Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Butterton Poltergeist 1877

In April the Daily Mail reported on a case of poltergeist activity in the West Midlands. The case followed the classic type of poltergeist activity pots and pans thrown around the kitchen, blinds moving up and down, lights going on and off, doors locking themselves, chairs flying across the room, and cupboard doors opening and banging shut before being ripped off their hinges among other phenomena. The strange occurrences started a couple of weeks after Mrs Manning and her children moved into the Coventry council house. The disturbances became more malevolent when the poltergeist pushed the family's two dogs down the stairs resulting in horrific injuries to one of the pets, which resulted in it having to be put down. A chair moving across the floor on its own was also captured on film. The housing association who owns the property sent a priest who blessed the house and the phenomena temporarily abated for a couple of weeks before starting up again. Derek Ancora the medium was then called in who identified the source of the problem as Jim who died in 1900 at the age of 58 of a heart attack. Ancora exorcised the spirit.

The first poltergeist case identified in the UK was the Tedworth Drummer of Wiltshire. A sudden case of drumming began in the home of a local magistrate called Mompesson in the spring of 1662. Activity increased children were lifted into the air, shoes flung at a person’s head, chamber pots emptied on a bed and the leg of a horse forced into its mouth. The events were linked to an itinerant conjuror and drummer William Drury who had been arrested for trying to obtain money with forged documents. He was brought before Mompesson who let him off with a warning and confiscated his drum and told him to leave the district. The drumming started soon afterwards. There were reports that the drum was lifted by unseen hands and gave off booming hands. After several nights the sleepless magistrate had the drum destroyed but the noises continued. At this point the other strange manifestation began to be witnessed. Drury was suspected but this line of enquiry ended when it was found that Drury was in jail in Gloucester many miles away. A committee w set up by King Charles II concluded that no human agency could be deduced.

The Moorlands has its own case of poltergeist activity. In July 1877 the village of Butterton was subject to a bizarre occurrence a humble cottage in Back Lane and dating from 1617 the former home of Hannah Gould was subject to periods of sustained noise and thumping which struck terror into the hearts of the villagers. Hannah had died the previous February at the age of 80 and locals assumed that it was her ghost that was causing the commotion. Anxious villagers consulted with church elders. They contacted the old women’s son who was reluctant to become involved and still the noise was heard constantly and the local vicar Mr Cantrell who lived close by Back Lane. The next Sunday villagers gathered in old Hannah’s house where it is reported that the rapping continued and furniture rocked. Eventually suspicion fell upon a serving girl in the village who is thought to have engineered the event to gain access to the property.

What causes poltergeist activity?

 Aside from accusations of hoax and exaggeration, which although applicable to a number of cases by no means apply to them all, the most popular theory is that the poltergeist is caused unwittingly by a human agent, usually a teenage girl. Researchers believe that a troubled adolescent unconsciously manipulates objects using psychokinesis (PK), a type of energy generated in the brain. According to researchers at the Rhine Research Center Institute for Parapsychology at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, poltergeist activity is the physical expression of psychological trauma. However, more natural explanations are often the cause of what appears to be a poltergeist disturbance.

Perhaps this might help to cast light on some poltergeist cases . However, this does not explain how enough power is generated to move objects such as heavy pieces of furniture, or to shower a room with stones, make objects appear from nowhere, or start fires, if accounts of such phenomena can be trusted.
There are also a number of poltergeist cases where the people involved have no psychological problems at all, and where there are no adolescents in the household.

How can we explain these?

A further point is that there are millions of troubled teenagers all over the world, but the vast majority do not cause poltergeist activity to occur. Other researchers have suggested that 'spirit entities' are responsible for the phenomena, perhaps generating the power by attaching themselves to suitably disturbed teenagers. But the very nature of these hypothetical 'spirits' means that scientifically at least, they cannot be properly investigated. . However, if accounts of the more extreme unexplained occurrences alleged to be caused by poltergeist activity are themselves exaggerated, or even completely unreliable, which is entirely possible in older cases, then no further explanation is required.

Nevertheless, the inability to find a convincing explanation for the phenomenon, the significant amount of cases exhibiting similar characteristics occurring over a long period of time in widely different cultures, and the bizarre but somehow consistent nature of the phenomena, make the poltergeist perhaps the most baffling and enduring of unexplained mysteries.