How To Recognize Signs of Poltergeist ActivityThere is a fine line between a poltergeist and a regular haunting, but there are certain signs of poltergeist activity to be aware of. First, however, it’s important to note that not all of these signs are automatically an indication of poltergeists.
So how do you know if there might be a poltergeist in your home? Most often, there will be several obvious telltale signs: sounds, movements and odors of unknown origin. Below are some signs of poltergeist activity, but always be aware enough to rule out the more mundane, everyday causes. For example, flickering lights can indicate faulty wiring; unknown smells could be wafting in from somewhere else, perhaps from an open window; sound does travel, so loud knocks and bangs could be coming from somewhere outside. Once these have been ruled out, if you’re not confident enough to investigate on your own, a professional parapsychologist or paranormal investigator will help.
7 Signs of Poltergeist Activity
Common signs associated with poltergeist disturbances start out as seemingly harmless, often entertaining, anomalies, such as chairs moving by themselves or doors opening and closing. As time goes by, however, the activity becomes increasingly more severe, eventually resulting in more violent outbursts, where the targets’ lives are threatened. Some kind of physical injury or mental trauma usually also occurs as a result.
That said, experiencing some or all of these anomalies does not necessarily indicate an active poltergeist. Spirits are capable of manifesting these signs as a means of communication and usually occur irregularly. It can be said that if all of these signs occur regularly over a long period of time, especially when they become violent, then a poltergeist is at work.
These are among the commonest, most reported signs of poltergeist activity (in no particular order). Where applicable, I’ve provided examples of personal experiences; hover over the image to read the "tooltip".
Appearing/Disappearing Objects (Apport/Asport): Objects mysteriously disappear only to reappear later – sometimes days later – either in the same location or somewhere different. Occasionally, the object will appear again in odd places, such as on a top shelf or in a container, with no recollection as to how it got there. Small (and sometimes larger objects) materialize seemingly out of thin air.
Thrown or Levitating Objects: Objects move on their own across flat surfaces (tables or countertops); furniture slides across the floor; books fall off shelves; stacks of things (such as boxes) fall over for no apparent reason; or objects float in mid-air, usually dropping and breaking when noticed. Small objects used as projectiles fly across the room. Larger objects (such as pots and pans, knives or rocks) have also been reported thrown across the room as well. Levitated objects can be anything from a few inches in the air to several feet.
- Anomalous Smells, Scents and Odors: In most cases, bad smells – anything from acrid smoke to rotting food to sulfur – are often associated with poltergeists. The odors will usually be strongest in certain areas of your home or they can follow you around wherever you are. Foreign odors, however, can also indicate the presence of a spirit or as a result of a residual haunting.
- Electrical Interference/Disturbances: Poltergeists can influence our electricity, resulting in lights or lamps flickering on and off; appliances turning on and off on their own; stereos or TVs increasing in volume (without physical cause); or batteries from cameras and video recorders suddenly being drained of power or turned off completely. Computers can also behave strangely; messages have appeared in chat IMs, usually making no sense; or words have been typed on-screen in word processors without physical interaction.
No Physical Power: Another sign of poltergeist activity is where appliances turn on by themselves without them being plugged in or battery-operated toys move on their own without there being batteries in the compartments. Phone calls or texts can appear from an "unknown" caller with no record of any call or text in the courier’s records.
- Anomalous Sounds: The most common sign of poltergeist manifestation is loud banging or knocking sounds, sometimes causing tremendous vibrations. Knocks, bangs, taps, rappings, and other noises are also indicators, but these can be attributed to "regular" hauntings as well. As a general rule, the more violent these noises are, the more likely it is they are associated with an active poltergeist.
- Physical Attacks: A frightening and dangerous sign of poltergeists is physical harm. Attacks can range from pinches to slaps, from being struck by flying objects to actual bodily harm. Scratches are most commonly reported, sometimes deep gashes from unseen claws, as well as bite marks. Additionally, in extremer cases, there have been a few reported cases of broken bones (fractured ribs) resulting from a physical attack from a poltergeist force.
How To Identify A Poltergeist Case
If in doubt, ask an experienced parapsychologist or paranormal investigator. They will be able to determine if the activity in your home is a poltergeist or a haunting (which can have similar characteristics) or whether there is a logical, more mundane, non-paranormal explanation.The investigator will usually take into consideration all of the reported signs, including several other factors, before making an analysis. One of the main areas is determining whether the activity is more physical or spirit-based in nature and whether or not the activity is focused around a single person, who may unconsciously be generating the manifestations through psychokinesis.
Poltergeist activity is usually short-lived and can last for up to several weeks. It’s actually quite rare for persistent poltergeist activity to occur, spanning a period of months or even years. In the majority of cases where it’s longer term, there is an agent around whom the activity seems more focused.
Even with short-term poltergeists, it can cause all kinds of stress-related issues, including physical, emotional, psychological, and even hormonal imbalances, so investigators should also try to examine personal and family dynamics, particularly related to how often parents argue, if the focal agent is bullied at school or if there’s some deep-seated, underlying problem going on. A therapist or counselor may well be needed to help identify this.
Another important consideration is the history of the location and its previous inhabitants. Persistent poltergeist activity can sometimes indicate a trapped or earthbound spirit who cannot move on, so becomes angry, or the location is the scene of a grisly, violent crime where the criminal remains behind to continue tormenting his victims.
Additional Notes on Poltergeists
It’s generally believed that around 90% of all reports of poltergeists are the result of "recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis" (or RSPK), which is the result of psychic or mental energy produced and manifested (usually unconsciously) by a person, referred to as the "agent", or sometimes a group of people. Most cases of poltergeist activity fall under this category, with the remaining 10% being attributed to some kind of external spiritual or paranormal force.
Poltergeists are often regarded as "demons" or "evil spirits", but in all of the research I’ve done over the years, by definition of the words I don’t believe they are. After doing research into the histories of locations where poltergeist activity has been reported, my conclusions are that the base emotions of a person when they were alive are a key factor in almost all cases. This usually revolves around some deep-seated resentment or anger, jealousy, and other similar emotions, which carries over long after their deaths. I’d say that a very small percentage – around 1%-2% of cases – can actually be described as truly evil or demonic in nature, again by definition of the words themselves. So this is always something to be aware of before claiming a demon, rather than a poltergeist, is the cause of the activity.
Most of the time, however, the activity will fade away on its own. Long-term poltergeist activity, where there is no identifiable agent, may need to be exorcised. An exorcism, if performed properly and impartially, can be very effective, otherwise the poltergeist will simply return later.