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The poltergeist is something that must be fought as well as investigated."1—The late psychical researcher, D. Scott Rogo
"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes."—Ephesians 6:11
Ghosts, things that go bump in the night, spooks, poltergeists, haunted houses. Spook stories are everywhere today. Even haunted houses are in demand; some realtors specialize in selling them to fascinated clients at greatly inflated prices. One wonders if they get their money’s worth.
Every Halloween, television programmers market an interesting line-up of supernatural thrillers on TV. Invariably, the "Poltergeist" series of movies are shown, as they seem to continue to fascinate millions of people. Although Halloween has just ended, the intriguing phenomenon of the poltergeist remains. Thus, we felt a critical evaluation of this subject would be timely in an era of increasing interest in the supernatural. Millions of Americans are enamored with and even directly influenced by the poltergeist phenomenon. This makes our subject highly relevant. Unfortunately, very few Christian or biblical evaluations exist and so we hope this material fills a genuine need. In this article we will introduce the subject, evaluate current theories, note various characteristics and abilities of the poltergeist and document the occult nature of this phenomenon, noting various occult interpretations. We will also indicate relevant consequences of poltergeist phenomena, and investigation and also document their evil nature.
The term poltergeist comes from two German words (polter: to make noise by throwing or tumbling around, and geist: ghost or spirit). The literal translation of the term is thus "noisy ghost."
Poltergeists are commonly interpreted as troublesome ghosts which haunt houses, causing disturbances and a variety of problems for those who live there. Casual observers often see them as harmless and intriguing or "entertaining" spirits while naturalists and materialists often view them as simple hallucinations.
For parapsychologists and other psychical researchers, poltergeists are often seen as a merely human phenomenon—a manifestation of alleged human (usually adolescent) psychokinesis.
However, some psychical researchers have also accepted the mediumistic interpretation that these entities are "troubled or confused ghosts" or "earthbound spirits" who, because of their past life or lives on earth, have been hampered in their spiritual "evolution." Thus, rather than progress into higher spirit realms or the "finer" dimensions of the spiritual world, they remain aggressively "attached" to the "earth plane." We will examine these theories in more detail below.
Almost everyone who has investigated the poltergeist phenomena over the last half-century concedes that poltergeist occurrences seem to be increasing. In 1967 psychic investigator Raymond Bayless reported that, "the shear number of poltergeist cases and related phenomena is most definitely on the increase."2 Events through the mid-1990s confirm this fact, which largely appears to result from the modern Western revival of occultism. Poltergeists are characteristically associated with occult practices and/or phenomena and, as these increase in society, it is not unexpected to find an increase in the poltergeist activities that often accompany them. Based on local television and news reports, and from our own travels around the country, it would seem that most American cities now have several sites where poltergeist activity is known to occur. In fact, throughout the nation "Poltergeist experiences occur every day of the week;…"3
This is not to say poltergeist phenomena are anything new. For example, Michael Goss compiled an annotated bibliography of over one thousand English books on poltergeists from the last century alone, 1880-1970.4 In that text he observes, "Poltergeists seem to have been plaguing the human race since the dawn of time and they have shown a grand impartiality as to the theatres of their operations. They are as much at home in the jungles of Indonesia as they are in the suburbs of London or the bustle of New York City…."5
In a similar fashion, noted Jesuit scholar Herbert Thurston, author of Ghosts and Poltergeists, describes typical poltergeist phenomena, explaining its universal occurrence and the reasons for his own disbelief in naturalistic theories:
…the dragging across the floor of heavy bedsteads or articles of furniture… the curved path taken by missiles which sweep around corners or twist in and out as a living bird might do… the flight of showers of stones which seem to come from space and are only perceptible when quite near… the spontaneous bursting open of securely fastened doors in full view of watchful observers, the escape from closed receptacles of articles stored therein without any discernible means of exit, the constant disappearance and hiding of domestic odds and ends specially needed which are often afterwards restored in ways equally mysterious, the sudden outbreak of a conflagration in places where no spark or source of fire existed—these features recur all over the world in countries as far remote from each other as Canada and the Dutch East Indies…. For my own part I find it impossible to believe that such manifestations [have]… no real existence, but were due to hallucination.6
The poltergeist phenomenon itself is so unusual it has spawned a number of theories attempting to explain it.
