Now a poltergeist is neither a classic ghost nor is it a crisis apparition. As we shall see in the chapters that follow a poltergeist is something very different again. However, it does share some features with both of these paranormal events which I have described and this might give clues as to the explanation for the poltergeist phenomenon.
What classic ghosts, crisis apparitions and poltergeists do share in common is the spontaneous and unpredictable nature of their occurrence. One of the key reasons why scientists do not study such phenomena is that it is impossible to take one into a laboratory and look at it. None of these phenomena can be made to perform to order so that, unlike chemical reactions or living creatures, they cannot be subjected to tests. Usual scientific method involves a scientist developing a theory or idea that he or she can then prove or disprove by testing. Ghosts, apparitions and poltergeists simply cannot be treated like this.
And then there is the prospect that a scientist might be subject to ridicule by his fellows and then starved of research funds by the authorities if he should announce that he is investigating ghosts.
Similar considerations have held back research into all manner of subjects and topics. No reputable scientist has gone in search of the Yeti or the Bigfoot. Few have taken UFOs seriously as a topic for investigation. Yet all these things, and many more, have been seen and attested by thousands of people.
With poltergeists the researcher does at least have some physical objects to study and look at. There are hundreds of witness statements to sort through and dozens of still living witnesses who can be questioned. This should make it possible to launch a detailed and thorough investigation that might produce some answers of use.
When studying unexplained phenomena such as poltergeists it is important to bear in mind that most people are taken completely by surprise when confronted by a seemingly impossible event. They show a tendency to remember only a few details of the event, and these are not necessarily those that an investigator would find th the most use. Shock, surprise and disbelief are more usual reactions than to whip out a notebook and start making notes.
The inevitable result of this is that accounts of unusual events, such as poltergeists, tend to be incomplete and partial. The witnesses are too concerned with coping with the bizarre situation in which they find themselves than with writing down a complete account of events, still less with seeking rational explanations - always assuming that there are some.
What is needed from a researcher is the ability to study the many different accounts and look for features that are common to most or all events. By creating a “typical” supernatural event from a vast mass of different accounts it may be easier to get close to what is really going on than it would be by going into enormous detail on one case. It is in the aggregate of cases that the answer may be found rather than in the bizarre or sensational individual incidents that make for good newspaper copy or thrilling horror stories.
It is with this in mind that we can now begin to study poltergeist visitations and the poltergeist phenomenon.