Can we explain the poltergeist?

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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#21  Postby jerome » Apr 05, 2013 12:07 am

A much shorter letter this time, from Suky again to her brother --

MISS SUSANNAH WESLEY TO HER
BROTHER SAMUEL

Dear Brother Wesley,-I should farther satisfy you concerning the disturbances, but it is needless, because my sisters Emilia and Hetty write so particularly about it. One thing I believe you do not know-that is, last Sunday, to my father's no small amazement, his trencher [plate] danced upon the table a pretty while, without anybody's stirring the table. When lo! an adventurous wretch took it up, and spoiled the sport, for it remained still ever after. How glad should I be to talk with you about
it. Send me some news, for we are secluded from the sight, or hearing, of any versal thing except Jeffery [her name for the spook].

Susannah Wesley.
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#22  Postby jerome » Apr 05, 2013 12:14 am

A PASSAGE IN A LETTER FROM MRS WESLEY TO SAMUEL,
DATED MARCH 27TH, 1717

I cannot imagine how you should be so curious about our unwelcome guest. For my part I am quite tired with hearing or speaking of it; but if you come among us, you will find enough to satisfy all your scruples, and perhaps may hear or see it yourself.

S. Wesley.


Mrs Wesley here complains she is fed up with the topic, that formed so much of her earlier correspondence. This is the end of March - events have now being going on for four whole months, so perhaps that is to be expected. The letter tells us nothing except Samuel has still not found time to return home from London and witness things himself. He has by this time written to most of the older children, his father and mother etc asking for details several times. (we have his letters, which I have omitted to prevent this becoming even more tedious!)

Five days later Emilia writes to a mutual acquaintance in London, and notably the earlier injunctions ot say nothing of the matter to outsiders have been dropped.

A PASSAGE IN A LETTER FROM EMILIA
TO MR. M. BORRY, DATED APRIL 1

Tell my brother the spright was with us last night, and heard by many of our family, especially by our maid and myself. She sat up with drink, and it came just at one o'clock and opened the dining-room door. After some time it shut again. She saw as well as heard it both shut and open; then it began to knock as usual. But I dare write no longer, lest I should
hear it.

Emilia Wesley.


Neither of these short passages adds much to what we already know though.

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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#23  Postby jerome » Apr 05, 2013 12:22 am

OK, this one is too long to post all at once, but finally we get to read the account Rev. Wesley prepared at Samuel's request. I'll work through it in stages.

REV. WESLEY'S JOURNAL, OR DIARY, TRANSCRIBED BY HIS SON JACK, AUGUST 27,
1726, AND FROM HIM BY SAMUEL, FEBRUARY 7, 1730-1

AN ACCOUNT OF NOISES AND DISTURBANCES IN MY HOUSE AT EPWORTH,
LINCOLNSHIRE, IN DECEMBER AND JANUARY 1716

From the 1st of December my children and servants heard many strange noises, groans, knockings, etc., in every storey and most of the rooms of my house, but I hearing nothing of it myself-they would not tell me for some time, because, according to the vulgar opinion, if it boded any ill to me I could not hear it. When it increased, and the family could not easily conceal it, they told me of it.

My daughters, Susannah and Ann, were below stairs in the dining-room, and heard first at the doors, then over their heads, and the night after a knocking under their feet, though nobody was in the chambers or below them. The like they and my servants heard in both the kitchens, at the door against the partition, and over them. The maid-servant heard groans
as of a dying man.

My daughter Emilia coming downstairs to draw up the clock and lock the doors at ten o'clock at night, as usual, heard under the staircase a sound among some bottles there, as if they had been all dashed to pieces; but when she looked, all was safe.

Something, like the steps of a man, was heard going up and downstairs at all hours of the night, and vast rumblings below stairs and in the garrets. My man [Robert], who lay in the garret, heard someone come slaring through the garret to his chamber, rattling by his side as if against his shoes, though he had none there; at other times walking up and downstairs, when all the house were in bed, and gobbling like a turkey-cock. Noises were heard in the nursery and all the other chambers; knocking first at the feet of the bed and behind it; and a sound like that of dancing in a matted chamber, next the nursery, when the door was locked and nobody in it.

