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Interview with Mike Hallowell

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Author and Paranormal Investigator Mike Hallowell discusses his latest book, "The South Shields Poltergeist".
Read on after the interview for a review of the book "The South Shields Poltergeist."


Authors and Paranormal Investigators Mike Hallowell and Darren Ritson.
(Copyright Mike Hallowell and Darren Ritson)

1 - The South Shields Poltergeist (I'll abbreviate it to SSP from hereon out) bears some striking similarities to the Enfield case.  Was this something that struck you during your investigation?


It certainly was. Of course, there were broader similarities – the ones that tend to be universally present in poltergeist infestations, such as movement of objects, rapping sounds, and so on – but there were some intriguing parallels that were so specific that it became hard not to think that there was a deeper connection between the two cases. Both entities had a fascination with Lego bricks, messed around with fish tanks and threw books from shelves, and, intriguingly, would shake the refrigerator in the kitchen violently. It was these specific parallels that intrigued me the most, and I've listed dozens between both the Enfield and South Shields cases.


2 - The "classic" presentation that the majority of poltergeist cases display tends to center around an unhappy household (i.e. a broken home), single-parent family, or a teenager entering puberty. The SSP case seems remarkably different. Have you any thoughts or theories as to why?


This is a difficult question to answer. We did identify the focus or host of the polt, but it was a male in his 20s – not your stereotypical pubescent teenager! However, the guy was under stress for a number of reasons, and this, we think, may have been why he unconsciously precipitated the polt episode. As to why poltergeist hosts sometimes differ from the stereotype, I don't really know, but there are analogies in other walks of life that we can compare it with. I have a serious heart condition which went undetected and almost killed me a couple of years ago. Now I have a pacemaker fitted and I'm fine. The interesting thing was that this condition normally affects super-fit athletes or the very elderly, and I fit into neither of those categories. Why did the condition “choose” me? I don't know; it just did. Similarly, maybe there isn't a reason why the polt chose Marc as its host – perhaps it just happened spontaneously. Its an intriguing question, but unfortunately I don't have any clear-cut answers.
3 - Following a great deal of evidence-gathering and deductive reason, Darren and yourself concluded that the focus of the SSP seemed to be the man of the house. You document an impressive amount of evidence to support this conclusion. Why do you think the SSP activity  seemed to revolve around this particular individual?


There were a number of reasons. Firstly, as I've said the guy was under a great deal of stress, but there were other factors that may have had an influence. For instance, he had taken to meditation as a way of dealing with the stress, but unfortunately he carried out his meditation rituals in such a way that, sometimes, he left himself open to malign psychic influences. Sadly this encouraged the poltergeist.
4 - Your investigative methodology was meticulously documented and entirely scientific in nature. As a skeptical reader, I was gratified to see that Darren and yourself were both willing to accept the possibility of fraud/deception, natural causes, and plain old mistakes for some of the phenomena. You go into great detail in explaining precisely why certain occurrences were almost certainly paranormal in nature. What was the single most impressive piece of evidence you gathered in South Shields?


I'm not sure how Darren would answer this, but I can certainly give you my perspective. There were a number of instances that impressed me from an evidential point of view, but perhaps the most startling was the appearance of the cuts. This didn't just happen in front of me – it occurred on a number of occasions in front of numerous witnesses. I've always said that each piece of evidence taken in isolation means relatively little – but the collective evidence; eyewitness testimonies, video and audio footage, etc. - is telling.

5 - The family underwent a terrible, protracted ordeal. Have the disturbances completely subsided now, or is activity ongoing in any form? Without giving away any privileged details, have they remained in the home, or relocated?

We don't have any contact with the family now. As far as we know the activity has stopped altogether. We did hear that the family had relocated, but haven't been able to verify this.

6 - The apparition of the SSP entity partway through the book was both chilling and extremely exciting. Could I please ask you to talk a little about that particular incident?


The incident occurred on the same night as a number of other strange occurrences. The two principal experients and I were standing in the child's bedroom. At one point I turned – I think to speak to the woman of the house – who was quite nervous as you can imagine. As I turned towards her, I think she believed I was actually looking past her into the hallway. Assuming that I'd seen something – which up to that juncture I hadn't – she turned and looked out of the doorway to see what it was. At that point the entity strode into view, seemingly having walked from the bathroom.

