By Tim R. Swartz
A poltergeist distinguishes itself from traditional ghosts and hauntings. Could a poltergeist be something entirely different?
It can be terrifying enough when a poltergeist makes its appearance in a household. Rocks thrown about, strange bangs on the walls, moving furniture, items disappearing and then reappearing, this is enough to set anyone on edge. However, when a poltergeist finds its voice and starts to talk, you know that events have decidedly taken a turn for the worse.
Poltergeist activity has been recorded throughout history and is probably the most prolific of all supernatural events. One of the earliest accounts was from around 500 C.E. when St. Germain, Bishop of Auxerre, was bothered by a spirit that battered the walls of a shelter the Bishop was spending the night in with showers of rocks. Another early case was the Bingen poltergeist, which comes from the Annales Fuldenses or Annals of Fulda. This incident happened near Bingen in present-day Bavaria around 856-858 C.E. A farmer was plagued by a stone-throwing ghost who shook the walls of his house “as though the men of the place were striking it with hammers,” set crops on fire and also shouted obscenities and accusations at the farmer suggesting that he had slept with the daughter of his foremen. The poltergeist would follow the man around and fearful neighbors would refuse to allow him near their homes.
The Bishop of Mainz sent priests with holy relics who attested to hearing the poltergeist denouncing the farmer for adultery. When the priests sang hymns and sprinkled holy water, the poltergeist threw stones and cursed at them.
The Bingen poltergeist had many typical features of a poltergeist that are still repeated in modern times. The fact that this poltergeist could talk is something that has been seen in other cases, but nevertheless, it really doesn’t happen that often.
Is A Poltergeist A Ghost?
Poltergeist phenomenon is often placed in the same niche as ghosts and hauntings. The implication is that a poltergeist is a ghost, i.e. a human that has died and returned in spirit form. There is no doubt that there are similarities between ghosts and poltergeist activity. However, a ghostly haunting often tends to have the visual element; for example, a glowing figure dressed in old fashioned clothes is seen walking down a hallway. A haunting also repeats in the same way on a regular basis, much like a recording that is played back over and over. In long-term ghostly hauntings, a ghost will usually ignore entreaties from the living and shows no sign of awareness of its surroundings.
The Demon Drummer of Tedworth, 1662
Poltergeist activity, instead, operates in a completely different fashion. A poltergeist almost never makes an “appearance” and becomes visible, but as with ghostly hauntings, there are always exceptions. A poltergeist can do things such as move heavy furniture, instantaneously teleport objects, produce explosive sounds and disgusting odors, create rain inside a building, cause spontaneous fires and other things that seem to be outside of our current understanding of physics.
A poltergeist is extremely aware of its surroundings, and will often quickly respond to suggestions by observers and other external stimuli. This shows that there is some kind of “intelligence” behind its pranks and not just some random psychokinesis (PK). This intelligence, along with an ability to communicate, will manifest in a myriad of ways. Pieces of paper with strange messages appear; writing on the walls, children’s toys will be arranged to make words, and, perhaps the most shocking, they will sometimes start to speak out loud.
When a poltergeist achieves speech, it generally starts out as animal-like growls and whispers that slowly evolve into discernible words. Most poltergeists never reach this stage of their development, but once they do, a clear “personality” emerges from what were previously just random events.
L’Antidemon de Mascon
One early case of a talking poltergeist happened in Mâcon, France in 1612 when a Calvinist pastor named Francois Perreaud, (or Perrault), became the target of a very unsettling poltergeist. Perreaud’s poltergeist made its first appearance on September 19, 1612 when invisible hands started shaking bed curtains and tossing bed clothes onto the floor. This continued for several nights and then escalated when Perreaud and his family heard “A frightful din in the kitchen consisting of unearthly rumblings and knockings, accompanied by the sounds of plates, pots, and pans being hurled against the walls.” Perreaud rushed to the kitchen, expecting to find his kitchen destroyed, but was shocked to find that everything was normal and the kitchenware was in its place.
