Tag Archives: poltergeist

156 – The Unseen Hand: Jenny Ashford and Poltergeists

Jenny Ashford wasn’t a believer. She was always into horror movies, books, and goth culture, but had never had a paranormal experience herself. Interested in fiction and fashion, but never seeing the real thing, that all changed when she met Tom Ross, who was the focus of a poltergeist in his teens. While already a successful author and graphic designer, Jenny seized on the opportunity to start researching and writing paranormal non-fiction. She started with the story of her boyfriend Tom and what his family went through in the 80s, and together they co-wroteThe Mammoth Mountain Poltergeist. Since then she’s written several more books on poltergeist phenomena, The Rochdale Poltergeist and House of Fire and Whispers: Investigating the Seattle Demon House, both with British parapsychologist Steve Mera. Jenny has now compiled well over hundred poltergeist phenomena spanning centuries with her latest work, The Unseen Hand: A New Exploration of Poltergeist Phenomena.

Jenny Ashford
Jenny Ashford

Jenny is a believer in the classic theory of poltergeists having a human agent as its focus (which I also was an adherent to up until our discussion with Geoff Holder.) Allison Jornlin from Milwaukee Ghosts joins us in the conversation as Jenny goes into detail about her own experiences, several of her favorite poltergeist stories, possible hoaxes, possible explanations, the horror that really scares her, and what she and Steve Mera found in the Keith Linder poltergeist case in Seattle that the crew of Ghost Adventures missed.

Check out Jenny’s website right here for more information on her paranormal books, scary horror fiction, and graphic design work. She also blogs horror reviews at Goddess of Hellfire and podcasts with Tom Ross at their show, 13 O’Clock.

For this week’s song, we decided to go into one of the dozens of poltergeist stories that Jenny writes about in the Unseen Hand, the famous story of the Bell Witch, made into a film as An American Haunting and deserving of an episode in its own right, because there is much more than meets the initial eye to it. We take the poem “Queen of the Haunted Dell” from M.V. Ingram’s work, Authenticated History of the Bell Witch from 1894. Ingram knew the Bell family and compiled as much information as he could about it including their own journals and released them after the last of the family who this happened to passed away. He was a journalist and not a poet, but he was inspired to add a poem to his book, and we used that poem as lyrics for this episode’s track, “Queen of the Haunted Dell”.

’Mid woodland bowers, grassy dell,
By an enchanted murmuring stream,
Dwelt pretty blue-eyed Betsy Bell,
Sweetly thrilled with love’s young dream.

Life was like the magic spell,
That guides a laughing stream,
Sunbeams glimmering on her fell,
Kissed by lunar’s silvery gleam.

But elfin phantomas cursed the dell,
And sylvan witches all unsean,
As our tale will truely tell,
Wielded sceptre o’re the queen.

Life was like the magic spell,
That guides a laughing stream,
Sunbeams glimmering on her fell,
Kissed by lunar’s silvery gleam.

But elfin phantomas cursed the dell,
And sylvan witches all unsean,
As our tale will truely tell,
Wielded sceptre o’re the queen.

122 – They’re Here: Hunting Poltergeists With Geoff Holder

Author and screenwriter Geoff Holder has written thirty-six books on the supernatural from haunted guides of Scottish cities to stone circles and zombies, but its his research into hundreds of poltergeist cases throughout history that we wanted to talk with him about. And Allison from Milwaukee Ghosts joins us again for this episode’s interview!

Poltergeist is just the German term for “noisy ghost”. The movie has nothing to do with any kind of poltergeist phenomena that really happens to people, that was more like a family fighting a supernatural war and it gave regular people (you know, non-weirdos who don’t pay enough attention to this stuff) the completely wrong idea about what poltergeist activity was all about.

A poltergeist is paranormal activity where people don’t see a ghost (usually, although Geoff Holder says that there is some visual element in about 15% of the cases he’s researched) but they hear knocking on doors and walls, objects move when no one is around, lights break, lamps are knocked off tables, etc… Poltergeists are troublemakers, but there’s not usually a haunting (i.e., story about a dead person) that accompanies the scene.

One of my parapsychological idols, Loyd Auerbach, discusses poltergeists at length in his awesome do-it-yourself paranormal investigation book ESP, Hauntings, and PoltergeistsAnd it seemed to me that the idea of a poltergeist being a spirit was a relic of a more superstitious time. After all, those peasants just didn’t understand psychokinesis (moving objects with your mind, think about Luke making the light saber fly to his hand in the Wampa cave).

