Tag Archives: poltergeists

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?
We’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, we’ll have our way.

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

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

39 – A Deadly Haunting: An Interview With Deborah Moffitt

With notes of The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist, and even the under appreciated (in Mike’s opinion anyway) Dead Again, Debbie Moffitt’s A Deadly Haunting is a tale of a California family under supernatural siege in the 1980s.

The story begins with a supposed Santeria ritual performed by a Guatemalan caretaker in the house of Deborah’s grandmother-in-law (she was trying to keep the old woman alive so that she could keep her job and not be kicked out of the country), that opened up a doorway to a demon that terrorized the Moffitt family for years.

The activity began in a house they were renting out, where they thought that the tenant was making strange objects appear in the house in locked rooms and was drawing strange symbols on the walls. The tenant denied any wrongdoing, but gave them one day notice and moved out. Then in another house they were renting out, they were asked by the tenant whether or not someone died there. And in their own house, weird stuff (like their tenants’ underwear) kept on showing up in her mother-in-law’s room and objects on the shelves would turn backwards. In the beginning it was like a game, because they would ask this unseen presence to do things, move stuff around, and it did. But for a long time, nothing threatening was happening.

Until they rented the house again to a couple named and Tom and Michelle, and over time Michelle began to show signs of abuse. When Tom moved out under mysterious circumstances and a stranger later told her that Michelle was found in a landfill, the phenomena started getting more sinister.

When they moved into a new house, they didn’t think that the presence was following them, but three weeks into their new home, a message was left in soap on their mirror, “Talk to me”. And then messages started appearing regularly on the mirror, strange symbols started appearing on the walls, and telling them not to go into the attic. At this point, the whole family became very isolated and wouldn’t have people over to the house except for paranormal investigators (including an associate of our former guest, Loyd Auerbach, the couple who hit mainstream consciousness from The Conjuring, Ed and Lorraine Warren, a Voodoo practitioner, and well-known parapsychologist, Dr. Evelyn Paglini) . The presence, which Debbie would call Mister Entity (but asked to be referred to as Prince), focused all his negativity on her mother-in-law, physically assaulting her, ripping up her clothes, and terrorizing her. She claims that the presence didn’t mess with her or her child, but said that her mother-in-law “belongs to him”.

That’s where the story gets medieval, where Mister Entity told her that her in a past life, her mother-in-law was promised to him by Satanism-practicing monks in a Seventeenth-Century French monastary as a sacrifice. But when the ritual didn’t go down, the presence said that it didn’t matter and he still wanted her even after hundreds of years. And her father-in-law was one of those Satanic monks.

So the relationship between her in-laws starts deteriorating, and a spear even appears in the bed next to her mother-in-law and Mister Entity says that he wants the father-in-law to perform a “blood ritual” on her. Deborah refused, angering the demon, and the terror continued until 1992.

A Deadly Haunting Links

Deborah’s Website, A Deadly Haunting

This Week’s Song: The Keep On The Borderlands by Sunspot

Some days you are my prisoner,
some days you are my guard,
sometimes you are the one thing,
between me and the Dark.

And all the safe and reassuring words,
couldn’t protect any of the herd from,
self-loathing and boredom.
So lock your doors, don’t make eye contact,
and maybe you’ll get out intact,
humbled, embarrassed and ignoble.

So keep on,
keep on,
keep on,
keep on.

27 – Parapsychology Fact Vs. Fiction: An Interview with Loyd Auerbach

Looks like Mike survived his half-marathon that we were talking about last week in the below-zero temperatures on Sunday, but just barely!

Before and after. 13.1 miles in the deep freeze for the Hypothermic Half Marathon. #minneapolis #nikeplus

A post shared by sunspotmike (@sunspotmike) on

and here’s Mike and Wendy recording the intro to the interview in the Sunspot rehearsal space.

Podcast recording @othersidetalk at the Sunspot rehearsal space this evening!

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Today’s interview is with parapsychology mainstay, Loyd Auerbach. He really has been keeping the fires burning for the scientific study of the unexplained for four decades and his book ESP, Hauntings, and Poltergeists: A Parapsychologist’s Handbook was extremely influential on a young Mike (which is one of the reasons that he’s so excited about the interview.) Not only has Loyd been highly involved in keeping parapsychology in academia, he has been on thousands of paranormal investigations, and consulted for television (especially on a forgotten classic from the 80s, Shadow Chasers.)

The conversation begins with how Loyd got into the paranormal, his study at Northwestern University under the great UFO researcher, J. Allen Hynek, and then his job at the American Society for Psychical Research. It’s basically a lesson in how to get your dream job so that’s worth listening to the podcast for that information alone.

Loyd moves out to the West Coast to continue his studies at JFK University who was the only place in the United States a post-graduate degree in parapsychology at the time. It was a different time, and he discusses the difference between scientific attitudes towards the unexplained was more welcoming in the days before today’s science vs. faith culture wars.

Loyd talks about some of his Hollywood script consultation and also how he’s not that interested in appearing on paranormal television shows anymore because they don’t portray parapsychology and paranormal investigations in a realistic light. He goes into the difference between reality and what they show you on TV and the movies.

Mike and Loyd then delve into not only tips for novices interested in going on paranormal investigations, but also tips for people who are interested in letting a paranormal group investigate their house. It’s a must-listen for anyone who’s interested in finding a paranormal group to investigate their home because it’ll help you weed out the inexperienced groups from parapsychologists who might actually be able to help.

The conversation also goes into Loyd’s latest endeavors to help educate newbies to parapsychology and his latest online courses, which are all about learning to investigate paranormal phenomena like hauntings or ESP in a scientific way so that your investigations can help further the field of parapsychological research.

Loyd Auerbach Parapsychology Links:

Loyd Auerbach’s website

ESP, Hauntings, and Poltergeists: A Parapsychologist’s Handbook

Follow Loyd Auerbach on Twitter

Take one of Loyd’s paranormal classes online at the Rhine Education Center

Featured Song: Pascal’s Wager

We are but tiny,
inside a world of infinity,
all we have is our reason,
to make us better than the beast.

Pascal was a gambler,
who wanted to believe.
Pascal made a wager,
for the souls of you and me.

And if you win, you win, you win it all.
And If you lose, you lose,
and it don’t matter anyway,
And there’s so many things I’ll never know,
But even the brightest stars,
must lay down their cards,
when the ferryman calls.

I was born a cynic,
but I’m willing to take my chance,
that the universe is big enough,
to be more than coincidence.

We’re playing a game,
that we don’t want to admit,
All the things we feel,
that you just can’t dismiss.

So if you win, you win, you win it all.
And If you lose, you lose,
and it don’t matter anyway,
And there’s so many things I’ll never know,
But even the brightest stars,
must lay down their cards,
and figure out just who they are,
when the ferryman calls.

You’re not a fool to believe.
You’re not a fool to believe.