In the August 1881 issue of The Theosophist, H.P. Blavatsky published a translation of a letter from A.J. Riko of The Hague under the title ‘Stone-showers’.1 It begins: ‘The stone-shower is a remarkable phenomenon which takes place at uncertain intervals in every country, and under every climate. It is frequent in the East.’
The first stone-shower reported by Riko lasted 16 days and took place in Sumedang, Java, in the house of K.G.E. von Kessinger, Assistant Resident of the Dutch East Indies. On 3 February 1831 the young daughter of Von Kessinger’s cook drew the attention of Madame Von Kessinger to red spots of sirih (tobacco) that kept appearing on the girl’s white apron, as if she was being spat at. At the same time egg-sized stones started falling perpendicularly, as if from nowhere, at the lady’s feet. She sent for the Regent, who was convinced that the phenomenon was genuine but unable to identify the cause. An Indonesian priest tried to exorcise the ‘spirit’.
Placing a lamp on the matting, he had hardly squatted himself on it, when upon opening his Kuran he received a box on the ears, and both lamp and Kuran violently flew in opposite directions. As no hand was visible the priest remained very much perplexed. Madame Von Kessinger having determined to pass the night with the child in the Regent’s house, the rain of stones began pouring there harder than ever. The bare presence of the child seemed sufficient to bring it on.
Colonel A.V. Michiels was ordered to investigate the case:
Causing the house to be cleared of all its inmates, he placed a policeman in every tree around the building; he had the walls and ceiling of the room covered, tent-like, with white canvas; but, notwithstanding all such precautions, he found that when alone with the little girl, the red spots appeared without any visible cause upon the white linen walls, and that stones, hot and wet, were falling by fives and sixes at very short intervals, becoming visible to the eye that followed them only at a height of five or six feet from the ground. ... Sometimes, chairs and glasses were seen moved by an invisible force, and the imprint of a hand was found on the glass of the mirrors.
Andreas Victor Michiels (1797-1849)
In his report to the Governor-General, Michiels stated that each day, between 5 am and 11 pm, about a thousand stones were thrown, some weighing nine pounds (4 kg).
Another incident took place in the house of the Teisseire family in Sukapura, Java, in 1834.
In that year, while they were at dinner a shower of stones came upon the table, and the same was repeated for a fortnight in every room of the house; the stones being sometimes replaced by buffalo bones, and once by a whole head of that animal. Once M. Teisseire being out, seated in a chariot dragged by buffaloes, he found himself stoned with pieces of dry earth. As at Sumedang not a creature was near, the stones falling perpendicularly, and never hurting or even touching anyone.
The Regent of Sukapura wanted to investigate the case and came to stay with the family. But as soon as he climbed into bed, it ‘was vigorously shaken and finally lifted up entirely from the floor, in the presence of his son and several servants, and under the full glare of several lamps’. The residents marked some of the stones with a cross or other sign and threw them into a nearby river, but ‘in less than a minute, these marked stones were thrown back out of the water, all wet, but bearing the signs that identified them’.
At Amboina, in the Moluccas, in 1825, stones and bits of lime fell among a garrison of soldiers. ‘People saw the projectiles coming from a short distance and not at a very great height from the ground. The phenomenon was repeated upon several occasions, and never was a man touched by one of the stones.’ Riko relates several other incidents, including some from Europe. He ends by enquiring after the nature of the ‘invisible beings’ responsible.
