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The Church Poltergeist: It’s the Village Mayor

News & Comment

Joe Nickell

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 23.4, July / August 1999

“Just in time for Halloween,” was the wry comment of Leon Harris, news anchor for CNN’s “Early Edition,” October 22, 1998. Harris was responding to spooky events reported in a church in Delain, France, a village of 200 inhabitants in the foothills of the Alps.

According to news sources, fifty people had witnessed poltergeist-like phenomena, including toppled statues and candles flying across the nave. The church was soon closed, while an exorcist was called in to drive out the sinister force.

Then came a follow-up from the Associated Press. The November 1 report explained that the village mayor, Thierry Marceaux, 32, had been detained by police after admitting he was responsible for the apparently paranormal events. He had produced all of the effects, lurking in shadows and tossing the objects, then appearing moments later to feign horror.

Local authorities, threatening to charge Marceaux for wasting police time, freed him on condition he see a psychiatrist. He apologized for his mischief - supposedly intended to amuse - through his attorney.

Joe Nickell

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Joe Nickell, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and "Investigative Files" Columnist for Skeptical Inquirer. A former stage magician, private investigator, and teacher, he is author of numerous books, including Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (1998), Pen, Ink and Evidence (2003), Unsolved History (2005) and Adventures in Paranormal Investigation (2007). He has appeared in many television documentaries and has been profiled in The New Yorker and on NBC's Today Show. His personal website is at