The theories put forth to explain or identify the poltergeist are almost as diverse as the phenomenon itself. Among those advanced are that poltergeists are 1) the spirits of the human dead; 2) unknown spirits; 3) demonic spirits or the biblical demons; 4) spontaneous, uncontrollable outbursts of supposed psychokinetic energy, usually associated with a young person emerging into adolescence; 5) various other manifestations of alleged human psychic activity; 6) inexplicable phenomena resulting from unknown geophysical conditions; 7) consequences of the human spirit being projected or forced outside the body as in uncontrollable out-of-the-body experiences or "astral" projection and 8) a post-mortem "vestige" of a human personality somehow imbued with powers to affect the physical realm.
The three most common theories are these: (1) the Christian view that poltergeists are the biblical demons, (2) the mediumistic interpretation that poltergeists are the roaming spirits of the human dead, and (3) the parapsychological view that poltergeists constitute an entirely human phenomenon and result from various manifestations of alleged psychic, i.e., psychokinetic power.
Note that the last two interpretations justify certain pre-existing theories which are often passionately advocated by those who hold them.
In the mediumistic view, poltergeists provide alleged evidence that all spirits of the human dead may roam freely—and thus are not immediately confined to heaven or hell as the Bible teaches (Matthew 25:46; Luke 16:16-30; 2 Peter 2:9; Revelation 20:10-15). This supports the occult belief that men and women never die spiritually in the biblical sense of eternal separation from God. Rather, in general, the spirits of the human dead merely experience a normal transition into the next life where they then have the opportunity to continue their spiritual evolution based on individual merit earned in their previous life. This interpretation is also often incorporated with a belief in reincarnation.
The parapsychological view interprets poltergeists in a different manner. Poltergeist phenomena are believed to result from an alleged recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis (RSPK) of adolescents (usually females), i.e., from the alleged psychic powers of the human mind. This idea lends alleged support to the cherished theory of innate human psychic potential or ability long advocated by the parapsychological and New Age communities. For example, in ascribing poltergeist phenomena to human psychic power, the late noted psychical researcher D. Scott Rogo comments as follows, "In thinking about man’s unwelcomed guests, the poltergeists, let us remember that our psychic abilities can plague as well as benefit us."7
However, we find these last two theories unconvincing in light of both biblical revelation and the nature and actions of the poltergeist itself. Thus, we reject the mediumistic theory because the Bible teaches the human dead are either with Christ in heaven or confined to punishment in hell—and therefore unable to roam in the spirit world and/or haunt houses (Phil. 1:23; 2 Cor. 5:6-8; Luke 16:22-26; 2 Pet. 2:9).
We reject the parapsychological theory because we believe the idea that human beings have genuine psychic powers is largely a myth. We sought to briefly document this in our book, Cult Watch (1991, pp. 257-281).
This leaves us with our first theory which explains poltergeist phenomena as the result of the activities of the biblical demons. But is this theory really credible? Goss argues, "There is no one theory which comfortably accounts for all poltergeist cases."8 We disagree. We are convinced poltergeist phenomena themselves and the occult connection together offer strong empirical evidence for the demonic nature of these spirits. In fact, we know of no poltergeist case that cannot be accounted for on the basis of this theory. The remainder of our discussion will supply evidence for our conviction.
However, at this point we need to make two important observations. First, it is necessary to realize that poltergeist phenomena per se are not proof that any person supposedly psychically or otherwise "associated" with these events is spirit-possessed. The person is not causing the unusual phenomena—again, this is an unfounded premise of the discipline of parapsychology. The poltergeist manifestations themselves are merely the result of an evil spirit working miraculous events for ulterior motives.
Second, on the other hand, at least temporary demonization of an individual has occurred as a result of some poltergeist hauntings. But more often, the people who experience poltergeists or are peripherally involved are simple victims either intrigued or terrified depending on the severity of the haunting.
We believe that an impartial evaluation of the poltergeist phenomenon itself will accomplish two things. First, it will dispel naturalistic (e.g., hallucinogenic) and parapsychological (e.g., psychokinetic) theories as not being credible. Second, it will dispel the mediumistic view by offering strong evidence that poltergeists are demons, not the confused spirits of the human dead.
