It starts with random thumps against the wall in the pre-teen’s room.  Then it’s followed by door knobs rattling, keys going missing from your purse and turning up on top of the refrigerator, and the bed shaking for no reason.  By the time the tissue box flies across the room without anyone throwing it, you realized that you’re dealing with a poltergeist.

Poltergeist is a word based of the German words “poltern” (to make noise) and “geist” (ghost). They are portrayed as spirits in popular media, such as the movie Poltergeist or like Peeves from the Harry Potter series. The paranormal definition has less to do with ghosts and more to do with energy.  While ghosts are believed to be the spirits of the dead,  a poltergeist is connected with a human, The person is usually an adolescent somehow tapping into an ability to consciously or unconsciously move objects with their mind called psychokinesis.  The poltergeist agent is either present during or is the focus of the activity.

The haunting itself can be anywhere from relatively benign to life-threatening.  There are noises such as banging on the wall or shaking of furniture.  Levitation of objects is another sign of a poltergeist. The early stages of the Bell Witch haunting shows classic signs of being a poltergeist haunting, until it began to speak.

Skeptics dismiss claims of poltergeist haunting with claims that they are natural phenomena being misinterpreted, such as buildings settling causing loud knocks, traffic making the furniture vibrate.  Or they are out-and-out hoaxes performed with slight-of-hand.

Whether hoax or haunting, a poltergeist is definitely a thing that goes bump in the night.