A Long Forgotten Case from the Annals of the Paranormal in Michigan

Although many researchers today often mistake the work of “poltergeists” (noisy ghosts) as being nothing more than the unconscious forces of disturbed persons at the location of the activity, some happenings might not be so easy to explain away! In the past, all ghost researchers assumed that the antics of haunted houses were the work of spirits but as time progressed, it began to be realized that the human mind was more complex that we ever imagined. Some scientists and investigators began to show that some of the items that moved around in houses, glasses that broke, doors that slammed and other weird events that occurred were actually being controlled by energy created by living persons. In some cases, disturbed, nervous or anxious individuals who lived in the “haunted house” were unknowingly causing outbreaks of activity to erupt.

The Lincoln Home in Jackson where the activity took place. In this photo from 1962, Victor Lincoln shows where the family heard footsteps on the front porch, even though no one was walking there at the time.

Soon, this became a common theory in the paranormal field and cases that seemed to involve ghosts were quickly found to be the work of psychokinesis (PK) instead. But was this always the case? Were researchers becoming too quick to jump to the conclusion that violent and destructive cases were not ghostly in nature? Could some of the strange and unusual cases that were first thought to involve overly fraught teenagers actually involve the spirits of the dead instead?

Such was likely the case of a terrifying poltergeist who wreaked havoc in a Jackson, Michigan home in the early 1960’s. At first glance, the house had all of the makings of a PK poltergeist case as there were two teenagers living in the house (including a 13-year old girl) and the makings of a tense situation. Perhaps the first thing that most researchers noticed to be out of the ordinary though was the length of time during which the activity occurred. Author and investigator Nandor Fodor (one of the first paranormal researcher to draw the links between human “agents” and poltergeist activity) noted that most poltergeist cases have a lifetime of a few weeks or even a month or two at the most. The aggressive energies needed to cause objects to move about, break and be thrown are usually spent in a short amount of time. It is very rare to hear of a human agent type of poltergeist outbreak that lasts for very long, which is what makes the Jackson, Michigan case so unique. The events in the home of the Victor Lincoln family lasted for more than three years, beginning in 1959!

The events in the Lincoln home began quietly and without much fanfare. In fact, the strange occurrences had been taking place for more than two years before the residents realized that they were not simply the targets of malicious burglars or vandals. Frequently, they would return home to their empty house and find that lamps had been overturned, bottles and cans were strewn about the kitchen, light bulbs were broken, water was running and doors that had been locked tight were standing open.

Not surprisingly, the police were called into investigate but they could find nothing out of the ordinary and no signs that anyone had been in the house. The Lincoln’s simply put double locks on the doors and hoped whoever was targeting them would stop. The locks failed to put an end to it though and they occasionally returned home to find the place vandalized.

Georgine Lincoln, then 13 years-old, picks up a lamp that has been throw by the poltergeist in the house in this 1962 photograph.

Then in October 1961, the Lincoln’s began to realize that there was something very strange going on in the house. The intruders, they realized, were not anyone that the police could do anything about. According to Victor Lincoln, the house was “spooked”. The weird happenings that had been plaguing the house in their absence were now occurring when the family was home.

According to their later accounts, dishes and bottles were seen hurtling through the room, moans came from the basement, heavy footsteps endlessly paced back and forth through the house, doors opened and closed, water spigots and gas jets turned on without assistance and books would vanish from a bookcase in the house, only to reappear later on beds, desks and chairs. This was not simply forgetfulness either - occasionally, the piles of books would include 10-20 volumes!

As mentioned already, the Lincoln’s seemed to have the “typical” poltergeist outbreak going on, right down to the teenagers living in the house. In 1962, the family consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln and the three youngest of their six children. These included two sons, 15 and 22, and their daughter, Georgine, who was 13. As many human agent poltergeist cases involve young women of this age, it is not surprising that many wondered if the activity might stem from her. Thomas Lincoln, age 15, was also in the house and while rare, young men have also been known to be the unwitting agents of the phenomena. John Lincoln, 22, was also living in the house. He had been discharged from the army in August 1961 and was still unemployed and still living in the house the following summer.

