This is a widely, if infrequently reported phenomenon, whatever its cause. There are a substantial number of extant reports in pamphlets, court cases, newspaper articles and investigations, often supported by detailed witness testimony.
Books by investigators typically include a survey of the historical evidence as well as descriptions of their first-hand observations of the phenomena. John and Anne Spencer's The Poltergeist Phenomenon, serves as an anecdotal introduction. A useful critical analysis is Alan Gauld and Tony Cornell's Poltergeists, which catalogues 500 cases - the tip of the iceberg, the authors think - and provides a full table of characteristics. The book also gives detailed quotes and analysis of historical cases, and describes the authors' own investigations.
Other books that I consulted are A.R.G. Owen, Can We Explain The Poltergeist? (1964); William Roll's The Poltergeist (1972), which includes a description of the Miami poltergeist of 1967; David Scott Rogo's On the Track of the Poltergeist (1986), and Michael Goss, Poltergeists: An Annotated Bibliography of Works in English, Circa 1880-1975 (1979). There's a brief overview by William Roll in Benjamin Wolman (ed.) Handbook of Parapsychology. Some of these are out of print, but all should be available in the SPR library in central London.
Hans Bender's investigation of the Rosenheim case is described by him in 'New Developments in Poltergeist Research', Proceedings of the Parapsychological Association 6 : 81, 1969 and 'Modern Poltergeist Research - A Plea for an Unprejudiced Approach' in John Beloff (ed.), New Directions in Parapsychology, (1974).
Michael J. Hallowell and Darren W. Ritson, The South Shields Poltergeist: One Family's Fight Against an Invisible Intruder (2008) describes a recent investigation of a typical case - reviewed by me at Paranormalia.
A 1974 case at Andover, bearing close similarities to the case of the Fox sisters, was recently reported in the SPR Journal (2008) (also reviewed by Paranormalia).
An article by Ian Stevenson, 'Are Poltergeists Living or Are They Dead?' (Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 66, 1972, pp. 233-52) argues that poltergeist disturbances may be linked both to the minds of the living and to the surviving minds of the dead.
Other SPR articles are listed below, with short summaries, and can be accessed in full at the Lexscien online library. Here are a few reports of varying lengths in full: Cideville, Vienna, Worksop, a Turkish 'raps' case, and several cases described by William Barrett.
Guy Lyon Playfair's This House is Haunted (1980) is a full description of his and Maurice Grosse's 14-month investigation of the Enfield poltergeist in the late 1970s. An earlier book by Playfair, on psychic phenomena in Brazil, The Unknown Power (first published in 1975 as The Flying Cow), contains some shorter descriptions.
Matthew Manning's The Link: Extraordinary Gifts of a Teenage Psychic (1974) describes phenomena experienced by the author at his parents home and at boarding school.
William Roll's Unleashed: Of Poltergeists and Murder, the Curious Story of Tina Resch (2004), is a retrospective discussion of the Columbus, Ohio case of 1984, occasioned by the fact of Tina's later arrest and incarceration for the murder of her child, and Roll's efforts to impede what he considered to be a miscarriage of justice. See James Randi's rebuttal of Roll's depiction of his activity in Columbus, which concludes with a claim that Roll shares the culpability for her plight (scroll to 'Book Review Review').
Colin Wilson's Poltergeist: A Classic Study in Destructive Hauntings (1981) has been reprinted - a preview extract is available here.
Here is a 1958 Time magazine article on the Seaford, Long Island poltergeist.
As I remarked in Randi's Prize, there appears to have been little attempt by sceptics to investigate the phenomenon.
Sceptical commentators appeal mainly to two sources (see for instance Robert T. Carroll Skepdic). One is a paper by James Randi 'The Columbus poltergeist case', in K. Frazier (ed.) Science Confronts the Paranormal (1986), describing his involvement in the Tina Resch episode in Columbus, Ohio. The main focus of the article is a deconstruction of a photograph appearing to show a telephone in mid-air as a result of 'poltergeist' action, but which Randi argues could easily have been caused by Tina herself.
The other main source is a short chapter in Seers, Psychics and ESP (1970), a sceptical account of paranormal claims by stage magician Millbourne Christopher, which describes nine cases, including the Seaford Long Island case in which he took a personal interest.
Some critics also refer to William Roll's article in Wolman's Handbook of Parapsychology (above), but there is little evidence of familiarity with the work of Gauld and Cornell, David Scott Rogo, William Barrett or other investigators. Critics might be interested in the SPR archive, which contains several examples of suspected fraud (see Catalogue below).
See here for a brief discussion of the Enfield case on JREF.
Poltergeist cases in the SPR Catalogue (short summaries)
Hughes, Frank. S. REPORT ON THE 'SHROPSHIRE DISTURBANCES', Journal 1, 1884-85, pp. 19-26. Poltergeist disturbances at a Shropshire farmhouse are investigated, with admissions of trickery by one of the girls involved failing to account wholly for the incidents as reported. P/fraud
THE VIENNA DISTURBANCES, Journal 1, 1884-5, p. 27. Brief note of an Austrian poltergeist case, terminated by heavy-handed police action. P/eur
Taylor, G.L. le M. REPORT ON THE ALLEGED MANIFESTATIONS AT ARUNDEL, SUSSEX, Journal 1, 1884-5, pp. 57-62. Mysterious scratchings and other incidents are thought to have been caused by the girl at the centre of the case.
