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A Family Bewitched: The Hoffman Poltergeist

I am in the throes of the Big Push for The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales from the Past and said throes are cutting into my sleep. So in the interests of time, today I’m going to revisit a story from The Face in the Window: Haunting Ohio Tales. There you will find a much fuller account of an entity labeled “IT” by those it tormented, in a chapter called “A Family Bewitched: The Hoffman Poltergeist of Wooster.”

I like to think that I’m pretty well up on the literature of poltergeists. Slashing polts like the ones you will read about below are found as least as early as the 15th century. It is puzzling, if you believe that all poltergeist activities are merely pranks caused by mischievous teenaged girls, how their activities follow the same patterns, remaining unchanged over the centuries. Personally, I think polts are a form of spontaneous PK arising from trauma and repression. Polt vectors are likely to be frustrated, angry, or even abused individuals, who feel that they have no choices and cannot solve the problems they face.  Hormonal shifts seem to play a role, whether in puberty, menstruation, or menopause. Dissociative behavior is often part of the picture. What the mechanism is, I haven’t an earthly….

As I outlined in another chapter in FITW, “Rock, Fire, and Scissors: The Mysterious Poltergeist,” poltergeists often have specialities. There are the garden-variety ones who throw household items and rap on walls; there are ones who materialize water; there are the stone-throwing devils or lithobolia; incendiary poltergeists like the tragic Minnie Merkle in “Haunted by Fire: A Fire-Spook in Springfield,” from FITW. Lastly, there are the slashing poltergeists who shred clothing and other textiles in what feels like a very personal, intimate attack. While IT did many things to the unhappy Hoffman family, its attack on their wardrobes was one of the most interesting (and distressing) features of the case. Here is a representative article about IT’s depredations.


There have recently been doings in Wayne County, Ohio (reports the New York Times), as marvellous as any that ever frightened Cotton Mather, or mystified Dr. Johnson. In the little city of Wooster there lives a quiet and respectable family, named Hoffman, which for nearly two years has been haunted and tortured by malignant spirits. The persistent demons cannot be entreated or exorcised away; and their proceedings bear a like close resemblance to those of divers familiar imps conjured up by modern spiritualists, and to those of the famous Cock Lane ghost of a century ago.

The mysterious pranks that afflict the Hoffman family were begun in June 1869, while the family lived in Millersburg, Holmes   County, Ohio. At that date, by way of keynote or prologue to the weird drama to come, Mr. Hoffman one day lost two dollars from his purse. He did not at first attribute this to any Satanic or supernatural agency, although he felt subsequently called on to do so. Prudently resolving to hide his money more carefully in future, he went his way. But put his loose cash where he might, the cunning depredator spied it out and relieved him of it. The poor man soon found that it was absolutely impossible to keep any funds about him at all; and this was only the beginning of his woes. Articles of food and of dress began to disappear in the same unaccountable way. Crockery fell from shelves without the aid of human hands, and was smashed to pieces. Stones, eggs, and other small objects were tossed wildly about the house; and now and then the unseen tricksters got up a little shower of gravel and sand, which would be playfully thrown in the faces of the inmates.

The family were at first very naturally surprised and annoyed; afterwards they got alarmed, and having unsuccessfully tried every means that occurred to them, both to discover the cause of these visitations and to put a stop to them, they resolved to quit their home. Mr. Hoffman took another house for his wife and three children—the latter being aged twenty-seventeen, and fifteen respectively—in the town of Wooster, at some distance from their former abode; while, with the discretion that appears to characterise him, he took up his own temporary quarters at a mill where he was employed. The family now hoped to remain unmolested; but they soon found to their chagrin how trivial were the impediments of space or locality to their malefic attendants. The prudent Hoffman, indeed, escaped further attentions; but his spouse was less fortunate. That lady and her offspring being domiciled at the house of one Snooks, in West Liberty Street, Wooster, [Spitzer B&B is at 504 W Liberty St] now became the victims of an extraordinary series of persecutions. The clothes of the mother and eldest daughter were first abstracted and then returned in fragments, having been cut and slashed to pieces. Sometimes the garments would be stuffed in out-of-the-way places. One day, for example, most of the linen of the family was discovered carefully packed in the mouth of the cellar drain. Another time a silk dress was found under a wood pile; and skirts were dug up that had been deliberately buried in earth or sand.

