Poltergeists: 12 Dramatic Cases

Of people who experience spooky disturbances, some of the most widely discussed are those who seem to experience poltergeist activity. The average person associates "poltergeist" with the idea of some unseen, uncommunicative and mischievous spooky presence. one that makes itself known by making rapping sounds, tossing around or shaking objects, or opening and closing doors (either full-sized doors or cabinet doors). Let us look at some of the best documented cases of this type. 

The Tedworth Drummer, 1661

In 1682 a Rev. Joseph Glanvil published an account of an apparent poltergeist case he had witnessed in 1661. I cannot find the original text, but the text is reproduced in readable form in a chapter of the book here.  The paragraph here summarizes the strange occurrences:

"There are diverse particulars in the story, in which no abuse or deceit could have been practised, as the motion of Boards and Chairs of themselves, the beating of a Drum in the midst of a room, and in the air, when nothing was to be seen: the great heat in a chamber that had no fire in excessive cold weather, the scratching and panting, the violent beating and shaking of bedsteads, of which there was no perceivable cause or occasion. In these and such like instances, it is not to be conceived how tricks could have been put upon so many, so jealous, and so inquisitive persons as were witnesses of them." 

The Epworth Disturbances, 1716-1717

In 1720 John Wesley (the founder of the branch of Christianity known as Methodism) investigated mysterious sound disturbances reported as occurring between December 2, 1716 and the end of January 1717.  Here is part of the account he wrote up of the investigation, based on family letters and interviews with the family members:

"Presently a knocking began under the table. She took the candle and looked, but could find nothing. Then the iron casement began to clatter and the lid of a warming-pan. Next the latch of the door moved up and down without ceasing.... She heard someone coming down the garret stairs, walking  slowly by her, then going down the best stairs, then up the back stairs, and up the garret stairs. And at every step it seemed the house shook from top to bottom."

Starting at the point here you can read many pages of letters written by the witnesses of this strange phenomenon, followed by John Wesley's account of his investigation. 

The Hinton Ampner Disturbances, 1771-1777

In the April 1893 edition of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (Volume 6), there appears an account of a  poltergeist case. Although occurring long ago, the account is based on letters written when the events occurred. The Journal introduces the case like this:

"The following is a case of so-called 'haunting' — inexplicable noises being constantly heard by the tenants of the house during an occupancy of about 6.5 years, and unrecognised phantasms being seen three times, on one occasion collectively, while some time earlier a figure, which was said to have some resemblance to the late master of the house, had been seen there by one of his old servants. A similar case —that of the ' Haunted House at Willington ' — was printed in the Journal, December, 1892, and though the present one is even more remote, it has the same merit of having been fully and carefully recorded at the time by exceptionally intelligent and trustworthy witnesses."

The Journal then gives a very long account, using letters written long ago. 

The "Stockwell Ghost" 1772

In her great long survey of the paranormal The Night Side of Nature, which can be read here, Catherine Crowe quotes a German publication describing dramatic occurrences of the poltergeist type. The pamphlet was entitled "An Authentic, Candid, and Circumstantial Narrative, of the astonishing Transactions at Stockwell, in the County of Surrey, on Monday and Tuesday, the 6th and 7th days of January, 1772, containing a Series of the most surprising and unaccountable Events that ever happened, which continued from first to last, upwards of Twenty Hours, and at different places."

We read this account of the beginning of the affair:

"On Monday, January 6th, 1772, about ten o'clock in the forenoon, as Mrs. Golding was in her parlour, she heard the china and glasses in the back kitchen tumble down and break; her maid came to her and told her the stone plates were falling from the shelf; Mrs. Golding went into the kitchen and saw them broke. Presently after a row of plates from the next shelf fell down likewise, whilst she was there, and nobody near them; this astonished her much, and while she was thinking about it, other things in different places began to tumble about, some of them breaking, attended with violent noises all over the house : a clock tumbled down and the case broke; a lantern that hung on the stair-case was thrown down, and the glass broke to pieces; an earthen pan of salted beef broke to pieces, and the beef fell about: all this increased her surprise, and brought several persons about her, among whom was Mr. Powlidge, a carpenter, who gave it as his opinion that the foundation was giving way, and that the house was tumbling down, occasioned by the too great weight of an additional room erected above,  so ready are we to discover natural causes for everything ! But no such thing happened, as the reader will find, for whatever was the cause, that cause ceased almost as soon as Mrs. Golding and her maid left any place, and followed them wherever they went."

