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Reimagining the poltergeist in twentieth-century America and Britain Laursen, Christopher 2016

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REIMAGINING THE POLTERGEIST IN TWENTIETH-CENTURY AMERICA AND BRITAIN   by   Christopher Laursen   B.A., Carleton University, 2007 M.A., University of Guelph, 2009   A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF   DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY   in   The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (History)  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver)  October 2016  © Christopher Laursen, 2016     ii   Abstract   In creating the psychokinesis hypothesis, twentieth-century American and British psychical researchers, psychoanalysts, and parapsychologists moved the poltergeist away from centuries of religious and spiritual attribution – that it was actions of unseen spirits of the dead, elementals, or demonic forces – into the realm of scientific boundary-work that explored unseen worlds: the human mind, consciousness, and invisible forces and organisms.  Boundary-work involved a process of establishing and sustaining ideas that could be presented to the larger scientific community.  Poltergeist researchers viewed themselves as pioneers who were expanding scientific knowledge, with a goal of establishing epistemic authority on the phenomenon.  While spiritual attributions remained popular, as did suspicions of deceptive behaviour, poltergeist researchers managed to establish the psychokinesis hypothesis as a significant, well-known potential explanation for the poltergeist – one that suggested the human mind could affect the material environment.  I argue that collaborative knowledge-making between researchers and the people who directly experienced poltergeist manifestations enabled the psychokinesis hypothesis.  To this day, no one is certain what causes the poltergeist phenomenon, and very few individuals actively study it first-hand.  The hypothesis was as much a mischievous force in the transformative dynamics of twentieth-century American and British culture and science as the poltergeist itself was in disrupting individual lives.     iii   Preface   This dissertation is an original intellectual product of the author, Christopher Laursen.  This dissertation is based on archival research, e-mail and phone interviews, and questionnaires.  The interviews and questionnaires were approved by the University of British Columbia’s Research Ethics Board [certificate H12-00741], under the title Mischievous Forces, with the Principal Investigator, Dr. Joy Dixon.  Archival research was conducted in June 2010 and September 2012 at Manuscripts and University Archives, and Rare Books at Cambridge University Library, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England, and the Society for Psychical Research, London, England; in August 2012 at the Rubenstein Library, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, and Special Collections, Ingram Library, University of West Georgia, Carrollton, Georgia; and in September 2012 at Senate House Library, University of London, London, England.  Many thanks to the Society for Psychical Research for awarding a Research Grant for 2014-15, to the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for a Doctoral Award for 2012-13, and to the University of British Columbia and the Department of History for a Four-Year Fellowship, Summer Research and Writing Fellowship, and additional funding throughout these doctoral studies.  Permission for use in this dissertation of the photograph in Chapter 3 granted by the Online Editors, Columbus Dispatch, Columbus, Ohio, 24 June 2016.      iv   Table of Contents   Abstract ................................................................................................................................ ii Preface ................................................................................................................................ iii Table of Contents ................................................................................................................ iv List of Images ....................................................................................................................... vi List of Abbreviations ........................................................................................................... vii Acknowledgements ........................................................................................................... viii Dedication ........................................................................................................................... xi Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief ....................................................................... 1 150 Years of Reimagining Psychical Phenomena .............................................................. 6 Argument: Collaborative Knowledge-Making ................................................................ 14 Historiographical Contribution: Why Post-War Boundary-Work Matters ....................... 17 Methodology: Affect and Materiality ............................................................................ 22 Contested Realities: Turning to the Ontological ............................................................. 27 Chapter 1.  Person: Poltergeist Agent .............................................................................. 33 Frank Podmore and the “Naughty Little Girls” ............................................................... 35 The Resident Sceptic ................................................................................................ 37 Doubted Testimonials .............................................................................................. 39 Devious Agents ........................................................................................................ 43 The Response from Psychical Research Colleagues .................................................. 48 Barrett’s “Human Radiant Centre” ........................................................................... 52 Charles Fort and the “Poltergeist Girls” ......................................................................... 54 The Unassimilable.................................................................................................... 57 Marginalized Experiencers ....................................................................................... 60 Disrupting Era-Intelligence....................................................................................... 64 Speculative Visions .................................................................................................. 69 Harry Price: “Confessions of a Ghost Hunter” ................................................................ 73 Conclusions: Installing the Reimagined Poltergeist ........................................................ 83     v  Chapter 2.  Psyche: Haunted People................................................................................ 85 Tension on the Boundaries ............................................................................................ 86 The Hidden Forces of Sexuality ...................................................................................... 89 The Poltergeist on the Couch....................................................................................... 104 Navigating Issues of Morality....................................................................................... 116 Freud as the Cautious Father Figure ............................................................................ 124 Conclusions: From One Space to the Next ................................................................... 130 Chapter 3.  Scientists: Between Homes and Laboratories .............................................. 132 At Home with the Flying Telephone ............................................................................. 134 The Laboratory-Based Framework ............................................................................... 141 The Birth of RSPK Studies ............................................................................................ 148 Empathy: Opening Doors, Capturing Emotions ............................................................ 153 The Expansion of the Data of the Poltergeist ............................................................... 161 The Constraints of Parapsychology .............................................................................. 169 Conclusions: The Wrench in the Research ................................................................... 179 Chapter 4.  Self: Beyond Science and Religion ............................................................... 184 Inward, Into the Third Space ....................................................................................... 185 Post-War Paths to Self-Actualization ........................................................................... 190 Shirley and Donald ...................................................................................................... 196 The Group and Philip ................................................................................................... 210 Matthew and the Energy ............................................................................................. 222 Conclusions: The Powers of Self .................................................................................. 234 Inconclusive Conclusions: Knowledge-Making, Paradoxes, Questions ............................ 237 Historical Conclusions: The Illuminations of Boundary-Work ....................................... 240 Living in the Paradox, Sitting with the Questions ......................................................... 245 Bibliography ................................................................................................................. 250      vi   List of Images   Image 3.1: Fred Shannon’s photograph of Tina Resch and the phone................................ 135        vii   List of Abbreviations   AAAS ................................. American Association for the Advancement of Science ASPR ........................................................ American Society for Psychical Research CSICOP ..... Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal JASPR ................................ Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research JSPR ................................................... Journal of the Society for Psychical Research PA ............................................................................ Parapsychological Association PRF ........................................................................ Psychical Research Foundation PSPR .......................................... Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research SPR ......................................................................... Society for Psychical Research      viii   Acknowledgements   My journey began with the extraordinary life experiences shared with me by my grandmother Birgit Roemer (1921-1995) when I was 13 years old.  All of my research springs from that moment.  From a young age, in my first career as a journalist, and through my academic training, I have been very attentive to when people open up and share their extraordinary, often life-changing experiences with me – things they couldn’t quite explain, but that made them wonder about human nature and the natural world – and beyond. I acknowledge that the material herein tells only part of the story of experiences and studies of the poltergeist in the twentieth century – focusing on the development of a popular hypothesis that these physical manifestations were the product of psychokinesis.  There are many narratives and analyses that could have been included, but I hope that the one I have chosen to tell – as imperfect as it may be – stimulates new questions that may help us better consider what happens when people encounter rare, elusive, and controversial phenomena.  I encourage any reader to share their knowledge, opinions, and experiences with me. This dissertation is largely the result of an engaging, thorough, and thoughtful collaboration with my PhD advisor Joy Dixon.  The materials I worked through have taken me in many directions (some better than others), and Joy’s questions and suggestions drew me to concentrate on those materials that had the most impact in the telling of this history.  I am grateful to Joy for her tremendous patience with me, a writer trained as a journalist who gets thrilled by every good lead.  Joy has guided me toward being a much better, much more focused writer and researcher.  My three committee members have provided very useful insights along the way.  Bob Brain illuminated crucial themes in this dissertation in how knowledge was being made and refined in different epistemic frameworks, and how the common concern of all of the historical actors was to find answers to questions about human nature.  Leslie Paris gave me indispensable knowledge on the history of youth, sexuality, and post-war American culture.  She challenged me with healthy scepticism, emphasizing the ambivalence around such extraordinary narratives for historical actors and readers alike.  Her considerate and lively approach lifted me up when I truly needed it.  Carla Nappi has always made it cool to confront the more controversial aspects of history.  She has encouraged me to explore the creative and expressive sides of academia, helping me shape my methods in ways that bridge scholarship and media work.  She, along with Bruce Rusk and Habibna, provided me with much laughter and delight, giving me a comfortable home when I did research in North Carolina in 2012.  I am truly indebted to these professors.  They enlightened me to focus on what matters in a doctoral project and to always consider my project in a broader historical context – not an easy feat with such an elusive, contested history.   ix  There are many in the faculty and staff at UBC’s Department of History who have smoothed my path and stimulated my intellect over the years, and special mention goes to Michel Ducharme, Tina Loo, Anne Gorsuch, Coll Thrush, Eagle Glassheim, Jason Wu, Gloria Lees, Janet Mui, and Tuya Ochir for keeping me afloat.  Interlibrary Loans at UBC Library, particularly Jayne Griffiths, have been spectacular in meeting my requests for materials.  Faculty at the University of Guelph and the University of Toronto crucially prepared me for this doctoral project, and I am particularly grateful to Sofie Lachapelle, Doris Bergen, Dana Wessell Lightfoot, Tara Abraham, Paola Mayer, Jacqueline Murray, Susan Nance, and Karen Racine. I especially recognize the archivists who helped me collect a variety of incredible materials, enough to write many books and articles yet on the poltergeist, psychical research, parapsychology, and extraordinary experiences: Rachel Ingold, Curator, History of Medicine Collections, Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University; Suzanne K. Durham, former Head of Special Collections, Ingram Library, University of West Georgia, and to Erika A. Pratte for assisting me with the uncatalogued parts of the William Roll collection; Tansy Barton, Historic Collections Administrator, Senate House Library, University of London; and to Peter Meadows, who sadly passed away in 2015, of the Department of Manuscripts and University Archives at Cambridge University Library.  The staff members of all of these archives were always helpful.  Peter Johnston, Secretary of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), enabled access to the SPR’s own library as well as the Cambridge collection.  Special thanks to Tom and Karen Ruffles for providing me with a wonderful home and great friendship in my trips to Cambridge.  I am enormously grateful to the SPR for awarding me a research grant in a time when I needed it to complete my dissertation. I am so lucky to have met and corresponded with an immense number of people through the course of my doctoral studies.  They are all superstars in my eyes who made me feel like an important part of a much larger ecosystem of research.  My research would not be what it is if it weren’t for the many members of the SPR, Paranormal Studies and Inquiry Canada (PSICAN), the Parapsychological Association, the Parapsychology Foundation, and the Rhine Research Center who inspired me along the way.  I am grateful to William G. Roll (1926-2012) and his family members, to Shirley Hitchings and her family, to Walter von Lucadou, Eberhard Bauer, Erlendur Haraldsson, Yvonne Wollertsen, Ingrid Kloosterman, Wim Kramer, Renaud Evrard, Simone Natale, Andreas Sommer, Sonu Shamdasani, Rupert Sheldrake, Nick Jardine, Iris Montero, Alan Murdie, David V. Bagchi, David Sutton, Val Stevenson, James Clark, Madeleine Castro, Hannah Gilbert, Fiona Bowie, Zoë Brân, Jack Hunter, Sara MacKian, Sarah Sparkes, Shannon Taggart, Angela Voss, David Gordon Wilson, Mary Rose Barrington, Cal Cooper, Alan Gauld, Brian Josephson, Guy Lyon Playfair, Christian Jensen Romer, Elizabeth Roxborough, Simon Sherwood, Ian Tierney, Donald West, Melvyn Willin, Tere Altuna, Maria Grazia Cavicchioli, Adam Crabtree, Sylvana d’Angelo, Sue Demeter-St Clair, Matthew Didier, Rick Fehr, Dora Garcia, Walter Meyer zu Erpen, B.D. Mitchell, John Mizzi, Eric Ouellet, Lynn Tucker, Cat Wheeler, Joel Whitton, Robert E. Bartholomew, Paul Cropper, Eden S. French, Kuldip Dhiman, Carlos Alvarado, Richard Broughton, Lisa Budreau, Matt Cardin, Jim Carpenter, Hoyt Edge, Charles Emmons, Sally Feather, Kristen Gallerneaux, George Hansen, Patrick Huyghe, Ryan Hurd, Stanley Krippner, John Kruth, Seymour Mauskopf, James McClenon, David Metcalfe, Pamela St. John, Brad Steiger, Annalisa Ventola, Bryan J. Williams, and Nancy Zingrone for insightful interviews, conversations, and correspondence on this topic.  I am grateful to many people, who shall   x  remain anonymous, for sharing their firsthand experiences with poltergeist-type phenomena. The Esalen Institute and the circle of scholars and supporters who have gathered there became an intellectual home for me over the past two years.  I especially thank Jeffrey J. Kripal for his superhero-quality support, innovative vision of the paranormal and the sacred, and his sincere kindness.  I am grateful to Michael and Dulce Murphy for creating such an inspiring, magical place as Esalen.  And special thanks to Diana Walsh Pasulka for her incredible enthusiasm and for inspiring exciting new directions in my upcoming research.   I have enjoyed meeting everyone at Esalen, and have been particularly touched by my interactions with Sravana Borkataky-Varma, Erik Davis, Lydia Dugan, Sean Fitzpatrick, Deb Frost, Robbie Graham, Alex and Allyson Grey, Christina and Jim Grote, Jess Hollenback, David Hufford, Sarah Iles Johnston, Ed Kelly, Tanya Luhrmann, Frank Poletti, Charles Stang, Jacques Vallee, and Esalen’s amazing staff. There are certain people in my life who have stimulated my interest and kept my morale up through this project.  I wouldn’t have made it without them.  My mother Birthe maintained my wonder.  My father Bjarne and his wife Marwynn offered eternal support.  My friend Denzil Ford kept the flames of this project lit, helped direct me in considerable and considerate ways, and inspired me that there was, in fact, a light at the end of the tunnel.  All of my MA and PhD colleagues with whom I shared classes and conversations have been wonderful, in particular Geoff Bil, Kelly Cairns, Kieran Metcalfe, and Mark Werner.  I cherish some particularly powerful super-beings, and they have been essential in showing me fantastical possibilities in my life and work, each in their own way: Saul Aguilar, Monica Figueredo, Laurel Jenkins, Sarah Kapoor and her family, Mia Zebitz Larsen, Shalome MacNeill Cooper, Kristen Roderick and her family, Jill Scott, Michelle Whitefield, Myles Whitefield-Scott, and Tomasubaro.  They have truly inspired me in transformative ways, as if they were delivered to me from a higher realm.  I am more than I was before because of all of them. No one has gone through this process with me more than Kristofir Dean.  Members of his family, in particular Lia, Jim, and Rita, have been supportive in many ways.  To Kristofir, I am infinitely grateful for all of the things we have experienced and learned together – in the highs and lows, in the isolation and togetherness.  This dissertation has been a force to contend with, a force that has shaped who we both are.  I do not take lightly the life-changing power of that force.  Kristofir has brought a lot of magic, colour, and fantastical flavours into my life – and his energy and zest for life have been the most essential ingredients for this project’s completion.      xi     To Mormor, who showed me “There is more to this world than we can ever fathom,”    and to Kristofir, who makes the impossible possible.    1   INTRODUCTION: The Meaning in the Mischief  Suppose that, by some mysterious means, you could project your energy outside your own body.  Suppose that by imagining you are walking outside a house, while are you in fact sitting inside it, you could create the physical noise of footsteps outside the door.  By a fierce unconscious wish to hurt someone, you could cause a book to raise into the air and hit the object of your animosity.  Such phenomena would be poltergeists. – Jules France, psychiatrist “What Are Poltergeists?” Fate magazine, April 19511   As 1966 turned to 1967, the Florida souvenir warehouse Tropication Arts became the site of strange events.  There was a peculiar increase in the incidence of items breaking.  As the weeks went on, amber-coloured beer mugs, highball tumblers, sailfish-shaped ashtrays, rubber alligators, plastic binoculars, zombie drinking glasses, back scratchers, and other things fell or flew off the shelves.  It became apparent that this only happened when a 19-year-old shipping clerk, Julio Vasquez, was around.  Initially, co-workers blamed him for what was happening.  Julio resented the accusations.  Yet no one could prove trickery.  Talk of a ghostly haunting began to circulate among the employees. Academic parapsychologists who researched the mechanisms of alleged psychical phenomena were invited to investigate the strange object movements.  They were experts                                                             1 Jules France, “What Are Poltergeists?,” Fate 4, no. 3 (April 1951), 62, an article largely inspired by the work of Nandor Fodor.  For more on Fodor, see Chapter 2, Psyche. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      2  on such strange physical events, popularly known as “poltergeists” – from the German poltern, to make a loud noise or uproar, and geist, meaning ghost.2  The parapsychologists observed what was going on, measured distances and directions in which objects moved, and mapped out the physical manifestations in relation to the people who were present.  They posited that the events were somehow directly linked to Julio.  He was invariably present when objects moved.  There also appeared to be an emotional connection.  Before things happened, Julio was tense; after an object movement, he felt relieved.  One day, as Julio placed a toy alligator on a shelf, he joked to the parapsychologist William Roll, “I make magic.”  At that moment, a zombie glass unexpectedly fell off the shelf behind him.  Another time, Roll was watching Julio approach him with a broom in his hand.  “I hope something fall down,” Julio said.  A beer mug fell.  Such evidence of “mind over matter” suggested that the potential for psychokinetic control – moving objects at a distance – could be developed from poltergeist cases.  I call this the psychokinesis hypothesis. Roll’s Psychical Research Foundation, founded from the Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University in 1961, was among the few funded organizations that had the resources and expertise to consistently investigate spontaneous poltergeist cases in twentieth-century America and Britain.  More than anyone before him, Roll developed and tested the psychokinesis hypothesis.  Psychokinesis, also referred to as PK or telekinesis, was a concept that described an ability or disposition of a person that enabled them to intentionally or                                                             2 In parapsychology, psychical phenomena. or psi, are experiences or dispositions in which people know things outside of their normal senses (extra-sensory perception, telepathy or clairvoyance) or beyond the normal parameters of space-time (precognition and psychokinesis).  Parapsychologists treat such phenomena as “preternatural” in that they occur within nature, but have yet to be explained within current science models.  Parapsychology has worked to create models that may enable understanding of these phenomena.  Definitions here are drawn from Jeffrey J. Kripal, Comparing Religions: Coming to Terms (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014), and from my interview with the German clinical psychologist Walter von Lucadou, 20 April 2015. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      3  unconsciously affect the physical world by some form of energy or psychic force.  The psychokinesis hypothesis held that the production of poltergeist manifestations depended on the presence of a specific individual, like Julio, who researchers called a “poltergeist agent” or a “focus person.”  Through first-hand observation, testing, and analysis of historical case studies, proponents of the psychokinesis hypothesis suggested that human affect – in particular repressed or intensified emotions – appeared to be the common element when the poltergeist manifested.  They sought evidence that focus persons could gain conscious control over psychokinetic faculties. The psychokinesis hypothesis contributed to a larger scientific project: to expand knowledge about human nature, the natural world, and evolutionary potential.  Innovative research on the poltergeist was in tension with established natural laws in which toy alligators and beer mugs did not fall off of warehouse shelves on their own but remained stationary unless they were positioned precariously, someone moved them, or the earth were to shake.  At the same time, such anomalous, spontaneous, recurrent manifestations had been reported in the past, and there had been relatively little reported evidence of apparent deception or natural cause.3  Through poltergeist studies, Roll sought “evidence that the human self extends into the environment in ways that have not so far been brought out by science,” “not odd exceptions to the laws of nature but lawful processes which have so far escaped our attention.”4  In order to study the poltergeist and psychokinesis, Roll collaborated directly with individuals who directly experienced the phenomenon.  This was                                                             3 In his analysis of 116 historical and contemporary poltergeist cases, William Roll found that in 19 cases, “the focal person, or in one case a relative, produced one or more events by trickery.”  See Roll, “Poltergeists,” The Handbook of Parapsychology, edited by Benjamin B. Wolman (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1977), 392-393.  In their analysis of 500 SPR poltergeist cases, Alan Gauld and Tony Cornell found fraud was detected in 41 of them (8 percent).  See Gauld and Cornell, Poltergeists (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979), 243. 4 William G. Roll, The Poltergeist (New York: New American Library, 1972), 12. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      4  tricky.  Julio, for example, endured upheavals in his life as a refugee separated from his family in Cuba, and before the poltergeist events began, he felt suicidal.5  In February 1967, just as the investigation at Tropication Arts appeared to yield evidence favouring the psychokinesis hypothesis, Julio was suspected of breaking into the business and stealing a typewriter.  He was fired.  Julio then participated in controlled testing at Duke University, but no further evidence emerged to support the psychokinesis hypothesis.  Such were the challenges of dealing with people at the centre of a strange phenomenon that manifested in the midst of their life’s difficulties.  Roll, more than anyone before him, persisted, collecting as much data as he could in these case studies, and forging the psychokinesis hypothesis within the disciplinary framework of parapsychology. I argue that collaborative knowledge-making between researchers and experiencers was the mechanism that enabled the formulation of the psychokinesis hypothesis.  By the late 1950s, the hypothesis became a widely known potential explanation for the poltergeist.  It effectively competed with long-standing popular notions that discarnate entities (like spirits of the dead or demons), environmental causes (like earth tremors or structural instability), or deception (conscious or unconscious) caused poltergeist manifestations.6  In exploring this phenomenon, parapsychologists tried to follow the scientific methods of experimental psychology, applying detached observational and measuring technologies with the goal of isolating, controlling, and replicating phenomena.  That method was in opposition to the subjective meanings that focus persons gave the poltergeist events – and to the elusive                                                             5 Roll, The Poltergeist, 173. 6 Given that the Psychical Research Foundation focused on studying issues of survival after death, Roll remained open to the possibility that a discarnate entity was involved in poltergeist cases, but suggested that there still needed to be a mechanism like psychokinesis involved.  See Roll, The Poltergeist, 9-10. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      5  spontaneity of the poltergeist itself.  The unpredictability of the phenomenon and the focus persons alike prevented poltergeist researchers from reliably studying the poltergeist through a psychological/physical scientific framework. This study contributes to a historiographical tradition in which boundary-work, whether it was successful or not, matters in the making of knowledge.  The boundary-work investigated here centres on a hypothesis that straddled ontological divides: natural and physical sciences, sciences of the mind, religious and spiritual beliefs, and the diverse lifeworlds of experiencers.  The poltergeist events, occurring unexpectedly, disrupted notions of a stable reality.  The audience for this study are historians of religion who are examining personally and socially transformative spiritual and extraordinary experiences in relation to the sciences and culture.  I largely draw from the historiography of science and psychology and frame it within questions being asked by historians of religion on the relationship between knowledge-making and experience.  The “paranormal” is an immensely popular topic; this study is likely to attract scholars and non-scholars alike, including people who have experienced or studied the poltergeist themselves.  My goal here is not to prove or disprove the poltergeist phenomenon.  It is to examine and ask questions about the claims made.  I have no stake in any particular claim, nor have I personally experienced such a phenomenon.  This study raises new questions about the interactions between those who directly experience and those who investigate the poltergeist phenomenon, which continues to be reported around the globe to this day.7                                                             7 The Australian independent researcher Paul Cropper is presently the world’s most active poltergeist investigator, focusing on documenting and comparing cases that take place outside of Europe and North America.  For more on his work, see Tony Healy and Paul Cropper, Australian Poltergeist: The Stone-Throwing Spook of Humpty Doo and Many Other Cases (Sydney: Strange Nation, 2014). Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      6  I argue that the most significant data emerged from case studies in which researchers applied an empathetic approach in order to collaborate with experiencers – especially from those cases where, radically, experiencers became active participants in the design of the studies.  While those latter cases were the most scientifically controversial, the experiencers themselves found it easiest to come to terms with the poltergeist events, even finding a greater purpose in their lives as a result.  By actively guiding their experiences with the poltergeist, active participants were part of what William Roll called the “consciousness revolution,” a time in which people thought differently “about themselves and the world around them.  Many people,” Roll noted, “seek out experiences which give them a sense of transcending their individual selves.”8  The outcome of those cases became more than a quest to comprehend the phenomenon; it was also an effort to find out how to enhance one’s own potential to control and direct psychokinetic energies.  150 Years of Reimagining Psychical Phenomena This study is about how, through the psychokinesis hypothesis, scientists and experiencers in twentieth-century America and Britain influentially reimagined the poltergeist.  The poltergeist is a rare physical phenomenon in which objects were seen recurrently moving with no apparent cause, anomalous sounds were heard, and spontaneous fires lit.  More unusual events reported included objects appearing or disappearing suddenly, the emergence of objects from solid surfaces like walls and ceilings, pools of liquids forming, painful physical marks appearing on people’s bodies, flashes and                                                             8 Roll, The Poltergeist, 11-12. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      7  forms of light, and intelligible communication with knocking sounds – even mysterious written notes or disembodied voices.  Over five hundred modern cases have been documented in the archives of the Society for Psychical Research alone.  Most cases were likely unreported.  When they were documented, the physical manifestations occurred repeatedly, generally in a single location – mostly people’s private homes, sometimes in workplaces.  They usually happened over a short period of time, four to eight weeks on average.  Given its rarity and elusiveness, the poltergeist has been most prevalently categorized within the realm of supernatural or paranormal things, usually attributed to spirits of the dead, elementals, or demonic or diabolic activities.9 Most relevant to the making of the psychokinesis hypothesis, the focus of this study, 1848 was the year that the word “poltergeist” was introduced into the English language, sparking secular studies of the physical phenomenon.  That year, the English writer Catherine Crowe adopted the German word “poltergeist” to describe the phenomenon in her popular book on the supernatural, The Night Side of Nature; or, Ghosts and Ghost Seers.  In it, Crowe aimed to establish a “presumption” that these things, in her words, “may be so, and that it is well worth our while to inquire whether they are or not.”10  Through her introduction of the term “poltergeist” in relation to potentially psychokinetic individuals – mid-nineteenth-century cases of French “electric girls” who apparently had the ability to                                                             9 For religious interpretations of the poltergeist, including the Christian reformer Martin Luther’s coinage of the word in the sixteenth century and the rise of spiritualism in the mid-nineteenth century, see Christopher Laursen, “The Poltergeist at the Intersection of the Spirit and the Material” in Super Religion, edited by Jeffrey J. Kripal (Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan/Cengage Learning, 2016). 10 Catherine Crowe, The Night Side of Nature; or, Ghosts and Ghost-seers (London, 1850), 219-20.  For more on Crowe, see Shane McCorristine, Spectres of the Self: Thinking about Ghosts and Ghost-Seeing in England, 1750-1920 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 10-11. