A Look at Poltergeists
Imagine the situation. You're sitting in a room alone when out of nowhere, a book flies through the air and smacks into the wall. All around you, the silence erupts into tapping, knocking, banging and clanging - but there's no one in the room, and nothing is moving. As you get up to investigate - or flee - the table beside your chair suddenly flips over and all the items on it take flight, sailing across the room and smashing against walls and bookshelves. And to make matters even worse, the air is tainted with a horrible stench that reminds you of a mix of onions and raw sewage.
Say hello to your poltergeist.
The word comes from German, and it literally means 'noisy ghost', which is a pretty accurate description of what seems to be happening. But is it really a ghost causing all the problems? Poltergeist phenomenon may be the single most studied paranormal event of all. Poltergeists are the most commonly reported type of 'haunting' activity, and many scientists have been intrigued enough by the phenomenon to subject it to rigorous investigation. What they have found is that most poltergeist activity can be attributed to a 'human agent', though some seems to actually stem from another source.
Even the 'human agent' poltergeist activity is unexplained. It's not a matter of fraud or trickery, according to most who've studied poltergeists. Rather, much poltergeist activity seems to be an unconscious manifestation of sublimated anger, sexuality or other strong emotion, most often centered around a young woman between the ages of early adolescence and twenty-five. Exactly how a young girl can, without conscious volition or any physical means, cause objects to fly through the air, create sounds of banging, ringing, tapping and clanging, and stimulate horrible odors is not something that science can easily explain.
Power of the Mind?
Parapsychologists, scientists who study the paranormal, believe that most poltergeist activity is a type of uncontrolled psychokinesis - moving objects with the power of the mind. The theory is that the poltergeist activity is a physical manifestation of a psychological trauma. Most cases revolve around one central person, in most cases a young girl, though there have been reported poltergeist cases where the human 'agent', is a boy or even an adult male. Most often, the human agent is in the midst of some psychological or sexual 'turbulence'. Awakening adolescence is the most common assumed trigger, though there have been cases where the girl is the victim of a sexual or other physical assault.
While this is the most 'mainstream' of the theories about poltergeist activity, it is certainly not the only one. There are many occultists who believe that poltergeists are, quite literally, noisy ghosts. They cite the numerous cases where these noisy, unsettling disturbances had no connection to any particular person, or where there was no 'agent' fitting the description of a youth in psychological turmoil. Those occultists believe instead that a poltergeist is an angry or mischievous spirit, trapped between the mortal plane and the afterlife by their own emotions, or by 'unfinished business'.
Still others believe that there's a combination of factors at play, especially in the cases where the activity seems to focus around one particular person. They agree that there is an underlying anger or turmoil, and that this turmoil becomes a focus or attracting factor to angry 'spirits' who manifest around that person.
There have, of course, been reported cases of fraud and fakery in conjunction with poltergeist activity. In some cases, investigators have literally caught a child in the act of throwing an object that was claimed to have been thrown by the poltergeist. Other skeptics have merely cited the fact that the effects only happen in the presence of one particular person as evidence that that person is somehow causing the effect. There have even been cases where investigators, on discovering an incident of fakery, still believe that the original manifestation was genuine, and that the agent, usually a child, resorts to faking when the poltergeist won't manifest in front of others, or has disappeared.
Whether poltergeist activity is the result of a distraught
mind, the manifestation of an angry, trapped spirit, some combination of the
two or something else entirely, there have been reported cases of poltergeist
activity dating as far back as 1st century China. In more recent years,
investigators into the paranormal have made a focused attempt to document and
prove or disprove the authenticity of the phenomenon. In the past century or
so, there have been close to 1,000 documented cases of poltergeist activity.
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