My wife would have persuaded them it was rats within doors, and some unlucky [prob. unfortunate, desiring charity?] people knocking without; till at last we heard several loud knocks in our own chamber, on my side of the bed; but till, I think, the 21st at night I heard nothing of it. That night I was waked a little before one by nine distinct very loud knocks, which seemed to be in the next room to ours, with a sort of pause at every third stroke. I thought it might be somebody without the house, and having got a stout mastiff [dog], hoped he would soon rid me of it.
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#24  Postby jerome » Apr 05, 2013 12:30 am

I'll post one more part of the "Journal" which was clearly written after events, not being a diary in the modern sense now --

"The next night I heard six knocks, but not so loud as the former. I know not whether it was in the morning after Sunday, the 23rd, when about seven my daughter Emily called her mother into the nursery, and told her she might now hear the noises there. She went in, and heard it at the bedsteads, and then under the beds, then at the head of it. She knocked, and it answered her. She looked under the bed and thought something ran from thence, but could not well tell of what shape, but thought it most like a badger.

The next night but one [Christmas night] we were awakened about one by the noises, which were so violent it was in vain to think of sleep while they continued. I rose, but my wife would rise with me. We went into every chamber and downstairs; and generally as we went into one room, we heard it in that behind us, though all the family bad been in bed several hours. When we were going downstairs, and at the bottom of them, we heard, as Emily had done before, a clashing among the bottles, as if they had been broke all to pieces, and another sound distinct from it, as if a piece of money had been thrown before us. The same, three of my daughters heard at another time.

We went through the hall into the kitchen, when our mastiff came whining to us, as he did always after the first night of its coming; for then he barked violently at it, but was silent afterwards, and seemed more afraid than any of the children. We still heard it rattle and thunder in every room above or behind us, locked as well as open, except my study, where
as yet it never came. After two we went to bed, and were pretty quiet the rest of the night.

Wednesday night, December 26, after or a little before ten, my daughter Emilia heard the signal of its beginning to play, with which she was perfectly acquainted; it was like the strong winding up of a jack. She called us, and I went into the nursery, where it used to be most violent. The rest of the children were asleep. It began with knocking in the kitchen underneath, then seemed to be at the bed's feet, then under the bed, and last at the head of it. I went downstairs, and knocked with my
stick against the joists of the kitchen. It answered me as often and as loud as I knocked; but then I knocked, as I usually do, at my door, but this puzzled it, and it did not answer, or not in the same method, though the children heard it do the same twice or thrice after.

I went upstairs and found it still knocking hard, though with some respite, sometimes under the bed, sometimes at the bed's head. I observed my children that they were frightened in their sleep, and trembled very much till it waked them. I stayed there alone, bid them go to sleep, and sat at the bed's head by them, when the noise began again. I asked what it was, and why it disturbed innocent children, and did not come to me in my study if it had anything to say to me. Soon after it gave one knock on
the outside of the house. All the rest were within, and knocked off for that night.

I went out of doors, sometimes alone, at others with company, and walked round the house, but could see or hear nothing. Several nights the latch of our lodging chamber would be lifted up very often when all were in bed. One night, when the noise was great in the kitchen, and on a deal partition, and the door in the yard, the latch whereof was often lifted up, my daughter Emilia went and held it fast on the inside, but it was still lifted up, and the door pushed violently against her, though
nothing was to be seen on the outside.

When we were at prayers and came to the prayer for King George and the prince it would make a great noise over our heads constantly, whence some of the family called it a Jacobite. I have been thrice pushed by an invisible power, once against the corner of my desk in the study, a second time against the door of the matted chamber, a third time against
the right side of the frame of my study door as I was going in.

I followed the noise into almost every room in the house, both by day and by night, with lights and without, and have sat alone for some time, and when I heard the noise, spoke to it to tell me what it was, but never heard any articulate voice, and only once or twice two or three feeble squeaks, a little louder than the chirping of a bird, but not like the noise of rats, which I have often heard.
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#25  Postby jerome » Apr 05, 2013 12:53 am

It seems unreasonable to go to bed without finishing the Journal, so --

"I had designed on Friday, December the 28th, to make a visit to a friend, Mr. Downs, at Normandy, and stay some days with him, but the noises were so boisterous on Thursday night, that I did not care to leave my family. So I went to Mr. Hoole of Haxey, and desired his company on Friday night. He came, and it began after ten, a little later than ordinary. The
younger children were gone to bed, the rest of the family and My Hoole were together in the matted chamber. I sent the servants down to fetch in some fuel, went with them, and staid in the kitchen till they came in.