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      8  intentionally affect their physical environments by invisible means – Crowe invited new ways of studying the physical phenomenon as something different than a ghostly haunting. Seven years after Crowe’s book was published, British scholars and scientists organized themselves to study ghostly and psychical phenomena, leading to the formation of the Ghost Club in 1862, with the writer Charles Dickens as a prominent member.11  Two decades later, the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) was founded.  The SPR’s founders included scientists and scholars.  The SPR aimed “to examine without prejudice or prepossession and in a scientific spirit those faculties of man, real or supposed, which appear to be inexplicable on any generally recognized hypothesis.”12  In other words, the SPR set out to study human-centred phenomena that established scientific disciplines could not explain.  Research in phenomena like telepathy and hallucinations appealed to psychologists like William McDougall, Théodore Flournoy, Gardner Murphy, and the New York-based American SPR co-founders William James and Joseph Jastrow.  Externalized vital forces and ectoplasm attracted physiologists, neurologists and biologists such as Charles Richet, Albert Freiherr von Schrenck-Notzing, Hans Driessch, and Hippolyte Baraduc.  Psychokinesis, materializations, and other physical effects drew physicists including William F. Barrett, Lord Rayleigh, Oliver Lodge, and William Crookes.13  Many of these scientists felt compelled to study psychical phenomena for “intellectual, religious, moral and emotional reasons,” the                                                             11 See The Ghost Club website,, accessed 1 July 2016. 12 Henry Sidgwick, “Objects of the Society,” Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research (PSPR) 1 (1882-83), 4.  See Janet Oppenheim, The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850-1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985). 13 Richard Noakes, “Haunted thoughts of the careful experimentalist: Psychical research and the troubles of experimental physics,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 48 (2014), 46. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      9  historian of science Richard Noakes (2014) writes, often to seek “compatibility of scientific and Christian conceptions of the cosmos.”14 Through their investigations and experiments, psychical researchers sought to explain phenomena that had previously been considered in spiritual or mystical terms.  They transformed séance rooms into hybrid spaces where instruments and controlled procedures were put into place, not only to take measurements and document, but to prevent deception – which was regularly reported.  In mediumship, the line between “authentic” metaphysical phenomena and “staged” magic was blurred.  Strict experimental parameters tended to limit the appearances of psychical phenomena in controlled settings.  This caused disagreements among researchers and with their research subjects.  No cohesive methodologies were agreed upon.15 There were three major fields of science that sought to demystify the supernatural: life, physical, and psychological.  The historian of science Robert Michael Brain (2013) has shown how the concept of ectoplasm, a physical substance produced from mediums’ bodies during séances, was accommodated within views widely held by physiologists and biologists that protoplasm, essentially cellular matter, was the central component to life itself.  Ectoplasm, Charles Richet argued, was an “extreme instance of normal nerve physiology,” “an opportunity to study the workings of protoplasm under special conditions.”16  If such psychical phenomena were evidence of heightened or extreme natural states, scientists felt                                                             14 Noakes, 53-54. 15 Noakes 46-47; and Elizabeth R. Valentine, “Spooks and spoofs: relations between psychical research and academic psychology in Britain in the inter-war period,” History of the Human Sciences 25, no. 2 (2012), 71-73.  Also see Sofie Lachapelle, “Confronting Ghosts, Mediums, and Fakirs,” Conjuring Science: A History of Scientific Entertainment and Stage Magic in Modern France (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 59-88. 16 Robert Michael Brain, “Materialising the Medium: Ectoplasm and the Quest for Supra-Normal Biology in Fin-de-Siècle Science and Art,” in Vibratory Mechanism, edited by Anthony Enns and Shelley Trower (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 125, 129. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      10  justified in studying them.  Extraordinary discoveries by physicists during these decades, including of X-rays, electromagnetic waves, and radiation, “suggested a vast and unexplored world of unseen forces,” making psychical studies conducive to physicists’ work.17  Mediumistic demonstrations of moving objects at a distance, allegedly through psychokinesis, were of particular interest to physicists.  The problems of measuring and recording “unseen forces” plagued not only psychical research experiments, but also the everyday work of physicists.  In psychical research, physicists sought solutions that could advance their overall studies.18 At the turn of the century, psychological and psychical research shared common ground in their studies of abnormal mental states.  The terms “psychological” and “psychical” were even used interchangeably during that time to denote “mental” rather than “physical.”  As the historians of science Andreas Sommer and Elizabeth R. Valentine (2012) each have shown, by the 1920s, experimental psychologists, abandoning philosophical concerns, placed greater emphasis on the framework of established, accepted natural sciences;  these psychologists valued “detached observation, accurate measurement and recording” through “technical equipment and specialized training.”19  American and German psychologists who championed a natural sciences approach, such as Wilhelm Wundt, Joseph Jastrow, and Hugo Münsterberg, distanced themselves from the humanities-oriented, experience-centred studies of William James.20  As a result of this natural sciences approach, experimental psychology blossomed in universities, becoming academically established in                                                             17 Brain, 119. 18 Noakes, 47. 19 Valentine, 69. 20 See Andreas Sommer, “Psychical research and the origins of American psychology: Hugo Münsterberg, William James and Eusapia Palladino,” History of the Human Sciences 25, no. 2 (2012), 23-44; and Valentine, 69-70, 83-84. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      11  the decades following the Second World War.  It gained authority by presenting answers to questions of interest to a wide audience on the workings of everyday life and human behaviour, whereas psychical research and parapsychology remained focused on extraordinary, often sensationalized anomalies.21 Scientists sought ways in which phenomena could be reproduced under observable and controlled conditions, but the phenomena remained elusive.  Impressive, inexplicable manifestations were entangled in mediums’ spiritual beliefs and their relatively common tendency to deceive, making it highly difficult for researchers to establish reliable knowledge about them.  After the First World War, such doubts were intensified through public exposures of fraudulent mediums, particularly those criminally charged with extorting grieving citizens.  By the 1930s, fewer scientists involved themselves in investigating psychical phenomena.22  Public interest and membership in psychical research organizations peaked in the 1930s, and then declined and levelled out through the following decades.23  A new academic study, parapsychology, emerged as a way to standardize research on spontaneous psychical phenomena experienced by members of the public, such as telepathy, premonitions, and the poltergeist. In the 1930s, American parapsychology was founded by J.B. Rhine in the Department of Psychology at Duke University.  Following the methods of experimental psychology and the natural sciences, Rhine and his colleagues statistically evaluated replicable experiments of telepathy and psychokinesis involving both average and exceptional human subjects.  Conducting research through this laboratory-based experimental approach, a handful of                                                             21 Valentine, 69-70, 83-84. 22 Brain, 132-136; Noakes, 47-52; Valentine, 71-73. 23 Valentine, 71-73. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      12  parapsychological labs opened in American and British universities, a process that continued into the 1980s: the University of Virginia (Division of Perceptual Studies, founded 1967), Stanford University (the Stanford Research Institute, 1972-1991), Princeton University (Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research, 1979-2007), and the University of Edinburgh (Koestler Parapsychology Unit, founded 1985).  The Parapsychological Association, a professional organization founded in 1957, gained membership in the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1969.  But parapsychology has remained a very small discipline that has been largely ignored by the greater communities of psychologists and scientists.24 By the 1960s and ‘70s, independent, experientially focused research centres such as the Esalen Institute (founded by human potential researchers Michael Murphy and Dick Price in 1962) and the Institute of Noetic Sciences (founded by the astronaut Edgar Mitchell in 1973) concentrated on questions of human nature broadly defined through both philosophy and the sciences.  Those approaches directly involved members of the public who sought knowledge beyond that established by mainstream sciences and religions.25  Furthermore, a renewed public interest in psychokinesis resulting from the television appearances of the Israeli mentalist Uri Geller in the 1970s compelled some British and American physicists to study macro-PK effects such as “paranormal metal bending” with children as test subjects in academic laboratories.  Such effects were not convincingly replicated under controlled                                                             24 See Chapter 3. 25 See Jeffrey J. Kripal, Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007), and the Esalen website,  See The Institute of Noetic Sciences website at Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      13  conditions.26  More substantial micro-PK studies had emerged starting in the 1950s, in which parapsychologists collaborated with biologists and physicists.  Micro-PK experiments involved human subjects concentrating in an effort to affect cellular organisms and subatomic matter.  Those studies yielded more compelling statistical evidence, but they have yet to gain ground in the mainstream sciences.27  Parapsychology and psychical research rarely gained science funding.  The historian of science Sofie Lachapelle (2011) explains that this is because the audience consisted mainly of interested lay people, especially individuals seeking scientific proof of life after death, energy healing, or psychic abilities.  Philanthropists among those individuals helped fund such research.28  Despite vigorous participation from noted multidisciplinary scientists in its first half-century, psychical research had not managed to produce findings that appealed to the greater scientific community.  Rhine’s approach was to follow psychology’s experimental direction toward natural science and, despite statistical evidence presented by his lab which he claimed supported the existence of psychokinesis, these findings did not reach far beyond parapsychology itself.  Studies of extraordinary experiences grew outside of the academy, in independent research organizations like New Horizons and the Mind Science Foundation.  Through them, novel ways of experiencing and experimenting with psychical phenomena                                                             26 See Harry Collins and Trevor Pinch, Frames of Meaning: The Social Construction of Extraordinary Science (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982). 27 For an overview of psychokinesis studies by a psi researcher that argues for their positive findings, see Dean Radin, The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena (New York: HarperEdge, 1997), 127-156. 28 Sofie Lachapelle, Investigating the Supernatural: From Spiritism and Occultism to Psychical Research and Metapsychics in France, 1853-1931 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011), 120-121.  Science funding, for example, was granted for military research into psi and psychokinetic capabilities in human subjects at the Stanford Research Institute in the 1970s and ‘80s.  For a perspective on the work at Stanford Research Institute that became military-funded, see Russell Targ and Harold E. Puthoff, Mind-Reach: Scientists Look at Psychic Ability (New York: Delacorte Press, 1977), and Targ’s memoir Do You See What I See?: Lasers and Love, ESP and the CIA, and the Meaning of Life (Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Pub. Co., 2008). Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      14  grew in post-1960s cultural shifts in which the public themselves began exploring human potential – largely inspired by countercultural thinkers who were frustrated by the authoritative claims of established science, religion, and the state.  Argument: Collaborative Knowledge-Making There are two major themes that I investigate in this study of the making of the psychokinesis hypothesis in twentieth-century America and Britain: knowledge-making and experience.  In terms of knowledge-making, I argue that poltergeist researchers pursued this hypothesis to contribute to a larger project to comprehend the whole of human nature, the natural world, and evolutionary potential.  For these researchers, there was something about the poltergeist that spoke to what human beings were – and what they could become if they were to gain control of psychokinetic faculties.  Researchers sought to isolate the poltergeist in settings where it could be measured, perhaps even induced – preferably in laboratories.  However, poltergeist researchers found the elusive, spontaneous nature of both the phenomenon and the focus persons highly difficult to manage and observe.  In each chapter, I show how this problem was consistently at odds with the conditions of typical scientific protocols to predict or control phenomena in order to effectively study it.  When researchers and experiencers actively collaborated and found innovative ways to manage and observe the physical manifestations, they tended to defy scientific conventions.  As a result, those radical cases were controversial among psychical researchers and parapsychologists.  At the same time, they were well received by people who valued new Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      15  forms of knowledge that combined direct experience with innovative, experimental approaches.29 In this study, I position poltergeist experiencers, whose presence has often been minimized in published and archived case studies, as the central historical actors.  Developing and testing the psychokinesis hypothesis relied on the consent and participation of diverse individuals who unexpectedly found their homes or workplaces to be ground zero for the disruptive manifestations of the poltergeist.  No other historical actor experienced the poltergeist events as consistently and directly as these individuals.  In each chapter, I focus on the extent to which experiencers were passive or active, absent or present in collaborating with researchers in the making of the psychokinesis hypothesis.  In Chapter 1, I review the emergence of the hypothesis.  In those early studies, experiencers were largely treated as passive subjects to be observed and judged by British researchers like Frank Podmore, William F. Barrett, and Harry Price – while the American writer Charles Fort emphasized how experiencers tended to be socially and scientifically marginalized.  Chapter 2 looks at the 1930s through the 1950s, during which time, inspired by the ideas of the psychical researcher Hereward Carrington, Nandor Fodor tested the psychokinesis hypothesis within a Freudian psychoanalytical framework.  This enabled experiencers to explore the relationship between their unconscious and the poltergeist events with therapeutic guidance, but ultimately, the diagnoses and findings were decided by Fodor himself.  Chapter 3 deals with the American parapsychological studies of William Roll and his colleagues in the 1950s through the 1980s, in which an empathetic field research approach enabled greater access to and cooperation from poltergeist experiencers, providing an                                                             29 See Chapter 4. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      16  unprecedented opportunity to expand data on the poltergeist.  While experiencers more actively collaborated in this research, they remained confined by parapsychological experimental parameters.  Where post-research outcomes are known, we find that experiencers were often stigmatized by the poltergeist events, sometimes ostracized by others who doubted them.  Many preferred to altogether forget their poltergeist experience, moving from their homes, fearing its recurrence.  While the poltergeist cases were active, focus persons became the centre of attention, which I argue simultaneously empowered them as extraordinary and marginalized them as outsiders. The most extensive data emerged from a small handful of atypical poltergeist cases in which experiencers took on a radical role as equal and active participants working with empathetic researchers.  In Chapter 4, I highlight three cases in which, as a result of this approach, poltergeist or PK-type events extended over years rather than weeks, giving more extensive opportunities to study what was happening.  Experiencers demonstrated their potential to yield promising research outcomes when they were permitted to take an active role in experimental design – what the historian of religions Jeffrey J. Kripal calls “experience as experiment.”30  In the post-war decades, affluent experiencers and scientists explored the poltergeist events in a cultural climate where direct experience mattered as much in new studies of consciousness and spirituality as did traditions of objectivity and objectification.  This shift signalled a coming into “the self” and an emphasis on directing one’s own life and process of knowledge-making rather than depending on established institutions and traditions.  The making of the psychokinesis hypothesis ultimately reveals                                                             30 See Jeffrey J. Kripal, “Making the Cut” in Whitley Strieber and Jeffrey J. Kripal, The Super Natural: A New Vision of the Unexplained (New York : Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2016), 40-43.  Also see Chapter 4. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      17  how “the self” and “science” were dramatically transformed, from a situation where disciplinary authorities controlled knowledge-making protocols to one where experiencers themselves could direct their own process of seeking knowledge.  Historiographical Contribution: Why Post-War Boundary-Work Matters This study contributes to a historiography that shows how boundary-work matters in making knowledge about human experiences and the natural world.  It combines an analysis of two kinds of boundary-work: that of the boundary scientists in making the psychokinesis hypothesis, and that of poltergeist experiencers in authorizing expert interventions, collaborating, and actively participating in experimental design.  Drawing from the sociologist Thomas Gieryn (1999), in her study of German parapsychology, the historian of science Heather Wolffram (2009) questions “how scientific boundaries are established, sustained, enlarged, policed and breached in pursuit or denial of epistemic authority.”31  She writes that boundary scientists “sought to expand science’s frontiers” to develop a more complete understanding of human nature and the natural world.32  Parapsychologists, for example, viewed themselves not as scientific outsiders but “pioneers of a new science” that sought to methodically explain psi phenomena.33  They needed to forge their own                                                             31 Heather Wolffram, The Stepchildren of Science: Psychical Research and Parapsychology in Germany, c. 1870-1939 (Amsterdam: Rodopi Bv Editions, 2009), 18.  Wolffram draws from Thomas F. Gieryn, Cultural Boundaries of Science: Credibility on the Line (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999), x. 32 Wolffram, 296. 33 Wolffram, 18. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      18  disciplinary norms in an effort to advance studies of elusive phenomena like the poltergeist and psi that did not fit easily within existing scientific paradigms.34 Historical studies of boundary-work support an understanding of scientific knowledge as integrated into, not separate from, greater cultural forces.  Scientists have had to – as the historian of science Richard Noakes (2008) points out – “mobilise more than just measurements, instruments and theories, but also the literary, financial, institutional, political, and other ‘non-scientific’ aspects of their culture.”35  My study is among the very few to examine boundary-work in psychical research and parapsychology after 1939.36  In doing so, I draw on two studies in particular that exemplify post-war boundary-work in action outside of parapsychology: the independent scholar Immanuel Velikovsky’s influential but controversial claims about ancient global catastrophes on the one hand and the revival of quantum physics in the 1970s on the other.  Both scenarios trespassed on the established boundaries of science, but with different outcomes.  In 1950, Velikovsky wrote about how “ancient mythological, scriptural, and historical sources from a variety of cultures contained repeated homologous descriptions of major catastrophes,” including a comet that                                                             34 For more on the historical value of boundary-work, see Thomas Laqueur, “Why the Margins Matter: Occultism and the Making of Modernity,” Modern Intellectual History 3, no. 1 (2006), 111-135; and Michael Saler, “Modernity and Enchantment: A Historiographic Review,” American Historical Review 111, no. 3 (June 2006), 692-716. 35 Richard Noakes, “The Historiography of Psychical Research: Lessons from Histories of the Sciences,” Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (JSPR) 72.2, no. 891 (April 2008), 74-75.  For an excellent overview of sociological studies of scientific knowledge, see Jan Golinski, Making Natural Knowledge: Constructivism and the History of Science, Second Edition (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005). 36 Among studies of post-1939 research are Jeffrey J. Kripal, Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011) and Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011); Alison Winter, “The Three Lives of Bridey Murphy,” Memory: Fragments of a Modern History (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2012), 103-124; James McClenon, Deviant Science: The Case of Parapsychology (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984); Collins and Pinch, Frames of Meaning (1982); and the books of the philosopher and parapsychologist Stephen E. Braude. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      19  nearly collided with the earth and settled into orbit as Venus.37  Michael D. Gordin showed how scientists deployed the politicized term “pseudoscience” to discredit Velikovsky and mark his ideas as unsound.  “Pseudoscience,” Gordin wrote, “is a term, I maintain, without real content, and yet the notion performs active work in the world, separating off certain doctrines from those deemed to be science proper,” to push such claims “off the grid altogether.”  Popular interest in Velikovsky’s book helped energize a countercultural and post-modern challenge to truth-claims made by the scientific establishment, but by Velikovsky’s death in 1979, his ideas largely faded from cultural consciousness.38  However, other post-Second World War boundary-work did become widely accepted as scientific knowledge.  David Kaiser’s 2011 study demonstrates how the counterculture (including parapsychology) and capitalism converged to revive quantum physics in the 1970s.  Kaiser shows how the philosophical thought experiments that gave rise to quantum physics in the 1920s languished as applied sciences gained dominance in the mid-century.  In the wake of socio-cultural transformation in the 1960s, San Francisco-area academic institutions became sites to resolve social and scientific problems.  This provided young scientists and their students with a space to challenge the limitations of classical physics and find practical applications for new quantum knowledge.39  Post-war boundary-work, whether it faded like Velikovsky’s catastrophism or flourished like quantum physics, worked on questions outside of accepted scientific knowledge.  Boundary claims faced opposition from communities of scientists who felt the disciplinary boundaries they had established were being trespassed                                                             37 Michael D. Gordin, The Pseudoscience Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2012), 4-5. 38 Gordin, 1. 39 David Kaiser, How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival (New York: W.W. Norton, 2011). Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      20  upon.  These claims reached beyond scientists, and appealed, in various ways, to non-scientists who sought answers to unresolved questions about human nature and the natural world.  Such epistemic tensions also arose in poltergeist and parapsychological studies, however, those areas of study have remained both scientifically marginal and socially popular, in boundary-work limbo, so to speak.  This is largely due to the fact that while the greater scientific community has shown little interest in parapsychological work, members of the public, including experiencers, have a significant stake in that research. Those who experienced the poltergeist directly also engaged in boundary-work.  They sought to comprehend the events in relation to how they had known the world.  In order to understand this process, I have adopted the experience-centred approach developed by the folklorist David Hufford in his 1982 study of sleep paralysis.  Sleep paralysis is an unsettling but widely reported phenomenon in which people awaken from sleep, cannot move or cry out, and feel as if “someone” had come into their room and is holding them down.  Hufford began his ethnographic study in 1970s Newfoundland where the phenomenon was attributed to the “Old Hag” or being “hagged,” terms that simultaneously identified both the anomalous experience and the personification of an “attacker.”  Sleep researchers used Hufford’s analysis to advance new neurological theories and therapeutic approaches to help people who experienced the phenomenon.40  Experience-centred studies present data that potentially can be assessed across the humanities and sciences.  Since Hufford, ethnographic histories have taken scholarship deeper into experience, placing it within                                                             40 See David Hufford, The Terror That Comes in the Night: An Experience-Centered Study of Supernatural Assault Traditions (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982).  Ann Taves discusses the impact of Hufford’s book in Religious Experience Reconsidered: A Building Block Approach to the Study of Religion and Other Special Things (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009), 132-140. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      21  broader historical contexts, such as Michael Brown’s 1997 study of channelling and Joyce Elaine Noll (1991) on African-American psychics.41  The most recent experience-centred studies include collaborations in which experiencers relate and think on what happened and what it meant to them in direct conversation with the scholar applying historical tools of analysis.  Kripal’s 2016 collaboration with the experiencer Whitley Strieber – intended for wider audiences as well as scholars – stands as a prime example of this kind of approach.  In it, Strieber relates ongoing encounters he has had with strange beings, with Kripal, in alternating chapters, evaluating those experiences in their historical context.42  Scholar/experiencer collaborations may be among the most fruitful directions for experience-centred analyses as they promote direct dialogues and analysis.  While this study does not involve that level of ethnographic collaboration, it has involved interviewing a number of poltergeist experiencers to better comprehend their perspectives.43 In making knowledge from both experiences and scientific studies, boundary-work is a crucial step, even if the results remain uncertain.  By examining the process of boundary-work as a collaboration between researchers and experiencers, I contribute to a literature in which scientific knowledge-making is shown to be dynamic, negotiable, and imperfect.  Choosing such an elusive phenomena as the poltergeist for this study shows how boundary-work can extend over a long period of time, with research remaining in epistemic limbo.  My study asks how collaborative knowledge-making between boundary scientists and experiencers enabled the psychokinesis hypothesis as part of a project to expand knowledge                                                             41 See Michael F. Brown, The Channeling Zone: American Spirituality in an Anxious Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997); and Joyce Elaine Noll, Company of Prophets: African American Psychics, Healers and Visionaries (St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1991). 42 See Strieber and Kripal, The Super Natural. 43 Notably with Shirley Hitchings for Chapter 4, and other experiencers who answered a questionnaire approved by the University of British Columbia Behavioural Research Ethics Board, certificate H12-00741. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      22  about human nature.  In order to assess that question, in the next two sections I discuss how I employ a specific set of methodological tools.  First, I look at the affective and material turns.  In the section after, I examine the ontological turn.  Methodology: Affect and Materiality I am inspired by, and wish to expand upon, methodological tools employed by historians in two very different fields: the history of emotions and of materiality in religions.  This allows me to emphasize both the affect and the physicality of experiences that drove the making of the psychokinesis hypothesis.  Proponents of the hypothesis argued that affective states among poltergeist focus persons – repressed or intensified emotions – were correlated with the manifestation of material events – the poltergeist phenomenon. The “affective turn” originated in historical studies of emotions.  Peter N. Stearns (2015) writes that emotions are a human physiological and cognitive response to stimuli.44  In recent decades, social historians have actively attended to individual historical actors’ emotions, finding that their emotions clearly formed motivations for action.45  Historians of emotions have revealed broad socio-cultural trends around emotionality, such as how twentieth-century American and British professionals sought to gain greater control over their emotional lives in order to appear more confident and level-headed, a significant cultural shift away from religiously centred moral credentials and toward what were                                                             44 Peter N. Stearns, “Emotions, History of,” in International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2nd Edition, Volume 7, edited by Neil J. Smelser and Paul B. Baltes (New York: Elsevier, 2015), 513. 45 Stearns provides a historiographical overview. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      23  characterized as reliable psychological dispositions.46  These histories have influenced anthropologists, sociologists, and some cognitive scientists to recognize the role that emotions have on culture and vice versa.  Their studies comprehend how emotion shapes family and work life, social relations, religious devotion, and politics.47  Drawing from this affect-centered approach, I emphasize how boundary scientists sought both individual and comparative evidence about emotional states to support the psychokinesis hypothesis, as well as how experiencers were affected by the poltergeist manifestations. In recent years, historians of science have also examined the ways in which scientists encountered, negotiated, and studied emotions in their work.48  Paul White (2009) writes that these historians recognized “the co-dependence of the cognitive and the affective in the production of knowledge, the formation of judgments, and the making of meaning.”49  In addition to the scientific practices of observation, experiment, and theory, scientists also engaged in “practices of the self” in their knowledge-making.50  That is, when scientists attempted to be objective in their work, they contended with and even suppressed their emotional selves.  They also had to deal with the emotions of their living experimental subjects, both human and non-human.51                                                             46 Stearns, 515.  Also see Joel Pfister and Nancy Schnog, Inventing the Psychological: Toward a Cultural History of Emotional Life in America (New York, CT: Yale University Press, 1997). 47 Susan J. Matt and Peter N. Stearns, Doing Emotions History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014), 2-3.  In that same book, see also John Corrigan, “Religion and Emotions,” 143-162.  Also see Ute Frevert, Emotions in History: Lost and Found (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2011). 48 See the focus section “The Emotional Economy of Science” in Isis 100, no. 4 (December 2009), as well as the scholarship on emotions and the sciences by Otneil Dror, in particular “The Affect of Experiment: The Turn to Emotions in Anglo-American Physiology, 1900-1940,” Isis 90, no. 2 (June 1999), 205-237. 49 Paul White, “Introduction” to the focus section “The Emotional Economy of Science,” Isis (Dec. 2009), 793. 50 White, 793. 51 See Chapter 2.  Also see White, 795; and Dror, “The Affect of Experiment.”  Conceptual issues around objectivity and subjectivity are explored in Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750 (New York: Zone Books, 1998); Lorraine Daston and Peter Gallison, Objectivity (New York: Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      24  Data in favour of the psychokinesis hypothesis grew as researchers viewed experiencers’ emotional states as crucial to their study of the poltergeist.  In the first half of the twentieth century, poltergeist researchers like Frank Podmore and Nandor Fodor tended to position emotions as suspicious, untrustworthy, and pathological whereas after the Second World War, parapsychologists like William Roll and George Owen embraced the dynamic role of emotions which contributed to expanding their data about the poltergeist.  Post-war researchers trusted human emotions as a way to measure, predict, and even potentially control psychokinesis.  In the last chapter, based on first-person accounts, I focus on how experiencers allowed affect and intuition to guide them through poltergeist events.  Emotions were more than chemical physiology or a simple response to stimuli – they helped measure and predict poltergeist events. Equally important is a material turn that takes into account the physicality of both the poltergeist experiences and the ways that the phenomenon was studied.  