Intelligent Independent Nature
The intelligent and focused nature of poltergeist manifestations and attacks is evident. In light of this, it is difficult to conclude we are merely dealing with diffused manifestations of the unconscious mind or the rambling psychic manifestations of troubled adolescent teenagers, as most psychic researchers have concluded. It is much more logical to believe we are dealing with real, independent, intelligent spirits. The fact these spirits may choose to mask their activities behind a facade of "poltergeist activity" for ulterior motives cannot change the logical implications of the phenomenon itself. Thus, most researchers have been forced to concede the independent intelligence of the poltergeist. Guy Playfair, author of The Unknown Power, states,
It also seems fairly obvious that there is some sort of intelligence behind poltergeist activity; over and over again they have been able to outsmart even such experienced investigators as Roll and Barrett, and they have rarely if ever been caught red-handed. Their sense of timing is thoroughly uncanny, and they seem as determined to confuse researchers as they are to drive victims out of their minds.9
For example, a noted psychoanalyst and psychical investigator Dr. Nandor Fodor, author of the Encyclopedia of Psychic Science, observes the following about the objects "thrown" by the poltergeist: "The deadly aim of the missiles admits the speculation that it may not be the laws of physics alone which prescribe their course. The impression is of something like temporary consciousness associated with the flight of every single missile as if they were intelligent blows, or as if a strong will power were setting an unalterable course from the point of departure."10
Poltergeist phenomena themselves are difficult to explain apart from recourse to the supernatural. They involve an incredible number of diverse manifestations and unsavory incidents. These may include horrible foul smells, cold rooms, "thick", "oppressive" air, unusual malevolent voices, bizarre, creaturely, or human apparitions, movement of objects, even heavy ones, spontaneous fires, strange markings on furniture or people, headaches and other physical symptoms, electromagnetic phenomena, etc.
In his extensive bibliography on poltergeists, Michael Goss describes the following common phenomena associated with the poltergeist. Even though the poltergeist has been named after its auditory effects, more typical phenomena may include:
• Showers of stones, earth, mud, sticks, fruit, shells and occasionally more bizarre material such as bank-notes, small animals, etc.;
• Objects, e.g., furniture, may be rolled, moved, overturned or otherwise agitated; in particular, small items are likely to be thrown, levitated, caused to simulate a rocking or "dancing" motion, or may be swept across the room in flights of complicated and sustained trajectory from which they descend either gradually and gently in hovering motion or very abruptly;
• Bedclothes, linen, garments and curtains may be molested, torn, slashed or otherwise damaged. In some rare cases, linen has been found to have been deliberately arranged in the form of a "tableau" reminiscent of human figures at worship;
• Small objects may disappear from their appointed places, possibly making subsequent reappearances in highly incongruous situations… others fail to reappear at all;
• "Apports" (objects perhaps foreign to the afflicted household) may similarly arrive on the scene.
• Manipulations suggestive of internal malfunction may affect electrical equipment later found be in normal working order. Telephones may ring or register calls when none have been made; plugs are removed and light bulbs smashed or wrenched from their sockets;
• "Spontaneous" fires may break out;
• Pools or jets of water (and/or liquids) may be emitted from normally dry surfaces, e.g., walls, ceilings, etc.;
• Personal assaults such as blows, slaps, shoves, etc., may be inflicted on householders and their guests. However, stigmata in the form of wheels, teeth-marks or scratches, are likely to be confined to one particular person, namely the supposed "agent" or "focus" in the disturbances;
• Apparitions (human, animal or indeterminate) are sometimes witnessed, as are unusual lights, clouds of phosphorescence, etc.;
• In a few instances a form of psychic invasion characterized as "possession" or entrancement with associated psi abilities and the poltergeist agent has been reported.11
As Bayless correctly reports, "with a poltergeist, every form of psychical phenomena both in the experimental seance and in spontaneous cases, has been reported, and the sheer diversity of manifestations is truly incredible. It is almost impossible to list all the strange, individual actions attributed to the poltergeist,…"12
But in addition to the above, we find truly frightening apparitions that can only be characterized as demonic—as well as horrible encounters with beings which may take grotesque human form and in rare cases proceed to sexually rape both men and women, leaving them covered with a slimy substance and/or terrible odor. Further, the rare if controversial phenomenon of spontaneous human combustion—people instantaneously bursting into flames and largely being reduced to ashes—may have some type of association with poltergeists. In the literature there are also numerous examples of demonic possession occurring during poltergeist manifestations.13 Thus, in many cases investigated "the nature of the invading force has many times been annoying and malicious, and frequently has displayed a vicious and dangerous nature… poltergeist’s intentions… were in the main savage, destructive and malignant."14
It is hardly surprising then, as occult authority Colin Wilson points out, "Until the mid-nineteenth century it was generally assumed that poltergeist disturbances were the result of witchcraft, or evil spirits, or both."15 In his bibliography, Goss points out in a similar fashion that earlier generations "concluded quite logically that they were faced by the work of witchcraft and/or demons" and that such a theory "has shown remarkable durability regardless of what the twentieth century may think about witchcraft and demons."16 This brings us to our next section.
