Posted: May 25, 2010 11:37 am
by jerome
Defender's #2 post: 4793 words. -Mr.Samsa

Firstly. Thank you to everyone for your patience –and apologies for any typo in this post, I have not had time to review it properly. Secondly, thanks you to Campermom for his excellent introductory post.

In my first post I noted that there were a number of type of cases that intrigue me and lead me to the bizarre conclusion I tentatively propose: that some ghost cases may involve either discarnate (disembodied) intelligences or human consciousness acting remotely. In this, the largest post of the debate, I plan to cite few exemplar cases.

The first case I shall cite is a poltergeist case – in fact the modern classic of such cases. In 1967 Bavarian lawyer Sigmund Adam reported unusual phenomena in his solicitors practice in Rosenheim, Bavaria. The "haunting" appeared to be in some way connected with a young female employee Anne-Marie Schneider.

Here is Wikipedia on the phenomena reported

The events took place in Rosenheim in southern Bavaria, more specifically in the office of lawyer Sigmund Adam. Starting in 1967 strange phenomena began in the office - the lights would turn themselves off and on again and swing, telephones rang without anybody apparently calling (a silent caller), photocopiers spilled their copier fluid, and desk drawers would open without being touched. The Deutsche Post installed instruments that recorded numerous phone calls which were never made. Within five weeks the instruments recorded roughly 600 calls to the speaking clock (number 0119 in Germany) even though all the phones in the office were disabled and only Adam himself had the key required to enable them. In one 15-minute period the speaking clock had been called 46 times, sometimes at a rate that appeared impossible with the mechanical dialling system of 1967. In October 1967 all light bulbs went out with a huge bang.

This was to be one of the best investigated cases I can think of – as well as the newspaper reporters, the police, psychologist Professor Hans Bender (who I corresponded with on this many years ago) two physicists from the Max Planck Institute came to see the phenomena, and number of electrical and telephone engineers were involved. Just for fun, here is some footage of the investigation -- [youtube][/youtube]

I have quickly reviewed the literature on the case – here are two abstracts –

An Investigation of 'Poltergeist' Occurrences in Ros-enheim" by H. Bender (Institut fur Grenzgebiete der Psychologic) wrote:
A series of unexplained physical disturbances occurred through January, 1968, in a law office in the Bavarian town of Rosenheim. These events consisted primarily of sharp bangs, the blowing of automatic fuses without apparent cause, the spilling of developing fluid in the photostatic copying machines, ringing of all four telephones simultaneously, calls never made being registered, light bulbs exploding, pictures moving, and drawers opening. Through special recording devices, two physicists determined that the oscillographic measurements were not related to defects in the electrical system and could be due only to some unknown energy depending on the presence of a 19-year-old girl who worked in the office as an apprentice. An analysis of the distribution of incidents in time and space showed that they decreased with the distance from the agent and seemed dependent on the intensity of the "affective field" existing in the office situation. When the girl left for a vacation, the phenomena ceased.

The second paper deals with the report by the physicists and technicians…

Physical Investigation of Psychokinetic Phenomena in Rosenheim, Germany, 1967" by F. Karger (Institut fiir Plasmaphysik, Munich) and G. Zicha (Technischen Hochschule, Munich)  wrote:
The events of the Rosenheim poltergeist case (described above by Hans Bender) were analyzed for a physical explanation. A Siemens Unireg 1 line recorder and a Tektronix plug-in unit in a storage oscilloscope were used to record the voltage, electrical deflections, electrical potential, magnetic field near the recorder, and sound amplitude in the office. The following conclusions were reached: (1) Although recorded with the facilities available to experimental physics, the events defied explanation with the means available. (2) The phenomena seemed to be the result of nonperiodic, short-time forces. (3) They did not seem to involve pure electrodynamic effects. (4) Not only were explosive events involved, but also complicated motions. (5) These movements seemed to be performed by intelligently controlled forces with a tendency to evade investigation.

