My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If you are keen on the stories of supernatural phenomena based on true events devoid of media-generated sensationalism, testimonies of mediums (or psychics), or narratives of parapsychologists, you will find treasure in The Secret History of Poltergeist and Haunted Houses by Claude Lecouteux, a former professor of medieval literature and civilization at the Sorbonne. It’s a book worth being acclaimed as an unprecedented kind of literature in the context of regarding its multidisciplinary approaches to the nature and kinds of poltergeists and various supernatural phenomena based upon historical records as well as cultural accounts gleaned from his exhaustive research on the subject matters. The book itself will make the reader realize that there are indeed more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in this world.
The word “Poltergeist” meaning a noisy spirit in German, first appeared in the dictionary by Erasmus Alberus in 1540, an era marked by turbulent religious conflicts between the Catholics and the Protestants, including Reformation. In fact, Martin Luther, the father of Protestantism, was an avid believer in devils’ manifestations in the form of poltergeist and availed it of a potent means of proselytism of his new religious founding. Also, from 1550 to around 1700, many books on spirits were written mainly by scholars, men of letters, and theologians, including King James I of England (1566-1625), who wrote Demonology in form of a Dialogue, a treaty on spirits of devilish nature.
As aforesaid, etymologically, the word “poltergeist” denotes a primarily acoustic phenomenon that has also been termed as “knocking spirits,” which Lecourteux uses as a neutral term throughout the book without academic snobbery. He categorizes the activities of poltergeists as follows: (1) Casting stones/filth; (2) Vague noises; (3) Banging of windows; (4) Mischievous/Malicious acts; (5) Broken dishes; (6) Destruction of houses by fire; and/or (7) Attacks on specific individuals. He further illustrates the historical accounts of poltergeist incidents in the cases of a certain Greek philosopher named Athenodorus as narrated by Pliny the Younger (62-113) in his letter to his friend Sura in which a story of a specter of an old man who appeared to the philosopher to show him where he had been buried was narrated in detail and a man named Gilles Bolacre who rented a haunted house in Tours that disturbed him every night with knocking sounds and eventually went to court to have the lease successfully rescinded on the ground of the landowner’s violation of caveat emptor.
Lecourteux also proffers a reasonable connection between some of the supernatural phenomena and human synchronicity, which includes telesthetic power. He provides the reader with the concept of “Place Memories,” a telesthetic phenomenon in which the cries of the victims and various noises accompanying the violent scenes are imprinted on the walls or at the places where acts of violence were committed as if upon a magnetic tape recording. He elucidates that inanimate objects could be endowed with human properties by means of the telesthetic faculties of the subconscious that have the ability to find and interpret such uncommon vibrations and emanations, just as mnemonic faculties have the ability to discern the latent vibrations of thought.
In light of the above, Lecourteux addresses our incorruptible human nature that has hardly evolved at all in the domain of supernatural despite the dominant influence of Enlightenment rationality in the recent historical and social landscapes. That is, science has failed to deprecate ancient beliefs in spiritual entities variable in accordance with religious and cultural climates throughout our human civilizations. Also, the veritable records of supernatural incidents betoken different mental attitudes of the times. After all, our ancient predilection for anything supernatural has survived and will survive change of time because it is linked to man’s fundamental questions about a realm inhibited by the dead and spirits.