by Thanassis Vembos
Angelos Tanagras and his Society of Psychic Research (GSPR) did a lot of work in order to promote psychic research in Greece during the 1920s and 1930s and fight superstition and ignorance. Until then psychic phenomena were traditionally interpreted as ‘works of the devil’ or ‘actions of spirits of the dead’. As a result lots of reports started coming and GSPR was called many times to investigate. So, in 1928, Tanagras was called to investigate a typical poltergeist case that took place in Lamia, then a town and today a city in central Greece, some 200 km north of Athens.
The phenomena were taking place at the house of Mr Constantinos Stoukas, a hotel owner who was living there with his wife, his children and Maria Hani (photo left), a 13 year old maid from the village of Fteri. Back then, poor peasant families were sending their little girls to wealthy families, as a sort of ‘adoption’; the girls were growing up as maids in their new homes. So Maria was ‘hired’ when she was just two and a half years old and was brought up with the hotel owners’ children.
On September, 20, 1927, when she was twelve years old and on the verge of puberty, strange phenomena started happening. Heavy stones fell from nowhere and hit the house. About twenty were falling daily, from 9 am to the evening; their size was varying from pebbles to large stones 1.5 - 2 kg in weight. Strangely, no big damage was caused by the unexplained bombardment; totally only five glass panes were broken.
The family attributed the phenomena to malevolent individuals and called the police who could not find out any culprits. Nevertheless, the stones kept falling during the winter of 1927 –except from a brief intermittence one month long- until the summer of 1928, when the family decided to go to Castania village for vacation, hoping that the phenomenon will cease in their absence.
Alas the phenomenon followed them. During the two and a half months of their stay, stones were falling regularly even though now the bombardment was softer; stones were falling only from 1 to 2 pm, and only once every 2 - 3 days. The family, who was always suspicious of little Maria, realized finally that it was impossible for her to be responsible; she was lean and weak and could not throw so many and large stones. Also the stones fell even in her absence, and apparently from a distance of 500 m!
In autumn of 1928 they returned to Lamia bringing the phenomenon with them. Weirdly, the damage done by the stones was very light, regarding to their mass and weight. Especially, when people were hit, the falling stones had seemingly lost their weight. A policeman was hit by a 3 kg stone and felt nearly nothing. Another time, one large stone balanced on the thin reeds of a pergola; another massive one did not even crack the tile of the floor where it fell.
On November 15, a new variation of phenomena started; now things were moving mysteriously. Expectedly, the family called the local priest, father Spyros Spyropoulos, who boasted that he was ‘very resilient against Satan’. Nevertheless, despite the rituals and the exorcisms, the phenomena did not cease. On the contrary, they were intensified embarrassing the priest and leaving the family in despair.
The telekinetic phenomena started when the sewing machine moved mysteriously in a distance of three meters. The brazier was thrice overturned. After the rituals, the phenomena were centered on the religious items in the house; icons, incense burners, holy lamps etc. A large St Nicholas icon in the home shrine repeatedly flew violently in the air and fell on the entrance of the house. The icons were heavily damaged from the repeated hurling and the incense burner was entirely misshapen. The hotel owner’s wife started burning incense on small pieces of tiles; they also started flying and breaking. Chairs started to fall down. Physician Mousatos, while giving an injection to one of the children saw one chair flying four meters away and break; after a while an icon flew in the air. Maria was outside at that time.
One funny incident happened to Nicolaos Hasiakos, a deacon candidate, who claimed that he did not believe these things were actually taking place. He was sitting on the entrance of the house while a bottle half-filled with olive oil came flying from the kitchen and shattered on the leg of the chair Hasiakos was sitting; a glass shard injured him on the chin. He bled profusely and went away to tend his cut.
