Poltergeist hauntings come in stages, explains guest writer EVELYN HOLLOW, paranormal researcher from the BBC’s Battersea Poltergeist podcast in this guest post for the Spooky Isles
Poltergeists are a particularly apex type of haunting that differ strongly from other garden variety ghosts in not only the types of activity involved but the ways in which the phenomena escalate.
The word poltergeist is German in origin – translating approximately to ‘noisy ghost’. For many the term ghost can refer to simply physical happenings that would normally be caused by a living being, although none is present, right the way up to the appearance of a being that is not corporeal in form.
This phenomena can be objects being moved seemingly of their own accord, physical sensation (touch, breath, etc.), temperature fluctuations that make no sense in relation to the environment (strong cold spot in an otherwise warm room with no draughts or vents), disembodied voices, a person being clearly seen and then vanishing, and/or strange noises.
Sometimes only one of these is experienced, more often a few coupled together, but in order for a ghost to be classified as a poltergeist it must satisfy the requirements of several types of phenomena all occurring and in an escalating pattern that follows set directional stages.
Most paranormal psychologists and occultists classify a poltergeist by five distinct stages, I personally have always classified them by seven (which I then further break down into four distinct categories).
Incubation – Interaction – Intention – Insolence
Poltergeist Haunting Stage One – Presence
Most feel that a poltergeist haunting begins with noises, but I believe it begins even before that – with a sense of presence. This is often feelings of dread and uneasiness, cold spots, anxiety, discomfort. These are of course every day occurrences for some and are readily explicable but in a larger framework they mark an important beginning. In most poltergeist cases I find that this stage is overlooked, we want to jump straight to physical experiences, but we forget the bodily and mental sensations that precipitate it. This is point of manifestation.
Stage Two – Noises
In begins with a sound. Usually described as scratching in the walls, believed to be rats or other infestation of vermin. Occasionally it is footsteps in a still house. Sometimes it is soft banging, like the clanging of pipes expanding and cooling. At this point it could well be pipes or rodents or other structural explanations – and they very often are. But sometimes, and just sometimes, they are the opening act of something much worse.
Stage Three – Moving Objects
At this point we enter the material stage of a poltergeist haunting. A point at which an entity connects with the physical realm we inhabit. Objects appear to move of their own accord. A little at first; an ornament knocked from a shelf without force, plates falling from a table with nobody near them, furniture being toppled inexplicably.
Here is a point of connection that appears to violate classical physics and the laws of thermodynamics. Here is the point that confusion and unease begin to peak. It is one thing to hear things, and certainly chalk it up to mental fatigue or misinformation in the brain, it is another to witness an impossible act with our own eyes and ears. We rely on our physical senses to understand the world around us, if we can’t trust them than what can we trust?
Stage Four – Apporting & Disapporting of Objects
Apporting is the word for an object appearing suddenly and resolutely in our physical space, Disapporting is the inverse – an object vanishing suddenly and wholly out of space. This is no longer explicable in classical terms; a substantial object cannot materialise or dematerialise, this is the behaviour of sole particles sometimes under set conditions, but anything larger is governed not by the quantum but by the Newtonian. This is where we move from ‘explicable and possibly not paranormal’ to ‘what the f–‘.
Stage Five – Destruction
This is the point at which we are able to clearly separate a haunting from a poltergeist with most distinction. A garden variety ghost may be attributed to any of the previous stages but this one earns the poltergeist its name. Phenomena now escalates from causing discomfort, nuisance, and confusion, to out right dread and fear. This is the point at which objects are smashed, furniture is thrown, houses and personal belongings are destroyed. These are petulant acts. The entity, if it is so, has a clear agenda. And like a pet that is ignored, it begins wrecking everything in its path in order to gain attention. Why? Because it wishes to be heard.
Stage Six – Communication
It is now that a Polt can no longer be ignored. It has altered the lives of those who dwell in its space, has often latched itself onto one particular human, and demands an audience. It is here that messages come through in a variety of form.
In the first Battersea Poltergeist case that took place in the 1920s, and investigated by Harry Price, it was in the form of paper notes apporting from the ceiling. In the later Battersea Poltergeist case of the 1950s, investigated by Harold Chibbet, it was in the form of raps/knocks that corresponded to answers or letters.
It’s rare that this then further becomes an intelligible voice that we can perceive, but it does happen – in the latter case the voice of the grandmother’s mother was heard, which subsequently traumatised her so badly she never recovered and then died. This communication can then escalate to serious forms of attention seeking – such as fire starting.
Stage Seven – Threat to Life
Some poltergeist cases escalate to the point of bodily harm. Bites. Scratches. Being thrown across a room. In rare cases it can even result in death. At this point regardless of whether one believes in the paranormal it must be acknowledged that people are coming to serious harm and must vacate the building – unfortunately a poltergeist may not be tied to a building but a person. The absolute violation of person is its final form.
EVELYN HOLLOW is a paranormal psychologist, who recently appeared as a expert commentator on the BBC’s The Battersea Poltergeist podcast. Evelyn talks to the Spooky Isle about her thoughts about legendary case, as well poltergeists in general. You can read more from Evelyn Hollow on her website https://www.evelynhollow.com