On the latter point, I am influenced by the attention historians have given to instrumentality in psychical research and parapsychology.  The historian of religion and media Jeremy Stolow examines how technologies were created to render “divine entities” present.  Take for example his study of how the nineteenth-century American spiritualist Andrew Jackson Davis’s “magnetic cord” intended to harmonize the dispositions of séance participants, thereby enhancing spirit communication.52  Stolow argues that such technologies, not unlike religious icons and rituals, were made to increase the reliability of modern-day spiritual                                                                                                                                                                                              Zone Books, 2007); and Andrew Pickering, The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency, and Science (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1995). 52 See Jeremy Stolow’s edited volume Deus in Machina: Religion, Technology, and the Things in Between (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013), including Stolow’s Introduction, 2-3, and essay, “The Spiritual Nervous System: Reflections on a Magnetic Cord Designed for Spirit Communication,” 85-87. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      25  work.  The technologies were inspired by the ways scientists used instruments to study, interface with, and manipulate human, non-human, and natural worlds.53  Robert Brain, for example, attends to materiality not only in the technologies deployed by séance-room scientists, but also in the physical manifestations themselves.  Brain’s visceral descriptions of ectoplasm’s materiality helps to explain why scientists framed the substance as biological evidence and used it to fit psychical claims into the natural world.  Furthermore, scientists’ photographic documentation of ectoplasm simultaneously became a tool employed by spiritualists to endorse the scientific possibilities of mediumship.54  In these studies, knowledge-making is embodied through materiality. I am particularly inspired by religious studies that focus on the material to move beyond the dominant mode in studies of religion of inquiring about “beliefs,” where a private spiritual interiority has been privileged over “how religion appears and becomes tangible in the world.”55  Religious scholars Birgit Meyer and Dick Houtman (2012) write that “championing materiality signals the need to pay urgent attention to a real, material world of objects and a texture of lived embodied experience.”56  In poltergeist cases, material objects acted in unexpected ways.57  Typically inanimate things became animated.  Such strangeness forced experiencers and researchers to rethink the nature of things, and of                                                             53 Stolow, 2-3, 5, 15; 85-87. 54 Brain, 115, 117. 55 Dick Houtman and Birgit Meyer, Things: Religion and the Question of Materiality (New York: Fordham University Press, 2012), 2. Also see Johan M. Strijdom, “The material turn in Religious Studies and the possibility of critique: Assessing Chidester’s analysis of ‘the fetish,’” HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 70, no. 1 (2014), 1-7. 56 Houtman and Meyer, 4. 57 In this study, I do not go as far to evaluate these things or the phenomena as actants as Bruno Latour’s actor-network theory might call for.  Giving the poltergeist agency would open a variety of fascinating new questions, but for this study, I wish to maintain my focus on the ways in which knowledge was made between researchers and experiencers in poltergeist cases.  For more on Latour’s approach, see Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005). Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      26  materiality itself.  These animated objects made historical actors wonder what unseen entities or forces might be present, incarnated through material environments.  Attention to the materiality of the phenomenon thus adds another layer in better understanding the lifeworlds, concerns, and questions of historical actors in poltergeist case studies. In the 1977-78 Enfield poltergeist case, a lamp sliding across a table made a man question everything he knew.  As a family member visiting the household, he recalled standing a few feet away from the lamp.  He saw it move on its own to the edge of a table.  He tried to push the lamp back, but reported that it vibrated violently and fell to the floor.  He told the psychical researchers investigating the case: “I still didn’t really believe, until I saw one or two of the things that I did see, and which today I’m still convinced that I didn’t see, but I know I did.  That’s a bit hard to explain.”58  Even when personally observing such inexplicable events, the physical manifestations in these case studies were so outside of the norm, so contrary to a stable material worldview, that many observers were deeply confounded.  They could not believe what they saw.  The very people who witnessed these material manifestations felt ambivalent.  Proponents of the psychokinesis hypothesis set out to relieve their unease and fear, and situate it as something natural.  Since the hypothesis has yet to prove itself as a reliable theory, it competes with other interpretations.  The reality of the poltergeist remains contested.                                                              58 Guy Lyon Playfair, This House Is Haunted: The Amazing Inside Story of the Enfield Poltergeist (Guildford: White Crow Books, 2011), 43. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      27  Contested Realities: Turning to the Ontological If we assume that poltergeist events were all fraudulent, as the psychical researcher Frank Podmore did in 1896, we foreclose a conversation on the complexities of knowledge-making around controversial human experiences.59  The assumption of overall fraud renders invisible the concern of this historical study: the very real ways in which these events, whatever they were, impacted individual lives and processes of knowledge-making.  My analysis does not depend on whether or not truth-claims were veridical or whether historical actors were being honest or not.  In this analytical space – one that emphasizes ontology and examines historical actors’ competing views of their various “realities” – we enhance an assessment of how culture (worldviews) influences consciousness (lifeworlds), and how consciousness, in turn, affects culture.60 If the poltergeist manifestations were very real to those who directly experienced them, judging them as otherwise imposes a historicist agenda that denies “past peoples the power to determine the truths of their own experience.”61  To overcome such historicism, the classical historian Greg Anderson (2015) calls for scholars to take an “ontological turn” in their practice, to “make sense of each past lifeworld in its own metaphysical environment.”62  The ontological turn requires historians to treat whatever historical actors believed existed as “an active, constitutive ingredient of whatever was really there at the time.”63  If all that is reported by historical actors is treated as active and constitutive of                                                             59 Frank Podmore, “Poltergeists,” PSPR 12 (1896), 45-115; see Chapter 1. 60 On the interplay between culture and consciousness, see Kripal, Authors of the Impossible, 201-203, 223. 61 Greg Anderson, “Retrieving the Lost Worlds of the Past: The Case for an Ontological Turn,” American Historical Review 120, no. 3 (June 2015), 789. 62 Anderson, 790. 63 Anderson, 790. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      28  their reported experiences, then historians can better comprehend what their lives were like for them, as well as how researchers negotiated the process of making knowledge from those unconventional experiences. Post-colonial scholars have been among the first to actively implement self-reflexive strategies in an effort to be sensitive to the ontologies of the marginalized people they study.  This approach is eloquently conveyed by Dipesh Chakrabarty (2000) who relates an anecdote about how the Irish poet W.B. Yeats met “a certain Mrs. Connolly” who related her stories of fairies.  Chakrabarty writes that as Yeats was about to leave her little cottage, he asked: “One more question Mrs. Connolly, if I may.  Do you believe in the fairies?”  Mrs. Connolly threw her head back and laughed.  “Oh, not at all Mr. Yeats, not at all.”  W.B. paused, turned away and slouched off down the lane.  Then he heard Mrs. Connolly’s voice coming after him down the lane.  “But they’re here, Mr. Yeats, they’re here.”64  Mrs. Connolly’s reply brings to mind the infamous line in the 1982 movie by Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg, Poltergeist, with a little girl sitting in front of a television set communicating with a spirit dimension that is about to physically colonize their home: “They’re here.”  On this presence, Chakrabarty remarks,  As old Mrs. Connolly knew, and as we social scientists often forget, gods and spirits are not dependent on human beliefs for their own existence; what brings them to presence are our own practices.  They are parts of the different ways of being through which we make the present manifold; it is precisely the disjunctures in the present that allow us to be with them.65                                                              64 Dipesh Chakrabarty, “Minority Histories, Subaltern Pasts,” Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000), 111, attributing the anecdote to his friend David Lloyd. 65 Chakrabarty, 111-112. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      29  In poltergeist cases, the disjuncture is in the material manifestations.  Objects act in atypical ways; the inanimate becomes animate.  What experiencers and researchers make of these disjunctures reveals their ways of being – their ontology – their processes of making sense of human nature, self, and the world.  What brings the psychokinesis hypothesis into practice, then, are the interactions between poltergeist researchers and experiencers.  But, as I emphasize in the various interpretative outcomes of three case studies in Chapter 4, paraphrasing Chakrabarty, the supernatural can inhabit the world in many ways, “not always as a problem or result of conscious beliefs or ideas.”66  In other words, such things as poltergeists are beyond only belief.  Materially present, the phenomenon becomes part of people’s ways of being – their lives.  That is the point of the ontological turn.  To take us into the lifeworld of these historical actors experiencing and studying something that is (really) there. As there is plurality in worldviews – for example diverse religious and non-religious people co-exist and intermingle at this moment in time – the ethnohistorian Keith Thor Carlson (2005) argues that “Historical messages and narratives are conveyed in multiple manners,” where “definitions of what constitute real and true” varies between historical actors.67  The ontological turn calls for historians to be attentive to differences, and hold them side-by-side rather than judging them according to what the historian of Catholicism Robert A. Orsi calls the “modernist impulse” – our own exercise in boundary making “to tame what is wild and threatening and dangerous specifically to us” because our intellectual                                                             66 Chakrabarty, 111. 67 Keith Thor Carlson, “Rethinking Dialogue and History: The King’s Promise and the 1906 Aboriginal Delegation to London,” Native Studies Review 16, no. 2 (2005), 30. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      30  and religious upbringings tell us those things are irrational or sacrilegious.68  Chakrabarty argues that heterodox lifeworlds have long been “subordinated by the ‘major’ narratives of the dominant institutions” because they were not only inadmissible or unassimilable – they were a potential threat to their domination.69  Chakrabarty writes that when one invests “in a certain kind of rationality and a particular understanding of the ‘real,’” it serves to obscure things, events, and ideas that have been historically excluded from “reality” on a purely epistemological basis.70  The modernist impulse has long acted as an excuse to ignore and exclude certain historical actors because they do not fit into a rationalist or Christian worldview.  If historians are self-reflexive to their own ontological impulses, they open layers of historical interpretation from which a more pluralistic, and potentially more thorough, account arises.  The past unfolds in ways that challenge and enrich historical practice.  Carlson, for example, showed how Salish representatives negotiating land with King Edward VII of England in 1906 were attentive to powerful signs and messages from the spirit world.  The Salish, he found, assumed that the British shared their spiritual ontology.  Such revelations reframe historical events, and help us better understand points of cooperation and conflict.71  Similarly, the historical geographer Daniel Clayton (1999) analysed, side-by-side, interpretative variances between accounts of contact between Captain James Cook, British officials, and the Nuu-chah-nulth people of Nootka Sound in 1778, revealing how long-standing narratives in history books favoured the official                                                             68 Robert Orsi, Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars Who Study Them (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), 160-161. 69 Chakrabarty, 101. 70 Chakrabarty, 98. 71 Carlson, 30. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      31  account.72  Through that strategy, Carlson intends “to launch meaningful cross-cultural dialogue,” historically and in the present day, “rather than stifle it.”  Historical events are newly illuminated in a way “that is recognizable to indigenous people without compromising its intelligibility to non-Native society,” thereby situating both cultures side-by-side, without conflating them or giving ontological preference to one over the other.73 In this study, I take you into lifeworlds where people reported controversial phenomena, between materiality and immateriality, which challenged their senses and ontologies.  Thinking on Anderson’s ontological turn, the historian of sexuality, religion, and science Joy Dixon (2015) emphasizes how metaphysical phenomena “did very real work” for people who experienced them.74  The social and cultural historian Alex Owen (2004), for example, stepped into the “immediate experiential dimensions” of Aleister Crowley’s controversial, early twentieth-century occult practices, revealing new meaning and significance that explained how he put his selfhood above the laws and social mores of bourgeois Edwardian society.75  At other moments, the existence of historical actors or phenomena has been contested.  In her study of Victorian-era theosophy, the historian Gauri Viswanathan (2000) emphasized the agency of the Mahatmas, Indo-Tibetan Hindu adepts who deeply influenced theosophical texts and teachings, despite lingering questions about whether or not they existed since they were never seen in person.76                                                             72 Daniel Clayton, “Captain Cook and the Spaces of Contact at ‘Nootka Sound,’” in Reading Beyond Words: Contexts for Native History, edited by Jennifer S.H. Brown and Elizabeth Vibert (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003), 133-162. 73 Carlson, 4-5. 74 Joy Dixon, “After Theosophy,” paper presented at the conference Theosophy and the Arts: Texts and Contexts of Modern Enchantment, Columbia University, New York, 9-10 October 2015, 7. 75 Alex Owen, The Place of Enchantment: British Occultism and the Culture of the Modern (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004), 187, 219. 76 Gauri Viswanathan, “The Ordinary Business of Occultism,” Critical Inquiry 27, no. 1 (Autumn 2000), 1-20. Introduction: The Meaning in the Mischief      32  If historians include what has been excluded, disregarded, or marginalized, what happens?  We open questions about realness itself.  Anderson writes, “To help us retrieve all those pasts that we have lost in translation, we need a historicism that can make sense of each… lifeworld on its own ontological terms, as a distinct real world in its own right.”77  Realness is not “an objective, pre-given material condition but a process,” he writes, “an ongoing effect produced by the dynamic entanglement of thought and materiality.”78  The effort to understand the poltergeist historically is a representative microcosm of the process of comprehending the nature of materiality.  To quote the historian Carla Nappi (2009), the goal here is “not to individuate or identify a uniform system of reason… but to show the pulses and mechanics of knowledge-making with all of its inconsistencies and revelations.”79  Diverse, imprecise processes were activated by experiencers and various experts to make sense of the poltergeist.  In defiance of the perceived order of things, the poltergeist events brought experiencers and researchers into a materiality that they did not fathom before it happened to them.  Confusion and contestation resulted.  It had an impact on experiencer’s lives, and made new knowledge.  Explaining how that happened is at the core of this study.                                                              77 Anderson, 789. 78 Anderson, 789. 79 Carla Nappi, The Monkey and the Inkpot: Natural History and Its Transformations in Early Modern China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009), 7.  33 Chapter 1  PERSON:  Poltergeist Agent  Possibly these poltergeist phenomena may be due to some of these, perhaps mischievous or rudimentary, intelligences of the unseen: I do not know why we should imagine there are no fools or naughty children in the spiritual world; possibly they are as numerous there as here. –  The physicist William F. Barrett “Poltergeists, Old and New,” 19111  …the view is often expressed that Poltergeists are mischievous spirits, possibly rather undeveloped, which remain confined to a particular house or locality and are able to utilise certain people, especially adolescent children, as physical mediums. –  The ghost hunter Harry Price Poltergeist Over England, 19452   Between 1896 and 1945, four men popularized the idea that living persons, mainly young people, were necessary to the production of the poltergeist: the British psychical researchers Frank Podmore and William F. Barrett, the American writer Charles Fort, and the English ghost hunter Harry Price.  In their boundary-work to redefine the poltergeist, they challenged assumptions that the physical manifestations were caused by a spiteful spirit of the dead, a demonic disruption, or a wicked witch’s curse.  In locating and examining the focus person at the centre of poltergeist events, each of them staked a claim                                                             1 Professor W.F. Barrett, F.R.S., “Poltergeists, Old and New,” Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research (PSPR) 25 (1911), 412. 2 Harry Price, Poltergeist Over England (London: Country Life, 1945), reprinted as Poltergeist: Tales of the Supernatural (London: Bracken Books, 1993 published courtesy of The Harry Price Library, University of London Library), 379. Person: Poltergeist Agent    34 in defining human nature.  Podmore (1896) argued that focus persons, exhibiting mental and physical abnormalities, all behaved deceptively – nullifying the poltergeist as a psychical phenomenon.  Barrett (1911) countered that deception could not explain most of the reported manifestations.  As an established physicist working in a multidisciplinary community of scientists in psychical research, he pointed to an apparently organic relationship between human consciousness and physical environments.  In the 1920s and ‘30s, Fort critiqued mainstream scientists for largely excluding and denying the possibility of extraordinary phenomena like the poltergeist and psychokinesis, thereby obscuring potential aspects of human nature.  He speculated that if people and scientists were to harness such an evident psychical force, the outcome would likely be destructive.  Poltergeists and psychokinesis could become weapons of war.  No one brought the poltergeist and its psychokinetic potential into the public eye more than Price, who in 1945 wrote a popular book that sensationally combined case studies and the latest speculation.  Price also presented the poltergeist as an element of nature that exploited the energies of mediumistic focus persons.  The people who directly experienced the poltergeist, however, had little input into this epistemic shift.  They were largely treated as passive subjects to be observed and judged by researchers like Podmore, Barrett, and Price – a problem with which Fort was particularly concerned.  Fort wrote that just as strange phenomena themselves were excluded from notions of reality, so too the people who were thought to make the phenomena happen were likewise marginalized.  Person: Poltergeist Agent    35 Frank Podmore and the “Naughty Little Girls” In 1896, the English psychical researcher Frank Podmore (1856-1910) compared contemporary poltergeist cases, including ones that he personally investigated – the first researcher ever to do so.  Upsetting his colleagues who thought the poltergeist promised new knowledge about mind-matter relationships, Podmore wrote that “the real motive” behind the poltergeist was “meaningless acts of mischief,” “the excessive love of notoriety which is occasionally associated with other morbid conditions, especially in young girls.”3  Behind the poltergeist were human tendencies to act mischievously and gain attention from others; to Podmore, that was what the poltergeist revealed about human nature. The idea of “young girls” as the deceptive centre of “poltergeist” mischief was situated in broader Victorian-era cultural and medical assumptions about the mental and physical fragility of females and children.4  Nineteenth-century clinicians compared the trances, bodily rigidity, catalepsy, and ecstatic states diagnosed as hysteria to similar behaviour observed among mediums in spiritualist circles.5  Mediums and hysterics alike powerfully expressed themselves outside of Victorian gender norms.  When their husbands attempted to have them committed by psychiatrists as hysterical, the mediums Louisa Lowe and Georgina Weldon, for example, publically defended their sanity and empowered social status.6  Spiritualists commonly integrated themselves into socially progressive movements                                                             3 Frank Podmore, “Poltergeists,” PSPR 12 (1896), 114.  William Roll’s analysis of historical and contemporaneous poltergeist cases showed that focus persons were equally female or male from 1900 to 1974.  See Roll, “Poltergeists,” Handbook of Parapsychology, edited by Benjamin B. Wolman (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1977), 386-387. 4 See Molly McGarry, Ghosts of Futures Past: Spiritualism and the Cultural Politics of Nineteenth-Century America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008), 125; Elaine Showalter, The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1830-1980 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985) and Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Media (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997). 5 McGarry, 125-126. 6 On Louisa Lowe, see Alex Owen, The Darkened Room: Women, Power, and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004), 168-201; and on Georgina Weldon, see Judith Person: Poltergeist Agent    36 of the time, such as women’s emancipation.7  Many psychical researchers and clinicians also saw their work as contributing to scientific and social progress.8  Podmore, however, tended to side with the status quo rationality of medical doctors and psychiatrists who identified mental maladies in alleged poltergeist focus persons. Podmore and his colleagues reported directly observing deceptive behaviour.  For most psychical researchers, if deception were evident, they erred on the side of the entire case being fraud.  Such caution emerged from studies in which investigators, like the physicist William Crookes who investigated the controversial spirit materializations of the medium Florence Cook in the 1870s, were largely seen by their colleagues as credulous, duped by the charismatic allure of female mediums.9  To guard against deception in mediumship research, psychical researchers increasingly employed strict controls (such as putting luminous bands around mediums’ limbs or constraining them with ropes), various instruments of measurement, and photography equipment in séance rooms.10  Even then, deception continued to be reported in psychical research experiments. While Podmore’s accusations of deception were not unusual among psychical researchers, his characterization of all poltergeist cases as fraud stirred up strong reactions.                                                                                                                                                                                               Walkowitz, City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992), 171-190. 7 See Ann Braude, Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women’s Rights in Nineteenth-Century America, Second Edition (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001). 8 See Elaine Showalter, “Hysteria, Feminism, and Gender” in Hysteria Beyond Freud, edited by Sander L. Gilman, Helen King, Roy Porter, G. S. Rousseau, and Elaine Showalter (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 286-344. 9 See Janet Oppenheim, The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850-1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985). 338-354; McGarry, 104-108; and Owen, The Darkened Room, 42-67, 206-209, 228-233. 10 See Robert Michael Brain, “Materialising the Medium: Ectoplasm and the Quest for Supra-Normal Biology in Fin-de-Siècle Science and Art,” in Vibratory Mechanism, edited by Anthony Enns and Shelley Trower (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 115-144; Richard Noakes, “The ‘world of the infinitely little’: connecting physical and psychical realities circa 1900,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 39 (2008), 323-334; Heather Wolffram, The Stepchildren of Science: Psychical Research and Parapsychology in Germany, c. 1870-1939 (Amsterdam: Rodopi Bv Editions, 2009), 12-13, 159-161, 170-174; and Owen, The Darkened Room, 67-72. Person: Poltergeist Agent    37 His colleagues argued that Podmore was trying to close the door on a phenomenon that had significant potential to reveal new insights into human nature and the natural world.  Outright deception, his colleagues and critics countered, failed to account for many of the strange sounds, object movements, and spontaneous fires – all without apparent cause – reported in these cases.  Podmore’s scepticism, on the other hand, successfully alerted his colleagues to the drawbacks of eyewitness testimony, the potential for deception, and the dangers of working with paranormal assumptions.  Subsequent poltergeist case investigators became more attentive to likely causes before proclaiming a case as being genuinely “paranormal” – that is, outside of normal explanation. The psychokinesis hypothesis emerged directly from psychical researchers’ reactions to the points Podmore raised claiming poltergeists were deception.  Podmore presented abundant evidence that there was almost always an individual around whom the phenomenon centred.  Thereafter, psychical researchers turned their attention to that individual who they called the “poltergeist agent” or “focus person.”  Rather than seeing deception, subsequent researchers argued that the poltergeist was co-created through psychical interactions between the focus person and their physical environment.  The Resident Sceptic Podmore was the Society for Psychical Research’s resident sceptic.  He raised probable causes rather than claiming phenomena to be genuinely paranormal.  Podmore doubted the legitimacy of spiritualism, preferring to study telepathy, something reported by the wider public and on which controlled laboratory-based experiments could be designed.  Podmore’s interests in psychical research initially took shape when he was eighteen.  His Person: Poltergeist Agent    38 first spiritualist séance left a profound impression on him as to the existence of life after death.  But by the time he was twenty-four in 1880, disillusionment over séance-room trickery made Podmore leery of claims people made about spontaneous psychical phenomena.  He became a vocal opponent of mediumistic fraud.  In an 1896 analysis of poltergeist cases, he identified how there invariably appeared to be a focus person at the centre of the physical events, most often a young person.  As someone who had witnessed trickery both in séance rooms and poltergeist cases, Podmore believed that the most reasonable explanation for the physical events was that these mediums and focus persons alike were deceptive. Podmore was meticulous in his psychical studies.  He is best known as the co-author of Phantasms of the Living (1886), produced with the psychologist Edmund Gurney and the classical scholar Frederic W.H. Myers.  In the two-volume study, based on 700 cases collected by the SPR, the authors assessed a range of ghostly encounters which frequently involved people seeing apparitions of individuals who they knew were living, or who were on their death bed.  These were greatly significant findings as they suggested that ghost-seeing involved telepathy.  Podmore was key in “the collection, examination and appraisal of evidence” in Phantasms of the Living according to his colleague Eleanor Sidgwick.11  Through that work, he had established himself as a critically minded researcher in the SPR. Podmore was himself of academic and social distinction.  The son of a clergyman, he was an Oxford man who had founded the university’s Hare and Hounds Club.12  He was the Higher Division Clerk at the General Post Office.  In January 1884, Podmore – alongside other middle-class intellectuals who sought gradual socialist reform over violent revolution                                                             11 Mrs. Henry [Eleanor] Sidgwick, “Frank Podmore and Psychical Research,” PSPR 25 (1911), 8. 12 G.W. Lambert, “Our Pioneers IV: Frank Podmore,” JSPR 40, no. 699 (March 1959), 1. Person: Poltergeist Agent    39 – co-founded the Fabian Society.  The society supported the concept of a welfare state, viewed the British Empire as project of global modernization, and contributed ideas that formed the Labour Party in 1900, but it also promoted eugenics.13  Podmore typified the intellectual life of many of his SPR colleagues as proponents of modern social and scientific advancement who sought to broaden knowledge about human nature.  Doubted Testimonials While the poltergeist initially seemed to be inexplicable to Podmore, discrepancies in witness testimonials led to him suspect that memories and observations were fallible.  In his first poltergeist investigation (Worksop, Northamptonshire, 1883), Podmore was baffled by the question of the cause of the physical events reported; he found no evidence of trickery.  He defended the family who were accused by local newspapers of committing fraud.  The family patriarch Joe White, a horse dealer, told Podmore about how strange events began when the kitchen table suddenly “tilted up at a considerable angle.”14  Family members reported how a corkscrew, clothes pegs, a salt cellar, and even “hot coals were thrown down” the stairs into the kitchen.15  Several reputable observers – a medical doctor, a policeman, and a Salvation Army woman – witnessed objects moving with no apparent                                                             13 See Mark Bevir, “Part Two: The Fabians” in The Making of British Socialism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011), 129-214; and Bertrand Porter, “The Fabians” in the chapter “Labour and the Empire” in Critics of Empire: British Radicals and the Imperial Challenge (London: I.B. Tauris & Co, Ltd, 2008), 109-122.  In regards to Fabians and eugenics, see L.J. Ray, “Eugenics, Mental Deficiency and Fabian Socialism between the Wars,” Oxford Review of Education 9, no. 3 (1983), 213-222, and the editorial by Geoffrey Robinson, “We should say sorry, too,” The Guardian, 14 February 2008, accessed 1 July 2016 at  In The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Literature in English (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 205, Jenny Stringer and John Sutherland write that Podmore suggested the name for the Fabian Society, “derived from the Roman general Quintus Fabius Maximus, whose delaying tactics in battle earned him the nickname ‘Cunctator’ or ‘the Delayer.’” 14 Frank Podmore, “Report on the Worksop Disturbances,” Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (JSPR) 1 (Dec. 1884), 202. 15 Podmore, “Report on the Worksop Disturbances,” 202.  Podmore’s emphasis is retained in the quote about “hot coals.” Person: Poltergeist Agent    40 explanation, adding to the credibility of the testimony.  “No one professed to have any idea of what mechanical means could have been employed,” Podmore wrote, and “there was a total absence of any apparent motive on White’s part.”16  Why, he argued, would a man purposefully cause significant damage to his home, breaking objects while reaping “no corresponding advantage”?17 However, in the accumulation of ten more poltergeist case studies in the following years, three of which were personally investigated by Podmore, he became convinced that psychical researchers could not rely on eyewitness testimonials.  Podmore made this case:  in the course of the 13 years which have passed since I wrote my [Worksop] report, we have received some striking object-lessons demonstrating the incapacity of the ordinary unskilled observer to detect trickery or sleight-of-hand: and we have learnt to distrust the accuracy of the unaided memory in recording feats of this kind, especially when performed under circumstances of considerable excitement.18  Podmore found that witnesses did not accurately corroborate who was in the room or what happened.  He was concerned that newspaper accounts further slanted how people remembered events.  People commonly reported objects “moving slowly through the air, or exhibiting some peculiarity of flight,” which Podmore thought was a “sensory illusion, conditioned by the excited state of the percipients.”19  The historian of science Alison Winter (2012) showed that around this time, memory was increasingly becoming an object of study among psychologists, particularly in relation to eyewitness testimony provided in court rooms.  Psychologists like Hugo Münsterberg (1863-1916) at Harvard University developed a new science of perception in studies of hypnosis, dissociation, and false or                                                             16 Podmore, “Report on the Worksop Disturbances,” 205. 17 Podmore, “Report on the Worksop Disturbances,” 205. 18 Podmore, “Poltergeists,” 57. 19 Podmore, “Poltergeists,” 111-113. Person: Poltergeist Agent    41 altered memories.  Since then, a number of studies have shown that people’s observational skills are problematic and often inaccurate, putting into question the process of jurisprudence itself.20  Podmore’s critiques drew on the growing uncertainty about the accuracy of memory.  Psychologists found that witnesses were prey to influences that actively reshaped how they remembered events.  In attempts to satisfy the investigator’s questions, witnesses may add or embellish details.  Through suggestive or confusing questions, investigators could subtly or overtly prompt certain answers to be made by witnesses.21  Furthermore, psychologists discovered that humans make sense of what happened through a combination of direct observation, their preconceptions, and what others claimed, making it difficult for witnesses to accurately recall events as they actually occurred.  