A fresh feature was now added to the entertainment, in the shape of notes that arrived, none knew from whence, although they sometimes appeared to be thrown form the cellar. These missives contained various threats and admonitions. One of the number advised Mrs. Hoffman, in a friendly way, that if she would come down the cellar stairs backward on her knees, at a specified day and hour, she would find a box containing 2,000 dollars. The worthy lady was anxious to clutch the glittering prize, but “being afraid of bodily injury, was dissuaded by neighbours from making the hazardous attempt.” It occurred to her, not unreasonably, that the task might be more wisely undertaken by her husband; and she therefore repaired to that cautious person at his mill, and induced him to go with her to Wooster. The spirits, however at this juncture, promptly transmitted another note to the effect that no one could possibly get the money but herself; and we are not surprised to hear by the latest accounts that hit has not yet been secured. By way of amends for this disappointment, the concealed powers have begun a new and lively round of diversions. Poundings are heard on the walls at night, stones from the size of pebbles to that of a man’s fist are pitched through the doors and windows, dishes rattled, and “a general rumpus is created, as if imps were holding high revelry.” A bold young man, a visitor, having said something disrespectful of the unseen agencies, a red-hot stone was dropped on his head, and on taking out his pocket-handkerchief, he found it was cut into shreds. All sorts of mystifications are practised. Mr. Hoffman, for instance, answered one of the “spirit notes,” and put his reply in the cellar; but just as he got upstairs into the room above, “his own note dropped on the floor by his side—all his family being present.”

The family are now quite impoverished by the thefts and other ravages of their demoniac tormentors. Mrs. Hoffman and her daughters have no clothes save those worn by them daily on their backs; while the husband and father has only a single worn old working suit left to him. Nearly all the domestic utensils, such as plates, cups, and saucers, and even the table cutlery, have been either broken or carried away. Of course the obvious suggestion is that all this mischief has really been wrought by cunning mortals, and not by spirits at all, and that, as with the artful William Parson and his family in 1761, discovery, if long averted, must be certain at last. The local press declares that most careful watch has been kept, and that hundreds of men and women have visited and inspected the premises without being able to suggest any clue to the mystery. Several clergymen and physicians have investigated it, and a circle of professed spiritualists have likewise essayed to do so. As yet no light whatever has been thrown on the matter, and, so far as the postponement of detection goes, this Ohio ghost must certainly be allowed to surpass in cunning his predecessor of Cock Lane, who so marvellously perplexed the wise heads of last century. The Week’s News [London, England] 20 May, 1871: p. 628

The original article appeared in The New York Times 24 May 1871

The Cock-Lane Ghost was the talk of 1762 London. Although the manifestations were of a poltergeist type, they were attributed to the ghost of the restless spirit of “Scratching Fanny,” a former resident of the house. She rapped out that she had been murdered by her husband. He denied it and claimed that someone was trying to extort money from him. The case was investigated by Dr. Samuel Johnson himself. Spoiler Alert: A 12-year-old girl was responsible. You can read more about the story in Dr. Johnson’s account in The Gentleman’s Magazine for 1763, or in Cock Lane and Common Sense, Andrew Lang, 1894. “Cock-Lane Ghost” was used in the 19th century papers as shorthand for any sensational ghost story, perhaps as we might say, “It was a real Amityville Horror case,” or “The place was like something out of The Shining.”

As with so many poltergeist cases, this one doesn’t really have a satisfactory ending, where, after an exorcism, the torment stops; a teenaged girl is caught red-handing throwing something; or an enemy is discovered trying to drive the family out of a property for reasons of malice or greed.

After the Hoffman family left Wooster, they went to Akron where the family seemed to shatter. Mrs. Hoffman, who had been told by some mediums that she herself had the Power, and her son, Jacob, lived in an apartment while Mr. Hoffman worked as a teamster and lived in a boarding house a few blocks away.  Husband and wife did not divorce, but they never lived together again. I have theorized that Mrs. Hoffman, at a hormonally difficult time of life, might have been the poltergeist vector.  Many of the stories about this case stress how Mr. Hoffman was left unscathed–until his wife begged him to move to Wooster and “protect” them and help her get the money she thought was in the basement.

