Stones falling from the sky & early intercultural relations in the SW

“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.”

Daily News 1957

Dad telephoned yesterday to tell me that Aunty Susan had called. She remembered something about stones falling from the sky when they were kids in rural South West Australia. Something to do with the local Aboriginal people. And something about lights. And someone or some people were run out of town.

I was intrigued to say the least, particularly because I don’t recall even once hearing anything about Aboriginal people in the area when I was a kid. From what Dad said it sounds like the ‘falling stones’ gave local people the opportunity to tell their own stories about Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations in the area at the time.

And then I found out that the abc has just put a documentary together about the whole episode. Its called ‘Spirit Stones’. I checked their website and it turns out that it was not an isolated, one off event. People witnessed stones falling from the sky in a number of communities in the Southwest from 1946 to 1962.

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.

“Just after the natives shifted camp 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

How curiously wonderful . . . . I wonder if my grandparents got caught up in the story.


13 Comments

Filed under Indigenous Australia, Thesis/Yolngu related writing

13 responses to “Stones falling from the sky & early intercultural relations in the SW

  1. D.

    Similar things happened in Balladonia in 1979, except people came all the way from the US to collect the stuff that hit the ground. Seriously, look it up!

  2. Below are links to previews for the documentary.

    The opening music seems to be in a dialect of Yolngu matha! Ha.

  3. I couldn’t find anything about stones falling from the sky in Balladonia. However, according to an information book accompanying the abc documentary there have been similar events recorded in:

    Sumatra, 1903 – “W. G. Grottendieck wrote about how small black stones, hot to touch, came raining down in his bedroom at 1am. 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.”

    Harrisonville, Ohio 1901 – “The stone attack on this small village began on the Sunday afternoon…..a small boulder came crashing through the window….and it was just the beginning. The next day, dozens of stones rained down in the heart of the village, breaking windows and striking citizens. None of the villagers could detect where the stones were coming from.”

    South Africa – “A Limpodo woman says she is being plagued by a hail of stones that follows her wherever she stays. Miyi Shongi, 58, was kicked
    out of Lombani village by her terrified family and neighbours three weeks ago and moved in with relatives in Nhombelani village, 30km away near Malamulele, but the rain of stones followed her there too.

    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 around 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.”

    and also

    Ardeche, France 1921 – “Most of these events are short-lived, lasting only a few days at most. But beginning 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 clergyman who
    was called 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.”

  4. Pingback: Shadows of my family history: Strikes on the waterfront, gold rushin’, freed slaves, revolution & still as yet unmarked graves | Fieldnotes & Footnotes

  5. David Seccombe

    I became involved in the Poppinyinning stone incident 18 years after the event, when a young woman who had been a child on the property where the stones fell nearly died in the church I was ministering in (Christ Church Claremont)

  6. Delphine

    Miriam Howard-Wright wrote a book of stories, Including one about the stones falling on the Hack property west of Kojonup.

  7. Delphine

    “Eyewitness : ghostly encounters” / Miriam Howard-Wright

  8. Hi there. I’m the coauthor of a new book on Austrlian poltergeists that has a large chapter on the events at Pumphreys and Mayanup. It was a truly fascinating series of events. Details at http://www.australianpoltergeist.com.

  9. I was a small child at the time of the stones falling which we referred to as “The Mayanup Ghosts”. The family involved were friends and neighbours and were sincere and down to earth people. Something beyond our comprehension was happening.

  10. Ron Chandler

    Wonderful!!
    As Charles Fort would have said, Lo!
    To those who do not know, Charles Fort is the compiler of many books of phenomenology, most famously, The Book Of The Damned, and Lo!
    He would have loved these accounts. They are analogous to hundreds of thousands of ‘impossible falls’ from all over the world.
    I am a former graphic artist who trained on the West Australian Newspapers, 1968 – 1971. I seem to associate a memory of our reporters going to Boyup Brook in 1968 to report on falling stones, but now I wonder if I did not in fact read it as a 7-year-old. It does seem to me the ‘West’ sent reporters a couple of times, and sent a different one, in distrust of the first’s incredible account.
    It’s peculiar how events such as this, which we have no ‘pigeonhole’ for, escape our picture of reality, and our memory, until jogged. Doubtless this applies to UFOs too (my auntie, who lived near the atom tests in Onslow, was a UFO witness).

  11. Bert O'Flannagan

    my father woked near Boyup Brook about 70 years ago and he witnessed stones falling into a room leaving no holes in the roof or walls. True.

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