When they were gone I heard loud noises against the doors and partition, and at length the usual signal, though somewhat after the time. I had never heard it before, but knew it by the description my daughter had given me. It was much like the turning of a windmill when the wind changes. When the servants returned I went up to the company, who had heard the other noises below, but not the signal. We heard all the knockings as usual from one chamber to another, but at its going off,like the rubbing of a beast against the wall, but from that time till January the 24th we were quiet.

Having received a letter from Samuel the day before relating to it, I read what I had written of it to my family, and this day at morning prayer the family heard the usual knocks at the prayer for the king. At night they were more distinct, both in the prayer for the king and that for the prince, and one very loud knock at the AMEN was heard by my wife and most of my children at the inside of my bed. I heard nothing myself.

After nine, Robert Brown, sitting alone by the fire in the back kitchen, saw something come out of the copper-hole like a rabbit, but less, and turned round five times very swiftly. Its ears lay flat upon its neck, and its little scut [tail] stood straight up. He ran after it with the tongs in his hands, but when he could find nothing he was frighted, and went to the maid in the parlour.

On Friday, the 25th, having prayers at church, I shortened as usual those in the family at morning, omitting the confession, absolution, and prayers for the king and prince. I observed when this is done there is no knocking. I therefore used them one morning for a trial; at the name of King George it began to knock, and did the same when I prayed for the prince. Two knocks I heard, but took no notice after prayers, till after all who were in the room, ten persons besides me, spoke of it, and said
they heard it. No noise at all at the rest of the prayers.

Sunday, January 27.-Two soft strokes at the morning prayers for King George above stairs."


The account was the one Samuel had written to his father and requested in his first reply following his mothers letter with which we opened the account. The fact it was prepared at this time probably accounts for why it breaks off here. Jack also copied a few dated entries from his father's diary proper...

Friday, December 21.-Knocking I heard first, I think, this night; to which disturbances, I hope, God will in His good time put an end.

Sunday, December 23.-Not much disturbed with the noises that are now grown customary to me.

Wednesday, December 26. -Sat up to hear noises. Strange! spoke to it, knocked off.

Friday 28.-The noises very boisterous and disturbing this night.

Saturday 29.-Not frighted with the continued disturbances of my family.

Tuesday, January 1, 1717. -My family have had no disturbance since I
went.


Perhaps surprisingly we have more to come, but these are the primary documents prepared around the time the manifestations were still current. The later statements I will give were taken down some ten years after events, so we can not rely on them as much as these contemporary writings.

So what was going on? I don't know, but I'd like to hear your ideas!

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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#26  Postby epete » Apr 05, 2013 2:46 am

jerome wrote:The old debate having died down a bit (I think it's a year since the last entry) it struck me that I have missed talking about poltergeists. I have become in the last twelve months even more convinced the humble poltergeist deserves more love and attention from the scientific community, and it struck me that it might be interesting to look at a few cases in more detail, and see what people thought.

This is one of the more interesting poltergiest/haunting cases, and occurred at Epworth parsonage in the 18th century. I will offer a letter that opens our contemporary accounts, from Mrs S Wesley the mother to her son Samuel who was away in London at the time.

TO MR. SAMUEL WESLEY FROM HIS MOTHER

January 12, 1716-17.

Dear Sam,-

This evening we were agreeably surprised with your pacquet, which brought the welcome news of your being alive, after we had been in the greatest panic imaginable, almost a month, thinking either you was dead, or one of your brothers by some misfortune been killed.

The reason of our fears is as follows. On the first of December our maid heard, at the door of the dining-room, several dismal groans, like a person in extremes, at the point of death. We gave little heed to her relation, and endeavoured to laugh her out of her fears. Some nights (two or three) after, several of the family heard a strange knocking in divers places, usually three or four knocks at a time, and then stayed a little.

This continued every night for a fortnight; sometimes it was in the garret, but most commonly in the nursery, or green chamber. We all heard it but your father, and I was not willing he should be informed of it, lest he should fancy it was against his own death, which, indeed, we all apprehended. But when it began to be troublesome, both day and night, that few or none of the family durst be alone, I resolved to tell him of it, being minded he should speak to it. At first he would not believe but somebody did it to alarm us; but the night after, as soon as he was in bed, it knocked loudly nine times, just by his bedside. He rose, and went to see if he could find out what it was, but could see nothing. Afterwards he heard it as the rest.