Stranger things later happened:

 "A fresh scene began; the first thing that happened, was a whole row of pewter dishes, except one, fell from off a shelf to the middle of the floor, rolled about a little while, then settled; and, what is almost beyond belief, as soon as they were quiet, turned upside down; they were then put on the dresser, and went through the same a second time; next fell a whole row of pewter plates from off the second shelf over the dresser to the ground, and being taken up and put on the dresser one in another, they were thrown down again....A pestle and mortar, that stood nearer the left-hand end of the chimney shelf, jumped about six feet on the floor. Then went candlesticks and other brasses, scarce anything remaining in its place. After this, the glasses and china were put down on the floor for fear of undergoing the same fate; they presently began to dance and tumble about, and then broke to pieces. A teapot, that was among them, flew to Mrs. Golding's maid's foot, and struck it. A glass tumbler that was put on the floor, jumped about two feet and then broke. Another that stood by it jumped about at the same time, but did not break till some hours after, when it jumped again, and then broke. A china bowl that stood in the parlour jumped from the floor to behind a table that stood there. This was most astonishing, as the distance from where it stood was between seven and eight feet, but was not broke."

We read of more household items violently jumping about:

"A candlestick that stood on the chimney-shelf flew across the kitchen to the parlour door, at about fifteen feet distance. A tea-kettle, under the dresser, was thrown out about two feet; another kettle, that stood at one end of the range, was thrown against the iron that is fixed to prevent children falling into the fire. A tumbler with rum-and- water in it that stood upon a waiter upon a table in the parlour, jumped about ten feet, and was broken."

Later we are told of more astonishing events:

"A nine-gallon cask of beer, that was in the cellar, the door being open, and no person near it, turned upside down. A pail of water that stood on the floor, boiled like a pot. A box of candles fell from a shelf in the kitchen to the floor; they rolled out, but none were broken: and a round mahogany table overset in the parlour."

The pamphlet ends with this declaration:

 "The above narrative is absolutely and strictly true, in witness whereof we have set our hands this eleventh day of January, 1772.

 Mary Golding.

 John Pain.

 Mary Pain.

 Eichard Fowler.

 Sarah Fowler.

 Mary Martin."

The Willington Disturbances, 1835-1847

In 1892 Volume 5 of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research published a diary recording a record of mysterious disturbances starting in 1835 and lasting until 1847. The diary was written around the same time the disturbances occurred. It begins like this:

"Particulars relating to some unaccountable noises heard in the house of J. and E. Procter, Willington Mill, which began about three months prior to the present time, viz., 1 mo. 28th, 1835, still continuing, and for which no adequate natural cause has hitherto been discovered. About six weeks ago the nursemaid first told her mistress of the state of dread and alarm she was kept in, in consequence of noises she had heard for about two months, occurring more particularly nearly every evening when left alone to watch the child [my eldest brother, then about two years old] to sleep in the nursery, a room on the second floor ; she declared she distinctly heard a dull heavy tread on the boarded floor of the unoccupied room above, commonly pacing backwards and forwards, and, on coming over the window, giving the floor such a shake as to cause the window of the nursery to rattle violently in its frame. This disturbance generally lasted ten minutes at a time, and though she did not heed it at first, yet she was now persuaded it was supernatural, and 'it quite overset her.' "

On page 335 we read of apparitions being seen in the same place:

"For about two months previously there had rarely been 24 hours without indications by noises.... not in any other way accountable, of the presence of the ghostly visitant, to some or all of the inmates. A few days previously a respectable neighbour had seen a transparent white female figure in a window in the second storey of the house. On the 13th of last month (November), early in the evening, two of the children in the house, one aged about 8, the other under two years, both saw, unknown to each other, an object which could not be real, and which went into the room where the apparition was afterwards seen, and disappeared there.... Soon after going to her bedroom T. M.'s wife went out of the house for some coals, and was struck with a figure in the window previously referred to [nothing being between the two houses but a kitchen garden and a road] ; she called her husband, who saw the same figure passing backwards and forwards and then standing still in the window. It was very luminous and likewise transparent, and had the appearance of a priest in a white surplice. T. M. then called out the relative of the family and his own daughter. When they came the head was nearly gone and the brightness somewhat abated, but it was fully ten minutes before it quite disappeared by fading gradually downwards. Both when standing and moving it was about 3 feet from the floor of the room."

