Throwback Wednesday: Recent Poltergeist History

William Roll, an undisputed expert on poltergeist cases, spent much of his career investigating modern Poltergeist. He also spent considerable time writing research articles and looking at historical claims of the Poltergeist, or “noisy ghost”. Unsurprisingly, the phenomena is not a recent trend and often has substantial witnesses to objects flying or breaking. Roll claims in 1979 that he discovered no less than 47 cases of poltergeist activity before 1958.


Roll goes on to explain that the majority of these cases are English and American (57%). The first well-documented case is reported in 1849 and the last in 1957. We would note here that poltergeist cases appear at first glance to correspond to the beginnings of the spiritualist movement (a group of people who regularly contacted the dead through seances). However, five cases were reported in France and four each from Germany and Holland. Italy had three cases, and Austria, India, Ireland, Russia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Sweden, and Switzerland had one or two well-documented reports of Poltergeist phenomena.

key-123554Recognizing that many cases could be fraudulent, Roll provides the following facts. In 40 of the 47 cases, visitors not belonging to the household witnessed Poltergeist phenomena. In one case between 30-40 people witnessed pieces of wood floating. In 37 out of 47 cases, witnesses watched an object move from beginning to the end of the movement. Roll also states that in all but one case, only certain types of objects (e.g. Furniture, or figurines) were the target of Psychokinesis.

Historical fraud or honest accounts of the supernatural? You be the judge.




Roll, W. (1972).The poltergeist. New York, Doubleday.


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