A Poltergeist in Cork: Part Two


OK I was interrupted yesterday and was unable to finish my comment, so I will continue it now. Part one of this article can be found here – read that first! Continuing to look at the Irish Independent piece…

“It’s an evil spirit — I don’t believe it means us well,” said Laura.

Well I can see why she would come to that conclusion! The great debate over whether ‘poltergeists’ are living or dead continues but seems largely unknown outside of parapsychology: though again I think there is a third possibility, often overlooked, but traditional to religions – it does not have to have a ‘dead guy’ or a living human agent behind these things, it could be that a discarnate intelligence shares the planet with us – Angel, Demon, Leprechaun, call it what you will. I will discuss this idea in future posts i’m sure — I’m not saying it is my preferred hypothesis, but it certainly appears to be an option.

“We tried saying prayers in the house and the next thing all you hear is banging furniture upstairs or clothes being fired out of wardrobes.”

Interesting, and classic poltergeist behaviour in terms of the furniture banging around and clothes moving – “being fired” suggests quite violent dramatic movement too.

However, I can’t help a brief theological digression here. The ‘polt’ starts with disrupting ‘holy pictures’, and now it responds what I presume can be interpreted as  negatively to prayers (I’m resisting a joke about the shade of Richard Dawkins here…) Now I have seen comments like this about prayers making poltergeists worse before: I have of course seen the converse, with aperiod of calm following a blessing or prayer. If the prayers had been silent and the beastie had reacted, well that would have been more interesting, but I suspect the prayers were spoken out loud. A fraudster – and yes I know I have not even mentioned that possibility up till now – could react just as much as a ‘polt’ to such.

Still, why does the polt not like prayer? A running joke between me and my housemate Lisa about the American series A Haunting is that it should come with a Papal Imprimatur (loosely, ‘authority to publish’) as the Catholic priests so often end up solving the alleged disturbances by prayer or blessings. Actually this is a non-denominational tendency: other Christian denominations likewise seem to be able to help in some cases. So in fact can the intervention of research scientists, people chanting made up shopping lists in Welsh backwards, and all kinds of other interventions. I suspect the key word here is ‘intervention’: someone with authority and apparent expertise (yes, even me in a couple if cases) comes in and it all quietens down.

The question remains though – why does the poltergeist not like prayer? In the medieval era ghost wanted prayer — in fact I think that was the case right the way through till the Reformation, and probably long after. Ghosts were percieved as here to address needs: unfinished business like getting their bones buried, bringing someone to justice, sorting out an injustice like a Will that had been lost or similar, or simply asking for prayers to help them find rest, move out of Purgatory, or similar.

Yet this entity, whatever it is, does not like prayers. Um… That could tell us something: the obvious conclusion is that it is just what Laura believes “an evil spirit”.  Alternatively, and this is just as much a possibility to my mind, it shows us the polt is acting in the way the cultural expectations of the witnesses would expect it to.  I don’t know why modern ‘ghosts’ are so purposeless; what I do know is that these phenomena often appear to have a reflexive relationship to the expectations of the living human witnesses. If that is true then poltergeist phenomena will be culturally conditioned: and it might suggest that somehow human agenst are involved in creating or at least shaping the phenomena. While the poltergeist phenomena  has been manifesting for a couple of thousand years, and seems to have a set of “core” phenomena, it could be that we need to study more the differences rather than concentrating on these similarities. This reminds me of something I heard at SPR Study Day No.58: Poltergeists: Then and Now, but I will leave that for now…

OK, so what else? Clairvoyant John O’Reilly said felt “a presence”, adding: “There is someone here — someone who is very angry.”  I don’t think one has to be clairvoyant to guess that though!  He added “I get (a feeling) of a younger man who would have hung himself.”  Now this is actually quite useful: assuming the fellow in question was supposed to have hanged himself in this house, or on the property, we have an identity for the spook and a purpose of some sort – an angry, ‘earthbound’ entity… I wonder if there is anything else he said though, not reported in the press? I am still unsure if John and the shaman are one and the same person:  but whatever my doubts about mediumship I am glad fi he helps the family move on in some way I guess. Unfortunately as the headline says the family are planning to flee the property it seems more may be required, hence presumably the “exorcism”?

Again more questions than answers. Imagine for  a moment that the entity behind events really was the ghost of a young chap who tragically took his own life. Why would his spirit act in this way? He may well have a grudge against holy stuff I guess, that might explain some of it, but tipping the son out of bed? Banging around? Appearing as glowing balls of light? Shooting clothes out of a wardrobe?   It seems peculiar behaviour: the only possible purpose I can see is to draw attention to his plight, using whatever means are at his disposal. Yet that leads to even more questions – why pick out ‘holy pictures’? Are there no other pictures? Do holy items show up better wherever he is?  If so why the clothes in the wardrobe and the furniture banging? The clothes were almost certainly not there in his own time, so how and why does he interact with them?

I’m trying to imagine another set of dimensions. This chap is in “Flatland“; not occupying our three dimensional space. OK, maybe some of his actions would appear very odd to us? Yet he clearly has some perception of three dimensional space to fire the clothes out of the wardrobe: or in fact does he just somehow imbue them with some kind of kinetic energy? How??? Whose clothes moved, and what clothes were they? How far did they move? Maybe that would tell us something?  A ghost who hurls the father’s wellington boots would have a different character to one who hurled the lady’s lacy underwear. The Irish Independent notes —

However, locals remain dubious about the haunting claims and said nobody recalls previous incidents at the house or any tragedy fitting the descriptions being cited.

