Poltergeists – An Evaluation of a Demonic Phenomenon – Part 2

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2004
Researchers have connected the poltergeist to mediumism, witchcraft, spiritism and other forms of the occult throughout history, right up to the present. Of scores of incidents recorded or investigated by the late Dr. Kurt Koch, a leading Christian authority on the occult, in every case “occult practices lay at the root of the [poltergeist] phenomena.”

Poltergeists—An Evaluation of a Demonic Phenomenon, Part 2

The Occult Connection

The occult connection to poltergeist manifestations is made more evident when we consider that the celebrated revival of mid-nineteenth century spiritualism in America actually began with the poltergeist. The Fox sisters’ “rappings” were clearly a manifestation of poltergeist activity. Colin Wilson, author of The Occult: A History, observes, “The Hydesville rappings which inaugu­rated the history of modern spiritualism were almost certainly poltergeist phenomena; the Hydesville ‘ghost’ also claimed to be the victim of an undetected murder.”[1]

In fact, researchers have connected the poltergeist to mediumism, witchcraft, spiritism and other forms of the occult throughout history, right up to the present. Of scores of incidents re­corded or investigated by the late Dr. Kurt Koch, a leading Christian authority on the occult, in every case “occult practices lay at the root of the [poltergeist] phenomena.”[2] For example, as one reads the literature, one discovers that the use of Ouija boards is often associated with the poltergeist. Once poltergeist disturbances are experienced in a home, often the Ouija board is brought out of a closet in an attempt, whether in seriousness or jest, to establish contact with the “troubled ghost.” In such cases, poltergeist phenomena often become the means of a person’s conversion to the occult. The supernatural encounters are so startling and intriguing that witnesses and participants may become converted to a belief in the supernatural and may end up involved in psychic investigation, such as using Ouija boards or attending séances.

In The Enigma of the Poltergeist, psychical researcher Raymond Bayless further observes, “it can be suggested that witchcraft may be the child of the poltergeist. The study of poltergeists and haunting phenomena continually uncovers reminders of the close relationship existing between each subject.”[3]

Poltergeist phenomena are not only frequently associated with witchcraft but with necro­mancy and séance phenomena as well, e.g., “It has duplicated every phenomenon observed in the experimental séance.”[4] For example, “during known, obvious poltergeist cases, phantoms have been seen and heard that gave every indication of having been spirits of the dead. On occasion, phantoms have indicated that they were spirits of dead relatives of witnesses present.”[5]

From a Christian view, here we see a typical attempt by demons to establish belief in or practice of contacting the dead, something God has forbidden in the Bible (Deut. 18:9-12). This is illustrated in the attempt to “rescue” supposedly confused or “earth-bound” spirits who are allegedly causing the poltergeist disturbances. Thus, “In each case the living had a duty to the dead. By means of séances (sometimes specifically convened as ‘rescue circles’) the dis­tressed party [the poltergeist] could be contacted and ultimately directed along the appointed paths of self-improvement.”[6]

In fact, one can only suspect in many cases that when poltergeists are directly associated with some person—rather than merely a location—that the spirits are attempting to force the individual into some kind of occult involvement or even to bring about their possession by spirits.

At the very least, poltergeist phenomena associated with an individual seems to have certain parallels to the medium and her spirit controls: “Obviously, this relates to the concept of mediumship in general and moreover to the equally fascinating study of the way in which this person—the ‘agent’ or ‘focus’—is different from other human beings who do not have poltergeist abilities.”[7]

In light of all this, it is not surprising that a common feature of poltergeist manifestations involves the attempt to seek actual contact with the alleged deceased, also, obviously, a com­mon occurrence in séance mediumism. For example, Dr. Weldon remembers viewing a televi­sion program on a particularly dramatic poltergeist haunting in 1994. After the poltergeist mani­festations began, a Ouija board was used to attempt to make contact with the spirit. The spirit spelled out its name through the board. The next day psychical researchers were called in to investigate. Hauntingly, one of the parapsychologists had a name mentally impressed upon him entirely unaware. He simply began his conversation, “When did you first meet” —and gave the actual name that the spirit had given earlier through the Ouija board. He had no idea why he said this name or where it came from, but obviously, it “confirmed” the “identity” of the spirit they were now seeking to establish contact with. This particular name was, in fact, found to be that of the very same individual who had lived in this house prior to that time—and, in fact, had also been murdered. In the minds of everyone present, this confirmed the fact they were really contacting the deceased spirit of the man who had earlier been killed in this house.

