Can we explain the poltergeist?

poltergeists

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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#41  Postby chairman bill » Apr 06, 2013 11:47 am

But if they're not made up, and even if embellished, exaggerated or misremembered, are based on actual events, then it is at least a curious phenomenon.

I'm wondering about the once-only reference to a badger-like animal. Badgers are pretty damned big, and not usually found under beds (presumably on an upper storey). The comment is so matter-of-fact, and there seems to be no questioning as to why it was there, how it got there etc, which are the sorts of things I'd be asking about. How the bleedin' hell did a badger get upstairs, and where did it go once it ran under her petticoats? :shock:

I'd normally expect to find only one furry thing under a woman's petticoats, and badger isn't a euphemism I'm familiar with
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#42  Postby jerome » Apr 06, 2013 7:25 pm

The badger, along with the funny rabbit are both a bit bizarre. It does sound like something in size between a small rabbit and a badger -- ok that's a pretty big range - could have been involved in the noises. Except the badger as you say seems to have vanished up Emily's petticoats, which is just surreal. They reiterate these points in the later statements, but don't add much. However the claims that Robert the manservant were haunted by something that sounded like a turkey gobbling are both comical and extremely bizarre. In 1726 John Wesley got a statement off him - I'll post it actually!
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#43  Postby jerome » Apr 06, 2013 7:30 pm

Wesley interviewed Robin as his name apparently was (he is cited as both Robert and Robin in the earlier letters) early in his collection of statements, but went back twice to ask more. The statements given John Wesley follow.

ROBIN BROWN'S ACCOUNT TO JOHN WESLEY TAKEN DOWN BY SAMUEL WESLEY

The first time Robin Brown, my father's man, heard it, was when he was fetching down some corn from the garrets. Something knocked on a door just by him, which made him run away downstairs. From that time it used frequently to visit him in bed, walking up the garret stairs, and in the garrets, like a man in jack-boots, with a nightgown trailing after him, then lifting up his latch and making it jar, and making presently a noise in his room like the gobbling of a turkey-cock, then stumbling over his boots or shoes by the bedside. He was resolved once to be too hard for it, and so took a large mastiff we had just got to bed with him, and left his shoes and boots below stairs; but he might as well have spared his labour, for it was exactly the same thing whether any were there or no.

The same sound was heard as if there had been forty pairs. The dog indeed was no great comfort to him, for as soon as the latch began to jar he crept into bed, made such a howling and barking together, in spite of all the man could do, that he alarmed most of the family.

Soon after, being grinding corn in the garrets, and happening to stop a little, the handle of the mill was turned round with great swiftness. He said nothing vexed him but that the mill was empty. If corn had been in it, Old Jeffery might have ground his heart out for him; he would never have disturbed him.

One night, being ill, he was leaning his head upon the back kitchen chimney (the jam he called it) with the tongs in his hands, when from behind the oven's top, which lay by the fire, something came out like a white rabbit. It turned round before him several times, and then ran to the same place again. He was frighted, started up, and ran with the tongs
into the parlour (dining-room).

Epworth, August 31.

Betty Massy one day came to me in the parlour and asked me if I had heard Old Jeffery, for she said she thought there was no such thing. When we had talked a little about it, I knocked three times with a reel I had in my hand against the dining-room ceiling, and the same were presently repeated. She desired me to knock so again, which I did, but they were answered with three more so violently as shook the house, though no one was in the chamber over us. She prayed me to knock no more for fear it should come in to us.

Epworth, August 31, 1726.

John and Kitty Maw, who lived over against us, listened several nights in the time of the disturbance, but could never hear anything.
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#44  Postby jerome » Apr 06, 2013 7:40 pm

I think the one outsider who DID definitely it seems witness something should come next - the Vicar of Haxey, the Rev. Hoole...

THE REV. MR. HOOLE'S ACCOUNT

September 16.