Two separate claims really: one wonders what local information they have about the witnesses that makes them sceptical of their claims, or is this just stolid Irish common sense? As to the no one remembering a tragedy fitting this description, well if there was such a tragedy then I would have thought some one would have dug it out by now. I await developments with interest.

However, the furniture moving is very interesting. In the past I have noted that in these cases gravity or the acoustics seems strangely effected: small objects or tiny movements of furniture result in thunderous crashes, large items move with almost no force, and heavy items crash to the floor silently. That was probably the realisation that kept me interested in all this, and seeking solutions… The physics of the poltergeist remains the most interesting aspect of these cases to my mind. The boy being tipped out of bed is certainly commensurate with the other reported motion of objects in the upstairs – rather than being hurled out by an invisible beastie, we can imagine the bed rising at one side, and him sliding to the floor.

The balls of light reported fascinate me as well. Were they three dimensional? I’d live to imagine them as ‘holes’ to somewhere else, but they are described as orbs, so I’m guessing they were 3D, though as I noted before that could just be the adoption of modern ghosthunting jargon. Plasma? Some plasma phenomenon could theoretically cause a ball shape I’m guessing – ball lightning springs to mind.  My own father reported seeing this odd phenomena in 1930’s Denmark, when what he assumes was ball lightning came in through a window, travelled round a room where the family were seated at dinner, and left buy the kitchen door. I’ll get a full account this weekend when i see him for his birthday.

OK, but why would a plasma be associated with the other phenomena? Another possibility would be a very small object radiating an intense light, but what it might be I know not. The statements given in the paper are simply not detailed enough to speculate.  Equally frustratingly we don’t even know the ages of the witnesses, or anything about them.

So where now? I’d love to hear from anyone with information, but particularly the family, Ralph Riegel who wrote the sensible and interesting piece, the shaman or John O’Reilly. I’ll try making enquiries, and see what we can find out!

cj x

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6 Comments

Filed under Poltergeist Cases

6 responses to “A Poltergeist in Cork: Part Two

  1. I’ve often wondered why people connect “I experienced a strange thing at roughly ground/floor level” with “dead person”; and indeed why they connect “I experienced a strange thing higher up” with “extra-terrestrial”. I just don’t understand why people would jump to that conclusion. I’ve seen a lot of very strange things, none of which have ever given any indication that they are related to death or aliens. I wonder whether the “ghost culture” of society – ghost stories, TV shows, stage shows, horror films and so forth – are actually self-perpetuating. Do societies which do not have a ghost culture see ghosts?

    • Chris Jensen Romer

      I mention that on the Righteous Indignation podcast I recorded a few weeks back – http://www.ripodcast.co.uk/ – and mentioned you in that respect.

      cj x

    • baldrick69

      Indeed. Something witnessed but not understood in the air is literally a UFO, something witnessed but not understood at ground level is generally connected with a dead person. Similarly, something witnessed but not understood in the water is usually Nessie!

      The common element is clearly the “witnessed but not understood” bit. People who don’t necessarily have a belief but hold out the merest hope that one of these paranormal entities exists will naturally fit the popularly held characteristics to what they have seen. One of the charactistics being whether it’s on the ground or in the air.

      • I can sort of understand “monsters” as a generic explanation of strange experiences. “Monsters” tend to come without specifics, they have little description and little personality; just “scary”. At best you might get one or two adjectives like “hairy”, “mischevious” or “tall”.

        But why “dead people”? Ghosts tend to come with very specific descriptive features and very specific personalities – even if those specifics are repeated much the same in countless unrelated encounters elsewhere. A ghost of a dead person comes with an ever-increasing list of specific features; a dead girl in a lacy dress who was pushed down the stairs by her evil stepfather; a legionnaire in leather sandals traipsing noisily along an old Roman road; etc.

        Is “dead people” the scariest thing most people can think of? I’m not sure why that would be the case. I don’t like being around dead people, but I’m not scared of them; they’re like British spiders – unpleasant but not actually a threat.

        Are people perhaps putting their own unrelated fears into the experience? “That was extremely scary. What’s the scariest thing I can think of? Dying!” Or worse, oneself dying and the afterlife being unpleasant?

  2. Chris Jensen Romer

    Well dunno: people sometimes interpret these experiences in other ways, it’s just the ones where “dead people” or “flying saucers” or “werewolves” or whatever are given as the cause are more likely to come to our attention than others. As I mentioned in the piece, our response to the phenomena is clearly culturally conditioned: what is interesting (and I think the thing to take from John Keel’s excellent book “The Mothman Prophecies”, not to be confused with the film of the same name) is that the phenomena seem to build upon and manifest in accordance with our preconceptions. Looking ta the differences between this case and say “The Cardiff Responsive Poltergeist” suggests to me a single phenomena somehow mediated by the expectations of the individuals concerned.

    The obvious solution is the experience is nothing more than expectation and hallucination, which may well be true in some cases – yet I suspect there is something deeper and more interesting going on here.

    If you would like to write a piece exploring your ideas Andy I’ll cheerfully publish it…

    cj x

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