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.

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  1. can a poltergiest mimic a person…like my neighbors seen me at their house walking on their porch and through a glass screen door told me to come in and twice now ive walkied off thier porch and my son seen me in my home i called for him and he followed me into my room where i disappeared? My family is on egg shells let along myself. Have you ever heard of such a thing, i have tried talking to many paranormal people and i cant seem to get a response. Thank you for your time.

    • Thank you for your comment Amanda, I am not sure what the capabilities of a poltergeist are, as I do not know what causes these types of “hauntings”. A double of a living person is often seen in haunted locations though. Even more common, a person will hear the voice of someone they know calling their name. If you start looking at “true cases” you will find both of these experiences are common.

      There are also many beliefs about a 2nd spirit. People who believe in astral projection explain it that way (it is a part of the person outside of their body on a journey). There is also the stories of the doppelganger, which could have a page of its own. Also, Japanese lore has a term for a living ghost called an “Ikiryo.” A similar idea is the Egyptian “Khu.”

      There are a lot of claims of people seeing the spirit of someone they know in trouble or dying when they were still alive but far away. Many cases. In the classic Usborne Supernatural Guides: Haunted Houses, Ghosts & Spectres they talk about the possibility of this second being having been created by “mental energy.” Some people have also proposed alien-type theories, or other dimensions.

      What you have claimed here others–even nonbeliever–have claimed as well. Like poltergeists and other hauntings, no one really knows the answer, though many people will claim they do, which is why there are so many different explanations.

      Hope this helps. Please let us know if there are any developments or if anything changes. I would love to ask you more questions if you are open to it as well.

  2. Regarding the urine spots.
    I’ve experienced all sorts of things but this one has thrown me off.
    I woke up to strong yellow urine at the top of my bed. Definitely wasn’t our dog or cats. It didn’t smell the same or look the same.
    We have recently moved into a new house. My cat who sees what I can see has started to play with something small and black at night.
    He calls out to it and then plays with it. Lately he has played less but we still see the small black thing around the house.
    We have heard noises and faint male voices. As well as uneasy feelings.
    Is it possible that my cat is playing with another animal or could it be something worse? Not sure what to do with this one. I’ve never heard of urine spots till now.
    Regarding the urine, should I take this one a little more serious?

    • Thank you for sharing Hollie. I don’t feel super comfortable offering advice, though I’ve responded to comments below about making a space more positive energetically–something that has helped me in the past. I don’t have any idea what these experiences really are, even though I know for a fact they occur. Myself, if it doesn’t feel negative and it is respecting my boundaries I wouldn’t worry. But the urine thing doesn’t sound good. It is either being intentionally disrespectful or doesn’t know any better (assuming it is a sentient being). Maybe it is trying to communicate in some way, like a dog might? This is a far out idea maybe, but you could consider researching the psychology of why pets urinate in unusual places. Maybe there is a clue there.

      • Hi Shanon,
        Thank you for your fast reply. You brought very interesting points and I will definitely look into it.
        The urine spot wasn’t a circle shape, rather made from a position of movement or of higher. If this makes sense.
        The urine was also at out face level, inbetween.
        Banging around the house has also increase. Alro our cat who played with the little black shape has also become distant. Yesterday I spoke to whoever or whatever may in the house and told it to leave our cat alone to which yesterday after and today Arlo has become more affectionate.
        Fingers crossed.
        Thank you for your insight.
        I will look into you points.

        Thank you 🙂

        • Hope it helps Hollie. Let us know if you get any results or changes. I’m happy to hear that Arlo has become more affectionate again 🙂