One night it made such a noise in the room over our heads, as if several people were walking, then run up and down stairs, and was so outrageous that we thought the children would be frighted, so your father and I rose and went down in the dark to light a candle. Just as we came to the bottom of the broad stairs, having hold of each other, on my side there seemed as if somebody had emptied a bag of money at my feet; and on his, as if all the bottles under the stairs (which were many) had been dashed in a thousand pieces. We passed through the hall into the kitchen, and got the candle and went to see the children, whom we found asleep.

The next night your father would get Mr. Hoole to be at our house, and we all sat together till one or two o'clock in the morning, and heard the knocking as usual. Sometimes it would make a noise like the winding up of a jack, at other times, as that night Mr. Hoole was with us, like a carpenter planing deals; but most commonly it knocked thrice and stopped, and then thrice again, and so many hours together. We persuaded your father to speak and try if any voice would be heard. One night about six o'clock he went into the nursery in the dark, and at first heard several deep groans, then knocking. He adjured it to speak if it had power and tell him why it troubled his house, but no voice was heard, but it knocked thrice aloud. Then be questioned if it were Sammy, and bid it, if it were and could not speak, knock again, but it knocked no more that night, which made us hope it was not against your death.

Thus it continued till the 26th of December, when it loudly knocked (as your father used to do at the gate) in the nursery and departed. We have various conjectures what this may mean. For my own part, I fear nothing now you are safe at London hitherto, and I hope God will still preserve you. Though sometimes I am inclined to think my brother is dead. Let me know your thoughts on it.
S. W.


While obviously at this distance we are unlikely to be able to establish causes, we can at least look at what the texts tell us, and discuss how we would have set about investigating the case. This letter and the ones that will follow were collected by the addressee Samuel Wesley, and later published, and accounts and testimony were also collected by his younger brother John Wesley, who was away at school at the time of the disturbances.

Any thoughts?
j x


Sounds like a possum, or whatever the equivalent annoying nocturnal house dwellers you have in the UK.
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#27  Postby epete » Apr 05, 2013 3:03 am

Ah, should have read the thread. I see it has advanced well past that.
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#28  Postby Onyx8 » Apr 05, 2013 3:53 am

Not really it's still just anecdote. Create a narrative around a three hundred year old story, and then...what? All these people thought this and then that apparently about something that is at base, unexplained, and what is expected to be gathered from this? That people back then had things happen that they didn't understand and guessed it to be this or that thing which was the superstition of the day? :shrug:
The problem with fantasies is you can't really insist that everyone else believes in yours, the other problem with fantasies is that most believers of fantasies eventually get around to doing exactly that.
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#29  Postby CookieJon » Apr 05, 2013 5:28 am

Psychological experiments conducted by aliens pretending to be poltergeists?
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#30  Postby chairman bill » Apr 05, 2013 9:29 am

OK. Let's take the accounts at face value. I have no reason to doubt the events as described, but some caution should enter into our analysis. For example, eye-witness testimony is unreliable. People will embellish events & mis-remember them, even quite soon after they occur. Further, as people talk about their collective experiences, they can take in the different perspectives & add them to their own 'recollections', even though they had not originally been part of what they remembered. This is conflation of memories, rather than pure embellishments, but it is functionally the same thing, in that memories are distorted. All this can happen quite soon after & does not require great passage of time. When you consider that our memories are quite possibly rememberings of the last time we called a memory to consciousness, and not a recollection of the original memory of the actual event, the likelihood of embellishment & distortions increases. So, later recollections are potentially even less reliable.

If you've ever been in a house that is in the process of experiencing settling or subsidence, you'll know that strange noises are not uncommon, nor are events such as doors opening & closing by themselves. Some will remain stubbornly open or closed (due to structural changes), others will sort themselves out as the building settles & returns to a near-normal state in terms of being level, uprights being uprights & not set askew, and so on. As floorboards & joists move, they creak & pop. Items of furniture can move (the extent of which is subject to all the things I've said earlier about memory - i.e. the pudding gets over-egged & slight movements become significant movements), things will roll, plates will fall off walls & dressers, and so on.

