Poltergeist: (German) poltern means "rumbling" or "knocking" and geist means "spirit".

A Poltergeist?

In M.'s home, sounds of footsteps could be heard pacing back and forth along the floor. No one could discern the source. There was no basement and no upper floor, so M. and her friends concluded that the sounds obviously could not be coming from some intruder walking on an upper or lower floor.

Everyone who observed and heard the sounds said it sounded exactly like someone was walking back and forth across the living room floor. Sometimes the sounds would stop for a few minutes, and then continue.

Electricians and plumbers could not find the source of what appeared to be footfalls.

When M. moved into another home, she was troubled by what she called a "mischief maker" who seemed to move items around inside her house. She said she would place an object, a knick-knack, for example, in a specific place, but when she returned from work the object would be in another room. She started deliberately placing objects and noting exactly where she had placed them, and inevitably, when she would return home, the objects would have been moved, either across the room, or into another room altogether.

When M. and her friend A. were teenagers, M.'s friend A. had an unusual problem. When she would walk into a certain room in her house, the light would go on, though the light switch would be in the off position.

She gathered friends at her home to show them what occurred and asked that each of them walk through the door, too, to see if the light came on when they walked in. Each one stepped through the door. The light remained off. But when A. walked in, the light went on.

Her friends tried to find an explanation. They even jumped up and down in the doorway, thinking that maybe weight was somehow triggering the light, though A. actually weighed less than some of her friends. Nothing happened. They tried tapping the walls and checking the light switch by removing the plate, thinking that somehow A. was tripping the light by movement.

No one ever came up with an answer as to why the light came on when the switch was in an off position only when A. entered the room.

The Rosenheim Poltergeist Case

One of the most famous cases was the German Rosenheim Poltergeist case in the late 1960's. In that case, a Rosenheim law office seemed to be plagued with paranormal activity. Pictures on the walls rotated, ceiling fixtures spun, light bulbs exploded, and furniture moved around the room. The focus of the poltergeist activity seemed to be a young secretary named Anna S. who admitted that she despised her job. Whenever Anna was gone from the office, the poltergeist activity ceased.

When she returned, it returned in full force.

Esther Cox

In Nova Scotia in the 1800's, a young girl named Esther Cox seemed to be the victim of a poltergeist. There were outbreaks of fires in the home and objects seemed to fly of their own accord. Esther seemed to be attacked by an unseen enemy. She was stabbed and otherwise assaulted by an invisible assailant. Sometimes it seemed her entire body swelled up. Her family found these words carved above her bed: "Esther, you are mine to kill."

Eleanore Zugun

One of the most well-known cases of poltergeist phenomena involved a Romanian girl named Eleanore Zugun. In 1926, the phenomena was studied by a German parapsychologist named Fritz Grunewald. Eleanore seemed to be attacked--slapped, bitten and scratched--by an invisible assailant. Other common poltergeist-type activity allegedly occurred around Eleanore. Objects flew about the room, coins seemed to fall out of nowhere. Eleanore seemed to believe that the devil was attacking her. Parapsychologist Harry Price invited Eleanore to the National Laboratory of Psychical Research in the U.K. and photographed the welts and scratches on her face. Price allegedly believed that the marks on Eleanore were not self-inflicted, but were caused by something paranormal. The attacks evidently stopped in 1927.

The Bell Witch

John and Lucy Bell of Tennessee lived on a farm with their nine children in the 1800's. The family began hearing strange rapping sounds and scraping noises, sounds like dogs fighting, and choking and gasping sounds for which they could find no source. Their bedclothes were pulled off their beds in the night by some seemingly invisible force. Sometimes Richard and Betsy Bell's hair was pulled. The poltergeist attacks seems to focus on two Bell children--Richard and Betsy, but particularly on Betsy. Betsy's face would be bright red from being slapped by what appeared to be an invisible assailant.

The poltergeist at first seemed to just make gasping sounds and whisper, but later spoke obscenities mingled with Biblical quotes. Eventually, four distinct voices were heard, two male voices and two female voices. Oddly, when Betsy fainted, the voices stopped. Some people suspected that Betsy was the source of the voices, but psychiatrist and paranormal investigator Nandor Fodor did not think Betsy was capable of sophisticated ventriloquism.

The "witch", as they called her, seemed to have a particular enmity toward John Bell. Apparently, the "witch" announced that it would torture and torment "Old Jack Bell" and kill him. John Bell subsequently became physically ill--his tongue swelled and he felt that he could not move his jaw.

When John Bell was bed-ridden, the "witch" cursed at him. Sometimes his face was slapped. For three more years the Bell "witch" tormented John Bell. Finally in December of 1820, John Bell died. His son, Richard, found a dark-colored bottle in his father's medicine cabinet. The "witch's" voice evidently said that she had give John the dose that killed him. The family doctor came to house and tested the medicine by administering it to the cat. The cat died. The "witch" seemed to gloat.

After John Bell's death, the poltergeist activity did not stop, but seemed to lessen considerably. The next year the family heard a loud sound coming from the chimney that they described like the shot of a cannonball. There appeared to be an explosion and then a ball of smoke appeared. The "witch's" voice announced that it would be gone for seven years.

Some who studied the case claimed that the "witch" never returned, while others stated that it did, but that the poltergeist disturbance were quite mild. Nandor Fodor apparently felt that Betsy hated her father because he had made sexual assaults on her and that her rage toward him was the source of the bizarre phenomena.

This is a comprehensive site about the Bell Witch.


Nandor Fodor (1895-1964) theorized that poltergeist activity occurs in homes where an individual (particularly an adolescent) lives who feels repressed hostility or other intense, but buried, emotions.

Parapsychologists William G. Roll and J. Gaither Pratt theorized that the source of poltergeist activity could be what they called recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis or 'RSPK'.

A Fictitious Poltergeist (or Ghost)

In the 1970's, a group of Canadians (The Toronto Society for Psychical Research) attempted to create a fake entity. They called their creation "Philip" and made up a detailed life history for him. They decided to make Philip a citizen of Britain during the time of the British Civil War. They also decided that he should be an unhappily married man with a gypsy mistress whom they decided to call Margo. Then they decided that Philip's wife, whom they named Dorothea, would cause the gypsy's death by accusing her of witchcraft.

The entity that the Canadians conjured up eventually appeared to manifest--the group heard loud knocks on the table and it appeared that their conjured Philip was into table-tipping, but no ectoplasm or apports.

The table-tipping and other phenomena was filmed and presented as a documentary on television in 1974. Iris Owen and Margaret Sparrow wrote about their experiences in their book "Conjuring Up Philip: An Adventure In Psychokinesis". Iris Owen is the wife of Dr. George Owen, of the Toronto Society for Psychical Research.


Wolfgang Goethe

A doppelganger is a German term for "double walker". Those who believe in doppelgangers think that everyone on earth has a spirit double somewhere. There is a legend that if you see your doppelganger, you will die.

The famous Goethe believed that he saw his doppelganger while out riding.

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