Mental Work, PK, and Poltergeist Activity

ghostbatPoltergeist activity… is it ghostly?

Four theories are popular:

  1. A ghost causes the objects to move.
  2. A ghost works in tandem with a living (and somewhat emotional) person. Their combined efforts remotely move objects.
  3. It’s a psychological issue, and PK (psychokinesis) probably comes from a living person.
  4. Poltergeist activity doesn’t exist, and it’s always a prank. (I’ve witnessed enough dramatic poltergeist activity to laugh at that idea.)
Mental Work?

In the near future, a research project called Mental Work may tell us more.

Here’s a YouTube video about it.

I prefer the explanation (and demonstration) in the Euronews report:

You can participate in this experiment in Switzerland. They’re hiring: Mental Work.

What this means to ghost hunters

Psychokinesis (PK) – also known as telekinesis – could explain some ghost phenomena.

  • Someone could cause poltergeist activity. (Most people connected with poltergeist activity have no idea they’re part of it.)
  • When we ask the ghost to move the child’s toy, knock on a wall, or slam a door, maybe someone living controls it.
  • Is some form of electromagnetic energy involved? That could trigger EMF spikes and affect devices such as the Ovilus.
  • Likewise, a living individual could create the on-off “communications” we attempt with loosened contacts in flashlights.

Of course, these “could” possibilities are more theory than hard science.

Meanwhile, avoid skeptics’ mistake of insisting that anything that can be faked (or explained in normal terms), always is.

I’m not sure where these studies will lead us. But, anything that clarifies what the mind can do – among the living or the dead – can help us better understand haunted places.

Ghost Hunting – When Someone Gets Hurt

Ghost hunting in real life is far more risky than watching it on TV… and not just for paranormal reasons.  Now and then, someone gets hurt. This is why every team of ghost hunters should have a good first aid kit that includes:

  • Sterile wipes.
  • A treatment for cuts and bug bites.
  • Some bandages (like BandAids™ or plasters).
  • Fabric for a sling.
  • A stretch (Ace-style) bandage for sprains.  (If you need a splint, you can usually improvise).
  • An OTC painkiller like aspirin, and something other than aspirin. (Some people are allergic to aspirin and related medications.)
  • On a more serious health-related topic, be sure to read Ghost Hunting and Respiratory Risks.

It’s a good idea for someone on the team to take a first aid class.  Community centers often offer them, and some church and Scouting groups will, too.

However, it’s just as important to determine what caused the injury, and if that person — or others on your team — are at risk at that location… now or for repeat visits.

Obviously, if it’s a turned ankle, an insect bite, or something you could encounter at any location, routine warnings and precautions are a good idea.

But… what if it’s something unknown, invisible, or paranormal?  What if someone is pushed, shoved, slapped, or scratched during a paranormal investigation?

When the problem might be paranormal

If the haunted location has a reputation for possibly demonic activity, get out now.  Conduct off-site research to find out if rumors and stories have enough credibility to make it a “don’t go back there” location.  Look for moderate warnings in about 20% to 30% of credible reports, or reports of significant issues from a few teams that include experts you respect.

If one ghost hunting team keeps encountering dangerous physical phenomena at a variety of locations, I’d suspect one or more issues.  None of them should be taken lightly.

  • Someone on the team is either a prankster or deeply unhealthy, and is using the cover of darkness to hurt others.
  • Someone among the ghost hunters is attracting poltergeist activity.  Usually — but not always — you’re looking for a female coping with an emotional or hormonal roller-coaster.  If you think you’ve identified the person, ask that person not to participate in two or three investigations, and see if the issue continues.
  • The team are really good at finding and activating physical phenomena, wherever they investigate.  This can be an asset, if the team take safety precautions.

On the other hand, if it’s a rare event and at just one location, there are several explanations.

  • It’s a poltergeist linked to that location.  Advice: Take safety precautions, and stop investigating if the physical dangers increase.  If one person is the regular target, ask him or her not to return to that location for a month or so.  Then, proceed with caution.
  • The spirit was just playing a prank and it got out of hand. (That happened to me at the Myrtles Plantation.)  Advice:  Talk out loud to the spirit, tell it that you are okay, but that kind of prank is not acceptable while you’re investigating.
  • The spirit is still figuring out ways to communicate.  Advice: Explain to it, out loud, more appropriate ways to communicate.  Clearly, it can move things, so give it something to move, like a small ball, a feather, a set of marbles or ball bearings, etc.  Also explain how your EMF meter works, that voices can be recorded on your voice recorder, and so on.
  • Though it’s unlikely, double-check in case the injury (especially a scratch, a sprain, or a bruise) happened earlier and the person was so involved in research, he or she didn’t notice until it started to bleed, sting, or hurt.  That’s happened to me, but only a few times in 20+ years.  Usually, after the initial surprise, the victim will say, “Oh. Wait a minute. I might have scratched myself when we were passing that hedge.”
  • The activity might be malicious or demonic.  Advice: If there is any chance of this, leave immediately and do not go back.  (Well, not unless you’re also involved in demonology and know exactly what to do next.)  Research the site, compare notes with other investigators, and then decide if this is a real possibility.  Demonic attacks are very rare, but not impossible.

As long as the injury is minor and an isolated incident at that location and for that individual, I wouldn’t worry about it.  I’d make sure my first aid kit is well-stocked, I’d take sensible precautions in the future, and — just in case — I’d recommend normal spiritual protection like a brief prayer or circle before entering that site again.

The chances of the injury being paranormal depend on the people involved and the reputation of the site.  The likelihood of it being demonic are slim, but should never be lightly dismissed if anyone’s “gut feeling” indicates a problem.

