In my earlier post on the Mayanup poltergeist case, I featured a transcript of an interview with Ethel Hack made by folklorist’s John Meredith and Peter Ellis in September 1991. At the same session as the interview with property owner Ethel Hack, Meredith and Ellis interviewed her brother in law, Doug Hack, who had also witnessed much of the activity at Mayanup. His story is equally fascinating.
The interviews are now available through the National Library of Australia as part of the John Meredith Folklore collection.
Readers interested in finding out more about the Mayanup case should grab a copy of The Mystery of the Mayanup Poltergeist (Hesperian Press, 2000) written by Ethel’s daughter-in-law, Helen Hack. Helen’s excellent book is the definitive account of the episode.
Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that this article contains images of deceased persons. Terms and annotations that reflect the attitude of the author or the period in which the item was written, may be considered inappropriate today
Douglas Hack interviewed by John Meredith and Peter Ellis, part of the John Meredith folklore collection. Recorded September 9, 1991.
John: It’s John Meredith with Peter Ellis and we’re talking with Mr Doug Hack… and Mr Hack is going to talk about a supernatural occurrence… with regard to falling stones and moving stones.
John: How old are you by the way Mr Hack?
John: How long ago [did this] thing happen?
Doug: 1952 [C: Ethel stated in her account it was 1955].
John: That was when it first started?
John: Was it here at your house?
John: In the locality?
Doug: Across the road at my brother’s place [C: Ron Hack’s]. Gilbert Smith, an aboriginal and his wife had a little cottage on my brother’s place. Gilbert was a very competent workman on the farm. He could turn his hand at anything. Anyway they were sitting having tea one night, it was the 5th of May 1952 [C: Ethel’s date is probably more accurate – 17 May, 1955] and a door was open and a golf ball came bouncing into the room, hit the table and bounced. You know how a golf ball bounces, well it sort of danced around the room and then a couple of stones landed on the roof and Gilbert naturally thought somebody was having a bit of a joke with him. So he hopped up, went outside, he could see nothing and hear nothing. Well that was the actual start of it. Well from then on [for] the next two and a half years all sorts of extraordinary things happened. And for a long time Gilbert thought there was somebody prowling around at night. But my brother came up and he used to hunt around, couldn’t see anything.
John: Because you’re right out of the bush here, there’s no other houses near are there?
Doug: No, no. Anyway the stones seemed to get worse. They’d hit the side of the cottage, land on the roof, night after night. And the peculiar thing about these stones, they were all warm, about blood heat.
John: When you picked them up?
Doug: Yes…you could be sitting in Gilbert’s cottage there and it would be banging on the roof and you’d look up just in time to see a stone apparently come through the roof.
John: Without making a hole?
Doug: Without making a hole.
John: And they would fall on the floor?
Doug: Yes, they would fall on the table. And the peculiar thing about them was that when they landed they never rolled. They’d sort of just sit there as if they made a cork.
John: There are no kids, no mischievous boys living around the district?
Doug: There’s none at all. Anyway it got so bad that so much talk around the place that some fellows down at Mayanup decided they would lay this ghost. They came up one night with batteries and torch lights and they formed a cordon around the place and just sat down to wait. The stone still fell and I think…
John: How many people would have been forming that cordon?
Doug: I suppose about six. Yeah, and they all had torches. And of course winter was coming on, this was May, and the peculiar thing was that the stones that came into the house were, it could be drizzling outside, you’d think anything could be wet. They were perfectly dry.
John: Did they fall anywhere else, early in the house for the Aboriginal couple?
Doug: No, just around where the Aborigines were, Gilbert and his wife. The heaviest stone to fall weighed 113 pounds.
John: 113 pounds?
Doug: My niece..it was an old thousand-gallon tank just outside the cottage. My niece, she was about 18 at the time, she happened to be standing beside this tank and something caught her eye and she looked up and she saw this huge stone coming down slowly, just as if it was being lowered. The tank had an eye on top, like it was completely enclosed, it just lowered itself gently onto the tank with a little bit of a clonk. My brother came up later that evening and he said, “I’m going to weigh that stone tomorrow, it seems to me pretty heavy.” And that’s why it weighed 113 pounds.
John: Gosh, that’s incredible.
Doug: In fact, it took him all his strength to sort of lift it off this thing and bring it down.
John: But most of the others were small pebbles?
Doug: Mostly about golf ball size up to about cricket ball size.
John: And for how long did this continue?