In her response, HPB writes: ‘The cases related ... are most incredible for the general reader, though, having witnessed far more extraordinary phenomena personally, we believe in them thoroughly.’ She says of Riko that ‘even he, a spiritist, is unable to trace such a uniformly senseless, idiotic phenomenon ... to the agency of disembodied human spirits’. Most spiritists would attribute it to ‘malicious disembodied spirits’, and most Christians to ‘demons’, but in that case, she asks, why do the stones carefully avoid hitting or injuring those present? She attributes the phenomenon to ‘a blind though living force’, which usually comes into operation in the presence of a medium and when local magnetic conditions are favourable. In the first case cited by Riko, the medium is clearly the little Javanese girl. A medium ‘charged’ by ‘blind’ (nonintelligent) elementals or nature-forces will attract stones within the range of his force, but at the same time his body will repel them, and a similar condition will be induced in anyone else present. She adds that exceptions to the rule are possible. She also says that elementals are not really ‘beings’, but ‘the active forces and correlations of fire, water, earth and air, and their shape is like the hues of the chameleon which has no permanent colour of its own’.2
The May 1882 issue of The Theosophist included an article about the remarkable feats of a Muslim sorcerer, Hassan Khan, nicknamed ‘Jinni’ for his power over certain jinn or elementals.3 The phenomena he produced included making bricks, clods of clay, and dust or sand fall from the air; their fall was ‘sometimes vertical, sometimes diagonal, and sometimes in a parabola’. HPB commented that, like the incidents reported by Riko, such phenomena proved the existence of ‘prankish nature-elementals’, which ‘can be made subservient to one who has learned the secret of their subjugation by occult means’.4
The June 1882 Theosophist contained a report about a mediumistic teenage girl called Meenatche Ammal. She had offended a Muslim man, who warned her she would suffer for her obstinacy, and she soon began to be haunted by a terrifying, hideous ‘demon’ (pishacha). She would sometimes rush into the house in terror, ‘whereupon there would immediately come, rattling against the sides and roof of the building, a storm of bricks, stones, and pebbles’. Stones so big that two hands were needed to lift them fell at witnesses’ feet, but never struck anybody. Strangely, the stones could not be seen until they were within a couple of feet of the ground. HPB added a note saying that this supported the theory that ‘in the transport of inert substances, the atoms are disintegrated, and suddenly reformed at the point of deposit’.5 On one occasion, the girl’s father ‘angrily said that a demon ought to be beaten with a broom stick; whereupon there fell before him a whole bunch of sticks from worn-out brooms’. Witnesses sometimes marked the stones or fragments of bricks that had fallen with charcoal for identification, and threw them as far as they could, but the same stones would immediately be flung back.6
The August 1882 Theosophist included a letter received by Colonel Olcott during his investigation of the mediumistic phenomena performed by the Eddy brothers at Chittenden, Vermont, in the 1870s. The witness reported that on one occasion a stone weighing 64 pounds (29 kg), which he had earlier seen outside, suddenly fell at his feet, even though the doors and windows were closed and sealed. HPB commented that this illustrated ‘the disintegrability of stones, and their re-integrability, by the power of certain forces clustering about the mediums, and in India called pishachas and bhuts.’7 In Indonesia, these nature-forces are known as gendarua or gundarua.
In his valuable book Het Regent Steenen (It’s Raining Stones), Coen Ackers describes 30 cases of stone-showers, often in great detail, that took place in the Dutch East Indies and Europe between 1825 and 1903. Unlike the Indonesian incidents, the stones caused destruction and injury in some of the European cases. For example, in 1871 the second-storey flat of the Klein family at Van Hogendorpstraat 42 in The Hague, the Netherlands, was pelted with stones, pieces of roof tile, coal, lime, fragments of crockery and even excrement neatly wrapped in paper. The missiles fell from higher than the roofs of the adjacent houses and flew into the flat through a window, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. The police launched an investigation. For several days police officers cordoned off the area and took up positions on nearby rooftops. But the missiles continued to fly past their noses straight towards the window. The family was finally forced to leave the house, after which peace returned.8
Dutchman M.W. Grottendieck experienced a stone-shower when travelling through the jungle of Palembang in Sumatra in September 1903. While sleeping in a hut, he was woken by a sound. He discovered that small black stones, warm to the touch, were falling at long intervals onto the ground near his pillow. They fell abnormally slowly, in parabolic curves, yet hit the ground with a loud bang. He was unable to catch any stones as they seemed to change direction whenever he tried. The stones seemed to be falling through the hut’s roof, which was made of tough kadjang leaves, but no holes were found in it. Grottendieck fired five shots through the window to scare off any pranksters, but this caused the stones to rain down inside the hut even faster. A Malaysian boy accompanying him took fright and, declaring the falling stones to be the work of the devil, fled into the jungle – after which the hail of stones ceased.9
Stone-showers have been reported throughout history. In 530 AD, for example, the physician to King Theodoric of the Ostrogoths is said to have fallen victim to a ‘diabolic infestation’: showers of stones fell constantly on his roof.10 Such reports have continued to the present day.
