I am currently expanding transforming my doctoral dissertation project into a book-length manuscript, Mischievous Forces.  In this book, I investigate how people collaborated to reimagine the poltergeist phenomenon as a force that emerged between the human mind and the physical world.

What is a poltergeist?

The poltergeist is a physical phenomenon that often involves strange noises such as knowing, otherwise inanimate household objects moving or flying, spontaneous fires, and other unusual events with no apparent cause.  These events would occur suddenly, often lasting just for a period of weeks or months before ceasing as mysteriously as they began.  Most often, such events were unsettling for those who experienced them.  My study does not aim to explain the poltergeist, but rather to emphasize beneficial collaborative practices that have historically occurred between experiencers and researchers.

How was the poltergeist reimagined?

Before 1900, Americans and Europeans commonly attributed the phenomenon to being like “ghosts,” spirits of the dead, discarnate entities, or as something diabolic or evil. Such interpretations remain popular around the world. With the rise of psychology and the human sciences in the twentieth century, researchers began to relate how the poltergeist phenomenon always tended to occur around a single person, who they came to name a “poltergeist agent” or “focus person.” They began to study the possibility that the poltergeist events originated in the human unconscious, for example as repressed traumas and thoughts expressing themselves through the external environment. They called this potential force psychokinesis (PK).

What was the potential of the poltergeist as PK?

Parapsychologists – specialists who studied the human experiences such as telepathy, precognition, and mind-over-matter – viewed the poltergeist as a sign that people could perhaps affect their physical environments from a distance. They gathered evidence to support their hypothesis that the poltergeist was a product of psychokinesis, and began to experiment with PK possibilities in laboratories. To them and their supporters, this type of research sought to expand the evolutionary potential of human beings.

What does Mischievous Forces contribute?

Mischievous Forces takes an experiencer-centred approach to historical poltergeist cases to examine how those who experienced the phenomenon are crucial in its investigation. I explore a model in which researchers and family members created a supportive, empathetic framework for poltergeist focus persons. The outcome of such cases were far more positive for poltergeist experiencers and produced compelling new data about the poltergeist phenomenon. My study proposes an approach to poltergeist cases – and any research involving elusive phenomena that has a combination of physical and immaterial features – that better enables collaboration between researchers and experiencers, thereby illuminating the natural observation and analysis of the phenomenon.