Occult Interpretations

Of course, in occult circles, the poltergeist is characteristically interpreted in line with prevail­ing beliefs about the dead, human psychokinesis, etc. But given the well-known ability of the spirits to assume virtually any shape and to take virtually any disguise, from angels to aliens to the human dead, how can any occultist be certain that poltergeists are what they think they are? Can mediums be certain the appearances of their “dead loved ones” in séances are not simply the clever tricks of demons to foster emotional trust and dependence? If not, what of the polter­geists who also claim to be the spirits of the dead?

The spirits of the occult in general are often contacted directly by psychics, mediums or channelers who permit themselves to become possessed by these spirits to allow the spirits to speak through them. At poltergeist hauntings, mediums or psychics may allow themselves to be possessed in order to discover the alleged reason for the “haunting” by establishing direct contact with the “troubled ghost.”

While speaking through human mediums, these spirits have offered several reasons alleg­edly explaining their activities.

  1. The spirits of the dead who were once atheists, materialists or rationalists while on earth never expected to encounter an afterlife. Upon death, the shock was so great they became confused and disoriented. Like a lost traveler in a strange city, they wander aimlessly attempting to get their “bearings”.
  2. Initially, some spirits of the dead actually refuse to believe they are really “dead” and are no longer able to live upon the earth. They now vainly attempt to convince themselves otherwise: that they are still in their body and can somehow return to their previous existence. Thus they not only seek to regain contact with the living through “haunting” houses where people live, but they desperately seek to manifest themselves materially in order to regain “contact” with the physical world. Bizarre poltergeist events are one result as they attempt to interact with and/or materialize back into this world.
  3. Those spirits of the dead who erroneously accepted the idea of a biblical heaven (i.e., those who were Christians while on earth) are shocked and angry to discover that the Bible was wrong. Rather than finding themselves in heaven with their Lord, they instead simply found themselves in the spirit world—with no Jesus or heaven anywhere in sight. Some refuse to accept this, waiting instead for “Jesus” to come and take them to “heaven.” In the meantime, they vent their confusion, anger and grief through poltergeist manifestations.
  4. The spirits of the dead who were evil people involved in violent acts such as murder or rape at a particular location while on earth. After death they chose to remain close to the earth to continue their evil. (Or, it may be that their deceased victims are frightened to go forward and progress spiritually, or that they may wish to seek revenge on the living relatives of those who harmed them.)

These are the claims of the poltergeist. But regardless of the spirits’ claims, we think the demonologists of an earlier era such as Guazzo, Remy and others were correct—that these spirits are not what they claim (spirits of the human dead), but lying spirits which the Bible identi­fies as demons. This is strongly indicated by the fact that poltergeist claims, manifestations and results tend to have five distinct consequences—all of which lend credibility to the view that these spirits are really the deceiving spirits identified in the Bible as demons.


First, as noted, poltergeist manifestations tend to involve or interest people in the occult. Poltergeist phenomena frequently cause one to assume the truth of an occult worldview as in mediumism, witchcraft, reincarnation and paganism generally. The phenomenon itself is so startling that participants become converted to belief in the supernatural and not infrequently end up personally involved in psychic investigation through séances, channeling, Ouija boards or various forms of divination. Thus, a parapsychologist may be called in to “investigate” the disturbance and often a psychic, channeler, or medium is brought in to communicate with the troubled spirit, and attempt to “help” it or, if it is “evil,” to “exorcise” it. Demons have a vested interest in all this because it not only supports the occult, it offers a novel and unexpected man­ner for them to influence or contact people. Thus, poltergeist activity encourages attempts to contact the dead, something God has forbidden as an abomination to Him: “Let no one be found among you…who practices …sorcery, …engages in witchcraft, …or who is a medium or a spiritist, or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord…” (Deut. 18:10-12).