1 D. Scott Rogo, The Poltergeist Experience (NY: Penguin, 1979), p. 40.
2 Raymond Bayless, The Enigma of the Poltergeist (West Nyack, NY: Parker, 1967), p. 8.
3 Robert Curran, The Haunted: One Family’s Nightmare (NY: St. Martins Press, 1988), p. 101.
4 Michael Goss, compiler, Poltergeists: An Annotated Bibliography of Works in English, Circa 1880-1970 (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1979).
5 Ibid., p. vii.
6 Herbert Thurston, Ghosts and Poltergeists (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1954), pp. 354-355.
7 Rogo, The Poltergeist Experience, p. 284.
8 Goss, p. xi.
9 Guy Playfair, The Unknown Power (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1975), p. 266.
10 Nandor Fodor, An Encyclopedia of Psychic Science (Secaucus, NJ: The Citadel Press, 1966), p. 292.
11 Goss, pp. iii-iv.
12 Bayless, p. 2.
13 e.g., Ibid., pp. 158-174.
14 Ibid., p. 159.
15 Colin Wilson, Mysteries: An Investigation Into the Occult, The Paranormal and the Supernatural (NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1978), p. 461.
16 Goss, p. viii, emphasis added.
Poltergeists—An Evaluation of a Demonic Phenomenon, Part 2
by Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon
The Occult Connection
The occult connection to poltergeist manifestations is made more evident when we consider that the celebrated revival of mid-nineteenth century spiritualism in America actually began with the poltergeist. The Fox sisters’ “rappings” were clearly a manifestation of poltergeist activity.
Colin Wilson, author of The Occult: A History, observes, “The Hydesville rappings which inaugurated the history of modern spiritualism were almost certainly poltergeist phenomena; the Hydesville ‘ghost’ also claimed to be the victim of an undetected murder.”1
In fact, researchers have connected the poltergeist to mediumism, witchcraft, spiritism and other forms of the occult throughout history, right up to the present. Of scores of incidents recorded or investigated by the late Dr. Kurt Koch, a leading Christian authority on the occult, in every case “occult practices lay at the root of the [poltergeist] phenomena.”2 For example, as one reads the literature, one discovers that the use of Ouija boards is often associated with the poltergeist. Once poltergeist disturbances are experienced in a home, often the Ouija board is brought out of a closet in an attempt, whether in seriousness or jest, to establish contact with the “troubled ghost.” In such cases, poltergeist phenomena often become the means of a person’s conversion to the occult. The supernatural encounters are so startling and intriguing that witnesses and participants may become converted to a belief in the supernatural and may end up involved in psychic investigation, such as using Ouija boards or attending séances.
In The Enigma of the Poltergeist, psychical researcher Raymond Bayless further observes, “it can be suggested that witchcraft may be the child of the poltergeist. The study of poltergeists and haunting phenomena continually uncovers reminders of the close relationship existing between each subject.” 3
Poltergeist phenomena are not only frequently associated with witchcraft but with necromancy and séance phenomena as well, e.g., “It has duplicated every phenomenon observed in the experimental séance.” 4 For example, “during known, obvious poltergeist cases, phantoms have been seen and heard that gave every indication of having been spirits of the dead. On occasion, phantoms have indicated that they were spirits of dead relatives of witnesses present.” 5
From a Christian view, here we see a typical attempt by demons to establish belief in or practice of contacting the dead, something God has forbidden in the Bible (Deut. 18:9-12). This is illustrated in the attempt to “rescue” supposedly confused or “earth-bound” spirits who are allegedly causing the poltergeist disturbances. Thus, “In each case the living had a duty to the dead. By means of séances (sometimes specifically convened as ‘rescue circles’) the distressed party [the poltergeist] could be contacted and ultimately directed along the appointed paths of self-improvement.” 6
In fact, one can only suspect in many cases that when poltergeists are directly associated with some person—rather than merely a location—that the spirits are attempting to force the individual into some kind of occult involvement or even to bring about their possession by spirits. At the very least, poltergeist phenomena associated with an individual seems to have certain parallels to the medium and her spirit controls: “Obviously, this relates to the concept of mediumship in general and moreover to the equally fascinating study of the way in which this person—the ‘agent’ or ‘focus’—is different from other human beings who do not have poltergeist abilities.”7
In light of all this, it is not surprising that a common feature of poltergeist manifestations involves the attempt to seek actual contact with the alleged deceased, also, obviously, a common occurrence in séance mediumism. For example, Dr. Weldon remembers viewing a television program on a particularly dramatic poltergeist haunting in 1994. After the poltergeist manifestations began, a Ouija board was used to attempt to make contact with the spirit. The spirit spelled out its name through the board. The next day psychical researchers were called in to investigate. Hauntingly, one of the parapsychologists had a name mentally impressed upon him entirely unaware. He simply began his conversation, “When did you first meet __________” — and gave the actual name that the spirit had given earlier through the Ouija board. He had no idea why he said this name or where it came from, but obviously, it “confirmed” the “identity” of the spirit they were now seeking to establish contact with. This particular name was, in fact, found to be that of the very same individual who had lived in this house prior to that time—and, in fact, had also been murdered. In the minds of everyone present, this confirmed the fact they were really contacting the deceased spirit of the man who had earlier been killed in this house.