Title page of “L’Antidemon de Mascon” by the Calvinist pastor Francois Perreaud, detailing his experiences with a talking poltergeist.
Eventually a voice that was “very distinct and understandable, although somewhat husky” was heard in the house. It sang, “Twenty-two pennies, twenty-two pennies,” then repeated the word, “Minister” several times. Perreaud said to the voice, “Get thee behind me, Satan, the Lord commands you.”
The voice kept saying “Minister, minister,” until the exasperated Perreaud snapped, “Yes, I am indeed a minister and a servant of the living God before whose majesty you tremble.”
“I am not saying otherwise,” the voice replied.
Once the poltergeist began speaking, it would not stop. It recited the Ten Commandments, followed by the Our Father, the Apostles’ Creed, and other prayers. It also sang Psalms and recited accurate personal details about Perreaud’s family. The voice claimed that it was from the Pays de Vaud, which was at that time infamous for its witch hunts.
The voice told wild stories, made inappropriate jokes and often acted like a child and teased the maid. It was also able to expertly mimic the voices of various Mâcon residents. It also took on several different identities. At one time the voice claimed to be the valet of the original entity, who had left the house and was now in Chambery.
On November 25, the voice announced that it would no longer speak, but its antics in the form of throwing stones, tying knots in the mane and tail of Perreaud’s horse, and other typical poltergeist stunts, continued through until December when it finally disappeared forever.
Different Personalities, Different Voices
The Bell homestead. From Authenticated History of the Bell Witch, M.V. Ingram, 1894.
The Bell Witch poltergeist in 1817 was very similar to the Mâcon poltergeist due to the fact that “the witch” was extremely talkative and could imitate the voices of people from the area. The poltergeist was said to speak at a nerve-racking pitch when displeased, while at other times it sang and talked in low musical tones. In one instance, it was alleged to have repeated, verbatim, sermons administered by two preachers, occurring at separate locations, that took place simultaneously. The sermons recited by the witch were verified by people attending the churches as being identical in voice, tone, inflection, and content. The poltergeist was even known to attend church and sing along with the congregation, using the most beautiful voice anyone had ever heard.
As well, the poltergeist had the ability to change personalities in the middle of conversations with the Bells’ or their visitors. The witch had five distinct personalities, each with different voices and traits which made it easy for the family to separate the perpetrator of the moment. These voices were named “Black dog,” “Mathematics,” “Cypocryphy” and “Jerusalem.”
This ability to produce “different personalities” also shows up in other poltergeist cases, creating a belief that there are a number of different entities haunting a house.
The Bell Witch was very fond of talking about religion and philosophy for hours on end, especially with John Bell Jr. The witch had developed a respect John Bell Jr. due to his tendency to stand up to its abusive behavior. In 1828, the poltergeist reappeared to John Bell Jr. telling him, “John, I am in hopes you will not be as angry at me on this visit as you were on my last. I shall do nothing to cause you offense; I have been in the West Indies for seven years.”
Despite his misgivings, the poltergeist had long talks with him about the past, the present and the future. Years later, he told his son, Dr. Joel Thomas Bell, the details of the poltergeist’s discussions. A book was published in 1934, The Bell Witch – A Mysterious Spirit, which supposedly was met by outrage by other members of the Bell family who felt that details of “the family problem” should not have been made public.
For a more complete history of the Bell Witch poltergeist, see The Bell Witch Project by Timothy Green Beckley, published by Inner Light-Global Communications.
The Shawville Poltergeist
When a poltergeist does find its voice it seems to take great delight in spinning wild tales of its identity and origin. It may at one time say it is the ghost of someone who died years before, only to change its tune later and profess to be the devil or a demon. Like the Bell Witch, the Shawville poltergeist (also known as the Dagg poltergeist), enjoyed entertaining visitors by telling obscene stories and conversely, singing hymns in an “angelic voice.”
