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An Up-Market Poltergeist at Last

Posted on 11 November 2013, 9:57

Are poltergeists class-conscious? I’m beginning to think they might be.

The past couple of years have seen a remarkable increase in reports of poltergeist activity from all over the world. This year alone I have received news of cases from Argentina, Botswana, Canada, Colombia, Dagestan, Dubai, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Malaysia, Paraguay, Singapore, Spain, Turkey, Vietnam and Zimbabwe - that’s more than one a month. I’m sure there have been other cases that have gone unreported, such as a very interesting one from central London that took place several years ago but was only made public in November 2013. More about that later, but first some general comments on the more recent cases.

There are remarkable similarities between many of them. Their main features have been bombardments with stones and outbreaks of fire, two of the most alarming symptoms of the poltergeist syndrome, as I know from personal experience, especially from the Carapicuiba case I described in The Flying Cow. The types of property attacked are predominantly houses occupied by working-class families in rural areas. Again and again there are accounts of showers of stones, often inside rooms with no open doors or windows and no sign of any visible human source. As for outbreaks of fire, these have become more frequent and also more serious. On at least two of the recent cases, houses have been totally destroyed along with most of the unfortunate occupants’ clothing and furniture.

Of all the cases mentioned above, only the Spanish one, in a smart-looking apartment block in Málaga, involved what looked like relatively prosperous residents. Just the other day I was telling a colleague that if we want poltergeists to be taken seriously what we need is a good outbreak in Buckingham Palace or 10 Downing Street, (London homes of British monarchs and prime ministers respectively). It is possible, of course, that the stately homes of the upper classes have been invaded by poltergeists, but we have never known about it. The great and the good have ways of keeping inconvenient things out of the media, but not always, as the following intriguing event indicates.

Chester Square, (below) in London’s ultra posh Belgravia district, is about as up-market as you can get. It is or was home to the likes of Mary (Frankenstein) Shelley, Yehudi Menuhin, Julie Andrews, Mick Jagger, Roman Abramovich, and the late Baroness Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first woman prime minister. Following her ousting from Downing Street in 1990, she moved in to no. 73 where she stayed until shortly before her death in 2013.

chester square

While there, she enjoyed the services of the Diplomatic Protection Group of London’s police force, one of whom has now given us a brief but tantalizing account of what happened one chilly night on his watch in the basement control centre directly below the dining room, at around midnight. Simon Crowley, the policeman on duty, ‘distinctly heard movement from the floor above’, as he put it. Lady T was away, and he was sure nobody could get into the building without being seen on CCTV or ‘setting something off’. So he went upstairs to have a look round, and noticed that one of the chairs was not quite where it should have been – under the table like all the others. This was odd, but not exactly life-threatening, so Crowley just pushed it back and returned to the control room.

Ten minutes later, he ‘definitely heard the noise of furniture being dragged across the floor’, as if somebody in a chair had been pulled back. Deciding that this had to be ‘an incursion by persons unknown’, he did what he had presumably been trained to do and called his base for ‘reinforcements’. These were promptly dispatched, and Crowley went back upstairs, pistol in hand, to the room he had only just been in.

It was not at all as he had left it. Chairs had indeed been pulled back. All the chairs on one side of the table had been pulled out and lined up against the wall. Although Crowley described himself as ‘open-minded about things paranormal’, as at least three police officers I have met have also admitted to being, he decided this was a bit too much, and rushed out of the front door to greet the back-up group as they arrived, no doubt feeling ‘for this relief much thanks’. He never set foot in the house again.

This was not exactly a major poltergeist invasion, but experienced researchers will know that the phenomena are not always violent or destructive. Poltergeists can be quite creative - it’s not unusual to find stuff on the floor, neatly arranged as they might be in a shop window, and chairs can be moved just a few feet, as I have seen for myself. So Crowley’s description of self-rearranging chairs is a typical feature of cases that can also develop into major infestations.

He does add, however, in his account of his experience in Fortean Times (308, 2013, p.70), that he was told later that ‘loads of other sightings and incidents had taken place over the years’ including ‘a ghostly figure on the stairs’. I am hoping to follow up this unusual case and will report any new findings.

GUY LYON PLAYFAIR was born in India and educated in England, obtaining a degree in modern languages from Cambridge University. He then spent many years in Brazil as a freelance journalist for The Economist, Time, and the Associated Press, also working for four years in the press section of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The first of his twelve books, The Flying Cow, in which he described his experiences investigating the psychic side of Brazil, was translated into six languages and became an international best seller. His most recent book is Twin Telepathy. He now lives in London and is a council member of the Society for Psychical Research.

His books include:
If This Be Magic: The Forgotten Power of Hypnosis
The Flying Cow: Exploring the Psychic World of Brazil
This House is Haunted
Twin Telepathy



Dear Christine Needham - I never said anything of the sort. The ‘me’ as portrayed by an actor didn’t bear much resemblance, if any, to the real me. For my opinion of The Enfield Haunting, see my blog ‘Fact or Fantasy?’ on this site (May 2015). I have regularly defended Janet against allegations of this kind and shall continue to do so.

Guy L. Playfair

guy Lyon Playfair, Tue 3 Nov, 12:48

I watched The Enfield Haunting tonight, and was bothered by something you said. You said Janet was a fake because females have been pulling pranks like that for ages, like only boys can be haunted or plagued by poltergeists, and girls are just liars. Do you still hold this very misogynistic view?

Christine Needham, Mon 2 Nov, 04:16

Manfred - Thanks for your kind comments. It’s very nice to have a book remembered after 25 years. When I was preparing it for the new edition, I didn’t change a word, apart from deleting one sentence which must have been a misprint as I couldn’t understand it!

Guy Lyon Playfair, Tue 17 Dec, 19:34

Dear Mr Playfair! Some days ago I read your book If This Be Magic; really electrifying. I know a lot about hypnosis and adore Mesmer, but to read again about this forgotten power is great. I’m writing a book about healing and so I read everything I can get. - Your book helped me also in another way: I have a manuscript to become an e-book (about magic and sports), which I wrote in 1997. Now I try to find stories to get the book up to date. But perhaps I do not have to worry. At least your book after 25 years reads like one written last year. All the best, Manfred Poser. (

Manfred Poser, Mon 16 Dec, 20:16

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