for haunting Greyfriars churchyard, Edinburgh.
  • The Canneto di Caronia fires poltergeist (2004–5)[22]
  • The Miami Poltergeist (2008)[23]
  • Barnsley near Sheffield in England (2009)[24]
  • 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). Lisa Manning and her children 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. The strange occurrences started a couple of weeks after Manning and her children moved into the Coventry council house. The disturbances became more malevolent when the poltergeist pushed the family's two dogs down the stairs resulting in horrific injuries to one of the pets, which resulted in it having to be put down. A chair moving across the floor on its own was also captured on film. 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.[25][26] Renowned medium, Derek Acorahvisited Manning's home and communicated with the spirit, discovering it was called "Jim", and had died from a heart attack at the age of 58 around 1900. Acorah then successfully exorcised the spirit from the house.[27]

[edit]Poltergeists in fictionEdit

Both the name and concept of the poltergeist became famous to modern audiences from 1982 in the Poltergeist movies, where 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."[28] In the TV seriesAfterlife, Alison encounters many poltergeists, including the ghost of her mother who rearranges Alison's objects, moves her bed, and creates noise.