It’s the day after United States Tax Day, when many citizens are gutted by the IRS in an annual ritual roughly equivalent to recurring Viking raids on Iona, except that possibly fewer people get their heads split open by axes.
I expect that there are many who feel as though they could use a windfall of cash right now so I present some cases of freak philanthropists and of mysterious pennies—and sovereigns—from Heaven.
MYSTERIOUS CRANKS WHO THROW THEIR MONEY AWAY.
A great sensation was caused in the Strand and Fleet Street recently when a strangely-dressed man startled the pedestrians in that locality by throwing handfuls of gold and silver about the street. Attired all in green, even to his spats, he first attracted attention by handing sovereigns to some newspaper boys near the Gaiety Theatre. Marching on towards the Law Courts, his generosity increased almost at every stop, and by the time he had reached Fleet Street, the crowd of people anxious to benefit by his strange philanthropy had increased to such dimensions that the traffic was held up, and, eventually the mysterious Croesus was arrested by the police for causing an obstruction. This is by no means the only instance on record of a similar nature.
Late one night, a few years ago, loungers in the neighbourhood of Victoria Station, London, were astonished by a mysterious shower of sovereigns and other coins which fell upon the pavement, apparently from nowhere. The first persons to notice the phenomenon were the cabmen, on the rank at the end, of Victoria street, and they naturally-made a rush towards the mysterious gold-mine. They had hardly reached the spot where the money was lying when another shower of coins fell in the midst of them. Of course a big crowd very soon collected, but it, was impossible for anyone to determine where the money came from. The shops in the vicinity were all closed, and no one could be seen at any of the windows who might be responsible for the money. At last, a policeman arrived and quickly dispersed the people. The mysterious showers of coins immediately ceased as quickly as they had begun. To this day no one has been able to discover the name or the whereabouts of the freak philanthropist of Victoria Street.
The inhabitants of Belvidere, New Jersey, were much mystified some time ago when it became known that envelopes containing money were being left on the doorstops of private houses. The envelopes contained various amounts, ranging from twenty-five cents to one dollar. Hundreds of these envelopes were found day after day, but no explanation of the mystery was forthcoming. Some residents of the town believed that the unknown donor was a conscience-smitten person who had obtained his money in some illegal way, and was anxious to make amends for his ill-gotten wealth.
Although a special committee of citizens was organised to investigate the matter, the whole affair remained “wrapt in mystery,” Havre de Grace [MD] Standard 31 August 1912: p. 36
One wonders about the significance of the green-even-to-the-spats clothing of the first “freak philanthropist.” Was he of Fairyland? Did the cash turn into dried leaves in the morning?
While there are some reports of actual persons like the man in green who fling money at strangers, more often the coins simply shower down from the sky in the age-old manner of poltergeists hurling stones from some undetectable vantage point.
JOKER SHOWERS COINS IN LONDON
Mysteriously Rains Money in Crowded Street Near St. Martin’s Church.
London, Aug. 29. A mysterious shower of coins fell in St. Martin’s place late the other night for the third time in succession.
Extraordinary scenes were witnessed just above St. Martin’s church, where the shower fell. It started just when the homeward-bound theatre-goers began to throng the streets, and at the first tinkle of the falling money on the pavement there was a rush of newsboys, loafers and hawkers, while the passers-by also flung themselves whole heartedly into the general scramble.
The mysterious shows generally continue intermittently for about half an hour and consist mostly of coppers, but an occasional silver coin adds zest to the scramble, which often bids fair to become a free fight. On one occasion a climax was reached when the ownership of a half sovereign was the subject of dispute among a group of pushing and struggling treasure hunters.
Who is the practical joker—if joke it be, and where does he throw his superabundant money from? Is the question which everybody asks and nobody can answer. The police are much perturbed, as the crowds become so dense that traffic is held up almost completely while the showers are falling.
Opposite the “shower zone” stands the home of the vicar of St. Martin’s church, while next comes the dignified offices of “Carrington & Co.,” [Court jeweller] the mere sight of which forbids the thought that the showers could come that direction.