These findings are surprising. Clearly they go further than the negative findings in terms of an explanatory naturalistic hypothesis: simply because no technical cause or trickery could be found does not mean one did not exist. Rosenheim is just one of many hundreds (indeed thousands probably) reported poltergeist cases – I simply cite it because there is a little footage, and because it was well investigated at the time. Recently another spectacular case emerged in Czechoslovakia - ... ed-by.html - with a hilarious quote –"We do not want to fall for occultism. We will try to explain it in a scientific way. However it is hard as these phenomena are really unexplainable," – er ok, I know what he means but that is probably a very bad translation and amused me! -- but also a small bit of local news footage.

The Fortean Times ran an excellent follow up on the investigation in March

Bob Rickard wrote:The focus of attention was the Mráček family in the town of Strašice, in the Plzeň Region, 39 miles (62km) south-west of Prague, where they live in a small bungalow. Precisely how the phenomena came to the attention of the Prague Daily Monitor we don’t know, but the paper was told of a “sudden” onset of cracking windows and light bulbs, and small fires appearing “constantly throughout the house”. They had to extinguish as many as 60 combustions a day involving plastic bags, pictures, towels and curtains, and wall sockets (even though many of the latter are disconnected from the power supply). Similar incidents would keep them awake at night. Once, they found the aquarium water boiling, killing the resident turtle.

Then the case looked done and dusted, with the confession of the twelve year old son Jiri – and after all an emotionally disturbed child acting as an arsonist is far more explicable than a "poltergeist", whatever one of those may be. Except the occurrences happened in front of technicians after the child was sent away, and no means for the starting of the fires has been found. If you are interested in such things you can read Bob Rickard's entire piece here - ... geist.html
--and of course I keep a media watch on poltergeist cases as they break on my blog
You might also find the South Sheilds poltergeist case of interest, because Hallowell and Ritson have documented it thoroughly, and made a lot of material available on their website. SPR investigator Alan Murdie has followed the case up and been convinced of all concerneds sincerity. - slightly over the top, contains sound files!

Now I'm not asking Campermom to refute each and every case I present – (though he is welcome to do so!) The poltergeist phenomena has been recorded for centuries, and back in 1979 the late Tony Cornell and Professor Alan Gauld performed a remarkable study, looking at 500 "poltergeist" cases collected from 5 continents and dating from the first millennium before Christ to the present day (well the 1907's). They broke down the reports (all by "investigators", in most cases first hand reports of the phenomena) by the factors that emerged from the data – loosely a Grounded Theory approach, then uses statistical tests to seek relationships between them. Three clusters were seen to emerge from the data – one with the attributes of a classic "haunting" (apparitional experiences witnessed over decades or centuries in the same location), one that could clearly be described as a "poltergeist" – objects moving, and the same kinds of bizarre behaviour manifested in the cases I have cited so far, and the third smaller group having a mix of both elements. What seems consistent is that the "poltergeist" group does not change much – while it adapts to and incorporates modern technology in its destructive behaviour, the cases are much the same in the phenomena from 5th century BC China to 13th century England to 1187th century India to modern Germany.

So what are the core "poltergeist" phenomena? A few more cases should give you the idea – Rougham, Suffolk, was the location in 1989 for a severe and interesting poltergeist outbreak. The Arnold family, lived in a house at Spinney Cottages. After noticing an uncanny feeling in the cupboard under their stairs the family began to suspect something was seriously wrong with their home. Shortly after this Mrs Arnold felt herself being pushed by an invisible hand and then the family’s pet Bull Terrier began to act strangely, watching "something" walking around the house. The family temporarily moved out but eventually returned and then tragedy struck...

A fire broke out in the cupboard under the stairs, and although the family escaped Mrs Arnold bravely returned to fetch the dog and the other pet, a parrot. Sadly the parrot died shortly afterwards of smoke inhalation. Fire Officers from Bury's brigade were unable to say how the blaze started. Then a few days later Sara, 17, heard a strange metallic voice saying "That was funny, wasn't it?". The voice sounded as if doing a poor imitation of Sara's mother. She believed the voice was referring to the fire.