Of course, in occult circles, the poltergeist is characteristically interpreted in line with prevailing beliefs about the dead, human psychokinesis, etc. But given the well-known ability of the spirits to assume virtually any shape and to take virtually any disguise, from angels to aliens to the human dead, how can any occultist be certain that poltergeists are what they think they are? Can mediums be certain the appearances of their “dead loved ones” in séances are not simply the clever tricks of demons to foster emotional trust and dependence? If not, what of the poltergeists who also claim to be the spirits of the dead?
The spirits of the occult in general are often contacted directly by psychics, mediums or channelers who permit themselves to become possessed by these spirits to allow the spirits to speak through them. At poltergeist hauntings, mediums or psychics may allow themselves to be possessed in order to discover the alleged reason for the “haunting” by establishing direct contact with the “troubled ghost.” While speaking through human mediums, these spirits have offered several reasons allegedly explaining their activities.
1. The spirits of the dead who were once atheists, materialists or rationalists while on earth never expected to encounter an afterlife. Upon death, the shock was so great they became confused and disoriented. Like a lost traveler in a strange city, they wander aimlessly attempting to get their “bearings”.
2. Initially, some spirits of the dead actually refuse to believe they are really “dead” and are no longer able to live upon the earth. They now vainly attempt to convince themselves otherwise: that they are still in their body and can somehow return to their previous existence. Thus they not only seek to regain contact with the living through “haunting” houses where people live, but they desperately seek to manifest themselves materially in order to regain “contact” with the physical world. Bizarre poltergeist events are one result as they attempt to interact with and/or materialize back into this world.
3. Those spirits of the dead who erroneously accepted the idea of a biblical heaven (i.e., those who were Christians while on earth) are shocked and angry to discover that the Bible was wrong. Rather than finding themselves in heaven with their Lord, they instead simply found themselves in the spirit world—with no Jesus or heaven anywhere in sight. Some refuse to accept this, waiting instead for “Jesus” to come and take them to “heaven.” In the meantime, they vent their confusion, anger and grief through poltergeist manifestations.
4. The spirits of the dead who were evil people involved in violent acts such as murder or rape at a particular location while on earth. After death they chose to remain close to the earth to continue their evil. (Or, it may be that their deceased victims are frightened to go forward and progress spiritually, or that they may wish to seek revenge on the living relatives of those who harmed them.)
These are the claims of the poltergeist. But regardless of the spirits’ claims, we think the demonologists of an earlier era such as Guazzo, Remy and others were correct—that these spirits are not what they claim (spirits of the human dead), but lying spirits which the Bible identifies as demons. This is strongly indicated by the fact that poltergeist claims, manifestations and results tend to have five distinct consequences—all of which lend credibility to the view that these spirits are really the deceiving spirits identified in the Bible as demons.
First, as noted, poltergeist manifestations tend to involve or interest people in the occult. Poltergeist phenomena frequently cause one to assume the truth of an occult worldview as in mediumism, witchcraft, reincarnation and paganism generally. The phenomenon itself is so startling that participants become converted to belief in the supernatural and not infrequently end up personally involved in psychic investigation through séances, channeling, Ouija boards or various forms of divination. Thus, a parapsychologist may be called in to “investigate” the disturbance and often a psychic, channeler, or medium is brought in to communicate with the troubled spirit, and attempt to “help” it or, if it is “evil,” to “exorcise” it. Demons have a vested interest in all this because it not only supports the occult, it offers a novel and unexpected manner for them to influence or contact people. Thus, poltergeist activity encourages attempts to contact the dead, something God has forbidden as an abomination to Him: “Let no one be found among you…who practices …sorcery, …engages in witchcraft, …or who is a medium or a spiritist, or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord…” (Deut. 18:10-12).
