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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 movies of the same name, go to Poltergeist.


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

    Fan Works 
  • Not the intended use (Zantetsuken Reverse): "Chapter 24: The Belmonts" has a ghost noting that he can't move objects:
    "But if I could move things, I'd haunt Stanley for that arrow. There's got to be something easily breakable in that house."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • "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. Turns out it was created from her innocence after she was raped, molested and sexually abused by her father and she and her mother repressed the memory of it.
  • The title creature in The Babadook likes to make its presence known with ominous rumbles and knocking sounds.
  • In Ghost (1990), 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 Ghostbusters (1984), naturally the team's first cases are basically catching ghosts that act in a typical poltergeist manner.
  • 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...
  • Haunted Mansion (2023): A candlestick is seen floating through the air, presumably being carried by an invisible ghost, of which there are many in the film.
  • The gothic drama The Little Stranger, based on the novel by the same name, centers on strange occurrences at a dilapidated mansion — doors slamming shut, bells ringing by themselves, scratches appearing on surfaces — all theorized to be the work of a poltergeist.
  • Nightwish: A professor and some graduate students go looking for poltergeists in a deserted mansion. During several sessions looking for paranormal activity, the ghosts knock on the doors, walls, or mess with the machinery.
  • The initial premise of Paranormal Activity centers around a haunting by one of these. This theory turns out to be slightly inaccurate.
  • 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 cemetery, while the second suggested that a dark ritual opened a gateway between the afterlife and the living world.
  • Seeding of a Ghost has the demon fetus being summoned by a witch doctor, who manifests itself in the form of various poltergeist activity. For starters, cupboards and chairs vibrating, doors opening and closing on its own, a stove cooking milk suddenly explodes, cups of liquid began overflowing for no reason, and a toilet expels sewage liquid to the ceiling.
  • In The Sixth Sense, Cole Sear is often the target of poltergeist-like activity from the ghosts who are trying to get his attention.
  • A Tale of Two Sisters focuses on a recently released patient from a mental institution who returns home with her sister, only to face disturbing events between her stepmother and the ghosts haunting their house - all of which are connected to a dark past in the family's history.

  • The Dark: An ethereal concentration of discarnate malice, manifest in sentient darkness, grows strong enough to shatter a large window.
  • Discworld:
    • In Wyrd Sisters, the ghost of King Verence the First discovers that he can, with immense effort, interact with physical objects. He starts out with a few grains of dust, and spends some time amusing himself by oversalting his cousin Duke Felmet's porridge a pinch at a time to mess with his head, but after a while he reaches the point where he can pick up a dagger. Granny Weatherwax stops him from using it to settle the score, on the quite reasonable grounds that the dead attacking the living with intent to kill is rather unsporting.
    • 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) as the excess of life energy caused by no-one ending lives properly starts grounding itself by randomly animating objects.
    • A Hat Full of Sky features Oswald, Miss Level's resident ghost. Rather than make a ruckus, however, Oswald makes sure that everything is tidy (an easy way to keep him occupied for a day is to spill a bowl of sugar; he'll carefully put it back grain by grain), leading Miss Level to declare him an ondageist.
  • In Dragon Bones castle Hurog is haunted by one of those ... or so it seems. When Ward encounters said entity he finds out that Oreg can take the form of a human being, but is the soul of all the castle. This is the result of dark magic that was done to him, and he is not too happy with the situation. It is hinted that, if he doesn't like someone, he can act like a regular poltergeist. However, if he does like someone, he's more the opposite, protecting Ward's younger sister from bullies and her abusive father by showing her secret doors and the like.
  • In the Harry Potter series, a poltergeist named Peeves inhabits Hogwarts Castle. Unlike the other ghosts, he's a spirit of chaos rather than the echo of a person — it's All There in the Manual that he "came with the building". The Crusty Caretaker considers him a mortal enemy, while everyone else just thinks he's a bit of a nuisance. The only people who can control him to any extent are Dumbledore and the Bloody Baron (Slytherin House's ghost). Peeves is fairly unique among poltergeists in that he has a physical form. Rowling states that Peeves is an extremely powerful and ancient poltergeist, since a poltergeist is born from adolescent angst and uncontrolled magic and Hogwarts is a thousand-year-old school containing young wizards.
  • In Sarah Waters's The Little Stranger, a dilapidated mansion becomes the site of odd occurrences, such as bells ringing by themselves, doors slamming shut, etc. — possibly caused by a poltergeist.
