Scariest Poltergeist Activity

Moment / Getty Images

From unexplained noises to flying objects to attacks on people, this is some of the strangest, scariest poltergeist activity ever documented

PICTURE THE EARTH in the blackness of space, spinning on its axis, orbiting the sun, with the moon following its orbit around the Earth -- all in accordance with the predictable laws of physics. All is as it should be. But look more carefully at that bright blue planet.

Go in closer... move toward that land mass, down to that town, into that house at the end of the block. All is not as it should be there. Something is not right. There -- and in many other houses around that planet throughout history and even today -- things don't always seem to be operating by the laws of physics as we know them. Dishes fly out of cupboards; loud crashes are heard with no apparent cause; stones rain down from nowhere; covers are yanked off beds; people are pushed, poked and even slapped -- all by some mysterious, invisible force.

There is no scientific accounting for these occurrences. Yet they happen. They have been seen, experienced and documented since ancient times. Hundreds upon hundreds of cases; perhaps even thousands. We call them poltergeists and we have no idea what causes them. Some believe they are psychokinetic manifestations of our own subconscious, while others think they are caused by ghosts (or a combination of the two); yet others believe they are the work of demons.

No one knows for sure. The activity usually begins with unexplained knocks, raps or rolling noises. Then it sometimes escalates into lights and other mechanical or electric appliances working on their own. Occasionally small objects and even furniture are moved about; objects are thrown and clothing is torn.

Bedcovers whipped off sleeping people are a favorite poltergeist prank. If it gets really bad, in rare cases, people are physically assaulted by the mysterious energy. Then after several days or weeks the phenomena simply fades away and disappears as mysteriously as it began.

...All while our planet, solar system and galaxy revolve just as our science and mathematics predict. How can we reconcile it all? What is going on here?

Poltergeist activity is one of the most fascinating and baffling areas of paranormal investigation. It's especially enticing because there are physical phenomena taking place. We aren't talking about mere hazy sightings or strange feelings. Things move! Bangs rattle the walls! Objects appear out of thin air! There's no room in science for this nonsense. Yet they happen.

Consider the following, a tiny sample of some of the strangest, unexplainable physical manifestations from a few well-known poltergeist cases.


Unexplained noises - banging, knocking, pounding, footsteps - are by far the most common type of poltergeist phenomena (poltergeist means "noisy spirit), and perhaps the most benign. There are extreme cases, however.

In 1962, Harper's Magazine carried an article about a couple in Cape Cod who were experiencing a whole host of poltergeist noises, including tapping and clicking noises, and the sound of a man walking around on an upstairs floor when no one was there.

Such sounds might be explained away as house settling noises, but one summer night they were startled by what the homeowner called "the grand piano smash" -- a crash so loud from the garage that is sounded like a huge piano dropped to the floor. They even worried that the ceiling had collapsed. Upon inspection, of course, the garage was empty and intact.

Next page: Pushes, Pulls and Pokes

More unsettling than noise is when objects we usually consider inanimate begin to move or fly around.

One of the earliest accounts of poltergeist activity comes from Annales Fuldenses describing an event that occurred in 858 A.D.! On a farm near the town of Bingen along the Rhine river, a farmer was the victim of stones being thrown at himself and his house by some unknown source. When holymen came to help rid the farm of the evil force, they too were pelted with stones.

(Stone throwing is not an uncommon poltergeist prank - see Hail of Stones from Nowhere.) The Bingens were also the victims of spontaneous fires that destroyed much of their just-harvested crops. (Spontaneous fires are also not uncommon.)

The Golding household of Stockwell, England was tormented by a number of things thrown in 1772:

  • stacks of dishes flew off the kitchen shelves, smashing on the floor
  • bottles of wine and rum that were about to be served to guests, shattered
  • joints of ham that were curing on hooks on the ceiling thumped to the floor
  • the coal scuttle was overturned
  • candlesticks flew across the room
  • a bucket of cold water suddenly began to boil.

If you're thinking this could all be explained by an earthquake, the events did not all happen at once, but over a period of time. The disturbances ended when the young maid was fired.

The Phelps family of Stratford, Connecticut, was likewise plagued with very similar poltergeist antics in 1850, which included a candlestick that leapt off the fireplace mantle and repeatedly smashed itself against the floor until it broke.

