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A compelling examination of poltergeist phenomena.
At least thirty-five police officers around the world -- in at least thirteen separate cases dating back to 1952 -- claim to have witnessed some form of poltergeist activity. Nine of them were assaulted by what they say was a poltergeist, but none was seriously injured and no one has been charged nor have the mysteries been solved definitively.
There are numerous cases of "hauntings" studied throughout the world every year, many of which hold up to close scrutiny. Poltergeists takes a look at a number of these in-depth case studies:
For his investigations, Clarkson interviewed hundreds of witnesses, paranormal experts, psychologists, professors, magicians, and skeptics. While it may raise as many questions as it answers, Poltergeists is an undeniably fascinating study of the paranormal.
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Michael Clarkson is a journalist and the author of four books on fear management and stress. He has won national and international awards for his writing and research. He lives in Toronto, Canada.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
As a daily newspaper reporter for thirty-eight years (recently retired) and author of four books on fear management and stress, I do not treat lightly the topic of poltergeists. Some of my colleagues, who know me as an investigator of everything from the AIDS epidemic to serial killers to nepotism in government hiring, may shudder at the thought of me now entering the shadowy world of the paranormal. Going senile in your old age, Clarkson?
In fact, I have been considering this topic for more than twenty-five years, but did not take action until now.
In 1980, a young man who had been the center of a poltergeist case came to my house to talk. Since then, I have been following with some interest as poltergeist cases pop up from time to time in the media and in scholarly publications. Some of them seem worthy of further examination. In the past couple of years, I have closely examined some of the cases in this book.
I am not an expert in poltergeists or paranormal phenomena, so you could probably call me a skeptic. As an investigative journalist, I'm always looking for reasonable proof for extrasensory perception, UFOs, or ghosts.
As a fear researcher, I believe we are just beginning to understand some of the amazing capabilities of the fight-or-flight system, which is hardwired into each of us by nature.
For this book, I have reviewed about fifty poltergeist cases and interviewed hundreds of witnesses, paranormal experts, psychologists, university professors, magicians, and skeptics.
Although I try to remain neutral, it is difficult not to arrive at some conclusions. I now suspect that pohergeists exist, or at least a type of poltergeist energy exists. That does not mean I believe they exist, just that I think there is enough evidence to suspect there is something going on from time to time that seems to defy the laws of physics. I remain skeptical, but not cynical, and you will see in my wording that I question the evidence. For example, when describing the supposed poltergeist events, I frequently use the words "reportedly" and "allegedly." "The table reportedly moved under its own power..."
Some of the cases may raise as many questions as they provide answers, while others may have flaws or be the result of trickery. But if we are too quick to dismiss cases, we might miss some intriguing stories and theories on the edge of science.
Poltergeists are hard to prove for a number of reasons. They often involve adolescents or teenagers, who may be prone to trickery or at least to drawing attention to themselves.
Nevertheless, I believe there is enough evidence to raise debate. Please join me in this unusual adventure to examine something out of the ordinary.
PEOPLE STILL BELIEVE
Probably hundreds of millions of people in America believe in some form of the supernatural. A 2003 Harris Poll of more than 2,000 Americans revealed that 90 percent believed in God, 89 percent in miracles, 68 percent in the devil, 51 percent in ghosts, 31 percent in astrology, and 27 percent in reincarnation. In Britain, a 2004 survey showed that 42 percent of people believed in ghosts.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE POLTERGEIST
Poltergeists have fascinated people from ancient times to the Amityville Horror case on Long Island in 1974 to the contemporary Harry Potter books and movies.
They were reported as early as 858 BC in a farmhouse in Rhine, Germany, where an unseen force reportedly threw stones, shook the walls, moved objects, and caused loud banging noises.
Other cases were reported in AD 530 in Roman Italy and AD 900 in China and they continue to be studied and documented around the world, although their definition is debatable and there is speculation about their existence.
The Spiritualism movement in America began in 1848 when it was reported that sisters Kate and Margaret Fox were creating disruptive, noisy energy in their home in Hydesville, New York. The belief of Spiritualism in the continued existence of the human soul remains popular around the world, particularly in Brazil.
In what has become known as the Epworth Poltergeist, the Wesley family of Epworth, Lincolnshire, England, said they heard loud rapping noises over two months in their parsonage in 1716. No explanation for this phenomenon was found.
The Borley Rectory is one of the most famous cases in England, in which mysterious footsteps, phantom stone throwing, and hauntings were reported throughout the 1920s and 1930s, but whether these activities might have been the result of fraud or natural causes is controversial.
Many people are skeptical about early poltergeist investigations, which were sometimes conducted by superstitious researchers, who might have too easily jumped to conclusions.
Even the celebrated murder and poltergeist/haunting case in a house in Amityville, which was made into the book and movie, the Amityville Horror, was considered by many to be fraudulent.
Three poltergeist movies of the 1980s were partly based on several poltergeist cases.
And poltergeists continue to be reported today. In 2000 in Tomika-cho, Japan, many families living in an apartment building claimed that a poltergeist was causing mysterious sounds, moving objects, apparitions, and electric tools to work without power supply.
Other recent documented cases were in Mexico in 2002, Florida in 2003, and Savannah, Georgia, in 2005.
In ancient times, many people believed that demons were behind poltergeist activity, then the theory generally turned to the idea that they were actually ghosts of the dead.
Beginning in the twentieth century, parapsychologists, such as Sir William Barrett, Federic Myers, Nador Fodor, and William Roll, suspected that poltergeist activity involved young people and teenagers, that the loud bumps and moving objects were caused by mischievous or angry youths (in these cases, of course, it was believed they did it subconsciously through a type of kinetic energy).
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