To celebrate Halloween, the NT News has decided to remind readers about one of the Territory's most famous paranormal incidents: The Humpty Doo Poltergeist. Here's a story written by former NT News journalist (and paranormal correspondent) David Wood from 2015.
A POLTERGEIST that reportedly terrorised a Humpty Doo home for four months in 1998 is considered one of the most significant supernatural occupations of its kind, according to a new book by men who spent time in the house.
Australian Poltergeist: The Stone-throwing Spook of Humpty Doo and Many Other Cases was written by Tony Healy and Paul Cropper, the authors of Out of the Shadows: Mystery Animals of Australia and The Yowie.
Mr Healy said he tended to believe in poltergeists before he began investigating them, but Humpty Doo educated him.
"I didn't really know a lot about it," he said. "But you only have to read a few of the historical cases as there is uniformity of testimony.
"It doesn't take long for most reasonable people to believe there is a genuine effect, a genuine phenomenon, the disagreement comes over what causes it, a departed spirit, a demonic other or mind of matter ..."
The book covers 50 of Australia's poltergeist episodes dating back to 1845 with the Humpty Doo one rated number two. Mr Healy said in the Humpty Doo episodes there were reports of knives flying through the air at a priest and a pistol cartridge falling from "nowhere".
Mr Healy said the Humpty Doo poltergeist experience started in about January 1998 and went on for about four months. He said it was a "malicious and mischievous entity or spirit".
The ghost in Darwin's rural area was known for hurling stones, batteries, spanners, shards of broken glass and even knives at the housemates who resided at 90 McMinns Drive.
Mr Healy said two Catholic priests and one Greek Orthodox priest tried to exorcise it, but it just seemed to aggravate it. One priest reported a crucifix flying across a room.
Mr Healy said he and co-author Cropper stayed in the house for five days and five nights and saw things like objects moving through the air.
"Now we understand a lot more about poltergeists here and overseas we understand that what happened in Humpty Doo is classic poltergeist behaviour," he said.
"That seems to be a thing with poltergeists, they seem to like throwing them (stones) around.
"And if people are hit they are never hurt. People are almost never hit but if you are it feels just like almost like being hit by a marshmallow."
WEIRD TERRITORY: THE HUMPTY DOO POLTERGEIST NT, 1998 RATING: 4 ½ stars
It was a dark and stormy night. Rain was holding off for the moment, but huge, black clouds were rolling and a dramatic lightning display was filling the steamy tropic sky with sound and fury.
The residents of 90 McMinns Drive, Humpty Doo, sat on their patio, chilled beers at hand, enjoying the show. There were two young couples, Andrew and Kirsty Agius, Dave Clark, his partner Jill Summerville, plus their mate Doug Murphy.
All five were in their late twenties to early thirties. Inside the house, fast asleep, was Kirsty and Andrew's 10-month-old daughter Jasmine.
As Nature's magnificent light show crashed and flashed in the sky above, strange, decidedly unnatural things started to happen.
When small pebbles began flicking out of the shadows and landing in their midst the group assumed that someone had sneaked onto their rented two-hectare (five acre) property to play a silly joke.
But when the prankster failed to respond to their shouts and was not discovered in repeated searches of the grounds, they tired of the situation and moved inside - only to have the pebbles follow them.
In classic poltergeist style, showers of the centimetre-wide stones - all apparently lifted from their 70-metre-long gravel driveway - landed on floors, tables, beds and heads after apparently materialising just under the ceiling. Though the ground outside was saturated, all the pebbles that fell indoors were bone-dry and distinctly warm to the touch. Hardly believing their senses, and being practical people, one of the first things the housemates did was to fetch a ladder to check if there was something amiss in the loft. As soon as they opened the ceiling manhole, however, a brisk shower of stones fell upon their upturned faces.
Later that night, to their increasing dismay, knives, small batteries, spanners, shards of broken glass and other objects began to drop or to hurtle across rooms.
Over the next couple of days the polt - they soon realised that's what it had to be - cranked up the level of its vandalism, causing serious damage; a CD player was thrown to the floor and destroyed, windows and glass cabinet doors were smashed by ashtrays and other flying objects.
Things came to a head one Saturday night when it seemed their persecutor meant to actually drive them from the house: littering the floor with a blizzard of stones, wrenching appliances from shelves, upturning mattresses and - creepiest of all - making sinister scraping noises inside the internal walls.
