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A poltergeist (from the German polter, meaning "to rumble", "to make a noise" and geist, meaning "ghost" or "spirit") is a type of ghost or other supernatural entity that manifests by creating noise or moving objects.

While the term itself comes from German, poltergeist activity has been reported in nearly every culture, becoming part of the folklore in India, the United States, Japan, Brazil, and other countries. Several scientific theories regarding poltergeist activity have been proposed, including tremors, air currents, ultra-infra sound waves or unexplained losses of gravity, though true believers maintain that there is no stable scientific explanation for poltergeists. The, uh, not so scientific theories vary between ghosts and nonconscious, uncontrolled telekinesis.

For the movie of the same name, go here.

Examples of poltergeists in fiction:

Anime and Manga

  • In Ghost Hunt, one character's desire to be noticed ends up manifesting a poltergeist that injures several characters.


  • The Poltergeist movies feature (naturally) a manifestation of poltergeists that seem fixated on Carol Anne Freeling. The first movie posited that the haunting was caused by an improperly relocated cemetary, while the second suggested that a dark ritual opened a gateway between the afterlife and the living world.
  • In The Sixth Sense, Cole Sear is often the target of poltergeist-like activity from the ghosts who are trying to get his attention.
  • The title character of Beetlejuice, most likely.
  • The initial premise of Paranormal Activity centers around a haunting by one of these. This theory turns out to be slightly inaccurate.
  • Ghostwatch follows a fictional reality program documenting poltergeist activity surrounding a woman's two daughters while the hosts debate the actual cause. At one point it appears that one of the girls is actually causing the banging and crashing because that's what people expect, but then the spirit gets mad...
  • A Tale of Two Sisters.
  • "The Bell Witch" from An American Haunting at first appears to be a poltergeist, though one violently obsessed with the teenage daughter of the house it's haunting.
  • In Ghost, most dead spirits can't touch things by default, but with enough practice, a sufficiently determined (or angry) spectre can beat the crap out of you with ordinary household objects.


  • In the Harry Potter series, a poltergeist named Peeves inhabits Hogwarts Castle.
  • In the Odd Thomas series, a very few particularly strong ghosts have been observed to cause poltergeist activity when they get riled up enough. One notable example is Frank Sinatra.
  • In Reaper Man Death is forced into retirement, causing a whole lot of spirit activity to start manifesting through out Ankh-Morpork (and probably elsewhere as well).

Live Action Television

  • Many "ghost hunting" programs request such behavior in their living-impaired quarry, in an effort to record proof of their presence.
  • In one episode of The Waltons, a poltergeist invades the family home, for no damn reason whatsoever.

Tabletop Games

  • Wraith: The Oblivion gives us poltergeist powers in the form of the Outrage Arcanos, which allows a wraith to affect physical objects, often through brute force. The semi-sequel, Orpheus, gives us the Poltergeist, a Shade (or class of ghost/projector) with a talent for throwing about objects with telekinetic force and boosting the physical capacities of their ectoplasmic bodies.
  • Dungeons and Dragons has had several versions of poltergeists as monsters, including in the AD&D Fiend Folio and the Basic D&D Companion rules.

Video Games

  • In the first Splatterhouse game, a poltergeist boss attempts to drop a chandelier on your head.
  • In Mega Man Battle Network, you can get a chip called "Poltergeist" that replicates a poltergeist's common traits by picking every item on the battlefield and flinging them at enemies. It's very deadly if you have enough items on field at once.
  • The Prismriver sisters of Touhou are poltergeists. Something of a cross between the 'ghost' and 'uncontrolled psychokinesis' theories; they're artificial ghosts created by an unstable girl.