Anomalous Showers of Stones, Water and Other Objects
Sometimes there are anomalous showers, or materializations of substances other than the well-known stone showers or mysterious water pourings or rain. The dynamics is nevertheless the same as with these showers. More info about these dynamics, click the above link.
Contents of this page:
A case is reported from Brownsville, Texas, the explanation of which implies that some ghosts are not only of a practical turn of mind, but also philanthropic. The ghost of commerce, so to speak, has lost credit on account on his persistent unpracticality. On revisiting the pale glimpses of the moon, he appears to have no more definite object than the terrifying people who do not know him, when he was alive, and who have no ambition to make his spectral acquaintance. As to the ghost of the spiritual séance, he notoriously confines himself to most exasperating platitudes. But at Point Isabel there is a lighthouse, which has been abolished, and recently the house of the late light keeper has suffered mysterious bombardments - with shingle nails, of all things in the world - alternated with oyster shells and brickbata. All attempts to ascertain the source of this bombardments having failed completely, the supernatural has been fallen back upon, and a very picturesque little story is brought forward to account for the mysterious occurrences.
It is the seafaring residents of the Point who are responsible for the theory, which is as follows: The ancient mariners say that during the war the aforesaid light was put out by a light keeper who was in league with a gang of wreckers, and that some vessel was thus misled and wrecked, and the crew all drowned. Now it is supposed the be the spirits of the drowned sailors that have been manifesting through the purely mundane medium of shingle nails, oyster shells and brickbata, their disapproval of the abolition of the beacon, whose former extinction caused their untimely demise. There is, it must be admitted, a certain straightforward intelligibility about this hypothesis, which speaks volumes for the estimation in which the Point Isabel mariners hold the good sense of their deceases comrades. No doubt it would have been still more to the purpose if the spooks had bombarded the premises of the Lighthouse Board which ordered the Point Isabel light to be discontinued, but then it will not do to expect to much from the ghosts of simple sailormen, who after all, if the theory is correct, have found the way to express their sentiment plainly enough.
[The Point (Port) Isabel Lighthouse, built in 1852, was used temporarily by Civil War soldiers from both sides as a look-out post. Its light was extinguished in 1905 and the land was purchased by a private owner and was eventually preserved as a historic site. It is also considered a haunted site. ]
The story above is written in a skeptical and humorous tone. One might easily dismiss it, but it was also features in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Oct. 16, 1888: " -- dispatch from Brownsville, Texas -- that, on the night of the 12th, the lighthouse, at Point Isabel, occupied by Mrs. Schreiber, widow of the keeper, who had departed not long before, had been struck by a rain of nails. The next night, about dark, [58/59] came another shower of nails. More variety -- also down pelted clods of earth and oyster shells. Bombardments continued. People gathered and saw showers, mostly of nails, but could not find out where they were coming from. " (from Charles Fort book Lo, page 57).
The Battersea Poltergeist
1. newspaper report:
A RAIN OF PENNIES
Strange happenings in a house in Battersea have so alarmed the occupants that they no longer, stay in it at night (says the London "Daily Chronicle"). Furniture, they say, has been thrown down, glass doors broken and missiles hurled about from unknown sources. Crowds of people daily gather outside the house waiting for "something to happen."
The occupiers of the house are : Mr. H. Robinson, aged 86; Mr. F. Robinson, his son; Misses L. and K. Robinson, son, and Mrs. A. Perkins, daughters; and Peter Perkins, aged 14, grandson. According to Mr. F. Robinson, there have been thrown into the house enough coal to light two fires, sufficient soda to fill a pickle jar, several pounds of potatoes, about a shilling's worth of coppers.
Mr. Robinson, who is a private tutor, said: "On November 20 lumps of coal began to fall on the glass roof of a little conservatory at the back of the house. We found, too, some potatoes and three pennies. "This continued for two or three days in December. We complained to the police, and a constable was struck on the helmet while in the garden. "On December 19 our washerwoman found the outhouse littered with hot cinders; although there was not a fire in the house. A constable came round again, and while he and I were sitting in the kitchen two potatoes were thrown in. On Monday, while my sister and I were standing in the doorway of the front room she exclaimed. 'The hall stand is going.' I saw it swaying forward, and when I tried to hold it back found that I could not do so, and it fell with a crash. "On another occasion I was getting up, rather late, when I heard a tremendous knocking at my door. I went outside and saw that a linen basket had been burled right across the landing. My sister, who was in her room, gave a shriek, and I heard three knocks. My sister shrieked again, and when I got to the room I found a chest of drawers had fallen over. "As we were taking my father downstairs the glass of his door was smashed. My father was taken to the infirmary with a cut on the head caused by a jagged piece of soda. After the experience of Monday we no longer sleep in the place, but go to friends. Before leaving, I lay what furniture I can on the ground so that it cannot be thrown down. "We have lived in the house for 25 years."
2. Investigation Report by Jane Cunningham:
The above event was also investigated by Jane Cunningham, a London freelance journalist writer. Valentine Dyall wrote an article about her investigation in the magazine, that appeared in the magazine The World's News (Sydney, NSW, Australia), 21 March 1953:
(The house was on 8 Eland Road, Battersea, London; and the events began on November 29, 1927)
BY VALENTINE DYALL, FROM LONDON
A suburban fatally endured astonishing persecution, but it drove them from their home.
JANE CUNNINGHAM, a London, freelance journalist, hurried down the street, her raincoat collar turned up against the bitter January wind.
She was within sight of her home when she heard a loud crash and a cry of fright. It sounded like a car accident. She wheeled around-but the street was deserted.
