Can we explain the poltergeist?

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Can we explain the poltergeist?

#1  Postby jerome » Apr 04, 2013 4:57 pm

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?
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#2  Postby iamthereforeithink » Apr 04, 2013 5:19 pm

With all due respect, jerome, what exactly are you expecting here? Somebody wrote a story in the 18th century, and now we are supposed to establish the causality of events that purportedly took place in the story, by scientific or logical means? Should we also try to explain the 3 witches Shakespeare wrote about in "Macbeth"? If we are going to take anecdotes seriously, then there are thousands, even hundreds of thousands out there, that are even more interesting, genuine-sounding and hard to disprove than the one you quoted.
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#3  Postby jerome » Apr 04, 2013 5:28 pm

A few quick thoughts---

Interpretive Frameworks

How were the people in the house explaining what was happening?
* The mother clearly thinks this is a death-omen of one of her sons dying, and Samuel then in London is the one she fears to be dead. This is what is meant by "knocking against your death" - "against your" meaning "an omen of"
* The family initially disregard the maids story of "groans" treating it as a joke to allay her fears. Clearly they did not think much of it, or share her experience.
* Then they fear it is a different type of death omen - one of the death of the Rev. Samuel Wesley, the father of the family. This was apparently anticipated, suggesting he was at the time in chronic ill health?
* The Reverend does not share in the early experiences. Does this mean they were hallucinatory, was he hard of hearing, or did he simply not mention them? When his wife mentions it he starts it seems to share the experiences, but his first thought is a hoaxer - " At first he would not believe but somebody did it to alarm us"
* The Reverend then hearing it has an experience he finds hard to reconcile with hoaxing and "He rose, and went to see if he could find out what it was, but could see nothing."
* The Reverend and his wife, concerned the children will be disturbed now investigate a bit, and then the family prevail upon him "We persuaded your father to speak and try if any voice would be heard." Now a spirit hypothesis appears to have been adopted - "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." So they are back to thinking it is a dead person trying to communicate their demise: not at the time of passing, as perhaps they first thought, or a premonition of an impending death, as subsequently, but that the dead relative is actually present somehow as a ghost.
* Finally the mother finding Samuel (junior) is safe by his letter says "Though sometimes I am inclined to think my brother is dead." -another victim suggested, thought it turns out incorrectly.

The whole interpretive framework boils down to silly maids, hoaxing, or a death omen or deceased spirit. What is interesting is how quickly the hypotheses seem to arise and be dismissed as new evidence arises. Whatever was happening at Epworth, in this one letter we have evidence of both intellectual curiosity, a rapidly shifting interpretive process, and I think a fairly sustained level of analysis and discussion within the family. I find this interesting in itself - there was no single dominant hypothesis as to the cause among the witnesses at this point.

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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#4  Postby Emmeline » Apr 04, 2013 5:33 pm

A lot of those noises could have been created by rats - I've had them in my loft before and they can sound like it's people up there! They can also knock things over eg bottles.
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#5  Postby jerome » Apr 04, 2013 5:37 pm

iamthereforeithink wrote:With all due respect, jerome, what exactly are you expecting here? Somebody wrote a story in the 18th century, and now we are supposed to establish the causality of events that purportedly took place in the story, by scientific or logical means? Should we also try to explain the 3 witches Shakespeare wrote about in "Macbeth"? If we are going to take anecdotes seriously, then there are thousands, even hundreds of thousands out there, that are even more interesting, genuine-sounding and hard to disprove than the one you quoted.


Good question. I have a couple of books on Witchcraft in Shakespeare, well one on that and one on how Shakespeare uses occult and supernatural themes. I think this is as worthy of study as that, and I hope my subsequent post I was typing at the same time shows how we can begin to analyse and look at what we can learn from such a case. This one is rather peculiar, in that I think it may be one of those critical events that shapes English history, perhaps up there with the signing of the Magna Carta and Charles I raising his standard at Oxford in terms of shaping politically modern England, though why may take a while to become apparent, and i may be wrong. However I do think that perhaps EP Thompson and others could be right when they suggest without Epworth our nation might have looked very different: it all depends how much of an influence it had on the shaping of one young schoolboy's beliefs. And it is a very well documented case as I will show - one we can actually play with and explore in depth.

