Poltergeists or poltergeist hauntings may be the most misunderstood type of haunting, as some believe that poltergeist hauntings are not even a haunting at all. The German word "poltergeist" means "noisy ghost."
The best defining mark of a poltergeist is if there is any manipulation of the physical environment such as the movement of objects, physical attack, spontaneous combustions, etc.; then, this is often considered by ghost investigators to be a poltergeist-type of haunting. But a poltergeist might not be something one wants to deal with as there may not be easy resolution to such ghost problems.
Learn about the classic case of the Florida Poltergeist of 1967.
Recall the Movie Poltergeist?
A common thread between different poltergeist hauntings has strongly indicated that they are caused by psychokinesis (the ability to move things by power of the mind alone). If such a thing were true, then the question becomes whether the psychokinesis is from the people who live within (or visit) the place where the activity takes place, or if it is actually occurring from an unseen troubled spirit: a ghost. The reason for this is because typically poltergeist hauntings center around an adolescent girl (although young males and even adults have exhibited the same phenomena) in the household. Typically, this central person is usually emotionally disturbed in some fashion, and is somehow the root cause of objects moving, knocking sounds (and other noises), the turning on and off of lights and electrical appliances, etc. (see the Schneider Poltergeist Photograph).
What is interesting is that the person whom the activity centers around, is unaware that they are the one who is bringing about the disturbance. And in true poltergeist hauntings, usually, none of the activity will continue after the person is removed from the environment, as they are not there to create it or influence an unseen entity. However, it has been reported that activity can return later if the "right" person visits or lives in a notably poltergeist-haunted place. This would lend one to believe that it requires some form of combined psychic energy to manifest such terrible haunting, or just maybe, poltergeists are active ghosts who are trying to get someone's attention through manipulation of the environment.
Author Brad Steiger contends that the central figure in a poltergeist haunting actually brings additional energy which the troubled ghost then uses to manifest with physical attacks or manipulation. This can be especially true if one is somewhat psychic and/or full of fear. The ghostly entity seems to feed off of low energies such as fear. This is when more harmful attacks can occur. Sometimes the effects of a poltergeist are more playful than harmful but have been known to be downright nasty. Reports of scratches, bites, harmful objects being put in one's way (such as glass shards on a pillow or tacks under a bed sheet) have been noted, as well as ghost possession. Perhaps Brad Steiger's best, notable phrase about this subject is, "Ghosts haunt houses; poltergeists haunt people." It is possible, though, that the troubled spirit wants only to communicate a message to those who still are in bodies - if someone is willing to lend them an ear.
Whatever the truth is behind the poltergeist phenomenon, poltergeist haunting seems to possibly be a powerful demonstration of the human psyche. Mysteriously, poltergeist haunting typically goes away as quickly as it began, leaving little to go on as for how to resolve such cases.
The Bell Witch Poltergeist
The most famous and terrible accounts of a poltergeist attacking a family is the Bell Witch. John Bell's daughter was severely troubled and central to the haunting. Many believe she was sexually abused by her father and this is what sparked a nightmare for the family. What brings credible evidence to this haunting is that (President) Andrew Jackson (who was a friend of John Bell) paid him a visit with his riders to free John's family from the poltergeist. The Bell Witch was reported to have met them on the road in front of John Bell's home in a bush and would not allow their wagons or horses to pass, audibly warning them to leave. Andrew Jackson was later noted for saying he would rather face the British again, than face the Bell Witch. The poltergeist was blamed for eventually poisoning John Bell.