CORRESPONDENCE pp. 86-7. P
Podmore, F. REPORT ON THE WORKSOP DISTURBANCES, Journal 1, 1884-85, pp. 199-212. A suggestive account of poltergeist disturbances, backed by witnesses' testimony, where trickery seems unlikely. P
Theobald, M. [CORRESPONDENCE], Journal 2, 1885-6, pp. 82-6. Includes description of 'spirit-writings' on ceilings, claimed by the writer to be of paranormal origin. (See also 324.) P
[POLTERGEIST], Journal 3, 1888, p. 227. Brief extract from a letter describing strong poltergeist-type incidents surrounding a young girl in France. P/eur
[POLTERGEIST], Journal 3, 1888, p. 272. Brief note concerning the visit by a Society investigator to the scene of reported poltergeist activity near Ipswich. Trickery by children is considered the likely cause. P
THE WATERFORD GHOST, Journal 5, 1891-92, pp. 227-8. An investigator concludes that occupants of a house reputedly haunted by a poltergeist are themselves responsible for causing the disturbances. P/scep
Myers, Frederic W.H. ON ALLEGED MOVEMENTS OF OBJECTS, WITHOUT CONTACT, OCCURRING NOT IN THE PRESENCE OF A PAID MEDIUM, Proceedings 7, 1891-2, pp. 383-94. Report of disturbances in a joiner's workshop in Manchester. Pieces of wood are repeatedly thrown, apparently to attract attention rather than cause harm. A number of workmen witness the movements at different times, but none appears to be the focus. They attribute the disturbances to a young apprentice, recently deceased, trying to get his uncle to repay a debt to his father's creditors. P/purp
Podmore, Frank. [POLTERGEISTS], Journal 7, 1895, pp. 246-8. Casts doubt on the paranormality of poltergeist phenomena (summary and discussion). P
Podmore, Frank. POLTERGEISTS, Proceedings 12, 1896-97, pp. 45-115. Eleven cases are described, with fraud emerging as an explanation in four and being confessed in three. The author amplifies potential unreliability in the testimony of the witnesses, tending to discount any supernormal agency, and concludes that trickery is probably the 'true and sufficient explanation' for each incident.
CORRESPONDENCE, Journal 7, 1895-96, pp. 306-8; Journal 9, 1899-1900, pp. 22-30, 37-45, 56-7, 72, 91-4.
ARENSBURG POLTERGEIST, Journal 13, 1907-8, pp. 30-32, 127-8, 158-60. Note on documents pertaining to a case discussed in Journal 9, 1899. P/fraud/scep/scep-r
Podmore, Frank. WITCHCRAFT AND POLTERGEISTS, Journal 9, 1900, pp. 204-7. Compares the involvement of young children, particularly girls, in poltergeist cases with a similar prominence of young children in the literature of witchcraft in the 16th and 17th centuries (abstract and discussion). P/witch
Lang, Andrew. THE POLTERGEIST, HISTORICALLY CONSIDERED, Proceedings 17, 1901-2, pp. 305-26. Lang expresses doubts about Podmore's reliance on trickery and unreliable memory as the main ingredients of poltergeist episodes and goes on to discuss the historical evidence of certain cases: the Drummer of Tedworth, 1661 (306); the Epworth Cases, 1716 (316); Willington Mill, 1835-47 (321). French cases including Angelique Cottin and Cideville are briefly referred to (324).
In reply, Podmore claims that Lang's researches regarding the Tedworth case support his contentions regarding the unreliability of testimony (327). Lang demurs, with further details (333). P/hist/scep-r/scep/eur
Lang, Andrew. THE POLTERGEIST AT CIDEVILLE, Proceedings 18, 1903-4, pp. 454-463. Historical details of a French case, 1850-51, based on court depositions. P/hist/eur
TWO POLTERGEIST CASES, Journal 12, 1905-6, pp. 124-42. A window in a Wigan house is repeatedly damaged, with pieces of mortar flying out the room. Witnesses, who include police, do not think the inhabitants are responsible but an investigator fails to observe anything. A second case involves violent disturbances in a farmhouse kitchen, including clothes catching fire and a servant girl being badly burned. P
Fielding, Everard. [FRAUDULENT POLTERGEIST], Journal 12, 1905, pp. 162-9. Investigation of an apparently convincing poltergeist reveals elaborate trickery involving 'apports' concealed in the rectum. P/fraud
A POLTERGEIST CASE, Journal 12, 1905-6, pp. 260-66. A stone-throwing case in Sumatra.