The Dagg home as it looks now. The Shawville poltergeist also known as the Dagg poltergeist is a historical, and well documented case in Canada.
The Shawville Poltergeist took place in the Ottawa Valley, Quebec in 1889 and centered on the farm and family of George Dagg. The incidents started with what appeared to be animal feces streaked along the farmhouse floor. At first, a young farmhand named Dean was blamed since he was known to come into the house with dirty shoes. Nevertheless, after the boy had been fired, the strange incidents continued with crockery moving, fires starting spontaneously and windows being smashed.
The Dagg family’s eleven-year-old adopted daughter, Dina-Burden McLean, was also physically attacked by the entity when it pulled her hair so hard that her braid was almost torn off. Later, when Dina’s grandmother was making up one of the bedrooms, the girl shouted, “Oh grandmother, see the big, black thing pulling off the bed clothes!” The woman could see the sheets being pulled up, but couldn’t see what was doing it. She handed Dina a whip, telling the girl to strike out at the invisible being. Dinah struck the air a few times and both the girl and her grandmother heard a sound like a pig squealing.
A few days later a piece of paper bearing the message “You gave me fifteen cuts” was found nailed to the wall.
After this incident Dina claimed that she was hearing a strange, gruff voice that followed her around saying bad words to her. Soon, the entire family and others could hear the gruff, man’s voice who identified itself “as the Devil.” Not everyone was convinced the voice was a supernatural being and blamed Dina for everything. At one point her mouth was filled with water, yet the voice could still be clearly heard by everyone in the room.
Much like the Bell witch, the Shawville poltergeist enjoyed the attention and would talk for hours. It would often give conflicting stories on what it was. Previously it said it was the devil, later, it claimed to be the spirit of an old man who had died 20 years earlier. When George asked it why it was bothering his family, it replied, “Just for fun.”
It also admitted setting small fires in the house, but again only for its amusement. “I set the fires in the daytime, when you could see them. I like fires, but I didn’t want to burn the house down.”
After several months of activity, the voice announced that it was going away. When word got out, crowds began gathering at the house to witness the event. The voice was happy to answer questions from the crowd, but now it claimed, “I am an angel from Heaven, sent by God to drive away that fellow.”
“You don’t believe that I am an angel because my voice is coarse,” it said to the crowd. “I will show you I don’t lie, but always tell the truth.” Instantly its voice took on an “incredible sweetness,” and it started singing a hymn:
“I am waiting, I am waiting, to call you dear sinner, Come to the savior, come to him now, won’t you receive Him right now, right now, Oh! List, now he is calling today, He is calling you to Jesus, move! Come to Him now, Come to Him, dear brothers and sisters, Come to Him now.”
Witness testimony agreed that the poltergeist sang with such a beautiful voice that many of the women were reduced to tears. After several hours of singing, the poltergeist said goodbye, saying it would return the next morning and show itself to Dinah and the other children.
The next morning the children breathlessly told their parents that “a beautiful man, he took little Johnny and me in his arms… he went to Heaven and was all red.”
Under questioning, the children described a man dressed in white with a lovely face with long white hair. He also had ribbons and “pretty things” all over his clothes and a gold object with stars on his head. The man reached down and picked them up saying that they were fine children.
Dinah said he had spoken to her as well, telling her that everyone thought he was not an angel, but he would show he was. Then he had “gone up to Heaven.” Questioned further, she said he seemed to rise up in the air and disappear in a kind of fire that blazed from his feet.
Compared to other poltergeist events, talking poltergeists seem to be in a category all by themselves. They may start out the same, annoying pranks, strange noises, showers of rocks and other debris, but then they seem to turn a corner and gain energy to a point where a consciousness and personality emerges. The personality is much like a child or mentally challenged adult, but it is a personality nevertheless.
Both the Bell Witch and the Shawville poltergeist exhibit almost identical personality traits. Both were fond of using obscene language and taking on the roles of different characters. Both entities were never shy about talking for hours in front of multiple witnesses. In fact, they seemed to thrive on the attention. They also claimed the ability to travel instantaneously to far off locations, bringing back information that could be verified later.
