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The Poltergeist of Mavrovo village (1924)

by Thanassis Vembos

Another case investigated by Angelos Tanagras and the Greek Society of Psychic Research (GSPR) had to do with poltergeist phenomena at the house of Mavromatis family, at the village of Mavrovo (now Mavrohori), near the town of Kastoria (Macedonia, Northern Greece). The phenomena took place during the first six months of 1924 but culminated during the summer of that year.

The case of Mavrovo poltergeist was described and discussed in Psychikai Erevnai, GSPR’s monthly magazine, in various issues of 1925. Tanagras writes in January 1925 issue, the first one of the newly launched magazine.

After we received interesting information from Kastoria, according to which at Mavrovo village telekinetic phenomena were taking place, the Council of the Greek Society of Psychical Research (GSPR) decided to verify them. A committee consisting by judge Mr Roumelianakis, director of GSPR and bank official Mr Marmaridis went there and investigated the phenomena. There were two points as a basis for verification:

1. To exclude any possibility of hoax by the residents or the neighbors

2. To exclude any phenomenon easily imitated and not reported by firsthand witnesses.

The possibility of hoax was excluded due to the extent and high cost of damages in the house where the phenomena were taking place. The second possibility must be excluded too, since the leader of the family is a fierce ex chieftain, feared by everybody in the village, but also because of the almost complete isolation of the house.

Plenty of witnesses, direct and indirect, were examined. The phenomena lasted for six months in low intensity reaching a peak of high intensity for 13 days. Mainly they were the following:

1. Gradual breaking of all glassware and every dish in the house in an inexplicable way and in places where normal human force could not be exerted.

2. Tearing of clothes, mattresses, pillows, hats etc under the same circumstances. It must be noted that the pattern of tearing was always the same; a small isosceles triangle whose one side was half a yard long.

3. Spoiling of food, milk, petrol, flour, barley, half baked bread, cheese, wine, marmalade etc.

4. Movement of objects, clay vessels, clothes, tables, chairs, cooking utensils, stones etc.

The fall of large quantities of stones, from outside to the inside, which resulted to the breaking of most of the glass windows of the house, was not regarded as a phenomenon capable of being imitated. There are two interesting points:

a. Falling stones were warm (maybe because of the season of the year); some of them were not like the usual stones found in the village. Note that in similar phenomena, falling stones are warm and cause no harm to people.

b. Father Nicholas, the local priest, while sprinkling the house with holy water with the doors closed, saw a stone falling in front of him without being able to judge its origin".

The testimony of Mrs Athena Mavrommatis, wife of the ex-chieftain is as follows.

Since six months ago, several small events had started taking place. I had not told anything my husband until, twelve days before Prophet Helias (Elijah) day [July 8] the phenomena culminated. Glassware was breaking without somebody being present in the room, okkas [kilograms] of sugar and olive oil were found poured on the floor, the vinegar barrel was emptied and all vinegar spilled out; also a keg with cheese, 40-50 okkas heavy [50-65 kg] overturned –a small child could not have been able to accomplish such a thing. Four of five lamps were broken successively; I was finding broken glass everywhere without hearing the smallest sound. Many times I saw glassware in its place, the next second its was broken. One day, with my mother in law, we heard the sound of a breaking bottle in a sleeping room where nobody was.

We ran there and found pieces of a bottle containing rose water. Another time we found a big plate with 5-6 okkas [6 - 7.5 kg] of jam poured on the floor 2 m next to an empty bottle of iodine with its contents also spilled on the floor. I went to the stairway to call somebody and when I came back I found the big plate upon the spilled jam.

Flour and barley were ejected by themselves out of their storage pits, 2-3 fathoms away; sometimes the poured grain was found wet and with prints of fingers on it, without somebody being in the kitchen. After that, the tearing of clothes started. Curtains, pillows, bedclothes, shirts and other clothes, all in the same way. On every item appeared a small triangle one side of which was much longer.

Whenever I was coming back to a room, I found new damages.

All of a sudden, a pot with food started upturning; we were compelled to cook at the house of my in-laws.

One day I found the loaves of bread half-baked, outside the oven. During one blessing of the house with holy water from the priest, a stone fell; all doors were closed. After half an hour I found the priests’ stole thrown on the floor, his Holy Scripture open and the holy water spilled.

Some other time I found a small paper icon of Virgin Mary torn into pieces scattered into small pieces all over the floor.

Ten or fifteen times the table was found prepared, in a closed room, all with seats and cooking utensils upon it.

I must note that when the girl servant was away, the phenomena were more intense. The only glassware left in the house is the one I keep in my pocket.

At first I was the first who did not want to believe that these things were taking place. Now I confirm it. But how they are done, I do not know”.

Ex-chieftain Konstantinos Mavrommatis, her husband, gave the following testimony.

Since last winter, when the phenomena started, the others did not tell me anything because they were afraid that I would be angry about the damages. They first told me about glasspanes and glassware broken; we thought that the culprits were the children or the girl servant. We punished them very harshly [almost atrociously, Tanagras comments] but the phenomena did not stop. Finally I was convinced by these two incidents.

One day they found a can of petrol which I had just purchased, poured in the basement. They did not tell me anything; they collected as much spilled petrol as they could, but the fluid was spilled out again even though the can was intact. Then they told me. I went down and I verified that the can did not have a leak. I collected as much petrol as I could, I went out, closed the door and waited outside with my pistol. In a while I opened the door. The petrol was spilled again. The same thing was repeated twice. It was impossible for anybody to enter the basement.

