Ghostly Stone Throwing in Kent, 1918 March 24, 2014Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback
Digging and paranormal episodes seem to come together with a frequency that would be all together suprising if you had never met an archaeologist. Here is a nice case from 1918: the report appears in a northern English scientific periodical. I was first attracted to it by the mention of fairies in the title of the article ‘Fairies or Beer’: but fairies don’t appear in the article and in my experience fairies seem not to have left any trace in Kentish traditions.
Notwithstanding the alleged shortage of paper [post-war shortages?], we find a number of our ‘Dailies’ devoting half a column or so of their ‘valuable space’ to such piffle as the following – in one case five lines of large type headings being used – Uncanny Happenings in a Kentish Dug-Out — Alarming Adventures — Builder’s Story of Stones and Tools that jumped.
These are the excerpts put together.
It seems that while excavations ‘in the form of a cave’ were being made in the grounds of a county J. P. in Kent, the excavator states that on one occasion a large stone hit him on the crown of the head, causing a cut (the wound is still visible); on another occasion he received a violent blow on his hand, and again blood was drawn. Then a missile struck him with violence on his right ear. ‘Candles were repeatedly extinguished by air and sand, to the accompaniment of a whizzing sound. On several occasions pieces of rock varying from eight to twenty pounds in weight were hurled from one position to another. A lad name Penfold, working with him, states that he saw the stones lift themselves perhaps an inch, then drop again ; then about three inches and drop once more. Then they would lift themselves and fall some feet away.’ ‘On another occasion there was a heap of stone at one place, and these would ‘fly of themselves’ to another position. There were bricks on the floor. These rose apparently of their own volition and were hurled to other positions. Often these did not come in a straight line, but took a semi-circular course. ‘I had two days off,’ says the excavator, ‘and then, after consideration, I determined to finish the job. On starting again everything went well for a couple of days. After this things became worse. Stones and rocks began to fly about, so much so that an iron stove and iron pipe were smashed to pieces. Then, to crown all, a short bricklayer’s hammer weighing about 4 lb. in weight threw itself towards me. The boy Penfold shouted ‘Look out! perhaps the sledge hammer will move.’ Hardly had the boy uttered the words than the sledge hammer weighing 14 lb. came over and dropped near with a thud. That is not all. The pickaxe, lying in quite another part of the structure, came for me too, in an ominous manner. There were three chairs, too, on the floor of the cave, and these danced and flew about in the most extraordinary style. If some of those weighty stones had fallen on me probably I should not be here now.’
The excerpter of this article – we have been unable to find an original report or frustratingly the place where these events took place – finished on a particularly sardonic note calling in alcohol, a fairly common sceptical topos often involving puns on ‘spirit’.
We understand Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sir William Barrett are investigating, and that Sir Oliver Lodge is to be invited. We would suggest that the manager of the local brewery and also a well-known member of the Prehistoric Society of East Anglia might be added to this investigation Committee. 1918
Conan Doyle needs no introduction. William Barrett was a parapsychologist. Sir Oliver Lodge was connected with various psychic investigations. Don’t know who the ‘well-known member’ of the EA Prehistoric Society was: too early for Tom Lethbridge, drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com. Of course, stone throwing has a long history, but in Fortean scenarios these usually involve stones that are not actually in situ: e.g. they fall from the sky or bounce across a wooden glade. I’ve only found one reference in my career to elves/fairies throwing stones and that came from the US. Fairies seem to be out then.
