For eight years, parapsychologist William Roll and his team befriended and studied Tina Resch, the troubled teenager at the centre of possibly the most famous modern case of poltergeist activity. Then her already tragic story took an unexpected turn with the shocking news of the murder of her baby. Adapted by Bob Rickard from Unleashed! by William Roll and Valerie Storey. All photos by William Roll.
I watched in disbelief as four burly officers from the Carroll County sheriffs department took their seats behind the small, white casket covered with flowers, a toy rabbit perched on top.
It was the Saturday before Easter 1992. The open casket showed a pretty little girl wearing her pink Easter dress. Even with the heavy makeup that hid the autopsy sutures, you could see Amber had been a beautiful child. The Almon Funeral Home chapel was filled to overflowing, but there was no sign of the childs mother. I assumed she was sitting in the private, screened section reserved for family members.
Charged with Ambers murder, her mother, Tina Resch, now using her married name of Christina Boyer, had sat in jail for the past three days while the media vilified her. Almost without exception, it seemed the entire town of Carrollton, Georgia, had banded against her, the Northern outsider; a woman so out of control she could kill her three-year-old daughter. My mind was a blur of shock and distress. All I could think was: How? How had this happened?
It seemed impossible! I had known Tina since she was 14 years old. In an ironic twist, she had been the centre of a media blitz then, too: the wild child who could move objects with the power of her mind.
The reports hadnt been off base. Much of my research and writing of the previous eight years had focused on Tinas impressive abilities, one of the most convincing cases of poltergeist activity I had ever witnessed.
Now a tall, lively, and volatile young woman in her early 20s, Tina could still be that troubled teen desperate for affection, dreaming of happy endings. Abandoned by her mother at 10 months and adopted into a rigid, unforgiving household, Tina had not been ready for single parenthood at 18 and often found the role difficult and irritating, but she could never have killed Amber. Amber was her one real hope for a family of her own and a better future.
Somehow this message had to get through to the authorities. Tina was innocent!
Tina came into my life 20 years ago, in the first week of March 1984, when I took a call from Mike Harden, one of the top reporters for the Columbus Dispatch in Ohio. The call had been forwarded to me from Duke University where I had worked for many years under Prof. JB Rhine, one of the founders of modern parapsychology to my office in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where I was a director of the Psychical Research Foundation.
Mike and the papers photographer, Fred Shannon, had been called to the home of John and Joan Resch, well respected in Columbus for having cared for over 200 children over the years. Lights and appliances would malfunction and objects would fly through the air or crash to the floor. He said: It seemed to me that I was witnessing something which defied both my sceptical instincts as a journalist as well as all of the traditional laws of physics.
Much of the phenomena seemed to centre on their adopted 14-year-old daughter Tina; indeed some of the flying objects seemed to hit her. In Mikes presence, a cup of coffee flipped through the air, spilling into her lap before crashing into the fireplace. She was in my line of vision when that happened, he told me. I did not see her aid its movements in any way.
My first thought was that when a 14-year-old is the centre of flying objects, the most likely explanation is a teen venting her frustration. Mike didnt think this could explain the things he had seen and been told, but he admitted he could be mistaken. He invited me and an assistant to come and investigate and sent the companys plane to transport us.
A few days later, on 11 March 1984, my assistant Kelly Powers and I arrived in Columbus and met the Resch family. By then the media circus had begun. The New Jersey Trenton Times, for one, wondered if the Resches were living in another Amityville.