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What Is a Poltergeist? Learn All about These Noisy Ghosts

Learn what a poltergeist is, the different types of poltergeists that exist and some fun facts about these paranormal phenomena.

What Is a Poltergeist? Learn All about These Noisy Ghosts | iSTOCK

When discussing the topic of ghosts or spirits, a word that gets thrown around a lot is poltergeist, a term for a specific kind of ghost which rose to fame after the release of the movie 'Poltergeist' in 1982. This movie was remade in 2015 with the same name.

Nevertheless, the term poltergeist is frequently used incorrectly, and because of this, we've decided to define what exactly a poltergeist is and correctly explain all the information surrounding them.

  • Learn about these 15 Haunted Locations Around the World. Click here!

What is a poltergeist? A definition

The word poltergeist comes from the German language, in which it means 'noisy spirit'. It refers to a specific type of ghost which relishes in making fun of people, and manifests itself by making sounds or moving objects which we can't explain and without any human intervention.

An example of a poltergeist's trick is imitating the sound of running water so we believe we've left a tap running when in reality we haven't. Another example of a poltergeist's behaviour is banging on the walls of the house it inhabits, or even opening and closing doors in it, much to the bewilderment of the humans also inhabiting it.

With time, our definition of a poltergeist has evolved, nowadays it doesn't only refer to the entity responsible for the moving of objects and the making of noises, but also to these specific phenomena. Meaning that now a poltergeist is also the door that opens and closes, not only the ghost triggering these events.

4 types of poltergeists and how they manifest themselves

Within these paranormal phenomena known as poltergeists, there are four distinct categories:

1. Noises without an apparent source

The previously mentioned noises of banging against walls and doors, the moving of furniture, and sometimes even screams, whistles and human voices, these are all meant to send us messages.

This type of poltergeist is subjective, and can only be perceived in certain places, for example, a specific bathroom in our house, and those outside of this designated space won't hear the noises, no matter how loud they can be.

In some specific cases, the noises produced by a poltergeist can be used as a non-verbal method of communication.  For example, requesting the ghost to hit the table once to answer yes to a question we've asked, and twice to answer no.

2. Objects which levitate or move around

Another characteristic of these spirits is that they relish in taking the mick out of humans. We are specifically referring to objects which move around and change places in front of us, when there is clearly no one responsible for it. Sometimes these objects even disappear suddenly, without leaving a trace. For example, a chair moving mysteriously, a stone being thrown inexplicably, doors opening and closing by themselves, amongst many other examples.

3. Actions performed on human beings (by an invisible force)

If this is the case, then we have an aggressive poltergeist on our hands, and this entity won't hesitate to scratch, bite, smack and sometimes even levitate or possess a person. This is well reflected in the movie called The Entity from 1980, in which we can see how a ghost physically abuses a women. A story which the movie claims to be based on real life.

4. Other forms of manifestation

This category includes pyrokinesis (objects which burn without any apparent reason), the malfunctioning of electronic devices (this includes interferences in radio or television signals and lights which turn on and off by themselves, amongst others), and writing on walls or any surface which clearly no one is responsible for.

Some real cases of poltergeists

A poltergeist is not some demonic creature from a culture's folklore, they can pop up anywhere in the world. The following are some of the most well-known cases of poltergeists worldwide:

The Enfield poltergeist

This happened in 1977, in a house in Brimsdown, London.  Peggy Hodgson claimed that her sons had seen furniture moving around the house and toys flying through the air. Later on, one of her daughters began to levitate with no apparent explanation.

Annabelle, the doll

This story is very well-known thanks to modern-day movies. It's about a doll called Raggedy Ann which, according to its owner, moved by itself, and appeared in places it hadn't been left in. It also left dark notes asking for help. The Warren couple, who were experts in demonic possessions, came to the conclusion that a demon lived inside the doll.

The Amityville poltergeist

This story is also very well-known thanks to modern-day movies. It's about the Lutz family who bought a house in which a young child had killed six members of its family a few years ago. When they moved in the house, called Amityville, they claimed that doors would move by themselves and that there were many inexplicable sounds, amongst other paranormal phenomena.

The Rosenheim poltergeist

This story takes place in a law firm's office in Baviera and is considered to be one of the best-documented modern cases of poltergeists. This entity would manifest itself by making electronics malfunction.

5 fun facts about these paranormal phenomena

What do you know about  poltergeists? The following is not suitable for those scared of ghosts or spirits!

1. A limited area

When a poltergeist repeatedly manifests itself, it usually does so in a designated area  (within the walls of a house for example) or around a specific person, which acts as the entity's catalyst. When said person is present, the poltergeist manifests itself, and when he or she isn't present, there is simply no paranormal activity.

2. What is the nature of the spirit behind these paranormal phenomena

As we've already explained, a poltergeist manifests itself by making noise, but it's difficult to predict the nature of said entity, as it could be a good spirit, an evil spirit, a demon, a malicious entity or simply a wounded soul seeking justice.

3. Some possible explanations

Inside religion, a poltergeist is considered to be a manifestation of evil.  Whether that be a demon, an evil spirit or the result of some form of witchcraft is irrelevant. However, according to the spiritist movement created by Allan Kardec, a poltergeist is the result of a person's soul stuck in another realm, which either hasn't been able to go with God to heaven, or reincarnate itself yet.

4. A fraudulent shadow

Many of the so called poltergeists have been the result of an excessively vivid imagination or in some cases even a mental problem.  When working in the field of paranormal phenomena, it's true that many of the noises, which people initially believe to be a poltergeist, are actually the sound of water running through a pipe, or rodents in the walls. Due to this being a recurring issue, we must be wary when claiming we have a poltergeist in our house.

5. A cursed film

The movie Poltergeist is a film which has a very bad reputation. The reason being that two of its actresses, the youngest ones, died tragically. Dominique Dunne, who played the older sister, was assassinated by her boyfriend and her corpse found in the boot of a car. The other actress was Heather O'Rourke, she died at only ten years of age due to a strange illness. For now, the remake of the movie, also called Poltergeist and aired in 2015, hasn't had any extraordinary events relating to it.