Monster Monday: Poltergeist

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Poltergeist.

Illustration of Poltergeist activity from the French magazine La Vie Mysterieuse (1911)
Illustration of Poltergeist activity from the French magazine La Vie Mysterieuse (1911)

A Poltergeist is a type of ghost responsible for loud disturbances. The name comes from German poltern, “to make noise” and Geist, “Ghost,” and literally means “noisy ghost.” Poltergeists are responsible for making loud noises such as banging on walls, slamming doors, hitting pots and pans, and shattering glass. They also throw objects and move furniture. They have also been known, to slap, bite, and pinch people.

Poltergeists are usually considered malevolent spirits, and their actions are interpreted as threatening to the living. However, in some cases, they are more annoying than dangerous, and in others can even be considered merely mischievous and playful. Moreso than other kinds of hauntings, Poltergeists can attach themselves to particular people, rather than places.

One famous Poltergeist is the Bell Witch who plagued the Bell family of Tennessee in the nineteenth century. The activity began slowly at first and was limited to loud noises and annoying acts such as stealing sugar from the sugar bowl, but it quickly escalated into throwing objects, people being hit and pinched, and the spirit cursing the family in a loud voice. Some accounts even have the ghost attempting to kill members of the family.


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