I was convinced that something supernatural was happening and I quit. Little by little, because of the continuous damages, we almost left with nothing and we forced to carry whatever was left to my father’s house in order to save it. We were cooking our food there because the pot was frequently upturned. It was a real disaster; my losses were over 10,000 drs [much money at the time].

Another day, I was coming down from the above floor, where nobody was. I heard the sound of glass breaking in a room, two steps away. I rushed in and I found the glass windowpane broken. I did not found any stone. Then I realised that a large stone used to secure the door of the room was missing. I bent and looked out of the window; I noticed the stone outside, on the root of a tree.

Mind that the phenomena were taking place from morning till evening, never during the night, even when the girl servant was away because, after the consultation of many, we sent her to Krepini village”.

Physician Christos Sanos said.

I testify that, after I went to Mavrovo, I saw with my own eyes flour ejecting from the storage pit, like thrown by invisible hands. Hoax was impossible because there was no space in the pit for a man to hide. Also I had taken all precautionary measures; I had locked the girl servant and the key was in my pocket”.

There were other witnesses too. Merchant I. Tsantils testified that he passed by from Mavrommatis house when the whole family was at Krepini village, except 10-year old Panayotis and student St. Papalambros. They showed him a large quantity of flour scattered on the kitchen floor and when they were conversing, little Panayotis rushed in saying.

-Come and see the flour moving…

They ran to the kitchen door and saw the flour ejecting like a firework from the storage pit, about 15 okkas [20 kgs] of it. They checked the pit which was half full. There was a cavity in the middle of the bulk. Nobody else was in the kitchen.

Father Nicholas, the village priest explains what happened when he was called to consecrate the house with holy water.

“We were in the corridor with every door around us closed. We heard a bang in the room on the right side and a stone fell in front of me, inexplicably. I touched the stone; it was warm. Another time, Mrs Mavrommatis called me to see the flour scattered, a phenomenon that was taking place recurrently. The flour was on the floor, damaged by water, and with finger prints upon it. Before Mrs Mavrommatis started to speak, a quantity of barley was ejected from the storage pit, to the same direction the flour went".

Baker Mr S.N. Papaspyrou witnessed another telekinetic phenomenon.

One Sunday, at 10 am we were gathered on the ground floor, talking about the happenings. I climbed the stairs and I saw the chest under the shrine opening, folded clothes coming out and landing in front of it by themselves. I shouted to Mrs Mavromati.

-Athena, come quickly to see the clothes coming out of the chest.

They all came running. We put the clothes back inside and nailed the lid with two big nails, left and right.

After we discussed the incident, we rechecked the chest and saw that the nails were missing. The holes were there; the lid was opening easily again. I testify these things giving my word of honor”.

Shoemaker Athanasios Mavrovitis, a skeptic, explained how he changed his mind about the phenomena.

One day in July I passed by from Papalambrou’s house where I heard about the things happening but I did not believe it. But my curiosity was raised and went to the [Mavrommatis’] house with another villager, a blacksmith. There, we heard a bang from the kitchen; we approached the iron barred window and peeked inside. There was nobody inside. We suddenly saw the low dinner table rolling by itself. It was risen and touching the wall. Then it fell in the middle; after that a chair lifted in mid air and landed upon it; then a blue, thick folded tablecloth landed on the chair. Then we shouted to the others that were gathered.

-Come quickly, to see!

Before this incident I was scornful about such things; I did not bother even to go and check them. But now I believe them, because I witnessed them with my very eyes even though I do not know how to explain them. I give my word of honor.

During the same incident, I. Stavrides and Dimitris Petkanas, took the dinner table with the chair and put them back to their place. Then they closed the door. “Nobody could enter since the window had iron bars”, they testified later. “We stood outside the door for five minutes and then we entered the kitchen again. We saw the furniture again like it was before, one upon the other. On that day the same phenomenon repeated 5-6 times while we were guarding the door and Dimitra, the girl servant, was with us. Also every time we found on the low dinner table things that were not in this kitchen, but in another one, to the opposite side of the house. These incidents were not done by humans. Twenty years ago, similar things happened here in Mavrovo, at Pardalis’ house. We give our word of honor”.

Tanagras was a staunch support of Psychophysiological Theory –that all psychic phenomena are produced by unconscious forces of the human mind- and an arch-enemy of Spiritualism. But he was not a materialist. He strongly believed that science could shed light upon the nature of psychic phenomena and these could be used to decipher the deepest mysteries of human existence and life in general. His explanation for the Mavrovo case was the following is quite enlightening about his beliefs.

One of the members of the family (possibly the girl servant or little Panayotis) was the unconscious cause of the phenomena. It was the so-called ‘dynamogene’. Radioactive bodies can emit dynamic energy via electrons; in the same way, under unknown circumstances, a part of the Human Psychodynamism (a sort of energy which is the agent of thought transfer and telepathy) is emitted causing telekinetic effects. The behavior of this strange Psychodynamism implies one startling thing. Even though it manifests from a human body, it retains a degree of consciousness with supramental abilities. Unfortunately in Mavrovo case we could not examine the members of the family due to the stubbornness of the family leader

Angelos Tanagras (left) with Dr Charles Richet (right), pioneer of psychic research at the 3rd International Conference of Psychic Research (Paris, 1927)

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