Doug: Two and a half years. It petered out about October, nothing over the summer, then it started again the next May, same time, the fifth of May, the next year. There was another peculiar manifestation was the light that used to float around. They looked just like a globe about nine inches in diameter, with a weak light inside, just a shining globe. They’d float around about 20 feet above the ground, just sort of float around in different directions and then all of a sudden they’d disappear.
John: Was this around the original couple’s hut?
Doug: Yes. So many ridiculous things happened, I should have written it all down, you know.
John: Were there any other manifestations like doors being banged or cupboards opening that had been closed or things like that happening in their house?
Doug: No. Another thing was different objects in the house would suddenly take off. I was sitting in the kitchen there one night and Jean Smith had been combing her daughter’s hair. She just put the brush on the table like that, but she’d hardly let go and the brush took off and shot over into the corner of the room, just [of] its own volition. Of course it attracted a lot of attention, the people coming from all over the district to have a look.
John: It was reported in the newspapers in the east also.
Doug: Yes, oh yes, and the local press had a bit every week, a little news item. And another peculiar thing about these stones, they gradually got hotter, until finally they were red-hot, some of them, not all of them, mostly stones about the size of your fist. They’d come bang on the roof and it got that way that they put a ladder up against the wall so they could get up and collect the stones. And as I say, they were red-hot, literally. Do you know what the hell that is? Oh yes, a young couple came up from Manjimup, they’d heard about this, they wanted to see it. They came up, it just happened to be a whole battery of stones was falling on the roof. So I gave them an old battered kerosene tin to put these stones in.They took them back to Manjimup, they came back next week and they said they were still hot by the time they got to Manjimup [C: around two hours drive].
John: It’s amazing isn’t it?
Doug: Half a dozen young fellas came up from the Perth Psychic Society. They got to tell us a bit more than we knew about the business. All they could say was there was something funny going on around here but they couldn’t tell us any more than what we already knew.
John: And did it finally cease altogether?
Doug: It sort of slowly petered out. After a second, like it had a break and then came back again and then petered out after that second occurrence.
John: Nothing has happened since then?
Doug: No, not as far as I know.
John: Was it the attempt ever made to exorcise the ghosts?
Doug: No, no, no. Gilbert and his wife were quite convinced it was a ghost of some bygone relation. They called it a “Jannick”. I found it very entertaining. You could go over there in the evening and old Gilbert generally had a fire going outside so he could keep warm.
John: It must have been a bit disturbing for them.
Doug: I remember talking to Gilbert about a week after it started and he reckoned he hadn’t had a sleep for four nights.
John: That’s amazing.
Doug: Strange things happened. I had a relative up from Kojinup stopping a couple of days. There was a woman and she had her bed just under the window on one side. She went to bed one night and something lands on her chest and she slouched a hold of it and it was a freshly cut potato.While she was lying there wondering what the hell was happening, about a dozen slices of freshly cut potato landed on her chest.
John: Quite ridiculous. Was there any potatoes in the house at the time?
Doug: They had a few potatoes. Where they came from they never found out.
John: Was she lying under an open window or was it closed?
Doug: It was open.
John: So it could have been coming through the window perhaps, the potato?
Doug: Yes. It was just as if there was somebody there with a knife slicing bits of spud off. I think you’d call it dematerialised.
John: What was that about? Things disappeared, did they?
Doug: They’d disappear out of the Gilbert’s house. They might disappear for an hour and all of a sudden they’d be back in place again. You know. Household utensils and… sort of household utensils and things like that. I remember a teapot disappeared and gone for about an hour. Then someone said, “Oh!” Jean said, “There it is back again, sitting on the table.” I never saw it leave. You know, it sounds just ridiculous but it actually happened.
John: Dematerialised and materialised again?
Doug: Yes. You could be sitting there like we are now and be ‘bang’ on the roof and you’d look up and you’d see this stone sort of appear under the ceiling. It was a skillion roof, just a flat roof. You’d see this stone, one second it wasn’t there and you’d look up and there it was.
John: Did it drop straight away or did it float down slowly?
Doug: Well it dropped but it dropped slowly.
Doug: And they never seemed to have any weight. I’d seen a stone come down on the table at an angle and you’d think its weight would carry it over the edge of the table. But it’d perhaps turn over once and stop there.
John: It had no momentum, sort of.
Doug: No weight in it, no momentum. Talking about it afterwards, it sounds ridiculous but I’d say it actually happened.
John: Well, you actually saw it had happened.
John: With your own eyes.
Doug: Yes. The whole thing was.. if this poltergeist or ghost was trying to tell you something, you’d never work out in what was. There was no sense in it. You know, it had no… it all seemed so stupid and ridiculous.