She stood still, listening intently, looking up and down the rows of terraced houses. Just as she was about to turn away a nearby door flew open and a young man in shirt sleeves ran out. He stood in the middle of the road, looking up and down the hill. Then he turned and ran back into the house.
Less than 30 seconds later Jane was on the doorstep, notebook in hand. The young man eyed her impassively as she introduced herself, then without a word led her through a long, narrow hall to the back of the house.
Standing at the back door, Jane looked out on what might have been the scene of a violent explosion. The conservatory - a lean-to building running the length of the back wall - was smashed in a dozen places. The small back garden was littered with broken glass, stones, lumps of coal, pieces of soda and pennies!
In the downstairs rooms she was shown smashed ornaments, splintered furniture and a number of tiny slips of white paper. Her urgent questions brought from the grim-faced young man-Frederick Robinson-a story so strange, so baffling, that for the second time that evening she wondered if she were dreaming.
Half an hour later Jane was telephoning the first news story of the many that were to focus world attention on Number 8, Eland Rd., London's "Mystery House."
These reports were to bring the country's foremost expert on psychical research to the scene, and culminate in the Robinson family's removal to a more peaceful abode.
A natural explanation to the riddle of the Battersea disturbances has yet to be found: it remains unsolved, except in terms of the supernatural. This, despite a mass of well-documented evidence from a large number of wholly reliable witnesses.
The tenant of the house was Frederick's father, Henry Robinson, an 86-year-old invalid. He had been living there happily for 25 years until the end of 1927, when the weird occurrences began.
Besides Frederick-a tutor, aged 27- the family consisted of three daughters and one grandson.
Lillah and Kate were both unmarried and employed as school teachers. The third daughter, Mrs. George Perkins, was a widow who looked after most of the household affairs. The youngest occupant was her 14-year-old son, Peter.
On November 29, 1927, the peace of the house was broken by lumps of coal, pieces of soda and copper coins which rained on the conservatory roof. All the objects were small, but some were propelled with such force that they smashed through the glass.
The family were so alarmed that they called the police. A blank faced constable stood in the back garden with Frederick Robinson, scratching his chin, watching the panes break-but quite unable to trace the line of flight of a single missile.
The constable's confusion was increased when a lump of coal appeared out of nowhere and deftly knocked his helmet over his eyes. With an indignant growl he pushed it back on his head, ran to the garden wall, pulled himself up and surveyed the surrounding area. No one was in sight-and still the bombardment continued!
From then on police had orders to keep a special day-and-night watch on Number 8, Eland Rd.
On December 19 the Robinsons' washerwoman, who had served them for many years, gave notice that she was leaving. In a state of terror she showed her employers a heap of red hot cinders in the outhouse. There was no fire near.
About a week later the household had its worst hour to date-loud bangings in every room, window panes breaking, ornaments falling from their places.
Robinson senior, helpless in bed in an upstairs room, began to call out in fear as furniture fell over and various articles dashed themselves to pieces on the walls. Frederick went up to quieten him; as he entered, the windows caved in with a noise like a bursting shell.
Anxious to move the old man downstairs, the son went to the front door and asked assistance from a passerby-a Mr. Bradbury.
Together they carried Robinson senior from the bedroom; as they passed out of the door the heaviest piece of furniture, a large chest of drawers, toppled over and fell flat on the floor.
A few minutes later, on the ground floor, another massive piece of furniture "came to life." Describing it Frederick said: "My sister called to me. I saw the hallstand swaying. . . He rushed across the hall and got hold of it,. . but some strange power seemed to tear it from my hands and it fell against the stairs. It broke in two parts."
The Good Samaritan, Bradbury, told, police later that Lillah Robin son was "too afraid to stay in the house any longer, but was also too afraid to go up to her room and pack her clothing!"
When at last silence returned, the family held a conference. Robinson senior was suffering from shock, and it was decided to send him to hospital. He was borne out of his home on a stretcher a few hours later never to see it again, for he died in an old people's ward.
After the sensational headlines of January 15, when colorful accounts of all these happenings were flashed across the world, Eland Rd. was be sieged for days on end by reporters, cameramen and foreign correspondents.
One morning a middle-aged man shouldered his way through the swarm of pressmen, knocked on the door of Number 8, and handed in his calling card. He was the late Harry Price, prolific author on psychical phenomena, leading expert for the Society for Psychical Research, meticulous investigator - and deadly enemy of the fake medium, the fraud and the charlatan.
Frederick Robinson spent the next three hours recounting every strange incident that had happened under his roof, and showing his visitor the shambles which had resulted.
Price's report of that first inspection tells of pebbles, coal, potatoes, pennies and pieces of soda littering the conservatory and the garden.
Windows were broken "with small holes as if stones had been fired at them." The glass panel of the interior door was shattered and the wooden panels of another splintered.
From the garden, Price noted that the windows of two adjoining houses were also smashed.
Standing on the back wall he pointed to a building about 80 yards away and asked, "Is that a private house?" He was told that the place was a small, "private asylum" and most of the patients were shell shocked veterans of the 1914-18 war.
An enterprising representative of the Evening News persuaded Frederick Robinson to let him accompany the celebrated investigator on the rest of his inspection. They were in the kitchen when Kate Robinson heard a dull thud. In the passage which connected the kitchen to the scullery they found an 8in-long metal ferrocerrium gaslighter with a wooden handle.
"Undoubtedly," Price wrote later, "it had been projected from behind us and had, apparently, struck the wall in its flight. We immediately went back through the scullery and into the kitchen, but no one was visible."
On a Friday morning soon afterward Price made another visit to the house. But this time nothing unusual occurred.