Given the information I have, it’s not possible to prove who was responsible. If you just look at the case in a symbolic way, it becomes still more baffling. Food, clothing, and money were the targets–everything essential for life.  But what was the motive? Someone was furiously angry: stealing money and food and chopping up the family’s clothing—its second skin, as it were–was a highly aggressive and personal attack. I don’t have any answers. I can only suggest that IT ultimately destroyed the family as thoroughly as it shredded their clothing and possessions.



Ghostbusters Star Dan Aykroyd’s Roots in Real Life Ghost Hunting

When Dan Aykroyd wrote the original Ghostbusters film, he was drawing from a rich family history of spiritualism and the paranormal.

Dan Aykroyd in Ghostbusters
Dan Akyroyd in Ghostbusters (1984)

For those of us who grew up in the 80s, the 1984 Ghostbusters film was probably one of our earliest introductions to the occult, inspiring a lifetime of obsession with all things paranormal. Sure, I was disappointed when I learned Tobin’s Spirit Guide wasn’t real, but my hope was renewed when I discovered real occult texts.

And of course Ecto-1, a 1959 Cadillac combination car built by the Miller-Meteor company, kick-started a love for creepy cars and all things hearse-shaped.

Ecto-1 in the Ghostbusters: Afterlife trailer
Ecto-1 goes for a spin in the trailer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Do you believe in UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness monster and the theory of Atlantis?

I grew up reading about these topics. My mother passed down to me a rabid interest in the unexplained. But since I was 3 when Ghostbusters hit theaters, it was surely my earliest introduction to fortean subject matter.

Dan Aykroyd, who portrayed Ray Stantz and co-wrote the original Ghostbusters film, is a 4th-generation ghost hunter with a lifelong interest in the paranormal. He still lives on the family farm in Ontario where his great-grandfather Samuel Augustus Aykroyd used to conduct seances.

Vintage seance photo

“My mother speaks about a time when she was nursing me and an old couple came to the end of the bed,” Aykroyd told The Telegraph in 2012. “The image faded away. She pulled out an album and saw that it was my great grandfather Sam and Jenny, his wife, coming to approve the new child.”

In an interview with the late John Belushi, Belushi said he and Aykroyd would visit the farmhouse, turn off the lights, and wait for the spirit of Aykroyd’s grandfather to appear.

“I am a Spiritualist, a proud wearer of the Spiritualist badge,” Aykroyd said in a 2009 issue of Psychic News. “Mediums and psychic research have gone on for many, many years. Loads of people have seen spirits, heard a voice or felt the cold temperature. I believe that they are between here and there, that they exist between the fourth and fifth dimension, and that they visit us frequently.”

Watch the first trailer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the upcoming sequel to the original Ghostbusters films:

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Paranormal Experience: Cradle of Evil reader S. (wanted to stay anonymous) shares her story about an encounter with the unexplainable.

The town where I was born is a cradle of evil. I’m sure of it. I’ve felt it, I’ve seen things there that just don’t happen in real life, only in the movies.

I don’t live there now, I got out as soon as I could, but I feel it’s pull, I feel it when I go to visit my mom, that angry heavy feeling in the air. It’s the only town in the world that gives me goosebumps as soon as I hit the city limits, and I’ve even been to San Fransisco.

The stories I could tell would fill up this website for years, but for now I’ll begin with eight words that start out every ghost story in my hometown.

One night, out at Fort Phantom Hill Lake…

My brother and I were sitting in the cab of my girlfriend’s truck. I remember it like I was there just last night. I was wedged between another girl and Cody, smoking a cigarette. My girlfriend and two other girls were in the bed, covered by a blanket to battle the lake-chilled night air.

The girls were laughing and whispering, my brother and I had the back window open so we could still chat with them. The girls didn’t seem to want to talk too loud, almost like laughing out into the dark would wake something up. I turned. “What are you girls talking about back there?”

“There’s a guy sitting on the back of his car by the water,” Rachel answered with a puff of menthol cigarette smoke. “He’s been there since we pulled up.”

The back of the truck was facing the water. My brother hated watching Lake. Ever since he saw the Lady of the Lake (our own weeping woman, though that’s a story for later) Cody hasn’t been too fond of Fort Phantom.

He still drove out there whenever we wanted to go, but he was always uncomfortable. That night though he seemed to be in good spirits. So was I. I climbed into the back of the truck, using the window so I wouldn’t have to crawl over anyone, and snuggled beside my girl to look down at the other lake-watcher. “What’s he doing down there?” I wondered, and Rachel shrugged.

