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What is a Poltergeist?

Updated on January 30, 2017

A poltergeist is a non-natural disturbance in a house that causes loud noises, sudden gusts of wind, throwing and breaking of objects and/or other violent actions. It is often associated with the presence of a specific person, often an adolescent girl.n The literal meaning of the word in German is "noisy ghost".

Borley Rectory
Borley Rectory
Poltergeist as depicted by La Vie Mysterieuse (1911) via Wikimedia Commons
Poltergeist as depicted by La Vie Mysterieuse (1911) via Wikimedia Commons

Paranormal Explanation

Explanations vary as to what might be the exact cause of poltergeists. They are generally considered to be hostile, and that their underlying nature is that of non-sentient energy, a ghost or even a demon. Some credit the mysterious activities to a mischievous creature but not necessarily evil such as a 'boggart' (United Kingdom).

Others believe the poltergeist is not an individual or conscious being, just some kind of build up of "negative energy". They are thought to be particularly associated with unhappy children or adolescents.

The Skeptic's Perspective

Poltergeist activity is rarely, arguably never, objectively recorded. As such it is generally put down to a either fraud or natural phenomena such as winds, earthquakes or settling in old houses.

There is some data suggesting that people who have a low tolerant for ambiguous situations and like clear explanations are more likely to believe they have had a poltergeist experience. So perhaps it is a matter of explaining phenomena, natural or possibly even supernatural, according to a reassuring, named, schema?


While there cannot be said to be conclusive proof that any entity that could be called a 'poltergeist' actually exists, the persistence of phenomena of this sort is somewhat compelling.

Since the 1930's there has been a theory that poltergeists are actually manifestation of metal illness in young people. The idea is that this occurs paranormally but perhaps it is often more direct.

The ability of children to simulate ghostly activity is apparent in stories such as that of the confessed fake mediums, the Fox sisters. Indeed girls and young women often seem to be involved in instigating paranormal fads and hoaxes, but are they also involved in more real manifestations during the turbulent adolescent period?

So while there is no compelling evidence, there is enough suggestive data to keep this as an open issue.

PR Poltergeists

A number of hotels promote themselves as having 'friendly poltergeists', including the Royal George hotel (UK, below) and the Oatman Hotel (AZ)

Residence of Humphrey the poltergeist
Residence of Humphrey the poltergeist


The Movie

There are also a number of rumors of paranormal activity swirling around the 1982 Spielberg movie, Poltergeist. A number of the cast members died shortly after the movie was released.


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      Mohamed 3 years ago

      i have lived in my house for 11yrs and my first night in my i had the the feeling of being watechd or someone standing behind me or the lights on and off doors opening even one you need a key to open it.stuff being moved of falling off tables and breaking u could her talking and scraching in the walls.but when my on was born and as he got older by age 3yrs old thing changed in my daughters room he wood go in the room and he was talking to something it would stop when i came in the room i would ask him who he was talking to and he would say his friend i asked him where his friend was he would say he under the bed now or up in the light than he would tell me to look under the bed than he would stop me and say the boy is gone because the dark man is here and we need to leave the room and close the my son is 6yrs old and things have got bad one night my son was pushed and on his back their was three marks on his back like tips of fingernail and it was the shape of an upside down v just under the shoulder blades it looked like someone poked him with a big needle they where red but didn't bleed i went to get my phone and take a pic but they where my pets are now being attacked and dying first my cockatoo and 3days later my kitten on halloween just dropped dead and than 2day later the other kitten did the same thing. but last year we had the same thing on halloween 3 kittens died at the same time this year it was 4. i took pic of the inside the house and got some pic that scared the hell out of me so i tried to send them to some of my good friends and my sister and my cell phone went crazy and the people i tried to send them to there phones went crazy and they couldn't get any of the pic.the other night my daughter who is 23yrs old was up watching tv about 3am and banging started on the two doors in front of the house she looked outside no one than the back sliding glass door in our backyard the banging started than the door started shaking and im a light sleeper and she couldn't wake me up.and other things are starting to happen two of my kids sleep walking i woke up to find my oldest daughter standing at the side of my bed than she turned around and walked back to her room i went to her room she was in bed sleeping the net day i asked her what she was dong in my room at 3am she didn't remember.and things are not getting better im thinking on leaving my home.