Movies and other forms of popular culture have portrayed the event known as poltergeists. These portrayals are not always true to reality, as is often the case in the entertainment industry. It is important, then, to establish what a poltergeist is.
The word poltergeist comes from German, and loosely translated means “noisy ghost.” Classic activity attributed to poltergeists include inexplicable moving or falling objects, knocking on walls or doors, malfunctioning electronic devices, and objects being stacked by an unknown force. It is common for paranormal activity in a building to be attributed to ghost activity when a poltergeist is the cause. This calls up the question of whether paranormal phenomena taking place in someone’s home is caused by a haunting by a spirit or a poltergeist.
William G. Roll ( a prominent parapsychologist) provides a means for distinguishing the two. Roll claims that noises, knockings, and object movement all occur much less often in ghostly haunting than in poltergeist scenarios. Hauntings also occur over a longer period of time than poltergeist activities and do not center on a single person but rather an area. In poltergeist activities, the paranormal phenomena occur when a certain person is present. In other words, if this person were to say go on vacation for a week all paranormal activity in the residence would cease, but then start up once this person returned.
Some parapsychologists call the people at the center of poltergeist activity “agents.” This stems from the belief that poltergeist activities do not involve spirits of the dead, but rather psychokinetic energies put off by the agent. In other words the strange activity is being produced by the agent, often without their knowledge it is them causing the activity. Agents often are adolescents, but sometimes adults have been poltergeist agents. Many have theorized puberty or severe psychological distress can be triggers for poltergeist manifestations through an agent.
Many wonder if poltergeist activities can be similar to spirit activities, just how easily can they be differentiated. The truth is poltergeist phenomena sometimes can mirror ghostly activity so well even seasoned paranormal investigators may mistake one for the other. Sometimes poltergeist activity can go on for quite some time. It may involve aspects many attribute to demon activity such as physical violence towards the living (i.e. hitting or scratching). One historical case some have theorized may have been poltergeist activity is the Bell Witch. Others still feel the case was the product of black magic or demon activity.
On a side note, there are some who feel other triggers are responsible for poltergeist activities. One college professor in New York state feels geomagnetic increases are responsible for poltergeist activities. As with many paranormal phenomena there is a wide range of theories trying to explain what seems inexplicable.
If you suspect poltergeist activity is going on in your home, there are some steps to take for a resolution. The agent should receive counseling to help resolve the stresses in their life. Roll describes tests parapsychologists may use to determine who the agent is that needs to be treated. The best rule of thumb is to involve professionals if poltergeist activity is suspected, whether it is a therapist or a parapsychologist.