CORRESPONDENCE pp. 278-84, 294-7, 328-31. P/asia
AUTOMATIC (?) PHENOMENA Journal 13, 1907-8, pp. 15-16. A short account by an amateur investigator in Turkey of poltergeist phenomena. In the presence of a young man, apparently a medium, raps are heard that answer questions, often correctly P/eur
POLTERGEIST, Journal 13, 1907-8, pp. 66-79. Detailed account by a local investigator of objects being thrown around a Viennese workshop. The phenomena were apparently linked to young male apprentices, continued for a two-month period, and were highly inconvenient to the owner, causing destruction and light injuries. P/eur
POLTERGEIST, Journal 13, 1907-8, pp. 194-7. Brief account of knockings, violent movements of objects, beds being shaken, etc. P
N.I. SOME MYSTERIOUS RAPPINGS EXPLAINED, Journal 13, 1908, 218-9. Noises thought at first to be supernormal are discovered to be caused by loose wall covering grating against nails. P
Barrett, W.F. POLTERGEISTS, OLD AND NEW, Proceedings 25, 1911, pp. 377-412. Five poltergeist cases are briefly described. 1) Enniscorthy, N. Ireland, 1910. Two young male lodgers hear unexplained raps in their room. An interested journalist spends a night in the room and sees one of the youths, together with bedclothes, being lifted off the bed, apparently by an unseen force. 2) Derrygonnelly, N. Ireland, 1877. The author is eyewitness to disturbances in a farmer's cottage: raps, scratchings, falling stones, candles and boots repeatedly thrown out of the house. The raps respond intelligently to unspoken requests. 3) Atlantic Monthly, 1868. Powerful disturbances around an Irish servant in Massachussetts, USA. Bells ring in her presence, no wires attached; raps are heard; furniture and household objects are violently moved. The girl shows evidence of clairvoyance. 4) Portland, Oregon, USA, 1909. Unnatural movements of furniture and objects are repeatedly witnessed. A boy who appears to be the centre of the disturbances is later discovered faking movements. 5) Dale Towers, Georgia, USA, 1911. Violent disturbances in an isolated railway tower. Objects are hurled about the room by an unseen force, in good light and in front of three witnesses. 6) Vienna, 1907. Two apprentices in a blacksmith's shop are the centre of disturbances: tools and materials are violently hurled around, sometimes causing damage and injury. ABSTRACT & DISCUSSION, Journal 15, 1911, pp. 36-40. P/eur/usa
A POLTERGEIST CASE, Journal 15, 1911-12, pp. 225-40. Witnesses describe the outbreak of rapping phenomena in a London house. The raps are associated with three teenage girls and communicate intelligently with investigators. P
A POLTERGEIST CASE, Journal 17, 1915-16, pp. 84-95. Alarming grunts and groans are heard throughout a house, apparently connected with, but not directly caused by, a teenage girl. P
Barrett, W.F. & Hesketh, W.F. THE FOLKSTONE POLTERGEIST, Journal 18, 1917-18, pp. 155-82. A builder responsible for making a dugout air-raid shelter complains of a series of violent interruptions, being pelted with rocks, sand and bricks, apparently by some invisible agency. Candles are also unaccountably extinguished. Natural gas, trickery and other causes are found to be unsatisfactory explanations. Various witnesses give detailed statements.
CORRESPONDENCE, pp. 196-8. P
A SUPPOSED 'POLTERGEIST' CASE AND ITS EXPLANATION, Journal 19, 1919-20, pp. 95-9. Mysterious oil 'leaks' appear in several places in a Norfolk rectory and are attributed here to the trickery of a 15-year old girl. P
THE HOPFGARTEN POLTERGEIST CASE, Journal 20, 1921-22, pp. 199-207. An invalid woman undergoes hypnosis and poltergeist phenomena start to occur around her: raps and movement of objects. The police are called in and witness the phenomena. The hypnotic suggestion is reversed and the phenomena cease. Statements by witnesses, made under oath to magistrates, make it clear that the woman is incapable of causing the effects by trickery. P/eur/hyp
THE POLTERGEIST CASE AT LEDAIG, ARGYLESHIRE, Journal 20, 1921-22, pp. 375-6. An investigator (Dingwall) decisively rejects paranormal explanations in this Scottish case. P
THE ALLEGED POLTERGEIST DISTURBANCES AT GOREFIELD, Journal 21, 1923-24, pp. 107-8. Brief mention of a Cambridgeshire case; details said to be available. P
AN EARLY RECORD OF A POLTERGEIST CASE, Journal 24, 1927-28, pp 26-7. News item from a 1738 publication concerning troublesome poltergeist phenomena attributed to the trickery of a 12-year-old girl. P
Woolley, V.J. SOME INVESTIGATIONS INTO POLTERGEISTS, Journal 26, 1930, pp. 104-7. Some minor cases, probably with ordinary explanations. P
Salter, W.H. [POLTERGEISTS], Journal 27, 1931, pp. 91-5. Summarises the Society's work on poltergeists and the opposing viewpoints put forward by researchers and interested parties. P
Layard, John. PSI PHENOMENA AND POLTERGEISTS, Proceedings 47, 1942-45, pp. 237-48. A psychoanalyst describes two cases in which neurotic symptoms lead to apparently psychokinetic disturbances.
CORRESPONDENCE, Journal 33, 1943-6, pp. 79-84, 94-6, 113-6, 206. Members complained about the poor standards of this article which they argued was based on opinion more than on solid research and should not have been published in the Proceedings. Some of these letters were reprinted in Proceedings 47, pp. 267-74. P
POLTERGEIST, Journal 33, 1943-6, pp. 224-30. A member investigates poltergeist phenomena in a bungalow inhabited by a woman and her 13-year-old grandson. The boy is thought here to be directly responsible for causing the disturbances. P
MALVERN POLTERGEIST, Journal 33, 1943-6, pp. 265. A poker detaches itself from its wall hook, rises in the air and glides ten or twelve feet through the kitchen in front of an investigator and a number of other witnesses. P
POLTERGEIST AT NETHERFIELD, Journal 34, 1947-48, pp. 71-4 (illus). A much-publicised case is investigated and thought to be explained by the acoustic effects of a faulty clock-spring. P
Lambert, G.W. POLTERGEISTS: A PHYSICAL THEORY, Journal 38, 1955-6, pp. 49-71. Lambert argues on a number of grounds that poltergeist phenomena are initiated by physical forces: that the geographical distribution of the occurrences favour coastal regions, especially tidal estuaries; that they tend to occur in winter rather than summer; and that they correlate significantly with meteorological and local geological conditions, also in some coastal cases with the tides. He concludes that underground water in movement initiates the disturbances, which are then misinterpreted from fear and superstition into 'miraculous' effects.
