A very special, highly-active haunting happened in January of 1967 and lasted for a little over a month, mysteriously beginning and ending as most poltergeist cases do, at Tropication Arts, a Miami business that painted and sold souvenirs. It would become one of the most intriguing, well-documented cases of poltergeist-type haunting in the United States, being witnessed by employees, friends of employees, policemen, preachers, the news media, a magician, paranormal investigators, and parapsychologists of renown.
The activity consisted of the intelligent movement and breaking of objects in the company warehouse. This would sometimes occur in front of as many as 15 witnesses at once. The haunting was fully documented by author and ghost investigator, Susy Smith, who got to the scene early as the odd activity was increasing. Susy would arrive early and stay as late as possible, observing and taking detailed notes for 24 days. 300 individual incidents occurred during the time she was there. She acquired testimony from scientists, reporters, magicians, and many others during her investigation. Experts in the aforementioned fields also had thoroughly examined the business, inside and out, for any evidence of trickery or fraud. No other conclusion could be made about the poltergeist that moved among the workers and investigators except that it was, indeed, paranormal, something unusual to see firsthand.
How the Poltergeist Began
Most witnesses would first exclaim to Susy, "I don't believe it, but it's really happening." Ruth May who worked there had this to add, "I don't believe in ghosts...but something we can't see is making a shambles of our warehouse."
About a month before the activity got heavy, Ruth told Susy that an occasional beer mug would break and she just thought some of the male workers were playing games in the back room. They were ordered to be more careful but insisted they had not broken the glassware. The owners didn't believe them, initially; but soon, they would all experience things smashing and breaking while back in the warehouse.
The warehouse was 30 x 50 feet and had shelves that made for 4 aisles. This was important to know because the poltergeist would often break something in one aisle, getting everyone's attention; and then, while that aisle was being looked at closely, something else would be broken in another aisle as if the first aisle was a distraction, and so forth.
Falling Items During the Haunt
It was not unusual for the ghost, or whatever it was, to push a box or two from the company shelving. It might also choose to knock off an individual item, too. The frequency of the falling and smashed items was alarming to observers, though, as it might occur one fall after another as if in sequence. Of note, this poltergeist would also break or drop things upon request during some tests that were run. For example, a Coca Cola bottle was placed on a shelf where no one could get to it without being noticed. The investigation team observed the area where the bottle was placed until they were distracted, but for only a moment, by something else occurring in the warehouse -- then, the bottle fell and was dashed to pieces. No one was near it or could have knocked it off from where it was positioned. Any dishes or crockery that was planted for the unseen force to break, in subsequent testing, resulted in a similar result -- the poltergeist willingly obliged -- but only if the area was not knowingly watched during the disturbances.
One item, a glass, was observed falling to the floor by a man and a woman; but how it fell was strange. The glass bounced and quivered a bit, first, then it fell to the floor at an angle as if a force brought it down along with gravity. Another man who also witnessed it said it lifted up into the air, first, then flew downward to the floor.
Attempts at Debunking the Poltergeist
A magician, Howard Brooks, was certain that someone was fooling everybody, so he set out to find out who and how. Brooks initially said to the owner, "What kind of gullible fool are you? You obviously have an employee who is playing tricks. I can make things crash from shelves, too, when nobody is near them...any magician can do this." The magic expert, after witnessing and investigating crashes caused by the poltergeist had this to say afterward:
"Any paraphernalia which would move that weight (after 2 boxes, weighing 4 pounds, had fallen) would have to have been visible when we arrived there (at the site of the fallen boxes) immediately afterward."
After much investigating and searching, Brooks would not have any success figuring out this magic trick for it was not a ruse.
Noted parapsychologist, W.G. Roll, of the Psychical Research Foundation of Durham, North Carolina investigated the case along with Dr. J. Gaither Pratt from Duke University and the University of Virginia. W.G. Roll was cited as saying, "I found no evidence that the phenomena were caused by normal means." Dr. Pratt summed up the haunting with, "I consider the case worthy of careful study and reporting in the scientific literature of parapsychology."
Florida Poltergeist Theory
In most poltergeist cases, someone is usually found to be the center, the tie to, such unexplained, incredible activity. Some say that "poltergeists haunt people instead of houses." Therefore, it was believed that a psychokinetic force from the central figure is unconsciously producing the paranormal manifestations. In almost every case studied, the central figure is female; in this rare case, a young man who worked at the warehouse was eventually theorized as being the focus of the behavior. Could any frustrations that he might have had manifested, unwittingly, as paranormal activity within the warehouse? The investigators were convinced that he was central to the haunting. And after lots of testing, the young man did appear to have psychokinesis abilities -- "mind over matter effects."
The haunting ceased after the man left the company, and investigators had hoped to follow him to see if the activity would arise elsewhere in his travels. We found the following online about this haunting but cannot sunstantiate:
"As legend has it, when Julio, 19, was hired, it set of a barrage of poltergeist activity such as objects smashing into walls and rolling off tables. Julio subsequently worked at a couple other businesses, and each time was followed by the same poltergeist activity. Much later, Julio was working at an auto service station and was held up at gunpoint and shot twice, once in the chest, and he survived. It is said that many types of researchers have approached him for study, but not wanting to deal with the questions and weirdness anymore, he refused."