Doris Bither and the Entity Haunting

Karen Frazier
Shadow of woman behind a glass wall

In 1974, a single mother named Doris Bither contacted parapsychologist Dr. Barry Taff and his associate Kerry Gaynor and reported she had been raped repeatedly by three spirits in her home. While Taff initially dismissed Bither's claims as being related to mental illness, eventually he and Gaynor investigated the poltergeist case, which became known as the entity haunting.

The Entity Haunting Background

At the time of the reported spectral rape, Doris Bither was living in a rented house on Braddock Drive in Culver City, California with her three sons (ages 10, 13, and 16) and a daughter (6). Shortly after Bither had moved into the home with her children, a Hispanic woman knocked on the front door and told Bither she used to live in the house, and it was evil; she left without further explanation. It was soon after this that Doris Bither experienced her first attack, in which she claimed two male spirits held her down while another raped her. Doris's middle son Brian claims he heard the attack because his bedroom was next to his mother's, and he also said he saw bruises on her inner thighs following the alleged spectral rape. Friends, neighbors, and Doris's other children also reported witnessing strange events occurring in the house.

Doris Bither Contacts Paranormal Researchers

Barry Taff and Kerry Gaynor were research assistants at the Paranormal Research Lab at UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute. The two were in a Los Angeles area bookstore discussing their research when Doris Bither approached them and asked if they would be willing to look into her home. They took her phone number and later came to her house to hear Bither's story. When they arrived, they noticed the house was a mess, observing extreme disorder in household conditions. In fact, the house had been twice condemned according to Barry Taff. They also observed Doris had a contentious relationship with her older sons. Their initial reaction to Bither's claims was to refer her to a psychiatrist at the Neuropsychiatric Institute. However, a few weeks later, Bither contacted them again and asked that they return because others were now witnessing paranormal phenomena in her home. Taff and Gaynor agreed to return, and this was the beginning of their investigation.

Doris Bither's Claims of Poltergeist Activity

Talking with researchers, Doris Bither made the following claims:

  • Candelabras were thrown at her.
  • A fuse box was ripped out of the wall and flew through the air towards Doris.
  • Doris claimed she was attacked repeatedly by the entities, from mild assaults to full-on rapes.
  • Her teenage son witnessed Doris being attacked by an unseen entity.
  • When the son went to aid Doris during attacks, something unseen flung him back with great force.
  • During the investigation, Doris claimed she witnessed poster boards the researchers had put up with duct tape for the purpose of investigation being torn off the wall by unseen hands.
  • The children also saw ghosts so frequently they named one of them "Mr. Whose-It."
  • The oldest son reported activity intensified when he played the music of Black Sabbath.
  • Doris had bruises on her legs and inner thighs from the attacks.
  • The children also experienced encounters with the entities who bumped into them in hallways and even slapped them.

Research Begins on Braddock Drive

It was a hot August day in Southern California when Taff and Gaynor returned to the house on Braddock Drive to begin their investigation. They immediately noticed two strange things: the house smelled of rotting flesh, and the bedroom was ice cold even though the rest of the house was stifling. The house didn't have any air conditioning. During their time conducting research, a period of about 10 weeks starting on August 22, 1974, Taff and Gaynor witnessed many strange poltergeist style events.

Brunette woman sitting on the edge of the bed
  • A kitchen cupboard slammed open, and a skillet flew out of the cupboard as if thrown.
  • They witnessed bright greenish yellow balls of light they called "corpuscular balls of light" flying around the bedroom.
  • A few times, they were able to photograph the orbs, although many attempts at photography were unsuccessful.
  • They photographed Doris sitting on the bed with a light arc formed directly over her head.
  • At one point, the lights in the bedroom came together and formed the upper torso of a man appearing near Doris and moving as a human would move. At the time, there were about two dozen people in the room who all witnessed the same thing.
  • The research team brought in Geiger counters to measure radiation. When no activity was happening, the counters showed normal levels of background radiation. When the activity was occurring, there wasn't even any measurable background radiation that registered.
  • Dr. Taff observed that Doris was a heavy drinker; however, when she stopped drinking, the phenomena also stopped.
  • They noticed the activity was always at its most intense when Doris was in the house.

The Bither Family Moves to Carson, California

After several weeks, Doris Bither and her children moved into a new house in Carson, California. Within a few weeks of moving in, poltergeist activity began occurring in the new house, as well as in the houses of both of the family's next-door neighbors. Taff and Gaynor witnessed phenomena in the new home as well.

  • A vase appeared to be thrown and crashed to the floor.
  • Deep breathing and footsteps appeared on audio recordings approaching the microphone until the mic shut off on its own.
  • Tape on the wall was pulled off the wall by invisible hands, and then the board it was holding flew off and hit Bither in the head. This happened twice within minutes.

The Case Comes to an End

Doris Bither moved to San Bernardino and then to Texas without telling Taff and Gaynor. Eventually, they lost touch with her completely, and they didn't investigate any of her homes further. However, Doris maintained contact with author Frank De Felitta, and she reported to him that no matter where she moved, the activity followed her.

The Entity Book and Movie

Novelist Frank De Felitta fictionalized the events surrounding Doris Bither and her family in his 1978 novel The Entity. The movie version, also called The Entity and written by De Felitta, was released in 1982. Barbara Hershey played the character patterned after Doris.

Doris Bither's Background

Xavier Ortega of Ghost Theory has researched the case extensively, interviewing all of Doris Bither's children. He was unable to interview Bither herself, as she died in 1999 at the age of 58. From his research, Xavier pieced together Doris's background - something she was unwilling to share with the researchers on her case.

women using a Ouija board
  • Doris Bither was a single mother of four children.
  • She grew up as a child of alcoholics in an abusive home.
  • Eventually Doris was disowned by her family after a series of altercations.
  • She had a number of failed and abusive relationships; all four of her children had different fathers.
  • As an adolescent, Doris participated in séances and Ouija board sessions.
  • Her sons report the family had always experienced some minor level of psychokinetic activity, even before moving to Culver City.

Barry Taff's Findings and Conclusions

Barry Taff has written and interviewed extensively about the entity haunting and Doris Bither, including writing about the case in his book Aliens Above, Ghosts Below. He and Gaynor published some of their findings from the case in scientific journals. He also served as a consultant both for the book and movie, The Entity. Even more than 40 years after the initial events, Taff is hesitant to draw a conclusion about the cause of the events, although he has suggested in his writings and interviews that he suspects at least some poltergeist activity was psychokinetic activity, possibly coming from Doris Bither herself and perhaps her teenage sons.

The Entity Haunting Remains Unexplained

In spite of numerous witnesses to the activity and evidence gathered in connection with the case, no one has ever claimed to have "solved" the entity case. Instead, at most it can be called an extremely active and often violent case of poltergeist phenomena that plagued a disturbed woman and her children back in the 1970s.

Doris Bither and the Entity Haunting