CORRESPONDENCE, pp. 149-55
Lambert, G.W. POLTERGEISTS: SOME SIMPLE EXPERIMENTS AND TESTS, Journal 38, 1955-6, pp. 201-11. To reinforce his 'geophysical' theory of poltergeist phenomena the author describes some procedures for demonstrating how some of the effects commonly reported in such cases may occur.
CORRESPONDENCE, pp. 276-82.
Cornell, A.D. & Gauld, A. THE GEOPHYSICAL THEORY OF POLTERGEISTS, Journal 41, 1961-62, pp. 129-46. A frontal attack on Lambert's geophysical theory. The authors analyse the mechanics of typical effects to demonstrate that geophysical forces could not produce the kinds of phenomena reported. They say the theory lacks proper evidence; involves many factual errors; fails to eliminate alternative hypothesis; and rests on a circular argument, using the distribution of ghost cases to prove that geophysical forces can produce eerie noises.
In his reply (148-53), Lambert concedes that the theory proves nothing in relation to cases where it is clearly contra-indicated, for instance in cases where the phenomena 'shows intelligence' (153).
CORRESPONDENCE, Journal 50, 1979-80, pp. 192-3. Gives an example of poltergeist-type disturbances being directly traced to underground streams, contradicting a major contention of critics of the geophysical theory. Also pp. 320, 422-3. P
CORRECTION - p. 348 Cornell, A.D. & Gauld, A. A FENLAND POLTERGEIST, Journal 40, 1959-60, pp. 343-58. Investigators witness paranormal-seeming movements of objects and hear clear percussive raps. The geophysical theory is considered in detail and ruled out, partly because the raps appear to reply to questions and indicate a form of intelligence. Hoaxing is also considered unlikely.
CORRESPONDENCE, pp. 431-2. P
Barrington, Mary Rose. THE CASE OF THE FLYING THERMOMETER, Journal 43, 1965-66, pp. 11-20. Reliable witnesses describe the unnatural movement of objects in a case that centres on their seven-year-old daughter.
Barrington, Mary Rose. FURTHER REPORT ON THE 'FLYING THERMOMETER'CASE, Journal 45, 1969-70, pp. 149-61. Repressed emotions are held to be the cause of poltergeist disturbances, suggesting a comparison to Eusapia Palladino.
Barrington, Mary Rose. A POLTERGEIST REVIVED: THE FLYING THERMOMETER CASE AGAIN , Journal 48, 1975-6, pp. 293-97. The psychological tension thought to have given rise to PK incidents is found to have existed in other members of the family involved. P
Ellison, A.J. EXCORCISM IN EAST LONDON, Journal 43, 1965-66, pp. 44-6. Factory employees are frightened and their work disrupted by poltergeist activity and repeated sightings of an apparition. The ghost fails to attend a séance laid on by a Society investigator, but following his announcement that it has been exorcised the disturbances cease. The author suggests this is a valid case of 'psychological exorcism'.
CORRESPONDENCE, p. 99. P
Lamb, C. et al. AN EAST MIDLANDS POLTERGEIST, Journal 47, 1973-4, pp. 120, 139-55. Results of a close investigation into poltergeist-type raps and bangings. The authors argue against fraud (154) and point out that the phenomena seemed to be linked to an individual and to a particular room. P
CORRESPONDENCE: IAN STEVENSON ON POLTERGEISTS, Journal 47, 1973-4, pp. 399, 538-9. Comments on an article by Stevenson 'Are Poltergeists Living or Are They Dead ?' published in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1972, pp. 233-52. P
Rogo, D.Scott. PSYCHOTHERAPY AND THE POLTERGEIST, Journal 47, 1973-4, pp. 433-46. This discussion contains a first-hand account of a Los Angeles case, in which objects move, a radio changes stations, shadows are seen, footsteps are felt, and cold breezes and breathings are sensed. The author views the poltergeist as a 'vehicle of expression' (445), particularly of tensions to which the whole family may contribute. P/usa
Bayless, Raymond. [EARLY METAL BENDING INCIDENT], Journal 48, 1976, p. 322. Apropos of Uri Geller, recalls a metal bending instance in a nineteenth century poltergeist case.
CORRESPONDENCE, Journal 49, 1977, pp. 474-5. Another early example, from an eighteenth century poltergeist episode in Bristol.
CORRESPONDENCE, pp. 622-3, 680-81, 848-50, 977-8. Controversy concerning the paranormal interpretations of such incidents. PSI-S/P/metal
CORRESPONDENCE: THE LAMB INN POLTERGEIST, Journal 49, 1977-78, pp. 474, 622-3, 680-81, 848-50. Controversy about Uri Geller leads to discussion of an apparent instance of metal bending in this poltergeist case. P/metal
Lawden, D.F. REPORT ON A POLTERGEIST CASE, Journal 50, 1979-80, pp. 73-6. A girl aged 17 dances over tombstones in a cemetery and subsequently her family's council house is haunted by the apparition of an old woman. A number of incidents involving poltergeist-type noises and disturbances are described. A/P/haunt
Nisbet, Brian C. A WEST CROYDON 'POLTERGEIST', Journal 50, 1979-80, pp. 229-37. A couple in bed hear rapping and scratching noises from the bedside table, that respond intelligently to questions. The table levitates and crashes down, hitting one of them on the head. P
CORRESPONDENCE, Journal 50, 1979-80, pp. 552-4. A sceptic expresses doubts about claims to have captured poltergeist activity in photographs.
See also Journal 51, p. 35, 258-9, 399. P/scep
Rogo, D. Scott. THE POLTERGEIST AND FAMILY DYNAMICS: A REPORT ON A RECENT INVESTIGATION, Journal 51, 1981-82, pp. 233-7. In this Los Angeles case an adolescent boy experiences a psychotic episode which is followed by poltergeist disturbances in his family's apartment. The case is explored as an effect of family tensions, rather than of a single individual.