As soon as I came to Hepworth, Mr. Wesley telling me he sent for me to conjure, I knew not what he meant, till some of your sisters told me what had happened, and that I was sent for to sit up. I expected every hour to hear something extraordinary, but to no purpose. At supper too, and at prayers, all was silent, contrary to custom; but soon after one of the maids, who went up to sheet a bed, brought down the alarm that Jeffery was come above stairs. We all went up, and as we were standing round the fire in the east chamber something began knocking just on the other side of the wall, on the chimney-piece, as with a key. Presently the knocking was under our feet. Mr. Wesley and I went down, he with a great deal of hope, and I with fear. As soon as we were in the kitchen the sound was above us, in the room we had left. We returned up the narrow stairs, and heard, at the broad stairs head, some one slaring with their feet (all the family being now in bed beside us) and then trailing, as it were, and rustling with a silk nightgown. Quickly it was in the nursery, at the bed's head, knocking as it had done at first, three by three.

Mr. Wesley spoke to it, and said he believed it was the devil, and soon after it knocked at the window, and changed its sound into one like the planing of boards. From thence it went on the outward south side of the house, sounding fainter and fainter, till it was heard no more.

I was at no other time than this during the noises at Epworth, and do not now remember any more circumstances than these.
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#45  Postby jerome » Apr 06, 2013 8:12 pm

BlackBart wrote:
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.


Yes, though not as much as many people (especially sceptics) think. Just read up on this again, cos post-Loftus many people seem to think that all testimony is absolutely unreliable. That is not true, and never has been the case. In 1979 Gauld did a good summary of the state of play then, and certain observations from the experimental literature are interesting --

i) There is little evidence for confabulation in testimony. Tales do not grow weirder in the re-telling if related to a real situation the retelling of which accurately is required- quite the opposite - detail is lost,and "the tendency is more commonly for subjects to eliminate the odd or culturally anomalous". My own experimental work in the area in 2010 showed the same.

ii) When witnesses are put on Oath, or asked to be scrupulously correct in re-telling, the number of errors reported drop sharply.

iii) Errors and mistakes or exaggerations appear in the initial accounts: they do not tend to appear in later retelling of the narratives. The problem appears to be misperception, not confabulation or exaggeration. Subsequent retellings may lose fine detail, but stay much the same in content.

iv) it is details of sequence of events, and specifics which are wrong. The main events are generally correctly. The fact the car was stolen by two men is recalled - the colour of the car may be wrong.

There is a huge literature on the subject, and I have not read much of it properly since last year when I read a large number of papers for a chapter I was working on. However I would note that eyewitness testimony is actually MORE accurate than many people seem to believe these days.

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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#46  Postby electricwhiteboy » Apr 10, 2013 9:47 am

You might want to focus on the family themselves outside of any paranormal activity. When testimony of this nature comes out there is usually something dysfunctional, or sometimes just plain unfortunate, going on with the family that has a very rational explanation.

Also badgers living so near to people is unlikely, but still more likely than an immaterial entity rapping on floorboards.
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#47  Postby trubble76 » Apr 10, 2013 10:05 am

Surely there is just as much proof that goblins are responsible as there is for poltergeist, ie virtually none. If not goblins, how about gremlins? If not gremlins, how about imps? If not imps, how about gnomes? If not gnomes, how about inter dimensional aliens? If not.....you get my point? Even if we assume that the countless boring but reasonable explanations are not the cause of the events, how do we decide which of the countless mythical creatures invented by humans are to blame?

I'm going to go with the twisted offspring of Fraggles and Wombles. Bet you can't prove me wrong.
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#48  Postby jerome » Apr 10, 2013 11:56 am

I have not been called Womble for decades: buty I was a long time ago. (Feel free!) My girlfriend is called the Fraggle by me and her friends - or on this forum Sunchime. I can see an empirical experiment that could be devised ;)
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#49  Postby trubble76 » Apr 10, 2013 12:03 pm

jerome wrote:I have not been called Womble for decades: buty I was a long time ago. (Feel free!) My girlfriend is called the Fraggle by me and her friends - or on this forum Sunchime. I can see an empirical experiment that could be devised ;)


An interesting coincidence, or maybe I'm psychic?
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#50  Postby jerome » Apr 10, 2013 7:51 pm

electricwhiteboy wrote:You might want to focus on the family themselves outside of any paranormal activity. When testimony of this nature comes out there is usually something dysfunctional, or sometimes just plain unfortunate, going on with the family that has a very rational explanation.

Also badgers living so near to people is unlikely, but still more likely than an immaterial entity rapping on floorboards.


Yes to both. The whole prayers incident is pretty interesting, and we also can see there was some kind of row between Suky and Samuel (I think) but I need to re-read the accounts

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