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The Columbus Poltergeist: How a 14-year-old may have bamboozled media

By GINO DEL GUERCIO, UPI Science Writer

A little over a year ago, strange things began happening at the Resch home on the North Side of Columbus, Ohio -- telephones spontaneously flew through the air, lamps fell to the floor, objects disappeared and mirrors cracked.

John and Joan Resch, who said they had not believed in the supernatural before, concluded the disruption could only be the work of a poltergeist, which is a ghost that inhabits homes and causes mischief.

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The Columbus Dispatch sent a reporter and photographer to investigate. They returned with a story about objects that mysteriously flew about the room right before their eyes and a roll of film with a picture of Tina Resch, the pair's 14-year-old adopted daughter, with a telephone hovering in front of her.

The Associated Press distributed the picture to newspapers across the country. Suddenly dozens of reporters and television camera crews descended upon the Resch home. At times there were 40 people crowded into the couple's 20-by-20-foot living room.

The publicity also caught the attention of Paul Kurtz, chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. A skeptical Kurtz assembled a team of two astronomers from Case Western University and James Randi, a magician familiar with claims of the supernatural, to go to Columbus and see if there were any truth to the claims.

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'They refused to admit them to the house,' said Kurtz. 'They didn't want Randi there.'

Instead, they went to the Columbus Dispatch and asked to see the roll of film that was used to make the widely distributed photograph. They found some frames showed Tina holding on to several phones placed near her. In other frames she was holding on to the phone cords in a way that she could easily swing the receiver into the air.

Fred Shannon, the photographer, said that when he held his eye to the camera and waited for something to happen nothing would. Only when he relaxed and looked away did anything happen.

'It was tricky, and I would have to be tricky if I were to capture it on film,' he told Randi later. 'I decided I would outfox the force.'

Shannon kept his camera pointing in the direction of Tina, who was sitting in an easy chair, and looked away. When he saw movement out of the corner of his eye he snapped a picture.

Kurtz said it appeared that Tina was simply throwing or kicking the phone. He said even more convincing evidence occurred a few days later.

WTVN-TV in Cincinnati left a camera aimed at Tina and running while packing up their equipment. When the video tape was examined later it showed Tina waiting until no one was watching and then she reached up and pulled a table-lamp toward herself, simultaneously jumping away and making a series of bleating noises as she acted terrified.

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The film was shown to television viewers and Tina said she was only joking that time to get rid of the cameras.

The Columbus Dispatch has locked up the negatives and refuses to allow anyone, including the Columbia Journalism Review, to see them. 'I was reporting what I saw and could not explain,' said Dispatch reporter Mike Harden. 'I saw a phone move and didn't see anyone move it. But only a fool would think that human vision is absolutely infallable.

'The opinion making should be left up to the experts. They're going to be debating this for a long time.'

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