Poltergeists and Murder Part 1

william roll

By Jim Miles

I had planned to tell this tragic story for years.  With the recent death of 85 year old Dr. William G. Roll (January 9, 2012), Georgia’s most prominent parapsychologist and a principal in this case, and with one of the convicted recently paroled and the other up for release in a few months, I decided the time was now.

William Roll was born in 1926 and raised in Denmark.  During World War II he experienced out-of-body phenomenon and read extensively on parapsychology.  He studied psychology and philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley.  After graduation Roll spent seven years at Oxford University, studying under H.H. Price, an accomplished parapsychologist. In 1957 Roll arrived at Duke University in North Carolina to work with J.B. Rhine, who established the discipline of modern parapsychology.  Roll’s specialty was psychokinesis, the modern term for poltergeist activity.

Tina Davis, born in 1970, never knew her father and was soon abandoned by her mother.  She was adopted at age three by Joan and John Resch, who cared for over 250 foster children in Columbus, Ohio.  Tina had problems in school, and as a result was taught at home, where she was frustrated and angry with her demanding parents, who were often busy caring for foster children with special needs.

The trouble started on March 1, 1984, when Tina had a noisy dispute with her parents.  John attempted to whip Tina but she eluded him and grabbed a large knife, which prevented her corporal punishment.  Tina went to bed to find her digital clock-radio racing ahead of time, and then the radio turned itself on.  On the following day, the alarm on a heart monitor attached to one of the foster children repeatedly malfunctioned.  A replacement unit similarly malfunctioned.

On March 3 the TV went off by itself, came back on, and repeated that cycle.  The clothes dryer went on and off, then the garbage disposal was activated before faucets started turning themselves on and off and the time displayed on clocks began to run forward.  House lights followed suit and the utility company was summoned.  Two different stereos turned on, and both continued playing after being unplugged.  After utility workers were stumped, electrician Bruce Claggett was summoned.

Claggett checked the entire electrical system of the house and found nothing amiss, although lights began turning on and off.  He repeatedly attempted to leave, but the lights acted up every time.  Observation proved that light switches were actually moving up and down.  The electrician taped down switches, but the tape disappeared and the switches continued to move.  After hours of effort, Claggett gave up.

Afterward, faucets opened and drains closed, threatening to overflow sinks and bathtubs. Bottles broke, pictures swung on the walls, plants toppled, kitchen chairs danced, and wineglasses flung themselves to destruction.

When the Resch’s called the police, officers witnessed a pan and lemons flying; one was so startled he pulled his pistol.  On the report they scribbled, “Mental.”

On Sunday white candles, but not colored ones flew.  Furniture was rearranged, mattresses tossed off beds, and objects flew, including eggs from a carton.  The eggs were returned to the refrigerator, but they emerged through the door and crashed into a wall as sticks of butter slid up a cabinet door.  On one occasion a stack of coasters took off like miniature flying saucers, one after another.  Tina feared she might be possessed.

The family’s Lutheran minister visited that afternoon.  He blessed every room, but as he approached a couch to sit the furniture moved forward him.  When the clergyman left, the mystery force turned on Tina-a heavy brass candlestick struck her in the back of the head, followed by a falling clock and a tape dispenser.  An end table that fell on the girl could not be moved for a time.  Most frightening, a paring knife nearly stabbed Tina in the back.

A family member brought two Mormon elders to expel the force.  After their first attempt a love seat approached the men to offer them a seat, and following the second effort the couch took the seated elders for a ride.

In desperation, Joan sought help from Mike Harden, a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch.  Mike personally witnessed a number of objects soaring through the home.  What he saw “defied both my skeptical instincts as a journalist as well as all of the traditional laws of physics.”

Harden called Duke University to locate an expert in this unique discipline and was connected with Roll.  Arrangements were made to fly Roll to Columbus.

Fred Shannon, a Dispatch photographer was sent to the Resch home.  Plenty of paranormal activity occurred-flying and falling items, startlingly loud booms, and a love seat that assaulted Tina.  Training his camera on a frequently flying phone, it flew and he snapped the picture of a lifetime.

The story and photo hit the wires and garnered international infamy.  When the Resch’s submitted an insurance claim for damages, their agent could only check the category “malicious mischief and vandalism.”  His boss endorsed the claim and attached copies of numerous news articles describing the destructive phenomenon.

A news conference on March 8 in the house went long as reporters waited for the phenomenon to manifest itself.  After eight hours Tina had tolerated enough.  She was seen shifting the kitchen table with a foot and filmed knocking over a lamp with a hand.  These acts and the video convinced most Americans that Tina was a fraud.

“I was tired and angry,” she explained later.  “I did it so the reporters could have what they came for and leave.”

Roll arrived on March 11 and the next day things toppled and were thrown about.  Tina told Roll that the phenomenon started after the appearance of a friend, Tina Scott, who had died in a car accident.  Scott came when Tina was upset, and they talked issues through.

In continuing incidents, Joan was pinned between a kitchen chair and the refrigerator.  One chair attacked Tina, and another chair twice rose up and threw her to the floor.  A piece of firewood sped between her legs.  During one hour Roll recorded over 15 objects moving.

Tina was delighted when invited to visit Roll and his family in North Carolina, where she could be scientifically studied.  Her parents were happy for a break.

Rebecca Zinn was a psychotherapist who agreed to help Roll.  On a short trip to the Institute for Parapsychology, Zinn’s hood flew open and the car slipped out of gear three times.  Her phone developed an excruciatingly loud, shrill sound and objects flew around her office.  When the telephone threw itself into the back of Tina’s head, Zinn decided to end their session.  As they attempted to leave, the door forcefully knocked into Tina.  The horn started honking when they entered the car.

Tina traveled home on March 31 but returned to North Carolina in October.  She could now predict telekinetic occurrences from pain in her stomach and continued talking to her deceased friend Tina Scott.  During experiments objects fell or flew, often maneuvering around corners to reach their destinations.  After being denied a beer in the Roll home, the empty bottles of Roll and his wife were thrown to the floor and broken.  Tina also seemed to have a measure of self-control over the activity.  The Roll’s had declared that the many fragile personal items in their home could not be harmed.  None were, and Tina was able to direct several selected objects to land in designated positions.

From Weird Georgia (2005).

Jim Miles is the author of two Weird Georgia books, seven books about Georgia ghosts and eight books about the Civil War. To see all of his books go to the Jim Miles Author Page on Amazon. Order autographed books or contact Jim directly at milesbooks@cox.net

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