There was a mysterious occurrence in the village of in January 1938 when crockery and household utensils flew from the shelves for no apparent reason and plates and lamp globes fell to pieces as if they had been struck by a hammer.
The occurrence caused a sensation in the village, and when news of it spread to Stornoway, it was received with skepticism and, by most people with downright incredulity.
“A fortnight’s rest and you will be alright again”, was a favourite salute for bearers of news, or a subtle reference to the potency of whisky.
But the facts are well authenticated and beyond all doubt.
It was at a Carn Dubh, Tolsta Chaolais, that the phenomenon occurred. The house known as Carn Dubh is occupied by Mr John Macleod and his family, but standing on the same small eminence above the road was his mother’s house. Mrs Macleod, the mother, who is eighty years of age, lives alone, but two of her grandchildren, a girl in her early teens and a little boy who is not yet of school age slept with her.
The “Caorans” Play Pranks
On Sunday morning, January 30, Mrs Macleod and her grandchildren were seated round the stove, at about 10.30a.m. having a cup of tea, when suddenly a number of the “Caorans” lying by the fireside suddenly began to jump about in a extraordinary manner. One of the “caorans” jumped from the floor into the cup of tea which Mrs Macleod was holding in her hand. Another struck her violently on the side of the face.
The “caorans” were small, the largest of them being about the size of a hen’s egg.
Although astonished, Mrs Macleod and the children finished their cup of tea and it was when the girl went into the room adjoining, which serves as a pantry, and also communicates with the front door, that the really violent “manifestations” began.
Immediately the girl opened the door she called to her Granny in Gaelic that a tumbler had broken. The tumbler was standing on the dresser, and it was split in two, just as a tumbler breaks clean when too hot water is pored into it. At that time there was no one within a yard of the tumbler. The top part broke off, fell to the ground, the bottom part remained on the shelf.
The Jugs Begin to Fly
But the tumbler was only the beginning. The other dishes on the shelf began to break with a loud cracking sound. The cups, which were hanging in little hooks on the dresser, fell off and smashed to pieces. The plates and saucers broke off where they lay, while the astonished girl watched them a short distance.
A jug which contained rice, shot off the dresser, over the girl’s head and smashed on the floor not far from the stove in the bedroom. In doing so it had to turn the sharp corner formed by the angle of the wall, to get to the bedroom door. Another jug containing pease-meal also shot off the dresser, round the corner of the door, clean across the bedroom and came to rest on the bed. The jug was corked with a wad of paper, and it completed its journey through the air a distance of over ten feet without spilling. A few grains of the pease-meal were scattered on the bed where the jug came to rest, but there no sign that it had been turned on its side as it touched the bed.
A tin of cocoa, tin of salts, and the salt cellar were found on the bed. While Mrs Macleod and her grand-daughter were naturally alarmed by the occurrence, the youngster was at first delighted by the pranks payed by the crockery and as each article came flying into the room where he was, he shouted gleefully in Gaelic “Here’s another”. The teapot behaved most violently of all. It left its place on the shelf like a sky rocket, shot across into the bedroom and struck the wall some feet above the bed. The point of impact was clearly marked by the tea leaves for those who came in a few minutes afterwards, and are witness to the havoc wrought.
Havoc is the word, because all of the crockery on the dresser was damaged. A beautiful ashet escaped only with a small chip out of the side, but the bread plates, cups, saucers, jugs, egg cups, tea plates and other articles were smashed to pieces. An examination of the pieces afterwards revealed that they had not broken along old cracks. The broken edges were clean and fresh.
Although astonished by the upheaval in the pantry, the girl kept calm and actually had the presence of mind to catch a second teacup as it passed on its journey to the bedroom.
She also had the presence of mind to grab four plates which had survived the carnage on the dresser, and hurry with them to the press where she thought they would be safe. As soon as the door of the press was opened the dishes in there also began to crack with a loud noise and the damage done was as great as on the dresser. The debris half filled a canvas sack, which gives a fair indication of the havoc wrought in the space of a few minutes.
Strangest of all, probably, was the fact that after the occurrence, it was found that the lamp globes in both rooms had shivered to pieces. A toothbrush of celluloid, or some similar composition, which had been lying on the dresser, without moving from its original position, snapped into three pieces, as clean as if it had been chopped through with an axe. Even the bar of Lifebuoy or Carbolic soap, did not escape. It was split from end to end just as if it had been sliced through.
While the dishes were still breaking, an older grandson, Norman, arrived at the door and immediately raced back to his father’s house calling out that there was something wrong. His mother, Mrs Macleod, hurried down and on her way distinctly heard the dishes cracking with a loud report, but before she reached, the phenomenon had passed, although the physical evidence of it was strewn about the floor.
Occurrence Amply Vouched For
Mr John Macleod was also on the scene within a few minutes and after pausing to see whether there would be any repetition his first thought was to secure some witnesses as he knew the occurrence would scarcely be believed unless it was sufficiently vouched for. Several people saw the evidence of what had occurred within a very short time and what they saw amply bears out the strange story of the three eye witnesses.
The utensils which escaped present almost a great problem to those which were smashed. The dishes in the corner of the dresser were undamaged. While most of the metal articles were carried away, the bread knife remained where it was. While the whole contents of the lower wall shelf, beside the dresser, were swept away, the contents of the upper shelf were untouched. A glass bottle precariously perched on the edge of a high narrow shelf in the bedroom was undisturbed. The full utensils were swept away into the bedroom ten feet away and escaped damage, the empty ones remained on the shelves and were smashed to pieces. Naturally these strange “manifestations” on a Sunday morning have led to much speculation in the district, not a little mixed with dread of the occult, but the people most nearly concerned have taken a very calm and understanding view of the occurrence. Mrs Macleod, despite her eighty odd years refused to leave the household and slept in her own bed that night. Her view was that there must be a natural explanation, probably connected with the unusual brilliant displays on the proceeding Tuesday night and the lesser displays on several evenings since then.
It is fortunate, both for those concerned and for those who wish to arrive at the facts, that the occurrence took place in the presence of a lady of quick observation, unusual intelligence and great presence.