The Eight Stages of a Poltergeist Haunting

Poltergeist – Therese Selles. 1911

The eight stages of a poltergeist haunting has been taken from Rupert Mathews’ book Poltergeists. For anyone interested, Mathews’ book is well researched and a great read. He covers the many different characteristics of what we would now consider to be the classic poltergeist haunting. Mathews does not necessarily subscribe to the common poltergeist theories of ghosts or psychokinesis, but instead offers many other possible explanations such as fraud or misidentification. Within the book, Mathews covers historic and modern cases, investigations and scientific experiments, as well as famous early mediums and fraudsters. Mathews concludes there are generally eight stages to an “idealized poltergeist visitation” or haunting where fraud has not been detected:

Stage One: Beginnings

The activity usually begins with faintly registered sounds. This is usually a scratching noise, which may be disregarded as being made by rodents or to be the sounds of water pipes. These noises are usually only heard at night.

Stage Two: Noises

These sounds will then become harder to ignore. These noises resemble knuckles knocking on wood or other objects such as glass. Sometimes, very loud cracking or unexplained banging noises are heard but this is less likely. Objects can sometimes be felt to vibrate. At this stage the activity may also be heard during daylight hours.

Stage Three: Moving Objects

Mathews does state that sometimes Stage Three begins at the same time as Stage Two. Objects may be moved inexplicably. Stone throwing, or lithobolia, is very common. Objects may disappear and reappear. This activity usually focuses around a certain type of object such as a specific ornament or keys. It’s rare to actually see the item be moved. Items may be hot to the touch immediately thereafter.

Stage Four: Apports and Disapports

When an object appears from out of nowhere it’s called an apport. When an object disappears “into oblivion” it is called a disapport. These types of activities are extremely rare but have been reported.

Stage Five: Communication

In some cases communication is established through a code of knocks. This may be two knocks indicating a “yes” and one knock indicating a “no” or some other established pattern. Sometimes speech is achieved. In almost all of these cases there seems to be a gradual process which starts with whistles, slurps, growls and so on. At first, mutterings or distant voices will be heard. Next, the voice will be said to sound robotic. Finally, witnesses will claim regular speech is achieved. The poltergeist will then be able to speak as a normal person and will begin to make statements. Claims by the poltergeist about their identity are usually grande. They may claim to have been a murderer, a victim, a suicide, or even a famous person. When claims are checked out they will usually be determined to be false. According to Mathews, it is rare for a poltergeist to have knowledge of events outside of what is widely known within the community. Mathews does not mention this, but it is interesting that many claimed spirit-contacts through a Ouija board also share these same characteristics of deceit[i].

Stage Six: Climax

The poltergeist activity will suddenly increase to a point it had never reached before. This may last several hours or several days. If the poltergeist can talk it may state that it’s going to be leaving soon. Unlike previous claims, however, this will generally turn out to be true.

Stage Seven: Decline

According to Mathews, “the decline is almost always much shorter than the build-up.” The poltergeist will lose its abilities in reverse and gradually become weaker.

Stage Eight: Endings

The activity may slowly skip to an end. Sometimes, this poltergeist activity will reach a dramatic conclusion. In many cases, exorcisms or blessings may prematurely kill the activity. Sometimes, the focus person leaving the premise may cause the activity to cease.

Other Features

The “idealized” poltergeist haunting will usually have a focus person. According to Mathews, this focus person is usually a teenage female but may be of any age or gender. Some investigators believe that this poltergeist activity will center around one person but this is not always the case. Mathews also states that, “it is often said that focus people are usually in a stressful situation of some kind.” Examples given within the book are a divorce and an attempted rape.

Also of note, poltergeists sometimes manifest physically. This apparition may be smoky or misty. Sometimes it will take on a human form. Sometimes the apparition may appear very strange such as in an animal or part animal form. Wet spots may also manifest which smell like urine. Sometimes this manifestation can be seen as it is occurring and seems to come out of nowhere.

Witnesses will sometimes claim to have been harmed by the poltergeist entity. Scratches and bite marks are often reported to have appeared on the person’s skin without explanation. In some cases, animals will perish. Fires will sometimes start in the home inexplicably. In the Bell Witch case the poltergeist claimed to have killed Jack Bell. In one case – which is not in Mathews book – a woman named Doris Bither claimed to have been raped by a poltergeist. Witnesses later supported her claim. The Bithers’ poltergeist account and investigation was made into the 1981 movie ‘the Entity’ starring Barbara Hershey. For the full interview of Doris Bither’s surviving son please go to: ghost theory

It’s important to note that the poltergeist distinction is not as clear as many imagine. The characteristics of these hauntings often share many similarities with conventional hauntings. The word poltergeist basically means “noisy ghost” but has come to represent a specific idealized type of haunting. Many individuals separate poltergeists from traditional ghosts because they believe that the spirits of the deceased causes other types of hauntings. Poltergeist cases do not seem to support those theories and thus need to be separated into a class of their own.