Second, in the minds of many people, poltergeist phenomena tend to “discredit” the biblical view of the afterlife and of immediate judgment at death (Heb. 9:27). Indeed, most people do think of poltergeists as the spirits of the human dead. But if all these dead people are actually roaming around the spirit world, then the biblical portrait of confinement and judgment at death is obviously false. This scenario also supports the goals of demons who have a vested interest in deceiving people about biblical truth concerning the afterlife. Obviously, if there is no hell in the afterlife, there is no need for a Savior from hell in this life. But God tells us, “man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Heb. 9:27) and to those who reject God’s offer of salvation Jesus warned, “if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24). The writer of Hebrews asks, “how shall we escape [judgment] if we ignore such a great salvation?” and “…see to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him [Moses] who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him [Jesus] who warns us from heaven?” (Heb. 2:3; 12:25). Jesus himself warned that the unregenerate and unrighteous “will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matt. 25:46). The Bible teaches clearly that the unsaved dead are now confined in a place of punishment (Luke 16:19-31; 2 Pet. 2:9) while the saved dead are in glory with Christ (Phil. 1:23; 2 Cor. 5:6, 8). Therefore, the implication many people draw from poltergeist manifestations, that the dead roam freely, is clearly false from a biblical viewpoint.
Third, poltergeist events grant spiritual authority and credibility to the occultist, i.e., the psychic, spiritist, medium, channeler, parapsychologist, psychical researcher, etc., who investigates the disturbance and supposedly “solves” the problem. Because such persons are frequently able to eventually “resolve” the disturbance—often not without a battle of sorts—(the spirits gladly cooperating behind the scenes), the entire episode grants the occultist spiritual authority and credibility. This too is something that harmonizes with the goal of demons: to secure credibility and authority for those who actively promote the demon’s own interests. Those interests actively oppose the good purposes God has intended for men. As many former mediums have testified, all this is merely a ruse of the spirits to fool men into adopting unbiblical teachings. The story of former mediums Raphael Gasson in The Challenging Counterfeit and Victor Ernest in I Talked with Spirits are illustrative.
Fourth, poltergeists manifestations frequently harm people. In the following material and later in our final illustration we will document this. Since demons are innately evil and unredeemable, this too fits well with their own desires and purposes. In essence, all four consequences of the poltergeist are seen to support the goals of those evil spirits the Bible identifies as demons. Therefore, it is hardly out of place to suggest that poltergeists are merely a ruse of demons to further their own evil purposes. Our next section will expand on this theme.
Dr. G. H. Playfair, a member of the parapsychological Brazilia Institute for Psycho-Biophysical Research (a spiritist organization), describes poltergeist actions in his The Unknown Power: They throw rocks around, overturn furniture, wreck kitchens, set clothing on fire, soak rooms with water, rearrange people’s personal belongings and often steal them, transport anything from babies to two-ton trucks, and generally drive a lot of peace-loving citizens out of their minds. There is also evidence that they do far worse things, seriously wounding and even killing people. 10
Playfair refers to the fact that poltergeist cases can continue for years and eventually drive a family to desperation, even suicide. He mentions one incident which forcefully illustrates the true nature of these “harmless” ghosts: For in this case not only was a house totally wrecked, but several attempts were made on the life of a baby. After narrowly escaping death by burning more than once, the baby simply disappeared after a particular violent outburst of poltergeist activity. Hearing stifled cries coming from a basket of dirty clothing the desperate father rushed over to find his baby entirely buried under the clothes in the process of suffocating to death. The family had to abandon the house after all the furniture had been damaged by fire and even the roof had been pounded to pieces by the furious spirit. The place looked as if a bomb had gone off inside it, and their baby, which had not yet learned even to crawl, was lucky to be alive.11
Physical attacks from the spirit world are not as rare as some people think. UFO authority John Keel refers to various occult practices when he says: Both the literature of the secret societies and the more readily available general occult literature warn about the hazards of these practices. Poorly informed, emotionally unstable practitioners can be overwhelmed by the forces they unleash. The blundering amateur wizard can become possessed or driven insane or experience elaborate hallucinations for extended periods. All kinds of weird manifestations can descend on him, ranging from poltergeists to violent physical attacks by invisible hands. These classic psychic attacks are very similar to the problems suffered by some innocent UFO witnesses and contactees after their sightings begin. The two phenomena seem to be inexorably linked.12
John Weldon personally talked with one individual who claimed he was beaten by spirits. He was “astral projecting” (an out-of-body experience) and had his spirit purportedly thrown back into his body by other entities with such force that he was incoherent for days. A similar event happened to his roommate, with resulting insanity. Both experiences were said to have been induced by the practice of Transcendental Meditation. The person Dr. Weldon initially talked with claimed he would be subsequently beaten by the spirits merely for talking with a Christian. Because of past experience, he knew the spirits would scold him and express of their great displeasure.
