A CENTURY ago a sleepy town north of Tamworth made international headlines; attracted a dedicated squad of Sydney detectives, psychic investigators and journalists all enraptured by one of Australia's greatest unanswered mysteries.
The Guyra Ghost.
Questions still hang in the air; locals blame a close friendship between the town's detective and the editor of the Guyra Argus who "never let the truth get in the way of a good story", while old newspaper clippings tell a very different story.
It was April 1, 1921. William Bowen, his wife and three children, including 12-year-old daughter Minnie lived in an unassuming weatherboard home south-east of town that would soon become the the centre of a national investigation.
That afternoon, Minnie ran home and claimed a man had chased her throwing stones, but he was never found.
The next evening, Constables Stennett and Taylor went to the house and were shocked when a pane of glass was smashed by what appeared to be a pea rifle bullet that came out of nowhere, according to newspaper clippings from the Glen InnesExaminer.
A team of trusted volunteers alongside local police stationed themselves at the Bowen house throughout the month, and interestingly, critical articles from the town's local paper the Argus, have all disappeared.
In the nights that followed, up to 80 armed "vigilantes" stood around the house, and despite the protection stones continued to hit the house.
The possible poltergeist activity had started to seriously spook locals, with the Examiner reporting it was "beginning to get on the Guyra people's nerves" and that if someone was pranking the family, he would "come in for a bad time if some of those hefty potato farmers lay hands on him".
According to the book Australian Poltergiest written by Paul Cropper and Tony Healy, a woman at Black Mountain was so scared she bought a revolver, which her son fired at his sister. The little girl lived but was apparently left with a bullet lodged "dangerous close" to her brain.
At this point the state government stepped in, sending a team of specialist detectives to the Bowen household to see what all the fuss was about.
Throughout the ordeal, the finger had been pointed at 12-year-old Minnie, but by the end even local police were convinced the stone-throwing was the result of supernatural activity.
Still, the NSW Inspector-General of Police James Mitchell felt the entire thing was a joke; which was answered with ire from locals who had spent countless weeks at the Bowen house with no culprit to show for it.
That's when the Argus went to war with the Sydney Sun, which called the small town the "potato metropolis" and argued "the mystery has resolved itself into just the sort of prank that bibulous hobbledehoys would indulge in after a spiritual indulgence at their favourite tavern," according to Australian Poltergeist.
Weeks of torment went on, until eventually Minnie's family sent her 60 kilometres away to live with her grandparents - when after a few nights of stone throwing at Grandma Shelton's house, eventually all ghost activity stopped.
Years later Minnie married a local dairyman, and if she knew, she never told a soul about what really happened at the Bowen house. In a cruel twist, she was hit by a car and decapitated crossing Grafton Road near Armidale many years later.
One hundred years later, the mystery lives on in the name of the local rugby team; The Guyra Ghosts, in a now defunct Guyra Ghost Cafe and newspaper clippings at the Guyra Historical Museum, treasurer Dorothy Lockyer said.
"The story I've been told is that Mr Bowen remarried after his wife died and his second wife was very nasty to the children of the first marriage," she said.
"Minnie was one of the older children, she was a ventriloquist and would throw her voice to scare the stepmother.
"I don't think they've ever proved it or anything like that, folklore adds to it bit, by bit."
The original house no longer stands, but a new home has been built near the site.
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