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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#6  Postby jerome » Apr 04, 2013 5:39 pm

Emmeline wrote:A lot of those noises could have been created by rats - I've had them in my loft before and they can sound like it's people up there! They can also knock things over eg bottles.


Absolutely. Rats are ubiquitous I suspect in old buildings, and scratching, banging and moving about of small items can be attributed to them. And rats had been in the parsonage as I recall, and I will come back to them shortly, but yep rats sound a very sound suspect. Right, I'll list the phenomena...
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#7  Postby jerome » Apr 04, 2013 5:51 pm

So with Emmeline's rats firmly in mind, lets look at what Susannah Wesley actually claims to have heard...

Red phenomena are second hand. Green she apparently heard herself. Blue (which feature in later letters but not this one) are ambivalent.

1. Dismal Groans "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." and later to the Reverend, also alone "One night about six o'clock he went into the nursery in the dark, and at first heard several deep groans, then knocking."
2. Knocking - 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..."
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. and many more knockings heard by all.
3. footfall on staircase "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."
4. sound of money clanking "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,"
5. Sound of bottles breaking - but they are intact as we subsequently learn - "as if all the bottles under the stairs (which were many) had been dashed in a thousand pieces. "
6. mechanical sound "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;"

I think rats are pretty good as an explanation, apart from for the groans - but they are heard by two individuals alone, and not by Susannah our source. The sound of the bottles breaking when they subsequently turn out to be intact is odd, as is the noise of coins being poured out when no coins are to be found, and that odd mechanical winding/planing noise puzzles me though. Any thoughts? In a future letter we will see rat control 18th century style in action ;)

j x
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#8  Postby campermon » Apr 04, 2013 5:59 pm

:popcorn:
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#9  Postby BlackBart » Apr 04, 2013 6:06 pm

Dodgy plumbing? Water hammer can produce the weirdest noises....moans and groans and mechanical noises. :dunno:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qn_5Y_xKRE[/youtube]

ETA: Ah. Just saw the date.
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#10  Postby jerome » Apr 04, 2013 6:11 pm

I'll skip Samuel juniors replies to his mother and father for now as they add little. The next letter of interest is from his mother again, and we see Emmeline's rats get some love here...

FROM MRS. WESLEY TO HER SON SAMUEL

January 25 or 27, 1716 (1717 new reckoning)

Dear Sam

Though I am not one of those that will believe nothing supernatural, but am rather inclined to think there would be frequent
intercourse between good spirits and us did not our deep lapse into sensuality prevent it, yet I was a great while ere I could credit anything of what the children and servants reported concerning the noises they heard in several parts of our house. Nay, after I had heard them myself, I was willing to persuade myself and them that it was only rats or weasels that disturbed us; and having been formerly troubled with rats, which were frightened away by sounding a horn, I caused a horn to
be procured, and made them blow it all over the house. But from that night they began to blow the noises were more loud and distinct, both day and night, than before, and that night we rose and went down I was entirely convinced that it was beyond the power of any human creature to make such strange and various noises.

As to your questions, I will answer them particularly, but withal, I desire my answers may satisfy none but yourself, for I would not have the matter imparted to any. We had both man and maid now last Martinmas [November 11th], yet I do not believe either of them occasioned the disturbance, both for the reason above mentioned and because they were more affrighted than anybody else. Besides, we have often heard the noises when they were in the room by us; and the maid particularly was in such a panic, that she was almost incapable of all business, nor durst [dare not] ever go from one room to another, or stay by herself a minute after it began to be dark.

The man [servant], Robert Brown, whom you well know, was most visited by it lying in the garret, and has been often frighted down bare-foot and almost naked, not daring to stay alone to put on his clothes, nor do I think if he had power he would be guilty of such villainy. When the walking was heard in the garret Robert was in bed in the next room, in a sleep so sound, that he never heard your father and me walk up and down, though we walked not softly, I am sure. All the family has heard it together, in the same room, at the same time, particularly at family prayers. It always seemed to all present in the same place at the same time, though often before any could say it was here, it would remove to another place.