Poltergeist Haunting



[i] For more on the apparent deceptive nature of spirits consider reading Hungry Ghosts by Joe Fisher 1991, which is a very interesting study.

About Shanon Sinn

The Spirit of Vancouver Island. Nature Beings, Shapeshifters, Ghosts & Ancestor Spirits. The Earth is Sacred.
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8 Responses to The Eight Stages of a Poltergeist Haunting

  1. Jo Ann says:

    That is very interesting. My granddaughter age 9, acts out, having temper tantrums and destroying things. She throws clothing around her room and has cut the blinds and her screen. She has said there is a girl or witch in her room. But then says she didn’t do it. I have seen a figure of a girl the one night I left her sleep with me in my room. Could she have been jumped and made to do what she does? She acts like a defiant teenager at times and as if she has authority over adults. What can I do to make things better?

    • Shanon Sinn says:

      Thanks for sharing Jo Ann. I am not really sure what you could do to make the situation better. I am a collector of stories and a student of sorts, but not a priest or medicine man. If by “jumping” you mean like possession then I would turn to whatever faith you have and find a spiritual leader who can help. I left a longer comment below — to Chris — regarding some of the things I do to keep my space zen-like. These things have helped me. Hope that you find some peace.

  2. Jade Cosgriff says:

    What if we believe we are the focus person of a haunting, closets open by themselves, my cross appears by my pillow. Flashes of something running upstairs when im the only person home. Someone please answer soon or if i could get information..

    • Shanon Sinn says:

      Hi Jade thank you for your comment. Many people believe in the idea of a focus person. If you think this is true then maybe it is. I suggest the book I’ve covered here as the most comprehensive grounded non-religious book I’ve come across.

  3. chris o. says:

    this is a very interesting article. i have a friend who told me had a poltergiest living in his home. one of the things that stood out the most is when he said sometimes the poltergiet would scratch him and other family members.(he said that happened a few years ago).(also its worh noting that activity happens daily) is when i told him he should seek some help; a priest. im pretty concerned and i would love some advice on what todo. thanks!

    • Shanon Sinn says:

      Thank you for your comment Chris. I am more about sharing accounts and stories as opposed to offering guidance or help, but I will share what has worked for me. When something overly negative happens in my life — paranormal or not — I go within. I seek a place of peace. I will burn incenses, oils, and candles. Meditate, exercise, and do yoga. I make sure my place is clean and uncluttered and that I am letting fresh air in. I also look for items that might have negative attachments to them and get rid of them, also negative people. I check my diet, make sure I’m drinking enough water and getting outside, and cut back on drinking, TV, caffeine, or anything else that might be influencing me. Wether or not a person believes in these things is not important. We can choose to face the trials in our lives as warriors — making a stand as I have described above — or continue to live the same way and accept our victimhood. This is just my belief though, and I am not in your friends shoes, but this is what I have done and it has worked.

  4. Matt Cook says:

    In my research most poltergeist events dont have a central person involved, these are mostly minor cases that dont get picked up but they still exhibit the same sort of event that are often associated with the poltergiest. After many years of research and active investigation in these phenomena I am presently of the mind that the poltergiest having a central human focus is some what of a red herring.

    • Shanon Sinn says:

      You could be right Matt. My one main experience does support the focus person theory, but I’m not committed to this belief as being something absolute. One of my ex girlfriends had classic poltergeist activity around her witnessed by myself and her roommate on multiple occasions, as well as some incidents by other people. Doors opening and closing, cupboards and cutlery rattling, a large painting once flew off the wall, stereo would turn on, lights as well, lots and lots of knocking and unexplained noises. Most definitely was noisy. Not over-the-top movie stuff but something would happen almost every day. The activity seemed to focus on her for the most part. She had been molested by a family member when she was younger — and had never really dealt with it — so it would support that theory too. I was with her for some time and the activity slowly faded and then stopped over time. This was one of the experiences in my life that made me interested in this sort of thing. I’ve interviewed a lot of people doing investigating and research since I originally posted this. I still stand by the statement that there are a lot of overlaps between “hauntings” and “poltergeist” activity. So maybe that is what could determine the difference? A focus person? Food for thought anyways. Greatly appreciate your comment! Do you have any of your research published online I would love to check it out!

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