In the small town of Mayanup, located in the south west of Western Australia during the 1950s, a series of mysterious incidents intrigued the nation.
Gilbert Smith and his family who lived and worked for Bill Hack at Mayanup had become the talk of Australia back in 1955 after stones and other objects were thrown about or appeared inside closed rooms and in various other ways showed scant regard for the laws of physics. Intensive investigations of the phenomena by the farm owners and visitors only heightened the mystery. Mr Smith reported it to his employer and asked for help as he ,his wife and seven children were terrified of being driven out of there home.
Local people came and offered assistance, some thirty men with torches hid in the bushes only to be peppered with stones ..some gently and others with great force .No one was hurt, but for over a week, day and night the stones varying in size were frown . Some of the stones were taken to Perth for examination but no fingerprints were found.
An account in the Perth Weekend Mail in June 1955 states that Mrs Smiths' father had died while digging a posthole near their house some time before this phenomenon. Mrs Smith said she saw a small round bright light suspended about five feet above the ground during one of the showers of stones . It had then moved away from her and vanished
The case attracted worldwide attention for the Aboriginal Smith family and their white employers, the Hacks. Some believed it was a mischievous spirit the Aboriginals called 'the Jannick', others claimed an elaborate hoax - but no one has ever proven what was behind the physics-defying displays.
Mayanup as a place, is no more than a pin-prick on the map. It is located south of Boyup Brook on Blackwood Road in the South West region of Western Australia. It would probably have remained unknown and unremarkable except for a report in the Daily News in 1957 which (in part) read:
"Stones have been gently falling on the Keninup, Boyup Brook property of farmer W. W. M. Hack for nearly two years. The occurrences have been intermittent and generally at the greatest intensity during the winter months."
The stones were apparently warm to the touch and seemed to materialise from nowhere. Reports say that some stones "fell slowly", others materialised inside buildings etc.
The events in question are said to have taken place over a number of years, 1946 - 1962 to be precise. Similar events have also been reported at Humphrey's Bridge (near Wandering), as well as at Boddington and Borden.
The stones ranged from pebble sized all the way up to 19 kilograms. The news soon spread and people started travelling to the towns to see for themselves what was going on. Later in 1957 the Daily News again reported:
"Just after the natives shifted camp the stone phenomenon was witnessed by dozens of independent white witnesses. At 5:30pm yesterday, when he returned from a nearby stock sale, he found a crowd of people in a half-circle behind his house. Stones were falling. They were picking them up as fast as they fell." Jack Coulter, Daily News 1957
In 2009 ABC TV aired a documentary about the 'Spirit Stones' that included interviews with people who had experienced the phenomenon. As fas as anyone knows, there has never been a definitive explanation of just what the stones were and where they came from. (ABC TV page)
According to the documentary website there were four different locations in Western Australia that experienced the phenomena of “falling stones”, all within 300km of each other: Boddington (1946 unreported in press), Mayanup near the town of Boyup Brook (1955), Pumphrey’s Bridge (1957), and Borden (1962) where sandalwood nuts were involved. The reports include descriptions of stones ranging in size from a pebble to a stone of approximately 35 pounds. The stones along with other objects were primarily reported as “falling out of nowhere”, landing in paddocks and even inside buildings. The frequency of the events varied. Sometimes stones would fall several times in one night. In one location the stones fell intermittently for weeks and in another for 2 years.
As the incidents became more frequent they also became more complex with accounts of objects doing ‘impossible’ things e.g. stones coming through roofs without leaving holes. The the broader public became curious and people started traveling to the communities in order to investigate. The media gave the stories significant coverage as well.
Some have blamed the stones on a ghost or poltergeist. Helen Hack wrote a book about it called 'The Mystery of the Mayanup Poltergeist'. It was assumed that Helen Hack is related Douglas Hack who was a witness to the falling stones. The National Library of Australia actually has a sound recording of an interview with Douglas Hack.
In the interview recorded by John Meredith, Hack recounts stones falling on the Gilberts' house and how the situation worsened, how the stones themselves were warm when picked up, the incidences where stones passed through through the roof and walls without making a hole, how a cordon of watchers would wait in vain for a culprit, how the heaviest stone weighed 113 lbs (50 kg.), some stones seen falling slowly, floating lights also seen about 6 metres above the ground, how also objects in the house could be seen moving untouched, how the stones would grow hotter and managed to retain their heat, the viewpoint of local Aboriginal Jannick, how potatoes were at times found to be among the falling objects, how articles in and around the house would disappear and then later rematerialise.
Even today, the mystery remains unsolved.