A bizarrely similar poltergeist case developed in Oklahoma, USA, in the early 1990's. An 18 year old girl, her mother and husband are being disturbed by a stone throwing poltergeist who told lies about family members in a strange metallic voice, scrawled symbols on mirrors in lipstick and terrorised the family parakeets! Were the parrots and parakeets the source of the alleged voices? When I went through the archives of the Bury Free Press I found six poltergeist cases reported in West Suffolk in just over 30 years. They vary in details, but the core phenomena always appear similar.

Tapping noises are heard. Was that scratching mice in the walls? Or even rats? Who was walking in the passage at midnight?

Where are my cufflinks? I swear I put them down here. No I haven't moved your scissors. "In my pockets! I checked there twice! " - or in an extremely unlikely location, when they return at all. (This phenomena is called Small Object Displacement or SOD by parapsychologists. Small items up disappear and reappear where they were – or in unlikely places. This may be down to carelessness, but soon even laymen start to blame the "sodding" ghost.)

Loud knocking sounds, detonations and raps spring from the wall. Who rang the doorbell? There is no one outside. Did you move that vase off the table? Aunt Ethel's portrait is at the bottom of the stairs. Anyone would think this house was haunted.

About this point things start to happen in earnest. Objects fly across the room and impact with a great crashing sound. Often they are not broken, or else they're shattered with incredible violence. The object may have become very hot, and one of my research team burned his fingers on the fragments of a supposedly poltergeist hurled cup.

One classic poltergeist effects that can be found in any book of "real life ghost stories" is what I term the invisible housebreakers. It generally goes something like - "I was asleep with my wife, when we were both startled awake by the thunderous crashes from the dining room. Utterly convinced we were being vandalised by a gang of maniacal burglars I listened in horror. Arming myself and recklessly running downstairs I could hear the sounds of the furniture being hurled about with great violence. Throwing open the door, everything became silent. Fumbling for the light switch I flooded the room with a welcome light. Everything was exactly as it usually is. Confused and dazed I searched the house, but to no avail."

This happens often in poltergeist cases. Rarer events are also possible, such as childish scrawling appearing on the walls of a locked room. Often these messages are threats, such as the classic "Esther Cox you are mine to kill", or entreaties for help as in the famous ‘Marianne’ scripts of the Borley Rectory hauntings.

Voices also feature in a small number of cases. In some instances they come from the unwilling throats of someone in the house, but in other cases they seem to come from nowhere. The Enfield Poltergeist of 1970's London was an example of the first kind, while the latter is demonstrated by a case from Suffolk, England in the 1980's. Such voices often have a metallic or robotic ring to them and are quite eerie to hear. Certain features are especially common. Voices consistently swear and abuse those present, and show a low level of intelligence. The poltergeist voice of the "Watseka Wonder" case in nineteenth century America claimed to be a demon, angel and the deceased spirit of a former resident at different times.

Another odd feature of some cases are pools of water or blood that form about the property. Often rational causes can be found for these, particularly if the dog looks sheepish or the windows are completely misted over with condensation. More distressing are fire poltergeists that delight in minor feats of pyromania. Even fire resistant materials have been known to ignite. Unexplained fires invariably cause great alarm, and they can eventually reach a climax with the house burning down. These are a subtype of poltergeist and a particularly nasty one.

Stone throwing is another particularly irritating feature of some cases. Stones may fall from nowhere, raining down in a room, bombarding the roof or even smashing windows and breaking crockery. These stones may display interesting features such as bizarre trajectories, and may well be hot or freezing to touch. They rarely strike anyone and if they do hit for minimal damage- almost as is gravity was somehow effected.