The events of that long night were almost too much for Jill and Kirsty. "It completely freaked us out; it was like something was actually inside the walls right next to us. We couldn't sleep; we were crying. We would have left the house but we had nowhere else to go."
Although the residents weren't particularly religious they were now willing to try anything to get rid of the paranormal pest. So - when you've got a polt problem, who ya gonna call?
THREE GUTSY PRIESTS
The first thing Father Stephen de Souza of Darwin's St Mary's Cathedral did when he arrived was to look through the entire house. In the kitchen he "… noticed a microwave with a steak knife on top. As I walked away, one of [the residents] called 'Father!'"
Turning, he saw the knife flying straight at him. There was nobody in a position to have thrown it.
There was no time to jump out of the way but when it was about half a metre from his chest it stopped, "just as though it had hit something" and fell at his feet.
The Jesuit was unfazed. He had seen it all before. In his native India he'd been called upon to deal with several similar infestations. His "take" on the situation was that a restless spirit may have been drawn to the house, possibly because one of the occupants was, without being aware of it, a natural medium. Using age-old Catholic ritual he attempted to "bind" the spirit and reassured the tenants that it was very unlikely to physically injure anyone.
He admitted, however, that in his experience prayer rarely caused a poltergeist to cease its activities. The imp would go away when it was good and ready, or, if its nasty tricks were indeed linked to someone in the house who was an unconscious medium, it might follow that person when they moved to a new residence.
Father Stephen's prayers gave the household a brief respite; the polt kept its nasty little head down for three days but then, just as the residents were hoping it was all over, the craziness started again.
Next to try popping the polt was Humpty Doo's parish priest, Father Tom English.
During the first of four visits he saw several objects flying in ways that seemed to defy explanation. The polt, he said, "doesn't follow the laws of physics".
A pistol cartridge fell from nowhere to land at his feet, and other things "… crashed against walls … they'd just fly out of a room that nobody [was] in, for instance. Outside, things came crashing down near us"
Although inexperienced in such matters he gamely blessed the place and doused it with holy water.
This time the polt, far from being mollified or skulking off into the Twilight Zone, went ape: "… everything went berserk … things were flying around … when I was leaving [a medicine bottle] came flying out of the bathroom." Having done what he could, the priest departed, leaving a crucifix and bible with the anxious residents.
As night fell the polt continued its mayhem, smashing another couple of windows, hurling Father Tom's crucifix and bible around, smashing a container of holy water against a wall, banging and scraping and keeping the occupants awake for hours.
Next up was a Greek Orthodox priest, who went the Full Monty, setting up an altar on the kitchen table, blessing each room separately and reading arcane passages from a large black book. As the shell-shocked residents looked on, he was assaulted by an invisible force that tried repeatedly to wrench the book from his grasp and to twist his right arm behind his back. Ashen-faced, he finally sat down, bathed in sweat, declaring his adversary tougher than anything he'd encountered before.
Once they got used to it, in fact, they found the weirdness quite interesting and even amusing for a while. But when sinister words and symbols began to appear on the walls and floor they became nervous again.
The words were scrawled with marker pens, spelt out in scrabble tiles and - strangest of all - formed extremely neatly on the floor using scores of pebbles, each of which had been carefully placed so that only a flat surface faced outwards. The most unsettling aspect of the first series of words: "FIRE", "SKIN", "CAR", "HELP" and "TROY" was that they clearly referred to their good mate Troy Raddatz, who had been incinerated in a terrible road accident on the Stuart Highway, just a couple of kilometres from their property in January shortly before the first stone fall.
On March 20, a large cross and a trident - both constructed of hundreds of pebbles - also appeared on the floor.
A local schoolteacher, Annette Taylor, and her partner Lloyd Green happened to be visiting when the cross appeared. Lloyd testified later that the formation, which was "so neat and perfect … it would have taken me hours to make with a straight-edge, a square and a rule", had been constructed impossibly quickly on a section of the hallway floor that people were repeatedly walking across that evening.
More weirdness was to follow: "As soon as [Dave] touched the gravel, it just flew everywhere. It pelted down the passageway. It was so loud hitting the walls, the baby woke and started crying. Then the tools started flying around …"
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