Poltergeists | Beyond The Things That Go Bump In The Night

by | Jun 30, 2017 | Articles, Editor Picks, Featured, The Other Side | 0 comments

There is no death. It is only a transition to a different sphere of consciousness.

Poltergeists, a name derived from German words meaning “noisy spirit” have been around for a long time, with some of the earliest activity recorded in the 17th century. At that time, poltergeists were thought to be ghosts or demons, but parapsychologists have now examined well-documented cases reported over recent decades, and compiled a set of defining characteristics that tend to a different view. The most common features are listed here along with possible explanations for poltergeist activity.

Movement of Objects

Most poltergeist cases involve inexplicable movements of objects. Sometimes these objects are large, such as in a case in the 1960s, where several pieces of furniture, including a large sideboard and full linen chest, were seen to move in a house in the Scottish village of Sauchie. In the 1967 “Miami Disturbances,” which took place in a souvenir distribution warehouse, small items such as mugs and ashtrays mysteriously and repeatedly fell off shelves. They were sometimes found some distance from their original location.


Unaccountable percussive noises, such as rapping, scratching, and knocking noises are common features of poltergeist activity. In the Sauchie case, sounds like those of a bouncing ball were heard coming from an empty room. There were also frequent knocking and rapping sounds. In this case, several people heard the noises and recordings were made.


Apportation involves the transportation of objects through walls. In a case in Nickelheim, Germany, in 1968, items such as medicinal tablets and perfume bottles laid out inside a house materialized outside, apparently falling from the air. Apportation is less common in poltergeist cases than movement of objects within a room.


Apparitions are shadowy sightings of people or animals. Typically, the person or animal is no longer alive, so the apparition is what most people would describe as a ghost. Apparitions are sometimes seen in poltergeist cases but are thought to be separate phenomena.

The Psychokinesis Hypothesis

Poltergeist activity is usually focused on an individual, most often an adolescent, and tends to happen only when the focus is nearby. In one case review, 79 percent of events showed this kind of human link. In addition, the focus is often suffering psychological stress or intense emotions when the events take place.Parapsychologists think these characteristics lend themselves to a psychokinesis hypothesis; that is, the focus influences matter with his or her mind, unconsciously moving objects and creating noises, perhaps to bring about a psychological release.

Poltergeist events are sometimes described as recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis (RSPK) events. This is because they tend to be unpredictable and repeat many times over a period of weeks or months, before finally stopping.

Misinterpretation of Natural Events

Many reported poltergeist events turn out to be cases of misinterpretation. In these situations, people ascribe supernatural or paranormal explanations to strange events before they’ve looked for natural causes. For instance, strange noises, perhaps caused by mice, insects, or the creaking of floorboards due to temperature changes are immediately attributed to supernatural forces. Those prone to nervousness or an overactive imagination are more likely to do this, as are those with a strong belief in the supernatural. Of course, poltergeist investigators are also susceptible to misreading a situation.


Fraud is always a possibility, and serious investigators carry out experiments to rule it out. Children, a group most often associated with poltergeist activity, can be very ingenious, particularly if they enjoy the attention they receive during an investigation. In some cases, the child or children involved in a case have admitted to staging at least some of the activity, but in many cases no fraud has been detected.

Poltergeists are disturbing for those who experience them, but contrary to the ideas of those who coined the name, they are not ghosts. One current view is that poltergeists are the result of psychokinetic events, where the human focus, who is often suffering psychological stress, triggers activity with his or her mind. In some cases, misinterpretation of normal events or fraud is the explanation.

Kristian Gabriel
Kristian Gabriel