Even aside from the length of the haunting though, the activity in the house would soon no longer be thought of as a typical case. One evening, John and his mother were seated in the living room reading when they heard the loud noise of someone walking up the basement steps to the kitchen. The footsteps came to a halt and were then following by the terrific pounding of someone on the other side of the door. Thomas ran in from his bedroom, convinced that someone was trying to break into the house. Mrs. Lincoln quickly grabbed his shotgun and opened the door to see who was there. He found no one in the basement! Even after descending the steps into the cellar, he didn’t notice anything peculiar. Apparently, his dog, who had accompanied him down the steps, did notice something strange however. The animal immediately began to whine, his hair stood up and he ran back upstairs.

From that day, until the day they moved out, they knew no more peace in the house. But what could have changed things from infrequent happenings to almost constant activity? The Lincoln’s came to believe that it was all connected to their decision to move out of the place. They became convinced that the activity in the house was caused by a former resident, likely a Lincoln family member, as the home had been occupied by several generations of the family, dating back to 1912. At about the same time the phenomena increased in frequency, the Lincoln’s had decided to put the house on the market and sell it. Could the restless spirit have been protesting the family’s intention to sell the house?

The Lincoln’s certainly felt this to be the case and saw the activity not only increase, but become much worse. Heavy footsteps and moaning sounds constantly echoed through the house and bottles and glasses frequently flew from pantry shelves and shattered on the floor. Although no one was every really hurt by the spirited projectiles, Mrs. Lincoln was once nicked in the leg by a flying paring knife and was slightly injured. She stated that the knife had been securely closed away in a kitchen drawer just before the incident, which took place when she was home alone one afternoon. She was lying on the couch in the living room when the knife hurtled from the kitchen (across the dining room) and cut her leg.

The Christmas holiday that came just before the Lincoln’s moved out was especially harrowing for the family. They managed to keep their tree up for only two days out of the season. One night they were all in the living room when the lights suddenly flew off the tree and scattered about the house. Bulbs and tinsel joined the lights and soon the living room, and the tree, were wrecked. “That was enough for us,” Mrs. Lincoln later explained, “and the tree came down!”

Harry Kellar, a Jackson County police officer who was not acquainted with the Lincoln’s, came to visit after he heard about the strange goings-on in their house from other officers. Kellar went to the house as a skeptic but later told newspaper reporters that something odd was going on in the place. He admitted that he was still not certain that there was not a reasonable explanation for what he had seen, but he described an incident when everyone was sitting in the living room talking and they heard water suddenly pouring from the tap in the bathroom. A little while later, they all smelled gas and discovered that the gas jets had been turned on in the empty kitchen, although there was no flame.

Kellar told reporters: “I do know this... I was keeping track of everyone and we were all in the living room when the water went on and the gas jets opened.”

Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Gingras, friends of the Lincoln’s and soon acquaintances of Kellar, also recalled water and gas turning on when they were at the house. On another occasion, they were at the house and were waiting for Kellar to join them. Mr. Gingras had just talked to Kellar and he expected to arrive at the Lincoln house in about 15 minutes. However, after only a minute or two, everyone who was present heard his footsteps as they came up onto the porch.

“We heard the steps at the same instant because we each turned to the other and remarked that Harry had arrived sooner than we expected,” Mrs. Gingras later explained. “But when Vic and my husband went to the door there was no one there. And though the porch was covered with new snow, there were no footprints.”

When Kellar arrived a short time later, the only footprints that marked the porch were his own!