CORRESPONDENCE, pp. 401-3; Journal 52, pp. 152-3. P/usa
Permutt, Cyril. THE BOURNEMOUTH POLTERGEIST, Journal 52, 1983-84, pp. 45-51. Features in this case include the violent destructiveness of the disturbances; an extreme chill in the atmosphere; the presence of witnesses other than the family, including social workers and police officers; and the involvement of a mentally retarded child, thought to be significant in earlier cases. P
Betty, L. Stafford. THE KERN CITY POLTERGEIST: A CASE SEVERELY STRAINING THE LIVING AGENT HYPOTHESIS, Journal 52, 1983-84, pp. 345-64. A wealthy 63-year-old widow experiences violent poltergeist phenomena that cause her to flee from her house. The author considers the event to be caused by a discarnate agent.
COMMENT, Journal 53, 1985-86, pp. 87-99; 249-54. P
Rogo, D. Scott. A CASE OF MYSTERIOUS STONE-THROWING IN ARIZONA, Journal 54, 1987, pp. 16-37. Stones thrown at a house and vehicles outside are thought by the family to be the work of a disgruntled individual. The author investigates the event which he regards as possibly the effect of poltergeist activity. P/usa
Eastham, Peter. TICKING OFF A POLTERGEIST, Journal 55, 1988-89, pp. 80-83. Various paranormal explanations for a mysterious ticking sound are considered, until it is identified as the mating call of the house's insect population. P
Playfair, Guy Lyon & Grosse, Maurice. ENFIELD REVISITED: THE EVAPORATION OF POSITIVE EVIDENCE, Journal 55, 1988-89, pp. 208-19. Researchers who described apparently robust evidence of poltergeist activity in a North London household here describe the ways in which it was diminished during the following years by other people's disbelief (This House is Haunted: An Investigation of the Enfield Poltergeist - London: Souvenir, 1980; see Suggestions for Further Reading).
CORRESPONDENCE, pp. 375; Journal 56, p. 188
Earlier correspondence arising from the authors' original book can be found in Journal 50, 1979-80, p. 258; Journal 51, pp. 34-5, pp. 115-6, 195, 321-2; Journal 52, pp. 92-5, 155-6; Journal 64, 2000, p. 192. P/scep/scep-r
Amorim, Michel-Ange. THE GUARULHOS POLTERGEIST, Journal 56 & 57, 1989-1991, pp. 193-207. Reinterpretation of a Brazilian case reported in 1984 in terms of discarnate agents and black magic rites. The phenomena extended over a period of eleven years and included spontaneous fires, apports, possession trances, apparitions and cuts on people and furniture. Violent displacements of objects were common. The author prefers the 'living agent' hypothesis.
CORRESPONDENCE, Journal 57, 1991, pp. 435-8. P/A/latamer
Fontana, David. A RESPONSIVE POLTERGEIST: A CASE FROM SOUTH WALES, Journal 56 & 57, 1989-1991, pp. 385-402. A stone-throwing poltergeist in an engineering workshop is investigated over a period of several months. The disturbances include small stones, coins or bolts impacting on the floor and walls; apports of coins and other objects from other parts of the premises; movements of objects; large stones crashing on the roof; stones thrown at the windows; carburettor floats embedded in the ceiling of the occupants' homes; a persistent smell of burning; frequent unidentified telephone calls to the occupants' homes; planks of wood thrown violently into the workshop; throwing of stones in front of customers in the retail shop.
A stone thrown in anger towards the focus of the disturbance is returned and the process repeated several times. A request to bring a pen results in a pen appearing in a space where it was not seen previously. The investigator observes some of the incidents, notably the reciprocal stone-throwing, which he finds he can reproduce on separate occasions. The phenomena end temporarily when one of the occupants leaves and the premises are refurbished (but see here below).
The possibility of fraud is discussed in detail, but motives and opportunities are found to be scarce and the occupants show themselves over a period to be reliable and sincere. Unusually, no children or adolescents are involved and the family seems stable.
CORRESPONDENCE, Journal 58, 1992, p. 221
Fontana, David. THE RESPONSIVE SOUTH WALES POLTERGEIST: A FOLLOW-UP REPORT, Journal 58, 1991-92, pp. 225-31. Further evidence is shown to have accumulated, including the arrival of crumpled banknotes and three sightings of an apparition.
CORRESPONDENCE, pp. 404-7, 409-10; P/A
Carvalho, Andre Percia de. A STUDY OF THIRTEEN BRAZILIAN POLTERGEIST CASES AND A MODEL TO EXPLAIN THEM, Journal 58, 1991-92, pp. 302-13. Features commonly associated with Brazilian reports, such as repressed aggression and psychological disturbances, a majority of women and an average age of 13 years, are found to correspond to features reported by Roll and Gauld & Cornell. P/latamer
Bugaj, Roman. TWO WATER-POLTERGEIST CASES, Journal 61, 1996-7, pp. 235-42. A Polish case is described in which a 12-year-old boy is the focus of abnormal appearance of water from the walls and ceilings of his family's flat. The streams of water cause great discomfort and continue despite the water supply being switched off. A similar case in Switzerland is described, where an 11-year-old girl is thought to be the focus of the disturbances.