A malicious or demonic attack usually includes most or all of the following:

  • A physical injury.
  • A sense that the injury was a warning or “just the beginning.”
  • Something that impinges on the awareness of the person… a feeling of evil or intended injury.
  • Uneasiness that lingers far longer than you’d expect after an encounter with a ghost, even one that makes physical contact.

Remember that any physical contact with a ghost (or other entity) is unexpected and often feels like a violation of personal space.  That’s a reasonable reaction.

When the person is still distressed long after you expected the whole thing to be shrugged off or even forgotten in other conversation, something else may be going on: Either something genuinely disturbing happened, or the person isn’t ready for intensely haunted locations.

In most cases, once the person gets past the initial surprise, you’ll recognize it as one of those weird, rare things that can happen during an investigation.

If you return to that same site, fairly confident that the injury was a fluke, take a few extra precautions for safety’s sake.

I wouldn’t avoid a location as long as all the following criteria are met.

  1. It was a one-time, minor injury.
  2. The victim is okay and didn’t feel any emotional or spiritual distress at the time of the incident.
  3. The site has no credible reputation for malicious or demonic activity.
  4. The team wants to return there.
  5. You take extra precautions the next few times you visit that site.
  6. Nothing risky happens during future visits.

If the physical issues continue with that person or someone else on the team, pause and consider other explanations, including non-paranormal ones.

Canada’s Poltergeists – The Great Amherst Mystery

Canada's Poltergeists - The Great Amherst Mystery

Yes, Canada has poltergeists.

The Great Amherst Mystery has puzzled ghost hunters and paranormal investigators for over a century.  It’s the true story of one of the world’s best-documented poltergeists.

In September 1878, Mr. Daniel Teed and his wife, Olive Cox Teed, lived on Princess Street in Amherst, Nova Scotia. Their household included Mrs. Teed’s niece, 19-year-old Esther Cox. Miss Cox soon became famous as part of “The Great Amherst Mystery.”

Before the ghostly manifestations began, Miss Cox had been the victim of an attempted rape in a secluded part of Amherst. Her attacker, Bob MacNeal, was a shoemaker with a terrible reputation that Miss Cox had not known about. She escaped the attack with minor injuries. The “mysteries” started soon after this event.

The hauntings began with small poltergeist phenomena: little fires, voices, and rapping noise. It soon escalated to include times when Miss Cox would seem to inflate like a balloon, even to her extremities, and then abruptly return to normal size. These events were witnessed by a large number of people.

The Poltergeists Follow Miss Cox to Church

The hauntings followed Miss Cox outside the house. Once, the knocking and rapping noises interrupted a Baptist Church service that Miss Cox attended. Although she sat towards the back of the church, it sounded as though someone was hammering on the front pew, making it impossible to hear the service. Miss Cox left the church in humiliation, and the noises stopped immediately.

Desperate to find the source of the problem, Miss Cox tried automatic writing and consulted spiritualists. The primary ghost claimed, in automatic writing, to be Miss Maggie Fisher. Miss Fisher had attended the same school as Miss Cox, but had died around 1867, before graduating. Miss Cox had not known Miss Fisher, but was aware that they’d been in school together.

More Ghosts – and Poltergeists – Appear

Other ghosts came forward during this time, announcing themselves as: Bob Nickle, age 60, also a shoemaker like Bob MacNeal who’d attacked Miss Cox. Another was Mary Fisher, sister of Maggie Fisher. Other ghosts included Peter Teed, John Nickle, and Eliza MacNeal. The number of ghosts and “coincidences” among names and professions reduces the credibility of this part of the story.

Further, Bob MacNeal, Miss Cox’s attacker, later claimed that he’d been haunted for years by the same Bob Nickle. The accounts sound as though Mr. MacNeal was trying to shift the blame for his violent acts, to the ghost.

Nevertheless, Miss Cox continued to be plagued with hauntings wherever she went.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

Hoping to turn her misfortunes to her advantage, Miss Cox went on tour in June 1879, hoping to draw audiences to hear her story and make a living from the income. She was assisted in this by actor Walter Hubbell, who’d visited Amherst specifically to witness the now-famous ghostly manifestations.

However, the crowds were skeptical and easily angered. One evening in a theatre, a rival theatre-owner leaped to his feet and began heckling Miss Cox and Mr. Hubbell. The crowd joined in, and soon a riot broke out. This was Miss Cox’s last time on stage, as her touring efforts were a clear failure.

The series of manifestations continued until one dramatic event changed everything.

The Poltergeist Sends Miss Cox to Prison

Miss Cox went to work for Arthur Davison of Amherst. Mr. Davison was a skeptic, although he admitted to witnessing numerous poltergeist events at his home when Miss Cox was there. The worst was when the ghost(s) set fire to his barn and it burned to the ground.

Mr. Davison accused Miss Cox of arson, and she was convicted of the crime by an ambivalent court. Her sentence was four months in prison, but public support for the unfortunate woman led to her release after only one month.

It was as if the spell had been broken.

After that, Miss Cox was troubled by minor poltergeist events, but nothing significant.

Happily Ever After?

Miss Cox later married Mr. Adams of Springdale, Nova Scotia. Her second husband was Mr. Shanahan of Brockton, MA.

Esther Cox Shanahan died in 1912.

After her death, Walter Hubbell published a “The Great Amherst Mystery: A True Narrative of the Supernatural” and included a 1908 affadavit that was signed by 16 Amherst witnesses to the hauntings.

(Sources: Snow, Strange Tales…, p. 62; plus my own research)

This article originally appeared in 2001 at Suite 101 as The Great Amherst Mystery, written by Fiona Broome.