To remedy this, greater emphasis was placed on technologies to “objectively” record what happened – through photography, films, audio recordings, and other tools of measurement.22  In the century following Podmore’s report, great emphasis would be placed on using these technologies to show and measure the poltergeist in action – to little avail.23  Without technologies to record and measure the alleged poltergeist events, the weight of evidence favoured trained observers over experiencers’ testimonials.  Podmore considered experiencers, particularly those less educated or of lower social standing, to be unreliable.  Experiencers’ testimony was only valued when corroborated.  He cast suspicion                                                             20 Alison Winter, Memory: Fragments of a Modern History (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2012), 9-32. 21 Winter, 12. 22 Winter, 3.  Also see Jennifer Tucker, Nature Exposed: Photography as Eyewitness in Victorian Science (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005); Brain, “Materialising the Medium”; Noakes, “The ‘world of the infinitely little’: connecting physical and psychical realities circa 1900”; Noakes, “Haunted thoughts of the careful experimentalist: Psychical research and the troubles of experimental physics,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 48 (2014), 46-56; and Clement Cheroux et al, editors, The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2004). 23 For example, see my discussion of the Tina Resch photograph and the work of William Roll in Chapter 3. Person: Poltergeist Agent    42 on experiencers who often were not of the same social, racial, and educational standing as the predominantly male, Anglo-Saxon intellectuals who studied psychical claims.24 Podmore worked toward collecting evidence that could be accepted by the larger community of scientists, therefore legitimating psychical research itself as a science.  His findings on the poltergeist, however, tended to be based on his own suspicions rather than empirical evidence.  Like professional scientists, many SPR members considered empirical testing the scientific standard by which evidence should be established.25  What counted as “scientific” was filtered through the cultural or ideological lenses of those judging the evidence.  The science historian Sherrie L. Lyons writes, “Prior theoretical and/or psychological commitments, the politics of professionalization, and cultural norms about morality and the human condition all play a role in determining scientific credibility.”26  She argues that under those conditions, evidence was often contradictory, the terms of what counted as valid were regularly modified, and technologies, especially in their early forms, were “not necessarily better in supplying reliable information.”27  Podmore’s scepticism brought psychical researchers together to discuss an issue where agreement was absent.  His own experiences witnessing legerdemain among mediums, however, fuelled his doubts and perhaps made him hypercritical when he suspected trickery.                                                              24 For example, as Joy Dixon showed in her study of the SPR’s investigation of theosophical claims in 1884-5, testimonials from English, American, and European witnesses were held in higher esteem than those of Indian witnesses, whose evidence was considered to be “superstitious and credulous.” See Dixon, Divine Feminine: Theosophy and Feminism in England (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), 36.  For more on racial, social, and gender differences in Victorian and Edwardian period practices of spiritualism and psychical research in Britain and America, see Walkowitz, Owen, and McGarry. 25 See Sherrie Lynne Lyons, Species, Serpents, Spirits, and Skulls: Science on the Margins of the Victorian Age (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2009); and Wolffram on the value of empirical testing to German parapsychologists. 26 Lyons, 174-75. 27 Lyons, 201-2. Person: Poltergeist Agent    43 Devious Agents Podmore observed focus persons acting deceptively, which to him revealed something about their nature: they sought attention.  If eyewitness testimonials were faulty and other standards of scientific observation and measurement unevenly applied, then how to determine what was causing the physical events?  Although Podmore could not originally come up with a compelling causal explanation in the Worksop case, by 1896, he realized that he had overlooked a prime suspect:  it is to be noted that Eliza Rose – the daughter of an imbecile mother – was present, by all accounts, at most of the disturbances; that they began shortly after her entrance to the cottage and ceased with her departure; and that she was regarded by White himself as the prime cause of all that happened.  Thinking on that case, Podmore drew the conclusion that became key to his understanding of the phenomenon:  Rose herself, as the instrument of mysterious agencies, or simply as a half-witted girl gifted with abnormal cunning and love of mischief, may have been directly responsible for all that took place.28  Comparing poltergeist cases, Podmore argued that there typically was just such a cunning, mischievous, attention-seeking, often mentally unstable child around whom the manifestations erupted.  Often, such a child was an outsider in their family. Podmore identified the focus persons at the centre of these cases and ascribed to them characteristics that marked them as deceivers.  His assumptions about focus persons fit rationally within Victorian modes of character judgement.  Sharonna Pearl (2010) argues that in the Victorian period, “the privileged classes… employed classification heuristics                                                             28 Podmore, “Poltergeists,” 58. Person: Poltergeist Agent    44 based on visual and etiquette codes that reinforced status social hierarchies” and “reduced others to component parts… as a form of belittlement and dehumanization.”29  The psychical researchers investigating late Victorian poltergeist cases read claimants positively as educated, elite, sane or negatively as uneducated, poor, crazy, and even criminal – a judgement that helped determine whether or not the paranormal claims were to be considered as genuine or not.  Podmore noted that the poltergeist was predominantly reported among lower class, less educated, often illiterate people from rural, “rustic” locales.  For example, the Worksop case involved witnesses “of the humbler class” who were unable “to write a connected account of what happened.”30  Furthermore, witness predispositions, such as the belief that the devil was responsible, “rendered them too much indisposed to accept any ordinary explanation of any of the occurrences to which they referred,” he argued.31  For Podmore, witnesses’ ontological commitments made their paranormal claims dubious.  He saw the scientifically trained observer as having greater authority than experiencers, particularly those who he found to be superstitious. Podmore’s judgements ultimately rested on what he saw as consistent evidence that certain individuals in these cases were acting deviously.  For example, the psychical researcher Mr. F.S. Hughes (Wem, Shropshire, 1884) noted how a nurse girl employed by an upper-class family was caught throwing a brick; she later confessed and demonstrated her trickery to the press.32  In an Irish case (Waterford, 1892), a neighbour testified to seeing a boy, Johnny, rolling a ball and hurling a jam jar when he thought no one was looking, and then denying trickery.  The neighbour’s husband said he saw Johnny throw a tin gallon can.                                                              29 Sharrona Pearl, About Faces: Physiognomy in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), 9-10. 30 Podmore, “Report on the Worksop Disturbances,” 199. 31 Podmore, “Poltergeists,” 62. 32 Podmore, “Poltergeists,” 60-65. Person: Poltergeist Agent    45 He noted, “I am prepared to swear to these matters and think the boy should have been prosecuted.”  Podmore concluded, “There seems to be no evidence that phenomena ever occurred beyond the reach or the power of Johnny, and whatever agency produced the phenomena used very human means.”33  Deceit was commonly observed and reported by the investigators of these eleven cases, and for Podmore, that was the strongest explanation for the so-called poltergeist. Podmore diagnosed focus persons with defective character traits, medical problems, and mental health issues.  His claims operated in a context where clinical narratives were transmitted into popular culture through the press, literature, photography, and art.34  Often, he simply emphasized how children were observed being naughty – something to which investigators and readers alike could probably relate.  His descriptions of focus persons in these cases straddled ontological divides of psychiatry, religion, superstition, and the nature of childhood versus adulthood.  In Arundel (1884), a “bewitched” 13-year-old girl was viewed as being hysterical, and the SPR investigator, Lt.-Col. G.L. Le M. Taylor of the Royal Military College, thought it “mostly likely that the affair was begun in fun, continued in fraud, and closed in fright.”35  In Bramford (1887), a ten-year-old boy confessed to having moved objects, and Podmore speculated about how he and his sister had successfully fooled their family.  Again, hysteria was mentioned; the sister “suffered from transient attacks of blindness.”36  In another case, a 12-year-old girl was described as “very tall and pale, and has                                                             33 Podmore, “Poltergeists,” 77-81. 34 For more on clinical knowledge being represented in European popular culture, see Rae Beth Gordon, Why the French Love Jerry Lewis: From Cabaret to Early Cinema (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001); Janet Beizer, Ventriloquized Bodies: Narratives of Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century France (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994); Sander L. Gilman, “The Image of the Hysteric” in Hysteria Beyond Freud, ed. Sander L. Gilman, Helen King, Roy Porter, G. S. Rousseau, and Elaine Showalter (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 345-452; and Showalter, The Female Malady, Hystories, and “Hysteria, Feminism, and Gender.” 35 Podmore, “Poltergeists,” 67-72. 36 Podmore, “Poltergeists,” 73-77. Person: Poltergeist Agent    46 apparently outgrown her strength; and is compelled, under medical advice, to lie down on her bed for an hour or two every afternoon.”37  An 1894 case was the only one that involved a family that Podmore considered to be “of superior education and social position.”  He judged their 15-year-old son to be “so nervous and delicate that he slept in [his mother’s room] at night,” prone to somnambulism, and falling into “a semi-conscious state.”  For Podmore, these behaviours were sufficient evidence that the boy was deceiving his mother, who herself was “gullible in relation to spirit communications.”38  These focus persons were generally characterized as medically unwell outsiders.  In Podmore’s analysis of a case at Ham near Hungerford, Berkshire (1895), witnesses described the experiencers’ daughter Polly as “eccentric and deformed.”39  The investigating SPR member Mr. Westlake wrote:  Polly, a little dwarfed black-haired girl, turning 12, sits in the chimney corner and nurses the cats Topsy and Titit – she is the centre of force – then (in the absence of strangers) the coals fly about and all moveable objects are thrown down ad libitum, and ad nauseam according to their account.40  Polly had only recently learned to walk.  She was described as having “eyes, very sharp, and watches one like a cat a mouse.”  Westlake reported, “I had a clear view of her hands in contact with the objects and saw them quickly moved.”  Yet Polly always denied deception.  “The child seems to combine with a defective intelligence a considerable amount of cunning, while the garrulity and exaggerated statements of the mother deprive her testimony of any value,” Westlake concluded.41  In comparing these cases, Podmore argued that there was nothing paranormal to be found; they all involved abnormal behaviour.                                                             37 Podmore, “Poltergeists,” 103. 38 Podmore, “Poltergeists,” 101-103. 39 Podmore, “Poltergeists,” 96. 40 Podmore, “Poltergeists,” 99. 41 Podmore, “Poltergeists,” 101. Person: Poltergeist Agent    47 Given his diagnoses, Podmore positioned medical doctors as crucial authorities to observe poltergeist cases.  They were viewed as “unaffected by any feeling of excitement or fear” in contrast to emotionally charged family members.42  In Podmore’s view, focus persons’ “mental and physical abnormality,” “desire to cause a sensation,” and “excessive love of notoriety” exploited the naiveté of family members who believed something paranormal was happening.  He set focus persons apart from people who were “apparently free from morbid influences.”43  In his assessment, Podmore characterized emotionality as unreliable in contrast to the dispassionate objectivity of medical authorities.  Doctors had the power to make an official medical diagnosis that weighed significantly in Podmore’s conclusions about poltergeist focus persons.44  In one case (Arundel, 1884), the doctor tied the focus person’s hands and heard no further strange noises; he was satisfied that the girl had made the noises and simply left and “had nothing more to do with the affair.”45  Even when a doctor declared a focus person to be “quite normal” (as in Wem, 1883), the psychical researcher could circumvent the diagnosis based on their own observation and interviews with witnesses to assess the same person as “unusual.”46  Much as the Victorian public had taken on interpreting faces to judge the dispositions of strangers through physiognomy, psychiatric and medical diagnoses of normal and abnormal mental states were taken on by people without psychiatric training.47  In Podmore’s comparative analysis of poltergeist cases, he employed such “psychiatric” judgements to reinforce his psychical research methodology and expose fraud in allegedly paranormal cases.  If the persons who                                                             42 Podmore, “Poltergeists,” 73. 43 Podmore, “Poltergeists,” 113-14. 44 Podmore, “Poltergeists,” 95. 45 Podmore, “Poltergeists,” 67. 46 Podmore, “Poltergeists,” 66-67. 47 See Sharonna Pearl, About Faces, on the popularity of physiognomy, a popular practice that the public viewed as being scientific, but that faded with the rise of other disciplines to explore the human personality, such as psychoanalysis. Person: Poltergeist Agent    48 appeared to be at the centre of the physical manifestations had abnormal characteristics, and especially if they were caught throwing an object or suspected of making a noise, then to Podmore the whole case constituted fraud.  The Response from Psychical Research Colleagues Podmore’s 1896 comparative study and his conclusion that the alleged poltergeist was all an act of deception alarmed many members of the Society for Psychical Research who saw potential for the poltergeist to reveal more about human nature and the natural world.  SPR members were not prepared to explain a long-standing mystery so simply.48  SPR members thought trickery was unlikely, even impossible, in many poltergeist cases given the common observations of objects flying through the air in inexplicable ways, at slow speeds, bending around corners, appearing from solid surfaces, and occurring in places where no people were present.  The level of skill required to produce such manifestations was beyond the conjuring capabilities of ordinary people and would, they argued, require great practice and skill.49  Writer, literary critic, and anthropologist Andrew Lang – himself the author of a highly-regarded 1894 critical analysis of the 1762 Cock Lane poltergeist, Cock Lane and Common Sense – wrote that Podmore’s analysis was “not verifiable.”50  Lang was concerned that Podmore’s conclusion of trickery would spawn collective doubt about poltergeist cases that were still well worth studying.  The trickery supposition, according to Lang, was as bad                                                             48 When Podmore presented his paper to the SPR on 24 April 1896, one member argued that trickery surely could not account for all poltergeist phenomena, but Prof. Sidgwick and Mr. Westlake both corroborated Podmore’s findings of trickery.  See the overview of Podmore’s presentation under “General Meeting,” JSPR 7 (May 1896), 246-248.  Over the following two years, SPR members lashed out at Podmore’s findings. 49 See, for example, Letter from Lt. Col. G.L. Le M. Taylor, dated July 2nd, 1896, in “Correspondence: Mr. Podmore’s ‘Poltergeists,’” JSPR 7 (Oct. 1896), 306-308; Andrew Lang, review of Studies in Psychical Research by Frank Podmore, M.A. (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, & Co.; New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1897), in PSPR 13 (1897-1898), 608; and Michael Petrovo-Solovovo, dated December 19th, 1897, “Correspondence: Mr. Podmore and the ‘Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism,’” JSPR 8, (Feb. 1898), 181. 50 Lang, review of Podmore’s Studies in Psychical Research, 604. Person: Poltergeist Agent    49 as assuming that spirits were at work, for neither was verifiable.51  “Mr. Podmore seems to me to be sacrificing to common sense, which wants an explanation, and a normal explanation, and does not care whether it is verifiable, or even plausible or not,” he wrote.52  Where hypotheses could not be verified, researchers’ attitudes should be agnostic, Lang argued, later adding, better to have “no theory of these things” than a faulty one.53  Lang, having studied the poltergeist himself, was certain that there was something more complex than deception at work in these cases.  His training in the humanities convinced him that a single explanation would not effectively account for all that was happening.  His work on the Cock Lane poltergeist had shown that such cases were well-suited to study by folklorists.  By comprehending the ontologies of “folk” logic, one could better understand the cultural circumstances through which the poltergeist was experienced – and therefore how specific interpretations came about.  Lang sought to have folklorists, anthropologists, and psychical researchers collaborate to more effectively study such phenomena and how people tried to make sense of them.54  He could not leave judgement of an entire phenomenon to the opinion of Podmore. Podmore, not himself a trained scientist but certainly a man who demanded clear, indisputable evidence of psychical claims, maintained his strong dismissal of the paranormality of the poltergeist.  He reacted by critiquing the interpretative flexibility of Lang’s literature and folklore disciplines in which “each inquirer is free to select whatever facts best fit his views, and still leave enough for those who come after to confute him                                                             51 Lang, review of Podmore’s Studies in Psychical Research, 604-607. 52 Lang, review of Podmore’s Studies in Psychical Research, 605. 53 Andrew Lang, Correspondence, “Mr. Podmore, Poltergeists, and Kindred Spirits,” JSPR 9 (Feb. 1899), 31-32. 54 See Andrew Lang, Cock Lane and Common-Sense (New York/London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1894). Person: Poltergeist Agent    50 withal.  But no doubt there are rules of the game to be observed.”55  Podmore did not feel that the humanities were an appropriate field in which to assess paranormal claims.  For him, psychical research required scientific thinking, falsification, and dismissal of cases with questionable evidence.  He argued that “it must be demonstrative, that is, the things attested must be of such a kind that no other interpretation is possible.”56  Given the evidence from his comparison of the eleven poltergeist cases, he wrote, “For myself, I am grieved to think that the Poltergeist should go.  He was a more picturesque figure than the naughty little girl who takes his place.  There are too many naughty little girls on this planet already.”57  In other words, Podmore accused Lang of trying to preserve a mythical poltergeist and an enchanted world in a context where Victorian society, long driven by codes of religious morality, was being transformed by science and secularization.58 Most members of the SPR rejected Podmore’s rationalist and materialist scepticism.  They called for “a more plausible line of criticism” from Podmore.59  The naturalist and evolutionary biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, for example, found Podmore’s evidence for trickery “utterly inadequate and unscientific” and “unworthy of a place in the Proceedings of the Society.”60  He argued that Podmore omitted  the best evidence in the matters he discusses, giving prominence to every possible supposition of imposture on the part of the agents and of incompetence on the part of the observers, and then stating his adverse conclusions with a confidence and authority which should only be displayed                                                             55 Frank Podmore, review of The Making of Religion by Andrew Lang, M.A., LL.D. (London, New York & Bombay: Longmans, Green and Co.; 1898), PSPR 14, Part XXXIV (1898-99), 129. 56 Podmore, review of Lang’s The Making of Religion, 133. 57 Podmore, review of Lang’s The Making of Religion, 134. 58 See Michael Saler, “Modernity and Enchantment: A Historiographic Review,” American Historical Review 111, no. 3 (June 2006), 692-716. 59 Everard Feilding, “Correspondence: Mr. Grottendieck’s Poltergeist,” JSPR 12 (June 1906), 279-281. 60 Alfred Russel Wallace, “Correspondence: Mr. Podmore on Clairvoyance and Poltergeists,” JSPR 9 (Feb. 1899), 30. Person: Poltergeist Agent    51 after a full presentation and unprejudiced discussion of the whole evidence available.61  To advance knowledge of human nature, psychical researchers ideally considered all available evidence agnostically.  Studying humans required working directly with human subjects, and Podmore’s colleagues saw him as someone who threatened collaborative possibilities with experiencers, the very people who could directly attest to psychical phenomena, by portraying them as unreliable.  Podmore remained firm, reiterating that the most likely explanation was that people themselves had caused all of the manifestations, by “exertion of… proper muscular powers, without assistance from disembodied spirits, or even from pseudopodia, odylic force, astral emanations, or other supernormal supplement.”  They were made by a “human boy or girl” as “the sole agent in all such disturbances,” while credulous observers interpreted them as hauntings.  We have, speaking broadly, no evidence (and by ‘no evidence’ I mean no good evidence: and by ‘good evidence’ I mean evidence from competent witnesses, at first-hand, and written down within a few hours of the events) for anything having been done which could not have been done by a girl or boy of slightly more than the average naughtiness.62  The tone of Podmore’s writing suggested steadfast scepticism that served a mischievous purpose.  He wanted more thorough investigations of phenomena such as the poltergeist that took into account the fallibility of witness testimony, the importance of acquiring evidence as close in time to the actual events as possible, and attention on the person who appeared to be at the centre of events.  His doubting language persistently and playfully                                                             61 Wallace, “Correspondence: Mr. Podmore on Clairvoyance and Poltergeists,” 22. 62 Frank Podmore, “Correspondence: On Poltergeists,” JSPR 9 (June 1899), 91-94. Person: Poltergeist Agent    52 infuriated his colleagues.  Ultimately though, Podmore’s scepticism brought forth renewed and improved investigative methodologies, which seemed to be what he ultimately sought.  Barrett’s “Human Radiant Centre” To many members of the SPR, the poltergeist remained a promising phenomenon to study in order to better comprehend human nature and the natural world.  In 1911, a year after Podmore’s death, founding SPR member Sir William F. Barrett responded to Podmore’s critiques in the article “Poltergeists, Old and New.”  Barrett (1844-1925) was a Royal Society fellow, a professor of physics at the Royal College of Science in Dublin, and a proponent of survival after death.63  In the article, Barrett evaluated a new set of contemporary cases and assessed whether or not trickery was evident.  He found that, overall, the events were inexplicable, and furthermore, these types of physical events had been common across historical reports made around the world.  Barrett agreed with Podmore that psychical researchers must attempt to respond more quickly to poltergeist cases, ideally while they are active.  They should transcribe detailed primary testimonials as soon after the events as possible and try and observe the manifestations for themselves.  Careful documentation, including drawing floorplans of the home in which events occurred, could help determine typical patterns.  If possible, investigators should investigate the cases on a longer, ongoing basis.  Most importantly, they should pay closer attention to the person who appeared to be at the centre of the physical manifestations.64 Barrett viewed the focus person as the “human radiant centre,” “the determining factor,” and the “nucleus” of the event.  From his perspective as a physicist in times during                                                             63 For more on Barrett, see Richard Noakes, “The ‘Bridge which is between Physical and Psychical Research’: William Fletcher Barrett, Sensitive Flames, and Spiritualism,” History of Science 42, no. 4 (Dec. 2004), 419-464. 64 Barrett, “Poltergeists, Old and New,” 378-80. Person: Poltergeist Agent    53 which scientists focused on the possibilities of evolutionary theory, he argued that “evolution in animate and inanimate nature is unlikely to be confined to the visible universe.”65  As with the evolutionary change which progressed invisibly to the human senses across millennia, there were myriad unseen processes at work.  Focus persons in poltergeist cases provided a clue to what those forces could be.  Barrett likened psychical research to meteorology, through which “long-continued patient observation and classification will ultimately reveal the complex and orderly physical causes at work in our fitful weather.”66  But in order to decipher these things, there needed to be something more than just comparative observation.  Psychical research involved exploring outside of the “definite intelligible laws” recognized by scientists.  Barrett argued in favour of a more creative approach.  To him, the “scientific use of the imagination is necessary” in studying “bizarre psychical phenomena.”  Barrett went no further than exercising his imagination through an analogy.  “We ourselves and the whole world may be but nucleated cells in a vaster living organism, of which we can form no conception.  Some incomprehensible intelligence is certainly at work in the congeries of cells and in the galaxy of suns and stars.”67  In Barrett’s view, there was something greater to discover through the study of preternatural events that spoke to interactions of human consciousness with some “mischievous or rudimentary intelligences of the unseen,” whatever they may be.  People were ignorant as to the cause of the physical manifestations, but it was apparent that the focus person was the essential ingredient in poltergeist events.  “At present our obvious                                                             65 Barrett, 411-412. 66 Barrett, 411. 67 Barrett, 411. Person: Poltergeist Agent    54 duty is to collect, scrutinize, and classify these phenomena,” he concluded, “leaving their explanation aside until our knowledge is larger.”68 Without Podmore’s super-scepticism, would Barrett have had a response to give?  Barrett’s response redefined how psychical researchers investigated the poltergeist in the twentieth century.  He encouraged investigators to take all evidence into account and to collect testimonials in a timely fashion.  The focus person was the “nucleus,” the “determining factor” of the events, and therefore was as important an object of study as the physical manifestations themselves.  The renewed study of the poltergeist thereafter involved studying both the physical events and the person who appeared to be at the centre of them.  The psychokinesis hypothesis was born from a combination of doubtful scepticism and imaginative ways of thinking.  Through those approaches, the concept would develop into a major way of thinking about the poltergeist phenomenon – one that became well known in popular culture through two men who relished the weird: Charles Fort and Harry Price.  Charles Fort and the “Poltergeist Girls” The American writer Charles Fort (1874-1932) argued that focus persons tended to be socially and scientifically marginalized.  If focus persons had psychokinetic abilities, he speculated they were likely to be exploited by dominant authorities.  From the 1910s to the 1930s, Fort studied anomalous phenomena using quick wit and social satire.  While his rhetoric tended not to reach the scientists who did psychical research, he did influence science-fiction writers who, through their pulp magazine stories, novels, and movies, widely                                                             68 Barrett, 412. Person: Poltergeist Agent    55 popularized the psychokinesis hypothesis.  By the 1950s, the public was more likely to understand the psychokinetic possibilities of the poltergeist through watching a 1956 movie like Forbidden Planet (about a scientist who loses control of his Freudian Id which was embodied as a destructive, poltergeist-like monster) as they were reading about the psychokinesis hypothesis in, as I describe in the next chapter, Hereward Carrington and Nandor Fodor’s 1951 book Haunted People. As the historian of religions Jeffrey J. Kripal notes, Charles Fort’s cosmology worked mischievously between the ontological realms of science and mysticism.69  He proposed that the poltergeist was likely a psychokinetic force that could possibly bring forth both wonders and dangers if it became a realized human ability.  His treatises on “wild talents” like psychokinesis (PK) challenged optimistic modern narratives about the evolutionary progress of science and humanity.  Through his pragmatic pessimism, Fort pointed to the ways that humans developed destructive war machines, evident in the mass annihilations brought forth in the mechanized First World War.  PK, Fort feared, could become weaponized in ways that might level mountains and cities.  He wrote this a decade ahead of the Second World War and the super-destructive atomic bombs that ended it, several years ahead of the Duke University experiments from which J.B. Rhine argued that PK was a real ability, and forty years ahead of actual Cold War military studies of how PK might be weaponized.70                                                              69 Jeffrey J. Kripal, Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2010), 123.  I approach Fort’s conceptualization of the psychokinesis hypothesis within a cosmology which included otherwise excluded phenomena.  I am inspired by how the microhistorian Carlo Ginzburg examined the lifeworlds of the sixteenth-century Friulano miller Menocchio (The Cheese and the Worms, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980) and male witches from the same region and time period called the benandanti (The Night Battles, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983), both of whom faced inquisitional hearings on charges of religious heresy.  Similar to the cases in Ginzburg’s studies, Fort’s counterculture cosmos revealed discontents about authorities, in Fort’s case, mainstream science and religion in the 1910s through the 1930s. 70 See Chapter 3 on the Duke experiments.  On Cold War military studies on PK, see W. Adam Mandelbaum, The Psychic Battlefield: A History of the Military-Occult Complex (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000).  On Person: Poltergeist Agent    56 Fort’s words reflected countercultural concerns about the direction of modernity during the post-Great War age of global imperialism.  His pessimism about dogmatic science was countered by contemporaneous optimists, such as the science-fiction writer H.G. Wells, who viewed science as helping society, ending war, and curing disease.71  The intellectual opposition critiquing science after the Second World War tended to be culturally marginal figures, such as avant-garde media-makers and occultists.72  Human nature and knowledge-making, Fort argued, sought both to innovate and to exploit.  The result of this dual nature, historically, had been cultural domination and human suffering. Using humour and exaggeration, Fort’s methodology was to disrupt his reader’s notions of reality.  In his seemingly haphazard prose, he combined strange data, harsh critiques of science and religion as the dominant forces of society, and imaginative speculation.  Fort collected reports on a broad spectrum of anomalous things that people had reported since the mid-nineteenth century, such as unknown airships (before they were called UFOs); stones, fish, and frogs falling from the heavens; mirages of landscapes and cities appearing in the sky; the teleportation of objects and persons; people with strange abilities; and the poltergeist.  These were all fleeting, rare things with unclear causes that were often just explained away.  Fort wrote about how those anomalous things that he called “the data of the damned” were excluded from serious consideration by political, religious, and scientific                                                                                                                                                                                              twentieth-century military technologies, see Barton C. Hacker, “The Machines of War: Western Military Technology 1850-2000,” History and Technology 21, no. 3 (September 2005), 255-300. 71 Colin Bennett, Politics of the Imagination: The Life, Work and Ideas of Charles Fort, Second Printing (New York: Cosimo, 2008), 22.  For further context on Fort writing in the years during and after the First World War, see Bennett, 22-23, 49, 101, 116-117, 180. 72 On occultism and the avant-garde, see Robert Michael Brain, The Pulse of Modernism: Physiological Aesthetics in Fin-de-Siècle Europe (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2015); and Alex Owen, The Place of Enchantment: British Occultism and the Culture of the Modern (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004). Person: Poltergeist Agent    57 authorities for the sake of maintaining their epistemological domination.73  Strange anomalies were damned, but they nonetheless reportedly existed and recurred.  They were regularly documented in the press, in experiential testimonials, and through psychical research and other boundary sciences.  Fort wrote about how people who were at the centre of the poltergeist manifestations were themselves damned, marginalized, and portrayed as dangerous outsiders by the press.  Observers, press, and authorities often reduced the reported anomalous events to products of deception, hallucination, and superstition.  The ontologies of experiencers were excluded, belittled, or treated with suspicion.74  Aware of the imbalance in accounts and analyses of these cases, Fort turned his attention to how phenomena and people were being damned.  