In 1658, the house occupied by Mrs. Stiff, her two daughters and her mother, Mrs. Cowley in Northamptonshire, England became the target of a prankster poltergeist:

  • furniture was stacked in front of a doorway
  • flax was continually taken out of its box and thrown about, even when the box had been closed and locked
  • a loaf of bread was seen "dancing" around the kitchen
  • Mrs. Stiff's shoes floated around the upstairs
  • stones flew through the windows - in both directions
  • a carving knife went hurling toward a servant, point first, but at the last instant it rotated in midair to harmlessly strike the man with the handle.


Violence against our person is disturbing enough when inflicted by other people. Think how much more disconcerting it is when you cannot even see your assailant!

Eleven-year-old Dinah McLean, the adopted daughter of the Dagg family of Quebec, Canada, was the focus of a severe case of poltergeist activity in September, 1889. The disturbance began when the family noticed money inexplicably being moved around the house. And when Mrs. Dagg began finding what appeared to be feces smeared on walls, a boy who did chores for them was blamed and promptly dismissed. But then the poltergeist attacked Dinah, pulling her braids so violently that some of the hair was broken and the braids had to be cut off. Stones were also thrown in this case.

In the famous 1817 Bell Witch case, in which daughter Betsy Bell appeared to be the catalyst for the activity, both she and her father, John Bell, had their hair pulled with great force.

Betsy and other Bell children received sharp slaps across the face. The Bells also experienced stones and sticks being thrown, furniture moved about, covers pulled off beds and fires started. (Read more about this astonishing case - The Bell Witch.)

The Reverend Phelps, whose family was mentioned above, became a personal target of the poltergeist on several occasions.

  • he was lifted into the air to a height that nearly crashed his head into the ceiling
  • was pushed into a water cistern
  • was tied up and suspended from a tree
  • in the presence of other clergymen, both legs of his pants were ripped apart from cuff to knee.

Next page: Objects out of thin air


An aport is an object that materializes from nowhere, as if by magic, and it may be the most mysterious and rarest of all poltergeist phenomena. I remember reading about the Beaird case, described below, in a Hans Holzer book when I was a teenager, and it has stayed with me my entire life and is one of the astonishing cases that led me to study this field.

Whether the objects literally materialize out of thin air or are gathered and carried some impossible distance by the unseen force, here are a few remarkable apart cases:

In the Bell Witch case, when mother Lucy Bell fell ill, the poltergeist expressed sympathy for her, then showered her with hazel nuts. Later, again seemingly from nowhere, a basket of fresh fruit materialized, which included oranges and bananas.

It was also observed that Lucy Bell, in her illness, would vomit, but at least on one occasion the vomit contained dozens of pins and needles! Very strange, but not unique. In a poltergeist case recorded in the book Sadducismus Triumphatus in 1682, Mary Longdon was afflicted with showers of stones, even while indoors, and also would vomit pins and needles. She blamed the weirdness on a curse placed on her by a witch.

In a case investigated by the late, great Hans Holzer, the Beaird house of Tyler, Texas documented strange aports in the early 1960s. The various manifestations might have been psychokinetic phenomena brought about by Mrs. Baeird - named Johnnie, but called John - who was mentally ill and either confined to her room or away from the house when these events occurred:

  • hundreds of dead June bugs were thrown into the faces of Mr. Baeird and his son Andy at night - "dead so long that they were crisp and would crumble between our fingers," Baeird said
  • they were later similarly pelted with wood lice (what are commonly called pill bugs, the kind that roll up into a ball when touched), which do not fly, but that struck the Beairds "as if they were shot out of a gun"
  • then slimy slugs were thrown around the house
  • handwritten notes from John materialized out of thin air, sometimes in response to questions
  • dozens upon dozens of notes materialized "from right out of nowhere, simply materializing out of midair, some folding themselves as they came toward us."

(For all of the incredible details of this case, see the book Ghosts: True Encounters with the World Beyond by Hans Holzer, the chapter called "The Devil in Texas.")

This is just a small sampling of the number, variety and severity of poltergeist cases. If you want more detailed information about the above cases and many, many others, I highly recommend the following books.