Later we read of some spooky poltergeist activity: "About the 21st...E. P. and nurse Pollard both felt themselves raised up and let down three times." On the same page we read this: "He said that something under the crib raised him up very quickly many times, and wished to know what it could be."

There follows a long account of many spooky disturbances and inexplicable noises in the house, which dragged on until the family finally fled the house in 1847.  We read this spooky account of the resident's last night in the house:

"Finding life in the house to be no longer tolerable ; fearing also an unhappy effect, if not a permanent injury on the minds of their children should they remain longer in such a plague-ridden dwelling, they finally left it in 1847, and went to reside at Camp Villa, North Shields, social and other reasons also influencing them in taking this step. My parents have both repeatedly told me that during the last night they slept in the old house, the rest of the family having preceded them to the new one, there were continuous noises during the night, boxes being apparently dragged with heavy thuds down the now carpetless stairs, non-human footsteps stumped on the floors, doors were, or seemed to be, clashed, and impossible furniture corded at random or dragged hither and thither by inscrutable agency ; in short, a pantomimic or spiritualistic repetition of all the noises incident to a house-hold flitting."

The Phelps Case, 1850

The Phelps case is reported at length in Henry Spicer’s 1853 book Sights and sounds: the mystery of the day: comprising an entire history of the American "spirit" manifestations, pages 101 to 110. Phelps was a Presbyterian Reverend. 

The case started on March 10, 1850 when Rev. Eliakim Phelps returned to find his doors (which had been locked) unlocked, and that  "a number of figures, probably eight or ten, constructed with great skill by means of various articles of wearing-apparel and bed-room furniture, were found in the middle of the room, in a kneeling attitude." Regarding a boy of about 11, we read, "On one occasion he was fairly lifted from the ground, as though by a powerful man, and borne partly across the room." This was followed by a mysterious rising of a table. 

We read the following:

"The accounts of what was daily transpiring at Dr. Phelps's created, as may be supposed, an immense excitement and curiosity, and in the course of a few days the place was visited and inspected by fifteen hundred persons. The utmost facilities for investigation were afforded. Every nook and corner of the house was explored. Persons known as being the most incredulous on the subject were invited to spend days and nights in the family....So confident was Dr. Phelps himself that there was no trickery or deception in the case, that he issued a sort of public challenge to the effect that, if any one would visit the house and perform similar movements, under similar circumstances, and yet escape instant detection, he would present him with the house itself and all it contained."

One witness to the marvels (not a member of the Phelps family) stated the following:

"I have myself witnessed those phenomena, both alone and in company with others than the family, more than a hundred times, and, in the great majority of instances, under circumstances in which it was absolutely impossible, from the nature of the case, that it could have been done by any member of the family, or by any visible agency whatever....I have myself seen things in motion more than fifty times, and when no power was visible, by which the motion could have been produced. And so in regard to breaking windows. I have been present, and myself seen several panes of glass in the ' very act ' of being broken, and when I knew positively that no person in or about the house, could have done it without instant detection."

Here is what Eliakim Phelps himself had to say about these poltergeist disturbances at his house:

"The troubles at my house continued for at least seven months. During that time, events which cannot be accounted for occurred, to the number of two or three thousand. Many of them, to be sure, were of such a nature that they might have been done by human agency. But, in multitudes of instances, they have taken place in a way which rendered all trick or collusion utterly impossible. I have myself seen articles moved from one place to another; not, as your correspondent says, 'found them moved.'  I have seen things in motion more than a thousand times, and, in most cases, when no visible power existed by which the motion could have been produced. I can produce scores of persons, whose character for intelligence, piety, and competence to judge in this matter, no one who knows them will question, who will make solemn oath that they have witnessed the same things. As to the reality of the facts, they can be proved by testimony a hundred-fold greater than is ordinarily required in our courts of justice in cases of life and death."