The Unassimilable Fort’s “science mysticism,” as Jeffrey Kripal calls it – not quite science, but something more than science fiction – aimed to present “damned facts” that were observed and reported but were not effectively explained – or more commonly, were explained away.75  In the course of over 1,000 pages between his four books – The Book of the Damned (1919), New Lands (1923), Lo! (1931), and Wild Talents (1932) – Fort examined things for which there were no proofs, all collected by Fort from newspapers, science journals, and books                                                             73 All of Charles Fort’s books were compiled into The Complete Books of Charles Fort (Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 1974), from which I quote Fort’s works.  Fort, The Book of the Damned, 11.  See Kripal, Authors of the Impossible, 163. 74 See Introduction for more on Greg Anderson’s treatment of the ontological turn in his essay “Retrieving the Lost Worlds of the Past: The Case for an Ontological Turn,” American Historical Review 120, no. 3 (June 2015), 787-810. 75 On “science mysticism,” see Kripal, Authors of the Impossible, 141.  The term “damned facts” is a popular variation of Fort’s “data of the damned” introduced by Kripal in Authors of the Impossible, 144, 163.  For more on Charles Fort, see Kripal’s chapter “Scattering the Seeds of a Super-Story: Charles Fort and the Fantastic Narrative of Western Occulture,” Authors of the Impossible, 92-141.  For a narrative history of Fort, see Jim Steinmeyer, Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2008). Person: Poltergeist Agent    58 over a 27-year period spent studying at the New York Public Library and British Museum.76  Applying a comparative approach, Fort wrote using humorous exaggeration to explore potential explanations for anomalous things that were excluded from dominant perspectives.  Of pebbles mysteriously flying about a New Jersey farmer’s field that were reported in newspapers in 1884, Fort wrote as though they were a remnant of the tectonic shifts that shaped the planet:  It could be that, in reading what most persons think are foolish little yarns of falling stones, we are, visionarily, in the presence of cosmic constructiveness – or that once upon a time this whole earth was built up by streams of rocks, teleported from other parts of an existence.  The crash of falling islands – the humps of piling continents – and then the cosmic humor of it all – or utmost spectacularly functioning, then declining, and surviving only as a vestige – or that the force that once heaped the peaks of the Rocky Mountains now slings pebbles at a couple of farmers, near Trenton, N.J.77  Flying pebbles potentially signified the same forces that originally made Earth.  By making such a connection, Fort justified the study of such anomalies, even if they did not fit with how people understood the physical world.  Studying anomalies would, Fort argued, help explain more about our world and human nature.  The problem was that those who governed knowledge-making – scientists, scholars, doctors, religious authorities, politicians, and the press – did not take these anomalies seriously.  Given how unusual the anomalies were, authorities usually shrugged off these accounts as if they were stories made up by people simply seeking attention, or who were delusional.  This prevalent attitude did nothing to understand mysteries that, while rare and unusual, were frequently reported through history and around the globe.  Without any serious attention given to anomalies,                                                             76 During that time, Charles Fort and his wife Anna lived on a family inheritance.  Knight, “Introduction to the Dover Edition,” The Complete Books of Charles Fort, xi. 77 Fort, Lo!, 571. Person: Poltergeist Agent    59 the New Jersey residents who witnessed how “stones continued to fall from a point overhead” “in places where there were no means for concealment of mischievous or malicious persons” were simply left baffled.  “Nothing more was found out.”78  Such was the fate of most anomalous things that were ignored, excluded, and even repressed by “Dogmatic Science.”79  Fort wanted to change that by finding the common characteristics of the anomalies and speculating in an entertaining fashion on what they could be. Fort had a knack for displacing things from commonplace explanatory frameworks, for example rejecting the idea that the pebbles were flung by spirits, devils, or deceptive individuals.  He expressed new ways of thinking about them to show that they really could be anything, even the very forces that created the planet.  Anomalous things ran against the grain of accepted knowledge.  Early on in The Book of the Damned (1919), Fort wrote that “Poltergeists do not assimilate with our own present quasi-system, which is an attempt to correlate denied or disregarded data as phenomena of extra-telluric forces, expressed in physical terms.”  Fort found the very label poltergeist to be “evil or false or discordant or absurd.”  It was a simplified term given to “the unassimilable, or that which resists attempts to organize, harmonize, systematize, or in short, to positivize – names that we give to our recognitions of the negative state” – whatever was not yet explained.  In other words, the concept of a “noisy ghost” and the various explanations of it were mere red herrings that drew people away from thinking about what was really going on when these physical events erupted.  Names like “poltergeist” became imbued with meanings employed by authorities to gain and maintain power.  Fort argued that humans govern the world around them by labelling things and people.  Without a label, the object exists in “the negative state,” as                                                             78 Fort, Lo!, 560. 79 Fort, The Book of the Damned, 3-5. Person: Poltergeist Agent    60 something that is not yet understood.  Yet Fort argued that “poltergeists may become assimilable” if they were seriously studied.  Then they’ll be as reasonable as trees.  By reasonableness I mean that which assimilates with a dominant force, or system, or major body of thought – which is, itself, of course, hypnosis and delusion – developing, however, in our acceptance, to higher and higher approximations of realness.80  In other words, even if an explanation of the poltergeist was agreed upon by dominant authorities, it did not mean that explanation was definitive.  The “higher approximation of realness” that enabled authoritative knowledge remained a product of explanatory “delusion” – it could not necessarily explicate “cosmic constructiveness” – which, Fort implied, was something perhaps beyond what humanity could ever fathom.  Marginalized Experiencers Fort’s analyses showed how the people who happened to be present in poltergeist cases were subjected to others’ suspicions, and were even marginalized by authorities.  For example, he wrote about how in a case of mysterious stone falls in the 1920s, the South African police arrested two black men based on contradictory testimony, possibly incited by bribery from a police detective.81  In another South African report, even after a suspected maid’s hands were bound by a police chief inspector, stones continued to fall mysteriously, and yet, Fort wrote, “the maid was taken to the police station and a confessional was extracted.”  So concluded the newspaper story.82  The marginalization in these cases was compounded by the disfranchisement of black South Africans by white authorities.  In South                                                             80 Fort, The Book of the Damned, 174-75. 81 Fort, Lo!, 565. 82 Fort, Lo!, 563. Person: Poltergeist Agent    61 Africa and elsewhere, offering a tidy explanation, authorities often marginalized the people who directly experienced – or even those who happened to be in proximity to – anomalous happenings such as the poltergeist in order to reinforce their dominant epistemologies. Too often, authorities forced women in particular to confess to causing the poltergeist events, as had happened during the early modern European and American witch hunts.83  Fort wrote of a case in Peoria, Illinois, in 1874, where a 13-year-old housemaid was suspected of causing manifestations – moving furniture and mysterious raps.  At one point, someone held her hands as a loud crash was heard and the piano started making noises.  Still, the maid was accused, and she ended up confessing to everything.  “There are dozens of poltergeist cases, in which the girl – oftenest a young housemaid – has confessed to all particulars,” wrote Fort.84  In Thorah Township in 1891, now part of Durham, Ontario, an adopted daughter, 14, was at the centre of spontaneous fires.  “As soon as one was extinguished, another started up,” Fort wrote.  When burning furniture was carried outside, the fire went out on its own.  By the time a Toronto Globe reporter attended to the case, “The girl had been sent back to the orphan asylum, from which she had been adopted, because the fires had been attributed to her.  With her departure, the phenomena had stopped.  The reporter described her as ‘a half-witted girl, who had walked about, setting things on fire.’”  The newspaper reporter presented evidence that the girl, although apparently “half-witted,” was well versed enough in chemistry to set everything around her on fire without being caught.85  In these two cases, Fort identified how a certain type of “outsider” girl was most commonly to blame in poltergeist cases, akin to Podmore’s                                                             83 See Brian Levack, The Witchcraft Sourcebook, Second Edition (London: Routledge, 2015) Writing Witch-Hunt Histories: Challenging the Paradigm, edited by Marko Nenonen and Raisa Maria Toivo (Leiden: Brill, 2014). 84 Fort, Wild Talents, 866; also see “Remarkable Imposture: An Agile Illinois Girl’s ‘Spiritual’ Manifestations,” New York Times, 28 February 1874, 9. 85 Fort, Wild Talents, 923-24. Person: Poltergeist Agent    62 “naughty little girl.”  In Fort’s view, the poltergeist as a physical phenomenon seemed most drawn to people who were already socially marginalized in various ways; black South Africans, women, domestic staff, and orphans all were accused of causing the manifestations.86 The events were often too much for experiencers to bear: they moved away from their homes, and in some cases fell ill or, in rare cases, died.  Fort emphasized how people were shunned and even ostracized in historic poltergeist cases.87  He included these outcast focus persons as part of the “procession of the damned,” “the excluded” – more than just “damned facts” but people who were damned by “Dogmatic Science.”  But as an aggregated mass, the procession of the damned challenged notions of a stable reality; together, they revealed “the flux between what isn’t and that which won’t be, or the state that is commonly and absurdly called ‘existence.’”88  Thinking on Dipesh Chakrabarty, Fort’s “data of the damned” clearly revealed “life-worlds subordinated by the ‘major’ narratives of the dominant institutions.”89  Revealing experiencers as being marginalized by established scientific, religious, and cultural institutions (such as the press) shows them to be a group bonded by the commonalities of what happened to them.  According to Fort, however, the damned would not stay damned.  They were unstoppable, persistently appearing, begging recognition as part of the whole of human nature and existence.90                                                             86 Such marginalization was also apparent in the Salem witch trials.  See Emerson W. Baker, Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015); and Robin DeRosa, The Making of Salem: The Witch Trials in History, Fiction and Tourism (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2009). 87 Fort, Wild Talents, 948. 88 Fort, The Book of the Damned, 3-5. 89 Dipesh Chakrabarty, “Minority Histories, Subaltern Pasts,” Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000), 101.  See the Introduction for my discussion of the ontological turn in relation to the life-worlds of the subaltern. 90 In the Internet age of the 1990s onward, experiencers have emerged as a more empowered group of people.  They remain largely damned by the establishment, but they now have the potential to collectively Person: Poltergeist Agent    63 In determining what constituted “damned facts,” Fort wrote that there were focus persons in poltergeist cases who appeared to be intrinsically connected to the physical manifestations for limited periods of time.  These were quite often young people, mostly girls.  Their relationship to the physical phenomena suggested unknown powers of mind.  He wrote,  Mostly, in poltergeist cases, I see nothing to suggest that the girls – boys sometimes – are mediums, or are operated upon by spirits; the phenomena seem to be occult powers of youngsters.91  In this statement, Fort aimed to challenge spiritualism which he saw as yet another structured belief system that sought to gain domination in the greater society.  He suggested that something beyond present scientific or religious understanding operated in these poltergeist cases.  Fort speculated:  I’d conceive of the existence of a force, and the use of it, unconsciously mostly, by human beings.  It may be that, if somebody, gifted with what we think we mean by ‘agency,’ fiercely hates somebody else, he can, out of intense visualizations, direct, by teleportation, bombardments of stones upon his enemy.92  This was the psychokinesis hypothesis as formulated by Charles Fort, derived from his readings of psychical research and his comparison of case studies.  From this starting point, he anticipated future efforts to harness the psychokinetic talents of a poltergeist focus                                                                                                                                                                                              validate their experiences in their connections in user-oriented digital media, thereby opening new ways in which to study rarer phenomena.  My collaborative essay with the speculative fiction writer Eden S. French, “The Transmediumizers,” Damned Facts: Fortean Essays on Religion, Folklore, and the Paranormal, edited by Jack Hunter (Paphos, Cyprus: Aporetic Press, 2016), 97-112, and a forthcoming chapter in a book on the supernatural and digital media further explore how experiencers are empowered through online networking. 91 Fort, Wild Talents, 925. 92 Fort, Lo!, 571-72. Person: Poltergeist Agent    64 person – something that he suggested would eventually overtake the limitations of the existing religious and scientific paradigms.  Disrupting Era-Intelligence Fort emphasized how societies tended to limit themselves according to the dominant paradigms of their time.  “There is no intelligence except era-intelligence,” Fort wrote.  “I think as I think, mostly, though not absolutely, because of the era I am living in.”  Ways of knowing changed according to the dominant way of thinking, which varied from era to era, from culture to culture, and was governed by specific authorities.  That which did not fit into the dominant way of thinking was “damned” and excluded.  As Kripal (2010) summarizes it, modern Western society had moved away from the “Old Dominant of Religion,” which Fort “associates with the epistemology of belief and the professionalism of priests.”  From there, it entered “the present Dominant of materialistic Science, which he associates with the epistemology of explanation and the professionalism of scientists.”  The present “Dominant” arrived with Charles Darwin’s publication of The Origin of Species (1859), which introduced evolutionary sciences as an entirely new way to understand the origin of and changes in life on earth.93  This sounds much like a secularization thesis where, in the modern era, religion was being superseded by science.  This view was similarly expressed by the Scottish anthropologist James George Frazer (1854-1941) in The Golden Bough, written, expanded, and abridged between 1890 and 1937.  He too saw religion “displaced by science.”  In Frazer’s view, science was not an ultimate means to an end, but another thread in the web of “higher thought” about nature.  “The dreams of magic may one day be the                                                             93 Kripal, Authors of the Impossible, 111-121; quotes by Kripal from 112-113; quotes on era-intelligence by Fort are from Lo!, 428 and 604-5, respectively quoted in Kripal, 111-112. Person: Poltergeist Agent    65 waking realities of science,” he suggested.94  Moving beyond Frazer, Fort speculated on how such “waking realities” were signalled through the persistent recurrence of “damned facts.”  Those facts challenged the limitations of knowledge in the “Dominants” of religion and science. Beyond the “Dominant” of science, Kripal writes, Fort speculated on “the New Dominant of what he called Intermediatism, which he associates with the epistemology of expression or acceptance and the professionalism of a new brand of individuating wizards and witches.”  Fort also referred to this as “the Witchcraft Era.”  If the first two “Dominants” of religion and science  excluded data to survive as stable systems, the New Dominant works from the systematic principle of Inclusionism, that is, it builds an open-ended system and preserves it through the confusing inclusion of data, theoretically all data, however bizarre and offending, toward some future awakening.95  In this awakening, “damned facts” would become freed from the exclusive absolutes set by orthodox religion (belief, faith) and materialistic science (explanation, reason).  “Intermediatism” brought forth “a more humble acceptance and a more daring expression” of metaphysical things, an inclusive, closer approximation of what constituted the whole of nature.  Fort saw that things which did not fit in to the present “Dominant” of materialistic                                                             94 Fort makes no mention of Frazer’s work in his texts, but the parallels are worth comparison.  Fort’s work was a response to proponents of the secularization theory for whom scientism was a dogma.  Frazer argued that societies moved through three stages: magic, religion, and science.  In the age of magic, magicians authoritatively practiced rites and incantations to benefit or injure individuals or whole communities.  Frazer viewed magic as a misconception of natural law.  Furthermore, one could easily imitate magic, exposing the practice as “purely imaginary.”  In realizing magic’s overall non-efficacy, Frazer wrote that those who organized religions ascribed the creation and control of nature to “great invisible beings,” gods or a God with powers superior to humans.  However, through “patient and exact observation,” science identified immutable laws through which nature operated and evolved, enabling worldly progress, but not necessarily mastering “the great forces” of “this starry universe in which our earth swims as a speck or mote.”  James George Frazer, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, Abridged Edition (New York: MacMillan Company, 1922), especially the chapters “The Magician’s Progress” and “Magic and Religion,” 45-59, and “Farewell to Nemi” which sums up his views, 711-714. 95 Kripal, Authors of the Impossible, 113. Person: Poltergeist Agent    66 science might be included through the work being done in fields like psychical research, evolutionary biology, and quantum physics.96  As Kripal and Colin Bennett (2002) argue, Fort was an early post-modern thinker, challenging socially constructed knowledge as illusory and controlling.97 Through the concept of “Intermediatism,” Fort speculated on what would happen if psychical abilities became socially and scientifically accepted.  Harnessing focus persons’ psychokinetic powers could, he argued, dramatically reshape the world.  “Poltergeist girls” in the “Intermediary Age” could become “witches, or wizards.”98  As was posited in the psychokinesis hypothesis, Fort argued that emotions were central to PK.  Rather than letting the power of emotions go to waste, one could control and concentrate them into a PK force: “Human hopes, wishes, ambitions, prayers and hates – and the futility of them – the waste of millions of trickles of vibrations, today – unorganized forces that are doing nothing.  But put them to work together, or concentrate mental ripples into torrents, and gather these torrents into Niagara Falls of emotions….”  What possibilities would emerge?  He wrote,  A table, weighing 60 pounds, rises a few feet from the floor – well, then, it’s some time, far ahead, in the Witchcraft Era – and a multi-cellular formation of poltergeist-girls is assembled in the presence of building materials.  Stone blocks and steel girders rise a mile or so into their assigned positions in the latest sky-prodder.  Maybe.  Living in New York as grand feats of engineering, skyscrapers and bridges, emerged from Manhattan, Fort joked that “I now have a theory that the Pyramids were built by poltergeist-girls.  The Chinese Wall is no longer mysterious.”  Like a fiction writer, Fort employed his imagination to speculate on how things might be (or might have been) if PK                                                             96 Kripal, Authors of the Impossible, 116-17; also see Fort, The Book of the Damned, 174-75, 212-13. 97 See Bennett, Politics of the Imagination. 98 Fort, Wild Talents, 989. Person: Poltergeist Agent    67 were realized on such a great scale.  In the wake of Fritz Lang’s 1927 epic motion picture Metropolis which pitted marginalized people against the behemoths of modern engineering and technology, Fort imagined that if one person could generate a poltergeist, then surely a group of PK agents could construct world wonders.  Fort thought that collective PK would yield the most astounding results.  …sometime in the Witchcraft Era – and every morning, promptly at nine o’clock, crowds of human wishers, dignified under the name of transmediumizers, arrive at their wishing stations, or mental power-houses, and in an organization of what are now only scattered and wasted hopes and hates concentrate upon the running of all motors of all cities.  Just as they’re all nicely organized and pretty nearly satisfied, it will be learned that motors aren’t necessary.99  In “Intermediatism,” Fort envisioned poltergeist focus persons becoming empowered as “transmediumizers,” as super-humans who could mediate between their mental intentions and the material.  Collectively, he suggested, they could remake the world. Through “transmediumizers,” the entire paradigm of how things were built and operated in the future could be changed through mind over matter.  But Fort challenged optimistic ideals that the power of the “poltergeist girls” would only be used for the greater good.  He pragmatically reflected on how religions, scientists, and rulers had collaborated to maintain their authoritative paradigm, productively and destructively.  If mind over matter could be harnessed, Fort argued that it would be utilized in warfare.  Psychokinetic talents could be converted to weapons of a scale that greatly surpassed the power of machines that existed in the interwar decades:                                                              99 Fort, Wild Talents, 1033. Person: Poltergeist Agent    68 military demonstrations of the overwhelming effects of trained hates –scientific uses of destructive bolts of a million hate-power – the blasting of enemies by disciplined ferocities –  And the reduction of cannons to the importance of fire crackers – a battleship at sea, or a toy boat in a bathtub….100  And then, Fort sarcastically countered with what an optimist might say:  But of course not that witchcraft would be practiced in warfare.  Oh, no: witchcraft would make war too terrible.  Really, the Christian thing to do would be to develop the uses of the new magic, so that in the future a war could not even be contemplated.101  But, Fort retorted, “Intermediatism” did not guarantee peaceful coexistence.  It would bring with it a whole new set of problems.  As a pragmatist, Fort knew that the age-old struggle for dominance and power would continue into the new era.  His science-fiction vision of what could happen next was equal parts comedy and horror:  Later: A squad of poltergeist girls – and they pick a fleet out of the sea, or out of the sky – if, as far back as the year 1923, something picked French aeroplanes out of the sky – arguing that some nations that renounced fleets as obsolete would go on building them just the same.102  All of this destruction could be accomplished by teenaged poltergeist girls who had become military pawns – soldiers conditioned to do battle without question.  After all, young men barely out of adolescence had been conscripted to fight the bloody battles of the First World War, and women had taken on the jobs they had vacated.  Girls at the front – and they are discussing their usual not very profound subjects.  The alarm – the enemy is advancing.  Command to the poltergeist                                                             100 Fort, Wild Talents, 1042. 101 Fort, Wild Talents, 1042. 102 Fort, Wild Talents, 1042. Person: Poltergeist Agent    69 girls to concentrate – and under their chairs they stick their wads of chewing gum.  A regiment bursts into flames, and the soldiers are torches.  Horses snort smoke from the combustion of their entrails.  Reinforcements are smashed under cliffs that are teleported from the Rocky Mountains.  The snatch of Niagara Falls – it pours upon the battlefield.  The little poltergeist girls reach for their wads of chewing gum.103  The passage showcases Fort’s penchant for provocative humour and the great scale of his imagination.  While psychical research and quantum physics heralded a new era by challenging the vehemently materialistic present “Dominant,” there would still be those vying to utilize newly discovered forces to gain and build their power.  Speculative Visions While scientists mostly ignored Fort, his speculative ideas became major themes in fiction, where the psychokinesis hypothesis had the most significant public reach.  In stories, novels, and movies after 1950, PK vengeance themes combined Fort’s speculative caution with what was happening in psi research at the time.104  In 1952, Jack Vance was the first fiction writer to write of such psychokinetic individuals in his novella “Telek,” published in                                                             103 Fort, Wild Talents, 1042. 104 Jeffrey J. Kripal’s Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics and the Paranormal (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011) stands as the primary scholarly work examining how alleged “real-life mind-over-matter experiences” inspire science-fiction through popular culture. For a general historical overview of the development and popularization of science-fiction in the twentieth century, see Brian Attebery, “The Magazine Era: 1926-1960” and Damien Broderick, “New Wave and Backwash: 1960-1980,” which focuses on Cold War-era science-fiction, in The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, edited by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 32-63. Attebery, 32, notes that in Fort’s time through the 1950s when science-fiction was becoming a genre for adult readers as well as youth, pulp magazines chiefly made science-fiction “a distinctive genre,” mainly in the United States.  Parts of famous science-fiction novels became published in SF magazines to promote the books (Attebery, 42).  In both the United States and Britain, science-fiction writers tended to mingle with Fortean and psychical researchers in public gatherings.  For the British context, see Bob Rickard, “The First Forteans 3: Round-Robins of the Damned,” Fortean Times 310 (January 2014), 50-51.  For PK and other psi abilities in motion pictures, see Paul Meehan, Cinema of the Psychic Realm: A Critical Survey (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2009).  On comic book superheroes, see Christopher Knowles, Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes (San Francisco: Red Wheel/Weiser, 2007). Person: Poltergeist Agent    70 Astounding Science Fiction.  Drawing from Fort’s suspicions that psychokinetic powers were atavistic, Vance wrote, “They’ve always been with us, all of history, latent in our midst.”105  Later in the story, a character realizes, “There’s a large literature of early experiments and observations.  The so-called spiritualist study of poltergeists and house-demons might be significant.”106  Vance’s fiction mirrored emerging ideas that the poltergeist was a sign of psychokinetic presence.  Like Fort, Vance wondered, what would happen if PK were unleashed?  He pushed Fort’s speculation further by imagining how social dysfunction would occur if PK became a realized evolutionary potential.  Emphasizing Fort’s theme that power simply shifted from one “Dominant” to another, Vance illustrated Fort’s concept of the collective power of transmediumizers remaking society and the world in an age of “Intermediatism,” and how those without such powers of mind would become powerless. The following year, James Gunn’s novella “Wherever You May Be,” published in Galaxy Science Fiction, further developed these themes.  In Gunn’s story, a psychologist passing through rural southern Missouri discovers a young woman, Abigail, with psychokinetic and clairvoyant powers.  “He had stumbled on something that would set the whole world on its ear, or perhaps stand it on its feet again,” Gunn wrote.107  The psychologist finds that psychokinetic abilities depended on Abigail’s emotional state.  He decides to manipulate her moods to collect evidence of her powers to try and explain them, feigning love for her to exploit her abilities.  But ultimately, the psychologist becomes the pawn of the “all-knowing, all-powerful” Abigail – a fate “worse than hell.”108                                                             105 Jack Vance, “Telek,” The World-Thinker and Other Stories (Oakland, Calif.: Vance Digital Edition, 2012), Kindle edition.  Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, January 1952, 46-81. 106 Vance, “Telek,” Kindle edition. 107 James Gunn, “Wherever You May Be,” Galaxy Science Fiction 4, no. 2 (May 1953), 21. 108 Gunn, “Wherever You May Be,” 48. Person: Poltergeist Agent    71 The most influential nod to Charles Fort’s warnings of the destructive potential of PK was that of the horror writer Stephen King’s Carrie (1974).  King refers to Carrie’s “wild talents” in the first pages of the book.  He reveals how, in her childhood, her home had been the focus of lithobolia, “a rain of stones [that] fell from a clear blue sky… damaging the roof extensively and ruining two gutters and a downspout” (a “News item from the [fictional] Westover (Me.) weekly Enterprise, August 19, 1966”).  The passage reads like something taken directly from Fort’s The Book of the Damned.109  The psychokinetic anti-hero Carrie – an awkward teenage girl who is continually bullied by her widowed, excessively evangelical Christian mother and her insensitive schoolmates – is introduced as a person of special scientific interest, the subject of academic papers and respected university press books.  What King was writing was more than fiction – it had a basis in real experiences reimagined with Fortean flair.  This made the horror of Carrie’s murderous psychokinetic vengeance against her classmates at the high school prom all the more effective.110  The psychokinesis hypothesis became widely known from Carrie and other similar films, novels, comic books, and video games – all stemming from the science mysticism of Charles Fort.  Most fictions did not portray an altruistic human nature in relation to PK powers, but rather such powers being used toward totalitarianism and destruction.  They accentuated Cold War fears of how megalomaniac individuals could wield powers that threatened liberal societies. Fort may be the greatest mischief maker of all in this history.  He subverted dominant epistemologies through humour and imagination.  He assessed anomalous things as a                                                             109 Stephen King, Carrie (New York: Doubleday, 1974), 3. 110 King directly referenced Fort in a number of his subsequent novels.  In Firestarter (1980), the father of a young girl who could light destructive fires with her mind had read her bedtime stories from Fort’s Lo!  In a moment of psychokinetic fury in It (1986), Fort’s books are among those occult volumes tipped over from a bookshelf.  Stephen King, Firestarter (New York: Viking Press, 1980), 88; and Stephen King, It (New York: Viking Press, 1986), 862. Person: Poltergeist Agent    72 collective mischievous force.  Fort’s attention to “damned facts” challenged both the “Dominants” of scientific materialism and religion.  To him, new sciences like parapsychology and quantum physics could move beyond the boundaries of materialism and bring about a new age, “Intermediatism,” in which psychical talents would become included, studied, and practiced as part of human nature.  Fort’s whimsy generally did not appeal to scientists who sought to demarcate science from that which mimicked it, what has, in a derogatory way, been called “pseudoscience” or “fringe science.”111  Those who opposed and tried to debunk and shame the “fringe” had a unified project of demarcating what constituted an authentic, acceptable science in which phenomena must be observable, testable, and replicable.  In Fort’s view, those were the people who actively excluded the “data of the damned” as being superstitious, hallucinatory, and delusional.112  To this day, as the historian of science Michael Gordin writes, “demarcation happens every day in the laboratories, field sites, and classrooms of the world.”113  In terms of what scientists considered valuable in scientific debates, paranormal phenomena simply did not make the cut.114  Fort’s approach was to liberate the “data of the damned” so that knowledge of human nature could expand holistically.  More than anything, Fort’s “humourist science,” as the historian of media Louis Kaplan called it, inspired speculative writers to put forth such                                                             111 Michael D. Gordin, The Pseudoscience Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2012), 1, 202-203.  Gordin, 7-13, notes several attempts to define demarcation between science and non-science.  From the Austrian philosopher Karl Popper who in the 1920s emphasized falsifiability as key to demarcating science from non-science to the philosopher Larry Laudan in the 1970s who argued that only significant epistemological differences could demarcate sciences.  Gordin argues that none of these attempts succeeded in clearly demarcating science from non-science.  Gordin, 13, writes, “Although every individual seems certain that he or she is doing an admirable job of demarcation when surveying the realms of knowledge, consensus is hard to find.” 112 See Gordin, 206-208, on how “denialist science” that defends industry, for example around issues of tobacco smoking or climate change, is a far more critical issue in terms of scientific demarcation.  For more on denialist science, see Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming (New York: Bloomsbuy Press, 2010). 113 Gordin, 209. 114 See Streiber and Kripal, Chapter 3, “Making the Cut”; Gordin, 17. Person: Poltergeist Agent    73 ideas in fiction and film that was consumed by the mass American and British public in the decades following the Second World War.115  Such fictions spoke to the appeal of such “wild talents” existing.  As we will see in the pages ahead, psychical abilities were actively being explored in the boundary sciences, which for some of those researchers, made the turn to a post-science “Intermediatism” seem imminent.  Harry Price: “Confessions of a Ghost Hunter” If Fort’s visions were best translated into public consciousness through a blurring between fiction and reality, the sensationalist British ghost hunter Harry Price (1881-1948) set out to make the supernatural natural.  As a popular frontline investigator of the paranormal, Price saw the psychokinesis hypothesis as the most promising way to unveil the mechanisms of the poltergeist.  He tried to bring the physical sciences and psychology together via psychical research.  