The Faces In the Window

As every reader of The Fortean knows, the Cropster has a passion for stone-throwing poltergeists.

I find it fascinating how many of the smaller, obscure details included in these old cases reappear in many modern reports.

In the following story from Byron, Michigan, the continuous barrage of stones over several months never actually harmed anyone. It is also noted that stones that were carried away from the house and marked would then reappear in the yard. One of the primary witnesses also claimed the stones were not visible until they were quite close. Each of these elements are relatively common across the poltergeist literature.

How would that have been common knowledge in rural Michigan in 1875?

Detroit

Now sit back and enjoy the tale as it first appeared in the Detroit Free Press, 1 August 1875.

Mysterious Stone Throwing at a Farm Near Byron.

There having been stories circulated relating to the “haunted Turner farm,” four miles south of the Village of Byron, In Shiawassee County, a lady from Byron recently visited the locality and sends her observations to the Detroit Free Press as follows:

Arriving at the farm Mrs. Turner, in explanation of the phenomena, said that she did at first think the stones were thrown by human persons, but is now perfectly satisfied that they are not. She did not believe in the supernatural, but had always been a Methodist, and previous to August last had never seen or heard anything she could not account for.

Continuing the recital, Mrs. Turner said that her husband had purchased the farm a little over six years ago, and at that time it contained a lot which had been used as a burying ground by former owners. According to the terms of the bargain the friends of those buried there proceeded to remove the bodies, Mr. Turner assisting them in that work.

A gentleman living in Flint, named Brown, had a mother buried there. He was very angry about the removal of the body, and was heard to say many times that if there was such a thing possible, and he should die first, he would haunt Turner for this act. Last August Brown died: that same month the stone throwing was commenced. The Turners assert that they did not know of Brown’s death until some time after.

The first stone thrown was one evening about sundown while Mrs. Turner was milking, the stone falling by her side and about the size of a man’s fist. She called immediately to her son, about ten years of age, not to repeat the act as he might frighten the cow and hurt her. He replied that he had not thrown anything. Just then two more came down, one striking near her and the other near the child.

Mr. Turner, who was unharnessing his horses near by, called out angrily, look — about to see from whence they came : “There, that will do; throw no more stones here or you will find, whoever you are, two can play at that game!” More stones came flying, and both Mr. and Mrs. Turner began to search for the person throwing the stones.

They found themselves puzzled to find out from what direction they came, for they could not see the stones till they were within a few feet of them and apparently coming from all directions. This sort of thing kept up for several days before they informed their neighbors and friends and asked for help in finding the cause. The neighbors came and the stones continued rapidly failing about them in their search for the person throwing them. Everybody gave up, declaring they could not solve the mystery.

A peculiarity of this stone throwing has been that with all the apparent recklessness with which they fell there has been no one hurt. They have passed by the persons so near as to brush their clothing; and then fall to the ground near by “not even denting the soft ground.“ Mr. Turner last fall was very anxious to have snow fall, as he reasoned that if the stones were thrown by living individuals their tracks would betray them. The stones continued to be thrown all winter, even when the snow was deep. They would fall upon the roof of the house and roll down, leaving scarcely a vestige of their course in the snow.

No tracks of any persons whatever could be found. Mrs. Turner says it is more like as if the stones were swiftly carried by than thrown. Certain of the stones were carried home by neighbors and privately marked. These identical stones would soon be found again in Turner’s yard. A thousand or more persons have visited the place, and a great many have themselves seen the stone throwing, but vastly many more have waited and went away without seeing it, and have pronounced the whole thing a humbug. Mrs. Turner says the stones ordinarily commence to fall at 10 o’clock in the forenoon and continue to be thrown until dark. None have ever been hurled after dark. None were thrown on the occasion of the visit here described, the last having been seen Sunday afternoon. The shower of stones is not so great as at summer, and the family are in hopes it will stop altogether.

A funeral in Byron, Michigan in 1900.
A funeral in Byron, Michigan in 1900.

There was one further update on the case in the Free Press on 12 August. Things were getting weirder – images were appearing in the Turner’s windows.

Mysterious Pictures In the Windows of the So-Called Haunted Farm at Byron.

A correspondent having read the account in The Free Press of the mysterious stone throwing at a Turner’s farm near Byron, Michigan, and having just noticed the reprinting of the same in two of the Shiawassee County papers, sends some additional facts which came under his own observation. One day Mrs. Turner and her hired girl were startled by a stone coming in the open door, striking the middle of the floor, bounding obliquely therefrom and striking the sewing machine, from thence leaping to the ceiling overhead and falling to the floor again with but very little noise.

Mrs. Turner reiterates that it is more as if the stones were carried about swiftly in an invisible hand than if they were thrown. They are almost upon one before they are seen, and then the observer starts back in fright lest he be struck. This being the first occasion in which the stones had come in the house, Mrs. Turner was very much frightened and declared to her husband she could no longer stay there, and appealed to him to remove or at least call for assistance and make an effort to solve the mystery. Mrs. Turner, while in her door yard by a table turning apples she had drying last fall, had stones fall profusely around and about her, and at the same time the men were digging potatoes in a field on the farm and they said the stones fell about them all day at intervals.

A gentleman of probity on whom great reliance can be placed, says that he drove out to the Turner farm one day last fall and while hitching his horse a stone came striking in the buggy, and others falling round about him.

The stone throwing is not so frequent now as it was last summer, and the family had commenced to congratulate themselves that they might be left alone by their unwelcome visitor, when lo and behold, pictures were soon observed to have formed on the window panes. Acids were applied, but to no effect.

Some of these picture represented groups of faces; others looked like landscapes. They could only be seen from the outside of the window. As nearly as may be described they resemble a photographer’s negative. Like a glass negative, to be visible they must have a dark background. For instance, when looking front the outside through the window at the left, on the opposite side of the room is another window, and the observer can see nothing peculiar about the glass when the two windows are in range, but changing one’s position so that the wall of the room acts as background, then the picture comes out clearly.

Mr. Turner has lately removed five of these panes of glass from the window. His wife had become quite nervous over this new mystery as she had to see it every time she went in the kitchen door from the outside of the house. There is another pane that pictures are now forming on, and faces could be seen a week ago quite plainly on it.

After this article appeared, nothing more was heard of the Turner haunting. I can’t help but wonder what else happened on that farm and if the Turner’s ever rid themselves of their aggressive but artistic poltergeist.

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