In 1916, for example, the native residents of a house in Kemajorang, near Batavia, heard stones falling on their attic floor every night for several weeks. Despite surveillance by European policemen, the stones that had been cleared were back again the next day. Stone-showers in Indonesia did not stop after independence. In 1950 the house of a Dutch couple, both of them journalists, in Surabja, were plagued by a persistent stone-shower, and the stones were said to make impossible bends in order to find their way into the house through openings. In Europe, too, stone-showers continue to be reported.11
The most recent stone-throwing incident in the Netherlands took place in the house of a Turkish family in Druten, Gelderland, in May 1995. For 11 days stones and lumps of soil flew through the air, objects fell to the ground and windows were broken.12
Stone-showers have been reported all over the world. For instance, at Pumphrey in Western Australia in 1957, stones rained down around an Aboriginal farmworker for five days, continuing even when he was kept inside a closed tent with two other witnesses. Another report comes from Lake Skaneatles in New York. In 1973 two fishermen were chased to their car by a fall of progressively larger stones.
They were attacked again some miles away when they stopped to change their clothes, and once more when they paused at a wayside bar for a much-needed drink. The bombardment, by what Syracuse University geologists later described as ‘ordinary stones’, continued until the two parted company outside one of their houses.13
Some stone-showers have caused serious injury, perhaps because of malicious intent on the part of the person who, consciously or unconsciously, triggers the phenomenon. This is illustrated by the ‘Stone-throwing Devil’ poltergeist case, which occurred at Great Island, New Hampshire, over a period of several months in 1682. A wealthy landowner George Walton and his family, servants and guests were pelted by stones, some of them as large as fists, both indoors and outdoors, and Walton himself was left suffering chronic pain for the rest of his life. The stones made their way through the front door, dropped from the ceiling, and flew out of the fire. They battered the windows from the inside, punching holes in the glass and bending the bars covering the windows. Brass and pewter pots and candlesticks were sent flying, and a kitchen table was broken into pieces. Household objects went missing and were later found outside or in other odd places while others reappeared by falling down the chimney or from the ceiling. Stones rained down on Walton’s field hands from the sky and then disappeared from the ground only to fall on them again. They also destroyed his fences and smashed his tools.
Walton believed that he had been cursed by a neighbour, an elderly woman thought to be a witch, who had lost a land ownership dispute with him and sworn revenge. He decided to fight witchcraft with witchcraft:
With the help of someone knowledgeable about witchcraft, he attempted to cast a spell to undo the curse and punish his neighbor. This effort consisted of boiling a pot of urine and crooked pins on the fire. But before the urine could boil, a stone fell into it and spilled it. The Waltons refilled the pot with more urine and crooked pins. Another stone fell in the pot and spilled the contents again. Then the handles fell off the pot, and the pot split into pieces. The Waltons gave up.14
There are similarities between descriptions of stone-showers and observations of how other moving objects behave during poltergeist events. Objects sometimes follow trajectories that would be impossible if thrown normally, such as making sharp turns in mid-flight. They may move unusually slowly, strike with unusually weak impacts, or pass through closed doors and walls.15
The astral world is constantly sustaining the regular and orderly workings of our physical world. But under certain conditions astral realities can spontaneously intrude, or be made to intrude, overtly into our own world, producing ‘impossible’ phenomena that defy the established ‘laws’ of physics.
- A.J. Riko, ‘Stone-showers’, The Theosophist, August 1881, pp. 231-2.
- H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, Theosophical Publishing House, 1950-91, 3:244-8.
- ‘More anecdotes of Hassan Khan Djinni’, The Theosophist, May 1882, pp. 199-200.
- H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, 4:103.
- Ibid., 4:125.
- T. Vijiaraghava Charlu, ‘Another Hindu stone-shower medium’, The Theosophist, June 1882, p. 232.
- H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, 4:174-5.
- Coen Ackers, Het regent steenen: de spirituele erfenis van Nederlands-Indië, Bolongaro, 2007, pp. 149-50; Riko, ‘Stone-showers’.
- Ibid., pp. 211-14; Jerome Clark, Unexplained! 347 strange sightings, incredible occurrences, and puzzling physical phenomena, Visible Ink, 1993, p. 312.
- Unexplained!, p. 312.
- Het regent steenen, p. 274.
- Ibid., p. 195.
- Lyall Watson, The Nature of Things: the secret life of inanimate objects, Sceptre, 1991, p. 34.
- Rosemary Ellen Guiley, The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits, Checkmark Books, 2nd ed., 2000, pp. 369-71.
- Richard S. Broughton, Parapsychology: the controversial science, Ballantine Books, 1991, pp. 216-41.
by David Pratt. November 2007.
Visitors from the twilight zone
UFOs: the psychic dimension