The phenomenon happens too often to be ignored. These troublesome spirits have been with us for centuries. Their persistent banging and wanton destruction has fostered the belief in something ‘evil‘. It was, however, Martin Luther (1483-1546) who said, ‘It is not as a poltergeist that the Devil discloses his true nature,’ and it was he that gave us the term ‘poltergeist‘.
Luther’s first encounter came as he was studying the Psalms in Wittenburg monastery. From within a storage chamber came three heavy thuds. Well versed in accounts of hauntings he defined this kind of spirit, the poltergeist. Much of what Luther understood as a poltergeist differs from today. For Luther a poltergeist was a mechanism on which he built much of his theological thinking. By modern standards it is difficult to grasp, even contradictory. His understanding of poltergeists becomes curious and complex until one understands it as metaphysical and more importantly as something counterfeit. What does survive into modern thinking is the basic meaning of poltergeist. Translated as noisy ghost it is best understood as a crashing ghost, a ghost known for banging and thumps; and this is the essence and essential detail of a poltergeist that they cause commotions through banging; their mode of existence, being and communication are the bangs and thuds they cause.
As ghosts are known for generally being rather quiet and inoffensive, preferring solitude in abandoned buildings, poltergeists are very much the opposite. They prefer to move into normal households having no history of hauntings. These households often have a young adolescent girl living in the house around which the activity is focussed but not in every case. The activity often begins with three loud thuds. Perfectly circular pools of water are found on the floor. The sound of crockery and cutlery heard being hurled about and smashed but on inspection nothing has moved. The banging grows in intensity, becoming ever more frantic and faster as if motivated by an insane rage. The banging persists for a few moments or for hours as the whole poltergeist activity can last for a mere few hours to years. Objects, sometimes impossibly heavy, can be picked up and moved in straight lines, zig zags, right angles and even bouncing along as if carried by unseen hands. Aports, objects appearing in other areas, even pass through solid walls are noted to be burning hot when touched and strangely heavier than before. Curiously objects are seen to be thrown downwards whereas ghosts seem to throw things upwards! Anything which strikes a person often harmlessly bounce off leaving their target unharmed. Yet their activities can become much worse leaving the victims feeling helpless and hopeless in desperate need to flee. Pets and animals become afraid, whimpering and growling depending on their temperaments. Fires break out in enclosed spaces, hideous inarticulate sounds are heard. These sounds (heard twice on separate investigations by the author in the Pontefract poltergeist house) resemble a choking guttural laughing.
Poltergeists have never been known to tell anything about themselves. The case of the Saragossa poltergeist – only a voice was heard down a chimney was heard yet ventriloquism was heavily suspected. Reverend Samuel Wesley (1662-1735) tried to communicate with his poltergeist but was met only with silence. There are alleged recordings of the 1977 Enfield Poltergeist speaking yet suspicion surrounds those recordings. Those recordings were only made when witnesses were asked to leave the room and the chief investigator Maurice Grosse had to have his back turned to events. It leaves such evidence suspicious to the critic.
What are those accounts of those who have come into direct contact with a poltergeist beyond their activity? Such accounts are particularly rare. On close contact the sounds of a swoosh or whirring is heard, upon touch the poltergeist has been said to seen distinctly smooth and particularly cold. Figures have been describes as an old man or woman, hunched wearing something like night robes. At Enfield the disembodied face of a man with large teeth was seen which interestingly parallels the Pontefract case. A plate of sandwiches vanished only to re-appear scattered behind a television half eaten bearing the marks of enormous teeth. More often the appearance of creatures like a badger, like a rabbit or like a cat have been seen during poltergeist activity which may account why exorcisms never work. Overall poltergeists display the character of being spiteful, thievish, erratic, destructive and irrational but rarely directly hostile. Ordinary people living across the world over the centuries have experienced the same phenomena, poltergeists do exist!