I recently spent an evening listening to Andreas Sommer’s three-part YouTube series, Poltergeist Phenomena and the History of Science. The series is based on an early post from Sommer’s Forbidden Histories blog, “The Naturalization of the ‘Poltergeist‘” (the linked article also posts to the YouTube videos). Really interesting article and video series; I recommend it.
One of the things Andreas mentions in passing (in Part 3, if I remember correctly) is the real-life haunted house experience of noted psychoanalyst Carl Jung. Jung eventually wrote about this experience as a chapter of Spuk. Irrglaube oder Wahrglaube? (Hauntings. False Belief or True?), a 1950 collection of case studies of hauntings and poltergeists edited by the zoologist and researcher of paranormal phenomena Fanny Moser.
Jung had this experience in the summer of 1920, when he was in England to give a series of lectures. His host, “Dr. X,” arranged for Jung (and himself) to spend weekdays in London for the lectures, and weekends in the country at “a charming cottage” that rented for “a ridiculously low price.”
No regular reader of ghost stories will be at all surprised at what happens next.
The first night, tired from the strenuous work of the week, I slept well. We spent the next day walking and talking. That evening, feeling rather tired, I went to bed at 11 o’clock, but did not get beyond the point of drowsing. I only fell into a kind of torpor, which was unpleasant because I felt I was unable to move. Also it seemed to me that the air had become stuffy, and that there was an indefinable, nasty smell in the room. I thought I had forgotten to open the windows.
Spoiler: the windows were open. You can read the rest of Jung’s story at the Forbidden Histories blog.
You might want to read “The Naturalization of the ‘Poltergeist'” first, since that provides a little context to Jung’s remarks about “exteriorization phenomena.” But the meaning is probably fairly clear, even if you don’t.
In the spirit of my own blog, I don’t post this account because it’s allegedly true, but because it’s fun to read. The fact that it supposedly happened to Jung (and “Dr. X”) just adds some extra spice. If you like, you can amuse yourself trying to come up with a “naturalistic” explanation for the events. Some of the things that occurred to me were black mold, and some variation of nightmare/sleep paralysis. Or both, since the phenomena were connected to the house, while sleep paralysis is connected to a person.
Or you can just amuse yourself with a good story about a haunted house. Either way, enjoy!
case studies… At least I think it’s a collection of case studies. There are no English translations or any substantive English language discussion of the book that I could find online with a quick search, and I don’t read German. I did learn (from Andreas Sommer) that “spuk” is a German word that encompasses both the English language concepts of “hauntings” (phenomena associated with a place) and “poltergeists” (phonemena that tend to be connected to a person). So that was cool. ↩
Featured image: Illustration from The Shadow on the Blind and other ghost stories by Louisa Baldwin (1895). Artist uncredited. Source: British Library on flickr