The Poltergeist Chapter

tozzi.jpg This is Joe Tozzi, the Nassau County detective who was assigned to the 1958 poltergeist case I’m writing about.

I am having so much fun with the poltergeist chapter. I’m really surprised, because for whatever reason, I’ve never really found the subject of poltergeists interesting. I’m dying to post some of what I’ve written to show why it’s fun, but my publisher would not be pleased.

Bottomline, no one who investigated the case came away thinking it was some sort of fraud or hoax, even if that’s what they initially thought. Not the police, the reporters, the neighbors, the Duke guys. That made me look at it differently. When I go through the police reports that describe every occurrence, I imagine it differently. What would it be like to be there, and see something go flying through the air and there really wasn’t anyone around who could have thrown it. You’re sitting there, a grown person, you don’t believe in ghosts, where do you put that?

Even if there’s a natural explanation for it, one that we just don’t know yet, the unknown of it is fun. Not for the family though. The mother was completely freaked out by the whole thing.

I’m still trying to find James Herrmann, the son of the house who was 12 at the time. Most of the events centered about him. He’d be 61 or 62-ish now. Or his sister Lucille, who was 13.

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

3 thoughts on “The Poltergeist Chapter

  1. Did you ever go to “Teachers Island” in Miane with your friend (my cousin)Adriane? I’m sure you were/are aware of it.
    Anyhow 3-4 yrs ago her sister Romaine had the ‘big’ cabin redone. The small storage/’anti-room’ where the pump was became a part of the new kitchen and what/whoever was there is no longer there.
    I remember as a kid my Aunt Betty and both girls sometimes saying thay were uncomfortable in that area and sometimes joked “the place is haunted”

    Just putting more “junk” into your head so you can have more to displease your publisher

  2. I was typing a response and it disappeared! Talk about poltergeists!

    Anyway, what I was saying was that maybe in the late 50s there was more of a willingness to believe in the supernatural, if you think about the great success of The Twilight Zone, and all the new post-war technology–a new era after the war, new optimism (?) and suddenly there were all kinds of unexplained things appearing. Wasn’t there also a huge increase in UFO sightings in the 50s? Just a thought.

  3. Larry, I never heard that the house on the island was haunted! (I was never there.)

    And yeah, there was a big flying saucer craze in the 50’s. I talk about briefly in the book. But weirdly, based on all the polls I’ve looked at, our belief in things supernatural is increasing. I swear, I would have thought just the opposite. I would have though that over time, as we learn more and more we’d move more and more away from ghosts and haunted houses and demons, but no.

    I found a poll, it was taken in Great Britain, but I’m guessing if we had taken a similar poll here it would be the same (if not worse). And we do take similar polls now, just not this far back.

    Anyway, they asked people about their belief in ghosts and stuff in 1950. I don’t have it in front of me, but a relatively small number of people believed in ghosts in 1950, something like 10%. But polls taken now, results are anywhere from 30 to 50%. And the number of people who believe in demons is even higher. I mean come on. Why do people believe in demons? Is it strictly a religious thing? (I apologize in advance to anyone I might be insulting. Please forgive me.)

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