The Cideville Case, 1850-1851

The Cideville case is reported in pages 220-225 of Robert Dale Owen's 1860 book "Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World." Strange disturbances began on November 20, 1850, and continued until February 15, 1851, typically in the presence of two children.  In the middle of these events there was a court trial involving a defamation case, in which a person accused of being involved in the incidents sued the accuser for defamation. As part of the court trial,  sworn testimony was made of the recent spooky events. From such testimony, Owen tells us the following:

  • On Tuesday November 20, 1850 two children started to hear mysterious rappings that continued until the next Sunday. 
  • On that Sunday someone requested "Strike louder!" The rappings then grew louder. 
  • By December 3 there were mysterious movements of a table. 
  • Later tongs were seen leaping from a fireplace.
  • Later various people asked for there to occur a number of raps equal to the letters in their name, and they instantly heard the correct number of raps. 
  • Various people asked for the raps to be made to the beat of popular songs, and the raps occurred in such a way. 
  • The table the children were sitting at was seen to mysteriously move in a way the children apparently could  not have produced. 
  • One day "every piece of furniture there was set in vibration... the witness confessed that he expected every moment that the floor of the apartment would sink beneath his feet," and "felt convinced that if every person in the house had set to work, together, to pound with mallets on the floor, they could not have produced such a. racket."
  • After a table was seen moving by another witness, the table "moved forward a second time about three meters (about ten feet) into the room, the children not touching it."

The Atlantic Monthly Case, 1867

At the link here we can read the August 1868 edition (Volume XXII No. CXXX) of the Atlantic Monthly, one of America's oldest magazines (now publishing as The Atlantic).  The first seven pages have an article entitled "A Remarkable Case of 'Physical Phenomena.' "  We read an extremely well-documented case of poltergeist activity that dramatically dragged on for two months, with very many astonishing phenomena reported occurring during the months of July and August 1867. The writer (an H. A. Willis) quotes from a journal logging a great variety of inexplicable movements of objects.  Although the writer describes himself as very skeptical about deceased spirits producing effects in earthly homes, he seems to have believed in the physical reality of the inexplicable phenomena he described. One of the most dramatic events reported was the repeated ringing of bells suspended eleven feet high from the ceiling, which occurred only when young Mary Carrick was in the room. This occurred even after the bell wires had been removed, and often occurred with "violent agitation."  

We read the following summary of some of the incidents:

"Loud and startling raps occurred on the walls, door and windows of any room where the girl was at work, and followed the girl from room to room, and could be heard in her bedroom at night when she was apparently fast asleep. A little later, chairs were upset, crockery thrown down, tables lifted and moved, and various kitchen utensils hurled about the room. This was during July. In August a careful daily record was kept. The writer of the article states that he saw the table at which the girl had been ironing suddenly lifted when no one was near enough to touch it. This also happened when a child was sitting on the table, and when the writer and other persons tried to hold the table down."

The Indridi Indridason Case, Around 1905

There were innumerable inexplicable occurrences observed around the medium Indridi Indridason. A special observation society with many members was formed, and a dedicated building was used in Iceland to observe the very diverse spooky phenomena.  The society made careful daily records of their observations, which were the basis of later reports. At page 201 of the document here, we read the following:

"Haraldur Nielsson reported on Indridi’s physical phenomena and mediumship at the First International Congress for Psychical Research in Copenhagen in 1921 (Nielsson, 1922). At the Second Congress in Warsaw in 1923 Nielsson reported on violent poltergeist phenomena around Indridi, much of which took place in full light and involved violent levitations of Indridi and those who tried to protect him from attacks. One night these attacks, such as hurling of objects at Indridi and throwing him around, became so violent that he and his two protectors had to flee the apartment in the Experimental House (Nielsson, 1924)."