Psychoanalyst and occult authority Dr. Nandor Fodor lists a well documented early twentieth century case with fairly common elements, which also involved an attempted murder by a poltergeist:
The next night Esther Cox had a frightful experience. Her body began to swell and puffed out to an abnormal size. Soon after a terrific noise, “like a peal of thunder,” woke everyone in the house. The bedclothes flew off Esther’s bed night after night, as invisible hands cut words into the plaster of the wall, while everyone heard the noise of writing, “Esther Cox, you are mine to kill”; cold water placed on the middle of the kitchen table bubbled and hissed like boiling water, yet its temperature remained unaffected; a voice announced that the house would be set on fire and for many days lighted matches were seen to fall from the ceiling on the bed; the ghost communicated by raps, said that he was an evil spirit bent on mischief and would torment Esther until she died; and things generally became so bad that Esther was compelled to leave. In the house of a friend, Mr. White, for a month everything was quiet. One day, while she was scrubbing the hall floor, the brush suddenly disappeared from under her hand. A few moments later it fell from the ceiling, narrowly escaping her head. The ghost was heard to walk about the house, he banged on the doors, made attempts to fire the house, stabbed Esther in the back with a knife, piled up seven chairs in the parlour on top of each other and pulling out one near the bottom allowed them to fall with a terrific crash.
The terrible persecution lasted for nearly a year. Walter Hubbell, the actor, was a personal witness. In 1907, Hereward Carrington interviewed some of the surviving witnesses at Amherst. The testimonies he gathered confirm Hubbell’s narrative. 13
Dr. Fodor further observed that, “The most alarming poltergeist manifestation is the lighting of fires as they often result in serious material damage and in bodily burns.” 14 (Again, this frequent connection to spontaneous fires allows one to theorize that some of the several hundred recorded instances of spontaneous human combustion may be related to poltergeist events. Only a few charred bones, teeth, and occasional extremities are left of what was once a person, while the surrounding environment always remains nearly untouched, perhaps indicating the phenomenon of the highly focused intent of the poltergeist.)
Other occurrences involve unusual teleportations of objects and shamanistic-like phenomena. In one case, a girl who had hysterical fits and vomited pins “was tormented by stones continually flung at her. The stones vanished as soon as they fell to the ground.”15 In another case, pins and needles were stuck into the tormented victim.16 As noted earlier, there are even cases of sexual attacks or actual rape by poltergeists. Essentially, these parallel the demonic incubus/succubus experience.
Dr. Kurt Koch lists one particularly brutal case of a baby being tormented. In this instance, a pastor had come to preach at a church containing a significant number of occultists, after which strange happenings began to occur. Apparently, the spirits didn’t like his preaching and sought revenge. Dr. Koch tells us:
This thoroughly sober, intelligent man of sharp judgment gave no further attention to the happenings in the parsonage. But one night he was compelled by a remarkable incident to take note of the unusual occurrences. Their baby, which slept in the adjoining room to its parents, suddenly set up a most horrible cry. The young wife hurried through the open door into the adjoining chamber to comfort the child. But she started back in astonishment, and called her husband. Both parents saw how the child had been drawn out of its bedclothes and had been turned around in its cot. On its body there were bloodsmeared fingerprints.
The man first thought it must be some brazen trick. He carefully checked the window catches and the doors into the corridor, and then searched the whole room with a torch. The child’s clothes and nappy were then carefully checked for a cause of the injuries to the child. But the parents could not find the slightest clue to explain this painful occurrence.