Perhaps the single most terrifying type of manifestation is the ‘biting poltergeist’. This is extremely rare but there are a few cases such as the Eleanore Zugun poltergeist where bite marks, weal’s and other physical effects occurred on the victim. These seem similar to stigmata and may be psychosomatic, caused by the person's unconscious mind. Miss Zugun attributed them to a ‘dracul’, or devil, invisible to everyone else.

Poltergeists usually begin as mischievous pranksters, yet build up in to something quite terrifying and malevolent. They do seem to follow one unwritten law, which is quite curious. No matter how violent the telekinesis, or how frightening and hostile the entity seems, they never seem to kill or indeed seriously injure anyone. Thrown objects always seem to miss their intended targets, swerving in mid air to do so if necessary. A poltergeist may frighten, harass and baffle investigators but is extremely unlikely to kill them Of course an investigator who insists on trying to catch the flying vase deserves what is coming to her, and there are exceptions to this rule.

One parapsychologist was explaining this rule to a frightened lady during an investigation when he was struck in the head by a flying brick. One wonders if she lost confidence in his ideas! John Bell was killed during the ‘Bell Witch’ affair in the 1830's U.S. when something swapped his medicine for poison. Almost anything is possible, and the investigators should always be careful. There are some cases which break this rule and great physical harm did occur.

Another interesting feature of the poltergeist is that it sometimes recurs years later. Although most evidence does point towards the RSPK and person centred nature of the haunting there are several cases where the "haunting" recurred 10-20 years after the initial disturbance, even though there was not a single person involved in both outbreaks. Here the poltergeist seems area rather than person based. The Syderstone Parsonage, Norfolk, poltergeist was of this type, as was a recent case I investigated in Warwickshire, England.

Sometimes apparitions are also seen. I find these ’polter-ghost’ cases quite common. One theory is that the presence of haunting allows people to manifest psi talents they would not normally do, because they can blame them on the ghost or apparition. These cases tend to last longer than a normal poltergeist, which has a tendency to burn out. It is possible that the ghost somehow allows an agent to create RSPK, whether directly or indirectly as suggested above.

How long does a poltergeist last? In some cases the activity lasts only a few days and then ceases. Often as the phenomena build up to the climax the frightened householders call in "experts" who arrive to find nothing happening.

There is an old German proverb – ‘when the ghosthunter arrives, the ghost flies out of the window.’ Often the poltergeist will persist for a few weeks, and some rare examples exist of poltergeists which lasted for months or even years. This is a major difference between poltergeists and other hauntings, which tend to continue for decades.

One of the strangest aspects of poltergeist cases is that the poltergeist often seems to be reactive. That is it learns new tricks, develops in strength and personality, and reacts to the actions of occupants. It often seems that it is shy around new people and will not manifest until it has become accustomed to them. The Syderstone poltergeist would knock a specific number of times if requested and would beat out time if a tune was hummed or sung. Fancy singing anyone? The recent Cardiff, Wales, poltergeist apparently materialised money at request, though sadly only in small denominations and a single note at a time.

So what do modern parapsychological researchers think cause this? Most seem to agree that people are involved – probably the popular explanation now is the RSPK or Recurrent Spontaneous Psycho-Kinesis theory, which put poltergeists down to a mysterious force named PKE. What is PKE? Psycho-Kinetic Energy (PKE) is an energy supposedly generated by the human mind that is able to move objects at a distance. The RSPK hypothesis suggests that this talent can occasionally occur spontaneously and without warning humans develop the ability to unconsciously chuck stuff around, resulting in a poltergeist haunting. I likened this theory to being as the equivalent of "a nervous breakdown occurring outside the victim's head."
Some parapsychologists hold that there is a sexual factor and suggest psychotherapy for the agent (person at the centre of the outbreak) may prove useful in terminating prolonged poltergeists. Today this theories (largely popularised by psychoanalyst Nandor Fodor have fallen out of fashion) – today we might expect the agent to be any highly creative person placed under great stress, yet forced to repress their emotions. The poltergeist may be a way of letting off steam, an emotional cure. There are MANY problems with this idea however: I shall discuss them in future posts. Why some people and not others?