Price asserted that the poltergeist was not a spirit of the dead, but was closely related to human psychology and that its apparatus could be discovered through a combination of field investigations and laboratory experimentation.  Through his investigations, Price began to apply the psychokinesis hypothesis in ways that were widely publicized, especially through his popular book Poltergeist Over England (1945), published by the British weekly magazine Country Life.  Price’s 1948 obituary in the London Times portrayed him as someone who since his youth “was moved to curiosity and wonder about various happenings and appearances that were unaccountable from the premises of natural science, and as a practical not less than an imaginative man he followed the line of                                                             115 Louis Kaplan, The Damned Universe of Charles Fort (Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 1993), 9-10. Person: Poltergeist Agent    74 those investigations that were more or less susceptible of physical proof.”116  Few paranormal claims impressed Price as much as phenomena such as hauntings, poltergeists, and psychokinesis – all areas through which he believed those physical proofs could potentially be discovered. After a series of notable experiments with the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in which Price sought to expose mediumistic fraud, he formed his own National Laboratory of Psychical Research in 1926.  The lab was the first of its kind in Britain to conduct controlled experiments.  Among his inventions was a “telekinetoscope” in which a test subject would attempt to psychokinetically “depress an electrical contact inside a soap bubble” without bursting it.117  He designed strict controls for testing mediumistic claims, which earned him a reputation as an “incorrigible sceptic” among spiritualists.118  From these experiments, Price proclaimed that he had debunked various claims: the faked photographic plates of the “spirit” photographer William Hope; the German medium Rudi Schneider escaping from physical constraints during a 1932 séance; and Helen Duncan’s spirit ectoplasm (which he showed was regurgitated cheesecloth).119  Despite his scepticism, many psychical researchers thought that Price himself was committing trickery in various experiments and investigations.  Most famously, in 1937-38, he rented what was popularly known as “the most haunted house in England,” Borley Rectory in Essex, where he employed a team of                                                             116 “Mr. Harry Price: Psychical Research,” Obituaries, The Times (London, England) 51032, 30 March 1948, 6. 117 For more on Price, see Elizabeth R. Valentine, “Spooks and spoofs: relations between psychical research and academic psychology in Britain in the inter-war period,” History of the Human Sciences 25, no. 2 (2012), 67-90.  Also see John L. Randall, “Price, Harry (1881–1948),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), accessed 1 July 2016, 118 “Mr Harry Price,” Obituaries, The Times, 30 March 1948. 119 Thirteen years later, in 1944, Duncan was the last person to be imprisoned under the Witchcraft Act of 1735, convicted for fraudulent mediumship.  Her imprisonment led to the act being repealed.  See Nina Shandler, The Strange Case of Hellish Nell: The Story of Helen Duncan and the Witch Trial of World War II (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2006).  On Schneider, see Anita Gregory, The Strange Case of Rudi Schneider (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1985). Person: Poltergeist Agent    75 observers to conduct day and night surveillance for one year.  After Price’s death, the evidence he had presented in favour of the haunting was discounted as fraudulent or as having a natural explanation by SPR members Eric Dingwall, Kathleen Goldney, and Trevor Hall.  The authenticity of the haunting of Borley, which burned to the ground in 1939, remains contested to this day.120  In these cases, there was a fine line between considering something authentic, misinterpreted, or as the result of outright trickery.  Price sought to critically examine paranormal claims, but in making his own claims about authentic paranormal activity, he was not immune to the criticisms of others. Partly as a result of his interest in physical phenomena, Price was among the most important poltergeist researchers in the first half of the twentieth century.  His ideas were firmly rooted in decades of personal experience investigating cases involving poltergeist and psychokinetic phenomena.  The poltergeist, he argued, was not a spirit of the dead as was popularly thought but “a fact in Nature” – in other words preternatural.  He came to this conclusion after comparing case studies from around the world and throughout history in which he noted the cross-cultural stability of the physical events.  “It is not the man who believes in Poltergeists who is credulous: it is the man who doesn’t,” he wrote.  Poltergeists, like violent storms, rainbows, and earth tremors, were spontaneous things recorded across time and space, once considered supernatural, but now there were natural explanations to                                                             120 See Eric Dingwall, Kathleen M. Goldney, and Trevor Hall, The Haunting of Borley Rectory: A Critical Survey of the Evidence (London: Society for Psychical Research, 1956), further critiqued in Eric Dingwall and Trevor Hall’s Four Modern Ghosts (London: Duckworth, 1958) – both of which cast serious doubt on the genuineness of Price’s claims of the rectory being haunted.  Borley Rectory (built 1862) was the site of one of the most debated investigations into alleged hauntings, which is often referred to as a poltergeist (see, for example, the letter from Letitia Fairfield, “Strange Happenings at the Rectory,” London Times, 3 May 1939).  Price summarized his investigation in Ten Years Investigation of Borley Rectory (London: Longsmans, Green, 1940), later reprinted by Time-Life Books in 1990 as The Most Haunted House in England, which likely inspired the title for the popular “reality” ghost hunting television series, Most Haunted.  In 1939, the rectory burned down, and was demolished in 1944, after which Price published The End of Borley Rectory (London/Toronto: G.G. Harrap & Co., 1946).  Many other books on Borley have since followed. Person: Poltergeist Agent    76 be found.  However, Price, like other researchers, could not explain the “mechanism” of the poltergeist.  To figure it out, he corresponded with academics, scientists, and paranormal enthusiasts who worked in different disciplines.  Their combined expertise was rudimentarily assembled in Price’s Poltergeists Over England as a way to present the possibility that cross-disciplinary analysis could unearth a solution.121 Inspired by emerging thinking on the psychokinesis hypothesis at the time, Price favoured a psychological or mind-oriented relationship between a focus person and the phenomenon.  If the mechanisms were beyond the known laws of physics, the psychological commonalities of focus persons in these cases seemed to provide significant clues to the operation of the poltergeist.  Price wrote,  Poltergeists are able, by laws as yet unknown to our physicists, to extract energy from living persons, often from the young, and usually from girl adolescents, especially if they suffer from some mental disorder.  They are able, by some means, and by using these young people as a fulcrum, lever, or support, to increase and nourish this energy, and to direct intelligently this stolen power.  They are able to use this power telekinetically for the violent propulsion or displacement of objects, for purposes of destruction, and especially for the production of every variety of noise – from the ‘swish’ of a silk skirt to an ‘explosion’ that makes the windows rattle.  And they can do many other strange things....122  Like Podmore, Fort, and the leading proponents of the psychokinesis hypothesis at the time – the American psychical researcher Hereward Carrington and the psychoanalyst Nandor Fodor, examined in the next chapter – Price argued that psychological problems were common among poltergeist focus persons.  But his perspective deviated significantly from his colleagues’.  Price portrayed the poltergeist itself as an external agent that was probably using the passive focus person’s energy to manifest.  His thesis emerged between two poles.                                                              121 Price, Poltergeist, 370-71. 122 Price, Poltergeist, 6. Person: Poltergeist Agent    77 At one end was a spiritualist view that the energy of individual mediums was used by spirits of the dead to manifest.  On the other was a psychological perspective increasingly common among psychical researchers that the mediums’ powers of mind somehow generated the forces necessary to affect their physical environments.  While sceptical of mediums’ claims, as a “ghost hunter,” Price generally favoured the idea that external, invisible entities operated in the physical world – not necessarily spirits of the dead but conscious forms, perhaps even lifeforms of some sort.  Poltergeists themselves were beings with agency. Price’s conscious forms were closely related to theosophical concepts of “thought-forms,” something conscious that occupied a conceptual space between a thought and a spirit.  In their 1905 book Thought-Forms, the British theosophists Annie Besant (1847-1933) and C.W. Leadbeater (1854-1934) defined thought-forms as an elemental essence, “that strange half-intelligent life which surrounds us in all directions, vivifying the matter of the mental and astral planes” – realms separate from terrestrial existence.123  In 1944, the American lecturer in etymology and semantics and theosophical teacher Helen Savage (1899-1993) described the poltergeist as a thought-form: “elementals – inhabitants of the astral light – that collected the thoughts and images in the minds of those present.”  In that sense, people might be thinking of someone who they loved who had died; imagining the deceased person to be haunting them, those people’s thought-forms created poltergeist manifestations.  According to Savage, the medium around whom the poltergeist centred was unaware of “who is acting as the ‘contact point’ with the astral world.  Such a person’s constitution acts as an electric wire, so to speak, conducting astral forces onto the physical plane.”  The movement of objects could be caused by “astral limbs, extruded in a sort of dream fashion, which lift books from a table, knock down pieces of china, and so on.”  She                                                             123 Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater, Thought-Forms (London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1905), 25. Person: Poltergeist Agent    78 thought most poltergeist manifestations were caused by “frolicsome nature spirits” that were “attracted to psychically sensitive people.”  Therefore, the passive medium was drawing “nature forces,” but not consciously.124  Even though the thought-form had agency as an external elemental force, it closely related to the concept of “human radiance” and the unconscious mind that potentially generated psychokinetic energy.  While Price had no apparent affiliation with theosophy, his concept was very similar to how they conceptualized thought-forms.125 Despite his disavowals of spiritualism, Price maintained that the poltergeist had some connection to physical mediumship that took place in séance circles in which objects moved or appeared as if out of thin air.  He wrote, “the spontaneous paranormal displacements of objects at séances given by physical mediums are known as telekinetic phenomena – though Poltergeists produce the same effects.”126  As an investigator of physical mediumship, Price was comfortable making the séance circle an experimental site to test the poltergeist focus person.  Among Price’s most famed experimental subjects was the 12-year-old Romanian “Poltergeist Girl” Eleonore Zugun.  She was literally rescued from persecuting neighbours who thought she was a witch in league with the devil.  If Price were to discover evidence of psychokinesis in relation to the poltergeist, he needed to isolate the phenomenon under controlled conditions.  Zugun provided such an opportunity for Price. Eleonore’s case began when she was staying with her grandparents in a Romanian village in the mid-1920s.  She had many missiles – mainly stones – fall at her feet.  Price wrote, “The simple peasants thought that the girl was ‘bewitched’, or possessed by the Devil,” or Drăcu, as the locals called him.  With manifestations continuing, she stayed with                                                             124 Helen Savage, Psychic Powers (Covina, Calif.: Theosophical University Press, 1944), 58-61. 125 Further consideration of thought as a form that affects the physical world is given in Chapter 3. 126 Price, Poltergeist, 247. Person: Poltergeist Agent    79 her parents’ neighbour, where they “threatened to put her in an asylum.”  Price wrote about how priests conducted masses and exorcisms, and how university researchers conducted experiments.  “But the phenomena still occurred.”  Price wrote:  Certain papers declared that the whole thing was a swindle; others were convinced that Eleonore was mad; while those newspapers which had investigated for themselves, said the phenomena was genuine.  However, the girl was declared insane, and was incarcerated in the local asylum – where she was confined, alone, in a dark room – treatment comparable with the witchcraft persecutions of the seventeenth century.127  Romanian priests had failed to quell the diabolism.  The local press and psychiatric doctors became the authorities that determined Eleonore’s fate. When the case made it into the German-language press, psychical researcher Fritz Grunewald investigated and convinced Eleonore’s father to remove her from the asylum.  After three weeks observing Eleonore at a convent, Grunewald returned to Berlin to compile his findings – and died.  Eleonore was once again at the mercy of villagers.  The Countess Wassilko-Serecki, a Romanian residing in Vienna, rescued and adopted Eleonore to advance psychical research into her case.  She invited Price to investigate in April 1926.128  In September, Price moved Eleonore to London.  He wrote, “Eleonore looked even more robust than when I saw her in the previous spring; and, although she was now turned thirteen years of age, there was no sign of the menses.”129 Puberty was central to Price’s idea of the relationship between living people and the poltergeist.  Again and again in his research through the 1930s and 1940s, he would encounter youths – both girls and boys – at the brink of puberty or just having entered                                                             127 Price, Poltergeist, 257. 128 A full account was published by Price in his Leaves from a Psychist’s Case-Book (London, V. Gollancz, 1933). 129 Price, Poltergeist, 260. Person: Poltergeist Agent    80 puberty.  Price argued that while young girls were so often at the centre of these cases, they were usually not consciously being deceptive: “one can always tell where the genuine phenomena end and the spurious begin.”130  He reiterated, “Though we know there is this connection” to puberty and sex, “we cannot explain it.”131  Price also wrote about the famed 1878 poltergeist case involving Esther Cox of Amherst, Nova Scotia. Manifestations started just after her boyfriend attempted to rape her in the woods; she resisted and he fled.  Walter Hubbell, who wrote a book based on the case, The Great Amherst Mystery (first printed in 1879), noted that manifestations seemed to occur in a 28-day cycle, like menstruation.132  Price was “convinced there must be something, either psychological or physiological, in a young girl’s organism, that turns her into a girl-witch or Poltergeist-attractor.”133  Price widely popularized this line of thinking that a pubescent girl was typically a poltergeist agent – a concept that he borrowed from its originator Hereward Carrington (1921).  This idea was further cemented in popular consciousness through Stephen King’s 1974 novel and Brian de Palma’s 1976 film adaptation: the character Carrie’s psychokinetic fury took hold after her first menstruation humiliatingly occurred in the girls’ shower at school.  As will be detailed in the next chapter, growing scientific interest in adolescent sexuality was significant to these types of connections being made by Price and others.134                                                             130 Price, Poltergeist, 371-72. 131 Price, Poltergeist, 371. 132 Price, Poltergeist, 376-377; also see Walter Hubbell, The Great Amherst Mystery: A True Narrative of the Supernatural (New York/Chicago: Brentano’s, 1888).  This claim was actually unheard of in poltergeist cases which typically continued steadily for weeks or months rather than recur on a monthly basis. 133 Price, Poltergeist, 373. 134 Hereward Carrington wrote that there was a connection between female adolescent sexuality and the poltergeist in a paper presented to the first-ever gathering of international psychical researchers in Copenhagen in 1921, which he reprinted verbatim in several articles and books into the 1950s (see Chapter 2).  Price also reprinted this paragraph by Carrington in Poltergeist Over England. Person: Poltergeist Agent    81 Most fascinating to Price in the Zugun case was how painful markings would spontaneously form on her body.  The markings seemed to suggest a relationship between the psychosomatic physical manifestations of hysteria and the psychological roots of the poltergeist.135  Spontaneous and painful “weals, teethmarks and scarifyings” appeared on Eleonore’s skin that she blamed on Drăcu.  Price likened the marks to stigmata.  He found that when the Countess hypnotised Eleonore, she could suggest that the marks occur, and they would quickly appear and then disappear.  Mr. G.E. Brown, identified simply as a scientist, wrote to Price that “there is a hysteria at the base: not advanced or pathological hysteria, but a decided thinning of the crust or division between the thinking mind and the underlying dreaming mind.”136  Price noted such effects in the case of the Belgian stigmatic Louise Lateau and in the cases examined by the French psychologist Pierre Janet.137  Price made further note of physiological effects, such as an increased pulse rate, that would accompany manifestations.138  Eleonore’s case presented a variety of exceptional evidence to fuel Price’s ideas that a whole range of factors were at play in poltergeist and psychokinetic phenomena.  The strange physical manifestations that occurred around Eleonore created significant tensions with her family, neighbours, and a chain of local authorities such as priests, press, and psychiatrists.  They each had their own idea on how to                                                             135 These had been reported in early modern witch trails that involved poltergeist-like phenomena as well as in hysteria studies conducted by fin-de-siècle psychiatrists.  Such dermatological phenomena would appear again in a Maryland poltergeist case in 1949 in which words would form on the young boy’s body during exorcism rites, a case that inspired William Peter Blatty to write a similar scene into The Exorcist.  There is a physiological condition, dermatographia, in which people can draw on their skin – similar to the conditions reported in the Zugun and Maryland cases, and worth further consideration in relation to studies of psychosomatic medicine.  See, for example, Tracie Hunte, “Artist: ‘I Use My Skin as a Canvas,’” ABC News, 14 March 2008, accessed 1 July 2016 at  For more on this condition in studies of hysteria, see Janet Beizer, Ventriloquized Bodies: Narratives of Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century France (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994), 21-25. 136 This concept is further explored in Chapter 3.  Price, Poltergeist, 269-270. 137 Price, Poltergeist, 272.  On the Louise Lateau case, see Sofie Lachapelle, “Between Miracle and Sickness: Louise Lateau and the Experience of Stigmata and Ecstasy,” Configurations 12 (2004), 77-105. 138 Price, Poltergeist, 266. Person: Poltergeist Agent    82 resolve the problem according to religious and psychiatric epistemologies and ontologies.  When Zugun was incarcerated in an asylum, Grunewald and the Countess negotiated her release.  They set her apart as special in ways that would benefit psychical research and the emerging psychokinesis hypothesis.  The British press caught on to the word “poltergeist,” introduced by Price as a way to counter newspapers’ more accusatory nickname for Eleonore, “The Devil Girl.”  Then, when Eleonore entered puberty, the phenomena ceased altogether.139  Despite ongoing controlled experiments to explore Zugun’s potential psychokinetic talents and her psychosomatic marks, her case was left unresolved.  Once the phenomenon stopped, there was nothing further to observe. Harry Price took the best available evidence of his time regarding the poltergeist and compiled it into his widely read Poltergeist Over England, a book that was filled with lively illustrations and spooky anecdotes.  He assembled the most cutting-edge concepts about the poltergeist – including those of Frank Podmore, Andrew Lang, William Barrett, and Charles Fort, plus significant historical actors who we will meet in subsequent chapters, Hereward Carrington and Nandor Fodor.  Poltergeist Over England was written for the masses, particularly those who were enthusiastic about the paranormal and wanted to investigate it for themselves, not for the comparatively conservative psychical research establishment in Britain.  Price favoured a bolder approach that was welcomed by his colleagues in the American Society for Psychical Research for which he was foreign research officer from 1925 to 1931, as well as by some academics at the University of London and in Germany.  In 1937, he re-established the oldest modern paranormal research organization, The Ghost Club, which was faltering at the time.  His methodologies and insights set a number of well-known investigators on their path, including Peter Underwood, R.S.                                                             139 Price, Poltergeist, 277. Person: Poltergeist Agent    83 Lambert, and Andrew Green, all of whom actively applied and improved Price’s methodologies in post-Second World War Ghost Club investigations.  Together, their work forms the basis of today’s widespread pastime of “ghost hunting.”140  Price demonstrated a savvy handling of both the press and academia in hands-on experiments and field investigations that sought physical proof of the paranormal.  He was, at heart, an independent ghost hunter, not someone who toed anyone else’s line.  While suggesting the poltergeist itself somehow had agency, his review of current research in Poltergeist Over England helped popularize the psychokinesis hypothesis as the best way forward in poltergeist studies.  An endorsement from such a well-known psychical investigator created a foundation for the psychokinesis hypothesis to be more commonly pursued in psychical and parapsychological research from the 1950s onwards.  Conclusions: Installing the Reimagined Poltergeist Frank Podmore, William Barrett, Charles Fort and Harry Price each had a crucial role in the making of the psychokinesis hypothesis.  They popularized the idea that the poltergeist was co-created between an individual and an unknown mechanism or force, however experiencers, as Fort critiqued, tended to be treated as passive subjects in psychical studies.  While Podmore’s debunking perturbed his SPR colleagues, I argue that his mischief-making incited better practices in studying anomalous phenomena.  He warned psychical                                                             140 See, for example, Harry Price and R.S. Lambert, The Haunting of Cashen’s Gap: A Modern ‘Miracle’ Investigated (London: Methuen & Co., 1936) and R.S. Lambert, Exploring the Supernatural: The Weird in Canadian Folklore (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1955); Andrew Green, Ghost Hunting: A Practical Guide (London: Garnstone Press, 1973); and Peter Underwood, The Ghost Hunter’s Guide (New York: Blandford Press, 1996).  For an overview of how “reality” television “ghost hunting” programs have become a major influence from the 1990s onward, see Deonna Kelli Sayed, Paranormal Obsession: America’s Fascination with Ghosts and Hauntings, Spooks and Spirits (Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2011) and the journalist Will Storr’s chapter on the British program Most Haunted in Chapter 6, “Making things fit,” in Will Storr vs. The Supernatural (New York: Harper, 2006), 85-97. Person: Poltergeist Agent    84 researchers about the dangers of assuming something was paranormal when there was evidence suggesting otherwise.  He also pointed to issues of accuracy and discrepancy in witness testimonials.  The practice of writing to record events as they happened became a crucial documentary tool, as did creating floorplans to determine patterns in reported manifestations.  Most importantly, Podmore drew his colleagues’ attention to the person who appeared to be at the centre of the poltergeist manifestations: the poltergeist agent or focus person.  Barrett agreed these were all critical protocols in investigating the poltergeist.  The focus person, as the “nucleus” of the event, held significant clues to the mechanism of the phenomenon, he argued.  Barrett implored colleagues to use science and imaginative speculation to investigate and raise new questions about the poltergeist.  Fort was all about imaginative speculation, predicting, as a science-fiction writer would, what would happen if psychokinesis became a controlled ability.  Since “poltergeist girls” tended to be marginalized, he imagined that if their abilities were socially and scientifically accepted, they would be exploited by state and military authorities.  The poltergeist and psychokinesis, he warned, had both constructive and destructive potential.  Harry Price combined sensationalism and public science to promote the psychokinesis hypothesis.  He proposed that the poltergeist was a natural phenomenon, something like a thought-form, a subconscious being that was neither spirit nor simple energy exteriorized from a human, but that needed a focus person to manifest.  He introduced a mass readership to Podmore and Barrett’s debates, to Fort’s science mysticism, and to the psychosexual concepts proposed by Hereward Carrington and Nandor Fodor.  As I show in the next chapter, Fodor’s testing of the psychokinesis hypothesis within a psychoanalytical framework made it viable in parapsychological studies of the poltergeist.  85 Chapter 2  PSYCHE:  Haunted People  I was caught between the devil and the deep sea and the result had to be a hybrid: not too much of the old school of psychical research and not enough of the new, psychoanalytical point-of-view. –  Nandor Fodor, On the Trail of the Poltergeist (1958)1   In the 1920s and ‘30s, the boundaries of scientific knowledge of human nature expanded significantly through new studies of sexuality, hormones, and consciousness.  In this context, the psychical researcher Hereward Carrington gathered ideas together to try to comprehend what the energy or force of the poltergeist might be.  He located them in the repression and expression of human sexual development.  Nandor Fodor developed Carrington’s ideas within Freudian psychoanalysis, a more liberal discipline than psychical research, to consider the repressed sexual traumas that he thought caused the poltergeist.  Situating the psychokinesis hypothesis in an established psychoanalytic framework helped Carrington and Fodor’s ideas to gain credibility and become adapted into parapsychological studies by the 1950s.  For the first time, through Fodor’s work, poltergeist experiencers actively explored the relationship between their subconscious and the poltergeist events with therapeutic guidance.  Ultimately, though, the diagnoses and findings were decided by Fodor himself, published in his papers and books.                                                             1 Nandor Fodor, On the Trail of the Poltergeist (New York: The Citadel Press, 1958), 220-21. Psyche: Haunted People    86 Tension on the Boundaries Innovative poltergeist studies in the 1930s were caught amidst epistemic tensions and the reinforcement of disciplinary boundaries across the sciences.  For Freud, delineating the boundaries of the emerging psychoanalytic discipline had been crucial to establishing its therapeutic credibility in the medical sciences.2  In 1925, he wrote to his colleagues that he found that critiques of psychoanalysis in England were based “on the imaginary idea that psycho-analysis operates with agents (‘the psyche’) which are supposed to be independent of the body” – ideas that, as we will see, both Fodor and Carrington speculated on in their contributions to the psychokinesis hypothesis.  Given Freud’s disapproval of that concept, he recommended that psychoanalysts avoid studying telepathy to prevent further confusion.  In general, Freud opposed entangling psychoanalysis with any other disciplines such as psychical research, philosophy, or politics.3  He worried such interdisciplinary work could be its downfall.  While Freud could not accept merging psychoanalysis with psychical research, as I detail below, he did agree that Fodor was onto something valid.  As a result of this encouragement, Fodor’s brief correspondence with Freud was his primary inspiration for becoming a psychoanalyst. Tensions that also existed in the boundary-work between psychical researchers and spiritualists intensified in the 1920s and ‘30s.  Psychical researchers had studied spiritualist mediums since the mid-nineteenth century, but spiritualism’s public credibility and popularity were increasingly questioned during the interwar decades.  Numerous people                                                             2 This was a central concern that Freud raised in the paper he read in 1921, “Psycho-Analysis and Telepathy.” 3 Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, Volume 3: The Last Phase, 1919-1939 (New York: Basic Books, 1957), 393.  John Forrester argues that the method of psychoanalysis was similar to gossip and telepathy, but that both were a threat to the regulation of psychoanalytical discourse.  Telepathy, he notes, is similar to the psychoanalytical concept of transference.  See Forrester’s chapter, “Psychoanalysis: Gossip, Telepathy and/or Science?,” in The Seductions of Psychoanalysis: Freud, Lacan, and Derrida (Cambridge: University of Cambridge, 1990), 243-259. Psyche: Haunted People    87 were criminally charged with extorting those grieving the loss of their loved ones during the First World War, and spiritualist claims were investigated by the Anglican Church in England.4  While psychical research waned in the interwar decades, spiritualism remained widely practiced in private home circles.5  During those decades, psychical studies were divided between those adopting experimental approaches to study psi phenomena, such as J.B. Rhine’s Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University6 and Harry Price’s National Laboratory of Psychical Research,7 and organizations that were sympathetic to the aims of spiritualism and sought evidence of survival after death, such the British College of Psychical Studies and the International Institute for Psychical Research, for which Fodor was Director of Research from 1934 to 1938.8  In those years, spiritualists fortified their authority for those seeking answers about an existence beyond mortality.9  In 1932, the weekly newspaper Psychic News was founded to represent spiritualists’ interests globally.10  Spiritualists had established a voice, and they collectively worked to protect their standing.  As with any religion or science, spiritualists policed the boundaries they had established to protect their beliefs from things that were considered to be abhorrent to their values. In 1936 to 1938, when Fodor proclaimed that studying sexuality was central to comprehending mediumship and the poltergeist, Psychic News writers and the International Institute of Psychical Research’s board launched an offensive.  To them, sex and spiritualism                                                             4 See Jenny Hazelgrove, Spiritualism and British Society between the Wars (New York: Manchester University Press, 2000); and Rene Kollar, Searching for Raymond: Anglicanism, Spiritualism and Bereavement between the Two World Wars (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2000). 5 Hazelgrove, 14-15. 6 See Chapter 3. 7 See Chapter 1. 8 Elizabeth R. Valentine, “Spooks and spoofs: relations between psychical research and academic psychology in Britain in the inter-war period,” History of the Human Sciences 25, no. 2 (2012), 71-73. 9 See Hazelgrove. 10 Psychic News continues to publish to this day.  After briefly ceasing in 2010 when liquidated by its owners, the Spiritualists’ National Union, Psychic News was revived in 2011.  Its website is Psyche: Haunted People    88 should not mix and they publicly critiqued Fodor’s claims.  Fodor made the case that Psychic News writers unfairly portrayed him as biased and hostile to mediums, calling him unfit to direct the International Institute.11  Mediums who testified at the trial denied that “mediumship has anything to do with sex,” except, as one claimed, “probably in poltergeist phenomena.”12  In 1937, another medium, Horace Leaf, had argued in the pages of Psychic News in favour of Fodor, relating him to Freud who was highly criticized “when he first came out with his sexual discoveries” at the turn of the century.13  The jury favoured Fodor’s defamation suit, and the justice awarded him the relatively small sum of £105.14  To Fodor, however, this was a victory that enabled him to break free of the constraints on British psychical researchers who were sympathetic to spiritualism.  He relocated to New York City in 1939 and established new studies in American psychoanalysis which actively explored issues of sexuality and psyche – a space in which the psychokinesis hypothesis could be more effectively tested.  The dispute with spiritualist sympathizers proved that he was onto something new that could explain the poltergeist, and that this project could best be pursued in the more liberal field of psychoanalysis. To gain access to the conceptual resources in Freudian psychoanalysis, Fodor pathologized the poltergeist, linking the physical manifestations characteristic of poltergeist                                                             11 “King’s Bench Division,” The Times (London, England) 48244, 3 March 1939, 4.  Among his character witnesses was C.V.C. Herbert, the research officer for the Society for Psychical Research. 12 “High Court of Justice,” The Times (London, England) 48245, 4 March 1939, 4; and “‘Mongoose’ Case: £105 Award,” Daily Mail (London, England) 13372, 4 March 1939, 13, which centrally emphasized the issue of sex. 13 Nandor Fodor, The Unaccountable (New York: Award Books, 1968), 107.  Fodor is referring to Leaf’s response to an 18 November 1937 article in Psychic News, “Fodor Finds Sex in Mediumship.” 14 In another case, Harry Price’s colleague the psychical researcher R.S. Lambert successfully sued the Home Office advisor on film censorship, Sir Cecil Levita, for trying to have Lambert fired from his job at the BBC.  Levita was sued for £7,500 – quite a sum at the time – which inspired the BBC to reform and liberalise its staff relations.  Lambert and Price co-investigated a controversial poltergeist case on the Isle of Man in which a family encountered poltergeist-type incidents along with an uncanny, disembodied voice that unnerved and perplexed them.  They attributed the voice to a mongoose that they reportedly saw on their property.  See Christopher Josiffe, who made an excellent summary of the case in “Gef the Talking Mongoose,” Fortean Times 269 (December 2010), 32-40, which will be revised as a full-length monograph, forthcoming 2016; and Alan Murdie’s column “Ghostwatch,” Fortean Times 315 (June 2014), 18-19. Psyche: Haunted People    89 activity to the repressed psyche.  