  • Poltergeists are classified under Type Two (aka the more violent, dangerous type) ghosts in Lockwood & Co.. And they're bad news because unlike a conventional ghost, they can't be fought the normal way by slicing them with a sword or chucking salt or iron at them because they have no physical manifestation other than the chaos they cause. They are said to be literally everywhere and nowhere and about the only bright side of them compared to other Type Two ghosts is that their having no ectoplasm means that they can't ghost-touch you, causing you to swell up and die.
    • The protagonists, along with a Fittes team, are trapped in a department store by a poltergeist at one point, and it's revealed that Holly Munro lost her entire team to a poltergeist attack before the series.
  • 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.
  • The Insight version of Tobins Spirit Guide shows Poltergeists' core manifest off a powerful emotion like love, sadness and anger and then evolve into a blind, violent rage which said rage causes them to violently torment the living and their descendants.
  • Mouse (2017): When Anna first died, she was desperately lonely. Unfortunately, no one could see her except babies and animals. She kept trying to get living people's attention, mostly by pushing things around, breaking things, and turning the TV off, but nobody realized a ghost was responsible. Finally she managed to pick up a pencil. Bliss walked in on her just as she was about to start writing and was horrified by the sight of a pencil apparently standing on its point. Anna realized that all her attempts at communication were only terrorizing people, and she gave up until she met Mouse.
  • The Society of Sylphs: Because sylphs like Luranna are Invisible to Normals, she delivers messages to humans by manipulating physical objects. For example, she sends a message of forgiveness from a dead soldier to the friend who blamed himself for not saving him by causing the dead man's dog tag to fall out of his friend's wallet. Eddie refers to being contacted in this way as being "poltered."
  • In Too Bright to See, Bug is haunted by a ghost who does things like turn the TV and radio on and off, mess up Bug's room, and leave Uncle Roderick's high school yearbook in one of Bug's drawers.
  • In Sanctuary, poltergeists are fairly uncommon. Denny speculates that they're the ghosts of people with telekinesis, like himself. The ghost Hannah responds to the ghost eater's attacks by rattling floorboards.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Many "ghost hunting" programs request such behavior in their living-impaired quarry, in an effort to record proof of their presence.
  • Cordelia's place is haunted by a friendly poltergeist in Angel.
  • In Being Human (UK), Annie becomes a poltergeist after turning down a door into the afterlife.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a cluster of these in "Where the Wild Things Are". They were born out of intense adolescent emotion of the orphans who were traumatized by sexually repressive fundamentalist Genevieve Holt and were awakened by Buffy and Riley having sex. Driving the pair to keep having sex, they're using them as batteries, with the inevitable consequence of draining them completely if they aren't stopped.
  • Charmed (1998) had an episode about a poltergeist haunting the sisters' house. It formed from the residual evil of all of the demons and warlocks that were vanquished in the house over the course of four and a half seasons.
  • In episode "Los espíritus chocarreros" of El Chavo del ocho: Doña Clotilde blames the strange appearance and disappearance of objects in Vecindad to "Espíritus Chocarreros" (roughly translated as "mischievous spirits" i.e. Poltergeists). It was actually Don Ramon's during sleep walking, but no one knew that. The spiritualist session that follows in order to communicate with the spirits made this one of the funniest and fan-favorite episodes of the show.
  • Played for Laughs in Ghosts (UK). Julian Fawcett MP is the only one of the ghosts who can interact with the physical world, but he can only move small objects by nudging them with his finger and with great effort, literally screaming with the strain of it.
  • In Rentaghost, Timothy Claypole was a mischievous medieval jester who love for practical jokes caused him to return as poltergeist.
  • Supernatural: In episodes like "Home" and "Swap Meat":
    • In "Home", when Azazel kills Mary, her wound causes the house she used to live in to become a magnet for paranormal energy, which attracts a violent, attention-seeking poltergeist.
    • Maggie Briggs from "Swap Meat" is also a ghost of a human who is mistaken for a poltergeist. She makes noises in the walls, breaks things and attacked and carved Katie's skin with "MURDERED CHYLDE" (which the words "MURDERED CHYLDE" is why she was killed by a man for carrying his eligament child).