CORRESPONDENCE, pp. 411-3. P
Puhle, Annekatrin. GHOSTS, APPARITIONS AND POLTERGEIST INCIDENTS IN GERMANY BETWEEN 1700 AND 1900, Journal 63, 1998-9, pp. 292-305. Author's abstract: The report is intended to make a contribution to our historical understanding of ghost and poltergeist phenomena, concentrating on cases from the so-called 'Age of Goethe.' Historical research into German RSPK phenomena and apparitions is a challenging but elusive area which has so far escaped the scholarly investigation it warrants. While the Anglo-American literature has produced a body of scholarly works on the 'poltergeist', a historical review of such phenomena, ranging from the rapping 'Klopfgeist' to the mysterious 'Weiße Frau' (white lady) cases, fills an important gap in German cultural history and suggests that these phenomena have a pervasive nature.
To date, the following collections along with some other selected libraries have been thoroughly researched for documents on 18th and 19th-century ghost and poltergeist cases: the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel, the Herzogin Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, the Bavarian National Library in Munich, and the Austrian National Library in Vienna. From this research material an extensive selection has been made of cases concerning RSPK phenomena and apparitions, and in inventory made for future research purposes. The bibliography covers to date more than 1000 titles published in the German-speaking area between 1700 and 1900. A short-list of typical poltergeist reports, most often in the form of monographs, resulted in 50 cases, 15 of which took place before 1700 and 1900. A short-list of typical poltergeist reports, most often in the form of monographs, resulted in 50 cases, 15 of which took place before 1700, 15 in the 18th, and 20 in the 19th century. A general survey of the authors and their works, as well as the spectrum of parapsychological phenomena reported in these eras, is followed by the presentation of a 'classic' poltergeist case: the 'Gerstmann' case from the year 1713. This took place in the house of a well-known physician, the family being confronted with many different aspects of these phenomena. The documentation has a diary-like precision and was written by the son in the family and also includes a report by a clergyman who had become a daily eye-witness of the incidents in Gerstmann's house. Finally, the form and personification that these phenomena take are seeing in the context of what can be learned from the tradition of Folklore. A/P
Houran, James & Lange, Rense. RATIONALE AND APPLICATION OF A MULTI-ENERGY SENSOR ARRAY IN THE INVESTIGATION OF HAUNTING AND POLTERGEIST CASES, Journal 62, 1997-8, pp. 324-36. Author's abstract: Evidence from field studies and case analyses implicates electromagnetic field activity in processes underpinning hauntings and poltergeist-like episodes. Consistent with these findings, a comprehensive literature review shows that previous procedures often included indices of electromagnetic field activity. Unfortunately, most of these approaches have been limited by the fact that variables of interest were collected and studied separately. Consequently, it has not been possible to establish cross-correlations between various types of electromagnetic fields through standard signal-processing techniques. To remedy this situation, this paper describes the application of MESA (a previously described computerized, multi-energy sensor array for the detection and recording of low frequency energy fluctuations) for researching the electromagnetic properties of hauntings, poltergeist-like episodes and other anomalous phenomena.
CORRESPONDENCE, p. 475; Journal 63, 1999, pp. 242-3. A/P
Fontana, David. THREE EXPERIENCES POSSIBLY SUGGESTIVE OF SURVIVAL, Journal 64, 2000, pp. 39-45. Fontana describes and briefly discusses incidents that occurred shortly after the death in the autumn of 1998 of Ralph Noyes, a fellow SPR Council member and writer on psychical topics, with whom he shared a particular interest in survival. He categorises these as After Death Communications (ADCs), a term used by Louis Legrand to describe the experiences described by individuals seeking grief counselling (see Louis Legrand, AFTER DEATH COMMUNICATION, reviewed by David Fontana, Journal 62, 1997, pp. 272-3). Such incidents seem to indicate a wish by a deceased person to impress on a surviving friend or loved one the fact of their survival, other than through a medium. In the first case, Fontana and a friend are discussing Noyes while drinking cocktails and reading an obituary of him in UFO Magazine. They hear a loud noise in the next room and discover the top of a cocktail shaker is on the floor 'having fallen or been propelled from the counter top, rolled across the floor, and produced [a] ringing noise by hitting the door of the fridge.' Investigation reveals no normal cause for this. In the second case, Fontana is working at his computer and seeks a quotation from a book by William James, a writer Noyes also admired. At this moment, a pile of journals falls from a shelf onto the floor. Again, no obvious cause is apparent. Finally, Fontana recounts a dream in which he finds himself in 'total darkness', which however feels 'welcoming and very safe', and aware of Noyes in front of him. '...I would say it seemed as if we met in some intermediate space between this world and the next, and that he was prevented by the circumstances of this space from speaking to me or appearing visually. But there was absolutely no doubting his gentle, kindly presence.' P/DV/dream
Houran, James. [SOFTWARE FOR INVESTIGATING ELECTROMAGNETIC ASPECTS OF HAUNTING AND POLTERGEIST PHENOMENA], Journal 64, 2000, p. 54. Briefly describes software the author believes could be useful in investigating electromagnetic aspects of haunting and poltergeist phenomena, and gives web site reference for its purchase. A/P/comput
Grosse, Maurice & Barrington, Mary Rose. REPORT ON PSYCHOKINETIC ACTIVITY SURROUNDING A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD BOY, Journal 65, 2001, pp. 207-17. Author's abstract: The paper describes an investigation by two researchers into a recent report of psychokinetic activity surrounding a seven-year-old boy. Knocking sounds for which no natural explanation could be provided were witnessed on three occasions and recorded on camcorder and tape-recorder. P
Crabbe, John. SOME PARACOUSTICS PROPOSALS, Journal 66, 2002, pp. 175-9. Pursuing a suggestion that the acoustic intensity of paranormal noises occurring in poltergeist situations should be recorded and examined, a method of achieving this is proposed. Then, after a brief survey of reports, findings and conjectures regarding temporal anomalies observed in both spontaneous and séance-induced rappings, a programme of research is suggested, whereby it should be possible to offer impeccable recordings of such sounds for attempts at replication by sceptics under controlled conditions. P
Daniels, Michael. THE 'BROTHER DOLI' CASE: INVESTIGATION OF APPARENT POLTERGEIST-TYPE MANIFESTATIONS IN NORTH WALES, Journal 66, 2002, pp. 193-221. In February 1997 two Irish tourists allegedly witnessed a healing apparition of the Virgin Mary in a field near Mold, North Wales. Soon after, further apparitions and other phenomena began to be reported in the field and in the house of its owners. Since October 1998 a large number of unexplained stains and carvings of images and Welsh words, generally of a religious nature, have been discovered inside and outside the house. Welsh religious words were also found in emails sent from the house, in computer files and printed documents. Other phenomena have included noises, strange smells, temperature fluctuations, pools of water, electrical disturbances and object displacements. A number of photographs taken in and around the house also contained unexplained monk- like shapes and other seemingly anomalous images. An investigation of these various phenomena was undertaken. This focussed on surveying the stains and carvings, on an examination of the photographic anomalies, and on an attempt to record manifestations using time-lapse surveillance equipment. Results are described, strengths and weaknesses of the evidence discussed, and possible interpretations considered. Although there are some highly strange features in this case, it is not possible to conclude with certainty whether the phenomena indicate genuine paranormal activity, whether they are the result of an elaborate hoax, or whether there is a mixture of genuine and fabricated incidents.
