The Butler Street Poltergeist



On Butler Street in Springfield, Massachusetts in January 1959, 80 year old Mrs. Charles Papineau and her 13 year old grandson, Wayne, were terrified when the house’s windows suddenly started shattering without an apparent cause.

Both Mrs. Papineau and Wayne claimed to have heard odd thumping sounds just before windows were smashed to pieces. In a week, 39 windows were broken.The glazier who installed replacement panes told a reporter that the glass had all fallen inside the house. It appeared the windows were broken from the outside, as if the perpetrator had struck the middle of the panes with violent force.Despite a police investigation, no culprits or evidence of a crime were found.

Enter John C. Parker, an amateur expert on poltergeists. Parker, also an architect, offered to perform a scientific investigation of the phenomenon. He hoped to prove temperature changes hadn’t been responsible by installing a thermometer in the bathroom, where three windows in total had been broken by the unseen force. He also planned to install a strong plastic window in that room to prevent any further breakages.

Apart from frightening the nervous Mrs. Papineau, who suffered windows exploding right in front of her, the most affected victim appeared to be the insurance agent asked to process her claim for $93 in replacement glass. Without a cause other than poltergeist to list on the damage claim form, he had to call his head office for instructions.

The window breakages ended a little less than a week after they began. The responsible party was never positively identified. Speculation continues among students of psychic phenomenon, but it’s worth noting Mrs. Papineau herself didn’t believe in ghosts, and the results of Parker’s independent investigation of the events aren’t known.