Are chairs tumbling over, as if by themselves? Do drawers spontaneously open and slam shut? Are rocks falling from the ceiling, as if materializing from thin air? Well then, it’s quite possible that you have a poltergeist on your hands! The poltergeist phenomenon is probably one of the most widely misunderstood paranormal concepts. As a result, people often mistake ghost phenomenon for poltergeist activity, and vice versa. In this guide, you’ll learn the five stages of a poltergeist, which will help you determine if you’ve got a ghost or one of these beings.
Many of the common misperceptions regarding the poltergeist phenomenon began in 1982, when Steven Spielberg and tobe Hooper released their frightening special effects masterpiece called Poltergeist. The movie was a hit at the box office and has since come to be seen as a classic of the horror cinema genre. There’s just one problem with this film … it has absolutely nothing to do with poltergeists.
The word poltergeist comes from the German language and roughly translates as “noisy ghost/spirit.” Although it is no longer believed that spirits or ghosts have anything to do with poltergeists, the use of the original term has continued for the sake of familiarity.
You may be wondering why this phenomenon first came to be called a “noisy spirit.” Well, the answer to that one is simple. One of the most common attributes of poltergeists is that they are loud like you would not believe. They slam doors, toss objects (they seem especially fond of rocks and silverware), turn over furniture, bang on walls, and violently yank open and slam shut kitchen cabinets and drawers. Sometimes a poltergeist will even make faucets turn off and on, or spontaneously (and, as one might guess, rather disconcertingly) cause electrical devices to turn on and off. In some of the most extreme cases, it has seemed as if the entire home had gone crazy. You can probably imagine what it would look like if all this poltergeist activity happened in one house simultaneously. to say the least, it’d probably scare the wits out of most people.
Apparitions, however, are not a part of the poltergeist phenomenon. Witnesses see the activity it causes, of course, but no one has ever actually seen a poltergeist with their own eyes. You hear and see what it does, but if you see an apparition, then it isn’t a poltergeist.
There are generally five primary stages by which the level of a poltergeist is identified. These stages range from mildly annoying to downright dangerous. Basically, the more extreme the poltergeist activity becomes, the higher the number by which it is classified.
Nothing all that remarkable occurs at this stage. In fact, most people aren’t even aware that anything is awry, and they certainly aren’t thinking their house is under the influence of a poltergeist. The activity is minimal and often dismissed as coincidence or a series of “freak occurrences.”
However, there are certain things one can look for in order to identify such phenomena. Animals are usually more in tune to paranormal activity than humans. As a result, your pet may begin to act strangely—for example, a dog may stare, growl, or bark at a spot when nothing is there. Another telltale sign is noticing cold spots, meaning the temperature will suddenly seem to drop in certain places for no reason.
This stage occurs when those experiencing the phenomenon become aware that something is not quite right. Of course, this is not true of everyone. There are always those individuals who will continue to dismiss the unusual activity with the usual excuses, such as it’s all “just their imaginations,” “just the wind,” or caused by “the house settling.”
The cold spots will usually increase at this point. For example, entire rooms may suddenly be engulfed by frigid air, often more intensely in certain rooms than in others. Also, unexplained scratches, gashes, or cuts may begin showing up on walls and/or furniture at this point. Sometimes, one person in the house might start experiencing light but unexplained scratches on his or her skin. Needless to say, these are not good signs.
Probably the best way to describe a stage three poltergeist is that this is the “holy crap phase.” There’s no more ignoring the phenomenon by now, because its presence is far more obvious. You see, at this stage the really weird stuff starts happening. Most of the time, owners/inhabitants are finally convinced to seek out the help of a paranormal investigation team (or a religious figure) by this point. Can you blame them?
Lights and appliances sporadically turn off and on. Closed and sometimes even locked doors and windows may suddenly come open, and unexplainable rapping and banging sounds may also begin to occur. People in the house may begin to feel as if unseen hands are touching or scratching them.
This is where things start to get really, really scary, because the activity turns from disrupting to violent. At this stage, poltergeists often behave as if they’re targeting one or more specific individuals in the home. For unknown reasons, most of the violent activity seems to specifically target adults (especially parents) and teenagers in the home more often than young children.
Objects may fly at people from places unseen. Doors may suddenly slam in people’s faces (or into them) as they enter certain rooms. Sharp objects, such as kitchen knives, may even shoot out of open drawers. However, these often don’t seem aimed at anyone or at least don’t have enough force to be lethal.
If a poltergeist reaches this stage, you should get out of the house … right now. This thing isn’t playing around anymore and has the potential power to seriously injure, or even kill, someone in the house. The safety of everyone inside the house, no matter if they live there or not, is now in serious jeopardy. If you haven’t sought professional help by now, what in the heck are you waiting for—an invitation?
The scratches are now drawing blood from the skin, or ripping deep gashes through walls and furniture. Knives are flying hard enough to imbed deeply in countertops. And what’s worse, small fires spontaneously spark up in different places and spread out all over the house (fire extinguisher, anyone?). Needless to say, this stage is about as bad as a poltergeist can get … and they can get very bad.
The thrown objects now move with far more force, making them capable of serious damage. Also, the size and weight of the objects can increase. For example, the poltergeist may have started by tapping you lightly in the back with the occasional tossed, but still relatively small, rock. By stage five, it’s more likely to send a 40-pound dumbbell flying straight at your head.
Telling the difference between sometimes similar yet distinctly different paranormal phenomena can be tricky, but armed with this information, you’ll at least know if you’ve got a poltergeist on your hands. For more information on the paranormal, check out our Quick Guide How to Protect Yourself Against Demonic Spirits. Good luck, and be safe!
From The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Paranormal by Nathan Robert Brown