Indridi Indridason

The Eleonore Zugun Case, 1926

This case is reported in the August 1926 edition of the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Volume XX Number 8, in the paper "which can be read here by scrolling to page 475. The account is written by the widely-read paranormal researcher Harry Price, who witnessed first hand some of the phenomena in May, 1926. We read this about events surrounding the 13-year-old Eleonore:

"Countess Wassilko has divided the phenomena witnessed in her household into several groups: 1. Raps on furniture, etc. 2 . ' Apports' from various rooms in the flat. 3. Stigmatic marks and weals on breasts, arms and wrists; scratches and abrasions. 4. Telekinetic movements and displacement of objects (some large) of true poltergeist type. 5. Automatic writing. 6. Disappearance and reappearance of objects which sometimes are ' lost ' for weeks. ( Comparable to groups 2 and 4 .) 7. Independent voice—very rare. 8. Sudden displacement of pins and needles which are found buried in the medium's hands, arms, etc."

We read the following:

"If the raps are of infrequent occurrence, 'apports' in the shape of ornaments, toys, etc., are transported considerable distances from one room to another. Locked doors seem no hindrance to the transport of these objects. A brush, say, will be carefully put away in its proper place and ten minutes afterwards will drop from apparently nowhere into the midst of the' Countess’s family who are' quietly reading within closed and fastened doors. This has happened over and over again."

We later read this, which ends up using the word "alight" which means "to descend from the air":

"Telekinetic movements and the abnormal displacement of objects constitute the great bulk of the phenomena witnessed through Eleonore, and place this mediumship in the category of poltergeist manifestations. Counting each well-authenticated ' movement ' as a separate phenomenon, the Countess Wassilko has had as many as 67 in one day, and 1,050 in three months....'The objects displaced fly across the room— though no one sees them in transit, and no one sees them commence their journey; they are frequently seen to alight, however."

On page 469 Price gives this conclusion:

"As regards the poltergeist manifestations, I feel convinced that some of the telekinetic phenomena witnessed by me were not the work of normal forces. The falling of the cushion, the flight of the stiletto, and the aerial transit of the toy dog were, I am certain, absolutely genuine and convincing phenomena. No system of springs, wires, etc., could have been installed for the purpose of deceiving me without instant detection on my part. It is not at all easy to propel a heavy object across the room without somewhat elaborate apparatus. I am quite convinced of the impossibility of anyone in the room having had a hand in the movement of the objects. Apart from my own observational periods, the Countess has had Eleonore under her care for months and, as I have stated, she has already witnessed over a thousand different phenomena. We cannot ignore the very careful work of the Countess who has recorded, arranged, tabulated, and dissected the phenomena in a scientific manner....Professor Hahn, of Vienna University, has likewise had some experience of Eleonore’s phenomena and thinks they are genuine."

The Enfield Case, 1977

In an article in the Psi Encyclopedia, we read this:

"In 1977, a house in the north London suburb of Enfield was the scene of violent disturbances of apparently paranormal origin. The occurrences were similar to those reported in other cases of the ‘poltergeist’ type: knockings and other noises with no apparent cause; doors opening and closing by themselves; furniture overturned; small objects hurled across rooms; picture frames ripped from walls; small fires that started and went out by themselves, and suchlike. The events continued for just over a year and in many cases were witnessed by neighbours, investigators, technicians, press reporters and broadcasters, police officers and others."

The Lalm Kindergarten Case, 2010

Below is an astonishing account on page 7 of the March 2019 edition of Edge Science magazine published by the Society for Scientific Exploration:

"In press reports from 2010, Lalm kindergarten in Gudbrandsdalen (meaning Gudbrand’s Valley), Norway, appeared to be a veritable haunted house. Between April 26 and June 15, all 15 employees witnessed diverse objects— cups, mugs, stones, jars, etc.—flying through the rooms! Sometimes these items seemed to appear out of thin air. In addition, doors opened and closed by themselves, figures were drawn with crayons moved by no one’s hand (no human’s hand that is...), feathers used for decoration organized themselves into specific patterns, and so on. More than 90 seemingly inexplicable episodes occurred. And, interestingly enough, many of these events were observed by two or three adults simultaneously. In some cases, there were even as many as 20 witnesses."