Second, in the minds of many people, poltergeist phenomena tend to “discredit” the biblical view of the afterlife and of immediate judgment at death (Heb. 9:27). Indeed, most people do think of poltergeists as the spirits of the human dead. But if all these dead people are actually roaming around the spirit world, then the biblical portrait of confinement and judgment at death is obviously false. This scenario also supports the goals of demons who have a vested interest in deceiving people about biblical truth concerning the afterlife. Obviously, if there is no hell in the afterlife, there is no need for a Savior from hell in this life. But God tells us, “man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Heb. 9:27) and to those who reject God’s offer of salvation Jesus warned, “if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24). The writer of Hebrews asks, “how shall we escape [judgment] if we ignore such a great salvation?” and “…see to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him [Moses] who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him [Jesus] who warns us from heaven?” (Heb. 2:3; 12:25). Jesus himself warned that the unregenerate and unrighteous “will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matt. 25:46). The Bible teaches clearly that the unsaved dead are now confined in a place of punishment (Luke 16:19-31; 2 Pet. 2:9) while the saved dead are in glory with Christ (Phil. 1:23; 2 Cor. 5:6, 8). Therefore, the implication many people draw from poltergeist manifestations, that the dead roam freely, is clearly false from a biblical viewpoint.

Third, poltergeist events grant spiritual authority and credibility to the occultist, i.e., the psy­chic, spiritist, medium, channeler, parapsychologist, psychical researcher, etc., who investigates the disturbance and supposedly “solves” the problem. Because such persons are frequently able to eventually “resolve” the disturbance—often not without a battle of sorts—(the spirits gladly cooperating behind the scenes), the entire episode grants the occultist spiritual authority and credibility. This too is something that harmonizes with the goal of demons: to secure cred­ibility and authority for those who actively promote the demon’s own interests. Those interests actively oppose the good purposes God has intended for men. As many former mediums have testified, all this is merely a ruse of the spirits to fool men into adopting unbiblical teachings. The story of former mediums Raphael Gasson in The Challenging Counterfeit[8] and Victor Ernest in I Talked with Spirits[9] are illustrative.

Fourth, poltergeists manifestations frequently harm people. In the following material and later in our final illustration we will document this. Since demons are innately evil and unredeemable, this too fits well with their own desires and purposes.

In essence, all four consequences of the poltergeist are seen to support the goals of those evil spirits the Bible identifies as demons. Therefore, it is hardly out of place to suggest that poltergeists are merely a ruse of demons to further their own evil purposes. Our next section will expand on this theme.

Evil Nature

Dr. G. H. Playfair, a member of the parapsychological Brazilia Institute for Psycho-Biophysical Research (a spiritist organization), describes poltergeist actions in his The Unknown Power:

They throw rocks around, overturn furniture, wreck kitchens, set clothing on fire, soak rooms with water, rearrange people’s personal belongings and often steal them, transport anything from babies to two-ton trucks, and generally drive a lot of peace-loving citizens out of their minds. There is also evidence that they do far worse things, seriously wounding and even killing people.[10]

Playfair refers to the fact that poltergeist cases can continue for years and eventually drive a family to desperation, even suicide. He mentions one incident which forcefully illustrates the true nature of these “harmless” ghosts:

For in this case not only was a house totally wrecked, but several attempts were made on the life of a baby. After narrowly escaping death by burning more than once, the baby simply disappeared after a particular violent outburst of poltergeist activity. Hearing stifled cries coming from a basket of dirty clothing the desperate father rushed over to find his baby entirely buried under the clothes in the process of suffocating to death. The family had to abandon the house after all the furniture had been damaged by fire and even the roof had been pounded to pieces by the furious spirit. The place looked as if a bomb had gone off inside it, and their baby, which had not yet learned even to crawl, was lucky to be alive.[11]

Physical attacks from the spirit world are not as rare as some people think. UFO authority John Keel refers to various occult practices when he says:

Both the literature of the secret societies and the more readily available general occult literature warn about the hazards of these practices. Poorly informed, emotionally unstable practitioners can be overwhelmed by the forces they unleash. The blundering amateur wizard can become possessed or driven insane or experience elaborate hallucinations for extended periods. All kinds of weird manifestations can descend on him, ranging from poltergeists to violent physical attacks by invisible hands. These classic psychic attacks are very similar to the problems suffered by some innocent UFO witnesses and contactees after their sightings begin. The two phenomena seem to be inexorably linked.[12]

John Weldon personally talked with one individual who claimed he was beaten by spirits. He was “astral projecting” (an out-of-body experience) and had his spirit purportedly thrown back into his body by other entities with such force that he was incoherent for days. A similar event happened to his roommate, with resulting insanity. Both experiences were said to have been induced by the practice of Transcendental Meditation. The person Dr. Weldon initially talked with claimed he would be subsequently beaten by the spirits merely for talking with a Christian. Because of past experience, he knew the spirits would scold him and express of their great displeasure.