Gower, Rose-Mary and Gower, David. THE 'BROTHER DOLI' CASE: FAMILY PERSPECTIVES, Journal 66, 2002, pp. 222-4. The authors discuss their experiences of the apparent poltergeist-type manifestations at their home in North Wales and comment on the investigation into the case reported by Michael Daniels. P
Books and Book Reviews (from the SPR Catalogue)
Lang, Andrew. COCK LANE AND COMMON SENSE, reviewed by Walter Leaf, Proceedings 10, 1894, pp. 423-6. A historian sympathetic to psychical research describes a number of historical incidents, including the Cock Lane poltergeist, taking the view that proposed 'common sense' explanations fall well short of what is needed to account for the phenomena, even as they are recorded by sceptics themselves.
CORRESPONDENCE, Journal 6, 1894, pp. 302-4. BR/P/gen
Aksakoff, A.M. PREDVESTNIKI SPIRITIZMA ZA POSLEDNIE 250 LYET [THE PRECURSORS OF SPIRITISM FOR THE LAST 250 YEARS], reviewed by Walter Leaf, Proceedings 12, 1897, pp. 319-30. A history of spiritism from the 'doyen' of continental spiritists. The review contains details of an extended poltergeist attack, of the violent type. BR/P
Lang, Andrew. THE MAKING OF RELIGION, reviewed by Frank Podmore, Proceedings 14, 1898, pp. 128-38. Lang compares anthropological reports of supernatural belief among 'primitives' with modern reports studied by psychical researchers, arguing that such beliefs can no longer be held to demonstrate the uncivilised nature of pre-modern societies. He also takes issue with the arguments of Parish and Podmore against the genuineness of poltergeists. Podmore takes the opportunity to reply.
CORRRESPONDENCE, Journal 9, 1899, pp. 11-12, 24-32. BR/P/scep-r/anthrop
Bozzano, Ernesto. DEI FENOMENI D'INFESTAZIONE, Journal 19, 1919, pp. 107-8. Review of psychical research by a prominent Italian investigator. The reviewer offers a short critique of the chapter on poltergeists. BR/P/gen/ital
Sitwell, Sacheverell. POLTERGEISTS, reviewed by W. H. Salter, Journal 31, 1940, pp. 194-9. Study of poltergeists, arguing that some major incidents cannot be explained as trickery. BR/P/gen
Price, Harry. POLTERGEIST OVER ENGLAND. THREE CENTURIES OF MISCHIEVOUS GHOSTS, reviewed by P-P. Solovovo, Journal 33, 1945, pp. 179-83. Voluminous study, considering a number of well-known historical and contemporary cases. The reviewer adds a brief description from his own experience, in Estonia, considering the degree to which the suspicion of fraud must be taken into account. BR/P/hist
Moser, F. SPUK: IRRGLAUBE ODER WAHRGLAUBE? Journal 36, 1951, pp. 373-5. Study of poltergeists by a Swiss biologist. BR/P/switz
Carrington, Hereward and Fodor, Nandor. THE STORY OF THE POLTERGEIST DOWN THE CENTURIES, Journal 37, 1953, pp.101-5. Historical study of poltergeists.
CORRESPONDENCE, Journal 37, 1953, pp. 218-9. BR/P/hist
Dingwall, Eric J. and Hall, Trevor H. FOUR MODERN GHOSTS, reviewed by F. J. M. Stratton, Journal 39, 1958, pp. 288-9. Close examination of four cases of poltergeists illustrating the hazards lying in wait for the researcher.
