Most of you, I suppose, already know what poltergeists are supposed to be, and what they do. They are either mischievous spirits or RSPK (recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis): somebody's subconscious having a psychic tantrum and exhibiting powers the conscious mind could never display.
Poltergeists are the things that go bump in the night - and in the daytime, and make a whole lot of other noises as well. They throw things around and smash them - although "throw" is perhaps not the correct word, for the objects frequently move slowly, fall heavily or lightly, or change course, as if being held by an invisible hand. Although they very rarely harm people, they may slap them, pinch them, or pull their hair. They also start fires. With advances in technology, they have now learned how to turn on electrical appliances even when they are disconnected, and run up huge telephone bills from disconnected phones. But the most mysterious of all poltergeist phenomena are apports.
Apports are objects which appear and disappear. Sometimes it happens just when the onlookers' eyes are averted. On rare occasions they can actually be seen to materialise or dematerialise in front of the witness's eyes - sometimes on request. At other times, they are seen to move into the room, but without any indication as to how they did so, for they were known to have been in some locked container. Sometimes, objects appear which simply did not exist in the building in question; they must have come from elsewhere.
Such phenomena are worldwide in distribution. In 1967 a 19-year-old girl called Annmarie of Rosenheim, Germany became the focus of poltergeist activity at her employment, at a bowling alley, and in her own home where, one night, her bed and that of her parents were bombarded for hours on end with stones, coal, pieces of litter, and tools. Came the morning, her mother replaced all the tools in their box, sat on it, and announced, "Now you will stay there!" It must have been like waving a flag at a bull because, one by one, the tools were scattered all around the room while she was still sitting on the toolbox.
If that makes your mind boggle, consider what happened at Furnace Mill in Lamberhurst, Kent, as described in the Daily Mail of 28 May 1906. No-one could approach the mill unseen, and two guard dogs stood watch. Despite this, some remarkably heavy items were disturbed, and one morning the horses were all found reversed in their stalls ie their heads were where their tails should have been, and vice versa. Supporters of the RSPK hypothesis must therefore assume that somebody's subconscious mind had gone out to the stables at night while his or her conscious mind was still with its body in the house.
Not only that, but one of the horses was missing. They searched high and low for it. To be precise, they searched low, and finally, out of desperation, went up to the hayloft through a door so narrow even a man had difficulty entering. Since a partition had to be removed to get the horse out, one must logically deduce that somehow it had been moved through solid timber in the first place. What sort of power could do that? And just contemplate what it would be like if science were to learn to master it.
In point of fact, I have every reason to believe that advanced civilisations have learned to master it. As I stated once before, when I was going through old issues of Flying Saucer Review from the 1970s and 1980s, I kept coming across references to aliens walking through walls, and even taking their abductees with them. So fantastic were the accounts that I immediately put them out of my mind, and forgot them, but they have been reported independently too often and from too many different places to be ignored.
With all this in mind, let us return to Humpty Doo, and the adventures of Paul and Tony, along with three priests, the press, a television crew, and the two harried families who lived there. Space prevents a complete description of all the wonders they saw, so only the ones germane to the current subject will be discussed.
Like the experience of Danny Sim, a Channel 7 cameraman, who was on a ladder next to the open ceiling manhole when he heard something hit the tin roof. He was looking up at the ceiling, when he suddenly saw a piece of glass materialise below the ceiling and fall to the floor. It appeared to have passed right through both the roof and the ceiling. He also witnessed a spanner strike a kitchen cupboard with considerable force when no-one was around to throw it. It appeared to have come from the lounge room, but neither of the cameras covering the space which it must have traversed recorded it. Had it simply materialised in the kitchen?
Paul and Tony saw a light bulb fall onto the concrete outside the house. Although it must have been airborne for at least two metres, it didn't break. Not only that, but it was a distinct yellowish colour, and none of the members of the household had any idea where it had originated.
Once Paul and Tony were sitting in the kitchen facing two of the tenants, Andrew and Kirsty across the table, when a heavy .44 magnum cartridge landed lightly on Paul's knee. Andrew claimed that he had seen it materialise just a couple of feet above Paul's shoulder. Another time, Kirsty was reading a newspaper at the same table when Tony saw a small brass plug, which normally resided in the garage, fell lightly on the table between them. He had been facing the object at the time, and he had the impression it had simply appeared in mid-air about eighteen inches above the table. Did you catch that? On two separate occasions people saw objects appear out of thin air!
They now went on to describe the thoroughly investigated poltergeist infestation at Mayanup, WA from 1955 to 1957.
One rainy night fifty people including some journalists were at "Keninup" when stones fell constantly inside and outside the Smiths' house. In the living room, Rona Nicholson watched as stones simply appeared in mid-air, floated down and passed through a table to land on the floor below. [Healey and Cropper, p 62, emphasis in the original]In fact, many objects simply disappeared for an hour or so, and then they would return. One outside witness was present when a teapot suddenly vanished. Two of the visitors included George Dickson and his son from a farm near Boyup Brook, and the poltergeist apparently followed them home. Pencils would appear and disappear. The owners would then assemble them on the kitchen table - only to watch them appear and disappear right in front of their eyes. Two journalists saw stones passing right through galvanised iron roofs and other objects appeared and disappeared in front of their eyes. They nicknamed the poltergeist "Uncle Bobby" after a deceased relative. Once, after they had gone shopping at the local bakery, the exact sum they had just spent dropped out of nowhere onto the kitchen table. (What the baker thought was not recorded.) On that occasion, pebbles had also fallen inside the car.
