Last Updated on May 31, 2021 by Brandon Hall
When people think of a typical ghost, it’s usually a strange figure of a deceased person who just vanishes from sight. Some of us might think of shadow people who flit from place to place. What we usually don’t think of, though, is a being that is capable of throwing objects, banging on walls, or pushing others around.
And yet, it is actually fairly common among a specific type of ghosts. A ghost known for causing physical chaos in its area is known as a poltergeist, the German word for “noisy ghost.’ Throughout history, cultures of all kinds had stories of ghosts capable of lifting items, pounding against walls, opening doors, and even attacking others.
This unique type of ghost has been discussed around the world and even made its way into pop culture via movies like Poltergeist and The Haunting. That being said, there’s a lot more to poltergeists that just noise and bangs. Here’s what every would-be ghost hunter needs to know…
What Are Poltergeists, Really?
These “noisy ghosts” are a specific category of haunting that can interact with matter and make noise by hitting or throwing objects nearby. For the most part, poltergeists seem to be fairly cognizant and capable of understanding that they’re interacting with people.
Unlike typical ghosts, poltergeists generally appear to be malevolent, with the intent of frightening or even harming people around them. Their actions are generally not understood but tend to involve loud bangs, objects being thrown, and similar behavior.
What Are Poltergeists Capable Of?
It’s worth pointing out that poltergeists are really only known for moving around objects and making noise. As far as other abilities go, things are pretty variable. Poltergeists can vary greatly from one haunting to another.
Poltergeists can be both weak and strong, and how they eIn many cases, the bangs, crashes, and scratches poltergeists make don’t actually involve any damage to the items in a home. Other times, that racket is actually coming from things being flung off shelves.
Light poltergeist activity might include things like pulling the sheets off sleeping people, heavy footsteps in hallways, or making tapping noises on doors. Heavy poltergeist activity involves things like pushing people off stairs, pictures being ripped off walls, doors slamming shut, and similar things
Another, stranger, aspect of poltergeist actvity involves missing items. Homes haunted by poltergeists have a strange tendency of having items go missing. When (or if) they turn up they’re often placed in a place where they couldn’t possibly be placed.
What Do Poltergeists Look Like?
Unlike with other types of ghosts, poltergeist appearances are totally random. Many poltergeists are totally invisible to people, but seem to be noticeable by animals. Some poltergeists can also be visibly seen walking through hallways just like a typical person would, while others may appear like dark mists.
It all seems to depend on what kind of power the ghost has. Stronger ghosts are more likely to be visible than weaker ones. However, some of the most powerful poltergeists in the world have never been seen.
What Causes Poltergeist Hauntings To Happen?
Poltergeists are considered to be a different type of haunting than most others. With most ghosts, there is an understanding that a person died and what’s left is their spirit. This isn’t always the consensus when it comes to poltergeist hauntings.
Believe it or not, there are multiple schools of thought when it comes to the origins of poltergeists. These below are the most common:
Much like with many other haunts, one of the leading beliefs behind poltergeist origins deals with a person who died and had unfinished business on Earth. Many people believe that poltergeists are simply ghosts of people who want to cause a little chaos or who want to let their rage loose on the living.
Since most hauntings are ascribed to the deceased, this concept makes a lot of sense. This is especially true when you look at the types of places that tend to attract poltergeist activity. Homes that are known for being places of violence are especially prone to attacks.
The Enfield Poltergeist is an excellent example of a poltergeist believed to be the spirit of an angry soul. A home in Enfield, England became the focal point of a major paranormal investigation after tenants saw chairs moving by themselves and heard loud bangs echo through the walls. Many investigators believed this to be a spirit who hadn’t passed on.
Many Christians and religious groups believe that poltergeist activity, particularly when it’s very intense, could be the work of demonic entities that are trying to attack people. There’s a common belief that human spirits can’t move objects or attack other people, which infers that a non-human entity could be at fault.
Borley Rectory, once known as “the most haunted house of England” was known for full-bodied apparitions of nuns, spectral horses, and monks. Terrifying as the phantoms were, the poltergeist activity was worse.
Rectors and family members who stayed in the house were regularly attacked by unseen forces, forced to watch in terror as cooking utensils flew across the kitchen, and were repeatedly hit by levitating stones.
Multiple exorcisms were performed at the rectory, but none were successful due to priests being hit with heavy rocks as they recited passages from the bible. The rectory eventually burned down, possibly sparked by the demons themselves.
One of the stranger aspects of poltergeist hauntings is its tendency to focus on children and teenagers going through puberty, as well as people who lead very troubled lives. In many cases, hauntings occur in locations where people haven’t died and no history of violence occurs.
Parapsychologists often believe that the poltergeist activity isn’t caused by a ghost. Instead, they believe that a person who may be too stressed may unlock paranormal abilities that they don’t have control of.
One of the biggest proponents of this theory was psychologist Carl Jung, who blamed a woman’s trance on a table and a knife suddenly splitting in two.
Along with psychic phenomena and ghosts, another subset of theories involve natural phenomena. Scientists have suggested that underwater currents might be the cause of some of the bangs and squeaks associated with poltergeists.
Other suggestions that fit under the “natural phenomena” umbrella include electrical interference, ball lightning, and seismic activity. That being said, this explanation doesn’t explain the intelligent behavior of poltergeist activity.
Is The Movie Poltergeist Realistic?
Well, yes and no.
Poltergeist was based on a true story about a haunting that took place in Long Island. The haunting did include objects moving on their own, people being attacked, and children seeing strange figures in the house.
However, the “Hollywood effect” is very real and it was sensationalized to be a more terrifying tale onscreen. So, while the real haunting may not have involved children being dragged into voids, it was still fairly terrifying for the people involved.
How Can You Get Rid Of A Poltergeist?
If you are unlucky enough to end up with a poltergeist in your home, your options are fairly limited on what you can do. Poltergeists are very different from standard hauntings and are unpredictable when it comes to dispelling them. Here’s what we know about them:
- Some poltergeists will cease activity if asked politely. This is rare, but it does happen.
- Doing an exorcism or cleansing tends to help. This seems to put a kibosh on most hauntings, including poltergeist activity. A house blessing, a cleansing with sage, or even an exorcism can work.
- Some won’t respond to exorcisms. Though most poltergeists will cease behavior if an exorcism is performed, not all do. The Bell Witch haunting, which eventually culminated in the death of a person, was a poltergeist haunting that didn’t respond to exorcisms. Borley Rectory’s ghosts, too, are a good example.
- Many suddenly stop acting out, or fade out their activity over time. A common trend among poltergeists is to have their energy decrease after major bursts. One might even say they “grow out of it.”
Generally speaking, the best way to get rid of a poltergeist is to just get away from them, and hope they don’t follow you!