Have You Heard of ‘The Poltergeist of Philadelphia, Missouri’?
During the autumn of 1923, the home of Emmett Swisher and his family of Philadelphia, Missouri was assaulted with a barrage of poltergeist activity nightly for several months.
According to the 16 Sept 1923 edition of the Oakland Tribune, the Swisher house was “bombarded with rocks, potatoes, tomatoes and chunks of coal” each night. They also heard “weird music” and other “strange noises.”
At the time the activity first started to occur, Mr. Swisher was on a trip to Canada. The local farmer and banker immediately traveled back to Missouri after he was wired by his wife informing him of the commotion.
Additionally, the 17 Sept 1923 edition of the Moberly Evening Democrat reported that “heavy farm implements” had been overturned and damaged in the yard.
Sheriff Bender, “armed guards” and “a large number of volunteers were stationed at frequent intervals about the place” for many nights outside the farmhouse. They were never able to catch the culprits although the activity was happening in front of their eyes.
Many of the local residents in the neighborhood experienced the assault on the house, and “were convinced that it was the result of an influence from another world” reported The Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune in their 18 Sep 1923 edition.
The attacks continued into the Thanksgiving holiday. According to a letter to the editor of the Shelby County Herald in the 21 Nov 1923 edition by Emmett Swisher, the family was physically assaulted and grabbed when they tried to leave the house.
Another letter written to the editor of the same paper by a neighbor, Mrs. J.B. Sams, reported that the house had been “defaced with all manner of illiterate writings,” and articles inside the home were “put out of their proper places.”
Mr. Swisher would not leave his family day or night, and all the family members “slept in one room with the windows nailed down.”
At one point, Mr. Swisher attempted to place the blame on a human perpetrator, Everett McLaughlin, who clerked in a store in Philadelphia.
McLaughlin sued Swisher for $20,000 in damages for accusing him “of being responsible, in part, for the manifestations at the Swisher home,” and in the spring of 1925 the case went to trial.
The jury only deliberated for ten minutes before returning a verdict in favor of Emmett Swisher.
I found no indication in my research that any humans were ever apprehended for the disturbances despite the diligence of Sheriff Bender, his deputies and the numerous volunteers. Because of the type of disturbances that were occurring nightly, I believe it is quite possible that the Swisher home was the victim of poltergeist activity.