In fact modern parapsychology is split on the poltergeist – a small minority of researchers hold out for hoaxing, though in many cases where thorough investigation has shown power spikes, strange field fluctuations, and all kinds of other odd physical phenomena that is hard to accept. A slightly larger number hold to the possibility that poltergeist are associated with "spirits" and "dead guys" – still an extreme minority position, but one that does actually appear to have some evidence supporting it, and held by several prominent researcher sin the field. In fact there is a definitely a lot of supporting evidence for an even weirder connection – in many cases in some countries, poltergeist outbreaks begin after the placing of a curse upon the individuals at the centre of them. One such case occurred in Bristol in 1761, at the Lamb Inn. At the centre of the outbreak were two girls, Molly aged 12 and Dobby aged 8. The case began with scratching noises which the parents ascribed to pigeons, but three weeks later an impressive array of phenomena was attested; the kitchen table was overturned, the girls pulled out of bed, and the curtains moved. Durbin, a witness , (who went on to write a book on the case) claims to have seen a glass rise a foot in the air, inclining backwards and then flung across the room hitting the nurse on the hip. Both girls were attacked, pins found in their feet and cut marks appearing on their skin, before being bitten with teeth marks and saliva appearing in a manner reminiscent of the Elenore Zugun case. Something attempted to strangle Molly. Gauld & Cornell found in their literature survey that physical attacks occurred in 77% of the cases surveyed.

Was there a discarnate entity behind the attacks? Dobby had visions of an old hag, claiming to have been dragged up three floors and shoved under a bed. Durbin tried to communicate with the entity, inventing a code of raps—one knock for yes, two for no. He concluded based upon the messages received that witchcraft ordered by a commercial rival of the girl’s father was responsible. When the father died four months after the phenomena began his wife went to local cunning women. The advice given was curious to modern ears. She was to take the children’s urine and heat it on the fire, and if all the colours of rainbow were produced by the urine the cunning woman could resolve the problem. This was one, bright colours reported, and the phenomena ceased. (Of course urine samples were a staple of Early Modern medicine, being extensively tasted, sniffed and treated as an aid to diagnose.) It seems hard to believe that such primitive medicine and magic allayed the problem, but as many an investigator has found almost intervention, if believed in by the family, can end a poltergeist outbreak.

This is not necessarily caused by "magic" – one thing I have observed over the years is a consistent effect, which I jokingly call the Mount Pele effect. The story is that tourist who take lave from the volcano in Hawaii are cursed ,and indeed there were some early cases where small scale poltergeist type events seem to be associated with it. The legend has grown and grown, and now some enterprising folks actually provide a service returning your rocks – and I think it's a VERY useful service, even if it does nothing but out the stones back, because it allays peoples superstitions – if you like it's a harmless superstition that acts to reduce anxiety. You can have a look at some of the stories here --

So people experience normal life events that are painful, and seek for a cause. A similar legend has grown up around those who take stones from Ayer's rock. Yet there are other cases that are baffling, and suggest to me something stronger. One case a case that is reported by Guy Lyon Playfair: the agent was a 30 year old Brazilian psychology lecturer, who was in fact a dedicated materialist until these events She found a small statuette from a South American Spiritist religion washed up on a beach, and took it home – and suffered mysterious illness, physical assaults and a full blown spectacular haunting. This is similar to the famous "Hexham Heads" case where Dr Anne Ross (Archeologist and expert in Celtic Brtiain) experienced a bizarre apparition apparently linked to the small heads. Ironically it seems the heads may have been modern toys made for children, of no malevolent import, and dating back only a decade! Another recent case is recounted in Jim Schnabel's book Round In Circles, here after materials were taken from a (subsequently shown to be hoaxed) crop circle, leading to a short intensive poltergeist outbreak. This leads me to ask the obvious question of whether the object is in anyway concerned, or simply acts as a focus for (to coin a phrase) psi-de effects manifested by the victim's unconscious? These cases strongly suggest to me a human psychological element to the causation of the phenomena – but not it would appear to me hoaxing.

