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What is a Poltergeist? (Article)

Updated on May 8, 2010
Spirit Activity in the James Marshall cabin, Marshall Gold Discovery State Park, Coloma, California. Christine (c) 2008
Spirit Activity in the James Marshall cabin, Marshall Gold Discovery State Park, Coloma, California. Christine (c) 2008

Answer: A widely held misconception regarding poltergeists is that the terms poltergeist, spirits and ghost are synonymous. Although there is some similarity between the terms, they are not the same. For one thing, poltergeist activity is known as a "disturbance," whereas spirit/ghost-like activity is known as a "haunting."  Another difference is poltergeists are heard but never seen, whereas spirits and ghosts are on occasion seen and only sometimes heard.

Spirit:  The lasting energy of a person who has passed away from it's body, but who has not continued on to his/her final destination. A spirit is capable of communication with some of the living.  They can manipulate metal and wood and can at times materialize in their former continence.  Spirit activity usually is attached to a person, (if they feel they are protecting one of their still living relatives), and in most cases, a particular place or object that had a great significance to the spirit while it was living.

Ghost:  An impression of a once living person or animal, much like a video recording.  The true spirit energy is no longer present in this form.  A ghost repeats the same motion, over and over again and can not be communicated with, since it is no longer really there.  An example of ghost activity would be The Brown Lady descending the staircase in the same way each time.  Another example would be former battlefields where at times phantom wars are still witnessed. Ghost activity will not move from place to place, but repeats always in the same area. 

Poltergeist:  German, from poltern to knock + Geist spirit: a noisy usually mischievous ghost heldto be responsible for unexplained noises (as rappings)Poltergeist activity is NOT spirit generated, but is telekinesis energy displaced by an adolescent, most times withouthe/she knowing they are causing the disruption.

Typical manifestations of poltergeist activity are: slamming kitchen cupboard doors, banging on walls, and generally causing as much commotion as possible. Poltergeist activity is almost never connected with someone actually seeing a ghostly form.

As psychic investigator Harry Price put it, "a poltergeist is mischievous, destructive, noisy, cruel, erratic, thievish, demonstrative, purposeless, cunning, unhelpful, malicious, audacious, teasing, ill-disposed, spiteful, ruthless, and resourceful. A ghost haunts. A poltergeist infects."

Basically poltergeist phenomena are "external manifestations of repressed anger and hostility," typically from adolescents. The poltergeist effects help the agent to release the feelings of stress, and often once the stress factor is removed, the phenomena ceases. This means that the activity would follow the adolescent who is perpetrating the events. Although this theory is difficult to prove, it is widely accepted by parapsychology experts, me included.  


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    • Christine B. profile imageAUTHOR

      Christine B. 

      8 years ago from Medina, Ohio

      Thanks for dropping by ladies... Enjoy your Mother's Day!

    • thevoice profile image


      8 years ago from carthage ill

      terrific unique article great reading thanks

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      8 years ago from Oakley, CA

      The subtle differences between ghost and spirit are hard for many to grasp. Yours is a very clear definition. Interesting read--and thanks for stopping by my hub! ;-)


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