Strewn throughout mankind’s history lay accounts of so-called ‘poltergeist activity’. The word poltergeist comes from the German, and translates simply to ‘noisy spirit’. A rather mischievous form of haunting, it throws small objects, drags furniture about and raps loudly upon walls and ceilings, often to the soundtrack of disembodied groaning and grumbling. Interestingly enough, these occurrences always seem to have a human focal point, often a young person on the cusp of puberty.
But sometimes it seems a focal point is not required.
Consider an event that took place in the September of 1862, in a quiet unassuming street named Laksegade in the centre of Copenhagen, Denmark.
A great commotion took hold early that morning in one of the houses on Laksegade, and all of the residents fled, panicked, out into the street.
Witnesses report windows being smashed from the inside. Potatoes, cutlery and other household objects soon began to be hurled from the building, all to the background of loud, guttural laughter and cursing emitting from inside.
A crowd began to gather, watching as firewood and furniture is tossed from on high with reckless abandon.
The activity began to fade with the arrival of the police. Officers searched the building thoroughly, but were unable to locate the source of the disturbance. Much to their surprise, the house was completely deserted.
The phenomena eventually petered out later that morning. Due to the lack of potential culprits, the public began to speculate that none other than the Devil himself to be responsible.
This particular case gave birth to the popular Danish phrase: ‘Fanden er løs i Laksegade’, which roughly translates to ‘the devil is loose on Salmon Street’. It is a rather more poetic version of the English phrase ‘when the shit hits the fan’.
A similar, although less well publicised, event took place in Nottingham, England, in 1998.
Early in the morning of the 10th April, Good Friday, on High Pavement in the Lace Market, the streets are sleepy and quiet. Owing to the bank holiday, many workers are at home.
At about 8am, the peace is broken by the sound of shattering glass. The first floor windows of one of the old buildings on the North side (originally a house, recently converted into offices) are blown out from within. Files and stationary begin to tumble to the ground. A passerby, out for a morning stroll, hears the commotion and calls the police, fearing some kind of explosion.
As in Copenhagen, some hundred years before, a crowd begins to form.
7th February 2006
Barry Glenn is a large, softly spoken man. Round of belly and with a warm handshake, he was a police constable in 1998, and one of the first officers on the scene that particular morning.
We meet at a small greasy spoon by Nottingham train station. Over a pot of tea, Mr Glenn shares with me his recollections of that day.
‘The three of us, Constables Reynolds, Constable Jacobs and myself arrived just after 9am. There were already about a dozen people gathered around the building.
‘There was paper and glass everywhere, and things like mugs and pens strewn about the floor, and also the odd television, the big fat type they used to have for computers. The strange thing was; nothing smashed or broken.
‘At first we put it down to a prank. Everything looked like it had just been placed on the ground deliberately.
‘We started moving people back, when another telly come out of the window. There was a gasp as it fell, and it fell quickly, like you think it would. But then the queerest thing happened. It just hit the ground and stopped. Dead. No damage to it what so ever.
‘Now, I’ve never chucked a television out of window myself, that’s not my style, but I’m quietly confident that if I did, it would shatter on impact with the floor. That’s just common sense, right?
‘While we were puzzling that, this giant wooden desk comes flying out. A big, heavy bugger, made of solid oak.
‘Same thing as the TV. It hits the ground and stops. Not a scratch.
‘After we’d got everyone clear, I went and run my hand across it. The damn thing was warm.
‘All the while this is going on, there’s this odd, kind of ‘grumbling’ sound coming from the building.
‘Not like an earthquake. More like an animal growling. A big animal.’
Taking advantage of a break in the commotion, PC Allen and his colleagues try the door to the building, and, finding it locked, they break it down.
The minute the door is open, the activity ceases.
A thorough search commences, yet no one is found inside.
Whilst it is possible that someone slipped past the officers, if that were the case, there is more than a good chance the assembled crowds outside would have seen that person make their escape.
The glass tube that holds the door to the fire exit closed is unbroken.
One would have expected such an event to at least garner a mention in that day’s news. Mr Allen tells me he was interviewed by the BBC later that day, but he found his spot bumped for coverage of the arguably more important Belfast Peace Agreement.
These two cases are interesting in that they present certain, classic aspects of the traditional poltergeist haunting, chiefly the unexplained noises and the hurled objects. Indeed, even the odd behavior of said objects as they struck the ground was also reported in the now famous Enfield case. In that instance, marbles and toys thrown across the room at great speed also came to a dead stop, and were also warm to the touch.
But, in both the Laksegade and High Pavement occurrences, there is one important omission from the catalogue of traditional poltergeist motifs: the lack of a human focal point.
Is it possible that some disembodied force was capable of generating the power required to cause such destruction? Were they somehow manifestations of some kind of unfocused frustration or rage?
It is worth noting that in both of these cases, not one person was physically injured during the activity.
If only it were possible to recreate the conditions required to bring forth such an event. The mind races at what we might discover.
Dr Thomas Gotobed
– This all happened a short distance from where I currently work, and I have never heard of this case. I did some digging through back issues of the local paper in the library and managed to find a small two paragraph long article tucked away on page 17 of the April 14th edition of the Evening Post titled ‘Ghostly Goings-on in the Lace Market’. Sadly, Nottingham Central Library were unwilling to let me borrow their copy for reproduction.
Once again, I’ve added some links to the article for those who’d like to look into some of the mentioned cases – C.R.