I shall end with one last case – I shall email Campermom the papers I am citing from. It occurred in Cardiff in the early 1990's, and is known to parapsychologists as the Cardiff Responsive Case, and to others as "Pete the Poltergeist"– it was investigated by Professor David Fontana of Cardiff University. Here is Fontana describing the phenomena

David Fontana wrote:
1. Small stones, coins or bolts impacting on the walls or floor and occasionally
hitting someone (harmlessly—though Jim had discussed possible customer
injury with his insurance agent). No-one had seen the projectiles actually
thrown, but only as they landed or (less frequently) when they were in mid-air.
2. A paint scraper which had 'gone missing', and then suddenly re-appeared,
as hot to the touch 'as if it had been heated for some minutes with a blowlamp'.
3. The mysterious arrival of objects, usually dropped onto the floor, for
example a pen which fell beside Jim when he had spoken of writing down the
incidents, followed by a piece of headed notepaper which on investigation turned
out to have come, by unknown means, from the office premises on the floor
above. Also coins, most of which appeared to originate from a collection of
pennies and halfpennies kept in the office. When Paul had asked out loud for a
sovereign, a Jubilee crown (which appeared to have come from a drawer in Jim
and Ann's house) had dropped beside him.

Skip a few Brother Maynard…

10. Some strange happenings in the premises upstairs, including a diary which
'disappeared' from a drawer and was unaccountably found on the roof of a
nearby building.
11. A persistent strong smell of burning.
12. Stones thrown at Ann while she was in the toilet at the back of the
workshop, and with the door locked on the inside.
13. Frequent telephone calls to Jim and Ann's house during the day and night
(on one occasion every few minutes throughout an entire afternoon), but the line
dead on answering. British Telecomm. engineers had been asked to check but
had found no fault to account for this.
14. Planks of wood thrown violently into the workshop, originating apparently
in the yard outside, when Jim had said to Ann 'All we need now are some planks
of wood'. (The outer door to the workshop was open at the time, but the planks
were claimed to be far too heavy to have been thrown by hand.)
15. A range of other incidents too numerous to mention here, involving the
movement of objects and their disappearance and re-appearance, loud knocks on
the window of the retail shop with no-one in the vicinity, and the throwing of
stones in the retail shop while customers were present (to the great
embarrassment of staff).

I'll skip a few, because I'm missing a page here!

25. A cache of engineering bolts of the kind used in the workshop and which
were frequently employed as missiles by 'Pete', discovered in the false ceiling
formed by the polycarbonate tiles in the corner of the workshop mentioned in 23
above as a focus of activity. An exploration of this part of the ceiling was
suggested by Jim's daughter, the psychiatric nurse mentioned above. The bolts
were cleared after their discovery, but a similar cache was found in the same
place when a second exploration was carried out some weeks later at Paul's
suggestion and in my presence.
26. Stones thrown at the brass shell case. These phenomena began when Jim
challenged 'Pete' to 'hit the shell' with a stone, a feat almost impossible to carry
out by normal means unless one stood only a few feet away. 'Pete' duly obliged
on a number of occasions, with Jim and his employees on the other side of the
27. House, drawer, car and cupboard keys arriving mysteriously. These would
appear in positions on a work-bench which moments before had been seen to be
clear. The majority of the keys were of unknown origin. (These are now in my
28. Cutlery arriving mysteriously in the kitchen. For example, although Ann
and Yvonne assured me only one tea spoon was normally kept there, three
identical ones were found to have 'arrived' overnight. Sometimes this cutlery
appeared to have been 'set out' crudely, either on the table or on the floor.

OK, not a lot – but hopefully enough to get some discussion going. Sorry to have to dash it off without much time, life very hectic!

J x