As scientific discussions of the psychology and physiology of sexuality expanded in the first half of the twentieth century, psychoanalysts accepted emerging ideas and data related to psychosexual repression that in turn enabled new ways of thinking about the poltergeist as something co-created by the interaction between the human psyche and some mysterious force.  If the poltergeist was a psychosomatic, physical externalization of some type of internalized, repressed energy then, Fodor argued, the “talking cure” could potentially treat it as it would any other mental malady.  However the mechanism of the poltergeist – the main concern of psychical researchers – could not be effectively revealed through such an approach which emphasized cure rather than explanation.  While cautiously supported by American psychoanalysts, Fodor’s approach was highly controversial among British psychical researchers and spiritualists who found his focus on sexuality distasteful.  By the late 1950s however, the boundary-work accomplished by Fodor provided a methodological framework that enabled a new generation of American parapsychologists to make significant psychological correlations between focus persons and poltergeist events.  The Hidden Forces of Sexuality In the 1920s, the British-born American psychical researcher and writer Hereward Carrington (1880-1958) combined emerging scientific knowledge about human sexuality, behaviour, and physiology to argue that the energy of the poltergeist was sexual.  Carrington proposed that repressed sexuality could be unleashed as a psychokinetic force to produce the poltergeist manifestations.  This idea worked with his goal to move beyond repressive psychocultural norms that prevented people from realizing higher psychical Psyche: Haunted People    90 development – what after the Second World War would become framed as a movement to achieve greater human potential and self-realization.15  Rather than invoking the concept of a spirit or soul, Carrington envisioned energies flowing through the human body.  He wondered what would happen if these energies could be controlled to attain psychical or revelatory experiences – and what would happen if they were repressed.  In many ways, Carrington was the first psychical researcher to seriously examine psychological connections to the poltergeist, introducing a sketch of a hypothesis in 1921 that, while not further developed in his own work, would significantly contribute to the psychokinesis hypothesis.  He initially shared this idea at the first-ever conference gathering of international psychical researchers held in Copenhagen:  An energy seems to be radiated from the body, in such cases, which induces these phenomena; and it will be observed that this phenomenon takes place at about the age of puberty, when the sexual energies are blossoming into maturity within the body.  It would almost seem as though these energies, instead of taking their normal course, were somehow turned into another channel, at such times, and were externalized beyond the limits of the body, – producing the manifestations in question.  The spontaneous outburst of these phenomena seems to be associated with the awakening of the sex-energies at that time – which find this curious method of ‘externalization.’16  At the centre of the poltergeist phenomenon, Carrington proposed, was the adolescent.  In poltergeist studies by Andrew Lang (1894), Frank Podmore (1896), and William Barrett (1911) outlined in Chapter 1, it was clear that young people comprised the majority of focus persons in these cases.  In the 1920s, Carrington focused on a physiologically and mentally disruptive element that related to the common biology of this age group: puberty.  The dramatic transformations of puberty were a topic being actively investigated by                                                             15 See Chapter 4 for more on this movement. 16 Hereward Carrington, The Story of Psychic Science (Psychical Research) (New York: Ives Washburn, 1930), 146. Psyche: Haunted People    91 psychologists, scientists, and public educators around the time Carrington wrote this passage.17  Carrington’s idea about puberty and the poltergeist was widely reprinted across the literature about the strange physical phenomenon.18  By imagining the “sexual energies” of puberty “turned into another channel” and “externalized beyond the limits of the body,” Carrington simultaneously directed attention to the biology, psychology, and hidden energetic capabilities of the adolescent focus person. Carrington’s personal history and the studies of adolescence at the time provide context for the formulation of his concept of “sexual energies.”  Born in St. Helier, Jersey, in the Channel Islands, Carrington became interested in psychical research and conjuring at a young age.  When he was eight, he read the study by the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) on people’s encounters with apparitions – Phantasms of the Living (1886).  As a teenager, he was sceptical about mediumistic phenomena and read books by magicians that described séance room trickery.  He became an adept conjuror himself during this time,                                                             17 Puberty was a topic discussed in different ways before G. Stanley Hall’s work (see below) that directly influenced his cultural and moral approach to the topic.  For more on American cultural perspectives on the transition from boyhood to manhood leading up to Hall’s work, see E. Anthony Rotundo, American Manhood: Transformations in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modern Era (New York: Basic Books, 1993), in which he outlines how, culturally, nineteenth-century American male youths moved from “savage” childish behaviour toward “civilized” mature responsibilities such as leaving home, working, and marriage (especially 53-55, and on the context around the work of G. Stanley Hall focused on young males and manhood, 255-274).  For more on what led up to Hall’s work and his “remaking of manhood,” see Gail Bederman, “‘Teaching Our Sons to Do What We Have Been Teaching the Savages to Avoid’: G. Stanley Hall, Racial Recapitulation, and the Neurasthenic Paradox,” Manliness & Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1995), 77-120. 18 Books that directly referenced Carrington’s quote on the “sexual energies” hypothesis include Harry Price, Poltergeist Over England (London: Country Life, 1945), reprinted as Poltergeist: Tales of the Supernatural (London: Bracken Books, 1993 published courtesy of The Harry Price Library, University of London Library), 377; A.R.G. Owen, Can We Explain the Poltergeist? (New York: Garrett Publications, 1964), 335-36, which did not find the hypothesis satisfactory to explain the mechanism of the poltergeist; Michael Goss, Poltergeists: An Annotated Bibliography of Works in English, circa 1880-1975 (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1979) which notes all of the works by Carrington and Fodor, including on the hypothesis; and John and Anne Spencer, The Poltergeist Phenomenon: An Investigation into Psychic Disturbance (London: Headline, 1996), 264-65.  The hypothesis was critiqued in Psychic News in 1963 by the spiritualist Philip Paul in “Sex Rears Its Ugly Head for Poltergeists,” Psychic News 1625 (25 July 1963), 5.  Carrington’s “sexual energies” hypothesis is absent in other popular books on the poltergeist, most notably Alan Gauld and A.D. Cornell, Poltergeists (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979), the most thorough historical review of the poltergeist up to that point, and William G. Roll, The Poltergeist (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1972), although there was a relationship between Roll’s work and that of Carrington and Fodor.  See Chapter 3. Psyche: Haunted People    92 which turned out to be one of his most useful skills in psychical investigations.  Yet he was also intrigued by the possibilities of spirit communication and actively pursued evidence of it over a sixty-year period.  After moving to the U.S. in 1899, Carrington worked as a journalist and was an active member of the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR).  In 1921, Carrington founded the American Psychical Institute and Laboratory in New York, the only research laboratory of its kind in the U.S. at the time, preceding both Harry Price’s lab in London (Chapter 1) and the one that J.B. Rhine established at Duke University in the following decade (see Chapter 3).19  In founding a laboratory, he aligned his work with the sciences, even though he was not formally trained as a scientist.  Carrington was a member of a Scientific American committee (1922-24) that investigated psychical claims.  The committee also included magician Harry Houdini, physicist Daniel Frost Comstock, psychical researchers Walter Franklin Prince and Malcolm Bird, and psychologist William McDougall (who eventually hired J.B. Rhine at Duke University).  The magazine offered a $2,500 reward to anyone who could produce a visible psychic manifestation.  Ultimately, no one was awarded the prize money, but the Scientific American project advanced Carrington’s reputation as a collaborative researcher.20 Carrington sought to bring together a range of disciplines as a way to advance psychical studies.  This was both his strength and his weakness in thinking about sexuality, physical forces, and the poltergeist together.21  He was a prolific author, publishing around fifty                                                             19 Carrington’s life, particularly his early years, was summarized in The Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology (New York: Helix Press, 1964), edited by Helene Pleasants. 20 Inspired by this type of competition, until 2015, a $1 million reward was offered by the American conjuror James Randi through the James Randi Educational Foundation to any person who could prove a paranormal claim according to their testing guidelines.  Randi had been offering such cash rewards since the mid-1960s, but never ended up paying anyone for their demonstrations of alleged psychical powers.  See 21 In 1951, Carrington wrote in the ASPR’s Journal that the ideal qualities of a psychical researcher should include “knowledge of trickery and the psychology of deception, accurate observation, infinite patience, Psyche: Haunted People    93 monographs on psychical research and conjuring as well as on diet, fasting, and hygiene.22  His approach brought some of the most cutting-edge scientific and philosophical ideas of the time into discussions of psychical research.  He was exposed to these ideas through his journalistic work.  Carrington had a tendency to take certain elements from these ideas and connect them to his thinking on psychical phenomena.  When criticized, he emphasized that his findings were all tentative and worthy of follow-up.23  In his boundary-work, he combined what he thought were the strongest ideas of the moment to rethink psychical mysteries in ways that otherwise had not been considered. Carrington’s frank discussion of “sexual energies” was rooted in his work in social hygiene, which aimed to educate the public about sexual health and morality.24  Social hygiene organizations sought to educate people about sexual health, particularly in an effort to curb sexually transmitted diseases.  Their members commonly discussed issues around                                                                                                                                                                                              calmness, extreme caution, a grounding in biology, psychiatry, etc. and some knowledge of laboratory technique.”  As summarized in a review of Journal for the American Society for Psychical Research 45, no. 2 (April 1951) that appeared in Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (JSPR) 36 (July 1951), 475. 22 Carrington also wrote many journal, magazine, and newspaper articles. 23 See, for example, the debate with the British psychical researcher Whately Carington on Hereward Carrington’s research approach in Whately Carington, review of Hereward Carrington’s “An Instrumental Test of the Independence of a ‘Spirit Control,’” American Psychical Institute Bulletin I, in the Proceedings for the Society for Psychical Research (PSPR) 42 (1934), 242; Whately Carington, “The Quantitative Study of Trance Personalities,” PSPR 43 (1935), 352; Hereward Carrington, “On ‘The Quantitative Study of Trance Personalities,’” PSPR 43 (1935), 537, 539; and also see Hereward Carrington, Laboratory Investigations into Psychic Phenomena (London: Rider & Co., 1939). 24 In 1914, the non-profit American Social Hygiene Association (ASHA) was founded to advance the movement that had originated in the late nineteenth century.  The ASHA, today known as the American Sexual Health Association, operated out of New York City, where Carrington himself resided at the time.  There is some evidence that Carrington was an active member, perhaps even a life member, of the ASHA or another national hygienic organization.  The American Social Hygiene Association’s journal reviewed Carrington’s book Modern Psychical Phenomena (1919) in which he presented evidence that an individual’s gender identity continued on in the afterlife; see “Notes,” Journal of Social Hygiene 6, no. 1 (January 1920), 150.  See obituary for Hereward Carrington in JSPR 40, no. 700 (June 1959), 98, in which they identify him as a life member of the “American Hygienic Society,” which may have actually been the ASHA or a similar organization.  Despite increasing discussion about human sexuality in the early twentieth century, the “scientific” language of social hygiene was also used by eugenicists who, for example, led sterilization campaigns.  See Virginia Smith, Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007);  A Century of Eugenics in America: From the Indiana Experiment to the Human Genome Era, edited by Paul A. Lombardo (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011); and Christina Cogdell, Eugenic Design: Streamlining America in the 1930s (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004). Psyche: Haunted People    94 children’s and adolescent sexuality that previously had been suppressed publicly as it was widely considered to be the parents and guardians’ responsibility to teach and control their children’s sexuality.  Social hygiene efforts combining sexual health and morality made for the first sex education in American public schools by the 1920s.25  Carrington’s work in this frontier field gave him authority to express ideas about adolescent sexuality that otherwise might not have been developed in psychical research. In a time during which adolescence and puberty became defined in the human sciences and psychology, Carrington introduced the idea that externalized sexual energies among young people might be related to the poltergeist.  As a social hygienist, Carrington was likely to have been exposed to the ground-breaking work of the psychologist G. Stanley Hall (1846-1924).  In his 1,300-page, two-volume monograph Adolescence (1904), Hall studied the physiological and emotional effects of puberty.  During adolescence, Hall suggested, individuals experience the most dramatic period of physiological and mental change of their lives in the form of puberty.  Puberty brings intense and uneven growth, often marked by physical “growing pains” and awkward social relationships with family and peers.  Sexual sensations strongly manifest.  Hall was particularly adept at describing the “psychic traits of puberty,” the emotional “storm and stress” that often appeared during this period of physiological transformation and led to behavioural problems, particularly among boys who                                                             25 For more about the changing social behaviours of youth in relation to modernizing education, entertainment, and culture, see John C. Spurlock, Youth and Sexuality in the Twentieth-Century United States (New York: Routledge, 2015); Susannah Stern and Jane D. Brown, “From Twin Beds to Sex at Your Fingertips: Teen Sexuality in Movies, Music, Television, and the Internet, 1950 to 2005,” in The Changing Portrayal of Adolescents in the Media Since 1950, edited by Patrick Jamieson and Daniel Romer (Cary, NC: Oxford University Press, 2008), 313-343; Sarah E. Chinn, “Introduction: ‘I Don’t Understand What’s Come Over the Children of This Generation,’” in Inventing Modern Adolescence: The Children of Immigrants in Turn-of-the-Century America (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2009), 1-12; as well as Susan K. Freeman, “Facts of Life and More: Adolescent Sex and Sexuality Education,” Adolescent Sexuality: A Historical Handbook and Guide, edited by Carolyn Cocca (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2006), 45-63. Psyche: Haunted People    95 Hall thought were more prone to periods of delinquency.26  Although social reformers expressed concerns during this period about how girls increasingly fraternized in public spaces, thereby challenging traditions as they moved from the protective home to marriage, Hall focused his research on males.27  Problems among adolescents tended to emerge from susceptibility to peer and cultural influences, sensation-seeking, and pushing the boundaries of parental and social control.  Hall found that depression and self-absorption were common alongside biological changes as adolescents sought both social acceptance and individuation.28  Hall argued that if the child were denied the developmental transformation from childhood to adulthood during adolescence, then problems would arise later in life.  To Carrington, it seemed quite likely that repressed sexual energies in adolescence could create a psychokinetic force, thus making spontaneous poltergeist manifestations. Early twentieth-century educators sought to restrain the spontaneity of adolescence.  Before Hall’s Adolescence, moralists, most often Protestant clergy, were the most prominent authors of books advising youth.  Hall, a Protestant himself, was informed both by science and by his own moral reaction to urbanization and modernity at the turn of the century.29  At the same time, Hall characterized adolescent sexuality as normal and healthy.  “Sex is the most potent and magic open sesame to the deepest mysteries of life, death, religion, and love,” he wrote.  “It is, therefore, one of the cardinal sins against youth to                                                             26 See Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, “G. Stanley Hall’s Adolescence: Brilliance and Nonsense,” History of Psychology 9, no. 3 (2006), 188.  27 Spurlock, 17-18. 28 See Arnett, 186-9; Hamilton Cravens, “The Historical Context of G. Stanley Hall’s Adolescence (1904),” History of Psychology 9, no. 3 (2006), 178-9, 183; Daniel Romer, “Introduction: Mass Media and the Socialization of Adolescents Since World War II,” in The Changing Portrayal of Adolescents in the Media Since 1950, edited by Patrick Jamieson and Daniel Romer (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 12; and Judith Semon Dubas, Kristelle Miller, and Anne C. Petersen, “The study of adolescence during the 20th century,” History of the Family 8 (2003), 379; Spurlock, 4, 16-17, 40; and Stern and Brown, 315. 29 Joseph F. Kett, “Reflections on the history of adolescence in America,” History of the Family 8, no. 3 (2003), 358-61. Psyche: Haunted People    96 repress healthy thoughts of sex at the proper age.”  At the same time, he morally objected to masturbation and premarital intercourse, and promoted “denial and diversion” – channelling one’s sexual energies into a combination of activity and repose.30  Family members, educators, writers, and social activitists expressed larger social concerns that adults were losing control over youth.31  The American social reformer Jane Addams (1909), for example, viewed adolescent boys as particularly troublesome and impulsive: they set fires, stole things, and threw stones – they were, in fact, not unlike poltergeists.32  Carrington’s ideas about repressed youthful emotions externalizing as a poltergeist had strong appeal in light of times when adolescent freedoms, repression, and mischief were popularly discussed.  The poltergeist was like a warning of what could happen should an adolescent not have healthy channels through which to express their emotions and sexuality. While Carrington was mostly interested in explaining “sexual energies” in materialist terms, Sigmund Freud, writing at the same time, challenged biological assumptions about sexuality.33  Freud relocated sexuality in the unconscious mind, the mysterious source of                                                             30 Hall revealed relatively little about girls’ sexuality.  For example, he published tables showing the age at which menstruation typically began without offering much further explanation.  Spurlock found that after 1900, “delinquent girls” were viewed as a greater problem than boys who had been the primary concern in the nineteenth century for crimes such as stealing.  Spurlock writes that “girls faced the ambiguous charge of immorality,” not necessarily from committing a sex act outside of marriage, but from showing “signs” that they had or would.  In the United States, the Mann Act of 1910 gave broad legal “powers to interfere with the movement of young women for any ‘immoral purpose.’”  See Spurlock, 17-22; and Kett, “Reflections,” 358.  Also see Arnett, 191 and 193 in which he quotes Hall from Volume 2 of Adolescence, 109. 31 See Spurlock, 58; and Joseph F. Kett, “Discovery and Invention in the History of Adolescence,” Journal of Adolescent Health 14 (1993), 612. 32 Spurlock, 16. 33 G. Stanley Hall, deeply interested in psychopathology and psychotherapy focused on sexuality, introduced Sigmund Freud to American audiences, inviting him to a conference and lectures at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1909.  Hall generated much of the press attention around Freud’s visit, anonymously writing a couple of articles himself without a byline.  See Richard Skues, “Clark Revisited: Reappraising Freud in America,” in After Freud Left: A Century of Psychoanalysis in America, edited by John C. Burnham (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2012), 54-55, 59-61.  Also see Dorothy Ross, G. Stanley Hall: The Psychologist as Prophet (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1972), 368–94. Psyche: Haunted People    97 desire and instinctual drives.  To him, psychosexuality was a far wider concept than could be pursued through the physical sciences.  However, the majority of psychical researchers pursued physicalism, not the interpretive approaches of psychoanalysis, as the standard by which observational and experimental evidence would be collected and presented.  A lack of attention to sexuality in psychical research and parapsychological literature reveals how despite evidence of a subjective relationship between the psychical and the sexual, researchers largely steered clear of it to preserve a more objective, less controversial approach that could gain acceptance among other scientists.34  Overall, Carrington supported the advances of psychoanalysis in “dispelling much of the cant and hypocrisy regarding Sex from the public mind,” although he disapproved of reductionism among psychoanalysts and of the view that their theories could explain away the poltergeist.35  Freud’s concept of repressed sexual energies made sense to Carrington because troubled, pubescent youth seemed most often at the centre of poltergeist cases.  Carrington favoured the idea that focus persons had repressed sexual energies during puberty which then                                                             34 For early references to sexuality in psychical research, see Boris Sidis, M.D., “The Theory of the Subconscious,” PSPR 26, no. LXVL (November 1912), 334, further discussed in Constance E. Long, M.D., “Psychoanalytic Use of Subliminal Material,” PSPR 30, no. LXXV (1918), 1-32.  For 1980s exploration of sexuality in parapsychology, see Diana Robinson, “Stress and Psi: A Preliminary Model Involving Epilepsy, Sexuality, and Shamanism,” Research in Parapsychology 1984, edited by Rhea A. White and Jerry Solfvin (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1985), 32-35; and Michael K. McBeath, “Psi and Sexuality,” JSPR 53, no. 800 (June 1985), 65-77.  Sexuality has been more actively discussed in later scholarly and popular studies of witchcraft, for example Lyndal Roper, Oedipus and the Devil: Witchcraft, Sexuality and Religion in Early Modern Europe (London/New York: Routledge, 1994).  For an overview of experiences and debates, see Paul Chambers, Sex and the Paranormal (London: Blandford, 1999). 35 Quote from Carrington, The Story of Psychic Science, 145.  Carrington argued that Freudian psychoanalysis opened ways to connect anomalous phenomena to “sexual energies.”  Sexuality had rarely been thematically discussed in peer-reviewed psychical research and parapsychology publications.  It was first briefly mentioned in an overview of German psychopathology studies in a series of articles in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research in the 1910s, including ones written by Freud and the medical physician Thomas Walker (T.W.) Mitchell on medical studies in relation to hysteria and studies of human consciousness.  The only thorough discussion of sexuality, parapsychology, and the poltergeist came much later, in the mid-1980s, in essays by Diana Robinson in conjunction with the research of William Roll. Psyche: Haunted People    98 externalized through anomalous physical manifestations.  Such energies, he argued, could be explained scientifically. While vague about what the poltergeist’s “energy” was – other than it was “not due to any known force” – Carrington concluded that the consensus among researchers was that “an externalization” of “energy takes place, which somehow affects matter in the immediate vicinity of the medium.”  He added, “No experienced investigator attributes such phenomena to the intervention of ‘spirits.’  We assume that some physico-biological energy is employed, generated within the medium’s organism, and externalized from it, into space.”36  Following earlier ideas about a vital, fluidic, or ethereal force, he thought that in order to affect matter, the “force” must be “solidified” somehow.  In séances, the force was not random, but seemed to be guided by intelligence, which “appears to be the conscious mind of the medium.”  Carrington followed a hypotheses of a vital force commonly posited around mediumship at the time – but the concept circulated well beyond psychical research circles and was far from being heterodox.  The French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) originated the concept of vitalism as a “force” that guided the creative and evolutionary impulses of life on earth.  In the early twentieth century, academics actively conversed about vitalism.37  Numerous psychiatrists, biologists, and philosophers at the                                                             36 Carrington, The Story of Psychic Science, 137.  He describes “telekinesis” as “not due to any known force,” 10. 37 See Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution, translated by Arthur Mitchell (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1911).  For an excellent overview of Bergson’s vitalism, see the philosophers Leonard Lawlor and Valentine Moulard Leonard, “Henri Bergson,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta (Stanford: Stanford Center for the Study of Language and Information), last modified 2 October 2013, accessed 1 July 2016 at (from which the quote “informs all life, all change, all becoming” is derived).  For more on vitalism and Carrington, see parapsychologist/historian Carlos S. Alvarado and psychiatrist Michael Nahm, “Psychic Phenomenon and the Vital Force: Hereward Carrington on ‘Vital Energy and Psychical Phenomena,” JSPR 75.2, no. 903 (April 2011), 91-103.  They direct readers to Myers, “Scheme of a Vital Faculty,” Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death (1903, vol. 2), 505-554, which was further discussed in Alvarado, “Frederic W.H. Myers on the Projection of Vital Energy,” Paranormal Review 30 (2004), 23-28.  Sir Oliver Lodge wrote on his ether theory in The Ether of Space (New York/London: Harper & Brothers, 1909), which was given a useful historical analysis in Courtenay Grean Raia, “From ether theory to Psyche: Haunted People    99 time speculated that a vital force animated humans in ways that went beyond the materialist explanations in physics and biochemistry at the time.38  The popularity of vitalism enabled Carrington to engage in an active debate on the causes of physical forces that eluded scientific explanation.  The vital force, he argued, made life itself.  It was “capable of existing outside of the body and independent of it,” an idea that could explain, for example, out-of-body experiences.39  In Copenhagen in 1921, Carrington told his colleagues that the vital force depended on a living person for it to manifest.40  As a “separate force,” “a thing, an entity,” it was “capable of controlling the nervous mechanism under certain conditions, and acting as the intermediary between it and the mind.”41  In other words, the “force” co-created the poltergeist in conjunction with human consciousness.  Carrington did not conflate the vital force with the psyche itself as Freud had complained, but he considered it as a way to open discussions on how repressed sexuality could become spontaneous psychokinesis.                                                                                                                                                                                              ether theology: Oliver Lodge and the physics of immortality,” Journal of the History of Behavioral Sciences 43, no. 1 (2007), 18-43. 38 For a good overview of the long intellectual impact of vitalism, see Scott Lash, “Life (Vitalism)” in Theory, Culture & Society 23, nos. 2-3 (2006), 323-349.  For more on the intersection of science and culture around the concept, see Robert Michael Brain, Protoplasmania: Huxley, Haeckel, and the Vibratory Organism in Late Nineteenth-Century Science and Art (Uppsala: Uppsala Universitet Preprints in the History of Science, 2008), and his article “How Edvard Munch and August Strindberg Contracted Protoplasmania: Memory, Synesthesia, and the Vibratory Organism in Fin-de-Siecle Europe,” Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 35, no 7 (March 2010), 7-38.  Also see English scholar Robert Mitchell’s Experimental Life: Vitalism in Romantic Science and Literature (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013); and Sebastian Normandin and Charles T. Wolfe’s edited volume of essays, Vitalism and the Scientific Image in Post-Enlightenment Life Science, 1800-2010 (New York/London: Springer Verlag, 2013). 39 Hereward Carrington, Modern Psychical Phenomena: Recent Researches and Speculations (New York: Dodd Mead, 1919), 49; and Carrington, “Physical and psycho-physiological researches in mediumship,” Le Compte Rendu Officiel du Premier Congrès International des Recherches Psychiques à Copenhague (Copenhagen: no publisher, 1922), 127, both quoted in Alvarado and Nahm, 95. 40 Hereward Carrington, “Vital Energy and Psychical Phenomena,” Psychic Research Quarterly 1 (1921), 271-277, summarized in Alvarado and Nahm, 91. 41 Hereward Carrington, Eusapia Palladino and Her Phenomena (New York: B.W. Dodge, 1909), 297, quoted in Alvarado and Nahm, 94-5.  The neurosciences have since revealed mechanisms of the nervous system that enable motor and sensory abilities that were much less understood during Carrington’s time, and while there have been significant advances in understanding human consciousness, many aspects of its mechanisms remain theoretical, speculated upon, contested or unexplained.  For an up-to-date overview, see Mitchell Glickstein, Neuroscience: A Historical Introduction (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2014). Psyche: Haunted People    100 Psychokinesis, Carrington posited, related to a “secret energy” that could potentially be mastered through “higher psychical development.”  In Carrington’s writing on Indic practices such as yoga, vegetarianism, and fasting, we find the root of his concept of “sexual energies” as it related to vitalism and the poltergeist.  Through the practice of kundalini yoga in particular, one could reveal and control a “secret energy,” “very closely connected with the creative energies, the sex-energies of the body.”  Carrington wrote that the goal was to “awaken,” “vivify,” and “direct” the secret energy, a process through which clairvoyance and other psychical abilities would be experienced.42  Carrington’s ideas on yoga integrated concepts from the 1919 publication of an influential text, The Serpent Power by Arthur Avalon, that aimed to make mystical Hindu concepts palatable to English audiences.43  Carrington’s Higher Psychical Development attempted to bridge the long established Tantric practices such as yoga and meditation, in which sexuality was central, with the study of psychical research.  He related siddhis – extraordinary powers that arise through yoga and deep meditation – to psychical abilities and experiences.  People must master their “sexual energies” or psychical trouble could ensue.  Carrington argued,                                                             42 Carrington, Higher Psychical Development (Yoga Philosophy): An Outline of the Secret Hindu Teachings (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1920), 129-144. 43 The books of “Arthur Avalon” were the collaboration of the Hinduist Calcutta High Court judge Sir John Woodroffe (1865-1936) and the Bengali Tantric pandit and vakil (Indian lawyer) Atul Bihari Ghose (1864-1936).  Together, they translated, interpreted, wrote, and lectured on the goddess-oriented Śākta Tantra tradition in order to revive it among Indians as part of a larger project for India to achieve independence.  At the time, the erotic and magical elements of these Tantric traditions were censored by colonial and Brahmanical orthodoxies.  Beyond India, the Arthur Avalon books gained great popularity among converts to Hinduism and Buddhism.  For more on Carrington and Woodroffe, see Jeffrey J. Kripal, “The Evolving Siddhis: Yoga and Tantra in the Human Potential Movement and Beyond,” in Yoga Powers: Extraordinary Capacities Attained through Meditation and Concentration, edited by Knut A. Jacobsen (Leiden, The Netherlands/Boston: Brill, 2012), 492-498.  For more on the popularization of kundalini outside of India, see David Gordon White, Kiss of the Yogini: “Tantric Sex” in its South Asian Contexts (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003).  For more on Woodroffe, see Kathleen Taylor, Sir John Woodroffe, Tantra and Bengal: ‘An Indian Soul in a European Body?’ (Richmond: Curzon, 2001), reviewed in Kripal’s essay “Being John Woodroffe: Some Mythical Reflections on the Postcolonial Study of Hindu Tantra” in Identity and the Politics of Scholarship in the Study of Religion, edited by José Ignacio Cabezón and Sheila Greeve Davaney (New York/London: Routledge, 2004), 183-207.  Arthur Avalon’s The Serpent Power: Being the S̲h̲at-̲Chakra-Nipūran̲a (London: Luzac & Co., 1919) remains a popular text on the topic (still in print through the 1974 edition by Dover Publications in New York).  Like Carrington, “Arthur Avalon” wrote many books on self-development and achieving one’s higher life goals. Psyche: Haunted People    101  You must either use up the sex-energies of the body in healthful exercises and activities [as suggested in G. Stanley Hall’s concept of diversion], or in their normal channels of expression [presumably sex]; or through these psychic avenues; and if you do not expand them in any one of these three ways, then you have curious mental and physical troubles, perversions and abnormalities, and so forth.  The troubles of the poltergeist arose in the repression of sexual energies.  