Throwing Rocks

Two Ghost Stories with “Striking” Similarities

I found two stories of mysterious rock throwing incidents with unusual similarities. One is from the country of Jamaica in 1905 and the other is from Iredell County, North Carolina in 1842.

The Jamaica incident was reported by a missionary to Jamaica, Rev. Abraham J. Emrick, and recorded by Anthropologist Joseph J. Williams, in his book “Psychic Phenomena of Jamaica”, (Dial Press, NY, 1934. “https://www.sacred-texts.com/afr/ppj/ppj000.htm”). This incident was blamed on “Duppies” which are Jamaican spirits.

“One of the favourite pastimes of the duppies is stone-throwing. Reports of persons and places being stoned by duppies are very common. My first experience of stone-throwing duppies was rather startling and trying. It happened soon after my undertaking the mountain missions on the north side of the island, and before I was acquainted with the habits of the people and knew anything about their superstitions and occult practices. One evening after dark, I was on my way to Alva mission, situated at a lonesome spot on a hill in the Dry Harbour Mountains. I was met by a crowd about a mile away from the mission. They got around me and warned me in an excited way against going up to the mission. They said that duppies were up there at night throwing stones; that the duppies had stoned the teacher away from the Alva school. It seems that the stone-throwing had been going on for a week or more before my arrival. For several nights crowds went up to the old Alva school, not far from the church on a mountain spur partly surrounded by a deep ravine covered with thick bush. The teacher of the school, a certain Mr. D. lived in two rooms that overlooked the declivity. Every night the crowd was there, stones were thrown from various directions, but most of them seemed to come from the bush-covered ravine. What mystified the people most and made them believe and say, as did the teacher and the most intelligent store-keeper in the district, that the stones were thrown not by human hands but by spirits, was that those who were hit by the stones were not injured, and that some of the stones which came from the bushy declivity, after smashing through the window turned at a right angle and broke the teacher’s clock, glasses, etc. on a sideboard. In spite of the dreadful stone-throwing duppies, I went up to the hill followed by a crowd. I found the school building littered with stones, broken windows and a generally smashed-up, sure-enough ghost-haunted place. The story of the stone-throwing, which I afterwards put together, amounted to this. On a Saturday night Mr. D. and a hired girl noticed a suspicious person lurking around the premises. They became frightened, left the place, and returned later with a man by the name of H. who brought a gun with him. They were not long in the school building before stones began to fall here and there in different rooms, at first one by one but gradually very plentifully. They ran away in fright with the stones pelting after them as they ran. H. turned around once and fired, pointing his gun in the direction from which the stones were coming. As he did so, a stone flying from the opposite direction hit him in the back of the neck. The stone-throwing followed them into the house to which they fled for refuge about a quarter of a mile away. They, with the family living in the house, made a gathering of six or seven or more. Stones were fired into this house and broke a number of things on the sideboard, but no one could tell from where the stones were coming. Some of them seemed to come in the open door, turn around and fall at the teacher’s feet. One of the persons marked a stone and threw it out saying: “If him be a true duppy, him will throw this stone back.” This marked stone was said to have been thrown back, proving that the stone-thrower was a true duppy. A while after they went to bed, the stone-throwing ceased.”

The incident in North Carolina occurred at the home of my 4th Great Grandfather, Lewis Day in 1842. The story was told by Lewis’ son Moses, to Moses’ son William who first wrote it down. Moses (b. 1807) had witnessed the events firsthand. From William the story got passed around and eventually made it the newspapers and has been retold several times in the Statesville Landmark newspaper, where it garnered the attention of other relatives familiar with the story who were able to add further details. My knowledge of it comes from a photocopy of a newspaper article written by Bill Moose who was a history professor at Mitchell Community College in Statesville, NC. My copy doesn’t have the paper or date clearly printed, but I believe it was from the Statesville Landmark, Oct 1962.

“The mystery began in the spring of 1842. Shortly before evening, (Lewis) Day, his wife, his brother and Myra, a slave, were all startled by something rattling against the side of the house. Day thought someone was throwing rocks against his house and taking his gun with him, went out to investigate. Though he saw no one, Day fired two shots in the air to discourage any would-be pranksters.

The barrage continued, however, until just after dark, when it abruptly stopped. No rocks fell during the night, but the bombardment began again about dawn and continued until mid-morning when it halted again. A few rocks hit the house at sporadic intervals during the day. The same pattern was repeated on Sunday. No one was ever seen throwing the rocks.

Day’s neighbors soon learned of the mysterious attacks and came to see for themselves. Each one seemed to bring a theory. One neighbor was certain that it was the slave Myra playing a trick on the Days… Day must have had some suspicions about Myra, however, as he did send her to stay with a neighbor, but the rocks continued to fall in her absence.

Another neighbor, Jacob Parker, noticed that the stones looked like they from a nearby spot where hogs were often killed. He went to that spot, found a rock that resembled those which were falling on the Day house, marked it with a soapstone and said he would like to see that stone thrown at the house. They watched the rock pile for a few minutes then returned to the house. Within a short time, the rock obligingly thumped against the south side of the house.

On several occasions, the rocks actually entered the house. Once a rock flew through an open door, again on the south side of the house. The rock crashed against a clock breaking its face. The incident was especially puzzling in that the rock would have had to make a sharp turn to the right to hit the timepiece where it sat on the mantel.

A second rock entered the house and broke a shaving mirror standing on a bureau at the rear of the house. On a third occasion, the Days heard a bump upstairs and upon investigation found a rock lying on the windowsill. The hook and eye which was used to secure the hinged push-open windows was unfastened, with the rock lying next to it as though it had knocked the hook open. The window was closed.

Certain patterns did emerge. In almost all cases, the rocks fell during daylight hours. One of the few nocturnal assaults broke a window near Lewis Day’s head as he lay in bed. He was uninjured. In fact, neither the Days nor any of their curious neighbors were ever struck by any of the rocks.

Most of the rocks hit the sides of the house, but occasionally some hit the underside of the house. Lewis Day always felt that some force was either drawing out or forcing the stones out of the ground. One morning, a heavy rock, which had served as a cornerstone for an old building and had lain undisturbed for years was found in its accustomed place but turned upside down. The rock was so heavy that it was doubtful that it could have been moved without the use of a lever. The ground around the stone, however, showed no marks.

The rocks fell for approximately two months and then stopped, just as they had begun, without explanation. The rocks varied in size, from approximately two-and-a-half pounds down to the size of an egg. The Days placed some of the stones on the stairs of the house as items of curiosity and piled the rest in the yard. All the stones disappeared without a trace.

“…In 1905, after the story’s original appearance, Mrs. J. W. Gudger of Davidson (North Carolina) added her memories… she was 14 years old in 1842 and remembered the incident… Mrs. Gudger continued that she was well acquainted with Jacob Parker and that the rock he had marked had fallen in the yard and rolled close to Parker’s feet. Mrs. Gudger said that the account… did not include other eerie events. On two occasions, Mrs. Day’s clothing spontaneously burst into flames although she had not been near any blaze. Her dress caught on fire while she was in the smokehouse and her cap while she was sitting (in) the house sewing…”

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