Monday Monster Profile: Poltergeists

What is a poltergeist?

The word ‘poltergeist’ is German and means ‘noisy ghost’.  Essentially it is a ghost (the spirit of a dead human) that can affect things in the world of the living, usually by moving objects and making noise. Poltergeists are typically destructive in nature, throwing objects, making irritating or very loud noises and generally being unpleasant. The phenomena associated with poltergeist activity usually starts and stops abruptly, making it difficult to anticipate.

Where do you find them?

Poltergeists inhabit homes, but they usually fixate on a person, called a ‘focus’ or ‘agent’ and the activity generally only occurs when that person is present in the house.

What causes poltergeist activity?

In many reported cases the ‘agents’ of poltergeist activity are female children or female teenagers. In the early part of the 20th century attempts were therefore made to explain poltergeist activity as the unconscious psychokinetic (moving objects with the power of the mind) activity of people suffering from intense stress, or repressed anger or sexual frustration. Because of the gendered associations of these issues in early psychological theory, women were blamed for poltergeist activity and underwent therapy to suppress their latent psychokinesis. Like many gendered aspects of early psychology, this explanation has since been discredited in many circles but many parapsychologists still consider unconscious psychokinesis (by any member of he household) to be an explanation. Others see poltergeist activity as the manifestation of an angry or annoying spirit trying to get attention or make mischief.

How do you get rid of a poltergeist?

You could move away, but there have been reported cases of a poltergeist following an ‘agent’ from place to place. Alternatively, depending on which ‘causal’ theory you prefer, you can try and ensure all members of the household deal with any unresolved psychological issues (not an easy task!) or have an exorcism performed. Often poltergeists simply go away on their own once they’ve had their fun, but if a spirit is trying to communicate it may not go away until it is sure its message has been heard. In that case, instead of an exorcism you could try a séance. In both cases, exorcisms or séances should only be performed by trained professionals, to avoid unpleasant side-effects like headaches or possession.

I want more information!

Lots of books exist on the subject. Recent texts include:

Michael Clarkson,  Poltergeists: Examining Mysteries of the Paranormal (2006)

William G Roll,  Poltergeist (2004)

The film series Poltergeist is also a good introduction to the phenomenon.


3 Responses to “Monday Monster Profile: Poltergeists”

  1. A good UK TV series where one of the main characters is a ghost is Being Human – I highly recommend it (also because the two other main characters are a vampire and a werewolf). It gets a bit dark at times, but is otherwise a good story of monsters struggliing towards humanity.

    • I actually just bought the first season but haven’t had a chance to watch it yet – will have to do a post on it when I do – it’s on my list for this weekend coming!!

      • We had problems with the second season. Namely Kath found one of the early episodes so depressing, she didn’t want to watch anymore. I have assured her that it becomes more uplifting almost immediately though – but I haven’t got her to watch the rest of the season yet. Possibly because Doctor Who is now the priority 🙂
        That, and Heston’s feasts…

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