Indiana Ghosts: The Biting Poltergeist

For the next few posts, I am going to explore ghost stories in my home state: Indiana. 

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In Indianapolis during the 1960s, the Beck family was allegedly terrorized by a poltergeist that threw glass, knocked on the walls, and left “mysterious bat-like bites.” The family living on North Delaware Street included Renate Beck (in her 30s), her daughter Linda (in her teens), and her mother Lina Gemmecke (in her 60s).

The start date of the activity differs from source to source, but it began in March 1962 when a glass was thrown by an invisible source.  In a later incident, the grandmother (Gemmecke) got up from a chair and a glass was mysteriously thrown across the room, hitting the wall right above the chair she had just been sitting in. Members of the family also reported bite marks appearing on their skin, a rarity for poltergeists. Damage to the house included feathers torn out of pillows, pictures ripped from frames, broken glass, and dents in the walls from thrown objects.

Dr. William Roll, a researcher of poltergeist phenomena, stayed with the family from March 16-22 and documented the case in a chapter of his 1972 book, The Poltergeist. He was also accompanied by clinical psychologist, Dr. David Blumenthal. Below are some interesting passages about his experience.

Concerning the bites… 

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pages 57-58

Concerning the knocks…

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page 61
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page 62

A poltergeist’s origins can be attributed to various factors. The unseen spirits receive power from human drama and/or children entering their teens. In this case, we have a 13-year-old daughter. We also have reported tension (by neighbors) between Renate and her mother. Poltergeists can also be hoaxes and many thought Gemmecke was behind this one.

On March 26th, the police were called to the Becks’ by neighbors. There, they found Gemmecke lying  on the floor semiconscious. When she regained consciousness, she threw an ashtray across the room and flipped over a piano bench. The cops witnessed the whole thing. She was taken to the hospital for diabetic shock and then taken to jail overnight for disorderly conduct. Gemmecke returned to her home in Germany to avoid punishment. This incident made many question the validity of the Becks’ stories.

What really happened during March of 1962? Did high emotions create a noisy spirit with a biting problem? Was it a prank or cry for attention? We’ll never know. The activity, like a glass thrown across the room, came and went.

Bonus! Here’s a newspaper clipping from the Indianapolis Star (March 14, 1962) about the poltergeist on North Delaware Street and his new friend, a Scottish Terrier. 

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Sources

Marimen, Mark and James Willis. Weird Indiana: Your Travel Guide to Indiana’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. Sterling, 2008.

Roll, William G. The Poltergeist. Paraview, 2004.

Halloween Weekend Reading Material

Although it’s always spooky on Notebook of Ghosts, I thought I might share some links on history specific to Halloween. I looked through my favorite websites and created a short list for Halloween Weekend reading. Enjoy!

The History of Candy Corn: Halloween’s Most Iconic and Reviled Treat – Atlas Obscura

“Halloween provides a cavalcade of whimsical scares for children and adults alike, but nothing chills the bones quite as much as the piles of candy corn left at the bottom of pumpkins and pillowcases across America.”

The Reason for Your Halloween Candy Paranoia  – Jezebel

“Timothy wasn’t killed by a maniac getting children to unknowingly participate in a game of Russian Roulette with cyanide-tainted candy. He was killed by his father, Ronald, in an equally tragic and pathetic attempt at some good, old-fashioned insurance fraud.”

11 Fun Historical Newspaper Clippings about Halloween – mental_floss

“Halloweens of yesteryear were filled with treats, but many more tricks—or at least that’s how it seems from contemporary newspaper clippings.”

Halloween Folklore and Superstitions – Folklore Thursday

“We all know that Hallowe’en, as a festival, is not an invention of the trick-or-treating Americans but it is far older than many people realise. Its origin can be seen in the ancient festival of Samhain, a celebration which marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter.”

How Detroit Exorcised Devil’s Night – Atlas Obscura

“Some call it Mischief Night, others Cabbage Night but the night before Halloween, with its long history of pranks escalating into chaos and destruction, is perhaps best known as Devil’s Night. Halloween tricks are nothing new, but Devil’s Night in Detroit has historically brought out some of the worst vandalism and arson.”

And if you haven’t yet, check out my post on the Lost Halloween Traditions for Summoning Future Lovers.