Shortly before midday Price was attending to other business in the city when the editor of the Evening News telephoned with startling news.
Young Robinson had been removed by the authorities for observation in a mental ward. But the events of that weekend disproved the police idea that Frederick was responsible; the phenomena not only continued-they grew more violent than ever.
On Monday morning Price returned to Eland Rd. and found Mrs. Perkins in a state of near-collapse. In strangled tones she told him how, on the Saturday, "chairs marched down the hall in single file."
Three times she had tried to lay the table for Sunday dinner, but , each time the chairs leapt up on to the table, scattering the crockery.
On the Sunday an attache case had "taken off" from a chair, circled the sitting-room once, then dived to the floor; an umbrella sprang from its corner in the hall and "flew" through the house to the kitchen; a cruet crashed to the ground from the centre of the kitchen table; and when finally the dining-room table was set, it slowly turned on its side, scattering food and dishes all over the carpet.
Price was particularly interested in one detail: both women swore that when they picked up articles which had been mysteriously displaced, they seemed unaccountably heavy. There had been in the back of the investigator's mind from the start the thought that the Robinsons' experience might turn out to be a classic case of persecution by a poltergeist.
The word is German in origin and literally means "noisy ghost." In his long career Price had investigated hundreds of mysteries in which malevolent, unseen agencies were said to have produced pandemonium; were apparently incredibly destructive and impossible to expel.
A common feature in such cases, he knew, was that displaced articles appeared to acquire extra weight.
The events of that weekend had completely unnerved young Peter Perkins. In the past the boy had been inclined to treat every incident as a great novelty, vastly entertaining-so much so that many press men had hinted that he might be a brilliant practical joker, organising the entire affair! But now the lad's face was white and drawn, and he was obviously afraid to sit down.
Fearing for his health, his mother sent him off to stay with relatives in the country. Price, remembering the theory that a sensitive adolescent is the ideal "focus" for a poltergeist's manifestations, thought it possible that the disturbances might stop with Peter's departure: but far from it.
A day or two later Mrs. Perkins and her sister Kate were talking with the investigator and a reporter named Grice in the kitchen, when there was a loud thump in the corner.
The door leading to the scullery was closed, but under a chair near it Price found a pair of women's shoes. Inside one shoe was a small bronze ornament of a cherub which the women immediately identified as an item missing for several days from the mantel of the sitting-room.
The sisters were now being driven to utter distraction. Both men were away, lying in hospital-the father dying, the son under grave suspicion. Lillah, too, had gone, ill and terrified. And now young Peter had broken under the strain.
On the advice of the police, the sisters closed up the house and spent a few days with friends on the other side of London. They returned on Wednesday, January 25, at 3 pm - accompanied by Harry Price, Mr. P, G. H. Salisbury of the Daily Express and a famous woman medium who insisted on remaining anonymous.
Immediately she entered the house the medium began to complain of extreme cold; and although a fire was soon roaring in the kitchen, she continued to shiver.
"This place makes me feel miserable," she said repeatedly, hunched over the glowing coals.
The investigator and the news papermen began the most thorough inspection yet made. Taking a room at a time, they minutely examined every article of furniture and each ornament, carefully noting their positions.
While they were in the last of the upstairs bedrooms, the reporter thought he heard a faint thud: they hurried out and found a large cake of yellow soap in the main passage which divided the upper floor. Both knew it had not been there 90 seconds before.
In the kitchen they found the two women still sitting by the fire. They declared they had not moved. Shown the soap, Mrs. Perkins at once exclaimed, "That's from the scullery!"
That evening Frederick Robinson came home - angry and justifiably bitter at his detention. He had been certified completely sane.
Price had been anxious to ask him about the small slices of white paper, which according to some of the Press reports had been found in the house and garden. But the young man declined to answer any more questions: his one idea was to arrange for the family to move out the house as soon as possible. And within a few days they were gone.
The newspapers clamored for Price's verdict. Had a ghastly vandal wrecked the Robinsons' home, or was it a case of trickery?
Price made a guarded statement. He believed the ex-servicemen patients of the private asylum behind Number 8 could have been responsible for some of the damage: They could have catapulted missiles to the conservatory and through back windows. But that would not account for the smashed furniture, the overturning tables, the fall of pictures and many other incidents inside the house.
"I consider that the evidence for the abnormality of the occurrences is much stronger than that for the theory that the Robinsons were wholly responsible," Price further declared.
And so the mystery remained unanswered. But the last chapter in the macabre tale was not added until 13 years later.
On March 14, 1941, the publication Two Worlds carried Frederick Robinson's own account of events in the "house of mystery." For the first time he broke silence on an aspect of the "manifestations" which had intrigued the theorists.
The slips of paper, he claimed, had fluttered down "out" of nowhere -apparently materialising in thin air. And some of them, held up to the light, revealed writing-"as if done with a pin. . .
One of these "phantom messages' read, "I am having a bad time here. I cannot rest. I was born during the reign of William the Conqueror." and it was signed, "Tom Blood."
Other messages were signed by "Jessie Blood"; some were threatening, some pathetic.
"I was an actual witness of these happenings nearly a hundred times," Robinson declared. But even this gave no hint of a rational solution.
So the mystery of the jumping furniture and other strange happenings at 8 Eland Rd. remains a mystery which may never be solved. ..
Source: article The house where the furniture danced in the magazine The World's News (Sydney, NSW, Australia), 21 March 1953
3. Harry Price's Account:
from his book Poltergeist over England, Chapter XX, The Battersea Poltergeist, pages 229 to 239:
The focus of the manifestations was centred in a small villa in Eland Road, Lavender Hill, Battersea, a bustling working-class district of London with no attractions, one would have thought, for a Poltergeist.