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "There Was an Old Woman", the children's author Hallie Parker notices her drapes and a rocking chair moving on their own. As she had heard the sound of children giggling, she concludes that the neighborhood kids were playing a prank on her. Several days later, her living room window is broken by a baseball and she again assumes that it was the local kids. That night, Hallie finds the copy of her book Creatures of the Closet that she signed for Brian Harris in her house. She calls his parents to tell them that someone has stolen his book, only to discover that Brian is dead and the book was buried with him. Hallie eventually realizes that all of this was caused by ghosts when apparitions of Brian and about a dozen other children appear to her.
  • In one episode of The Waltons, a poltergeist invades the family home, for no damn reason whatsoever.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Atmosfear: Hellin is a poltergeist child ghost possessing a Creepy Doll.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has had several versions of poltergeists as monsters, including in the AD&D Fiend Folio and the Basic D&D Companion rules. Currently, poltergeists are a variant of the specter.
  • GURPS: The Horror supplement features a Poltergeist template that can be applied to the Haunt meta-trait.
  • In Nomine: Poltergeists are a lowly kind of ghost, who sacrificed all of their Ethereal forces in the struggle to remain in the world of the living, and thus lost all of their intelligence and memories, but retain at least one Corporeal Force and thus can still interact with the physical world. They can be friendly, playful or malicious, but are no smarter than animals; some manifest as glowing balls of light or incorporeal noises, but most only show themselves through the objects that they throw around.
  • Warhammer 40,000: The Crimson Slaughter are a warband of Chaos Space Marines who are haunted by disembodied voices. During battle these voices manifest as malevolent poltergeist activity amongst the enemy ranks, filling vox-channels with ominous whispers and causing inanimate objects to ooze blood or float around as if manipulated by invisible hands.
  • Wraith: The Oblivion has poltergeist powers in the form of the Outrage Arcanos, which allows a wraith to affect physical objects, often through brute force, and the Pandemonium Arcanos, which produces creepy reality-warping effects ranging from cold spots to blood on the walls to altered perception of time. 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. The spiritual successor gameline,Geist: The Sin-Eaters, has a number of ways for the Bound to do this as well, not to mention the actual ghosts the Sin-Eaters interact with.

    Video Games 
  • Alan Wake: The Dark Presence sometimes uses possessed items against you that you must defend against with your flashlight. This can range from barrels or wheel to entire vehicles, the latter serving as a boss battle.
  • Beyond: Two Souls: The protagonist Jodie has been connected her entire life to an "entity" called Aiden. Aiden can move objects, short out electronics, protect Jodie with a magical shield, possess people and more. Jodie can exercise some degree of control over him — thankfully -= though doing this for too long will give her a Psychic Nosebleed.
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has the Spectral Sword causing this, as well as the Ouija board. Once you get the perk that lets you see the enemy's name, you'll occasionally find an actual Poltergeist in the game.
  • Creep TV: Poltergeists are haunting the Bagges' house, and Courage has to get rid of them and save his owners.
  • Darkwood has a random night event within the hideout that causes all the movable furniture to shake and move towards the Protagonist. While this doesn’t cause damage on its own, it does inconvenience you by ruining the positioning of furniture you used to impede monsters from invading your hideout with ease, especially if your lamps moved into areas that are more difficult to defend.
  • In Earthbound Beginnings, one of these attacks Ninten's house at the very start of the game. Except that it's actually Giegue's psychic influence that makes inanimate objects come to life, and making people and animals hostile.
  • In Final Fantasy VII Remake, many of the attacks the Ghoul boss in the Train Graveyard Control Room uses are this. You spend the battle trapped in a small room filled with debris, which it won't hesitate to toss at you. On the flipside, however, it has other attacks such as hitting the party with energy blasts or screaming at them, some of which can be blocked by hiding behind debris.
  • In Geist, you play as a poltergeist. You can cause objects to bang around and break in order to scare guards and animals, and once they're scared enough you can possess them and use them to accomplish physical tasks.
  • Haunting Starring Polterguy is a comedy-horror game where you play as a poltergeist named Polterguy. You're actually the ghost of a punk teen killed by a defective skateboard and your objective is to terrify the negligent CEO (and his family) until he learns his lesson, mostly by possessing objects in the house and making them do grotesque things, or sometimes simply making them fly around.
  • Haunt the House is an indie computer/mobile title which has the players take on the role of a cute little ghost, whose objective is to scare noisy partygoers out of his house so he can get some rest, which he does by possessing objects and making them move or perform a 'scary' action such as belching black ichor or popping skeletons out of drawers.