Psychoanalyst and occult authority Dr. Nandor Fodor lists a well documented early twentieth century case with fairly common elements, which also involved an attempted murder by a pol­tergeist:

The next night Esther Cox had a frightful experience. Her body began to swell and puffed out to an abnormal size. Soon after a terrific noise, “like a peal of thunder,” woke everyone in the house. The bedclothes flew off Esther’s bed night after night, as invisible hands cut words into the plaster of the wall, while everyone heard the noise of writing, “Esther Cox, you are mine to kill”; cold water placed on the middle of the kitchen table bubbled and hissed like boiling water, yet its temperature remained unaffected; a voice announced that the house would be set on fire and for many days lighted matches were seen to fall from the ceiling on the bed; the ghost communicated by raps, said that he was an evil spirit bent on mischief and would torment Esther until she died; and things generally became so bad that Esther was compelled to leave. In the house of a friend, Mr. White, for a month everything was quiet. One day, while she was scrubbing the hall floor, the brush suddenly disappeared from under her hand. A few moments later it fell from the ceiling, narrowly escaping her head. The ghost was heard to walk about the house, he banged on the doors, made attempts to fire the house, stabbed Esther in the back with a knife, piled up seven chairs in the parlour on top of each other and pulling out one near the bottom allowed them to fall with a terrific crash. The terrible persecution lasted for nearly a year. Walter Hubbell, the actor, was a personal witness. In 1907, Hereward Carrington interviewed some of the surviving witnesses at Amherst. The testimonies he gathered confirm Hubbell’s narrative.[13]

Dr. Fodor further observed that, “The most alarming poltergeist manifestation is the lighting of fires as they often result in serious material damage and in bodily burns.”[14] (Again, this frequent connection to spontaneous fires allows one to theorize that some of the several hundred re­corded instances of spontaneous human combustion may be related to poltergeist events. Only a few charred bones, teeth, and occasional extremities are left of what was once a person, while the surrounding environment always remains nearly untouched, perhaps indicating the phenom­enon of the highly focused intent of the poltergeist.)

Other occurrences involve unusual teleportations of objects and shamanistic-like phenom­ena. In one case, a girl who had hysterical fits and vomited pins “was tormented by stones continually flung at her. The stones vanished as soon as they fell to the ground.”[15] In another case, pins and needles were stuck into the tormented victim.[16] As noted earlier, there are even cases of sexual attacks or actual rape by poltergeists. Essentially, these parallel the demonic incubus/succubus experience.

Dr. Kurt Koch lists one particularly brutal case of a baby being tormented. In this instance, a pastor had come to preach at a church containing a significant number of occultists, after which strange happenings began to occur. Apparently, the spirits didn’t like his preaching and sought revenge. Dr. Koch tells us:

This thoroughly sober, intelligent man of sharp judgment gave no further attention to the happenings in the parsonage. But one night he was compelled by a remarkable incident to take note of the unusual occurrences. Their baby, which slept in the adjoining room to its parents, suddenly set up a most horrible cry. The young wife hurried through the open door into the adjoining chamber to comfort the child. But she started back in astonishment, and called her husband. Both parents saw how the child had been drawn out of its bedclothes and had been turned around in its cot. On its body there were bloodsmeared fingerprints. The man first thought it must be some brazen trick. He carefully checked the window catches and the doors into the corridor, and then searched the whole room with a torch. The child’s clothes and nappy were then carefully checked for a cause of the injuries to the child. But the parents could not find the slightest clue to explain this painful occurrence.
The mother settled the child again in its cot and quieted it. They then went back to bed. But almost immediately the terrible cries and moans broke out again. The parents together hurried into the room. The baby was again unwrapped, drawn out of the clothes and turned around in the cot. The little body showed new traces of having been violently seized, with the typical marks of a human hand. The couple now had a distinctly uncanny feeling. They took the baby into their bed, and the husband said to his wife, “Something mysterious seems to be going on after all. Come, let us pray.” The couple earnestly prayed for God’s protection and in faith committed themselves consciously to His care. Then they lay down quietly to rest, and were troubled no more in their sleep.[17]

In Phenomena: A Book of Wonders, Mitchell and Rickard also list several poltergeist-related psychic attacks. In South Africa in 1962, twenty-year-old Jim deBruin was being questioned about the disturbances when:

The Police Chief, John Wessels, and three constables heard twenty-year-old Jimmy scream with pain. He was wearing shorts and they could see cuts appearing on his legs even as they watched. The next day, in the presence of two officers, a deep gash appeared on his chest, although nothing had penetrated his shirt. These cuts continued for several days. They were clean, as though made with a razor or scalpel—and all who saw them agreed that the young man could not have inflicted them on himself.[18]

In another famous case that occurred just after the 1848 American spiritualist revival:

The poltergeist connection was more clearly established in the celebrated Phelps case in Stratford, Connecticut, in 1850. The disturbances centered on Dr. Phelp’s twelve-year-old son, Harry. In Ghosts and Poltergeists, Father Thurston’s summaries of some events read like attacks on the boy—stones would be pitched at him and a violent force would lift him off the ground to strike his head on the ceiling. Once he was thrown into a water tank; and before the eyes of shocked visitors he was caught up and suspended in the branches of a tree while his clothes were methodically torn to ribbons by something invisible. In a pamphlet published in 1800, A Narrative of Some Extraordinary Things That Happened to Mr. Richard Giles’ Children, by a Mr. Durbin, extensive attacks by invisibles on the children are detailed—only these left teethmarks in young flesh, like the case of Eleonore Zungun. The witnesses describe the horrific sight of the little girl throttled by an invisible hand, seeing the sides of her throat pushed in, but without any obvious contraction of her neck muscles. Later the children were pushed and pulled, slapped and spat upon. On one occasion, five witnesses saw “their arms bitten about twenty times that evening… they could not do it themselves as we were looking at them the whole time. We examined the bites and found on them the impression of eighteen or twenty teeth, with saliva or spittle all over them, in the shape of a mouth… very wet and clammy like spittle, and it smelt rank.”[19]

A final gruesome case is reminiscent of some UFO incidents which Dr. Weldon reported on in his second UFO book, Close Encounters:

In 1761, five women were returning from collecting sticks near Ventimiglia, in northern Italy. Suddenly one of them cried out and dropped dead. Her companions were shocked by what they saw. Her clothes and shoes were torn into fine shreds and scattered up to six feet around her. There were wounds on her head that exposed the skull; the muscles on her right side had given way exposing her intestines; her sacrum was broken and most internal organs were ruptured or livid; her abdominal region bore many deep and parallel incisions, and the flesh on one hip and thigh was almost carried away, exposing the pubic bone and the broken head of the femur which had been forced from its socket.
This horrific event was reported to the French Academy of Sciences by M. Morand, and the Annual Register for that year quotes him as noting that these grievous effects took place with no sign of penetration of the woman’s clothes, nor was there any blood on the scene, nor any sign of her missing flesh. It was as though she had been the focal point for an instantaneous, silent, and deadly explosion.[20]

The above examples—and hundreds more could be cited—offer strong evidence that the poltergeist is far more than a “harmless” ghost or mere adolescent psychokinesis. These sug­gestions eventually become absurd.


  1. Colin Wilson, Mysteries: An Investigation Into the Occult, The Paranormal and the Supernatural (NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1978), pp. 462-463.
  2. Kurt Koch, Christian Counseling and Occultism (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publishers, 1982), p. 181.
  3. Raymond Bayless, The Enigma of the Poltergeist (West Nyack, NY: Parker, 1967), p. 158.
  4. Ibid., p. 9.
  5. Ibid., p. 205.
  6. Michael Goss, compiler, Poltergeists: An Annotated Bibliography of Works in English, Circa 1880-1970 (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1979), p. ix.
  7. Ibid., p. xii.
  8. Raphael Gasson, The Challenging Counterfeit (Plainfield, NJ: Logos, 1970).
  9. Victor H. Ernest, I Talked With Spirits (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1971).
  10. Guy Playfair, The Unknown Power (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1975), p. 240, cf. pp. 253-54.
  11. Ibid., p. 265.
  12. John Keel, Our Haunted Planet (Greenwich, CT: Fawcett, 1971), p. 162.
  13. Nandor Fodor, An Encyclopedia of Psychic Science (Secaucus, NJ: The Citadel Press, 1966), p. 292.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Koch, Christian Counseling and Occultism, p. 181.
  18. John Mitchell, Robert J. M. Rickard, Phenomena: A Book of Wonders (NY: Pantheon, 1970), p. 41.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Ibid.


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