This villa was inhabited by Mr. Henry Robinson, an invalid of 86, who had lived there twenty-five years, and who was removed to the infirmary at the request of the family when the disturbances commenced. With Mr. Robinson senior, lived his twenty-seven-year-old son Frederick, and his three daughters: Miss Lillah Robinson, Miss Kate Robinson, and Mrs. George Perkins, a widow, who had a fourteen-year-old son, Peter. The Misses Robinson were school teachers and their brother was a tutor.
The house in Eland Road is of a type of which tens of thousands can be found scattered all round the Metropolis. It has two floors and a small garden at front and rear. It is the typical abode of the London artisan. From the garden can be seen the back windows of some premises then occupied by a medical practitioner who kept a private asylum or mental home. I was told that men suffering from shell-shock were his principal patients. From the doctor's windows to the back of the 'mystery house', as the Press dubbed it, is about eighty yards. It would be possible for a person standing at the windows of the private asylum to propel, by means of a catapult, small objects such as coins, pieces of coal, etc. with sufficient force to break the windows of the houses in Eland Road.
It was just before Christmas that, from a private source, I first heard of the strange happenings in Eland Road; but I attached no importance to the report, which differed little from many others that I receive. I heard nothing further until the week commencing January 15, 1928, when reports of alleged extraordinary happenings began to appear in the Press. I decided I would investigate.
On Thursday, January 19, at 9.30 a.m., I paid my first visit. I thought I was fairly early on the scene but a garrulous female free-lance journalist - who opened the door - had arrived there earlier and tried to bluff me into abandoning my investigation. Not being easily bluffed, I successfully negotiated the outer defenses of the 'mystery house' and entered the building. I found the family at breakfast, and my first impression was distinctly favourable as regards the family and the improbability that the inmates of the house were responsible for the destruction of their own home. For I at once saw that someone or something had caused considerable damage to the Robinson ménage. Broken windows, smashed furniture, and the débris of ornaments were much in evidence. After a few minutes' chat I withdrew and promised to call again.
On my return to the National Laboratory I found a message from the news editor of the London Evening News asking if I would allow a reporter of that paper to accompany me to the house. I consented and at three o'clock the same afternoon a car was sent for me, and for the second time that day I found myself in Eland Road - this time with a Press representative. Miss Kate Robinson and Mr. Fred Robinson were the only members of the family who were in the house on this occasion, and from them we obtained the complete story of the disturbances.
'Except for Percy,' said Mr. Robinson, 'we lived in the house for twenty-five years, happily and peacefully. Then on November 29, lumps of coal, pieces of soda and pennies began to fall on the conservatory - a lean-to building at the back of the house.
'It stopped for a few days. It began again early in December. It struck me as being extremely curious at the time that, although the pieces of coal were very small, they broke the glass.
'Things became so serious that I decided to call the police. I had no other idea except that some person was throwing things over the garden wall.
' A constable came along, and together we stood in the back garden and kept watch. Pieces of coal and pennies crashed on to the conservatory roof, but we could not trace their flight. One lump of coal hit the constable's helmet. He ran to the garden wall, but there was nobody there.
'On December 19 our washerwoman said she would not work any longer in the house. She came to me in a state of terror and pointed to a heap of red-hot cinders in the outhouse. There was no fire near. How could they have got there?
'Again I called a constable, and we decided to watch in the kitchen. Two potatoes were hurled in while we were sitting there.
'It was on Monday that the climax came - at nine o'clock in the morning - and for an hour the family was terror-stricken. There were loud bangings in all parts of the house. My sister ran to tell the magistrate. The window panel in my father's bedroom was smashed, and as he was in such a state of fear I decided to remove him from the house. I called a man from the street, and together we carried him from the room. Just as we were taking him out a heavy chest of drawers crashed to the floor in his bedroom.
'Previously, my sister had seen the hall stand swaying and had called me. I caught it before it fell, but some strange power seemed to tear it from my hands, and it fell against the stairs, breaking in two parts.'
Mr. Bradbury, the man who was called in to help move the old gentleman, confirmed Mr. Fred. Robinson's account. He said:
'Mr. Robinson called me to his house, and when I arrived there at about ten o'clock there were a fishmonger and a greengrocer discussing with him what had happened. I saw several women in the house and they appeared to be very frightened. Mr. Robinson took me up to a bedroom, where he said his father had been sleeping, and showed us an overturned chest of drawers.
'One of the women said that she was afraid to stop in the house, and that she was also afraid to go into her room to pack up her clothing. We went with her into her room, and she told us that she had been awakened by loud bangings on the door, and the crashing of glass. We stayed there until she had packed her bag and then returned to the back bedroom, where Mr. Robinson showed us pennies and coal on the conservatory roof.
'The four of us - all men - were watching these, when suddenly from another bedroom came a great crash and downstairs we heard a woman scream. We ran to the room and there we saw a chest of drawers lying on the floor. It was all very strange, and Mr. Robinson then took us to the kitchen and showed us the damage done there.'
After we had heard the history of the disturbances from their commencement, the Press representative and myself made a tour of the house and carefully inspected the damage, which was considerable. Several of the windows were broken, some with small holes in them as if stones had been fired at them. Some of the panes of glass of the conservatory roof were also shattered, and, lying on the roof, were pebbles, pennies, lumps of coal, potatoes, pieces of soda, etc., which had been thrown there. A door inside the house had also one of its glass panels broken. In the back bedroom we found the panels of the door shattered; a heavy chest of drawers was splintered as if from a fall; and the remains of several smashed ornaments were scattered about. In the hall we saw a smashed hat-stand in two pieces and we viewed the remains of two broken bedroom doors, a tea tray with one of its sides ripped off, and a number of pictures that had fallen to the ground. In the small garden were strewn lumps of soda, coal, etc., and Mr. Robinson pointed out two windows of neighbouring houses which had received the unwelcome attention of the alleged Geist: both had small holes in them as if caused by stones shot from a catapult.
