Thursday, April 9, 2015

Shelf Doll: a Poltergeist Experience

A decade ago, one of our library's volunteers investigated an apparent poltergeist case at a friend's house situated near Robb Hill Road, in Morgan County, Indiana.  We will call the friend Imogene, because that's nothing like her actual name.

Click Map to Enlarge

To give some idea of what this case was about, here is our book trailer.

Shelf Doll & Other True Paranormal Tales, by Karl C. B. Muilliwey
(MPL Book Trailer #110)

Imogene's family had moved into the house in 2003.  Apparently, a teenage girl committed suicide in the home five years beforehand, but no one in Imogene's family knew this before investigating. Imogene began experiencing paranormal phenomena a few months after moving into the house. These events occurred at first exclusively in Imogene's bedroom, which was, she subsequently discovered, the same bedroom in which the suicide occurred.  Objects sitting on tables, a desk, the bed, and shelves were rearranged randomly around other places in the room and elsewhere in the home. Imogene alleged that neither she nor her family members had moved these items.  She also began hearing thumping apparently coming from inside the walls of her room. Her parents found no structural causes of this noise, and nobody at the house claimed responsibility for the sounds.

One of Imogene's acquaintances suggested she use a ouija board to attempt communication with a disembodied spirit, assuming one existed and was causing the phenomena.  Ouija board use can be dangerous to novices or frivolous parties, and so she sought someone experienced in psychical research who could protect participants from harm.  A paranormal investigator was retained, and ouija board sessions began.

For those unfamiliar with this device, a ouija board has an indicator (sometimes called a planchette) that moves to letters of the alphabet to spell-out messages.  Often numbers, plus the words yes, no, and goodbye, are included.  Participants lightly place their fingers atop the planchette, which they allow to move by itself, although skeptics claim that the indicator is moved deliberately (or unconsciously) by someone touching it. Often, the planchette moves rapidly across the board.  To safeguard from cheating, participants are frequently blindfolded, and an observer records messages on paper.  This is hardly a fraud-proof means of communication, so it is commonly dismissed among paranormal researchers as unreliable.  The primary investigator, however, had had some interesting results using the safeguards mentioned.

At first, the planchette spelled out nonsensical words, but fairly soon, intelligible messages began to appear.  Purportedly, the teenage girl who committed suicide was communicating.  (Her suicide was later independently established by talking with neighbors.)  She called herself Emily and claimed to be an earth-bound spirit living inside one of Imogene's dolls sitting on a shelf in her bedroom. Numerous personal details were mentioned in the messages, some of which were independently confirmed by neighbors who had known Emily, but which were unknown to anyone investigating.

Occasionally, Emily (or whatever, if anything, was communicating) became irritated or abusive in her messages, and so sessions would usually end.  Once, Imogene turned the doll in which the spirit supposedly resided to face the wall as a punishment for nasty comments.  The planchette then became "highly animated," according to the primary investigator, stating that the doll should be turned back to face forward. Objects then began to propel themselves from the shelves, desk, and tables.  Some struck participants without injury.

Certainly, something strange was occurring in Imogene's house.  The alleged communications continued for several months and then abruptly ceased.  Whatever the true explanation, it was quite an unusual experience for those involved.  It certainly added to the local ghostly folklore of Morgan County.

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