  • Shino Misora is effectively a poltergeist during the events of hololive ERROR: Escape from Aogami High, with her appearances and disappearances alike causing various objects in the school to move around. Examples include making doors close and lock up, and seemingly causing an entire hallway to crumble as you progress through it. And this is all in the Modern version of the school...
  • In Kindred Spirits on the Roof, Sachi Enoki, a ghost who has haunted the protagonist's high school for 80 years, can make objects shake. She uses this ability to attract Seina Maki's attention and help her discover an area where she and her sempai Miki Aihara can relax away from people who would make requests of the latter.
  • 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.
  • Pokémon
    • The Ghost-type move Poltergeist is a physical attack that manipulates the opponent's Held Item and hits them with it. It's surprisingly powerful, being the strongest Ghost-type move that isn't a signature or Z-Move.
    • The Pokemon Polteageist is named after the titular trope due to inhabiting a teapot. Its pre-evolution, Sinistea, inhabits a teacup.
  • Many of the early manifestations in Paranormal consist of poltergeist activity.
  • Shin Megami Tensei
    • Poltergeists appear as small demons, usually depicted lifting a chair bigger than their bodies.
    • Between the events of Shin Megami Tensei IV and Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, Navarre died and came back as a poltergeist. Fittingly, he can't attack himself, and has to throw items from Nanashi's inventory at enemies.
  • Shiver: Poltergeist features a female poltergeist who uses pyrokinesis in addition to throwing stuff around.
  • In the first Splatterhouse game, the second boss is a poltergeist who shakes an entire room violently. It attacks by tossing a variety of household objects at you, including knives and a chair, and then attempts to drop a chandelier on your head.
  • 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, Layla, from memories of her passed away older sisters.
    • From the PC-98 era, we have Kana Anaberal and, like the abovementioned Prismriver sisters, she was also created by a mentally unstable girl.

  • Champions of Far'aus has Poltergimes. A type of trickster spirit which is the combined form of a ghost, a Mischevie (another trickster spirit) and a slime. Like the component mischevie, they like to mess with people, (although unlike mischivies who mainly cause mischief, Poltergimes might also feel like causing someone to die if the mood hits them right) and are able to possess and haunt objects, as well as being able to create blue fire. The Poltergime that haunts the house in Yorken that Daryl buys is seen doing things like making chandeliers fall, making objects bleed, and fliping furniture around.
  • In Girl Genius, the Queen's Society Dome is rumoured to be haunted by a spirit called the "boilerghast", who causes mysterious accidents. Lord Snackleford insists the rumours are just that, and there are explanations for all the mysterious accidents that require him to fill in much less paperwork. When the boilerghast starts dropping clues to why Tobber was killed in people's laps, Snackleford is forced to admit there might be something here that bears investigation.

    Western Animation 
  • The Poltergasm from American Dad!!'s own episode of the same name happens to be made manifest from Francine's powerful unsatisfied sex drive and sexual frustration.
  • In one episode of Beetlejuice, BJ meets his match in a poultrygeist (manifesting as a spectral chicken) who is preventing him from sleeping. The Neitherworld medium (just roll with it) he and Lydia recruit to get rid of it gets really excited, because poultrygeists can answer any question. They ultimately get rid of it by asking questions that have no answer... and then 400 more show up..
  • Some of the ghost villains from Danny Phantom have the power to control certain objects:
    • The Lunch Lady has the power to control food and kitchen objects.
    • The Box Ghost has the power to control boxes, as well as their contents.
    • Box Lunch, the daughter of both aforementioned ghosts from an Alternate Timeline, inherits both of her parents' powers.
    • Technus can possess and control technological items, forging them into weapons and battlesuits.
    • While haunting Casper High from his Magic Mirror, Poindexter can manipulate stuff in the school to undo acts of bullying (such as untangling a nerd's shoe laces) and turn them against the bullies themselves (he seems to do this unconsciously, given that afterwards he doesn't recognize the bullies that had been punished by his powers). When he confronts Danny after escaping from his locker, he messes with objects all around the school: school supplies fly out of their lockers, lunch starts attacking students at the cafeteria, and items from the lab vanish in thin air.
  • What's seems to be a Poltergeist (and mentioned as such by name) affects the MIB headquarters in the Halloween Episode of Men in Black: The Series. As the show is sci-fi it turns out the Poltergeist was caused by an interdimensional alien life form.
  • Most of the ghost and spirits hunted in The Real Ghostbusters are the typical poltergeist.