The Police report about "Falling Stones" at Pumphreys Bridge via Narrogin - Mar 1957
I have to report making inquiries into reports of "FALLING STONES" on the farm of Allan Keith Donaldson at Pumphreys Bridge via Narrogin. I interviewed Mr Donaldson who stated that he had let a contract to a number of natives to out fence posts on his property. They erected their camps at the foot of a small hill approximately 200 yards behind Donaldson's house. On the evening of Friday the 15.3.57 falling around the camps and they were becoming frightened as they could not understand what was happening.Mr Donaldson and his two adult sons, Brian and Ian, investigated and heard small stones falling to the ground near them in the vicinity of the tents. All three state that they felt softly to the ground and did not appear to have travvelled any great distance.The following day they again visited the scene and a number of stones fell among them and in a radius of 60 to 80 feet. On this occasion they walked along the foot of the hill and the stones fell around and behind as they walked, it seemed as ih the pebbles were following them. On Sunday evening, Barry and Thomas Hardie, sons of a farmer on an opposite property, attended with the Donaldson family. On this occasion they were seated in a tent with the natives and stones appeared on a blanket on the floor. None present saw where they came from sothey immediately stuffed rags in the holes through which the ridge pole passes and laced the door of the tent. IN all eight stones appeared on the blanket and were picked up by the Hardie boys. There was no sign of holes in the tent and none could explain where the stones came from. The stones continued to fall during the following day, Monday, and that evening the natives called at Donaldsons house and stated that they were not prepared to camp on the property that night. Whilst talking at the back door of the house the Donaldsons and the natives maintain that a stone fell on the roof of the house. By this time the natives were becoming somewhat scared and Ian Donaldson drove them to a camping area about ten miles from the property and they spent the night there. The natives state that one stone fell while they were camped at this particular spot also, but this I feel is pure imagination.On Tuesday the Donaldsons wer away at a sale and all the natives were away from the camp
cutting fence posts, a distance of about two miles, and during their absence the spott was visited by Cecil McGarrigal, storekeeper, Popanyinning, and his mother, a farmer named Quartermaine also of the Popanyinning, and Mr wright-Webster, Native affairs Inspector of Narrogin. While these people were present a number of stones fell around the party. None saw them in flight but would hear them hit th eground and see them roll a few inches. Mrs Garrigal was struck on the chest with one stone and stated that it had no force and felt as if she had been struck with a cork. Quartermaine also knelt to pick up one of the stones and another struck him on the side of his neck, this also had no force and he does not think that it could have travlled any great distance. Mr Wright Webster states that he spent many years in India and has heard of similar occurrences in that country and the natives put it down to the actions of spirits called "Poltergeists". He has never had that the phenomenon had been fully explained although he believes there are articles written on such happenings in a number of countries through out the world. None of these persons interviewed have any answer to the happenings, just say that it is a phenomenon they cannot explain or account for. Jack Coulter, reporter for the Daily News, Perth, and Max Holten, photographer for the same paper, spent three days in the area and both saw stones fall but they also cannot give an explanation. The articles published in the Daily News written by Coulter, have been shown to the parties concerned and all state that the stories are correct in every detail. Bob Lentin, a reporter for the Week End Mail, and a photographer, are stated to have visited the scene and whilst there a stone fell on the bonnet of the car and slightly marked the paint work. Another witness to the occurrences described was Roger Palmer, Contractor, 5 Wyndham Street, Victoria Park. At no time have the donaldson family been at the scene without an outside witness and their story is born out by these people. Whilst Coulter waas present at the scene a complete search of the whole vicinity to see if any person were responsible but all are satisfied that the pebbles are or were not propelled by any human assistance. David Moore, ABC Perth, visited the farm and made a recording of an interview with the natives and Mr Donaldson but I cannot ascertain if he witnessed the stones falling. Donaldson himself is a well respected citizen, a Justice of the Peace, and a man of some substance and all the other persons who have witnessed these happenings are people of intelligence and are firmly convinced about what they witnessed. The natives concerned were Cyril and Lorna Penny, Kevin and Alma Ugle, Geoff Turvey, and Ivan Jetta. At the present time the only two remaining are Kevin and Alma Ugle.
The natives in the district state that the whole this is caused by the "Widgecarra". This is said to be little men that can be heard but not seen. They usually become active when someone walks over the grave of a native, this disturbs them and they they annoy anyone camped near by. This is apparently a superstitution handed down from former times and is now applied in this instance. I visited the scene of the happenings and find that the camp is at the foot of a small hill. On the western side, near the top of the rise, is an ironstone ridge and outcrop, situated about 30 yards from the camps. There is also an ironstone hill to the south of the camp but from my enquiries I would say that the stones appear to come from the ridge to the west of the camp. On only two occasions have thes tones been sighted before they reach the ground, one came through the leaves of a small tree and the other struck the trunk of a white gum. I am unable to ascertain the cause of this happening, it is apparently due to some geological disturbance of some description. This could have been occurring for some time past and has only just been discovered owing to the natives having camped in the immediate vicinity. The number of small stones in the area as described previously would give one the impression that this is so. The newspaper outing attached set out the whole story as it has happened and a check from all parties is the same as told by Jack Coulter, I have arranged with Mr Donaldson, that should this phenomonen occur again, he will immediately notify me and I shall proceed to witness the happenings personally. Should this happen a further report will be submitted of my views of the matter at that stage.
Published on 28 Jun 2009, former reporter for the 'Daily Mail', Jack Coulter, shares his experiences of the 'falling stones phenomena' in the South-West, during the 1950s, in which stones fell from the sky for hours, days and weeks at a time.
Spirit Stones from Torstein Dyrting ACS on Vimeo.
A documentary about the stones that fell from the sky in southern Western Australia