All the family, as well as Robert, were asleep when your father and I went downstairs, nor did they wake in the nursery when we held the candle close by them, only we observed that Hetty [a sister] trembled exceedingly in her sleep, as she always did before the noise awakened her. It commonly was nearer her than the rest, which she took notice of, and was much frightened, because she thought it had a particular spite at her: I could multiply particular instances, but I forbear. I believe your father will write to you about it shortly. Whatever may be the design of Providence in permitting these things, I cannot say. "Secret things belong to God"; but I entirely agree with you, that it is our wisdom and duty to prepare seriously for all events.

S. Wesley .
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#11  Postby campermon » Apr 04, 2013 6:12 pm

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.


Yes...

I can't remember whose turn it is. I think it might be mine! :oops:

It's on my 'to do' list! But I think I may have been awaiting some data or something before I replied.

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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#12  Postby jerome » Apr 04, 2013 6:13 pm

BlackBart wrote:Dodgy plumbing? Water hammer can produce the weirdest noises....moans and groans and mechanical noises. :dunno:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qn_5Y_xKRE[/youtube]

ETA: Ah. Just saw the date.


Absolutely, I experimented with it in Fullwood Halls of Residence, College of St Paul and St Mary in 1989, when we experimentally created a water-hammer while researching these things. As you note though, the date is way too early - the water at Epworth would have been from a well, or a pump I think. It may be mentioned later in one of the other letters...

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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#13  Postby jerome » Apr 04, 2013 6:23 pm

So two weeks later we learn that our Interpretive Frameworks list was actually longer than I thought - the new informations tells us the mother also employed

1. Scepticism - "yet I was a great while ere I could credit anything of what the children and servants reported concerning the noises they heard in several parts of our house. "
2. Rats or Weasels "I was willing to persuade myself and them that it was only rats or weasels that disturbed us; and having been formerly troubled with rats, which were frightened away by sounding a horn, I caused a horn to
be procured, and made them blow it all over the house."
3. The servants - this possibility raised by Samuel in his reply.
4. The children - obviously suspects!
5. And Hetty (young daughters) apparent belief the thing was angry at her in particular.
6. A Divine but inscrutable purpose " Whatever may be the design of Providence in permitting these things, I cannot say. "Secret things belong to God"; but I entirely agree with you, that it is our wisdom and duty to prepare seriously for all events."

I may have missed some. Do suggest any other interpretations in the text, or that occur to you I have missed!

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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#14  Postby jerome » Apr 04, 2013 6:54 pm

One thing just struck me as a type for the idea that young girls are the centre of these things, the so called poltergeist-agent. IT is the reference to Hetty, which I will quote here again

"All the family, as well as Robert, were asleep when your father and I went downstairs, nor did they wake in the nursery when we held the candle close by them, only we observed that Hetty [a sister] trembled exceedingly in her sleep, as she always did before the noise awakened her. It commonly was nearer her than the rest, which she took notice of, and was much frightened, because she thought it had a particular spite at her: I could multiply particular instances, but I forbear."

However as we shall see other possibilities arise...
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#15  Postby jerome » Apr 04, 2013 7:03 pm

I could say quite a bit about the above, but I'm going to knock off for the night and play boardgames, so here is the third letter, from Suky Wesley (his sister) to Samuel who was still in London.

FROM MISS SUSANNAH WESLEY TO
HER BROTHER SAMUEL

Dear Brother,

About the first of December a most terrible and astonishing noise was heard by a maid-servant as at the dining-room door, which caused the upstarting of her hair, and made her ears prick forth at an unusual rate. She said it was like the groans of one expiring. These so frightened her, that for a great while she durst not go out of one room into another, after it began to be dark, without company. But, to lay aside jesting, which should not be done in serious matters, I assure you that from the first to the last of a lunar month the groans, squeaks, tingings, and knockings were frightful enough.