After our tour of inspection we returned to the kitchen where the four of us - Miss Kate Robinson, Mr. Fred Robinson, Mr. Grice, the Evening News representative, and myself - stood chatting. We were the sole occupants of the house. Mr. Grice and I were just about to leave when some hard object fell with a resounding thwack in the passage at the back of us.
The kitchen is connected with the scullery by a short passage. The scullery leads directly to the garden by a door which we had just closed.
Upon the fall of the object we four at once proceeded into the passage and found that a metal ferro-cerium gas-lighter, with a wooden handle, overall length about eight inches, was lying mid-way between the kitchen and scullery. Undoubtedly it had been projected from behind us and had, apparently, struck the wall in its flight. We immediately went back through the scullery and into the garden but no one was visible.
Miss Robinson told us that the gas-lighter - weight about two ounces - was always kept on the gas stove in the scullery. Certainly no one was in the scullery, garden, or passage when the lighter was thrown or fell. I say 'fell' because it is just possible that it may have been placed on the top of the open door that separates the kitchen from the passage. But experiment proved that a considerable push on the door was needed to displace the lighter, which, however, might have been so balanced that a touch would bring it down. But the Robinsons declared that the lighter was on the gas stove when we first visited the scullery. I did not see it there myself; neither did the Evening News representative. It was a curious incident and made an excellent stop-press paragraph for the evening papers!
The Evening News representative and I again visited Eland Road the next morning (Friday) and were told that a number of phenomena had been witnessed since our previous visit. Pieces of coal, pennies, lumps of soda and stones had been thrown about and one more window had been smashed. We stayed about an hour but witnessed nothing unusual.
I arrived back at the National Laboratory about 11.30 and half an hour later was rung up by the editor of the Evening News, who told me that the authorities had removed young Robinson for observation as to his mental state. I was astounded at this fresh development. I had had an hour's conversation with Mr. Fred Robinson on the previous day and had found him quite normal and very intelligent. It is alleged that the police formed a theory that Mr. Robinson, junior, was responsible for the manifestations and had decided to examine him at St. John's Hospital, Battersea.
I again visited the house on Monday afternoon (Jan. 23) and had a long interview with Mrs. Perkins, the widowed sister. Mr. Grice of the Evening News again accompanied me to Eland Road, and again went over the house with me.
The fact that Mr. Frederick Robinson was not now in the house made no difference to the alleged phenomena. Mrs. Perkins told us that during the week-end the manifestations had been both violent and varied. Besides the usual arrival of pieces of coal, etc., there had been 'great activity amongst the furniture'. Chairs, of their own volition, 'had marched down the hall in single file' and three times Mrs. Perkins attempted to lay the table for Saturday's dinner. On each occasion the chairs had piled themselves up on the table, making it impossible for the woman to proceed with the preparation of the meal. At the third attempt, she went out into the road and asked a police officer who was on duty there to enter the house and examine the 'phenomena' for himself. The stolid London policeman naturally accused Mrs. Perkins of piling up the furniture herself. A London policeman knows little about Poltergeists! (See the drawing from Punch, page 3.)
Mrs. Perkins's sister, Miss Robinson, stated that after her brother had left the house an attaché case 'flew' from a kitchen chair to the floor; an umbrella sprang from the stand in the hall to the kitchen floor; a cruet crashed to the ground; and the table fell over after it had been prepared for dinner.
She continued: 'We were so frightened that we went outside. Through the kitchen window we saw all the kitchen chairs fall over. We went upstairs and found stones on the roof. An extraordinary part about it is that the furniture seemed heavy to pick up again'. (It is often alleged that objects displaced by Poltergeists acquire extra weight - H.P.)
Three persons appear to have witness the alleged spontaneous movement of the furniture, viz. Mrs. Perkins, Miss Robinson, and Peter Perkins, the fourteen-years-old boy who was so frightened - it was stated - that he could hardly be induced to sit on a chair in case it should move. He was afterwards sent to he country to recuperate.
After we had heard the story of what had happened during the weekend, we made another examination of the house. It appeared to be in much the same state as when we left it on the previous Friday. We then returned to the kitchen and the four of us (Mrs. Perkins, Miss Robinson, Mr. Grice and myself) stood chatting in the kitchen when suddenly there was a sound as if a heavy object had fallen behind us, in the kitchen, but near the passage leading to the scullery, the door of which was shut. To me the noise sounded like the fall of a heavy boot or brush and I at once began to look for such an article: so did the Evening News representative. In a minute or so I saw something dark under a chair in the corner and putting my hand on it I found it was a pair of lady's black shoes. Actually I put my hand on a hard object which was in the right shoe and brought it to light. It was a small bronze ornament in the form of a cherub, weighing about four ounces.
The cries of astonishment - real or simulated - with which the ladies greeted my 'find' were renewed when it was discovered that the ornament was missing from the mantlepiece of the front sitting-room, where, I was informed, it had reposed (together with its fellow cherub) for twenty-five years. We were assured that these cherubim and never been removed from the front room. I continued my search of the kitchen but could discover nothing else which could have fallen. If the bronze ornament really came from the next room it must have made two right-angled turns and travelled over our heads. It is conceivable that the ornament may have been thrown by one of the women, but I was within a few inches of both Mrs. Perkins and her sister and saw no suspicious movement on the part of either. Mr. Grice also declares that he saw nothing that could account for the flight of the ornament, which was quite cold when I picked it out of the show; if it had been held in the hand, it would, of course, have retained some of the heat.
