Poltergeists and Murder

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william-rollWilliam 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.

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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 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.

Back at home Tina’s life continued to deteriorate. At age sixteen she slit her wrists but survived the suicide attempt. Several months later, with Tina still rebelling, Joan and John decided to place her into foster care. Tina moved in with James Bennett, but the Resch’s served papers. Tina could be placed in a detention center.

In court the Resch’s detailed their problems with Tina. When it was Tina’s turn to respond, James announced that he and Tina were married. She was shocked, but played along. Tina agreed to marry him until she turned eighteen, when they would divorce. James was “a monster,” she told Roll, treating her as a virtual slave. Tina and James divorced, then she dated another man and became pregnant by him. He never knew he fathered a child, Amber, born September 29, 1988.

By 1990 Roll had not seen Tina for five years. He had divorced, moved to Carrollton, Georgia, to teach parapsychology at West Georgia College, and remarried. Amber was two when Tina told Roll that the child’s balls mysteriously bounced by themselves and silverware bent in the drawer, but it was the spontaneous fires that worried Tina. She had also remarried, an initially decent man named Boyer who later beat Tina unconscious. When Roll suggested Tina and Amber move to Carrollton, they did. Roll and his wife baby-sat Amber, a precious child away from her mother, but troublesome in Tina’s presence. Roll saw a troubling similarity with the behavior of young Tina and her foster mother. Acting out was how Tina, and now Amber, gained attention from their mothers.

Roll convinced Tina to sign up for parenting classes, and she soon was attending nursing and computer courses at Carrollton Tech. Tina started dating a nice young man named David Herrin, also divorced with a three year old daughter. Herrin, who worked two jobs and lived ten miles outside town, often kept Amber. Things finally seemed to be looking up for Tina.

Roll was in New York on April 14, 1992, when his wife called with tragic news. Amber was dead. Roll rushed home to find Tina and David in jail, arrested for murdering the child, beaten so badly that her brain swelled and hemorrhaged. Amber’s abdomen, head, and face were badly bruised. The damage seemed to have been inflicted over several days.

During police investigations that night, Tina and David both denied beating Amber. Tina did say that several days earlier she had picked Amber up at David’s and found her lip swollen. David and Amber swore she had fallen off a curb. Several days later Tina again picked up Amber from David’s care and found additional injuries. This time, David claimed Amber had fallen down the stairs. David said he had seen Tina slap Amber, and proposed that she had slapped her hard earlier that day.

Carrollton was outraged by this brutal crime, the media condemning Tina and David. She was allowed to attend the funeral, but seated behind a screen, and was dragged out by officers when she cried. Joan Resch flew in for the funeral but could not afford to bury the child. Individuals, churches, social agencies, and a funeral home provided all the materials and services for the child’s burial in the city cemetery. “The community is burying the child,” stated Coroner Sam Eady.

Tina received the services of a reputable defense attorney, but he was unaccountably dismissed several months later. Her treatment in jail was brutal-she received no care for the flu or dental problems, and trustees subjected her to lewd behavior. Tina developed depression and a severe sleep disorder, but months passed before Roll’s intervention finally gained her treatment. After six months a noted defense lawyer was assigned to Tina. However, he was also involved in a high profile murder case in Atlanta, which occupied his attention.

Years passed and Tina languished in jail with no court date set. Finally, trial was announced for October 31, 1994, two and a half years after her arrest. Tina’s attorney informed her that the only way to avoid the electric chair was to plead guilty and accept a life sentence. Roll vigorously opposed this, but the lawyer said photos of Amber and her injuries would appall any jury. Tina pled guilty to felony murder and cruelty to children, receiving a life sentence plus 20 years. To a reporter, Tina said, “I’m not guilty of beating her. I’m guilty of not taking her to the hospital.” Her lawyer claimed she had passed a polygraph test on that assertion.

With Tina convicted of murder, the state tried David Herrin for cruelty to children. Called to testify against him, Tina only harmed herself. She wore a provocative dress, and the defense showed an explicit video she had made for extra money-at one point in the film Amber entered the room and Tina hurriedly chased her out, followed by the sounds of a slap. Herrin was convicted and sentenced to 20 years.

Tina, 25 years old at conviction, was condemned to spend the rest of her life in prison. She is incarcerated at Pulaski State Prison in Hawkinsville, where Roll continued to visit her. Tina was denied parole after her 2007 hearing. Her next chance of parole is April 14, 2012. David Herrin was paroled on November 16, 2011 and returned to Carrollton. His parole will end on April 14, 2011, when his 20 year sentence is up

Tina was the “most convincing case of poltergeist activity I had ever witnessed,” Roll wrote. In his book, Unleashed, Of Poltergeists and Murder: The Curious Story of Tina Resch, Roll concluded, “one thing is certain. For a time Tina had the power to directly affect the physical world. I am convinced that this power is still to be found in the depths of her mind.” In 1994 Roll said of Tina, “I think that the abilities she had were a natural endowment of the human mind.” Further, “I really do consider her sort of a natural treasure who needs to be explored, investigated to see if her abilities can be revived in order to understand the brain processes that may have brought on these occurrences.” He also believed Tina “has already made a substantial contribution to science.”

The University of West Georgia had offered psychology degrees with an emphasis in parapsychology, and the school’s reputation was considerably enhanced with the addition of Dr. Roll in 1986, attracting students from around the world. He taught Life After Death, Introduction to Parapsychology, Phenomenology, and Study of Strange Phenomenon. Roll lectured on psychokinetic energy, near death experiences, recurring spontaneous psychokinesis, and localized psi-effects. After a half century of study, Roll concluded that the living generate phenomenon from within.

Roll left West Georgia when his foundation’s endowment ran out in 1990. Research labs were closed and the psychology department retooled its curriculum to a more clinical approach to the science. Roll died in a nursing home in Normal, Illinois, his home identified as Villa Rica, Georgia.

By Jim Miles, from Weird Georgia (Sterling, 2005), with updates, source: mysterial.org.uk

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