Though it is needless for me to send you any account of what we all heard, my father himself having a larger account of the matter than I am able to give, which he designs, to send you, yet, in compliance with your desire, I will tell you as briefly as I can what I heard of it. The first night I ever heard it my sister Nancy and I were set in the dining-room. We heard something rush on the outside of the doors that opened into the garden, then three loud knocks, immediately after other three, and in
half a minute the same number over our heads. We enquired whether anybody had been in the garden, or in the room above us, but there was nobody. Soon after my sister Molly and I were up after all the family were abed, except my sister Nancy, about some business. We heard three bouncing thumps under our feet, which soon made us throw away our work and tumble into bed. Afterwards the tinging of the latch and warming-pan, and so it took its leave that night.

Soon after the above mentioned we heard a noise as if a great piece of sounding metal was thrown down on the outside of our chamber. We, lying in the quietest part of the house, heard less than the rest for a pretty while, but the latter end of the night that Mr. Hoole sat up on I lay in the nursery, where it was very violent. I then heard frequent knocks over and under the room where I lay, and at the children's bed head, which was made of boards. It seemed to rap against it very hard and loud, so that the bed shook under them. I heard something walk by my bedside, like a man in a long nightgown. The knocks were so loud, that Mr. Hoole came out of their chamber to us. It still continued. My father spoke, but nothing answered. It ended that night with my father's particular knock very fierce.

It is now pretty quiet, only at our repeating the prayers for the king and prince, when it usually begins, especially when my father says, "Our most gracious Sovereign Lord," etc. This my father is angry at, and designs to say THREE instead of TWO for the royal family. We all heard the same noise, and at the same time, and as coming from the same place.

To conclude this, it now makes its personal appearance; but of this more hereafter. Do not say one word of this to our folks, nor give the least hint.

I am, your sincere friend and affectionate sister,

Susannah Wesley.
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#16  Postby jerome » Apr 04, 2013 7:15 pm

While I am waiting for my friend to arrive, a quick note on the significance of the prayer for the Royal family - I will bold the relevant part in the latter above. This had caused a temporary marital separation between the parents in I believe 1701 or 1702. The Reverend Wesley was appointed to the living at Epworth after he took the side of William and Mary and the Hanoverians after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when the catholic sympathiser King James II was forced in to exile ending the Stuart dynasty. Stuart sympathisers, Jacobites, remained very prevalent, and the locals had strong Jacobite sympathies, requiring troops to be stationed in the region. Mrs Wesley shared these sympathies, and refused to join in the prayer for the King.

Now Rev. Wesley was a fervent Hanoverian supporter, and his poem on the Life of Christ dedicated to the King had earned him the living at Epworth. When his own wife refused to pray for what he regarded as the rightful king, and expressed her belief James II was, he refused to live with her any more, and took off in a strop - a strop that lasted an entire year, leaving his wife and children without word from him. When he returned he settled in again, but one imagines the prayers for the royal family in the household were always tremendously fraught.

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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#17  Postby jerome » Apr 04, 2013 7:48 pm

Hugh still not here, so let's add Emilia Wesley, another sister's response to Samuel in London writing to ask for details!

FROM MISS EMILIA WESLEY TO
HER BROTHER SAMUEL

Dear Brother,

I thank you for your last, and shall give you what satisfaction is in my power concerning what has happened in our family. I
am so far from being superstitious that I was too much inclined to infidelity, so that I heartily rejoice at having such an opportunity of convincing myself past doubt or scruple of the existence of some beings beside those we see. A whole month was sufficient to convince anybody of the reality of the thing, and to try all ways of discovering any trick, had it been possible for any such to have been used. I shall only tell you what I myself heard, and leave the rest to others.

My sisters in the paper chamber had heard noises and told me of them, but I did not much believe, till one night, about a week after the first groans were heard, which was the beginning, just after the clock had struck ten I went downstairs to lock the doors, which I always do. Scarce had I got up the best stairs when I heard the noise like a person throwing down a vast coal in the middle of the fore kitchen, and all the splinters seemed to fly about from it. I was not much frighted, but went to my sister Suky, and we together went all over the low rooms, but there was nothing out of order.

Our dog was fast asleep, and our only cat in the other end of the house. No sooner was I got upstairs, and undressing for bed, but I heard a noise among many bottles that stand under the best stairs, just like the throwing of a great stone among them, which had broke them all to pieces.