I always thought that it was not a spirit or intelligent haunting but a manifestation of psychic energy coming from a pubescent girl. Her blossoming into womanhood also involves throwing a lot of plates around with her mind bullets. In fact, this is the explanation used in an episode of the totally sweet 80s show, Shadow Chasers,  and good God I loved that show when I was 8.

Make sure you listen to this awesome theme song, it’s like a paranormal Pointer Sisters.

But come to think about it, Auerbach uses the teenager poltergeist hypothesis in his book and he was a parapsychology adviser to the Shadow Chasers TV show, so of course they’re going to go with that narrative! And it’s been a popular trope in fiction over the years. Just think about how popular Carrie was. It just felt believable.

For some reason, the idea that we have the power in our minds to move objects through some kind of excess psychic force that happens when we’re in our wild hormonal years, seemed to be a much more reasonable explanation than someone coming back from the dead.

Contrary to the movie, if you see this guy, you’re not experiencing a Poltergeist, but you might be part of a pants-soiling contest.

And I didn’t even entertain other theories because they were all too ridiculous. Demons? Gimme a break. Faeries? Now I know you’re crazy. Bulgarian vampires? Get outta here! (Even thought you’re going to want to hear Holder’s great story on that one.)

But psychic teens? I’m with you. In fact, one time when I was on a bus tour of haunted sites, I heard a tour guide tell a woman that the poltergeist activity she was having in her house was a demon and that she should be wary.

I almost punched that guy. Number one, don’t scare the poor woman. Number two, poltergeists aren’t demons. They are manifestations of wild psychic energy. Duh.

Well flash forward a decade later and I’m glad I didn’t punch that guy (he only kinda deserved it), because Geoff Holder has opened my eyes to the idea that the psychic teenager is just the latest in a long line of explanations for these noisy ghosts. 

The first case he discovered was in the 5th century where of course the explanation is demons. Almost a millennium later,  Martin Luther (yes, the guy responsible for the Protestant Reformation) is the first person to use the term in print. He blamed the Roman Catholic Church for them and just thought it was the Devil messing around with him. (Being a really holy dude, he considered the Pope a much more formidable opponent than Satan.) So, yeah, people have been saying poltergeists are demons long before mediocre ghost tour guides.

Look closely at the demon in the center, he’s got a little demon face where his junk should be!

And not just demons, but fairies! This is where Geoff Holder blows my mind, because he talks about how what we think of as poltergeist activity, people used to attribute to fairies and they would even act in certain ways as to not upset the fairies (and of course many of the U.K.’s stone circles have faerie connections as well!) And this is where things get interesting.

Poltergeist behaviors in the hundreds of studies that Geoff has looked into, doesn’t seem to follow human behaviors. If it’s the spirit of a dead person, wouldn’t that person still have some of their humanity left? Why would they just rattle the chandelier, why would they be knocking on the wall? For the love of God, why would they make more work for everyone by breaking plates?!

Poltergeists act more like tricksters with an adolescent sense of humor (poop is often involved), their behavior is mercurial often causing havoc at the slightest or no provocation at all. Having a poltergeist in your house is like hanging out with the Joker from Batman or Joe Pesci from Goodfellas, you’re always on pins and needles because you don’t know what they’ll do next. They can be kind or cruel in equal measure and with no explanations why.

And that’s completely in character with fairies, they’re not all Tinkerbell and godmothers. Fairies in the old legends are scary, they’re not just inhuman, they’re ahuman. They’ll do something wonderful for you one day and they’ll steal your child the next and you’ll never understand why. The fey are so fundamentally different from us.

It’s similar to how we think of aliens. A 2012 National Geographic poll showed that a full seventy-seven percent of Americans believe that aliens have visited Earth, but you know that 77% of Americans do not believe in faeries. 

One thing Geoff Holder has showed is the context surrounding belief might change, but the paranormal behavior doesn’t. Whether it’s Bulgarian Vampires causing trouble or Teenage Drama Queens having a psychic blowout, poltergeists have an volatile and  unpredictable quality to their actions.

Humans have a particular set of needs and motivations, these phenomena, whether they’re aliens, faeries, or demons, they don’t have those needs. And they don’t care about ours. That inspired this week’s Sunspot song, “An Indifferent Universe”.