Cody chuckled, glancing back at us over his shoulder. “Maybe he’s lonely. How about we offer to let him join the party back at the house?” He said, tapping the brakes to flash our brake-lights in the universal ‘follow us’ signal.

I laughed. “No way, dude, that’s crazy.” I said and Cody grinned.

“Oh, come on, where’s your sense of adventure?” He dared, tapping the brakes again and making the brake-lights flare a couple more times. My girlfriend nudged me, hard.

“Look!” She whispered fiercely, staring down at the shoreline with wide eyes. I looked. The guy below had opened his trunk and pulled something long out of the open hatch.

-This is Texas.- I thought. -That could be a baseball bat, a shotgun, or a machete.-

“Dude, chill out Bro, I think he just pulled something out of his trunk.” I whispered loudly to Cody without turning my head. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the guy below, who was currently shutting the trunk of his smaller car. Looked like a volvo or a Nova, something sporty.

I watched him walk around towards the front of the car, slowly, then suddenly the brake-lights of the truck flashed again. “Dammit, Cody, I told you to chill out!” I growled, my head whipping around. Cody was flustered.

“I know, it was an accident!” He yipped, and I knew he was afraid. I was getting scared too. I was still looking back at him when I heard the car door below slam. Rachel held her breath. I just slowly turned to look down at the shore. The guy was just sitting in the car, like he was daring us to flash the lights again.

“Cody,” I began quietly, as steady as I could. I moved towards the tailgate a bit so that Rachel and the two girls could hold on a bit better. “Get us the hell out of here.” I finally said, a bit too loud maybe. Cody started the truck with no trouble.

The car below and its driver didn’t move. I let out my breath, thinking it was just some jerk trying to scare us and that he wasn’t going to do anything after all. Then Cody hit the brakes to shift from ‘park’ into ‘drive.’

I wasn’t looking at the car below, I was too concentrated on sitting with my back against the tailgate, holding the side in the common ‘texas back-end seatbelt’ position. Seconds after our brakes flashed, there was a roar.

It sounded like machine and beast made one, like something was howling at us. Cody’s head snapped around to look behind him, his eyes wide and I got chills. “GO!” I yelled, just as the car came roaring up the side of the shoreline. It was steep there, no sporty little thing should have been able to do that in mere seconds, but it did.

The car was on us quicker than it should have been, and I felt my teeth rattle as the truck lurched forward, spewing gravel and dust. I held on for dear life as we cleared Johnson Park, swerving wildly onto the side road, over the dam, and deep into the dark belly of Fort Phantom Hill.

The back roads there are pitch black at midnight, and the dark seems to swallow you whole, no matter how bright your headlights are. We pitched onto the dirt roads, speeding down them without really knowing where we were going.

I was blinded by the headlights of the car behind us, deaf from the sound of the beast-engine and the rattle of gravel on the undercarriage of the truck. Cody yelled, and only as he took a sharp left turn did I realize what he’d yelled. “Hang on!” My hand clamped down just in time to keep me from pitching over the side of the truck-bed, and I had to yank to keep steady.

When I looked up I saw the driver of the other car, just for an instant. His eyes were dark and sunken in, his skin looked gray in the light, and his lips were stretched in this ugly grin. Next thing I knew the truck tipped again and I lurched to the other side of the truckbed, my chest banging against the opposite side.

Rachel yelled, sobbing but when I looked up there was no car anymore. Just a trail of dust. I let out my breath, rubbing my chest. “Damn! Good job, bro!” I had to yell, but, man I felt good. My head wasn’t splattered across that guy’s Nova, so my night was going peachy keen so far.

As we made our way back to the main road, which only took about 5 minutes, we all laughed and talked about how we’d “smoked that guy” and what a great driver Cody was to get that truck to move like that. 5 minutes to find the main road seemed to make us cocky enough to think we could go back to lake-watching.

“Let’s go back!” Rachel laughed. “There’s no way he’s back by now and I came out here to have a good time dammit!” She giggled and I laughed too. Mind you, Rachel is not my girlfriend anymore.

So we went back. Talk about the stupidest thing we could have possibly done.

