To start this post off- I'd like to say happy Halloween to all my readers. If you are going out for Halloween, or assisting someone else in going out, than I salute you. Not enough people are celebrating this truly brilliant holiday anymore, and that makes me very sad. On the upside, I'll be able to dress up as Elder Price this year, since it's not like any kids will see me.
Anyways, to get back on track, this post is about Poltergeists. Poltergeists, which translate to "noisy ghosts" in German, are pretty much just that- evil ghosts that have nothing better to do than screw around with the living, by lingering around their homes and breaking things. Now, haunted houses have always been great settings for horror movies- from classics like Poltergeist to, well, The house that drips blood on Alex. Of course, the purpose of this post isn't to talk about my favorite horror films. The purpose is to determine whether Poltergeists are strong evidence for the supernatural or not.
Now before I begin, I'd keep in mind, as the Skeptics dictionary does, that there are too many of these events to look into- so don't expect a comprehensive debunking of every Poltergeist ever reported. However, we can certainly look into the similarities of each Poltergeist case, and see if plausible natural hypothesis can be administered to each and every one of them. Anyways, here are the three most common things that occur during Poltergeists: Objects moving on there own, Supernatural noises and Cold spots.
Now, we all know that cold spots are common, and often caused by completely natural phenomena. For instance, old houses often have drafts. This theory works well since the vast majority of Poltergeist cases happened at least 100 years ago, thus in old houses. Of course, someone could also have left a window open, or just had the placebo effect due to the fear of being in a "haunted house". The same applys to the supernatural noises. We must not forget the power of the imagination. Of course, people could hear strange sounds from outside their homes, and interpret them as being from paranormal agents inside. We must keep in mind that laymen and paranormal investigators usually lack the scientific expertise to properly identify strange sounds.
This bring us to our final occurrence- the moving of furniture "on it's own". Various alternatives have been given- such as strong drafts, electro magnetic feilds, high-frequency radio signals, and even simple explainations like loose bolts and phone cords. Hallucinations are often commonly associated to these experiences as well. Others think that they are caused by some kind of negative psychological energy like Dr. William Roll- although this view seems to be rejected by most Ghost hunters and scientists alike. However- I think the best explanation for most cases of this phenomena is usually fraud. For one thing, one has to wonder why the families experiencing these events are so contempt to stick around for the show. I'd assume that a rational person would run the hell away, and call a paranormal detective after they were a safe distance away. After all- some Poltergeist victims claim the Poltergeists were trying to kill them!
Of course, this reason alone isn't why I think most cases are frauds. It's also the fact that so many cases actually were frauds. The Amityville Poltergeist and the Columbus Poltergeist are good examples of very popular Poltergeists that turned out to be frauds. Even the Amherst Poltergeist and Enfield Poltergeist are now considered to be frauds by many Psychologists. Keep in mind that all these Poltergeists were, at a time, considered the best cases ever documented. One of the reasons why these people are motivated to do what they do is because of the media attention- although historically there have been many strange motives behind these events. In the case of The Columbus Poltergeist, the teenage daughter, Tina Resch, was caught on tape hoaxing the investigaters. James Randi investigated the case, and discovered that Tina was not only adopted, but using the media coverage to find her long lost parents. She was also arrested for killing her own children several years later.
Of course, Paranormal enthusiasts have always claimed that these were perhaps only partially faked. It seems possible. However, we have to ask ourselves- why did these families find the need to exaggerate their claims? Could it be because, perhaps, their original claims just weren't that good to begin with? Also, keep in mind that the media also exaggerates an awful lot in order to make these cases more marketable. For instance, only a handful of people could testify for all the huge claims that were made during the Amherst Poltergeist- and of them, I don't think any one claim had more than one witness. I know that Amherst happened over a hundred years ago- but really, we are talking about a case in which a church got possessed at one point. The whole thing had been all but invented by the media and a few unreliable witness'.
As a final thought, many Poltergeists may also be caused by a phenomena called Dissociation. Dr Walter F. Prince, for instance, makes the case for Dissociation as the cause of the Amherst Poltergeist. Dissociation is an altered state of consciousness in which you act without having any memory of it. In a way, it is kind of like amnesia- and often goes hand in hand with it. And of course, other explanations most certainly exist that I haven't looked into, and more will come into existence in time. Keep in mind that most serious Scientists and Psychologists still haven't reached a view in favor of these being authentic. As a matter of fact- paranormal studies as a whole have been on the decline since the 80's (see here), due to the criticism it's recieved by other, real scientists. Most of them believe that the evidence for the paranormal is most certainly bloated by the media, by the victims' active imaginations, and by mankinds supernatural expectations- just as I do.