We searched the house once more but satisfied ourselves that we were the only occupants. Mr. Grice and I arranged to spend the next night in the house. The next day I was informed that the Eland Road house had been shut up, so that I gave up the idea of staying all night. The strange occurrences were driving the family to distraction. With both of its male members away, one daughter ill, and the little boy dispatched to the country, the two remaining sisters determined to quit the house of evil associations. The crowds, too, were frightening them. During the week-end mounted police were necessary in order to keep back the gaping mob which all day and night stood in the road and gazed, open-mouthed, at nothing more thrilling than a couple of broken panes of glass. On the Saturday evening the Battersea hooligans threatened to break into the house if they were not permitted to 'investigate' the phenomena for themselves. As I was leaving on Monday a burly ruffian with a Russian accent accosted me and asked if he could 'mind the place' for me. He would have looked - and felt - much more at home in a vodka bar at Minsk. I declined his services - without thanks.
During the early part of the week Miss Robinson and her sister decided to return to the house. On the Tuesday the news editor of the Daily Express asked me if I would make the experiment of taking a medium to the house in order to see if she could get any 'impressions'; I consented.
The psychic was a Miss X., the daughter of a well-known London professional man and, of course, an amateur. The Daily Express representative was Mr. F.G.H. Salusbury, a gentleman with whom I was already acquainted. We visited Eland Road on Wednesday afternoon, January 25, arriving at the house about three o'clock. Mrs. Perkins was there - the only member of the Robinson family who entered the place that afternoon.
We took Miss X. to every room in the house in order to discover if she received any impression. She at once declared that the place made her feel 'miserable'. This was not particularly illuminating, as many suburban houses have the same effect upon me. But in the kitchen Miss X. declared she felt 'chilly'. There was a good fire burning in the room - in fact, the kitchen was the only apartment which was heated. Neither Mr. Salusbury nor I felt cold in this room; on the contrary, we felt much warmer. But Miss X. continued to get colder and positively shivered. Her respiration slowed down, and her hands were distinctly cold. We left her sitting by the fire watching Mrs. Perkins do her household duties. We then continued our search of the house, carefully closing the kitchen door behind us.
We again examined the upper rooms of the house, inspecting and examining minutely every article of furniture, ornaments, etc., and noting their exact position. Hardly had we reached the top floor when Mr. Salusbury thought he heard something fall down below. I heard nothing myself, but we visited the lower rooms and could find nothing that had moved. The kitchen door was still closed. In reply to our query we were informed that the ladies in the kitchen had heard nothing. We returned to the upper story after again closing the kitchen door.
The rooms on the top floor of the Eland Road house are divided by a passage which runs from the back to the front of the building. During our inspection of these rooms we must have traversed this narrow and well-lighted passage at least six or seven times. Neither of us noticed anything on the floor of the passage. At this juncture we were in the front room when we both heard an object fall in some part of the house. We immediately turned to go once more to the lower part of the building and simultaneously saw in the passage, with the light falling full on it, a piece of common yellow soap as used for washing clothes. It was lying right in our path, about six feet from the door of the room we had just entered. We both declared that it was utterly impossible for us to have passed that soap without seeing it; to do so seven times without noticing it or treading on it would have been a miracle. Curiously enough, we did not hear it fall - if it did fall.
Without touching the soap, we made our way downstairs to the kitchen, the door of which was still closed. Both Mrs. Perkins and Miss X. declared that neither had moved during our tour of inspection; the door of the kitchen had not been opened and no one could have entered the house except by the front door (which opened only on the inside) or through the garden, scullery and kitchen.
Mrs. Perkins accompanied us to the top floor again and examined the soap, which she said belonged to the scullery. She could not account for its appearance on the top floor. The ladies also had heard something fall in the house, but we all agreed that it did not sound at all like a piece of soap falling. We then carefully examined the soap, which showed no signs of having had a blow or of falling heavily. Miss X. was still cold and shivering, though she had just come from a warm kitchen. We stayed in the house for another half-hour, but nothing further happened.
Mr. Frederick Robinson returned home a few days after the incident of the soap and 1 have heard of no phenomena there since. As I surmised, Mr. Robinson was found to be perfectly normal, and it was preposterous that he should have been compelled to leave his home. The Battersea 'mystery house' affair died a natural death and so another 'Poltergeist case' ended in a very unsatisfactory and inconclusive manner. The elder Mr. Robinson died in the infirmary. The Robinsons vacated the house.
It is obvious that the occurrences which I have described were either genuine phenomena, or were due to some mischievous person or persons with a very powerful motive for disturbing the peace of the locality.
My own first impression was that the ex-soldiers at the mental home had discovered that the Eland Road house was an excellent target for their missiles. The angle at which portions of the house were struck originated this theory in my mind. There had also been 'friction' between the Robinsons and the inmates of the mental home. But no normal exterior force could have smashed crockery and broken the furniture inside the house. I was then faced with the alternative of suspecting the Robinson family of deliberately destroying the home that had sheltered them for twenty-five years, or attributing the phenomena to a paranormal origin.
I at once acquitted the boy, Peter, of having any guilty knowledge of the disturbances, assuming they were caused normally. In the first place, he was absent when many of the phenomena occurred; secondly, he had not the physical strength to inflict the damage which some of the furniture sustained. And with a house fun of people any suspicious action on his part would have been noticed instantly. And on the one occasion when I saw him, he looked thoroughly scared. Though phenomena of the so-called Poltergeist type are often associated with adolescents I am not certain that in the case under review there was any connection between the boy and the manifestations.
