Hauntings truly run the spectrum of the weird. You have some that merely involve moving objects, others that entail roving apparitions of some type, and still other more malevolent case that have reports of physical violence and assault revolving about them. Then you have the truly frightening accounts that involve all of the above. One of the most terrifying hauntings in history seems to have settled down on one very unfortunate family in the 1970s, involving a group of specters with an inclination for violence, mayhem, and even rape, and which would go on to become one of the most ghastly incidents of paranormal activity on record.
The story of one of the most frightening and violent hauntings of all time starts in 1974, with a single mother by the name of Doris Bither, who lived in in Culver City, California, with her four children. The family had moved here from Santa Monica in order to try and start a new life after a string of abusive relationships that Doris had been in, and to try and escape her demon of alcoholism. It was a rough time of things, as Doris had barely enough to raise her four children, all born of different fathers, and they were a broken family living in dirt poor conditions, but things would soon get worse still, when something decidedly dark and paranormal came calling.
It started rather creepily enough, with an elderly woman who came over one day shortly after they had moved in to tell Doris out of the blue that she had once lived in the home and that it was evil, before wandering off to never be seen again. So far, so eerie, but it would prove to be almost prophetic. Not long after this, there would be instances of classic poltergeist activity, such as lights turning on and off, objects moving on their own, and anomalous noises, all of which were witnessed by all of the family members. Then things graduated to the more frightening when apparitions would start appearing.
At first it was just glimpses, a shadow figure moving across the living room here, a movement in the periphery of the vision there, but it got steadily more intense, and even neighbors began seeing these things around the house. The figures that were seen started to take shape, appearing as fog-like humanoid shapes that would move about or merely sit in the corner and simply watch. In an interview with Ghost Theory, Doris’s middle son, Brian Harris, would describe them thus:
It was never clear. When they would make themselves known, it was always like a fog. Like a human…but not quite. It was like a sculpture. Like a chiseled body. Not a full figure, but at times we could see some of it. At times, it would be annoying. We would be watching television and these things would walk by. Like nothing. We were so used to the poltergeist, that we just got to a point were we wouldn’t even care.
It became increasingly clear that there were more than one of the entities as well, either 3 or 4 of them, depending on who you ask, although Harris has said that there were 4. This spooky paranormal activity, although at first scary but mostly harmless, would not stay that way for long, soon becoming increasingly terrifying. Not content to just mill about and cause mischief, the entities began to lash out at the family, pushing, shoving, hitting, and even clawing or biting them, and this would happen at all hours, even in the middle of the daytime. Harris would say:
We all experienced some form of attack. There was the pushing, biting and scratching being done to us. There were about 4 entities in the home, and they made themselves known by appearing all the time….I think it took a lot of energy for them to do that. It was as if they [the four entities] showed themselves whenever they felt like.
Although he said there were four of the specters, Doris herself would later claim that there were only three, but the true number was- too many. Even more terrifying still was that the entities began to actively target Doris the most vehemently, and it went from simple pushes, scratches and bites to full on assault, with the ghosts even allegedly holding her down and raping her with abandon. This would often happen in the next room while the terrified children listened to the bangs, thuds, and their mother’s desperate screaming as they cowered in the shadows, but it also sometimes happened right in front of their eyes, and Harris has described these spectral attacks thus:
The whole rape thing was real. My room was right next door to my mother’s. I would hear the attacks happening. Things being thrown, her screaming. Then she would come out of the bedroom and have all these bruises. On her legs, her inner thighs. There were times were we would see it happen in front of us. It was like if a man was standing in front of my mother and would start to beat her. Imagine a woman being beaten. You could see her being picked up and thrown around. Sounds, slaps…but there was no one there to actually do it. We all felt it too. pulling, biting and scratching…we were all attacked.
These viscious attacks and sexual assaults went on unabated, with the apparitions appearing without warning practically every day and night, and it got to the point where the family was desperate for anyone to help them. The biggest of the entities even gained a creepy nickname for himself, “Mr. Whose-it.” Doris took it upon herself to approach paranormal investigators and parapsychologists Kerry Gaynor and Dr. Barry Taff, who were intrigued by her harrowing tale to say the least, and went about arranging a full investigation into the claims. They would not be disappointed.