  3. Ok.. things r happening in my house that I’ve been trying to get help for. But last night things got even weirder!! Well for the last 4 years we have lived her I have so many things happen to us I can’t even remember them all . Knocks blankets being pulled off us slowly @ night voices.. loud noises upstairs. But what happened was when we redid our foundation of our house we found an old pony horse shoe so we brought it into the house not thinking about anything that we thought it was cool we really like old things. So ever since it moves on it’s own !!! But one day it completely disappeared so it’s been missing for a least 2 months and last night it just appeared again laying on my dinning room floor!!!! We were completely freaked out!!! My dogs always react to things barking and growling at things we don’t see I’ve been heals down in my bed my husband too and we arnt a sleep when this is happening we r awake!!! You can’t even make a sound when it’s doing this. My daughter couldn’t sleep when we first moved in because she would hear whistling in her ear ! We hear the door slam on the porch and u look out ther & nothing is there .we have had a preacher come out & bless the property and the house . It was quiet for a little while but not for long we really need some good advice. We have this merror that we have to keep covered at all times that’s original to the house that I think is a portal or something because when we covered it it helped a little. This house is from 1913. My youngest daughter experiences the most of it. So much is going on it’s unreal and people think we r crazy sometimes when we tell them. We’ve been touched heard voices. Like it sounds like tiny little pebbles get thrown !! When we turn on a video and record we get orbs all everywhere!! Taken pics we get faces in pics like a picture hanging on the wall there will be a face in the glass of the picture it’s the craziest things ever & I need someone to give me some advice!! This is no joke!! Weird dreams ! Sometimes night terrors. Please someone help!! I even contacted dead files & they actually answered my email and called me but didn’t come to help!!????

    • If you think this is a poltergeist : hun it’s someone living with you or you yourself. Our minds are complex things and due to stress factors or higher brain wave activity / these are actually psychokinetic abilities manifesting with no control. The only thing that helps may be therapy for the one causing it . Or learning how to control it. The poltergeist activity is the “Id” part of the brain – and it’s the physical manifestation of that. I also would look up family history for it should show some insight if this happens to family members of you or your husband- these things are genetic : and if you have children know that they might be the primary focus of this activity due to adolescents and hormones during puberty.

      • Thanks for your comment Dias. I was wondering what your background is, as far as research or field of study? The poltergeist cases I have looked at have overlapped with traditional hauntings. Personally, I don’t believe the psychokinetic theory, though am open to other people’s beliefs as long as we can agree that no one has the answers. Many sensational books and TV shows claim to know, but none have stood up to close scrutiny (yet). I think it is important to state these are just ideas if we are offering advice because no one knows. Though what you suggest is a more common belief than some, so I appreciate that you have brought the idea up.

    • Hi Brandi, thank you for your comment. What country do you live in? The covered mirror is an older belief in many European countries and some places still practice it today.
      So what happened with the preacher? You said he came and blessed the property. Are you Catholic? What was his advice?
      If you are spiritual or religious it is important to seek guidance if you feel something is out of your hands. I am also a firm believer in moving energy (feng shui if you will). Getting rid of clutter in spaces throughout the home including from old negative relationships–anything that feels low energy, letting fresh air flow through your home as often as possible, smudging, plants and stones, etc. If you are able healthy foods and lots of clean water, avoiding drugs especially drinking but cigarettes and low energy food like sugar and junk food. All of these things have helped me in the past. A practice of gratitude is very powerful as well.

    • Hi! Sorry that this is happening, and that this is so upsetting to you.

      One question I have is, why is this so upsetting to you? Have you tried sitting down and talking to it? Sometimes, these things calm down when people talk to them. Most times, they’re not harmful (but see below), just mischievous.

      I’ve had things happen around my house from time to time (for example, objects “getting lost” then appearing in plain sight), and have to stop and think that there’s nothing to be afraid of, at some times, it’s actually been helpful.

      On the other hand, has anyone in your family dabbled in magic or the occult? If so, you need more than a house blessing, you need to find a good, solid pastor with a solid life and solid doctrine to counsel you and lead you and your family to a solution. If it’s an evil spirit, that’s a whole other thing, and it could be dangerous. It’s the difference between a raccoon in your attic or a mountain lion!

  4. I’m having paranormal activity in my home but only when my 2 son’s are home. It started out as knocks on the door for 2 weeks straight,then the furniture and pictures started being tossed around. Could my kids be carrying the poltergeist?