This made me hasten to bed; but my sister Hetty, who sits always to wait on my father going to bed, was still sitting on the lowest step on the garret stairs, the door being shut at her back, when soon after there came down the stairs behind her something like a man, in a loose nightgown trailing after him, which made her fly rather than run to me in the nursery.

All this time we never told our father of it, but soon after we did. He smiled and gave no answer, but was more careful than usual, from that time, to see us in bed, imagining it to be some of us young women, that sat up late and made a noise. His incredulity, and especially his imputing it to us, or our lovers, made me, I own, desirous of its continuance till he was convinced. As for my mother, she firmly believed it to be rats, and sent for a horn to blow them away. I laughed to think
how wisely they were employed, who were striving half a day to fright away Jeffery, for that name I gave it, with a horn.

But whatever it was, I perceived it could be made angry. For from that time it was so outrageous, there was no quiet for us after ten at night. I heard frequently, between ten and eleven, something like the quick winding up of a jack at the corner of the room by my bed's head, just like the running of the wheels and the creaking of the iron-work. This was the common signal of its coming. Then it would knock on the floor three times, then at my sister's bed head, in the same room, almost
always three together, and then stay. The sound was hollow and loud, so as none of us could ever imitate.

It would answer to my mother if she stamped on the floor and bid it. It would knock when I was putting the children to bed, just under me where I sat. One time little Kesy, pretending to scare Patty as I was undressing them, stamped with her foot on the floor, and immediately it answered with three knocks, just in the same place. It was more loud and fierce if anyone said it was rats or anything natural.

I could tell you abundance more of it, but the rest will write, and therefore it would be needless. I was not much frighted at first, and very little at last; but it was never near me, except two or three times, and never followed me, as it did my sister Hetty. I have been with her when it has knocked under her, and when she has removed has followed, and still kept just under her feet, which was enough to terrify a stouter person.

If you would know my opinion of the reason of this, I shall briefly tell you. I believe it to be witchcraft, for these reasons. About a year since there was a disturbance at a town near us that was undoubtedly witches, and if so near, why may they not reach us? Then my father had for several Sundays before its coming preached warmly against those that are called cunning men, which our people are given to; and it had a particular spite at my father.

Besides something was thrice seen, the first time by me that was discernible. The same creature was sat by the dining-room fire one evening; when our man went into the room, it run by him, through the hall under the stairs. He followed with a candle and searched, but it was departed. The last time he saw it in the kitchen like a white rabbit, which seems likely to be some witch; and I do so really believe it to be one, that I would venture to fire a pistol at it if I saw it long enough.

It has been heard by me and others since December. I have filled up all my room, and have only time to tell you I am your loving sister,

Emilia Wesley.


What I do love about these narratives from 300 years ago is the colour of life in Epworth Parsonage - it actually sounds like a rather agreeable life, and the family seem not that different from us today!

j x
Yours sincerely, Jerome -- a threat to reason & science

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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#18  Postby twistor59 » Apr 04, 2013 8:07 pm

campermon wrote:
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.


Yes...

I can't remember whose turn it is. I think it might be mine! :oops:

It's on my 'to do' list! But I think I may have been awaiting some data or something before I replied.

:cheers:


Trouble with you is that you're just so.....so......skeptical :nono:
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#19  Postby campermon » Apr 04, 2013 9:54 pm

twistor59 wrote:
campermon wrote:
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.


Yes...

I can't remember whose turn it is. I think it might be mine! :oops:

It's on my 'to do' list! But I think I may have been awaiting some data or something before I replied.

:cheers:


Trouble with you is that you're just so.....so......skeptical :nono:


:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

I've reported you to the ..er...mods.

:grin:
Scarlett and Ironclad wrote:Campermon,...a middle aged, middle class, Guardian reading, dad of four, knackered hippy, woolly jumper wearing wino and science teacher.
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Re: Can we explain the poltergeist?

#20  Postby jerome » Apr 05, 2013 12:03 am

OK, so having added more letters let's again turn to the interpretive frameworks at play at Epworth. We have heard so far from Mrs Wesley (twice), Emilia Wesley, Suky Wesley. They have between them proposed the following --

Interpretive Frameworks Revisited

We have heard from three people now. So how were the people in the house explaining what was happening?

