Imagine if you were the target of a stone-throwing poltergeist. What would you do? How would your friends and family react?
Consider the sad story of young Miss Miller of Cory, Indiana. For a few months in late 1898, her story was covered in newspapers all across America.
The case includes several common features of these type of poltergeist reports, including the odd fact that while Miss Miller seemed to be the centre of the phenomenon, she was never actually hit by the stones.
One of the earliest items on the case appeared in the Indianapolis News on July 26:
“MYSTERIOUS STONE THROWING.
An Affair at Cory Which Seriously Alarm the Villagers.
The residents of Cory, in this county, are puzzled over a circumstance which baffles their efforts at explanation. A little girl named Miller was ill at the home of Peter Roeschlein, but recovered. Now. whenever she step out of the house, a shower of stones falls all around her. A peculiar feature of the affair is that none of the stones ever strikes the girl, although they break the window lights and strike every one else who may be with her. Guards have been placed about the premises and a close watch kept, as the little girl ventured into the yard, but the shower of stones came, as usual, and despite the best efforts of those on watch, they were unable to ascertain how or by what manner they were thrown. The matter has become exceedingly annoying to the girl, whose friends have forsaken her through fear. Many of them have been struck while walking with her. During one night a shower of stones fell back of her bed. The people of the neighborhood are alarmed, and the belief in ghosts is rapidly increasing.”
That’s not at all surprising! A rather more florid account of the case appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on 18 September:
SHOWERS OF STONES ACCOMPANY HER. PEBBLES KEEP FALLING AROUND AN INDIANA GIRL, BUT DO NOT STRIKE HER.
Mysterious stone throwing has set the citizens of the village of Cory, in the northern portion of Clay county, Ind., into fits of apprehension. Not long ago a child belonging to the family of a respectable miner named Miller was taken ill with the prevalent “bone-break” fever, a thing of anguish and ever present with residents of this region. Quinine, the panacea for all ills Hoosier, was diligently applied, and the little girl became better. Then pebbles, varying in size from small gravel to pigeon’s eggs, began to tumble indiscriminately about the child. The good people of Cory go to church every Sunday once and sometimes twice. They are not given to superstition, and are won’t to revile those who essay to relate tales of ghosts and supernatural visitors. They say such alleged visitations are merely mice or rats scampering across dismantled dwellings vacated because of the groundless fears of the unrighteous. The child was convalescent, but never a window would remain intact. Pebbles were tossed against the glass, then a shiver and crash would follow and the glad summer breeze would spring into the apartment. All these manifestations were shown to them that doubted, but they doubted on and were convinced not. At last little Miss Miller reached that point in the restoration of her health when it was safe for her to go abroad of her home accompanied by one to protect her. Guards were always sent forth that she might come to no harm. These guards were smitten mightily by stones and grievously bruised in their bodies therewith until it was deemed unwholesome for any one to attend the once sick but now sound child on her journeyings to and fro. She moved in a shower of gravel unhurt: none could tell whence the stones came or why. Ocular demonstrations of these strange facts were re-enforced and corroborated by physical tests.
Guards would observe pebbles of smoothness and weight in the path of the child and at the same time receive a severe wallop between the shoulders or upon the sconce with yet another. Travel with the maiden became a thing of danger even as the ascent of the blazing heights of San Juan hill. Death indeed did not lurk in the air or whistle savagely from the concealed muzzles of deadly Mausers. But a swift chirp, a dull bump and a few remarks unbecoming a deacon or deaconess marked the progress of the child through the streets and byways of Cory. At first this queer method of throwing stones about the child as a protection brought her great fame. The tumbling of the pebbles all about her was looked upon as a peculiar force unknown of man, and, therefore, endowed with interest beyond mere ordinary things. Then when bumps of varying size had grown upon the heads of the populace and sundry red and angry bruises adorned other portions of the human form as manifested in Cory it was different. Fame had a shady tinge added to it. The stone throwing became too athletic and was solemnly declared a nuisance. All invitations to “come out and play” preferred by Miss Miller were declined, with much scamperings and even revilings. The other children of Cory had been smitten, not with her charms, but with the rocks which, like roses in more favored cases,bestrew her pathway.and thew wished none of them. One by one her childish playmates avoided her, an example followed by their elders until the sufferer is an outcast. From laughing at superstition and deriding the supernatural the good people of Cory have come to think that such things be. The little one is looked upon as possessed of something uncanny and malicious and is permitted to go her way without check or hindrance.”
The archives have little more information on the case. That’s a shame. I wonder what else happened to young Miss Miller. Did the stones ever stop falling?