In early 1887, the Large family, living on a remote Cooyal property near the central west NSW town of Mudgee, was terrorised by an inexplicable nightly rain of luminous stones falling, and sometimes floating, inside their house. At first, some of the Large’s 15 children were suspected of larking around, but it soon became apparent that the strange rain of stones was not the result of a practical joke perpetrated by any of the Large brood.
Was the family the unwitting victims of poltergeist activity, similar perhaps to that experienced by the Bowens in 1921 by the stone-throwing ghost of Guyra?
“A farmer named Large has reported to the police that, for several nights, himself and family have been terrified, in consequence of stones, some weighing one pound, continually dropping inside the house, apparently dropping through the roof,” reported the Kilmore Free Press on 3 March 1887.
News of this mysterious indoor rain of stones soon spread throughout the district, causing quite a sensation. Soon, visitors were turning up at the Large family’s remote homestead to witness the inexplicable occurrence for themselves. Many of those visitors were not left disappointed.
“All who have visited the place, seeing for themselves, the police included, persist in applying what they regard an appropriate term ‘ghostly missives’ to the huge stones, which have dropped into the house when both doors and windows have been secured.”
And according to the report, both believers and sceptics alike witnessed the phenomena.
“It is an easy matter to convince superstitious people that alleged occurrences are facts, but when sceptics go and see and sit with the woman and her husband in the same room, and have stones dropping round about them they are very glad to be rid of such unpleasant associations.”
Queensland’s Warwick Argus, on 22 March, also reported on the experiences of the many curious visitors to the house.
“The constables and the visitors made every effort to discover where the stones came from, but without avail. They watched both inside and outside of the building, but failed to detect the presence of the stone thrower.
“As soon as the stones fall the children of the house pick them up and hand them over to the visitors with feelings of awe. The affair has created some excitement in the district, and is occupying the minds of many level headed persons who, up to the present, have been unable to discover a clue to the mystery.”
Mrs Large … the victim of some awful vengeance
While the whole family experienced the rain of stones, it was Mrs Large, who appeared to bear the brunt of this apparent poltergeist activity.
The Kilmore Free Press report continued: “The effect on the poor woman, Mrs Large, who feels that she is the victim of some awful vengeance is most alarming. At times, while the missiles are falling around her; deathly chills affect her whole system and almost prostrate her.
“On one evening, fearful to: remain indoors, the poor woman sought a quiet spot outside the house, but, strange to say, several large stones dropped close to her, whilst one, although falling on some part of her, left no mark – in fact was hardly felt. A cold deathly chill then crept over her and she had to be taken to the fire, but this did not restore warmth to her system.”
Like being struck with a small bag of feathers
Mrs Large explained the phenomena to a reporter from the Ballarat Free Press and Mining Journal who visited the family’s home.
“It was not stone-throwing, but ‘stones falling,’ the stones coming so it seemed, through the roof, at times appearing to ‘float in on the air, and while floating looked white’. This is her way of explaining it. (We suggested the stones were luminous).
“Said Mrs Large: ‘When the stone fell on the floor, it fell with a dull thud, and looked black.’ One of the audience here remarked that a stone thrown by the hand of a man would strike with some force whatever object it came against. ‘On the contrary,’ said Mrs Large, ‘at times one of the children would be struck by a stone, but never hurt. The children described it ‘as though a small bag of feathers struck them’.”
Another witness, a Mr Parker, who was asked to visit the home by Mr Large, vouched for Mrs Large’s description of the falling stones.
“A large-sized stone, which fell in the ordinary way, struck a little child on the side of the face, and left no mark, nor did the child appear to take any notice of the blow, if such it can be termed. This occurred at the time Mr Parker was sitting in the house while a number of his friends who had accompanied him were stationed outside to see that no person was on the roof.“
When it all began
The Ballarat Free Press and Mining Journal recounted the evening when the strange happenings first began.
“On the first evening of this strange manifestation, Mr Large was returning home with a bag of flour on a pack horse, and on approaching the house the animal stood still, apparently afraid to move towards the dwelling. After no little persuasion, with much pulling, the terrified steed was got to the door. With difficulty he was unpacked, and an altogether unusual thing for the beast to do, he bolted as though maddened, careering in every direction except near the house.
“This set the family wondering. Just then, for the first time, the stones commenced dropping in the house. Mrs Large at once concluded some of the young people having a lark with her in revenge for her refusal to permit a dance being held there that night.”
But as the stones continued dropping from the roof inside the house, it soon became apparent that the children played no part.
“During that evening, and every succeeding evening from 5 o’clock until 9 or 10, the stones fell. On several occasions stones or mud would float in the room, sometimes diagonally, at other times horizontally. One evening a most extraordinary incident occurred. A flat stone ‘floated in’ at the door, struck against a kerosene lamp on the table, then knocked against a half dozen plates, causing them to roll to the floor, but, strange to say, none were broken. This stone was about three inches in diameter, nearly circular in shape, but flat. It was afterwards taken away by some of the many visitors who went to witness the phenomenon.”
Several weeks later, the mysterious rain of stones continued at the Large family home, as reported by Darwin’s North Australian on 16 April.
“The mysterious stone-throwing at Large’s farm is still going on. On Monday last a report came into town that no less than 24 stones dropped on the premises on that day, the parents being from home; the children, who had been left in charge, made off to the house of a neighbour named McCann and informed him of the occurrence. He at once proceeded to Large’s farm and reports the above having taken place.
“Hundreds of people have visited the place, and affirm the fact of the stones falling, but where they come from is a mystery that remains unsolved.”
With the Large family vowing to remove themselves from the house as the peculiar activity remained unsolved, another case of apparent supernatural manifestations began spooking the residents of Mudgee according to the Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal of 15 March 1887.
The ghost girl in the tree
“Mudgee and its vicinity seem likely, if rumour is to be credited, to become a chosen playground for disembodied spirits. The appearance of the unrecognisable and inarticulate Cooyal ghost has been followed by that of a young female who became — so the story says— disembodied some twelve years ago under peculiarly distressing circumstances.
“This interesting person is said to exhibit herself at uncertain times, among the branches of an old half-dead tree not far from the intersection of Lawson and Gladstone streets. There are said to have also been some curious phenomena witnessed in some adjacent cottages, pots and pans, earthenware and glass have been displaced, but so far as we can learn this is a careful, orderly, and decorous ghost, and never breaks anything, as it is on record that some ill-conditioned ghosts have been known to do.
“No one seems to quite know why this interesting female should have allowed her remains to rest quietly under the fowl house, where they are supposed to lie, for twelve years, and should have now became so violently anxious to do something startling in order to wake up the survivors to a consciousness of their duty towards her. There are, however, said to be two distinguished experts in ghosts now in Mudgee, and we may soon have the great good fortune to get their opinions on this knotty question….”
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