Tuesday, 13 January 2015

EVERYDAY STRANGE - The Butler Street Poltergeist

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Between January 6 and 13, 1959 on Butler Street in Springfield, Massachusetts, 80 year old Mrs. Papineau (no first name is given) and her 13 year old grandson Wayne witness unexplained window breakages in the elderly lady's home. Before the windows shatter, the two hear thumping or rapping noises in the house. A total of 39 windows are busted in the span of a week including one which exploded in front of Mrs. Papineau with no apparent cause. Police are called to investigate but they find no evidence of criminality. The glazier who came to replace the broken windows found that the glass had invariably fallen into the house, meaning whatever was shattering the windows came from the outside. He also said that the windows seemed to have "been pushed in from the center with considerable force". It should also be noted that some of the replacement glass was thicker than the original panes and broke only to have to be replaced a second time.

After the police investigation petered out, an architect and part-time paranormal investigator or "self-styled authority on poltergeists" as the Milwaukee Journal would have it, named John C. Parker took over. He said that he was "pretty sure poltergeists are to blame." He set up a recording thermometer near the bathroom window where three panes had been broken to prove that sudden drops in temperature showed evidence of ghosts. Not exactly the most balanced method of investigation to say the least.

The police did return to interview the 13 year old grandson and discovered "that he had been experimenting with a Christmas chemistry set". When told Parker added, "The only way that anyone could break a window with that set would be to throw the whole thing through the window." Touché!

After all the hoopla of the week of 39 broken panes and the story spreading nationally, Mrs. Papineau did not experience anymore disturbances, or at the very least, she never reported them. As for a cause of the phenomenon, one could pull any number of explanations from their proverbial butt: chemistry sets, trucks going by, small localized earthquakes, some acoustic phenomenon of local origin, some kind of localized atmospheric pressure inversion (okay that one doesn't make sense). At this point a poltergeist explanation is as good as any other.

The case remains a mystery.

Milwaukee Journal - January 15, 1959
Daytona Beach Morning Journal - January 15, 1959
Binghamton Press - January 16, 1959

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