"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Yet another case of mystery stone-throwing--heated ones, this time!--appeared in the "New York World," January 12, 1890:

The people on the plantation of John W. Brooks, near Culpeper Court House [Brandy Station, Virginia] have been thrown into a state of terror by phenomenal occurrences in a house on the place which was until quite recent occupied by the family of Richard Moten. Moten and his neighbors allege that hot stones have been thrown into the house through closed windows without breaking the glass, and that the furniture could not be kept in any particular place by reason of some invisible influence that caused it to move about the rooms and even to travel up and down stairs. This peculiar state of things was developed last September and has continued uninterruptedly since.

The effect of sudden showers of hot stones and unexpected encounters with perambulating chairs and beds on Mrs. Moten's nervous system has been such that to save her life her husband considered it necessary to move from the neighborhood. The family came to Brandy Station and a World correspondent had an interview with the husband on the subject of the phenomena.

While protesting entire disbelief in the power of disembodied spirits to return to earth and assert their presence by impish pranks, Mr. Moten is unable to account for the strange occurrences at his former home. He contends that they cannot truly be accounted for on psychological grounds, and rather inclines to a belief that they are due to mineral magnetism, but in just what manner he is at a loss to explain. Ho continued to reside in the house despite the protests of his wife in the vain hope of discovering the source of the disturbances, and his investigations were conducted in such a manner, he says, as to leave no doubt in his mind that they were brought about, not by supernatural, but by other than human sources. Here is his version of the mysterious visitations :

"On returning from work one day near the end of September I was surprised to find my family huddled together outside the house, As soon as she saw me my wife cried out: 'Oh, Richard, the house is haunted! Stones have been dropping into the rooms all the afternoon.' Insisting that the stones had been thrown by neighbors' children, I succeeded in quieting her fears and induced her to re-enter the house with me. 

"Looking around on the floor of the north room I discovered stones as large as hen's eggs lying on the floor. I picked them up and threw them out into the yard, thinking some practical joker had been trying to frighten the children. As I had cause to remain home the next day I thought I would just keep an eye open to detect the joker. About ten o'clock in the day a scream from my wife caused me to run into the kitchen, my wife lay in a faint on the floor and near her were four large stones. Picking up one of those I found it the least bit warm, and on examining; the rest I found them of the same temperature. I then sent for Mr. Brooks to come and make an examination. I showed him the stones which were scattered hero and there over the floor. Taking a chair, he sat clown to examine them. While doing so a stone that seemed as if it came through the window-glass struck Mr. Brooks on the foot. On examining this stone we found it to be hot. Mr. Brooks, thinking some one was playing a joke on us, got a gun and commenced firing at random into the cornfield to see if the mischievous person was hiding there. As the shooting availed nothing we re-entered the house to see if we would be disturbed again by the mysterious stones. After waiting for an hour or so, and as no more stones fell, Mr. Brooks left for home feeling at a loss to account for this strange mystery.

"We lived in the house for five months, and during that time the stones fell frequently. On one occasion the children were hauling walnuts under a large tree. Coming into the house to answer a call of their mother, they left the walnuts under the tree until they could return. Not ten minutes after they entered the house the walnuts came flying through the open door and fell on the floor in a shower. People in the neighborhood became afraid to come near the house. The stones seamed to come through the window-glass and also through the door when standing open. How the stones came through the glass without breaking the panes is a mystery to me. My little girl once said she saw a hand against the window just as a stone came in the room. 
"While eating one evening a stone fell from the coiling over the table into my coffee. After taking the stone out of the cup I drank the coffee as if nothing had happened. My family objected to it, but I was not the least bit afraid. The same evening my little boy's spelling book was swept from his hand as if some one had snatched it from him, At this moment several stones, which seemed to come through the window-glass, fell on the floor. My brother threw one of the stones in the fire, and it immediately leaped out of the fire back into the room. He tried this twice, with the same result each time. Flat-irons would fly across the room, and articles downstairs would come upstairs on a fly over the banisters. My wife grow ill and could stand this no longer, so I moved. The house is still vacant."

As is the norm with these sort of incidents, I found no follow-up stories.


  1. Two things struck me about this story. One, Mr Moten discovers his wife lying "in a faint on the floor", so he hurries to summon Mr Brooks - who promptly sits down and examines the stones near the wife. This discussion occurs, presumably, while Mrs Moten is still prone on the floor, unconscious. Secondly, to find out if anyone is about, Brooks takes a firearm and shoots randomly into a cornfield. This is, I believe, how some southern U.S. sheriff's departments still search for lost children...

    1. Yeah, I loved that approach to problem-solving: Just randomly shoot into the nearest field!

      Brooks probably wasn't the safest guy to be around...


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