24 March 2014: Tomb Warrior writes in with the original that appeared in a Folkestone paper in mid December but that was then excerpted by a Dover paper. ‘ANOTHER FOLKESTONE FIERY SERPENT. CAVE DWELLER SPOOKS! Folkestone in the past was the reputed origin of some strange myths of which the fiery serpent is a sample, but there seem be some living Folkestonians who have discovered something quite as extraordinary The following strange story appeared in the Folkestone Express last week: THE HAUNTED DUG-OUT. AMAZING HAPPENINGS AT CHERITON FLYING ROCKS AND FLOATING TOOLS. A series of amazing happenings are reported from Cheriton. We content ourselves at present with briefly recounting the experiences of those who say they have actually seen these things. Mr. Fred Rolfe, 27, Quested Rd., Cheriton, commenced to build for Mr. Jacques, J.P., of Enbrook Manor, Cheriton, a dugout in the grounds of the Manor about seven weeks ago. Everything went well until he encountered a rock about eighteen inches in thickness. As soon he broke this his troubles commenced. The first day he could not keep his candles alight, for they were continually being extinguished by little jets of sand which came down from the direction of the roof. It was impossible for this sand to come from the roof which had been timbered, the spaces between the wood being cemented. The sand apparently had come from the floor. After he had wasted a box of matches, he prepared a cardboard box to protect the candle, leaving a little hole about two inches wide show the light. Still the sand came down in little jets and extinguished the light. Next candles were placed in wide-mouthed jam-jars, and pieces stone came down and smashed the jars.’ Then stones began to come at Mr. Rolfe from unknown sources, and he was hit twelve times on the head and forty times on various parts of his body. His head was cut open, his ear badly cut, and he was bruised on his back, his arms and his-legs. He put up sheets of material to protect himself. When excavating a recess stones began to fly out with terrific force, and in such numbers that Mr. Rolfe and his boy, Fred Penfold, were driven out. In less than half-an-hour, more than a barrow-load of stones had been thrown with immense force to the end of the dug-out nine or ten feet away. Some smashed an iron stone and long piece of iron piping. He next made a door completely blocking up the recess, placing large stones along the bottom. The same day he was at the other end of the dug-out when he felt something touch his leg, and, on looking down, saw stone weighing fifteen or twenty pounds roll round in front of him, immediately followed by three others. On examining them he found they were the stones which he had placed against the door in the morning. Next day some loose bricks began to fly about in his direction. Mr. Jacques’ housekeeper says she saw bricks flying out through the exit. Other weird and uncanny happenings are described Mr. Rolfe as follows: ‘On another occasion we took down brazier full of red hot coal. A very few minutes afterwards a big stone came up against it and scattered the whole thing. I have seen a pick rise from the ground and float along and go through the exit; also a large sledgehammer, and likewise chair and a glass jar float along. A brick which had been on the ground came up and touched cap. Once a lighted candle was seen to slide along the wall and extinguish itself as it fell to the ground, and a brick which was on the wall to protect a candle came and rested on shoulder.’ Sir A. Conan Doyle and Lady Doyle and Sir William Barrett have visited the dug-out, but no manifestations took plaoe. Nor did Mr. Jacques see anything, although heard stones banging against the door. However, Mr. Hesketh has seen some slight activity. First-hand evidence also comes from Pte. E. F. Cumins, Canadian Cavalry, who has been hit, and says that he has seen an iron bar three feet long and about an inch round float from the middle of the dug-out to the .exit. We have in our possession complete statements from Mr. Rolfe and Pte. Cummins, the truth of which they are both prepared to attest on oath.’ Chris from Haunted Ohio Books writes The pick-ax and the dancing chairs reminded me of a similar tale from Ohio’s Rogue’s Hollow. It was attributed to a lightning strike: http://www.forgottenoh.com/Rogue/rh-96.jpg; http://www.forgottenoh.com/Rogue/rh-97.jpg.
31 March: Nene writes There was something of a vogue for mysterious stone throwing in the early 20th century. Reminds me of the “Guyra ghost” of Australia in 1921. and my own humble effort (#7) . Bob S meanwhile writes: Was interested to read of your Kent stone throwing mystery. A search online came up with the following news report from 2011 which appears to be about the same incidents, or earlier ones in 1917, also involving Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, with a alleged solution of a hoax.’ Thanks Bob and Nene!