In more modern housing, internal plumbing adds to the range of events that can be ascribed to ghostly goings-on. Internal plumbing and subsidence just multiplies the range of causative factors.

So, there we go. One relatively common, and simple, non-supernatural explanation that might account for events.
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#31  Postby jerome » Apr 05, 2013 1:02 pm

chairman bill wrote:OK. Let's take the accounts at face value. I have no reason to doubt the events as described, but some caution should enter into our analysis. For example, eye-witness testimony is unreliable. People will embellish events & mis-remember them, even quite soon after they occur. Further, as people talk about their collective experiences, they can take in the different perspectives & add them to their own 'recollections', even though they had not originally been part of what they remembered. This is conflation of memories, rather than pure embellishments, but it is functionally the same thing, in that memories are distorted. All this can happen quite soon after & does not require great passage of time. When you consider that our memories are quite possibly rememberings of the last time we called a memory to consciousness, and not a recollection of the original memory of the actual event, the likelihood of embellishment & distortions increases. So, later recollections are potentially even less reliable.


Hi Bill: Yes: all of the above is true. It is why I have chosen a case where we have contemporary documentation, from a number of perspectives, and why I place such emphasis on the interpretive frameworks that develop through the case as they discuss them. We can assume that the testimony was coloured by the explanatory frameworks in operation, so it is vital to take them in to account, and look at them as we go. That is why I have privileged discussing them over usual initial emphasis on listing the phenomena.

chairman bill wrote:
If you've ever been in a house that is in the process of experiencing settling or subsidence, you'll know that strange noises are not uncommon, nor are events such as doors opening & closing by themselves. Some will remain stubbornly open or closed (due to structural changes), others will sort themselves out as the building settles & returns to a near-normal state in terms of being level, uprights being uprights & not set askew, and so on. As floorboards & joists move, they creak & pop. Items of furniture can move (the extent of which is subject to all the things I've said earlier about memory - i.e. the pudding gets over-egged & slight movements become significant movements), things will roll, plates will fall off walls & dressers, and so on.


Yes in the 1950's this was proposed by the SPR President GW Lambert as an explanation: he linked the subsidence with underground water following heavy rainfall, and the idea was investigated for twenty years - I wrote a report on watercourses in Cheltenham in relation to the St Anne's haunting of 1882-190-ish, and looked at the effect of the Dowdeswell reservoirs creation that had been proposed as a possible factor in the cessation of the phenomena (it wasn't as it turned out). However in the late 1970's veteran SPR investigators Tony Cornell and Alan Gauld took it to the obvious step, and with the assistance of Cambridgeshire Council acquired a house scheduled for demolition, and a machine to vibrate to structural collapse. They filled it with small objects and furniture, and then shook the house violently using expert advice to recreate subsidence and seismic activity. Items failed to move in line with the hypothesis, and when they did move, you could already see straight through the gaps in the walls as the building started to fall down. Since that time the hypothesis has been considered falsified. I shall see fi I can find film of the experiment in the public domain - Alan may be able to upload it I guess, but it featured on Anglia TV and may already be online.

chairman bill wrote:
In more modern housing, internal plumbing adds to the range of events that can be ascribed to ghostly goings-on. Internal plumbing and subsidence just multiplies the range of causative factors.

So, there we go. One relatively common, and simple, non-supernatural explanation that might account for events.


Yes: just to add, worth glancing at my little draft paper here was written about earlier in the year on a number of sceptic sites, which are possibly easier to digest than the original paper. The Doubtful News article is here - http://doubtfulnews.com/2013/01/how-to- ... attention/ The original draft paper is here - http://jerome23.wordpress.com/2013/01/2 ... ed-houses/

I agree with you I think on most of the above - just not sure it can explain Epworth well, and that is why I chose this particular case (that and the fact the original accounts are safely out of copyright).

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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#32  Postby jerome » Apr 05, 2013 2:00 pm

epete wrote:Ah, should have read the thread. I see it has advanced well past that.


We have rats (and weasels, though I have never heard of weasels doing this!). Possums and racoons would be just as good candidates, but we don't have 'em here, sadly!

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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#33  Postby jerome » Apr 05, 2013 2:26 pm

CookieJon wrote:Psychological experiments conducted by aliens pretending to be poltergeists?