Gef The Talking Mongoose
So much has been written about the “Dalby Spook” over the years that there really is nothing new that can be added for this chapter. Nevertheless, considering the similarities between “Gef” and other talking poltergeists, this amazing case does need to be included.
The case of “Gef the Talking Mongoose” started in 1931 on the Isle of Man, located in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland.
The farm, located on an isolated hilltop, was home to 60-year-old Jim Irving, his wife Margaret, and their 12-year-old daughter Voirrey.
Jim had been a traveling salesman before taking up farming in his retirement. The farm was not a success and the family struggled to make ends meet. Doarlish Cashen (Manx for “Cashen’s Gap”) was extremely isolated with no electricity, no phone and no radio. By all descriptions, life on the Irving farm was dreary and offered few pleasantries.
This all changed when Gef made his appearance when the family started hearing strange “blowing, spitting and growling” sounds coming from behind the wooden paneling lining the farmhouse walls. Eventually these sounds turned into recognizable words from a very high-pitched voice. The voice introduced itself as Gef and claimed to be “an extra clever mongoose” born in Delhi, India in 1852.
Gef was soon holding regular conversations with the Irving family. He would travel in the space between the interior wooden paneling and the exterior walls of the house. He reportedly would throw objects like pins or rocks from the cracks and holes in the paneling. Although Jim and Margaret both caught brief glimpses of Gef, only Voirrey was allowed to look at him directly. She described him as being the size of a small rat, with yellowish fur, a flat snout like a hedgehog, and a long bushy tail.
Even though Gef acted like a poltergeist, he once told Jim that he was a living creature and was, in fact, terrified of ghosts. Like other talking poltergeist’s, Gef’s voice had an inhuman quality about it. Those that did hear him said his voice was high-pitched, at least an octave above a human voice. Unlike other talking poltergeist’s, Gef did not like to talk to others outside of the Irving family. Paranormal investigators Harry Price and Nandor Fodor went to great lengths to travel to Doarlish Cashen, but Gef refused to speak to them. However, there were plenty of witnesses to Gef’s ability to speak to convince both men that there was some sort of unusual activity at the Irving house.
On one occasion Gef agreed to allow Voirrey to take his picture. The subsequent photographs did little to convince skeptics on the reality of the talking mongoose.
In their book about Gef, The Haunting of Cashen’s Gap: A Modern Miracle Investigated, Price and R. S. Lambert noticed some parallels to poltergeist cases. They wrote:
“Many of the events related by Irving can be classified by those experienced in psychical research as belonging to the class of ‘poltergeist’ phenomena. Amongst these are Gef’s habit of throwing sand and small stones, also metal, wooden, and bone objects, at persons in or near Doarlish Cashen; the thumping, scratching, rapping, and banging noises which he makes behind the paneling and in the rafters of the house; and the movement of furniture.”
In 1970, Voirrey agreed to be interviewed by Walter McGraw for FATE magazine, Voirrey denied any involvement, and seemed rather bitter about the whole experience, stating, “It was not a hoax…Gef was very detrimental to my life. We were snubbed. The other children used to call me ‘the spook.’ We had to leave the Isle of Man, and I hope that no one where I work now ever knows the story. Gef has even kept me from getting married. How could I ever tell a man’s family about what happened?”
She continued by saying that Gef “made me meet people I didn’t want to meet. Then they said I was ‘mental’ or a ventriloquist. Believe me, if I was that good I would jolly well be making money from it now!”
Gef remains a true enigma in the hallowed halls of paranormal research. One side thinks that Gef was a poltergeist, while the other side thinks he was something else. If you were to compare Gef to other talking poltergeists, the similarities are obvious. Like the Bell witch and the Shawville poltergeist, Gef enjoyed singing hymns. On January 19, 1935, Gef was in “high spirits” sang the hymns, “Jesus, my Savior, on Calvary’s Tree” and six verses of “The King of Love my Shepherd is.”
