GHOST OR SPIRIT?: Many people confuse poltergeists with ghosts or believe they're the same thing, but poltergeists are not ghosts at all. A poltergeist is a spirit that expresses itself most often through making loud noises, moving objects and generally being more disruptive than a ghost. Unlike a ghost, a poltergeist typically isn't connected to a deceased person or a tragedy. So why do poltergeists cause mayhem if they aren't connected to the spirits of the dead?
A POLTERGEIST'S PURPOSE: Some theorists believe a poltergeist is the result of static electricity or electromagnetic fields, but supernatural enthusiasts think poltergeists could be the product of subconscious psychokinesis by the very individuals who claim to be haunted by them. Most poltergeists are capable of interfering with technology, such as telephones or televisions, and they often throw dirt or rocks to get attention. It's rare for a poltergeist to haunt an individual for very long, but there have been reports of people being tormented by these wicked spirits for years.
AN AMERICAN HAUNTING: There have been thousands of poltergeist reports for many centuries and spanning all regions of the world. Perhaps the most famous case involved the Bell family of Tennessee. According to legend, in 1817, John William Bell Sr. encountered a strange animal in his cornfield that was best described as part dog, part rabbit. Bell shot at the animal, and that's when his family's problems seemed to begin. Soon after the shooting, they began hearing noises outside and inside the home, and their youngest daughter claimed an "invisible force" attacked her. After four years of poltergeist activity, the spirit seemed to vanish when Bell died in 1820. The Bell haunting became a classic representation of menacing poltergeists, and the film An American Haunting is loosely based on those events.