It all began on Friday 8th April 1921. Twelve-year old Minnie Bowen was walking to the old weather board cottage she lived in with her family, about 1km outside of the town of Guyra.
As she walked she was pursued by a man who assaulted her by throwing stones. Minnie, who was understandably panicked by the attack, fled. The attack stopped and the man had disappeared before she made it home.
That night, the entire family was disturbed when rocks were hurled against the walls of the house. The police were called, and with the aid of a few armed neighbours, a search was conducted, but no culprit was found. The attacks on the house would continue, as would the search for the person responsible. Twelve-year old Minnie Bowen and her family became the centre of a media storm and sadly the derision of the community.
The weather board cottage was relatively isolated from the rest of the town with bushland and fields surrounding it. Five people occupied the cottage; Mother, Father and the three children. There was a fourth child, May Bowen, but she had died tragically only a few months before the ‘Guyra Mystery’ events had begun.
As the attacks on the home continued, Police and neighbours surrounded the property, forming a double ringed cordon of people, to prevent any would-be attacker getting close. This proved to be futile as the rain of rock continued unabated during the evenings, starting at around 7pm and continuing well into the night. Soon other ‘rappings’ were heard through the house and it became apparent that the noises followed young Minnie and her immediate location.
On the following Thursday the girl was removed from the premises to an undisclosed location. That night police and more than fifty neighbours and other civilians from the community made an even wider cordon of bodies around the property. On that occasion, no noises or disturbances were recorded.
The following day Minnie was brought back to the house and the noises soon started again, but this time thrown rocks and rappings would be recorded through the daylight hours as well.
By mid-April every window in the house had been smashed and other means of investigation were sought. On one particular evening ‘A gentleman from Uralla’ was present at the gathering and sought to solve the mystery through spiritualistic means. He placed Minnie and her mother in a room adjoining the dining room where a large number of people had gathered.
He placed the young girl next to one of the walls where raps and knocks had been heard on previous occasions. Light from the dining room was filtering in, covering her in a soft glow. The gentleman prompted Minnie to ask ‘Is that you?’ referring to May Bowen, the sister who had died only months before. Minnie seemed to be channeling the spirit of her sister, and answered ‘yes’. The next question posed was ‘What do you want?’, which was answered with ‘Tell mother. I’m quite happy and safe in heaven, and it is her prayers that got me here, and I’ll look after her for the rest of her life.’
No other answers were received.
Other spiritualist investigators descended upon the community and after some investigations of their own, it was concluded that a poltergeist was responsible for the disturbances. They argued that with so many people posted to guard the property it would be impossible for someone to approach in order to cause the mischief.
On the 25th of April there was somewhat of a breakthrough. Police Sergeant Ridge, who had been investigating the case received a confession from Minnie Bowen that she had been responsible for the disturbances on three occasions. She had done this to frighten her sister-in-law, but denied all knowledge of the other disturbances. With this confession, many of the newspapers claimed that the case was solved.
In May, Minnie was living at her grandmother’s house in Glen Innes, located not to far from Guyra. While having dinner, the family were disturbed by a large rock crashing into the dining room window. The police were quickly summoned and they remained in the house as other crashes, knockings and various disturbances were encountered. Some stated the louder knocks sounded like ‘an axe been struck heavily against a wall’.
The following day a neighbour is quoted as saying she saw a stone fall straight down onto the roof, reasoning that it was impossible to have been thrown by someone on the ground.
By August several of the people neighbouring the Glen Innes house had moved, declaring they would not return home till Minnie Bowen had left town.
Minnie was constantly told to stop playing her tricks by the local Police Sergeant. She was threatened that if she continued, she would be sent away.
Minnie strongly and emphatically denied all knowledge of these disturbances on many occasions.
There are lots of other smaller details that you can find in the newspapers covering this story. On one occasion, someone was manning the Guyra house as the family was out for the day. A knocking was heard at the door and upon looking under it a pair of hobnailed boots were visible, when the door was opened they, and the expected owner, had disappeared.
There was also somewhat of a panic instilled by these events as an elderly woman had gone missing in the area. Women would sleep with guns within easy reach and this was the cause for at least one accidental shooting when a young boy shot his sister. All of these instances accumulated to fuel the outrage of what was seen as a ‘prank’ on Minnie Bowen’s part.
As for Minnie, it is said these incidences were not isolated to this period in her life. The knocks and stones would reenter her life as she got older and it has been alluded to that she also developed the psychic gift of clairvoyance.
A theory in the 1950’s stated that ‘the scene [of a poltergeist] is almost always a lonely farmhouse, and the household subjected to attacks includes almost invariably a boy or girl, usually a girl approaching adolescence… The seemingly paranormal manifestations have their centre of energy in the person of the child, who can, at this time, either consciously or subconsciously produce them. The power is lost as the boy or girl grows older.’
Could this explain the happenings that took place at Guyra and Glen Innes?
Maybe it was a hoax?
Or maybe it was something else entirely?
© Ashley Hall 2012. All reference material can be made available on request.
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