Many other neighbours witnessed telekinetic phenomena while being in the house. One of the strangest incidents happened at the ground floor of the house, where Kitiakis family was living. The father, George, was away most of the day, working. His wife, Spyridoula, and their 10 month old baby were staying mostly inside. One morning, at 10 am, Spyridoula had put the baby to his cradle, surrounded by tall, iron bars, one and a half meters high, and covered him with two blankets. Her cousin was passing by and Spyrioula went to the door, fifteen paces away, to talk to her. From the window, her cousin told her that the baby was restless. Spyridoula hurried to get back. She was astonished finding the baby two meters away from the bed, on the floor, covered with the blankets. Not only it was impossible for the baby to climb up the high fence, but he was not even crying or being upset. Another two neighbours came to the house and all four women discussed if this incident could be attributed to the wave of strange phenomena. Suddenly, a chair fell down. The women were scared; immediately they saw a square table weighing over 50 kg to move half a meter away. They ran away panicked.
After that, telekinetic phenomena ceased, but Maria started having visions. She was seeing a short man in the yard, dressed like a priest, supposedly a saint, who urged her to tell the family to leave the house until 9 pm the evening before St Andreas celebration (November, 30), otherwise a great disaster would befall on them. The scared family did not know what to do, until retired major Dimitrios Gardicas, a local who was interested in psychic phenomena, persuaded them to call GSPR. So Tanagras came and investigated. As was his usual approach, he recommended the family to send away the maid. And Tanagras reported in an article (Psychikai Erevnai, January 1929).
“So the maid was promptly sent to her parents, at Fteri village. Not only St Andreas night passed without any events, but since then the phenomena ceased completely as well –a proof that the small girl was the unwilling cause.Maria Hani is still living in her village. We have information that her sleep is extremely disturbed. The GSPR will watch her closely and hopefully will transfer her to Athens for close examination and study since it is most probable that after her menstruation starts, all phenomena will stop”.
Dimitrios Gardikas, became an associate of GSPR and cooperated with Tanagras, providing information. He managed to uncover another poltergeist incident from Divri, a village near Lamia. Athanasios Pantazis’ family was living in a two storey house belonging to George Gerodimos, whose daughter, 20 year old Eftychia, was married to Pantazis. Athanassios and Eftychia had two children, two years and 6 months old respectively. In the same house, the rest of Gerodimos’ children were also living –three girls aged from twelve to seventeen.
Eftychia (photo left) gave birth to her youngest child on the Easter Day of 1928. Two days after the birth she suffered from a nervous breakdown when she saw her husband quarreling with another man. She lost consciousness and had a 24 hour bout of high fever. During the same night, stones started to fall mysteriously on the house. Totally 8-10 stones weighing 2.5 – 7 kg fell inside the room where the couple and the baby were living. The projectiles did not injure any of them; they just hit them softly without causing any bruising at all.
The family kept the events secret and moved to the floor below. But the stones kept on coming and falling inside closed rooms. The phenomenon was continuing intermittently.
Sometime in autumn, the family had gone to sleep when a small bed sheet that was covering the baby caught fire spontaneously. Eftychia tried to put out the fire but she couldn’t; curiously, neither she nor the baby suffered any burns. This spontaneous combustion manifested three times in a period of fifteen days, always at the baby’s cradle. Finally father, mother and child moved away from the house and stayed in a monastery to find safety. Tanagras commented (Psychikai Erevnai, September 1929).
“After her intense nervous shock, Eftychia Pantazi became radioactive; presumably she was a powerful medium who –like the priests/mediums of the savage people and the Indians- not only is untouchable by chemical reactions but she passed on her incombustibility to other people as well, which is her baby”.
Mind that Tanagras used the term ‘radioactive’ to denote the transmission of energy from an individual and not in the sense that she was emitting gamma rays or neutrons.
An affidavit dated August, 25, 1929 signed by nine residents of Divri verified the stone fall and the spontaneous combustion was published in Psychikai Erevnai magazine in October 1929 issue, showing that the phenomena were going on until at least the summer of that year. The affidavit specified that sometimes the combustions took place simultaneously with the stone fall. In the January 1930 issue of Psychikai Erevnai a letter by Dimitris Gardikas reported that, after a two month respite, the phenomena had started again. Now the stone projectiles were much larger and were hurting Eftychia. One night she went to sleep in a neighboring house to find some peace but her sleep was disturbed; she woke up sprinkled with white ash from head to toe. Tanagras commented that this ash could have been dust, or ‘stones not perfectly materialized’. Unfortunately, no more information about the case was published in later issues of GSPR magazine.