They rain down on houses and people with no earthly explanation.
THE CATALOG OF unexplained events includes many strange instances of stones falling from the sky – or somewhere. Showers of stones, often from clear skies and in areas where rockslides from mountains cannot be blamed. Hails of stones pummeling rooftops and people, often causing damage and injury. Investigations of these events usually end with unnerved victims and with officials scratching their heads in puzzlement or, out of desperation, inventing “explanations” that are sometimes as outlandish as the events themselves.
Reports of this particular type of mystery go back centuries and come from all over the world. One of the earliest written accounts was by Robert Kirk in 1690, who attributed the throwing of “great stons” to subterranean inhabitants that he called the “invisible wights.” And an unexplained stone-throwing incident that took place in New Hampshire was recorded in a pamphlet entitled “Lithobolia, or the Stone-throwing Devil,” published in London in 1698.
In some of these bizarre cases, the rain of stones occurs in connection with other paranormal phenomena, such as a haunting or poltergeist activity. In the famous Bell Witch haunting of 1817, which included a host of strange goings-on, neighbors of the beleaguered Bells were pelted with stones thrown by an unseen entity.
The phenomenon is defined by the inability of investigators to identify any assailants or vandals, and usually by the lack of any motive for such an assault. So the questions arise: Where do these phantom stones come from? Who or what is responsible for throwing or dropping them? Are there natural explanations for the phenomenon? Consider these remarkable cases and draw your own conclusions:
• Harrisonville, Ohio, 1901 – The stone attack on this small village began on the Sunday afternoon of October 13 when, as the Buffalo Express reported, “a small boulder came crashing through the window of Zach Dye’s house.” No culprit could be found around the isolated house… and this was just the beginning. The next day, dozens of stones rained down in the heart of the village, breaking windows and striking citizens. Were mischievous kids to blame? The next day, all of the male children of the village were gathered together (how could girls do such a thing?), and stones fell for a third day. None of the villagers could detect where the stones were coming from.
• Sumatra, 1903 – W. G. Grottendieck wrote about how small black stones, hot to the touch, came raining down in his bedroom as 1 a.m. The most bizarre aspect of this case is that the stones seemed to come through the roof without making holes in it, and they fell, he said, in a motion that was slower than would be normal.
• Marcinelle, Belgium, 1913 – For four days in January one house was besieged by an invisible stone thrower with remarkable accuracy. Police officers began to watch the house in an attempt to catch the vandal, but one wrote in his report: “I have seen a stone arriving in the middle of a large window-pane and then came others in spiral round the first point of impact…. I even saw, in another window, a projectile caught in the fragments of the glass of the first hole it made, and subsequently ejected by another passing through the same point.” No stone-thrower was ever seen, although an estimated 300 stones struck the house.
• Ardeche, France, 1921 – Most of these events are short-lived, lasting only a few days at most. But beginning in September, a farmhouse in France was victimized for four months. The stones dropped at all hours of the day, sometimes striking the family’s children and a clergyman who was called in to investigate. In this case, apples were also thrown and, again, with inhuman accuracy: apples came speeding in through small holes in the shudders made by previous apples.
• Sumatra, 1928 – One of the most astonishing cases was experienced and reported by the renowned paranormal investigator Ivan T. Sanderson. While sitting on the veranda of an estate house as a guest one evening, a shiny black pebble dropped onto the veranda out of nowhere. Dozens more followed. Sanderson, who was familiar with the phenomenon, tried an experiment. He ordered the stones gathered up and marked with chalk, paint or whatever else could be used. They then threw the stones back out randomly into the garden and shrubbery. “We must have thrown over a dozen such marked stones,” Sanderson wrote. “Within a minute they were all back! Nobody, with a powerful flashlight or super-eyesight, could have found those little stones in that tangled mess… and thrown them back on to the veranda. Yet, they came back, all duly marked by us!”
• Oakland, California, 1943 – In August of that year, Mrs. Irene Fellows finally called the police after two weeks of stones pelting her house at various times of the day. At first skeptical, the police inquiry became serious when their investigation clearly identified the pockmarks of the falling stones on Mrs. Fellows’ roof and walls, and by the litter of stones on her lawn. Mrs. Fellows and members of her family were frequently hit by the stones, although to no serious injury. The thorough police investigation could offer no explanation for the stones, which seemed to materialize out of nothingness.
• Brooklyn, Wellington, New Zealand, 1963 – Stones and apples are one thing, but what about money? Why would a vandal throw money? On March 24, a guest house was inexplicably battered by a hail of stones and a few coins. Police were called and unsuccessfully searched for the perpetrator of the assault, which lasted for seven hours. Windows were smashed and people were struck, but none injured. The coins included New Zealand pennies and a large copper coin. The mysterious attack occurred again for two more nights, then stopped.
• Skaneateles, New York, 1973 – Most often, a particular house is the target for this phenomenon, but in this highly unusual case, two fisherman became the victims of the falling stones – a paranormal storm that followed wherever they went! The rain of pebbles began as they were finishing their fishing expedition and followed them as they made their way to their car. The shower ceased for a while, then resumed when they stopped briefly on their way home. Deciding they needed a drink, they went to a bar, and when they came out some time later, the rain of pebbles began again. As they were about to go their separate ways in their hometown of Liverpool (about 25 miles northeast of Skaneateles), the little stones dropped on them one last time.
• Arizona, 1983 – The attack on the Berkbigler family began in September, just as they moved into their new home. Large rocks crashed down on the house every night, usually between the hours of 5:30 and 7:00 p.m. The local sheriff’s department could determine no assailant, even with helicopter surveillance. The authorities became reluctant to visit the Berkbigler home when they too were struck by the falling rocks. This went on for weeks, culminating on December 4 while two newspaper reporters were interviewing the family. Rocks slammed into the side door of the house for two hours. What’s most mysterious here is that to strike this door, the rocks had to pass through the garage where a van was parked, through a narrow two-foot space.
This is just a small sampling of the hundreds of such cases that have taken place over the last century. There is no easy explanation for these rains of rocks and stones. Something supernatural is most definitely taking place, and most researchers theorize that it is a form of poltergeist phenomena – a physical manifestation caused most likely by the minds (or powerful electromagnetic brain activity) of the victims themselves. But this meager explanation poses more questions than it answers, especially in the cases in which the very physical stones seem to materialize out of thin air.