* Spirit of Deceased Relative The mother clearly thinks this is a death-omen of one of her sons dying, and Samuel then in London is the one she fears to be dead. This is what is meant by "knocking against your death" - "against your" meaning "an omen of" (Mrs Wesley) The Reverend and his wife, concerned the children will be disturbed now investigate a bit, and then the family prevail upon him "We persuaded your father to speak and try if any voice would be heard." Now a spirit hypothesis appears to have been adopted - "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." So they are back to thinking it is a dead person trying to communicate their demise: not at the time of passing, as perhaps they first thought, or a premonition of an impending death, as subsequently, but that the dead relative is actually present somehow as a ghost. (Rev. Wesley) The mother finding Samuel (junior) is safe by his letter says "Though sometimes I am inclined to think my brother is dead." -another victim suggested, thought it turns out incorrectly. (Mrs Wesley)

* Hysterical Maid & Joking about it The family initially disregard the maids story of "groans" treating it as a joke to allay her fears. Clearly they did not think much of it, or share her experience. (all)

* Death Omen (Premonition)Then they fear it is a different type of death omen - one of the death of the Rev. Samuel Wesley, the father of the family. This was apparently anticipated, suggesting he was at the time in chronic ill health? (Mrs Wesley)

* Hoaxing The Reverend does not share in the early experiences. Does this mean they were hallucinatory, was he hard of hearing, or did he simply not mention them? When his wife mentions it he starts it seems to share the experiences, but his first thought is a hoaxer - " At first he would not believe but somebody did it to alarm us" (Rev. Wesley) "yet I was a great while ere I could credit anything of what the children and servants reported concerning the noises they heard in several parts of our house. " (mrs Wesley)

* Rats or Weasels "I was willing to persuade myself and them that it was only rats or weasels that disturbed us; and having been formerly troubled with rats, which were frightened away by sounding a horn, I caused a horn to
be procured, and made them blow it all over the house." and "As for my mother, she firmly believed it to be rats, and sent for a horn to blow them away. I laughed to think how wisely they were employed, who were striving half a day to fright away Jeffery, for that name I gave it, with a horn." (Mrs Wesley)

* The servants - this possibility raised by Samuel in his first reply. Mrs Wesley says unlikely.

* And Hetty (young daughters) apparent belief the thing was angry at her in particular. The children are obviously suspects! According to Mrs Wesley and Emilia Hetty seems to be at the centre of phenomena, but not personally involved. A family hoax seems unlikely given "All the family has heard it together, in the same room, at the same time, particularly at family prayers. " An external hoaxer more likely.

* A Divine but inscrutable purpose " Whatever may be the design of Providence in permitting these things, I cannot say. "Secret things belong to God"; but I entirely agree with you, that it is our wisdom and duty to prepare seriously for all events." (Mrs Wesley & rev. Wesley)

* Family Prayers - given the former separation between the Rev and Mrs Wesley that left the children without a father for a year I think we must assume that Suky intends Samuel to understand her hypothesis tensions between her parents are involved by this passage "It is now pretty quiet, only at our repeating the prayers for the king and prince, when it usually begins, especially when my father says, "Our most gracious Sovereign Lord," etc. This my father is angry at, and designs to say THREE instead of TWO for the royal family. We all heard the same noise, and at the same time, and as coming from the same place."

* Witchcraft - Emilia raises this possibility "If you would know my opinion of the reason of this, I shall briefly tell you. I believe it to be witchcraft, for these reasons. About a year since there was a disturbance at a town near us that was undoubtedly witches, and if so near, why may they not reach us? Then my father had for several Sundays before its coming preached warmly against those that are called cunning men, which our people are given to; and it had a particular spite at my father." (Emilia)

The girl's lovers - Emilia mentions this as something REv Wesley considered, which made me smile!

So from just three peoples accounts, we now have an increasings (and slightly amusing) series of contending interpretive frameworks being imposed upon the phenomena. Also we are beginning to learn more about that, and in a future post I will look at how it was developing. Mr Houle's opinion would be valuable - but let us return to the letters...

j x
Last edited by jerome on Apr 05, 2013 12:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
Yours sincerely, Jerome -- a threat to reason & science

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