USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘poltergeist’
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Poltergeist

Collected in the informant’s office on his free time. I asked him to describe a time where he experienced something that he couldn’t explain.

The informant attended the University of Southern California many years ago. The apartment he discusses is not known to be haunted.
Informant: “Um… Well, uhh… When I was in school here at USC, uh, there was a series of very strange events in my building. And, uhh… one night there was a loud, uh, series of noises from my living room of my one-bedroom apartment. I could see that my, uh, cla- my roommate was asleep next to us, and but there was clearly someone in the other room. And when I went in to investigate, things had been knocked off the shelves and walls, but the room was not broken into. Uh, and I am convinced that it was a poltergeist.”

Interviewer: “What would you define a poltergeist as?”

Informant: “Uh, well poltergeists are, uh, unmoored spirits traditionally, uh, kept from the afterlife by their own unfinished business, uhh, frequently revolved, or revolving around, like, rage, hate, or anger – Negative emotions that have kept them tethered to the world. But, uh, poltergeists traditionally, uh, travel. Uh, they’re not tied to one singular location. Um, so I believe at the time, uh, there was a, it was simply a poltergeist was moving through our apartment complex.”

Interviewer: “Interesting… Were there any other details about the incident?”

Informant: “[Sighs and smacks lips, thinking] Um… Only that a apropo of nothing, a similar incident was reported by our downstairs neighbors the night before, and, uh, a very strange occurrence happened a few days later when everyone was watching a movie together, and in the same moment, everyone screamed, uh, because we all saw, in the same moment, a face in the screen. It was like a, just an image of like, the characters were standing in front of a bush, and the green bush, for a moment, shifted, and we all saw it.”

Interviewer: “You saw the face too?”

Informant: “I saw the face, yeah.”

Interviewer: “What did the face look like?”

Informant: “Uh, it was just a brief moment of, like, an, an angry man’s face. Like a screaming face.”

Interviewer: “What do you think that was? Same thing?”

Informant: “[Sighs deeply in thought] … Yes? It couldn’t have been a different poltergeist. Like probably the same spirit infesting the building, uh, for that period of time.”
The informant has an interesting claim of poltergeists being able to move from location to location, not tied to a person or place like other sources claim. He also has a reliable account due to other people also being witnesses to multiple accounts of this “poltergeist.”

Adulthood
Customs
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Polterabend

The following is a conversation between myself and my parents about a German Jewish wedding tradition called a Polterabend. My dad, Arthur, is of German Jewish descent and grew up in a secular household in Cincinnati, while my mother, Margaret, is from a secular Episcopalian background. They are referred to by their first initials in this conversation; “L” is my first initial.

M: This is actually uh, Dad’s but I was gonna say that in Cincinnati they have um–among reform Jews in Cincinnati–they have a custom called the Polterabend. which is a-
A: It’s a German custom.
M: It’s a german custom, but isn’t- I think it was celebrated by the German Jews?
A: Yeah.
M: Um and we had one of them before our wedding and the idea was um, the night before, you have like a- a kind of a wild party of some kind to celebrate. But “polter” is y’know from “poltergeist” so it’s like, y’know, goblins or-
A: And you’re supposed to break something.
L: You always do it before your wedding or…?
M: Yeah, the evening before your wedding um, y’know you uh, you break stuff, you make a lot of noise to sort of celebrate the marrying couple and chase away the bad spirits.
L: And like, did your parents do that, Dad?
A: Yeah.
L: And like, all the reform Jews in Cincinnati?
A: Yeah.
M: And when they had a party for us, the evening before our wedding here [in San Francisco]-
A: They called it a Polterabend.
M: They called it a Polterabend, although it was just a party.

My dad’s family, like most German Jewish families in Cincinnati, were not at all religiously observant; in fact, they had a Christmas tree most years growing up. Still, most reform Jews in Cincinnati, my dad’s family included, participated in cultural practices like the Polterabend in order to connect to their culture. Although neither of my parents are especially religious, traditions like this one connect our family to our cultural-religious background. My parents were married by a Rabbi in a Jewish ceremony, and had a “Polterabend” before their wedding; though my mom is not Jewish, their wedding celebrated Jewish culture’s place in their newly formed family.

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