A Wonderful Story: The Millville Poltergeist of 1885

I love stone-throwing poltergeists. The following report, which appeared in the Montana Standard of 10 September 1885, is an absolute cracker. Millville is a rural community located around 160 miles north of Sacramento, California.

The case includes elements that are common in the poltergeist literature; stones that ‘return’, thrown objects that appear to do little damage to people and a young girl who appears to have been the focus of the spook.

A correspondent of the Chronicle writing from Millville, under date of August 7th, relates the following:

This town, which in nearly in the centre of Shasta county, has been thrown into a state of excitement by the report of wonderful doings which have taken place on a ranch nine miles east of the town, belonging to a man by the name of Peter Fisher.

Mr. Fisher purchased his ranch at sheriff’s sale in 1879. It was formerly owned by one P. B. Langlois, and consists of nearly 400 acres of land. Mr. Fisher has worked hard to improve his farm, and by honest industry has earned a competency sufficient to maintain himself and his family, consisting of a wife and four children – three boys and one girl.

On July 23d last, when Mr. Fisher was away in the mountains for a load of fencing lumber, two of his boys went down to the creek; known as Old Crow creek, about 300 yards from the house with their fishing tackle and commenced fishing in the creek. As they threw their hooks and lines into the water stones and sticks of wood were cast from all directions into the creek. The boys made a careful search of the banks to find who had thrown the stones, but no one was in sight.

They began to fish again, when a second shower of stones fell into the pool where they had cast their lines. Becoming alarmed they rushed hastily to the house. There their mother upbraided them for throwing stones into the house. When they had told their experience the mother and children became alarmed. A search was made around the house, but it seemed evident that the missiles were thrown by an invisible hand, as there is a clear view of about 300 yards or more around the house, with nothing but a stone fence behind which anyone could be concealed. There was no trace of anyone having been behind the fence. Still occasionally a stone came tumbling into the house, the chairs moved from one end of the house to the other and the quilts and mattresses on the beds were rolled up moved off the beds and across the floor.

The family in great alarm and excitement awaited the coming of Mr. Fisher, who arrived home in the afternoon. He at once loaded his gun, unchained his watch-dog and said he would go around the fence and see if he could find out who had disturbed the peace and quiet of his home during his absence. While loading his faithful rifle, and while standing near the door, a stone of about five pounds weight fell at his feet. He looked around and could see nothing. The children again became frightened as stones began to fly into the yard, some falling from the roof. Mr. Fisher had by this time loaded his gun and tied the chain of his watch-dog to the outside of the door. He then directed his children to sit down, locked and bolted the front door and sat with his gun in his hand. Soon a howl was heard from the dog on the outside. The door instantly flew open, and a shower of stones, sticks and missiles of all kinds fell beside him on the floor.

The unseen tormentor then ceased for a while. The stones were picked up by the boys and thrown out of doors. The alarm soon spread through the neighbourhood and James Mears and John Welch came to the house to see it anything could be done to assist the family. Still the stones came in, one falling at the feet of Mr. Welch from the ceiling. As there was a trap in the ceiling about two feet square over their heads, Mr. Fisher climbed on up into the attic and searched every nook , and corner, but without finding anything. The night came and with it ceased the stone-throwing, but it was repeated the next day.

It was then agreed that the house was haunted and that It would have to be abandoned. The next day Mr. Fisher, with the assistance of Mr. Mears and some of the neighbours, built a good-sized cabin, to which he moved his family and furniture. But the ghost, or whatever it was, was not satisfied. It followed the family to their new home and played there all the pranks which it had formerly indulged in at the family mansion. Stones came into the house; the doors sometimes remained closed despite every effort and all of a sudden were burst open as if by the power of an invisible spirit. They were compelled to vacate that house also and camped out in the orchard on the south side of the creek. Nothing was known in Millville of these strange things until about a week ago, when Mr. and Mrs. Fisher made a short visit to the house of a friend in this place.

Their story so piqued public curiosity that several investigators went out to the ranch to satisfy themselves of the reality of the phenomena. One of these was L. W. Kidd, editor of the Eastside Times. He remained at the house one whole morning, when he struck out for Millville with a stone in his pocket which had been thrown into the Fisher mansion sixteen times by the invisible spirit. He also carried to town a piece of wood which was thrown into the Fisher mansion by the “spook”, and when he first picked it up one end of it was wet, as if recently taken out of the water. Last Wednesday about ten citizens of Millville, with three teams, started for the Fisher ranch. Some of them were young men who had never seen a “spook,” and did not believe that any such thing ever existed. They arrived at Fisher’s near sundown.

The night was quiet, but the following day was a field day for the spook. Soon after breakfast a rocking chair was moved across the room and placed against the ceiling, and remained fastened there for some time, until at last pulled down by two of the men. The little girl while standing on the floor had her hat carried out of the window in plain sight of all. One of the boys ran and fetched it back again and put it on her head. It was no sooner on than it was carried out of the window. One of the boys then put his hat on the little girl’s head, and in less than a second it was carried out in the field nearly 100 yards distant. Stones fell into the building. When cast out they were at once thrown back into the house.

At one time a stone which came through the stone struck the little girl on the ankle. She screamed and complained of being bruised, but was found not to be severely hurt. The stone was weighed by Joseph Connelly and found to weigh eight pounds and one ounce. A short time afterward this girl was struck on the shoulder by a butcher knife. It stood erect on her shoulder in the presence of the whole crowd. Soon after her father saw her beside the house with a board about twelve feet long balanced like a see-saw across her head. It was suddenly laid across her head and shoulders without doing any apparent injury except to frighten her. Her cries brought her father, Mr. King and others to her assistance, who at once removed it from her head.

Other wonderful tales too numerous to mention are told by Mr. Fisher, his wife and near neighbours, who have been at the Fisher ranch for several days. Shortly after the investigating party arrived in town yesterday, Mr. Fisher and his family appeared in Millville, where Mrs. Fisher and the children will remain for the present. Mr. Fisher and his oldest boy went out again to the ranch about sundown to see to his cattle. There is no question that there is something very mysterious in Fisher’s farm. What can be the cause of the phenomena, no one in our village claims wisdom enough to explain. But enough is now known to demonstrate that this is the “boss spook” of this State, and, perhaps, beyond the realms of fiction, the best authenticated. F. G.

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