    Physically the entity was anthropomorphic and jet black from head to foot. It looked as if it was wearing a black, one-piece body stocking from the tip of its head to the soles of its feet. The only way I can describe it is to say that it looked like a three-dimensional silhouette. It paused, looked at me and then carried on walking into the main bedroom out of sight.

    One of the more banal criticisms that has been made concerns the point at which the entity looked at me. As I've admitted that it had no eyes, merely two light depressions at the points where the eyes would normally be, some have asked how on earth I knew that it was looking at me. To be honest, it really isn't rocket science. Imagine that someone near you is wearing a deeply tinted visor. Now imagine that the person stops walking, then turns their head in your direction before looking forwards once again and moving on. Technically, you can't say that the person is looking at you because you can't see their eyes; but the fact that they pause and turn their head to exactly the right position as if they are looking at you tells you that this is almost certainly what they are doing.

    The entity made no noise and did not attempt to communicate with us. It was only in view for a few seconds, but I won't forget the incident in a hurry. To be honest, I'd have to say that it didn't really seem that interested in us
7 - At times, the phenomena appears to be playful in nature, drifting towards "seeking attention". In other instances, the activity took on a decidedly malevolent nature (going so far as to cause actual physical harm to one family member). You posit the idea that two entities may have been present in the house...on reflection, do you believe that this was still the case?


At one time I believed that there were at least two entities in the house; a conventional poltergeist – if there is such a thing – and an “invisible childhood friend belonging to the young boy in the house. I've written a book about the phenomenon of invisible childhood friends, or Quasi-Corporeal Companions, as I prefer to call them, and was convinced that the QCC phenomenon was present in the house as well as the poltergeist. The bottom line is that I was wrong, and I'm now convinced that the poltergeist was masquerading as a QCC simply to fool me, which it did. Poltergeists are devious and cunning, and I think it was simply presenting itself to me in a way that would excite my preconceived opinions. It worked like a charm, and I fell for it hook, line and sinker.

    I do believe, however, that there may have been other entities in the house that were drawn there by the “polt-presence”. How many I can't say.

8 - As I've already mentioned, your research methods were rigorously scientific, which lends the case an incredible amount of authenticity. However, you turned to Native American spiritualistic practices in order to mitigate the phenomena levels at one point. It would be fascinating to hear your opinions on the relationship between science and spirituality in the context of paranormal research - are spiritualistic practices (e.g. cleansing) having a genuine effect, or are they merely placebos?


A fascinating question, to which the short answer would have to be “both”. Let me explain. As I have Native American heritage and practice Native American spirituality, I tend to see the world “through Indian eyes”, so to speak. Hence, when I attempted to deal with the poltergeist using Native American spiritual techniques I was simply resorting to techniques that were perfectly natural to me. There were two reasons why I turned to such techniques. Firstly, it was to “smoke out” the poltergeist and make it declare itself. Secondly, it was to help alleviate the suffering the family was having to endure. I don't really know whether there is a relationship between spiritual practices of this nature and science – the truth is that at the time I didn't really care. All I wanted to do was engage in something that worked. We were partially successful.

    I certainly believe in the placebo effect. Because stress is at the root cause of the poltergeist phenomenon, anything that reduces stress levels in the experients will help because it diminishes the poltergeist's “food source”. Poltergeists feed on stress, and so the less stress there is the smaller its larder becomes. I don't think it matters whether the techniques really work or that the experients merely think they might work; if the stress levels diminish then its a case of “mission accomplished”.

    I think that this is why exorcism or blessing rituals sometimes seem to be successful. Its not that the rituals actually get rid of the polt; its just that the experients believe that they might and so their stress levels go down. This weakens the poltergeist and reduces both the frequency and intensity of  its “handiwork”. The experients think that the reduction in polt activity has been precipitated by the ceremony, when in fact it has been brought about by the reduction in stress. It doesn't really matter; what matters is that the polt has been weakened.

    The problem with the placebo effect is that it is only temporary. The reduction of stress in the household causes a reduction or even a complete cessation of polt activity – for a while. Then something will happen to increase the tension – an argument, a huge power bill, or whatever – and then the polt comes back stronger than ever. In almost every case I've dealt with where an exorcism or blessing has been carried out the same pattern emerges; you get a short lull in polt activity and then it comes back with a vengeance. I have every respect for priests and pastors who carry out exorcisms and I'm sure they truly believe they are helping, but I think they're using the wrong tools for the job. Exorcisms may work well with evil spirits or demons – but they don't work with psychic entities such as the poltergeist. Until exorcists realise the difference between the two we're always going to have this problem.