Tom and I jokingly discussed this and time travelling teens from the future yesterday over lunch. He raised a large number of quite sensible objections to both hypotheses to my amusement! I can list them if interested... :D

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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#34  Postby jerome » Apr 05, 2013 3:40 pm

Let's hear from Jack Wesley himself (Samuel's brother)


MEMORANDUM OF JACK'S

The first time my mother ever heard any unusual noise at Epworth was long before the disturbance of Old Jeffrey [the spook]. My brother [presumably Samuel], lately come from London, had one evening a sharp quarrel with my sister Suky, at which time my mother happened to be above in her own chamber, the door and windows rung and jarred very loud; and presently several distinct strokes, three by three, were struck. From that night it never failed to give notice in much the same manner against any signal misfortune or illness of any belonging to the family.
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#35  Postby jerome » Apr 05, 2013 3:52 pm

Sticking with Jack's account - our last directly contemporary account here, in which he describes a summary of the phenomena.

SUMMARY OF THE PHENOMENA
OF THE GENERAL CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH FOLLOW, MOST,
IF NOT ALL, THE FAMILY WERE FREQUENT WITNESSES

1. Presently after any noise was heard the wind commonly rose, and whistled very loud round the house, and increased with it.

2. The signal was given, which my father likens to the turning round of a windmill when the wind changes; Mr. Hoole (Rector of Haxey), to the planing of deal boards; my sister, to the swift winding up of a jack. It commonly began at the corner of the top of the nursery.

3. Before it came into any room the latches were frequently lifted up, the windows clattered, and whatever iron or brass was about the chamber rung and jarred exceedingly.

4. When it was in any room, let them make what noise they would, as they sometimes did on purpose, its dead, hollow note would be closely heard above them all.

5. It constantly knocked while the prayers for the king and prince were repeating, and was plainly heard by all in the room but my father, and sometimes by him, as were also the thundering knocks at the AMEN.

6. The sound very often seemed in the air in the middle of a room, nor could they ever make any such themselves by any contrivance.

7. Though it seemed to rattle down the pewter, to clap the doors, draw the curtains, kick the man's shoes up and down, etc., yet it never moved anything except the latches, otherwise than making it tremble; unless once, when it threw open the nursery door.

8. The mastiff, though he barked violently at it the first day he came, yet whenever it came after that, nay, sometimes before the family perceived it, he ran whining, or quite silent, to shelter himself behind some of the company.

9. It never came by day till my mother ordered the horn to be blown.

10. After that time scarce any one would go from one room into another but the latch of the room they went to was lifted up before they touched it.

11. It never came once into my father's study till he talked to it sharply, called it "deaf and dumb devil", and bid it cease to disturb the innocent children, and come to him in his study if it had anything to say to him.

12. From the time of my mother desiring it not to disturb her from five to six, it was never heard in her chamber from five till she came downstairs, nor at any other time when she was employed in devotion.

13. Whether our clock went right or wrong, it always came as near as could be guessed when by the night it wanted a quarter of ten.
Yours sincerely, Jerome -- a threat to reason & science

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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#36  Postby chairman bill » Apr 05, 2013 3:57 pm

So Jerome, what sort of explanation do you favour?
“There is a rumour going around that I have found God. I think this is unlikely because I have enough difficulty finding my keys, and there is empirical evidence that they exist.” Terry Pratchett
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#37  Postby jerome » Apr 05, 2013 5:23 pm

Dunno yet. I have a few things I want to look at, but firstly I want to go through the witness statements. Given these kind of phenomena still occur today, the question is of interest. I plan to see if I can find a floorplan, then I'll check out the geology of Epworth, and draw up a list of family members and relationships. I think whatever the cause it has to lie in either the house or the family, so I'll have a good look at both. First though I'll move on ten years, to John Wesley the other son's collection of statements from the witnesses. This is the same John Wesley who went on to found Methodism, and hence my claim that the whole episode is so significant, as without Methodism a lot of historians believe the revolutionary consciousness in England and Wales would never have been so diminished...
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#38  Postby jerome » Apr 05, 2013 11:32 pm

OK moving on...

MRS. SAMUEL WESLEY'S STATEMENT TO HER SON JOHN

August 27, 1726.

