By now most people know something about poltergeists from tabloid headlines and scary movies.  You also probably know that the word means “noisy ghost” in German.  Like most folks who have no explanation for dishes flying out of cupboards, stones pelting them from their ceilings, or loud bangs coming from walls or furniture, they have a tendency to think, “spirits,” “Satan” or “ghosts.” Hence the name. 

Prof. William G. (

Prof. William G. (“Bill”) Roll

I prefer to call it Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis, or RSPK, a term coined by the late William (Bill) Roll who investigated many such cases, and think as he did that its source is in living persons.  These are usually young people who are often isolated, angry and frustrated, as for instance was Tina Resch.


One of the most well-known cases was that of an abandoned infant adopted at the age of two by couple named Resch, religious severe disciplinarians who raised many foster children.  They named her Tina.  She was a troubled and troublesome child and considered “different.”  She was humiliated by cruel classmates and teachers and after several transfers left school.

In March, 1984, when Tina was 14, after a violent fight with her foster parents she was sent to bed where she noticed that the numbers on her digital clock radio were advancing rapidly.  It started to play loudly.  She shut if off but it kept turning itself back on. It finally stopped when she unplugged it.


That was the start.  Havoc descended on the Resch household: All the water faucets were opened at the same time, lights went on and off, furniture was moved around, the TV and electrical appliances would turn on and off, often working even though they were unplugged.  A stereo blared loud music and when turned off would turn itself back on, even playing when it was disconnected. The telephone emitted a loud screeching sound when anyone tried to speak on it. 

An electrician friend was called in and could find nothing wrong with the wiring but noticed that the light switches were moving themselves up and down.  He taped them down, and with nobody near it he saw the tape disappear and the switch flip on. 

Photo of phone flying across Tina Resch

Photo of phone flying across Tina Resch
(Photo credit: Fred Shannon)


A photographer from the Columbus Dispatch newspaper named Fred Shannon was called in to try to get a photo of whatever was happening.

I met Shannon five months later at a conference in Texas and he told me that he saw objects moved, not in a natural way.  He described a box of tissues that he saw mid-air as though it had been thrown, but when it landed on a smooth surface, it didn’t slide, as it should have done; it just landed flat, as it would if you had placed it there.

He soon realized that nothing would happen while he was looking directly at Tina.  He cleverly sat across from her and gazed around the room while the camera in his lap was focused on her and his finger was on the shutter.  As soon as his peripheral vision caught some movement he snapped.  What resulted was a photo of Tina, looking startled while a princess phone sails across her body.


After other rather violent episodes involving broken glass Mr. Resch called the police. One man was so freaked by a pan being flung from an empty bathroom and being pelted by plastic lemons from behind, that he drew his gun threatening to shoot any other thing in the house that flew. The written police report, soon filed away, bore one word: “Mental.”

One Sunday morning while Tina was at Bible study class, furniture in her house was rearranged: Both her mattress and that of her step-brother were thrown on the floor, drawers opened, bookshelves moved, and the large bottle her brother used to save pennies was in the middle of his room, a shoe stuck on top of it.


At the same time Tina, not knowing consciously what was going on at home, was attending a Bible lesson on “devils.” Thinking that perhaps these happenings were owing to evil spirits, she asked the pastor to help them.  Mrs. Resch, thinking along the same lines, called him when Bible class was over with the same request.

While the family was waiting for the pastor to arrive, they tried to straighten up the furniture but it kept being thrown about. Other relatives arrived and they began to prepare a meal. Tina and a niece began to fry eggs, but the eggs flew off the stove and hit the walls and ceiling.  Other eggs from the carton joined them.  One hit the window, another hit the floor.

Mrs. Resch told Tina to put the rest of the eggs into the refrigerator for safekeeping. “But as soon as she closed the refrigerator door, the eggs, still in their shells, started coming out through the closed door!  Each egg emerged slowly, until it was fully outside the door, then it let loose and smashed against the wall.” (Roll, Storey p.63)

Tina suddenly called out, “Look at the butter!”  Two sticks of butter were sliding up a cabinet door “like two giant slugs.”They stopped at the top of the door.

The pastor arrived, saw some of the mess and blessed the rooms of the house, but realized when the couch shot out towards him when he was invited to sit, that he was not equipped to help here.


As soon as the minister left, the violence began to turn on Tina. A solid-brass candlestick flew from the kitchen and hit her on the back of the head.  As Tina was saying how much her stomach and head hurt, the wall clock behind her also came down and hit her in the back of the head. She fell on to the floor crying and holding her head. A telephone attacked her as did a tape dispenser. 

A heavy end table fell over and pinned Tina against the floor. A woman friend tried to pry it off her but the table wouldn’t move. While she was trying, the same phone that had attacked Tina hit the friend in the back. Then suddenly the table “gave up “and the episode was over.


Roll, who had investigated many poltergeist outbreaks, traveled to the Resch home with an assistant. Deciding that trickery could be ruled out, they decided to have Tina psychologically tested and to have her come to his lab in North Carolina where they could carry out controlled tests.

In the lab, under their watchful eyes, they saw objects fall from tables when Tina was not near them, or being flung at Tina from behind.  The trajectory of some articles was also not normal, going even around corners.  A square one-volt battery weighing about a pound sailed from a table and made a gash in a wall about 12 to 13 feet away and a wrench flew from a worktable onto the floor about eight feet away, all while they had full and constant view of Tina.

The only time things didn’t happen was when Tina was trying to use PK in tests, and when she was asleep.

Two small objects that were moved from one room to another had been chosen, without Tina’s knowledge, as possible PK targets by the researcher who was giving her psychological tests.  This time, instead of objects that were meaningful to her, she had activated items important to someone else. 

But she could still also act on her own feelings.  After Jeannie, the female researcher who was caring for her, was having a beer and had refused to allow Tina to have one, Jeannie’s empty bottle, which she had placed on a counter, was shattered on the floor. Tina was standing at least five feet away from it at the time.

Tina’s life took a tragic turn and she has been imprisoned for a crime that she most likely did not commit. Her story is a fascinating one and if you are interested in reading all the many details, which I can’t include here, I recommend you read: Roll, William and Storey, Valery, Unleashed: Of Poltergeists and Murder:  The Curious Story of Tina Resch.

Another even more spectacular case, which was completely unknown to non-Polish speakers, has recently been translated into English.  It is that of the Polish teenager, Joasia Gajewski who, in the 1980s displayed a variety of remarkable and powerful abilities. Her case is detailed in the book The Elusive Force: A Remarkable Case of Poltergeist Activity and Psychokinetic Power.

Watch video interview with Prof. Stephen Braude discussing poltergeists

Explore more topics “outside the séance room”
JOTTSParanormal metal bendingPoltergeistsPsychokinesis (PK)
Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis (RSPK)Thoughtography