Tag Archives: poltergeist

Ghost wake-up call


LS:  It’s really kind of short, but I mean like, so of course I grew up hearing about this ghost in my grandmother’s house. But what’s weird to me looking back now is like that wasn’t scary as a kid, like, you know, like I’d go visit their house, but I wasn’t like, I’d heard all these stories that I was not scared. And so like, my family like always would talk about those ghosts, but they would just laugh about it. And um, he wasn’t like as active, I guess by the time that I was, you know, there. Um, but I remember them talking about it and I remember my mom kind of like every now and then like just kind of saying to the ghost, like, “okay, get out here.” Like, you know, like talking to him I guess, but um, we stayed there and it was all four of us there, my parents, my sister, and I for like a long weekend or something, something was happening, I guess. I don’t remember. Um, but um, the back bedroom at the end of the hall had a big like king sized bed, I guess in it. And she stored a lot of things or whatever in there. And that’s where my sister and I would sleep when we were visiting. And I remember, one of my grandparents had been given like a walking cane with, um, like a squeaking horn, um, as like a gag gift when one of them turned 40. And so I, you know, I’d always noticed it because it had this big, like red horn on it. Um, and I remember I was asleep and I was just woken up out of the middle of the dead sleep. And it was like, it was like that moment of like what, it just woke me up. Like, you know, because you know, you didn’t like wake up and be like, oh, I have to pee or something. Like, it was just like, why am I awake? And it was because I had heard that horn go off. And so I’m like sitting there and there’s nothing between me and it. And so I was like, there is no way, like I didn’t touch that. Like nobody else in the house is awake. And so I was like, that must have been the ghost, like, you know? Right. And so then I don’t even remember if I mentioned it to them the next day or what, but it was just kind of later, like I, yeah, the ghost, like when, you know, it was like very clear like, oh, that happened. It wasn’t like I was dreaming it. 

Background: LS is the daughter of D in the linked story. This story takes place in the 1990s. 

Context: This story was told to me over a phone call. Analysis: In ghost lore, a ghost that can interact with the physical world like L describes is often known as a poltergeist. However, the connotation of a poltergeist tends to be more malicious than a ghost, particularly in pop culture like the movie Poltergeist. However, they do often haunt a specific person, while this one appeared to attach to any young people in the house.

Plant ghost


D: Um, I mean, neighbors used to just gather in the front yard and you know, if they were both working in the yard, they, you know, people would gather in the street and just kind of, you know, chat and catch up. So I think my mom saw the neighbor one day, P, and she was like, what in the world happened to your plant? And that’s when she said, oh, every so often I’ll get up and it’ll look like somebody has walked through the middle of my plant and it was a big, huge plant. And when she did some research, she found out that the original front door to her house was where that plant was and they had taken the front door out and moved it to the side and put in a bay window.

Me: Oh, okay. So something was trying to walk through the old door?

D: Yeah. So she felt like it was, you know, they must have been trying to get through where the door used to be. Um, and so she would, you know, pull the plant, you know, nurse it back and get it all where it’s looking good. And she said, and then, you know, a few weeks later the same thing would happen. And so she ended up having to move her plant somewhere else because it would get trampled during the night and you could see footprints and stuff like that through it. 

Background: D grew up in the southeast United States in the 1960s and 70s. Her mother and neighbor had both lived in the area for years. 

Context: This story was told to me over a phone call. 

Analysis: This reminded me of the trope we often see in supernatural stories, where spirits seem to be trapped in the version of a space that existed when they were alive. This is where we get the idea of ghosts walking through walls, or spending time around the place where they died. What was particularly interesting about this story, however, was the effect that the ghost had on the physical realm. I didn’t see that happening in the other supernatural stories I collected. 


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.”


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.