More than one visitor to the 'mystery house' has suggested to me that the disturbances were deliberately planned by some of the members of the Eland Road family in order to frighten Robinson pére out of the house - for what reason is not stated. But that theory will not stand analysis. Though the most violent of the alleged phenomena occurred when Mr. Robinson, senior, was in residence, the manifestations were afterwards so numerous and disturbing that, as we have seen, Mr. Robinson, junior, was suspected of originating them and was subjected to considerable annoyance and personal discomfort after his father had left the house. And no family would deliberately smash up their home for the purpose of driving out one of their number, especially when that member is the head of the family and the responsible tenant. And it was after Mr. Robinson senior's departure that the remainder of the family were subjected to the distracting attention of the public, police and Press.
The incidents of the gas-tighter, the cherub and the soap are still puzzling me. On the three occasions when I witnessed the movements of the objects I could never be quite certain that a normal explanation could not be found for the supposed phenomena.
It must be admitted that the problem presents some very unusual features. The removal of the two members of the household, and the suggestion that the early disturbances were caused by the inmates of the sanatorium at the rear of the house, mark the Battersea mystery as being decidedly out of the ordinary run of such cases. I feel convinced, though I have no evidence, that the disturbances were started originally by some of the soldiers who were receiving treatment at the private mental home. That the worry and anxiety caused by these disturbances may have reacted on some of the Robinson family seems obvious. Whether this reaction was a normal or extranormal one is, in the absence of further evidence, a matter for speculation. But I consider that the evidence for the abnormality of the occurrences is much stronger than that for the theory that the Robinson family were wholly responsible for the trouble.
In 1941, Mr. Frederick Robinson himself gave the world an account of what happened in Eland Road. What I was not aware of at the time is what he calls the 'most wonderful piece of psychic phenomena anyone could observe, i.e. the dropping of small white slips of paper on the stairs, and about the rooms. This, by the way, never appeared in the Press for some unknown reason. Held up to the light these slips revealed writing as if done with a pin - the messages were sometimes threatening, and sometimes more sober in character. I recall one night after an unusually loud series of rappings seeing a message on a slip of paper come down from nowhere to fall on my bed. Upon elucidation, I read this: "I am having a bad time here. I cannot rest. I was born during the reign of William the Conqueror". The message was signed by the gruesome name of "Tom Blood". Sometimes it was "Jessie Blood".' Those readers who have read the story of the Borley hauntings, will remember that similar messages were found on slips of paper that were found scattered all over the house. And the Borley wall writings are, in many ways, unique.
What supports the theory that Poltergeist phenomena are frequently associated with children or adolescents is the fact that 'these occurrences only took place when my young nephew was in the house .... I was an actual witness of the happenings nearly one hundred times, often when the lad was under observation, and at other times when we were sure he was safely in his room upstairs'. Something similar occurred in the famous Epworth Parsonage case, in which the Wesleys were concerned, as the reader is aware. I think we can be sure that Miss Hetty Wesley was the unconscious prime-mover or focus of the manifestations. She was then about nineteen years old. The phenomena would continue even during her slumbers. Her face would be flushed, she would moan and turn over uneasily in her sleep. The Wesley case has certain correspondences with the Battersea affair in that the disturbances were associated with a child or adolescent - as so often happens.
Well, so much for the Battersea Poltergeist. As I said at the beginning of this chapter, the case was very unusual, particularly the intervention of the police and their extraordinary treatment of Mr. Frederick Robinson.
While I am on the subject of modern London Poltergeists I will mention a curious case that Professor J. C. Flugel, Dr. C. E. M. Joad and I investigated in 1935 and 1940. The disturbances were in a house at Woodside, Wimbledon, and were originally reported to Joad, who called me in. We visited the place one night and heard the whole story from the occupants - a professional man and his family, including some young children.
The usual phenomena had occurred: raps, bangs, sounds as of heavy furniture being moved, something walking up and down the stairs, doors opening of their own volition, maidservants being locked in their rooms (as frequently happened at Borley), etc. Many of these manifestations were experienced when all the inmates were under observation, and even when the children were away from home.
But we neither heard nor saw anything. The manifestation ceased suddenly, and, five years later, recommenced. Then they again stopped abruptly. I have heard nothing of this case since 1940.
2. Other Liquids
The following is an interesting case of the appearance of not only water but chemical liquids and strong odors. I think it is significant that petrol was present, and used, in the immediate environment, and that paraffin was present in a nearby village shop. The methylated spirits, and sandalwood oil, might also have been present in a nearby house, but not know to investigators. As I explained, sometimes the local energies dematerializes objects from their immediate environment and materializes them in another spot of the same environment, what can be inside a house.
This event got a lot of media attention. At one point it was presented as a hoax perpetrated by a young girl, similar to the cases of stone showers.
It happened in August to November 1919, in Norfolk England:
NORFOLK "MYSTERY" HOUSE.
A VISITOR'S STORY.
Mr. Cloudesley Brereton, the educational expert, who is himself a Norfolk man, sends the London "Times" the following account of visits which he has paid to Swanton" Novers Rectory and its oil showers. The Norfolk "mystery House" bids fair to arouse a good deal of curiosity before its riddle is finally solved. It presents so many peculiar features that no one single hypothesis seems to account for all the facts. There are one or two data that the superstitious might be inclined to regard as supernatural, and the more incredulous would ascribe to human interference. Briefly; the main facts are these: On the afternoon of the recent big explosion in France, some three or four weeks ago, the garden of Swanton Novers Rectory was redolent with the smell of sandal-wood oil. It was clearly noticed by more than one person. It has been perceived since in- the scullery, the odor clinging faintly to certain portions of the wall. At the time of my first visit it was still distinctly observable to anyone who rubbed his finger on a particular spot and smelt it afterwards.