9 - Your book should offer hope and support for those unfortunate people who are living with poltergeist activity, and probably suffering quietly. What advice would you offer to anybody who finds themselves in that situation?


Firstly, they need to understand that truly malevolent poltergeists are extremely rare. To be honest, you've got more chance of being struck by lightning that playing host to an entity such as that we encountered at South Shields. Typical poltergeist infestations are almost always of short duration – normally a few weeks at most. In most cases I would say that the person should simply ignore the polt until it burns itself out.

    In more intense or more protracted cases I'd say that professional help might be needed from seasoned researchers. Victims should try and avoid well-meaning but not-very-knowledgeable “ghost hunters” who really don't have a clue regarding the nature of the poltergeist phenomenon.     

    The most important thing is for the victims to try as best as they can to remain calm; remember, the poltergeist feeds on fear. They should also make every attempt to minimise the degree of disruption the polt interjects into the household. Changing where you sleep or eat, or disrupting your routine in other ways, only emboldens the poltergeist in my opinion and should only be done when the degree of activity becomes such that “business as usual” becomes impossible. Try to act as normally as you can and, as far as possible, ignore the symptoms of poltergeistry as much as you are able.

    If all else fails, bring in the experts – just be choosy about which experts you bring in.
10 - The Boulder County Paranormal website is primarily aimed at American readers. Does your book have an American publisher and release date States-side yet? (If not, it can be obtained via


As yet we know of no intentions to release the book State-side as such, but it is available to American readers via Alternatively, a good book store may be able to order it in for you if you quote them the ISBN numbers, which are: ISBN-10: 0750948744 /ISBN-13: 978-0750948746


A cap hurled downstairs by the poltergeist just seconds before this photograph was taken. Mike and Darren have graciously allowed us to display this never-before-seen photo here as a worldwide first-look exclusive.
(Image copyright Mike Hallowell and Darren Ritson)

BOOK REVIEW: "The South Shields Poltergeist".

Perhaps the highest praise I can offer to this book is to offer advice on where to shelve it: "The South Shields Poltergeist" deserves a spot on every serious paranormal investigator's bookshelf right next to Guy Lion Playfair's quintessential work of poltergeist lore, "This House is Haunted".

The parallels between the Enfield case and the South Shields case are striking (objects moved by invisible means, apported objects such as coins, bangs and thumps, etc) but so are the differences - in South Shields, we see an apparently happy and healthy home, without the hormonal teenaged focus for the activity.

Messrs Ritson and Hallowell enter the picture early in the proceedings, and one is immediately struck by their professionalism and devotion to the case. They adroitly walk the fine line between objectively investigating and documenting the phenomena, whilst simultaneously guiding and supporting the increasingly-distraught family through their ordeal. And make no mistake, this is most definitely an ordeal. Threats involving knives soon escalate to physical scratches and lacerations, and an air of menace pervades certain sections of the book. In one particularly shocking sequence, the malevolent entity actually puts in an appearance.
No doubt the book will have its critics, and rightfully so - it deals with unbelievable subject matter. Unbelievable, that is, unless you are one of those people who has investigated or experienced poltergeist activity for yourself. Ritson and Hallowell, in the manner of the best paranormal researchers, act as their own most stringent critics - they do not shy away from the possibilities of unintentional deception or outright fraud, and always reach for a rational explanation before a paranormal one. They set up and demolish many counter-arguments against their conclusions, and leave the impression that no stone went unturned during the investigation of this case. Were it to go before a jury, they would have left nobody in reasonable doubt that something of a paranormal nature was occurring in South Shields. 

The authors set forward several intriguing theories towards explaining the events detailed in their book. I won't spoil any of them here, but whether you agree with their conclusions or not, Ritson and Hallowell will be sure to spark lively and contentious debate on the subject of poltergeist phenomena that continues for a long time to come. I recommend their book unreservedly - whether for the casual reader who wants a fascinating, spine-tingling, and above all, TRUE read for a cold dark night, or the serious paranormal researcher seeking a cutting-edge analysis of poltergeist activity. The book deserves to be widely read, and sheds like on a neglected but intriguing area of human experience.


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