The mother settled the child again in its cot and quieted it. They then went back to bed. But almost immediately the terrible cries and moans broke out again. The parents together hurried into the room. The baby was again unwrapped, drawn out of the clothes and turned around in the cot. The little body showed new traces of having been violently seized, with the typical marks of a human hand. The couple now had a distinctly uncanny feeling. They took the baby into their bed, and the husband said to his wife, “Something mysterious seems to be going on after all. Come, let us pray.” The couple earnestly prayed for God’s protection and in faith committed themselves consciously to His care. Then they lay down quietly to rest, and were troubled no more in their sleep.17
In Phenomena: A Book of Wonders, Mitchell and Rickard also list several poltergeist-related psychic attacks. In South Africa in 1962, twenty-year-old Jim deBruin was being questioned about the disturbances when:
The Police Chief, John Wessels, and three constables heard twenty-year-old Jimmy scream with pain. He was wearing shorts and they could see cuts appearing on his legs even as they watched. The next day, in the presence of two officers, a deep gash appeared on his chest, although nothing had penetrated his shirt. These cuts continued for several days. They were clean, as though made with a razor or scalpel—and all who saw them agreed that the young man could not have inflicted them on himself.18
In another famous case that occurred just after the 1848 American spiritualist revival:
The poltergeist connection was more clearly established in the celebrated Phelps case in Stratford, Connecticut, in 1850. The disturbances centered on Dr. Phelp’s twelve-year-old son, Harry. In Ghosts and Poltergeists, Father Thurston’s summaries of some events read like attacks on the boy—stones would be pitched at him and a violent force would lift him off the ground to strike his head on the ceiling. Once he was thrown into a water tank; and before the eyes of shocked visitors he was caught up and suspended in the branches of a tree while his clothes were methodically torn to ribbons by something invisible. In a pamphlet published in 1800, A Narrative of Some Extraordinary Things That Happened to Mr. Richard Giles’ Children, by a Mr. Durbin, extensive attacks by invisibles on the children are detailed—only these left teethmarks in young flesh, like the case of Eleonore Zungun. The witnesses describe the horrific sight of the little girl throttled by an invisible hand, seeing the sides of her throat pushed in, but without any obvious contraction of her neck muscles. Later the children were pushed and pulled, slapped and spat upon. On one occasion, five witnesses saw “their arms bitten about twenty times that evening… they could not do it themselves as we were looking at them the whole time. We examined the bites and found on them the impression of eighteen or twenty teeth, with saliva or spittle all over them, in the shape of a mouth… very wet and clammy like spittle, and it smelt rank.” 19
A final gruesome case is reminiscent of some UFO incidents which Dr. Weldon reported on in his second UFO book, Close Encounters:
In 1761, five women were returning from collecting sticks near Ventimiglia, in northern Italy. Suddenly one of them cried out and dropped dead. Her companions were shocked by what they saw. Her clothes and shoes were torn into fine shreds and scattered up to six feet around her. There were wounds on her head that exposed the skull; the muscles on her right side had given way exposing her intestines; her sacrum was broken and most internal organs were ruptured or livid; her abdominal region bore many deep and parallel incisions, and the flesh on one hip and thigh was almost carried away, exposing the pubic bone and the broken head of the femur which had been forced from its socket.
This horrific event was reported to the French Academy of Sciences by M. Morand, and the Annual
Register for that year quotes him as noting that these grievous effects took place with no sign of penetration of the woman’s clothes, nor was there any blood on the scene, nor any sign of her missing flesh. It was as though she had been the focal point for an instantaneous, silent, and deadly explosion.20
The above examples—and hundreds more could be cited—offer strong evidence that the poltergeist is far more than a “harmless” ghost or mere adolescent psychokinesis. These suggestions eventually become absurd.
1 Colin Wilson, Mysteries: An Investigation Into the Occult, The Paranormal and the Supernatural (NY: G. P.
Putnam’s Sons, 1978), pp. 462-463.
2 Kurt Koch, Christian Counseling and Occultism (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publishers, 1982), p. 181.
3 Raymond Bayless, The Enigma of the Poltergeist (West Nyack, NY: Parker, 1967), p. 158.
4 Ibid., p. 9.
5 Ibid., p. 205.
6 Michael Goss, compiler, Poltergeists: An Annotated Bibliography of Works in English, Circa 1880-1970 (Metuchen,
NJ: Scarecrow, 1979), p. ix.
7 Ibid., p. xii.
8 Raphael Gasson, The Challenging Counterfeit (Plainfield, NJ: Logos, 1970).
9 Victor H. Ernest, I Talked With Spirits (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1971).
10 Guy Playfair, The Unknown Power (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1975), p. 240, cf. pp. 253-54.
11 Ibid., p. 265.
12 John Keel, Our Haunted Planet (Greenwich, CT: Fawcett, 1971), p. 162.
13 Nandor Fodor, An Encyclopedia of Psychic Science (Secaucus, NJ: The Citadel Press, 1966), p. 292.
17 Koch, Christian Counseling and Occultism, p. 181.
18 John Mitchell, Robert J. M. Rickard, Phenomena: A Book of Wonders (NY: Pantheon, 1970), p. 41.
2TDStaff1204 Poltergeists Part 2