The Mystery of the Mayanup Poltergeist
Mysterious showers of stones materialised out of
thin air in front of hundreds of amazed witnesses during the three-year
reign of the Mayanup Poltergeist.
But more than 45 years after
the strange phenomena terrorised an Aboriginal family at Boyup Brook,
in West Australia, the mystery remains unsolved.
attracted worldwide attention for the Aboriginal Smith family and their
white employers, the Hacks. Some believed it was a mischievous spirit
the Aboriginals called 'the Jannick', others claimed an elaborate hoax
- but no one has ever proven what was behind the physics-defying
Even the then Australasian POST had a crack at
uncovering the puzzle, sending reporter Hugh Schmitt to cover the
strange phenomena, but he returned to declare 'this thing is no hoax!'.
Now one of the families central to the drama has attempted to record
the mystery before it becomes a forgotten chapter in Australia's
Helen Hack, whose geologist husband Tom was
a six-year-old child at the time, has painstakingly researched family
journals and interviewed surviving witnesses for the book.
"When I first visited the farm to see my then boyfriend Tom Hack, I
honestly thought he was just puling my leg or he was completely mad
when he told me about the Poltergeist," Helen said.
up onto the hill where it happened and he told me the tale of what had
occurred there during the 1950s. And over the years I have met so many
people who had been there at the time that I began to realise there was
really something in it.
"I became convinced there was something really inexplicable that had happened."
The drama began on the night of May 17, 1955, when stones rained down on the Smith¹s humble shack.
A low, mournful whistle could be heard piercing the night air, and the
Hack¹s dogs were driven half mad by the commotion, breaking their
chains and running off into the night.
What happened next defied all the laws of science.
Stones materialised out of nowhere to plonk on the rooftop, clatter on
the dining room table and appear on the inside of hurricane lamps.
The stones were strangely warm to the touch, but they weren't the only
objects to be used by the strange force. Old bottles, potatoes, soap,
knives, bones and even a child's doll were tossed around inside and
outside the home.
One stone even landed on POST reporter Hugh's
car as he drove up the property¹s driveway one evening. No one could be
seen. And those who later arrived for one of several night-long vigils
to catch the'pranksters' behind the events swear no human could have
been behind the feats.
Tom can recall the hundreds of visitors
drawn to the family farm 'Keninup', where he still lives with Helen and
their three children.
"I can remember a boot flying through the air and hitting my father Bill Hack in the backside!," Tom told POST.
"I don't remember anyone being that frightened of it at the time,
except for the Aboriginals who were quite worried. But the rocks seemed
to peter out after a while, and after Gilbert Smith died, his wife Jean
moved into town. For a long time she still had objects moving around in
that home too."
The bizarre phenomena was also documented at
the home of the Smith's Aboriginal friends, the Krakouers, at Doug
Hack's (Bill's brother) neighbouring property 'Lynford Hill'. Stones
rained down on their camp after they visited the Smiths.
Stranger still, almost identical phenomena was reported in 1957 at the
'Carabin' property of Alan Donaldson at Pumphrey, about 300 kilometres
from Boyup Brook, which also targeted Aboriginal employees. This also
eventually stopped of its own accord.
Today there is no sign of 'the Jannick' anywhere in WA.
The barren site of the Smith's old shack at 'Keninup' sits just 100
metres from Helen and Tom¹s doorway. And inside the couple's study a
jar of the Poltergeist's stones sit on the desk - now just ordinary
"They have been examined by scientists and geologists, but they appear to be just normal rocks," Helen says of the mementos.
Normal rocks or not, the souvenirs are a reminder that some mysteries will always remain just that.
*The Mystery of the Mayanup Poltergeist by Helen Hack is available from
Hesperian Press for $16.50 plus postage, P.O. Box 317, Victoria Park,
6979, Western Australia.
Ruby Lang retains the sole copyright © 2001 for this article.