CORRESPONDENCE, pp. 301-6. P BR/P
Gallico, Paul. TOO MANY GHOSTS, reviewed by G. W. F., Journal 41, 1961, pp. 91-2. Novel involving the investigation, and eventual debunking, of poltergeist phenomena, based on SPR publications and speculations such as the Underground Water theory. BR/P/fict/scep
Owen, A. R. G. CAN WE EXPLAIN THE POLTERGEIST?, reviewed by G. W. F., Journal 43, 1965, pp. 93-7. Major study by a Cambridge genetics lecturer, with detailed examination of cases and theories. BR/P/pk
Cohen, David. POLTERGEISTS AND HAUNTINGS ARE WITH US FOREVER, Journal 43, 1965, p. 217. 'Describes the author's own experiences whilst investigating alleged spontaneous cases.' (no review). BR/P/A
Grant, Douglas. THE COCK LANE GHOST, reviewed by E. J. Dingwall, Journal 43, 1966, pp. 270-71. Lively narrative of the celebrated eighteenth-century poltergeist case, with the emphasis on the historical events rather than analysis. BR/P
Gehrts, Heino. DAS MÄDCHEN VON ORLACH, reviewed by E. J. Dingwall, Journal 44, 1968, pp. 349-350. Detailed description of a nineteenth century Germany poltergeist case, in which a young peasant girl was possessed by two spirits, one good and one evil. The possession was ended when, on the advice of the 'good spirit', the family's house was demolished, revealing evidence of an earlier crime. BR/P/germ/poss
Durbin, Henry. WITCHCRAFT AT THE LAMB INN, BRISTOL. Reviewed by Alan Gauld, Journal 47, 1973, pp. 261-5. Contemporary account of a mid-eighteenth century poltergeist. See also Journal 49, 1978, pp. 622-3, 680-81, 848-50. BR/P
Manning, Matthew. THE LINK: THE EXTRAORDINARY GIFTS OF A TEENAGE PSYCHIC, reviewed by Ian Fletcher, Journal 48, 1975, pp. 104-6. An 18-year old youth describes a series of poltergeist activities of which he was the centre since the age of 11, including rapidly executed automatic drawings signed by deceased artists such as Durer, Beardsely and Picasso; messages purporting to come from the house's previous occupants; etc. BR/P/art/child
Locher, Theo & Lauper, Guido. SCHWEIZER SPUK UND PSYCHOKINESE, reviewed by G. Ludemann, Journal 49, 1978, pp. 756-7. '...a most useful and instructive collection of poltergeist and other physical phenomena from Switzerland...a total of 14 cases are presented...' BR/P/eur
Gauld, Alan and Cornell, A. D. POLTERGEISTS, reviewed by James F. McHarg, Journal 50, 1980, pp. 301-3. Major study by veteran investigators, including a survey of representative types of cases, statistical analysis of 500 sample cases, normal explanations, and cases researched by the authors. BR/P
Goss, Michael. POLTERGEISTS, reviewed by Anita Gregory, Journal 50, 1980, pp. 303-4. Subtitle: 'An annotated bibliography of works in English, circa 1880-1975'. Presents in alphabetical order a survey of the literature in English on poltergeists over nearly a century. BR/P
Andrade, Hernani Guimarães. O 'POLTERGEIST' DE SUZANO (THE SUZANO POLTERGEIST), reviewed by Carlos S. Alvarado, Journal 52, 1984, pp. 392-5. Detailed report of a violent poltergeist case in Sao Paulo, Brazil, presented by an engineer and experienced psychical researcher. The phenomena consisted of stones falling on the house at different times of day and night for about two years (1968-1970) and seventeen fires in different parts of the house, May 1970. BR/P/latamer
Compton, Carole with Cole, Gerald. SUPERSTITION: THE TRUE STORY OF THE NANNY THEY CALLED A WITCH, reviewed by James F. McHarg, Journal 58, 1991, pp. 106-9. Tells of the trial and imprisonment of a British nanny in Italy, accused of arson following apparent poltergeist activity. BR/P/ital/law
Cassirer, Manfred. THE PERSECUTION OF MR TONY ELMS (THE BROMLEY POLTERGEIST), reviewed by Maurice Grosse, Journal 60, 1995, pp. 277-8. 'A concise and interesting read about a rather vindictive and typical "psychic joker"...' BR/P
Zangari, Wellington & Machado, Fatima Regina. CONVERSANDO SOBRE PARAPSICOLOGIA and CONVERSANDO SOBRE CASAS MAL-ASSOMBRADAS: O FENÔMENO POLTERGEIST, reviewed by Alejandro Parra, Journal 61, 1996, pp. 272-4. Introductions to parapsychology for Brazilians. BR/P/gen/latamer
Dening, John C. THE RESTLESS SPIRITS OF LANGENHOE: THE EXCITING TRUE STORY OF A HAUNTED ESSEX CHURCH, reviewed by David Christie-Murray, Journal 65, 2001, pp. 156-7. An Anglican priest describes his investigation of a poltergeist activities and apparitional sightings at a church, and attempts to persuade an incumbent ghost to 'enter the light'. BR/P/relig
Houran, James and Lange, Rense, ed. HAUNTINGS AND POLTERGEISTS: MULTIDISCIPLINARY PERSPECTIVES, reviewed by Alan Gauld, 260-72. A collection of 19 papers, 'undoubtedly one of the most substantial in its subject area so far published [providing] a conspectus of a fair proportion of the leading themes of the most recent work in that area...' The review gives details of the contents, which include a discussion by Hilary Evans of discusses "the ghost experience" in the wider context of religious and Marian apparitions, folklore entities, angels, demons, etc; Emily D. Edwards on 'Ghostly Narratives in Popular Film and Television'; McClenon and others examining beliefs and attitudes from a socio-cultural perspective; Brazilian hauntings and poltergeists; Tony Lawrence and others on the psychological characeristics that may correlate with paranormal beliefs; sceptical approaches, including one by the editors which the review criticises in detail; and articles on the physics and physiology of hauntings and poltergeists. BR/A/P/relig/ent/meia/scep