Welcome to Kala’s Quick Five, where I chat with fascinating authors, artists, teachers and researchers and ask them five questions about their work. My guest today is Michael Clarkson, a non-fiction author and professional speaker who has spent 37 years as a print journalist, winning numerous awards for his investigative pieces, including the Canadian National Newspaper Award twice. He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his story about reclusive author J. D. Salinger, who he met twice in New Hampshire. Clarkson has also been a sports reporter interviewing famous athletes such as basketball legend Michael Jordan and golfer Tiger Woods. The topic of discussion today is Clarkson’s new book – The Poltergeist Phenomenon: An in-depth investigation into floating beds, smashing glass, and other unexplained disturbances.
Kala: Michael, welcome to Kala’s Quick Five. What led you to write about poltergeists, did you experience the phenomena personally or do you just have an interest in the field?
Michael: The topic has interested me for a long time, even before 1980 when a 21-year-old man, who had been the center of a case came to my house in Niagara Falls, Ontario, to talk about his experience. Since then, I have been following with increasing interest as such cases in the media and in scholarly publications. During the past five years, I have been closely examining 75 cases, many of which appear in my book. I have also experienced unusual occurrences of the flight-or-fight system in sports and in deadline writing. I believe fight-or-flight is one component in poltergeist activity, although it is hard to prove.
Kala: In your words, how would you define a poltergeist and how does it differ from other paranormal activity?
Michael: I think there is a rational, although rare and mysterious, explanation for poltergeist activity; I think it revolves around haunted people, not haunted places.
In the 75 cases I reviewed, I found many trends (although each case has its own characteristics and idiosyncrasies) The cases generally have:
· Events such as unexplained knocking, electrical malfunctions and movement of objects and furniture.
· A poltergeist agent, usually an adolescent entering puberty, immediately around whom the strange activities occur. He or she is usually quite intelligent.
· Repression or frustration of the poltergeist agent by others in a home.
· High levels of stress in the household, prior to the start of the poltergeist activity and continuing through the case.
· A mischievous or destructive intent on the part of the agent, rather than a downright malevolent intent, although about a dozen people have been injured, but none seriously, in the cases in this book.
· A life span for a case of one week to several months.
Just how the agents make things move is a matter of speculation, but they often have unique brains and perhaps subconsciously tap into nearby energy sources, such as electricity, geomagnetic storms and the human mind/body.
Kala: In my work as a paranormal researcher, the poltergeist case which has always captured my interest is the Bell Witch in Tennessee. Can you describe some of your most favorite and well documented poltergeist cases?
· In St. Catharines, Ontario, in 1970, an entire shift of police officers reported – over two weeks time — dynamic events revolving around an 11-year-old boy. They reported that chairs moved, paintings fell off walls, the boy was thrown off a chair numerous time and a hardboiled sergeant who, according to a fellow officer, was “sitting in a chair when he was tipped on his ass.” The occurrences lasted two weeks and to this day no cheating has been reported and the boy has kept his identity secret in his hometown.
· In a middle-class home on Long Island, New York, in 1958, Detective Joseph Tozzi, one of the most respected detectives in the Nassau County Police Department, said he was hit in the back of the legs by a flying bronze horse, weighing nearly 100 pounds, while he was walking down basement steps with a 13-year-old boy. Many other witnesses claimed to see startling events, which lasted more than four weeks.
· In a Miami warehouse in 1967, police officers, newspaper reporters, television crews and insurance agents claimed they saw cowbells, ashtrays, key chains and rubber daggers fly or fall off shelves, sometimes at unusual angles and always while a 19-year-old shipping clerk was nearby.
· In 1974 in the home of a factory worker in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Officer John Holsworth swore he saw a heavy refrigerator “lift slowly off the floor, turn and then set down again. No one else was around, and then the big TV set seemed to float in the air and crashed to the floor.”
· In a house in London, England, in 1977, Constable Carolyn Keeps said she became a witness to a chair moving three or four feet, apparently without the help of human hands. Also in England in 1952, police say they were witnesses, and also the victims, of strange incidents in Runcorn, in which a quiet, 17-year-old apprentice draftsman was said to cause dressing tables and other things to move with his mind over a 10-week period.
Kala: Describe what you found with the evidence of PK (psycho kinesis), which is the ability to move things with the mind, that correlated with ongoing poltergeist activity?
Michael: Evidence for RSPK (poltergeist activity) and PK is fleeting and not conclusive, although witness evidence is strong, especially with at least 51 police officers who have reported RSPK over the years.
A Canadian woman in her forties, who wants to keep her identity secret, says RSPK happens when her husband gets her upset – to the point that even heavy appliances can move. She is disturbed by her powers and is trying to channel them by moving a homemade pinwheel with her mind, which she did for me in a Skype interview recently. The woman is being tested off and on by neuroscientist Dr. Michael Persinger and parapsychologist William Roll.
Unfortunately, funds for such research are being cut and many university laboratories have closed in recent years.
Kala: Michael, I served for several years on the board of the Rhine Research Center, which is the organization founded by J.B. Rhine, (his research into ESP and paranormal activity is legendary). During that time, I had the opportunity to meet and interact with William (Bill) Roll. If I had to say who is one of the best experts in the field, Bill Roll would be at the top of my list. Who would make your list as the best paranormal experts, parapsychologists and researchers in this field?
Michael: Yes, William Roll is the foremost expert, perhaps of all time, regarding poltergeists. He is semi-retired in Georgia. Stephen Mera of Manchester, England, is another respected parapsychologist, along with American Andrew Nichols and Brit Malcolm Robinson. Unfortunately, several top ones have died in recent years – D. Scott Rogo, Maurice Grosse and Andrew Green.
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More about Kala Ambrose: Kala Ambrose is an award winning author, intuitive and host of the Explore Your Spirit with Kala Show. Described by her guests and listeners as discerning, empowering and inspiring, she speaks with world renowned authors, artists, teachers and researchers delving into metaphysical, holistic and paranormal topics. Kala Ambrose is a highly interactive teacher on a mission to educate, entertain and inspire. Her new book – Ghost Hunting North Carolina hits the stores in September 2011.