Lithobolia, or stone throwing, is a phenomenon that is common in a wide variety of poltergeist reports. Some feel this strange, and oftentimes destructive activity, lends credibility to the notion the activities of a poltergeist are childlike in nature. While others suggest stone throwing harkens back to a day when stoning a person was an acceptable form of punishment. I wonder what 17th century landowner, George Walton’s sins were that invited such punishment?
In 1698, Richard Chamberlain, secretary of New Hampshire province, published a pamphlet entitled, “Lithobolia: Or, The Stone Throwing Devil.” In the pamphlet, Chamberlain told the story of George Walton, a wealthy landowner who came under attack by an evil spirit. This spirit, assuming that is what it was, appeared to be out to destroy his life by raining stones down on his home and tavern. Other mystifying phenomenon occurred that reportedly broke the laws of nature. And according to eyewitnesses, it broke the laws of God as well.
The assault on Walton and his family began in May 1682 around 10 PM. George and his family were awakened by what sounded like a heavy rain of stones striking the roof and sides of the house. Angered by the assault on his home, George ran outside and watched as small to medium sized rocks fell from a cloudless sky. For almost four hours the frightened family sat in their home as the rain of stones continued.
George’s wife, a devoutly religious woman, believed the devil was attacking the family to break their saintly home. George, ever the skeptic, remained unconvinced spirits were at work. George, firmly held the belief some human agent was involved in the cruel prank.
The following day when the servants arrived to begin work, they noticed something in the house was strange. Household items were found rearranged in strange places and furniture was switched from one room to another. They could not explain how bedroom furniture came to be in the family room. Or how the kitchen table was found upside down with the chairs stacked on top. When the family emerged from their rooms, the servants reported what they discovered. George, of course, had no explanation.
The two weeks following the initial activity things appeared to return to normal, a common occurrence in poltergeist cases. Just when the mysterious force appears done, it hits back twice as hard. This is what George and his family discovered when heavier stones began to fall on the house, breaking windows and injuring family members. George, who appeared to suffer the most, claimed that one day he was pelted with more than forty stones. He suffered from the injuries until the day he died.
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Not long after the violent stone attack, word got out that George and his family were being victimized by some malicious force that delighted in harming the family. Respected members of colonial society, including the governor of West Jersey, witnessed the phenomena and signed a sworn statement of the validity of this stone throwing devil.
It’s important to keep in mind that at this time, belief in witches and curses was common among the people. So it should come as no surprise diabolical forces were suspected. George became convinced his neighbor, an elderly reclusive woman, was in fact a witch and was responsible for the attacks. It would seem the suspected witch was in a dispute with George Walton over land and fixed the man with the evil eye. This is when things got really strange.
Rather than taking his concerns of witchcraft to the local magistrate, George decided to fight fire with fire and hired a witch to bring the activity to a close. Such a thing was completely unheard of at the time, as such a thing would bring swift judgement down on a person. And that judgement could bring imprisonment and death.
In August 1682, George with the help of the witch, cooked up a brew that could bring the chaos to an end. The foul concoction consisted of boiling hot urine and pins and was sure to rid George Walton of the spirit that made his life miserable. However, the poltergeist got word of the spell and sent a large rock down from the sky shattering the pot into a million pieces. The vile blend splashed all over George and his witch.
Finally, after months of enduring the unseen things abuse, George Walton lodged a complaint with the colony’s council in Portsmouth. His neighbor, the suspected witch and cause of his problems, was summoned for questioning. Whatever the outcome of the interrogation was is anyone’s best guess. Probably because, before the council could hand down a ruling, the stone throwing and other mischievous activity abruptly ceased. Months of terrifying activity came to an end and the Walton family returned to normal.
In looking back on this peculiar case, many researchers believe George Walton was either a hoaxer. Or the old lady he accused of was throwing stones at his home from a secret hiding place. I would have to disagree with these assertions. Please allow me to explain.
First off, George Walton would have to be a truly disturbed individual to have caused the injuries that caused him to be disabled the rest of his life. Two, there is no possible way an elderly recluse would be able to cause the wanton destruction the poltergeist caused. Something truly unusual and dangerous occurred at the home of George Walton and his family. Something caused by a force we may never comprehend.
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