As well, like other talking poltergeist’s, Gef’s voice was said to be strange and not like human speech. Jim Irving also said that Gef’s laughter varied from what sounded like a small child, an adult chuckle, or a maniacal laughter that left the family thinking that they were dealing with an insane creature from hell.
Gef is also discounted as being a poltergeist because he was seen physically several times. However, a talking poltergeist is often able to make itself visible, but much like the way it can talk in different voices, it can also appear in different forms.
The Voice From the Stove
Maid Pascuala Alcocer in front of the stove where the mysterious voice emanated.
Around the same time that Gef was active, another talking poltergeist appeared in Zaragoza, Spain. The Palazon family was living in an apartment complex on Gascón Gotor street when in September, 1934 they started to hear maniacal laughter and voices coming from inside their home. At first the voice sounded like a woman, but later it would change and appear to be a man speaking. The family was perplexed by the strange sounds, but kept it to themselves for fear of ridicule.
When the din coming from the apartment became too much, neighbors called the police. The voice then started shouting: “Cowards, cowards. You called the police. Cowards!”
When they arrived, the households young maid, named Pascuala Alcocer, told police that when she was trying to light the wood stove, she heard a loud voice coming from the stove saying, “You’re hurting me!”
The police checked the apartment but couldn’t find any source for the mysterious voice. Word quickly spread and hundreds of people gathered outside of Building #2 in hopes of hearing the “duende” (goblin) for themselves.
Local police and judges personally investigated the home, forcing the family to move out as they shut off electricity and phone service as they tore the place apart. This enraged the voice and it shouted to everyone that it would kill them and all the residents in the building.
Authorities also brought in psychiatrists to question Pascuala, whom they suspected of hoaxing everything. The doctors suggested that Pascuala was mentally ill and that she was producing the voice through subconscious ventriloquism. At one point they sent the maid on a vacation along with the family, yet the voice continued to speak. Even moving every resident out of Building #2 failed to stop it.
Whatever the source, the voice was able to see what was going on around the building. It would guess the number of people that were in a room at a time, it would interact with police officers directly when they asked it what it wanted.
“Do you want money?”
“Do you want a job?”
“Every man wants something.”
“I’m not a man!”
One of the original builders was brought in to take measurements of the kitchen, but the voice interrupted saying: “Don’t worry, it measures 75 centimeters.” The mason was so scared he left the building never to come back leaving his tools behind in a closet.
Eventually the voice vanished just as mysteriously as it arrived. Pascuala Alcocer went into seclusion lamenting up until her death years later that “the voice from the wall ruined her life.”
The Poltergeist As An Elemental
There are many more cases of talking poltergeists that have been carefully researched and chronicled, and probably hundreds more that were never reported for fear of ridicule. The poltergeist by itself is an oddity in the world of paranormal research, and the talking poltergeist goes even further as a head-scratcher due to its outright off-the-wall high strangeness.
All kinds of theories on the true nature of the poltergeist have been suggested. Black magic and curses as the cause of poltergeists are popular in countries such as Brazil where spiritism is still practiced. Folk lore concerning elemental spirits such as fairies, hobs and goblins show that they were also fond of mischievous tricks such as throwing rocks, starting fires and stealing household objects.
The black king of the djinns, Al-Malik al-Aswad. Photo courtesy of the Oxford Digital Library.
Middle Eastern folklore and Muslim theology concerning the djinn and their amazing powers also have similarities to the poltergeist. The djinn are beings with free will that once lived on Earth but were sent away by God to a world parallel to mankind. The word djinn comes from an Arabic root meaning “hidden from sight,” so they are physically invisible from man as their description suggests.