Since the manifestations appeared to focus on the 11-year-old son of the family, Harvey, George tried some experiments in front of witnesses. Various marked items would be placed in the boy's pockets, and then his arms would be tied to his sides and covered with a securely buttoned coat. But the objects still got out, and turned up all over the house.
One can multiply such examples indefinitely. In last month's post I mentioned the poltergeist activity in an engineering workshop in Cardiff in 1989. Things got thrown around (of course!) and objects, especially carburettor floats, turned up in unusual places. But when one of the workers, Paul asked "Pete", the name they gave to the poltergeist, for money, some pennies and halfpennies fell to the floor. They came from a collection in the office. But a Jubilee crown also appeared, and it originated in the boss's home. This immediately raises issues. How did it get there? It don't suppose anybody saw it moving down the street from the house to the workshop, but the alternative is that it simply dematerialised in one spot and materialised in another. Not only that, but on another occasion when money was asked for, three pennies, dated 1912, appeared on the floor. Since no-one had ever seen them before, they must have been "spirited away" from somebody else's collection. Banknotes also appeared on other occasions. So, unless poltergeists are involved in counterfeiting currency, the legitimate owner must have been deprived, and by asking for it, the workmen were unwittingly guilty of Theft by Poltergeist.
One is bound to wonder: how far can a poltergeist go to find the apport it wants? Does it have to search for it, or does it know it intuitively? Do the apports come from some other poltergeist infestation where items disappear, or are they removed from buildings otherwise unaffected? Is that sock of mine which got lost in the wash still hiding in some uninspected nook in my house (and how did it get there?), or did it turn up at some unreported poltergeist infestation in my suburb? And is it really possible to ascribe all this to somebody's unconscious mind?
In last month's post I also referred to an Indian boy who was the focus of a vast amount of poltergeist activity. Not only did an ink bottle materialise on demand next to the ceiling (where else?) and fall to the floor, but coins were also seen to appear out of thin air.
All of these manifestations have been fully investigated and recorded. The Rt Rev Dominic Walker, co-chairman of the Christian Deliverance Study Group in the UK was once called to a house in Surbiton when the Christmas decorations went up in flames. He discovered a highly dysfunctional family where the nine-year-old had become the focus of poltergeist activity. They tried to control it by getting her to write notes to "Polty" - and she received written answers while she slept! More to the point, about half a pound of sugar used to appear in the kitchen every day. It happened while he was there. Only sugar. Small objects like coins and pencils I can accept, but granular material like sugar? Where did it come from?
His Roman Catholic counterpart, Dom R. Petitpierre, had the reverse experience. A house in Hemel Hempstead had been inflicted by things vanishing. A whole spray of tulips were sitting in a bowl on a table where two ladies were having tea. "Well, at least the tulips are still there," one of them joked - and when they looked back, they were gone!
It makes you think. When small objects like pencils come and go, it is possible that they had spent the interval in some remote corner of the building, but what about those things which never return? Did those tulips vanish into some extra-dimensional twilight zone until such time as another poltergeist wanted them? Or did they immediately turn up in the house of some bemused stranger?
It Happened to Me! is a series of volumes in which the readers of the Fortean Times tell of their own paranormal experiences. Volume 2 features a whole chapter on mysterious objects turning up unexpectedly. One woman told how about a dozen halfpennies were found around her home, until she thanked "Them", but pointed out that they were no longer legal tender. Another woman found exotic stamps and a foreign coin in places where they hadn't been before, and neither she nor her flatmate collected either stamps or coins, or had been to their countries of origin.
But a really strange encounter was recorded on page 77 of volume 1. Rob Kirbyson described walking around Huddersfield one Sunday in 1986 when he saw an old man waiting for a bus. In fact, this was the first man he had encountered in the town. They looked at each other from a distance of about five metres, when suddenly he saw an egg materialise about an inch in front of the man and explode into his face with such violence that his head was thrown back and he almost keeled over. No cars, and no other people, were present anywhere in the vicinity.
Had that egg come from some poltergeist manifestation nearby? If so, had the victim just left the site of the infestation, and so was "known" to the phenomenon, or was he really a completely innocent and unsuspecting third party?
I'm afraid I have to leave it there. My mind is starting to boggle.
Tony Healy and Paul Cropper (2014), Australian Poltergeist, Strange Nation
Hugh Montefiore (2002), The Paranormal, A Bishop Investigates, Upfront
Harry Price (1945), Poltergeist Over England, Country Life, London
William G. Roll (1972), The Poltergeist, Wyndham
Terry White (1994), The Sceptical Occultist, Century Random House