Señora Nunez and the Burning Stones

Online digital newspaper archives are making it so much easier to turn up some amazing new poltergeist cases.

The following story, which appeared in the Arizona Republic of 23 September 1898, contains many of the same elements found throughout the poltergeist literature. The suggestion that the outbreak was a kind of ‘psychic revenge’, the claim that one person was the clear focus of the stones plus the observation that some of the stones were hot while others were ice-cold are all common themes.

Central Pheonix, Arizona in 1908. Source: Wikipedia.

‘Assaulting Ghost.
Residents of East Jefferson Street Disturbed.
A Thrilling Story of the Strange Persecution of an Old Mexican Woman.

This is a weird ghost story. But all ghost stories are weird. This one is well authenticated in that, though there have been scores of Phoenix witnesses, the hoax has not been discovered, If there be a hoax.

About two weeks ago a Mexican woman named Josefa Nunes, who now lives at Seventh street opposite the residence of Mr. Henry E. Kemp, applied to the county authorities for protection against persons who were throwing stones at her. She was not clearly understood, and while an officer visited her house now and then he supposed that he was looking for an earthly stone thrower whom he could see.

But this is the story: until nearly a month ago Señora Nunez lived near the eastern end of the street car line. Another Mexican named Urquides, a member of a Protestant church who had lived at her house for some time, was seized with a sickness of which he died. Wholly before death he begged for food and water, which his hostess for some reason did not give him. A night or two after his death the stone throwing commenced. Small stones hurled from an invisible source broke the windows of the house or rattled against the outer wall. Now and then one struck Señora Nunez. Though they landed sharply they brought no other pain than a scorching sensation. She picked the stones from the ground and found some warm and others almost ice cold.

She thought she might avoid this ghostly persecution by changing her residence, so she moved to the place where she now lives. The change brought her no relief and then she applied to the authorities, who did not understand her. The neighbors heard of these strange visitations a week ago, but took no Interest in the story until within the last two days. Yesterday the interest grew so intense that until 9 o’clock last night (the hour when the stone throwing ceases) more than 200 people visited Señora Nunez’ home. Some of them saw the flying stones, heard them crash through windows or bang against the side of the house and fall to the ground. Many were picked up and carried off. So at least the stones have substance, though the thrower Is disembodied.

About 5 o’clock last night the old woman was sitting in her house surrounded by not fewer than forty visitors, American and Mexicans. A scarf or shawl was thrown over her head and she was trembling mid-telling of the annoyances which were wearing her life out. Suddenly she put her hand to her jaw and despairingly screamed “Adios”.

Among those who were sitting near her were Officer George McClarty, and C. S. Scott, of the Herald. Officer McClarty saw a stone dropping on the old woman’s shoulder and fall thence to the ground. He picked it up and it was warm. He gave it to Mr. Scott, who testified to its temperature.

Señora Nunez owns a small ranch some distance in the country. She visited it yesterday and she said that on her way home she was struck by one of these burning stones.

Another story is told, though this is not authenticated, that a priest visited her home at her request. When he stopped in front of the house, still sitting in his buggy, he was struck by a stone, producing a burning sensation. It rebounded and hit his horse, which sprang forward In terror.’

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After this article the case went pretty quiet, but there was an interesting follow-up in the Republic nine months later on 9 June, 1899:

‘Mysterious Stone Throwing Recalled

The case of the mysterious stone throwing, of which an old Mexican woman was the victim, filled the local newspapers last summer. She lived In a house on East Jefferson Street. The windows of the house were broken by stones hurled by unknown hands and in the presence of many incredulous visitors rocks fell from the celling and the air upon the old woman. It was a puzzling case, and though everybody who witnessed the manifestations believed there was a trick, it was never exposed.

The old woman and her family moved to a hut in the neighborhood of the park and the matter was almost forgotten. It has recently come to the notice of the authorities that they are still living there in a ghostly sort of a way and in an apparently destitute condition. They were visited by District Attorney Flannigan and Constable Joe Balsz yesterday and it is probable that some action will be taken about them.’

One Reply to “Señora Nunez and the Burning Stones”

  1. Thanx for finding/resurrecting this story from obscurity.
    “…more than 200 people visited Señora Nunez’ home. Some of them saw the flying stones, heard them crash through windows or bang against the side of the house and fall to the ground.” Yet nonetheless, 9 months later “everybody who witnessed the manifestations” believes it all to have been “a trick.” Calling Penn and Teller, who could have much to learn from these uber-clever uber-crafty polt magicians! Mr Fort would be cheshire-cat grinning.

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