The djinn will take possession of buildings or locations and torment any person who goes to live there. They throw rocks at people. They can levitate and cause objects to disappear. A djinn can quickly travel great distances. One of the powers of the djinn, is that they are able to take on any physical form they like. Thus, they can appear as humans, animals and anything else. They can mimic the voices of deceased humans, claiming to be spirits or Satan. They enjoy playing tricks and frightening people. In fact, they can feel strong emotions such as fear or grief and gain energy from these strong emotions.
Like humans, the djinn have distinct personalities. There are those who are of low intelligence, quick to anger and are fond of playing tricks. Others have a superior intellect and act more along the lines of guardian angels rather than tricksters.
It is interesting to consider that the poltergeist could be an elemental spirit rather than a human. This could explain why poltergeists (especially the more energetic talking poltergeist) are resistant and very hostile, to attempts to get rid of them by using religious methods. If a poltergeist is not a human spirit or a demon in a Christian, Jewish or Muslim tradition, attempts to use exorcism are pretty much useless.
Could The Poltergeist Be An Artificial Intelligence?
Considering that the poltergeist could be something other than a human spirit, the website The State of Reality, (www.thestateofreality.com) states to be “the combined effort of four professional remote viewers that have set out to share their project findings regarding socially significant, anomalous target sets.” On this site there is an interesting article concerning their remote viewing of the Bell Witch incident.
Jeff Coley writes that the team’s result of their remote viewing attempt came up with the concept of “Something contained, or restrained inside an enclosure. Often this container was sketched and described to be like a bottle, while at other times as a box of some kind, which acted as an enclosure or a tomb. One viewer’s session described this object as an ossuary, similar to what a collector of antique relics might possess within their private collection. Other sessions described what looked suspiciously similar to the idea of a Genie bottle.”
According to Coley something had been contained inside a bottle or box. The viewers described it as a phantom, and intelligence and a thought form. The remote viewing work describes the purpose of this thing as having to do with amusement, recreation, performance, and the idea of sending a message. The viewers also described that the phenomenon was associated with something destructive in nature. One viewer notes that it is like a parasite or a time-bomb that somehow escaped or was accidentally released.
Could the talking poltergeist be an artificial “spirit” created by an ancient civilization eons ago?
The opinion by the remote viewers was that whatever the Bell Witch was, it had been deliberately contained as a punishment eons ago. Three of the viewers described guards who seem to be keeping this thing bottled-up. One viewer described these guards as ethereal, floating, muscular “brutes,” almost like otherworldly prison guards, while another viewer described something like a sentry, guarding and patrolling.
It almost sounds like the Bell Witch (and it even admitted to John Bell Jr. that it was millions of years old) was an artificial intelligence that had been created by a highly advanced and now vanished civilization that could have been terrestrial or even extraterrestrial. Its purpose might have been to entertain and teach but somehow became uncontrollable and had to be contained.
This is just speculation of course. But considering how unusual and powerful talking poltergeists can be, is it really so far-fetched to say that these invisible intelligence’s might be a form of artificial intelligence? Not an intelligence contained within a machine, but an artificial intelligence without a physical form…in other words, an artificial “spirit.”
Perhaps these AI’s were locked away millions of years ago for some reason. As time wore on, some have managed to escape their confinement and then proceed to wreak havoc in the area where they were kept. Perhaps they have limited energy that can no longer be “recharged.” This could explain why they disappear so abruptly and completely, never to be heard from again.
When you look at past cases of talking poltergeists, they display personalities that if they were human subjects, doctors would describe them as psychotic or schizophrenic. If my thesis is correct, this madness could be the result of millions of years of lonely confinement, with little hope of rescue. The human mind would self-destruct in a matter of months. Consider what this amount of time could have done to an artificial mind.
Rather than fear and loathe these tortured entities, a better solution would be to offer them kindness and understanding. For any creature with a soul, even if it is an artificial soul, deserves happiness and even love. This is a difficult concept considering the torture these things have brought upon their victims, but even a savage dog will eventually respond to a kind heart.
Could the poltergeist respond as well?
The Bell Witch Project