About ten days after Nanny Marshall had heard unusual groans at the dining-room door, Emily came and told me that the servants and children had been several times frighted with strange groans and knockings about the house. I answered that the rats John Maw had frighted from his house by blowing a horn there were come into ours, and ordered that one should
be sent for. Molly was much displeased at it, and said, if it was anything supernatural, it certainly would be very angry and more troublesome. However, the horn was blown in the garrets; 'and the effect was, that whereas before the noises were always in the night, from this time they were heard at all hours, day and night.

Soon after, about seven in the morning, Emily came and desired me to go into the nursery, where I should be convinced they were not startled at nothing. On my coming thither I heard a knocking at the feet, and quickly after at the head of the bed. I desired if it was a spirit it would answer me, and knocking several times with my foot on the ground with several pauses, it repeated under the sole of my feet exactly the same number of strokes, with the very same intervals. Kezzy, then six or seven years old, said, let it answer me too if it can, and stamping, the same sounds were returned that she made, many times, successively.

Upon my looking under the bed something ran out pretty much like a badger, and seemed to run directly underneath Emily's petticoats, who sat opposite to me on the other side. I went out, and one or two nights afterwards, when we were just got to bed, I heard nine strokes, three by three, on the other side of the bed, as if one had struck violently on a chest with a large stick. Mr. Wesley leapt up, called Hetty, who alone was up in the house, and searched every room in the house, but to no
purpose. It continued from this time to knock and groan frequently at all hours, day and night; only I earnestly desired it might not disturb me between five and six in the evening, and there never was any noise in my room after during that time.

At other times I have often heard it over my mantel tree, and once, coming up after dinner, a cradle seemed to be strongly rocked in my chamber. When I went in the sound seemed to be in the nursery. When I was in the nursery it seemed to be in my chamber again. One night Mr. W. and I were waked by some one running down the garret stairs, then down the broad stairs, then up the narrow ones, then up the garret stairs, then down again, and so the same round. The rooms trembled as it passed along, and the doors shook exceedingly, so that the clattering of the latches was very loud.

Mr. W. proposing to rise, I rose with him, and went down the broad stairs, hand in hand, to light a candle. Near the foot of them a large pot of money seemed to be poured out at my waist, and to run jingling down my nightgown to my feet. Presently after we heard the noise as of a vast stone thrown among several dozen of bottles which lay under the stairs, but upon our looking no hurt was done. In the hall the mastiff met us, crying, and striving to get between us. We returned up into the nursery, where the noise was very great. The children were all asleep, but panting, trembling, and sweating extremely.

Shortly after, on Mr. Wesley's invitation, Mr. Hoole staid a night with us. As we were all sitting round the fire in the matted chamber, he asked whether that gentle knocking was it. I told him yes, and it continued the sound, which was much lower than usual. This was observable whilst we were talking loud in the same room; the noise, seemingly lower than any of our voices, was distinctly heard above them all. These were the most remarkable passages I remember, except such as were common to all the family.
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#39  Postby jerome » Apr 05, 2013 11:47 pm

Onyx8 wrote:Not really it's still just anecdote. Create a narrative around a three hundred year old story, and then...what?


Just to point out I understand your reservations, but it's not actually technically anecdotal. This is direct testimony: the percipients talking about their own experience. Anecdote as a term has been used in many contexts, but the original sense of hearsay, or a story told without personal observation of the reported facts is the usual one employed in the UK. This may differ in America - and there i have seen it employed in the hard sciences so the term has a perjorative sense, meaning data based upon observations not experimental findings often.

Anyhow this is not an anecdote, in a technical sense. :)

j x
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#40  Postby BlackBart » Apr 06, 2013 8:52 am

jerome wrote:
Onyx8 wrote:Not really it's still just anecdote. Create a narrative around a three hundred year old story, and then...what?


Just to point out I understand your reservations, but it's not actually technically anecdotal. This is direct testimony: the percipients talking about their own experience. Anecdote as a term has been used in many contexts, but the original sense of hearsay, or a story told without personal observation of the reported facts is the usual one employed in the UK. This may differ in America - and there i have seen it employed in the hard sciences so the term has a perjorative sense, meaning data based upon observations not experimental findings often.

Anyhow this is not an anecdote, in a technical sense. :)

j x


I think that's avoiding the issue. Anecdote, or personal anecdote or direct testimony or cool story or whatever you want to call them are equally problematic. They all can be embellished, exaggerated, misremembered or just plain made up.
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