Visit Geoff’s website to check out his awesome books and scripts right here! 

who wears the twilight
walks in starfall
who wears the cold
walking through walls
something ancient
from the before
some kind of echo
knocking at the door

they can save us
they can destroy
every human
some kind of toy
explaining power
you can’t understand
the never knowing
will drive you mad

you
me
all reality

outside time
outside space
where infinity is a place

why
curse
an indifferent universe

outside time
outside space
where infinity is a place

And here’s an extra treat, Allison was so inspired by the conversation that she wrote a poem right after we finished the interview… check it out, a little bonus to enjoy after you listen to the episode!

Gone are the sacred stones,
Plowed under like lovely bones.
Dancing sylphs in circles meet,
Trample them beneath your feet.

Pebbles and peat fall from the sky,
You can’t be bothered to ask why.
Apples picked and washing done,
But still you’re not a happy one.

Bind her to the bedpost,
She’s up to no good now.
Is she Eve or is she fae?
You’ll never know her anyway.

Bind her to the bedpost,
She’s up to no good now.
Is she Eve or is she fae?
Doesn’t matter, you’ll have your way.

You fear she’s coming back,
Her playful smile,  a sneak attack.
Wrapped in moss,  draped in flowers,
Just can’t bear it unless it’s ours.
The daughter, the lover, the mother, the crone,
If she is all, what do you own?

Cupboards burst and dishes smash,
Worlds awaken, ideas clash.
Your homely house a hell,
She’s imprisoned in this shell.
She belongs in the wild wood,
Respected, misunderstood.

Bind her to the bedpost,
She’s up to no good now.
Is she Eve or is she fae?
You’ll never know her anyway.

Bind her to the bedpost,
She’s up to no good now.
Is she Eve or is she fae?
Doesn’t matter, you’ll have your way.

She’s setting fires with her mind,
You should know, you can’t trust her kind.

Save The Mounds – Has The Entire Wisconsin State Legislature Never Seen “Pet Sematary”?!

So wherever you stand on the political spectrum we all know one thing, disturbing burial sites is a quick way to get murdered by something supernatural. In fact, it’s so common that there’s even a page on TVTropes.com about it. Everybody from The Brady Bunch to the family from Pet Sematary knows that you don’t mess with sacred burial grounds, of First Nations people or otherwise.  Wisconsin even has the largest concentration of burial mounds in the United States. So, doesn’t the legislature at least have Netflix or a MovieBox near the Capitol?

save the mounds
Sometimes, dead is better.

Obviously the Wisconsin State Legislature needs to start watching some horror movies because what they’re planning might unleash a whole host of terrors on the unsuspecting mining companies who they think they’re doing a favor for.

Not only are they disrespecting ancient sites that are millennia old but they’re also putting all the property owners and mining company’s employees lives at risk for the inevitable paranormal backlash that is going to come from the desecration of these sacred sites.

For the love of God, people, please watch Poltergeist. You can even watch the remake, Sam Rockwell doesn’t get all the love that he deserves anyway. He can play an everyman as well as a little kooky, do you remember Moon? C’mon, he carried that movie all by himself.

Save The Mounds
Hey guys, remember when we “verified” that there were no human remains before we took all that money from the mining company? Yeah, bad idea.

What this bill will do is let people much more easily challenge existence of human remains on burial sites that currently exist on their land and then be able to intrusively start digging into the ancient mounds in order to look for buried human bodies and if they can’t find any in their selective testing, then the burial site is taken off the register and the land is open for mining, development, whatever… Would you let someone dig up your grandmother’s cemetery to “verify that human remains” exist there? These mounds are the same thing as the cemeteries and you don’t just dig those up, out of respect, as well as out of fear of spiritual repercussions.

This isn’t about the culture war between Left and Right or Republican and Democrat, this is about respecting cultural and religious heritage (as well as saving innocent lives.) When they created the Catacombs in Paris (out of necessity, not profit), it was done with religious sanction by the people of the city. The Ho-Chunk Nation isn’t sanctioning this at all, in fact they’re actively fighting it. They’re scheduling a rally on Tuesday, January 12th at the Wisconsin State Capitol. If you can’t make the rally, you can also show your support by signing the petition.

And just for a final reminder, we all better watch this awesome Ramones video for their track, “Pet Sematary”. We need to Save The Mounds or this might be the last song a lot of innocent people will hear.