Given the prevalence of pubescent youths at the centre of these cases, Carrington wrote, “The spontaneous outburst of these phenomena is, I am sure, associated with the awakening of the sex-energies at that time, – which find this curious method of ‘externalization.’”44  To further understand how those energies worked, Carrington looked to emerging biological sciences for clues. Carrington suggested that his inspiration for the “sexual energies” hypothesis of the poltergeist lay in contemporary endocrinological studies.45  In a Scientific American article, “The Mechanisms of the Psychic,” he wrote:  Recent physiological researches as to the activities of the ductless glands, and particularly the sex glands, have shown the enormous influence of these glands upon the physical and even upon the psychic life.46  To Carrington, the endocrine system seemed key to comprehending “sexual energies.”  It was comprised of glands that released hormones into the bloodstream (ductless glands) rather than externally through ducts, such as saliva, sweat, and mammary glands (the                                                             44 Carrington, Higher Psychical Development, 145-146. 45 In the late 1920s, a few years after Carrington’s articles, endocrinologists discovered neurohormones.  Lloyd D. Fricker provides a historical overview in the second chapter, “Neuropeptide Discovery,” of Neuropepides and Other Bioactive Peptides: From Discovery to Function (Morgan & Claypool Publishers, 2012), 15-32.  For further historical context around endocrinology, see Alison Li, “J.B. Collip, A.M. Hanson and the Isolation of the Parathyroid Hormone, or Endocrines and Enterprise,” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 47 (October 1992), 405-438. 46 Carrington, “The Mechanism of the Psychic: Indications of an Unformulated Force, and What We May Hope to Make of Them,” Scientific American (January 1922), 80. Psyche: Haunted People    102 exocrine system).  A few months later, he summarized emerging insights from endocrinology in another Scientific American article entitled “The Ductless Glands: Recent Discoveries Concerning These Mysterious Regulators of the Human Body.”  Carrington wrote that revelations about this endocrinal realm and the extent to which it influenced physiology, mental processes, and personality opened physical routes to the subtle forces that were central to vitalism and kundalini.  Glandular influences on variations in human personality and memory fascinated Carrington, but he cautioned against jumping to conclusions that they determined a person’s “entire mental and normal life,” emphasizing that there was – “even leaving out the account the vast mass of ‘supernormal’ phenomena” – much yet to be explored in “the inter-relationship of brain and mind.”47  Despite this caution, endocrinal sciences were making “enormous progress” in understanding the “mechanism of the bodily and mental activities.”  As he had indicated in “The Mechanism of the Psychic,” this new science could help explain the dynamic relationship between the human body, plasmic materializations, sexual energies, and psychic phenomena such as spontaneous psychokinesis.48  To Carrington, new knowledge about ductless glands and their regulation of puberty illuminated a new possibility that could explain why the poltergeist most often unleashed around adolescents. Carrington’s “sexual energies” hypothesis travelled and was transformed in the following decades.  However, at the time, the disparate combination of concepts without a specific, experimental follow-up frustrated many of his readers.  Reviewers of his books tended to critique his tendency to “unduly simplify” the problems he was exploring, his lack of critical precision, and the way he passed over weaknesses or failures in his psychical                                                             47 Carrington, “The Ductless Glands: Recent Discoveries Concerning These Mysterious Regulators of the Human Body,” Scientific American (May 1922), 330. 48 Carrington, “The Mechanism of the Psychic,” 80. Psyche: Haunted People    103 experiments.  Several reviewers wrote that Carrington’s works lacked focus, consistency, and balance in analysing psychical phenomena.  There was a need to provide specific, verifiable evidence in psychical research – and this had been something that Carrington, despite his voluminous published output, had not succeeded in doing.49  Despite such critiques, Carrington’s idea about “sexual energies” is among the most reprinted in the literature on the poltergeist.  The idea seems to have also influenced a notion that remains prevalent that the poltergeist is the product of adolescent girls, occurring around the time of their first menstruation, which, as explained in Chapter 1, may have originated from the horror author Stephen King’s 1974 novel Carrie about a teenaged girl who unleashes a psychokinetic fury on people who ostracized her as an outsider.50  Carrington’s idea sparked the reimagining of the poltergeist.  Collaborating with Carrington in the 1930s to the 1950s, Nandor Fodor advanced the concept that sexuality was integral to the making of the poltergeist through the boundary-work of psychoanalysis.                                                              49 See, for example, the following reviews: “Curious Theory of Nutrition,” New York Times, 28 March 1908, BR169; T.W. Mitchell, review of Hereward Carrington’s Vitality, Fasting and Nutrition (1908), JSPR 13 (Oct. 1908), 288-292; E.J.D., review of Hereward Carrington’s Modern Psychical Phenomena (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd., 1919), JSPR 19 (Oct. 1920), 252; W.H. Salter, review of Hereward Carrington’s The Story of Psychic Science (Psychical Research) (London: Rider and Co., 1930), JSPR 26 (Nov. 1930), 141-142; E.S.T., review of Hereward Carrington’s A Primer of Psychical Research (London: Rider and Co., 1932), JSPR 28 (March 1933), 47-48; C.L.G., review of Hereward Carrington’s Laboratory Investigations into Psychic Phenomena (London: Rider & Co., 1939), JSPR 31 (Oct. 1939), 114-115; Waldemar Kaempffert, “Voices from the Great Beyond,” New York Times, 17 Aug. 1947, 170; and R. Wilson, review of Hereward Carrington’s The Invisible World (London: Rider, 1949), JSPR 35 (Nov. 1949), 156-157. 50 See Stephen King, Carrie (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1974).  There is a significant literature on cultural tropes and the history of feminine hygiene.  See, for example, Elissa Stein, Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2009); Laura Fingerson, Girls in Power: Gender, Body, and Menstruation in Adolescence (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006); Elizabeth Arveda Kissling, Capitalizing on the Curse: The Business of Menstruation (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2006); and Menstruation: A Cultural History, edited by Andrew Shail and Gillian Howie (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).  In relation to film, see Aviva Briefel, “Monster Pains: Masochism, Menstruation, and Identification in the Horror Film,” Film Quarterly 58, no. 3 (Spring 2005), 16-27. Psyche: Haunted People    104 The Poltergeist on the Couch To advance the budding idea of a link between sexuality and the poltergeist further required an individual who was more actively experienced with poltergeist investigations, psychical theorization, and psychoanalysis.  Nandor Fodor (1895-1964) became the most significant proponent of the theory that repressed energies were being externalized as a poltergeist.  Carrington planted the original seed of an idea, and starting in the 1930s, Fodor observed, tested, and amended it through his Freudian psychoanalytical perspective.  Fodor focused on psychoanalyzing poltergeist focus persons rather than determining the mechanisms of the physical manifestations.  Psychical researchers and parapsychologists tended to shy away from the subjective interpretations of psychoanalysis in order to preserve the objectivity of their observations and documentation of anomalous phenomena.  Fodor’s boundary-work, in contrast, resulted in tensions as exemplified in the 1939 lawsuit against Psychic News.  His approach threatened spiritualists who sought to normalize mediumistic abilities as evidence of an afterlife and psychical researchers who wanted to preserve not eliminate “genuine” phenomena so that they could study it firsthand.  To Fodor, the best service that could be provided to focus persons was to help them resolve the psychological problems that seemed to psychosomatically externalize as a physical force in poltergeist cases. Born in Hungary, Fodor’s interest in the supernatural arose at a young age after he read a folk tale about a boy who “had the time of his life” playing with a poltergeist.  “The bed was on the move; he rode it upstairs and downstairs with whoops of joy.  The ghost threw Psyche: Haunted People    105 skulls and bones at him; he gleefully tossed them back.”51  Like Carrington, Fodor began his career as an American newspaper journalist.  In that capacity, he met Carrington in 1926 along with “one of Freud’s chief disciples in psychoanalysis, Sándor Ferenczi.”52  The meetings stimulated his dual interests in psychical research and dynamic psychiatry.  In 1934, he became the Director of Research for the International Institute of Psychical Research in London (through which he occasionally collaborated with Carrington’s American Psychical Institute).  Operating concurrently with Harry Price’s lab – but not as zany and sensational – the International Institute sought to experiment with cases of mediumship and hauntings.  Like Price, Fodor also made a trip to the Isle of Man to investigate the case of Gef the Talking Mongoose (1931-36), but unlike Price, he encountered a major stumbling block to his psychical research career that propelled him to become a full-time psychoanalyst in the United States.  As I explain further below, British psychical research, he found, was too constricting and conservative.  This schism made Fodor an outsider among psychical researchers and it directly inspired an entirely new way of studying the poltergeist that, as I show in Chapter 3, became standardized throughout American parapsychology after 1958. In 1951, the psychoanalyst Fodor and psychical researcher Carrington revised and compiled the papers they had each produced over the previous three decades in their book Haunted People: Story of the Poltergeist Down the Centuries – the first publication fully dedicated to exploring the psychokinesis hypothesis.  The book included Carrington’s lengthy 1935 essay “The March of the Poltergeist” in which he reviewed 375 cases from the fourth century (located at Bingen-am-Rhein in present-day Germany) to the famed                                                             51 Nandor Fodor, The Haunted Mind: A Psychoanalyst Looks at the Supernatural (New York: Garrett Publications, 1959), 1. 52 Fodor, The Haunted Mind, 2. Psyche: Haunted People    106 Maryland case of 1949 that inspired The Exorcist.53  The second half of the book is occupied by Fodor’s essays in which he developed his psychoanalytical concepts about the poltergeist, an interpretative methodology that was later adapted in parapsychological studies.  Strikingly, Fodor’s two theoretical essays in Haunted People had been published in peer-reviewed psychiatric journals, The Journal of Clinical Psychopathology and The Psychiatric Quarterly.  These contributions marked Fodor as a professional doctor who was actively incorporating the poltergeist into broader discussions around psychology and psychiatry at the time.  In doing so, he dramatically and explicitly expanded upon Carrington’s “sexual energies” idea, making sexual repression, unsettling puberty, troubled adolescence, and another evident aspect – mid-life crises – standard to the interpretation of what fuelled the poltergeist.  Haunted People was the first book to explore the potential psychological connections with the poltergeist, and it was successful enough to be reprinted twice, including as a Signet mass market paperback in 1968.54  Combining Carrington’s position as a prominent and respected psychical researcher and Fodor’s innovative psychoanalytical approaches, their ideas would later be simplified through standardized observation and psychological testing in Roll’s parapsychological studies of the poltergeist. Fodor sought to bridge psychoanalysis and psychical research to illuminate the relationships between psychology and psi.  To him, the two fields studied the same thing – the unconscious – from different angles.  His project began in earnest when he moved from Britain to the U.S. to become a psychoanalyst in 1939 just as Europe entered the Second World War.  He became the most creative thinker on the poltergeist phenomenon from the                                                             53 In Haunted People (New York: Dutton, 1951), Carrington also wrote three brief chapters on the historic Phelps poltergeist case from Stratford, Connecticut in the 1850s; a Transylvanian case investigated by the SPR’s Evrard Feilding; and a case of lithobolia from Mauritius in 1937. 54 In 1945, Harry Price’s Poltergeist Over England was the first book that introduced Carrington and Fodor’s ideas to the mass public. Psyche: Haunted People    107 1930s through the 1950s, and one of the most controversial given his unabashed psychoanalytical approach.  Fodor defined psychoanalysis as “the analysis of the human mind – the process of revealing and bringing into the conscious mind the unknown, hidden influences that previously lay in the subconscious.”  It could “delve into the unconscious origins or many of them and, at times, can give a fantastically revelatory solution to undesirable psychic outbreaks.”55  This was the crux of Fodor’s approach: identify the focus person and psychoanalyse them to reveal the traumatic source of the psychical manifestations, which hopefully would empower the patients to resolve the trauma and the manifestations.  “Its purpose is catharsis,” which Fodor defined as an “emotional release.”56  Spiritualist mediums, Fodor wrote, feared losing their psychic abilities through such a process, but poltergeist people wanted the disruptive physical manifestations to cease.  The mechanisms of the poltergeist were still not clear but, through psychoanalysis, the cure seemed to be.  His approach, however, ran counter to the motives of psychical researchers who needed a way to study “genuine” phenomena as they happened.  If there were a “cure,” there would be no poltergeist manifestations to study. Fodor’s main criticism was that psychical researchers were most concerned with the “fraudulent or genuine character of the mediumistic performance,” which limited the scope of investigating anomalous phenomena.  Psychology, on the other hand, which focused on subjects’ behaviours, was well suited to evaluate psychical manifestations in relation to the unconscious.  He wrote in 1945:  When things do not happen according to expectations, as they seldom do, the scientists get nervous.  Being always apprehensive of the danger to their reputation, they withdraw from the investigation at the first breath of a                                                             55 Fodor, The Haunted Mind, 3; also see Fodor, The Unaccountable, 102-111. 56 Fodor, The Unaccountable, 102. Psyche: Haunted People    108 scandal.  Sooner or later, there is a scandal in every psychic investigation.  As a result, psychical research is now more or less shunned by science and is mostly conducted by men with insufficient training.  From this cul-de-sac, psychical research cannot hope to escape until it will include a genuine psychological investigation.57  According to Fodor, psychologists were “just as much interested in the mental processes which are active behind fraudulent phenomena as in those behind the genuine ones.”  He added: “Psychologists will no more reject a medium for conscious or unconscious imposture than they would reject an analytic patient for lying.”  His opinion was a dramatic departure from psychical research that only sought to understand the mechanisms of “genuine” phenomena.  To psychologists, the major concern was identifying the trauma that was bringing about the phenomena, whether it was mediumistic altered states of consciousness in the séance room or the adolescent at the centre of poltergeist manifestations.  In both cases, the phenomena were thought to emanate from the medium rather than a “hypothetical disembodied entity.”  Fodor wrote,  One can even venture to say that the mediumistic activity may represent a form of self-therapy, that it permits the affected persons an adjustment to life by sublimating individual traumata along channels of social usefulness, and by strengthening the importance of their own ego.58  In a sense, Fodor was suggesting that if focus persons realized that the physical manifestations of the poltergeist were representative of repressed traumas, they could authorize their “mediumistic” abilities in ways that could empower them.  As a psychoanalyst, Fodor recognized and encouraged this “self-therapy” as a form of empowerment in his own research from the 1930s onwards.  His psychological approach                                                             57 Fodor, “The Psychoanalytic Approach to Problems of Occultism,” Haunted People, 97-98. 58 Fodor, “The Psychoanalytic Approach to Problems of Occultism,” Haunted People, 98. Psyche: Haunted People    109 promised to advance research into the poltergeist, which was increasingly viewed as psychologically rooted and meaningful psychokinesis.  Fodor’s approach brought the “force” and its causes – although not its mechanisms – more directly into the purview of psychology.  Fodor saw psychoanalysis as a means to resolve the poltergeist and the focus person’s psychological issues that were associated with it. In his psychical investigations in the 1930s, Fodor saw curative possibilities for people who were experiencing the poltergeist.  He viewed them as patients.  He combined the ideas of Hereward Carrington with Freudian psychoanalysis to test the concept that a trauma in the focus person’s past was what unleashed the physical and psychological manifestations known as poltergeist activity.  The psychophysical expressions of the poltergeist were symptoms of a psychological ailment not being treated effectively.  Repressed sexuality was the central trauma to examine.  Psychical researchers, including Carrington, had long recognized that there were connections between what had been diagnosed as hysteria (abnormal psychology) and psychical states, where, for example, clairvoyance was demonstrated or spontaneous telekinesis was reported.59  Carrington                                                             59 These types of incidents in which psychical phenomena intersected with mental illness have appeared in numerous historical analyses, particularly in interdisciplinary hysteria studies and the history of psychiatry.  Perhaps the first historian to examine these linkages was Henri F. Ellenberger in The Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry (New York: Basic Books, 1970) who looked at the development of psychiatry from shamanic and religious roots, through mesmerism and hypnotism, and the clinical studies of hysteria.  After his work, many other historians have examined hysteria, including how extraordinary abilities were documented in the case studies.  There are many excellent works in this historiography in which the lines between psychical and psychiatric were evidently blurred.  Among them: Adam Crabtree often treats the psychical and the psychiatric in his historical works, among the most notable of which is From Mesmer to Freud: Magnetic Sleep and the Roots of Psychological Healing (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1993); Alison Winter looks at the mysterious effects of animal magnetism in Mesmerized: Powers of Mind in Victorian Britain (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998); Sofie Lachapelle examined how Belgian medical doctors and Catholic officials negotiated around an alleged case of stigmata in “Between Miracle and Sickness: Louise Lateau and the Experience of Stigmata and Ecstasy,” Configurations 12 (2004), 77-105; Emese Lafferton studied how a patient negotiated her mental state with her doctors in an excellent two-part article, “Hysteria and Hypnosis as an Ongoing Process of Negotiation: Ilma’s Case from the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, Part I” and “Hysteria and Hypnosis as an Ongoing Process of Negotiation: Ilma’s Case from the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, Part II,” History of Psychiatry 13 (2002), 177-196 and 305-326; Anne Harrington provides a review of how doctors sought to understand psychosomatic effects in The Cure Within: Psyche: Haunted People    110 (1930) wrote that “abnormal and supernormal phenomena appear to be strangely blended”; they could not be easily separated.60  In his 1948 essay, “The Poltergeist, Psychoanalysed,” Fodor further exemplified this with an undated account of soldiers hospitalized in Guernsey for chorea, a nervous disorder marked by involuntary, spasmodic movements.  Drawing on a case study from dental surgeon E. Howard Grey’s book Visions, Previsions and Miracles (1915), Fodor noted that inexplicable knockings were heard around the men, and their medical doctor, Dr. Purdon, used a sphygmograph – a Victorian instrument for measuring arterial blood pressure – on the patients to correlate the sounds with their nerve “explosions.”  The doctor treated the men with full doses of potassium iodide, sodium salicylate, and arsenic; “the men improved and the raps became less frequent.”  Grey himself noted a personal experience that occurred around his daughter after she had a dental procedure.  He heard explosive taps and other auditory sounds while she was asleep, including in the room on the floor below hers.61  “It is from such beginnings that the full-blown Poltergeist trouble is born,” Fodor commented.  “The observation of the latter leaves no doubt whatsoever that an unconscious tempest is raging behind it.”  Fodor connected the externalized unconscious forces in poltergeist cases to the “manifestations of major mental disorder of schizophrenic, though temporary, character, not the product of anything supernatural.”  He called this “Poltergeist Psychosis,” and argued in his autobiography that psychiatry was enriched by this term.62  While psychiatry did not actively take on this concept, Fodor’s work formally recognized the focus person not only as the                                                                                                                                                                                              A History of Mind-Body Medicine (New York: W.W. Norton, 2008).  No doubt a very interesting study could be made of the psychical effects historically observed in psychiatric cases. 60 Carrington, The Story of Psychic Science, 87. 61 Purdon also diagnosed one of the men with epilepsy, a factor later evaluated in poltergeist cases by William Roll (see Chapter 3).  Nandor Fodor, “The Poltergeist, Psychoanalyzed,” The Psychiatric Quarterly 22, no. 2 (1948), 195-196, also reprinted in Haunted People, 179-80. 62 Nandor Fodor, “Introduction,” Haunted People, 88. Psyche: Haunted People    111 primary object of study, but as someone whose well-being was at stake – concerns taken more carefully into consideration in subsequent parapsychological studies. Fodor saw Freudian dynamic psychiatry as key to developing an explanation of these disruptive forces as a form of psychosis.63  Contrary to the view that adolescents were most often focus persons, while still working as a psychical researcher Fodor had two major British cases in 1938 involving adult women.  Alongside experiencing apparently paranormal events, he wrote that the women were also suffering psychological problems.  Although he was not yet an accredited psychoanalyst, Fodor focused his attention on assisting them as patients.  In the case of “Miss Whalen” (a pseudonym) of Chelsea, London, Fodor told her  that she was haunted by her own past; that while she had been successful in keeping some unhappy memories from entering into her consciousness, she had failed to keep them bottled up; that her libido had side-slipped and walked out on her as a ghost, wasting her vitality in a vain attempt to convey a message in the same way – as in other cases – a symptom would.64  Fodor deciphered the symbolism of the strange phenomena experienced – knocks at the door followed by footsteps in the house, disappearing objects, and keys kept in drawers found in keyholes – to events from her life.  He claimed that the mere suggestion of these connections lifted Miss Whalen’s depression: it “vanished as if by magic, her eyes lit up, the color came back to her face and she agreed that I might be right.”  The solution was to put up a sign at the door: “Please ring the bell.”  The phenomena thereafter ceased.  He believed that this revelation slammed the door shut to her unconscious, which had                                                             63 Fodor, “The Poltergeist, Psychoanalysed,” 196; Fodor, The Unaccountable, 108. 64 Fodor, “The Poltergeist, Psychoanalysed,” 197. Psyche: Haunted People    112 wandered away from her physical being.65  To Fodor, the case was closed.  What marked Fodor’s psychoanalytical approach as different from other poltergeist investigations was that he turned his attention to the main experiencer, and correlated mental afflictions with the paranormal events.  Fodor suggested to Miss Whalen that her unconscious was unleashed, which apparently cured and even empowered her – at least from Fodor’s perspective.66  As a Freudian, Fodor identified repressed sexuality as at the centre of poltergeist cases, a view that may not have circulated widely among psychiatrists since the poltergeist was relatively rare.  Pushing the boundaries of observational and experimental psychical research, he pathologized the poltergeist as a symptom of psychological repression and pointed to a way in which it could be cured. Carrington and Fodor published the first lengthy exposition on psychosexuality and the poltergeist, Haunted People (1951).  But the phenomenon’s mechanisms, the main interest of psychical researchers and parapsychologists, remained largely speculative.  In a 1945 essay reprinted in Haunted People, Fodor wrote that poltergeists were known for “the malicious persecution of a young boy or girl of a pubertal age.  Because of [this], poltergeist phenomena are often ascribed to the sideslipping of tempestuous sexual energies at the time when they first ripen in the human body.”67  To explore this further, Fodor retrospectively engaged with previous investigations he had made in which he’d originally                                                             65 This concept inspired the way that psychiatrist Jules France depicted the poltergeist in Fate magazine in 1951, the passage quoted at the top of the Introduction.  “What Are Poltergeists?,” Fate 4, no. 3 (April 1951), 62. 66 Fodor’s approach is similar to how Freud approached dreams as symptoms, the interpretations of which would help resolve mental traumas, such as anxiety and hysteria.  See Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, Third Edition (New York: Macmillan, 1913), see for example 84, 199-200, 448-450.  For more on how Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams changed in its multiple printings, see Lydia Marinelli and Andreas Mayer, Dreaming by the Book : Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams and the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement, translated by Susan Fairfield (New York: Other Press, 2003). 67 Note that Fodor is applying the same explanatory language here as he did with the Miss Whalen case.  Fodor, “The Problems of Occultism,” Haunted People, 99, originally published as “The Psychoanalytic Approach to the Problems of Occultism,” a paper read before the Association for the Advancement of Psychotherapy, 30 March 1945, and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopathology that July. Psyche: Haunted People    113 thought discarnate entities were at work.  “The word ‘ghosts’ no longer has for me the literal meaning which I was apt to ascribe to it,” he wrote of an earlier report of a 1934 poltergeist case involving a 16-year-old girl in Saragossa, Spain.  Based on that case and others, Fodor agreed that puberty had something to do with it, but how?  Why the age of puberty should be marked, in certain instances, with such uncanny phenomena, no one is able to answer.  But it is a legitimate inference that the life force which blossoming sexual powers represent is finding an abnormal outlet.  Biologically, the disturbances spring from the organism of the afflicted person.  But whether the mischievous intelligence can also be traced to the psyche of the adolescent really forms the crux of the poltergeist problem.68  Fodor wondered how the psyche could externalize in a way that created perceptible and physical manifestations.  Since Freud was opposed to such a concept of the psyche operating independently of the body, Fodor looked to the British classicist and co-founder of the Society for Psychical Research Frederic W.H. Myers for possibilities. Fodor was inspired by Myers’ idea of “psychical invasion” presented in his book Human Personality and Its Survival of Death (1903).  Myers called this concept “psychorrhagic diathesis.”  According to Myers, as Fodor summarized it, a “phantasmogenetic center” was created “in the percipient’s surroundings by some dissociated elements of the agent’s personality which in some way are potent enough to affect and modify space.”  Myers  considered it a “subliminal” (unconscious) operation, not necessarily a profound incident but rather a special idiosyncrasy on the part of the agent, which tended to make his phantasm easily visible.  He coined the word “psychorrhagy” from the Greek.  It means: “to let the soul break loose,” and he believed that he had discovered a new physiological fact.69                                                              68 Fodor, “The Saragossa Ghost,” Haunted People, 92-93. 69 Fodor, “The Case of the Bell Witch,” Haunted People, 144.  Also see Fodor, “Freud and the Poltergeist,” Psychoanalysis: Journal of Psychoanalytic Psychology 4, no. 2 (Winter 1955-56), 27. Psyche: Haunted People    114 Diathesis was a pathological term that denoted a predisposition or tendency of the percipient to experience something mentally or physically abnormal.  Myers considered it to be a condition that the experiencer was born with, much like families who claimed that psychical talents were passed from one generation to the next.  Myers was open to the idea that the phantasm appeared either as a hallucination “on the mind” or “directly on a portion of space,” which helped explain how multiple people at times reported seeing the same apparition.  Myers defined psychorrhagic diathesis as a “habit or capacity of detaching some psychical element, involuntarily and without purpose, in such a manner as to produce a phantasm.”  Myers suspected this could help explain reports of doppelgängers or crisis apparitions.  He cited an 1892 case in which three different percipients simultaneously saw a phantom of a man falling off his horse in two different locations; the horse’s rider claimed the thought of falling of his horse had crossed his mind while he was hunting some distance away.70  In other words, phantoms were a product of telepathy, a view that Myers, Podmore, and Edmund Gurney argued in favour of considering that most apparitions reported in their 1886 SPR study were “phantasms of the living” – the apparitions that appeared to the percipient were often people they knew who were in crisis or about to die.  Thoughts and emotions appeared to be crucial to occurrences of “psychorrhagic diathesis.” Fodor wondered if these mechanisms proposed by Myers could be related to the poltergeist, particularly if some trauma acted as a catalyst in bringing about the physical manifestations.  If such a traumatic dissociation of the unconscious could occur and potentially create a phantasm of the living, then it could also be the mechanism of the poltergeist.  Fodor hypothesized that it may be                                                             70 Fredric W.H. Myers, Human Personality and Its Survival of Death, Volume 1 (London: Longmans, Green, 1903), 204, 651-53.  The case was originally relayed in correspondence printed in JSPR 6 (Oct. 1893), 129-30. Psyche: Haunted People    115  the explosive loosening of an infantile part of the psyche in which severe conflicts are kept repressed.  This torn-off part of the mind would be strictly conditioned in its development by the conflict-material which the main personality (in a therapeutic reaction to a disintegrating shock) had expelled and is preventing from returning into consciousness.  If the conflict-material consisted of a virulent hatred of the strong parent, and guilt feeling on that account, the poltergeist would automatically work out both emotions by revenge and self-castigation, and consume itself by discharging the dynamic components of its existence.71  In significant ways, this passage foreshadowed what the American parapsychologist William Roll would argue in his findings of poltergeist investigations after 1958, where psychological tensions between children and repressive parents seemed to be a common factor. Fodor found a framework in psychoanalysis that gave him a legitimate way to theorize sexuality and the psyche in relation to poltergeist manifestations.  The Freudian lens focused attention on issues of sexual repression.  Fodor’s psychoanalytical colleagues, including, as we will see, Freud himself, were largely supportive of his novel approach.  After he died in 1964, an associate at the Psychoanalytical Review, the New York-based journal he co-edited, wrote that Fodor  invariably appreciated originality of thought and his liberal viewpoint provided a healthy counterbalance for conservative opinion.  He had little patience for turgid metaphysical speculation; his infallible journalistic sense biased him strongly in favor of clear and direct statement.72  Where psychoanalysts welcomed Fodor’s “liberal” and “direct” approach to sexuality and the poltergeist, psychical researchers tended to oppose or altogether ignore such evidence.  Psychical researchers were among those who represented “conservative opinion.”  Given his unorthodox approach, some of them sought to discredit Fodor as a psychical researcher.                                                             71 Fodor, “The Case of the Bell Witch,” Haunted People, 144. 72 Marie Coleman Nelson, “Nandor Fodor: 1895-1964,” Psychoanalytical Review 51, no. 2 (Summer 1964), 157. Psyche: Haunted People    116 Navigating Issues of Morality The Fodor lawsuit introduced earlier in this chapter signalled how heterodox approaches in psychical research were seen to challenge conservative moral values.  Fodor’s Freudian investigation of how sexuality, mediumship, and the poltergeist were interrelated disturbed those who governed the International Institute of Psychical Research, for which he was the Director of Research.  Fodor was breaking with the Institute’s sympathetic stance toward spiritualism.  Its board primarily sought evidence that the human personality survived bodily death – that there was an afterlife.  Fodor, however, was delving into the psyche and sexuality of mediums and poltergeist focus persons.  Most mediums and their supporters did not want to have their sexual lives discussed in the context of psychical research, nor did they want their mediumistic capabilities to be pathologized.  Such claims were a threat to a public reputation maintained in spiritualism, which was very much rooted in Victorian-era Christian morals.73 The most explicit convergence of issues relating to sexuality, the poltergeist, and mediumship was recorded in Fodor’s investigation into the events surrounding “Mrs. Forbes” (a pseudonym) in 1938 England.