The team moved in for their investigation on August 22, 1974, thinking at first that there would not be much to this all other than a seriously disturbed young woman. The first thing they did was take a look at the myriad bruises, scratches, and scars that she had all over her body, especially along her inner thighs, allegedly inflicted by the entities and which proved to be far more savage and severe than they had expected. She gave them additional information on the attacks by saying that there were 3 of them (despite her son’s claims that there were 4), and that the two smaller ones would hold her down while the bigger one raped her.
Intrigued, but not yet sold, the investigators set up their equipment in an effort to gather any evidence at all of a haunting. When this was done, they had Doris go into one of the rooms where the most activity had been occurring and told her to start yelling and cursing at the unseen entities, trying to draw them out. Almost immediately there was intense orb activity captured on the equipment, with spots of light flitting all over the place like angry bees. After this Doris was seen to be enveloped by a greenish mist, followed by the materialization of what appeared to be the upper torso of a man, which hovered there in the mist and was apparently so terrifying that one of the investigators fainted. This torso could not be captured on the equipment, but there is a photograph of Doris with a strange arc of light appearing over her.
This sort of intense paranormal activity would could continue virtually unabated for the next several months of the investigation, including apparitions, mysterious lights, temperature drops, horrific mystery odors, and moving objects. It was even noticed that the invastigators’ presence actually seemed to anger and irritate the entities, and it was also found that playing music by the metal group Black Sabbath also seemed to cause an uptick in activity, making it all stronger, but then it suddenly started winding down and stopping altogether for no discernible reason.
In later years, Doris would move her and her family to other places on several occasions, but according to her each time the entities would follow her wherever she went, although somewhat weaker than they had been. She would even claim at one point that she had been impregnated by one of the spirits. Although her case had become quite well-known at the time, Doris herself would drop off the radar for years before finally succumbing to cardiac arrest in 1995, leaving us no further along as to what happened to her than when these supernatural forces first targeted her.
What exactly happened to this poor woman and her family? What sort of spirits or entities targeted them and why? That would depend a lot on who you ask, but according to Taff himself, it has nothing at all to do with ghosts or spirits as we imagine them. Taff is convinced that the phenomena were caused by the subconscious human mind lashing out to affect the world around it though psychokinesis, the ability to move objects with the mind. In his theory, this is all the result of various factors coming together to cause the mind of a victim to reach out to wreak havoc on the outside world, most often without their awareness that they are even doing so. So insistent is he that this is the case, and that such hauntings are caused by the projections of living beings rather than demons or the ghosts of the dead, that he has expressed disdain for these “paranormal” ideas, saying:
I don’t, for one second, believe this is the work of dead people throwing living people around. As there are no academic credentials required for anyone to go out and investigate the paranormal. Every new age groupie is out there looking for demons, emulating the garbage they’ve seen on cable TV paranormal shows. To fully comprehend the possibility that a living person’s subconscious mind can involuntarily generate such power as to manifest luminous anomalies, apparitions, and macroscopic psychokinetic events, is for me, far more compelling than if a discarnate intelligence was responsible.
The evidence and collected data suggests these effects are the result of what’s called Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis (RSPK) There’s two types of psychokinesis (moving physical objects around without physical means). There’s microscopic, which works on very small scales, things like affecting random number generators, random event generators, and moving subatomic particles around. It’s usually electrostatic-based, fatigue in the individual is shown, as it’s done on a conscious level. And then there’s macroscopic, what we call ‘poltergeist,’ and that’s a whole different ball of wax. We’re talking about the ability of moving very massive objects, hundreds of pounds easily. It’s done on a subconscious level, as there is no fatigue seen in the person at the core of it. Like the microscopic type, it’s believed that the phenomena are generated by a living human agency.
Taff has used this explanation to explain a wide range of what are traditionally considered to be “paranormal phenomena,” which he has compiled into a book called Aliens Above, Ghosts Below: Explorations of the Unknown, which takes the approach of trying to explain all of these disparate phenomena with possible real world rational solutions. Others disagree, and say that this was some sort of demonic presence, a trio of ghosts up to no good, or just the delusions of a fractured mind. It has never been solved either way. Whatever the case is remains to be seen, but in the meantime the Doris Bithers story has gone on to become one of the most frightening and controversial accounts of a haunting on record. So famous and noteworthy is this mysterious case that it was made into a 1983 Hollywood film based on these events called The Entity, starring Barbara Hershey and directed by Sidney J. Furie, and which is loosely based on the real events. What was it that terrorized this family so violently? We may never know for sure.