I’m not looking to get into the habit of blogging individual episodes of Paranormal Witness. However, I’m going to make an exception for last night’s episode, for two reasons. One is that it disturbed me; while I know this kind of thing happens, I don’t like the “malevolent entity in the house ends up killing the pets and new baby kittens” thread. I can’t abide stories about pets getting killed, namely because they’re so innocent. I have less trouble with stories about humans being killed, because humans often do dumb things that lead to their deaths—not always, but humans are not particularly innocent, not even children. Humans also have more wits at their disposal to survive. Pets are often dragged into such situations, and are the most vulnerable. And I get annoyed when people are in a house with negative activity and don’t move all vulnerable parties from the premises.
The second reason this is on my mind is that the first story provides an example of something that we call a “constellated archetype” in depth psychology jargon. It sounds very innocent, but it’s actually something quite frightening and potentially dangerous. The practice of psychology today is largely behavioristic—it reduces the human psyche to chemical reactions in the brain, and putting band-aids on life crises. To be fair, this is largely the fault of health insurance—they won’t pay for therapy that’s actually beneficial long-term to the person, unless they’re diagnosed with a mental illness.
But back to constellated archetypes. “Constellation” simply means “coming to the surface” in this case. Archetypes are the contents of the collective unconscious. There are LOTS and LOTS of them, though there are some fundamental ones. They are neither good or bad in and of themselves, but we shouldn’t think that their abstract description on paper minimizes them. They’re important for us to grapple with, because they influence everything we do.
So, the episode—Paranormal Witness shows two stories in each episode, and this refers to the first. It is about a poltergeist . What starts out as a jar of melted peanut butter found on its side, open and dripping escalates to items being found stacked in various places, then doors banging by themselves all night, then writing on the walls. This later escalated for a variety of reasons to all the animals dying in the house, then one of the girls in the house being attacked by flying furniture (and the doors locking so no one could get in to help her), and finally with the other girl’s door being hammered on with sharp objects, and then being locked in while a fire started in the house.
The players—there was a mother, her boyfriend, and two teenage daughters, one belonging to the mother, the other to her boyfriend. The girls were friendly with each other, and everyone got on well. When the incidents started happening, the boyfriend tried to blame the mother’s daughter. They blamed the girls in general for playing pranks and looking for attention. When it became clear this wasn’t the case, the boyfriend called a priest to come in, who walked around, said he couldn’t help, and left. In the end, the mother and boyfriend split up when they moved out of the house. The girls still remain friends.
Several incidents were of interest during the episode, at least to me. The first attempt of this “spirit” to write on the walls consisted of arrows drawn everywhere pointing to the vents and to the attic. An examination of the attic space yielded nothing, though the air was tense. Fire seemed to be a theme in this haunting—first the melted peanut butter (obviously heated up), and then trying to set fire to the house. Initially the mother tried to make a peace offering to whatever it was by lighting candles, and offering a ceramic cat (because she loved cats) to it as an offering. Her boyfriend saw what was going on, got angry, and threw the cat outside, only to turn around seconds later and find it back on the shelf with the candles. He then smashed it, which unleashed a hellish fury on the house. The next day the word “cat” was scrawled on the walls everywhere. And eventually—the cats in the house died.
So, what does all this have to do with anything, least of all constellated archetypes? Carl Jung believed that poltergeist (noisy ghost) phenomena were the result of a constellation of the Trickster archetype. Even writing and hearing voices are part of it. If you recall the old Bell Witch case in the 19th century, this is similar. Where do they come from? From the teenage girls. Why? Because they are throwing off electromagnetism that is manifesting externally a battle that is raging internally. Poltergeist phenomena are usually connected with girls around the age of puberty, when there is a hormonal shift that affects the pituitary gland (and also at menopause, though that’s less well known). What battle? It’s hard to know exactly. My guess is that there’s more to the family story. Both the mother and the boyfriend were divorced, and we don’t know how that affected the girls. There was clearly some hostility towards the boyfriend, and perhaps there was an undercurrent of resentment or rage among the girls and the parental figures. We don’t know anything about that, but I’d bet money that something wasn’t right.
Now, once they moved out, they never experienced activity again. Usually poltergeist activity follows you. But—the mother and boyfriend broke up, and the girls were no longer together to act as a beacon for the archetype. So, its settling down is not out of the question. I think the arrows on the walls were significant—they pointed to a need to “vent”, and also to the attic, which is a symbol of the unconscious. The archetype identified itself.
There are some things that may still leave you with questions. For instance—they saw something that looked like huge, demonic footprints in the house after the cat incident. The neighbors on that block also put their houses up for sale, and within a short time there were 5 vacant houses on that street. We don’t know why, but it suggests an external entity rather than a psychological phenomena. Again, I can’t prove anything in this case, but my suspicion is that it has to do with something attracted by the constellated archetype. There are other manifestations of consciousness, and I think this one was a belligerent fire elemental—namely because fire was a running theme through the poltergeist pranks. I recall another case mentioned by Jason and Grant of Ghost Hunters in one of their books, where a similar stacking of objects in the kitchen and various places turned out to be a haunting by an elemental attached to the property (they actually caught it on tape—not seen on any episodes though, as it was not part of a GH investigation). The scientific minded may think that’s a stretch, but coming from a Jungian perspective, there are things that are both part of us and external to us—apparently. We are not separate from Nature, so “elementals” are not separate from us—they are manifestations of aspects of Nature.
So, that’s my interpretation of what went on, right or wrong, for better or for worse. While these kinds of things are fairly rare, they are an object lesson in why you should “know thyself”. Psychologists who want patients to simply “forget their past” and move forward without examination (a new trend, especially in Christian counseling) should think twice. Under the right conditions, these things DO happen—and they demonstrate the incredible power of the collective human psyche.