Some of the best-documented, frightening, and controversial poltergeist cases of recent times
CHAIRS MOVE ABOUT by themselves. Walls shake from loud, unexplained banging. Water drips from a ceiling. Hairbrushes disappear for days, only to reappear in their place on the dresser. These are some of the classic symptoms of a poltergeist haunting. From the German for "noisy ghost," a poltergeist refers to phenomena usually credited to mischievous spirits or ghosts and are characterized by psychokinesis or other physical manifestations. Although ghosts may sometimes be involved, most poltergeist incidents are a kind of psychic phenomena, usually centered around a living "agent."
Cases have been cited almost since the beginning of recorded history. Three famous cases have taken place in the 20th century, gaining notoriety, perhaps, because they have been extensively investigated, reported, and in some cases even photographed and videotaped.
THE THORNTON HEATH POLTERGEIST CASE
In the 1970s, in Thornton Heath, England, a family was tormented by poltergeist phenomena that started one August night when they were woken in the middle of the night by a blaring bedside radio that had somehow turned itself on - tuned to a foreign-language station. This was the beginning of a string of events that lasted nearly four years.
A lampshade repeatedly was knocked to the floor by unaided hands. During the Christmas season of 1972, an ornament was hurled across the room, smashing into the husband's forehead. "As he flopped into an armchair," reports Haunted Croydon, "the Christmas tree began to shake violently. Come the New Year and there were footsteps in the bedroom when there was no one there, and one night the couple's son awoke to find a man in old fashioned dress staring threateningly at him. The family's fear grew when, as they entertained friends one night, there was a loud knocking at the front door, the living room door was then flung open and all the house's lights came on."
Having the house blessed failed to rid the house of the phenomena. "Objects flew through the air, loud noises were heard and the family would sometimes hear a noise which suggested some large piece of furniture... had crashed to floor. When they went to investigate, nothing would be disturbed."
A medium who was consulted told the family that the house was haunted by a farmer of the name Chatterton, who considered the family trespassers on his property. An investigation bore out the fact that had indeed lived in the house in the mid-18th century. "Chatterton's wife now joined in in causing mayhem, and often the tenant's wife would be followed up the stairs at night by an elderly gray-haired woman wearing a pinafore and with her hair tied back in a bun. If looked at, she would disappear back into the shadows. The family even reported seeing the farmer appear on their television screens, wearing a black jacket with wide, pointed lapels, high-necked shirt and black cravat."
After the family moved out of the house, the poltergeist activity ceased, and none have been reported by subsequent residents.
THE ENFIELD POLTERGEIST CASE
Another English ghost - this one in Enfield in North London - made headlines in 1977. The strange activity seemed to center around the daughter of Peggy Harper, a divorcee in her mid-40s. Again, it started on an August night. "Late at night," An Urban Ghost Story relates, "Janet, aged 11 and her brother Pete, aged 10, complained that their beds were 'jolting up and down and going all funny.' As soon as Mrs. Harper got to the room, the movements had stopped - as far as she was concerned her kids were making it all up."
But things got progressively more bizarre from there. Shuffling noises and knocks on the wall were followed by a heavy chest of drawers sliding by itself across the floor. Mrs. Harper promptly got her children out of the house and sought the assistance of a neighbor. "The neighbors searched the house and garden but found no one. Soon they also heard the knocks on the walls which continued at spaced out intervals. At 11 p.m. they called the police, who heard the knocks, one officer even saw a chair inexplicably move across the floor, and later signed a written statement to confirm the events."
Several people were witness to the events that occurred in the following days: Lego bricks and marbles were thrown around the house, and were often hot to the touch. In September of that year, Maurice Grosse of the Society for Psychical Research came to investigate. "Grosse claims that he experienced the strange happenings - first a marble was thrown at him from an unseen hand, he saw doors open and close by themselves, and claimed to feel a sudden breeze that seemed to move up from his feet to his head."
Next page: The Danny Poltergeist Case