A Mallee Mystery

The following fascinating stone throwing poltergeist case from South Australia appeared in the Adelaide Register on 27 March, 1918:

Stone Mallee2

The haunting fascination of a “spook” or spirit story drives my imagination into realms of wildest fancies. But I could not resist the invitation to listen to an uncanny mystery which happened years ago in the mallee wilderness along the River Murray.

The descriptions of the weird workings of recent Gawler spirits were jingling in my brain as I sat before Mr. Henry Hayward on Tuesday. The old man — he was 78 last January — came into The Register Office to tell me a tale of the mallee, and I expected to hear how a ghostly monster had terrified the people in the lonely scrub. But when he began I knew he meant to deal in “spirits,” and not in ghosts. Mr. Hayward now lives in retirement at William street, Norwood…

When the Spirits Walk

“It must be 14 years ago now,” he continued, “since I had a nice little block in the mallee scrub. My nearest neighbour was Mr. Fred. Towell, who now lives at Kent Town. One night my eldest son, Edward, who was then about 23 years old, and my youngest son, Tom, about 12 years of age, went out to feed the horses. It was a clear moonlight night. As they were walking back to the house from the stables something rolled past them. At first the boys took no notice. But when a second “something” came by they stopped to see what it was. They found a small stone. They came back to the house, thinking that the other boys were hiding in the scrub and throwing stones for a joke. But when they found their brothers in bed they told me about the affair. Of course I said some one had been playing a lark.

A Shower of Pebbles

“Next night I went up to the stables alone. I got into the yard and was looking into the manger when a stone as big as an egg fell right against my legs. There were mallee bushes close by, and I jumped over the rails and sent a few stones into the clump. I thought that some one was behind it throwing stones at me. But there was no one about. I then began to wonder what it all could mean. Next day my wife and daughter were washing out-side of the house when a large stone came over the building and fell close to them. Another missile followed a couple of seconds later. They could see no one near the place, and were sure that the stones had come from the other side of the house. Well, everybody in the district heard of the strange happenings at my place, and sometimes parties of 20 people came and watched the pebbles falling, and they all went away mystified. At one time a large piece of earth fell near my house, and one of the boys saw a piece of wood come from goodness knows where.

Typical Mallee scrub. Source: Wikipedia.

A Close Call

“On the third night I went over to a neighbour named Hutchinson, and asked him to come with me to the horse yard. We were standing near the manger while the boys were pulling hay from a stack, when a large piece of wood came hurtling down and grazed the brim of Hutchinson’s hat, and fell at his feet. I looked over the stable shed, but again there was no one in sight, nor could I hear anything. If any one had been moving about in the scrub, which was thick near my house, I could easily have heard him, because the night was still. As we went down to the house, stones kept descending around us, and others rolled past our feet.

An Old Man’s Fright

“I’ll never forget poor old Duncan O’Dea and the scare he got the night he came to see the stones,” went on Mr. Hayward, and chuckled to himself as he recalled the incident. “Duncan O’Dea came with about 13 or 14 others one bright moonlit night. I took them to the horse yard, and as we were leaning against the rails a big stone fell between Duncan’s feet. He swore that he saw it rise out of the ground. He stooped and felt it to see whether it was warm. But it was quite cool. Just after this two young chaps from Adelaide visited my place in great style to explain the mystery. They were staying in the district, and on hearing of the occurrence at my farm, they put on airs and told every one that they would soon tell what caused the trouble. So they came one night. The stones pelted down around them, and they went away as wise as they came about the ‘cause of the trouble,’ as they called it.

A Disbeliever Converted

“Bill Roathe, who is now in Western Australia,” proceeded Mr. Hayward, “was a neighbour of mine at this time. He did not believe in ghosts of any kind, and when he heard of my experience, he laughed and said, ‘All rot.’ Anyhow Bill was not afraid to come and have a look at what was going on. He had not been on the farm 10 minutes before he saw what he had heard so much about. A short distance from the house was a pine tree, and on this night the stones seemed to be striking the tree. Bill listened for a while. Then a stone struck the ground near to where he was standing. He looked at me and said, ‘Don’t you think we’d better get out of this?’ I could see that Bill’s idea of ghosts had changed. As we walked away from the yard he turned to me and said, ‘I have never believed in ghosts. I have often heard old men tell stories about them, but I thought it was all rot. But I’m satisfied now.”

A Fortnight’s Mystery

“The stones had been falling night and day for almost a fortnight. At last people were afraid to come near my farm. I, too, was beginning to fear that some one might be seriously injured by the missiles. On several nights the boys had gone out with guns and blazed away in the direction from which the stones seemed to come, but still they arrived. I was sure that the trouble was not the work of a human being. But still things were getting un-safe. I said to my wife one day, ‘I’ll go into Mannum and tell the police trooper — his name was Gibbons, if I remember alright — and ask him to come out.’ We decided that we would not tell even the children that we were going to bring the police out. I wrote to Gibbons, and on the very day that the letter was sent the stoning stopped. It happened that the police officer was absent from home for several days after the letter arrived, and he did not get it until he returned. He did not come out, but I saw him some-time later and told him all that had happened, and how the thing had ended so soon as the letter was written. Another strange thing about the affair was that during the whole of the time the stones were falling no one was hit by any of them.”

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