    • Hi Maisha, Thanks for your comment. No one really knows what poltergeists are. Some people believe they are a kind of nonhuman spirit. Others that they are a type of ghost. Some think it is connected to psychic energy/disturbance, usually said to be related to a focus person who is often a teenager. Whatever one chooses to believe (ghost, nonhuman spirit, psychic energy, or other) these types of events have been reported as both attached to a single person or to a specific location. It would be important to try to look for patterns pertaining to anything unusual (newly bought items, renovations,bullying of kid, etc.) when the activity started and if it seems more connected to one person or not. Then you can decide how to fix it and what kind of help to seek.

  5. I have experienced my bed jolting only at night for about a week. Then a few days after as I read a book on my bed, the light bulb attached to a ceiling fan fell right on top of my head. I have had two toys from my brother turn on at midnight while doing homework.

    • Thanks for sharing Leslie. I was curious what country/state/province you live in? In the article I brought up the idea of the “focus person” who is usually a teenage female. Please don’t feel the need to share personal information, but do you feel like you might be the focus of the activity?

  6. Loft door opend the smell of perfume then a lil ball got placed on my partners side of bed he moved it on the floor as i closed my eyes its come off the floor hot my head not hard but slightly hit side of my head

    • Hi Kerry, Pretty hard to explain how the ball came back and hit you on the head! Hopefully the activity won’t escalate anymore! Thank you for sharing.

  7. Ive had some strange stuff happen …. here goes 1st.. loft door opened 2nd.. smell of purfume smell 3rd.. a lil ball placed on my partners side of bed after he threw it on floor…then 4th the ball came off the floor and hit me on side of the head not hard just slightly but i cant seem to het what or who it could be

  8. I forgot to say, it does seem to be a poltergeist, as in from the energy of a pubescent teenager most usually, but it would not surprise me if the electromagnetic energy that I am guessing is heightened in a hormonal teenager, provides the conduit for interdimensional beings to bleed into this reality,causing havoc. When the heightened emotions subside with age, the conduit of electro magnetic energy weakens and the link between the dimensions is lost, and the paranormal activity is lost.

    Either way, temporary poltergeist or spirit attachment, talking to someone like Alba Weinman, would help, as would that person trying to raise their frequency, and trying to minimize stress. Raising their frequency by removing meat from their diet, eating organic veg, laughing, on purpose, looking at things from a positive perspective, and being kind. A bit of a tall order for a highly strung, hormonal teenager, or younger, but we have far more power than we realize, and our energy can be tapped into and used by not so nice things, so raising the vibration (by being very positive and wholesome and loving), may raise the vibration out of the vibration of the lower vibrational beings that can cause havoc. A bit like changing radio stations, from the lower vibrational station where the not so nice things can tap in, to higher radio stations, where more healthy interactions with the world around the (nature, positivity, love, etc) are attracted. Like for like. If this resonates, consider it, if it does not, please ignore. I is just the way I see the world.Thanks.

  9. Hi Jo-Ann,

    It sounds like your Granddaughter may well have an “entity attachment”. It sounds rather frightening, but among folk who can remove the “attachments”, more folk have them, than don’t. They just are not aware of them if they are not so obvious. Folk who are vulnerable, have had big shocks, go under a general anaesthetic, have basically vulnerabilities where discarnate spirits can “jump on board”. This also happens when folk have too much alcohol and drugs. Something like 40% to 60% have them, usually multiple. It could even be an attachment from other lifetimes. I know a woman who got one from attending a funeral and the spirit of the deceased did not want to pass onto the next stage and went into the family of a friend’s child, and the child did not become aware of it until she was in her 50’s. Quite often, unexplained aches and pains are these things, once all medical reasoning is ruled out.

    I suggest you watch some you tube videos of Alba Weinmann doing Past Life Regressions that involved “Spirit Release”. This will give you a good idea of what might be happening. You are only aware of it because it is obvious. I suggest everyone gets checked over every now and then. Anyway, one you watch a few of her videos, if she is not nearby, you can ask her if she knows of folk near you that can do that. You just need to be discerning in how you choose who to do it.

    Anyway, very good that you are taking notice and not ignoring it. Better to nip it in the bud.
    All the best.

  10. 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?

    • 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.

  11. 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..

    • 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.

  12. 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!

    • 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.

  13. 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.

    • 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!