Shortly after the first appearance of this mysterious odor, the main phenomena began. Petrol, paraffin, or water began to form in circular spots or patches on the ceilings; mainly of the bedrooms which are on the first floor. These bead-like patches suddenly seemed to condense, and a shower of petrol, paraffin, or water fel. Once the shower had taken place the circular patch, as often as not, quickly disappeared, except in the case of pure water, the only mark left being a slight unevenness in the plaster. In the case of one bedroom fears were entertained that the ceiling would fall, and bed was moved into the bay window, which, being of more recent construction, seemed to be immune.
It may be stated in parenthesis that the house itself is a well-built mansion, dating from about 70 years ago, and otherwise in a good state of repair. At first it was thought that these precipitations were due to leakages in the petrol-lighting plant, which has been installed for over 10 years. But this has not been used for the past three weeks, and the manifestations meanwhile are more frequent than before. Moreover, it seems impossible to lay the blame on the apparatus for various reasons, First, because it is run entirely by petrol, and no paraffin is used. Secondly, had there been any leakage through some pipe or other, the presence of water in the pipe would at once have been detected by he flickering of the light, and nothing of the sort has occurred.
Outbreaks of Fire
As these minor deluges increased it seemed likely that some of the ceilings might come down, and the rector and his wife were compelled to leave the house and seek refuge in the village. They were also obliged to remove their carpets and furniture, which threatened to become seriously damaged. Again, as the manifestations became move frequent, the danger from fire grew, and in fact during the last few days there has been more than one small outbreak of fire, notably in the kitchen, where the highly inflammable vapor, rising through the brick floor; was apparently set alight by a small oil-stove standing high above on an iron range. When this was discovered, the bricks were taken up and the small jet of flame traced to the ground below the flooring.
I myself have smelt the sandal-wood smell on the wall, which, however, was stronger at the time of my first visit. I have tasted and smelt the petrol and paraffin, and also witnessed a heavy fall in one of the upper rooms of absolutely pure water without the faintest taste of oil in it. Several of these precipitations have been caught. On the day of my last visit about a pint of liquid had been secured in a bowl. It must have been very fine petrol, for it speedily evaporated with the exception of a small residue. Several of these precipitations" have been submitted to Mesars, Mann and Egerton, of Norwich, who declare that, in the case of the petrol, it is purer than even that supplied to aircraft; while one of these samples, which constitutes a further puzzle, was pronounced by these experts to consist of methylated spirits. The water supply, curiously enough, was until a day or two ago entirely unaffected, but the water since drawn from the pump contains a more or less strong admixture of paraffin. On the occasion of my last visit I and others pumped up a certain amount of water, which when tasted, had a strong flavor of oil, though according to the rector's wife, other samples she had taken were far more strongly impregnated, floating oil being readily observable on the surface. In a couple of places in the scullery the rector's son had taken up the brick flooring, and in one of the holes below paraffin had been observed trickling down the side, and a finger placed on the spot next day revealed a strong flavor of oil. Yet another astounding feature was the fact that in the case of paraffin or petrol, with or without an admixture of water, the oil admixture seemed in some mysterious way to be entirely on the surface of the ceiling. This was discovered by the plumber who has looked after the house for years. Immediately after a downfall he took up the flooring of the room directly above the patch on the ceiling, and found the laths on which the plaster rested and the plaster itself absolutely dry. One might, perhaps, hazard the guess that these patches form by external condensation, but if that were possible in the case of the petrol, it seems paraffin, and quite impossible in the case of the water.
Two hypotheses have been put forward. One that from the village shop, some 300 yards away, which has sold paraffin for 40 years, there has been a steady, if small, leakage, which; after long percolation through the earth, has come up again to the surface through some secret spring under the house. But as there is a slight depression between the shop arid the rectory, which clearly indicates the head-waters of a stream; this seems a little improbable. Furthermore, a visit to the village shop showed that the paraffin had always been kept in a zinc-tank, and that no petrol or methylated spirit had ever been sold there. The other hypothesis is that Swanton, of which the known subsoils are clay arid brick earth, contains perhaps oil-bearing clays, such as have al- ready been discovered at East Winch arid other parts of Norfolk, and that the rectory, being built over this oil-bearing strata, the explosion mentioned above has liberated some of the oil below. It is strange, however, that the well, which absolutely abuts on the house has only just been affected, though a curious feature is that on the wall of one part of the house which was once attacked by dry-rot a large damp patch has now occurred.
But even if the above hypothesis were true, can it be said to account for the presence of methylated spirit, as vouched for by a firm of experts, and for the stronger odors of the sandal wood oil? There was, indeed, a case years ago of a paraffin-saturated house in Lincolnshire. One would like to know whether on that occasion there was also precipitation of methylated spirit and of some water coming from apparently nowhere. One has to go back to Gidcon's fleece to find a parallel to the latter's phenomenon, for when water mounts by capillary attraction, it mounts in masses, and does not suddenly appear in patches in the midst of a dry ceiling.
There is also one other peculiar phenomenon, . These visitations only occur in the daytime roughly between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. The clergyman's wife seem to think that they might be caused in part by vibrations — i.e.. by people moving about the house. This appears to be a feasible theory, but when all is said and done, there are several phenomena that to the lay mind at least seem quite, inexplicable.