Newspaper reporter Raymond Meagher also came to the Lincoln house as a skeptic. Like many others, he assumed that the Lincoln’s “haunted house” was either a hoax, that they were the victims of cruel pranksters or that they had been victimized by their overactive imaginations. He eventually spent about 10 hours (on three separate occasions) in the house. The first two times, both during the daylight hours, nothing strange occurred. However, on the third trip, which extended from about 7:30 PM to midnight, he finally realized that there was more going on at the home than he could have ever expected!

Meagher brought along four people with him that night and along with the Lincoln’s and four of their children, all of them sat in the dining and living rooms, talking and watching television. Suddenly, Mr. Lincoln stated that he heard water running and several of them went into the bathroom, where water was pouring from one of the taps. Meagher was certain that everyone present was in the other room when the water began to run. Less than a hour later, one of the observers reported smelling oil. The group again left the living and dining rooms and went to the rear bedroom, where the smell of oil was very strong. It seemed to be coming from a space heater. Meagher had been in the room just a short time before and, out of curiosity, had checked the heater. It had not been on and had been letting off no odor. Now, somehow it was - and Meagher was again sure that no one had left the room they had all been in.

After this has been investigated (the smell dissipated shortly after they all crowded into the room), the group began moving back to the living room. As they passed by a small closet, they all heard something smash and shatter against the metal closet door. As they walked past, shards of broken glass tinkled out into the hallway. They discovered that a small glass bottle had apparently been thrown against the doors and had shattered into pieces. No one had seen the bottle be thrown and no one had been standing in the direction from which the bottle came.

While the entire group was investigating the broken bottle, all of the lights in the house inexplicably turned off! They did not come back on until Mr. Lincoln replaced a fuse in the basement. Was it merely a coincidence or simply a blown fuse? Perhaps - or perhaps not. It can’t be ignored that the timing was certainly strange.

As a trained investigator though, Meagher couldn’t help but notice that some of the events were suspicious (as many readers will be undoubtedly thinking as well). For instance, the bathroom tap that turned on by itself could have easily been nothing more than a defective faucet. Several years ago, I lived in a house where the kitchen sink frequently turned on under its own power. The house wasn’t haunted though - when I replaced the faucet, it never happened again.

Also, each time that something happened during Meagher’s investigation (except when the lights went out), the Lincoln’s were always the first to notice it and reported that something was going on. And each time that the report was given, a great deal of commotion followed and everyone milled about, making it almost impossible for the reporter and his fellow investigators to keep track of everyone. It would have been possible for one of the Lincoln’s to have turned on the gas or the water as they ran into the room. Also (and perhaps more likely), it’s possible that the water could have been turned on some time before and then the hoaxer could have waited for someone to notice it. It would have seemed to have turned on by itself because no one had been in the bathroom for some time. When no one did, the Lincoln’s would call attention to it and because they had been in the room the entire time, they would never be suspected as the culprits.

Also, when the bottle had smashed against the closet door, everyone was in a group, passing through the narrow hallway. No one actually saw the bottle in the air and it would have been a simple matter for someone to have tossed it behind their back, unseen by everyone else.

Of course, that’s not to say that any of this did happen, but it certainly could have. But in order for the entire case to have been a hoax, it would have had to have been a long-running one and for what purpose? According to police records, calls had been placed by the Lincoln’s about unusual activity in their home for nearly two years before the case ever reached the national press. With that in mind, it seems hard to believe that they could have faked the activity for attention. It also seems unusual that the activity seemed to peak at about the time that they announced their intentions to sell the house. Having it appear in national newspapers as a “haunted house” is not usually the best plan to try and sell unwanted property!

So, what do you think? Do you think the Lincoln home was really haunted? Apparently the Lincoln family did! They moved out during the summer of 1962 and never came back. Interestingly though, the subsequent owners of the place never reported any strange activity, leading us to wonder what may have been going on here after all.

Was the house infested by a ghost? Was it really a human agent poltergeist case after all? Or was the house merely “haunted” by bored family members who were looking for something to occupy their time during the long Michigan winter? The answers to those questions remain unsolved...

(C) Copyright 2002 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.

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