We cruised up to the park and pulled in, looking around to make sure that we were alone. We pulled up to the shoreline, looked around and I laughed. “Yep, looks like we lost him.” I said, then just after I said it I heard the engine. Cody cussed and I looked around wildly, feeling sweat slide between my shoulders. “Where the hell is it?!” I yelled.

I heard Cody cuss again as he put the truck in drive. “Screw this! We’re going!” He hit the gas and we sped towards the exit. We were halfway there when headlights hit us, and I saw the car come from out of the trees and brush of one of the lake’s trail paths. It roared after us, right on our tail, and out onto the main road. We didn’t stand a chance.

It only seemed like we’d pissed him off. I looked back and all I could see through the window of the sports car was two gray hands clutching the steering wheel so hard the knuckles were white, and the cuffs of a high school letter jacket. Everyone was screaming, even me.

I could hear the bumpers scraping, and it made my teeth shiver. I remember yelling stop, then there was a flash of red, a hard bump that threw me forward onto Carol and Rachel, then screeching tires.

We were still moving when I looked back and saw the car do a U-turn and peel out back towards the lake. On the back window I saw numbers separated by a dash. 37-1. What the hell? I still don’t know for sure what it means.

I scrabbled to the window and put my head through it to look at my brother who was white like ashes, with both hands clutching the wheel. “What the hell did you do to make him stop!?” I yelled, still half-panicked.

He barely looked at me, his eyes were wide with terror. “I tapped the brakes.” He replied in a trembling voice and I sat back, staring at him for a minute.

When we got back to town the panic had worn off, and we skidded to a halt outside of the Denny’s. That Denny’s is the last bit of civilization you see on the way to Fort Phantom Hill, and it’s also the first haven you have upon leaving it. “What the hell did you mean ‘I tapped the brakes’?” I asked Cody, who was shaking as he lit a cigarette.

“I remembered that if you’re playing chicken with someone then someone has to back off and give over the road before the other stops. I don’t know why but I just felt like he was playing chicken with us.” He replied and I shook my head, not buying it. Then I thought about it. Why not? This was Texas after all, crazy stuff happened.

Then Rachel got mad. “That’s not funny! He scared the crap out of us and Sam almost got killed! We should go back and beat his ass!”

I shook my head some more, stealing a drag from my bro. “No, let’s just leave it alone. Frankly, I don’t want to mess with someone who was grinning like that when I almost plastered my face onto his hood.”

We argued about it for an hour. In the end I lost, and we went back…again. -Stupid, stupid, stupid.- I kept thinking. I was shaking and scared that we’d have to play chicken all over again.

I was wrong.

When we got there, we didn’t have to look long to find the sporty little Nova that nearly creamed me. It was parked on the same path it had roared out of before, only this time, there was grass in the tires, one of the tires was flat, the windshield was cracked and there was long soft grass that stood not only around the tires, but nearly up to the grill.

The thing was coated in dirt, when just a little while ago it looked shiny and new, and even creepier, there wasn’t anyone in the car or the park. In fact, just us idiots were out at Fort Phantom Hill that night, and that car didn’t look like it had moved for years. So the question is:

Phantom Car, or crazy chicken game? You know what I think.

Cradle of evil strikes again.


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‘Paranormal Activity’ Filmed by Beauty Vlogger

YouTuber Daisy Marquez had been filming a promotional piece when something unexpected happened.

The 22-year-old self-taught makeup artist, who is no stranger to paranormal experiences, had been filming a sponsorship video for an e.l.f skincare set when the door behind her mysteriously creaked open on its own, hitting her on the back of the head and leaving her visibly unnerved.

In the footage, which has so far been viewed over 2.8 million times on Twitter, Marquez can be seen staring wide-eyed upon the realization that the door had opened by itself.

Speechless, she spends the next minute contemplating what just happened.

While a door opening isn’t the most convincing evidence of the paranormal on its own, Marquez also reported that earlier that day she had been ‘pushed’ down the stairs by an unseen force.

“I’m trying to put two and two together and I find it so weird that I fell down the stairs earlier today,” she wrote. “I didn’t trip, I wasn’t on my phone I legit just fell down the stairs as if something pushed me.”

“I find it so bizarre and scary now that this just happened.”

She had also previously moved house following strange activity at her former residence.

You can check out the video for yourself below.

Source: Daily Dot

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