“I saw the crowd outside my windows,” said the vicar, “So I went out to see what was the matter, and everybody looked at me as though it had something to do with me. I asked a policeman what the trouble was, and he replied that the matter appeared to be that money was being flung out of my windows.”
“Of course, I had nothing to do with it,” continued the vicar plaintively. “And it is really very awkward for me to have these jokes going on outside my vicarage.” Muskegon [MI] Chronicle 30 August 1911: p. 6 and Detroit [MI] Free Press 27 August 1911: p. 4
While an extensive folklore about “pennies from Heaven” has grown up in the last decade or so, featuring people who find pennies in unusual places or of significant dates after they’ve lost a loved one, the Fortean tradition of strange showers, including pennies, goes back much further. “Pennies in Paddington” might be the refrain for the following story. The bullets mixed with the pennies and the coins’ indentations are peculiar variants on the theme.
Mysterious Shower of Pennies
London street and Norfolk square, Paddington, are agitated over the doings of a mysterious person—whether man or woman is not known—who every morning scatters a shower of pennies on the roadway, says the London Evening Standard.
Shopboys and school children, naturally, are delighted. Small bullets, or swan shot, three-eighths of an inch in diameter and of quite a respectable weight, have been mixed with the money. A peculiarity of the mystery is that each coin bears a strange indentation, as though it had been hit by a trigger. All the efforts made to discover the person have failed. The Hope [ND] Pioneer 16 August 1906: p. 6
Another variant is this Italian “ghost” scattering money, which, embarrassingly, included counterfeit silver. The author ingeniously attributes the bad pennies turning up to the ghost being a “bad spirit.”
GHOST SCATTERS MONEY
Genoa Cor. Washington Post.
Genoa has its ghost, with this peculiarity—that people run after it instead of fleeing for their lives. No one has seen the ghost, but its presence is indicated by a rain of money! Every evening, between 6 and 7 o’clock, pennies begin to drop in a certain locality. Where they come from has not yet been ascertained, and the people of the neighborhood really believe that it is the work of spirits.
This strange happening has brought many strangers to the neighborhood, not with an idea of making their fortunes, as no single person has yet collected more than one to two lire in one day, but certain with an idea of getting “drink money.” The only innkeeper of the neighborhood gets most of the pennies for which he gives good red wine, so much so that he has been accused of having invented this novel way of advertising his wares; but his protest that he has no money to throw away is so confirmed by the appearance of his wineshop that it is generally credited with being the truth.
That the spirits, if spirits they are, are bad is shown by the fact that among their silver pieces two of them were false, which almost got the person who was unfortunate enough to pick them up into trouble. Can they be a kind of ghostly coiners of contraband money? The police have the matter in their hands, and meanwhile the new kind of rain continued unabated. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 14 October 1905: p. 14
This rain of potentially-deadly silver dollars is one of the latest stories within my usual date range of 1800-1925. If we want to play a Fortean name-game, perhaps someone was playing the cosmic slots at “Fairchance.”
SHOWER OF COINS FALLS UPON CITY,
Silver Dollars Rain Down—Is Believed They Fell From an Airplane.
Uniontown, June 21 Residents of Fairchance, near here, have been thrilled and mystified recently by what is declared to be a rain of silver dollars. Where the coins come from and why no one has been able to explain, although the truth of the reported silver showers is vouched for by a number of persons.
Pedestrians in the streets at the time the dollars fell assert that the coins rebounded to a height of several feet when they struck the brick pavements. [Is it surprising that nobody was hurt?]
The theory was advanced that the money was dropped by a passing aeronaut, but there have been no signs of an airplane in the vicinity nor even the sound of a flying machine’s motor. Tonight the mystery remained unsolved. The Oil City [PA] Derrick 22 June 1925: p. 1
Coin apports are a cliché of the séance room, as are checks left at the foot of his statue in response to convent petitions to St. Joseph. I’m more intrigued by accounts of falling money that occur out-of-doors. I’ve written before about the legendary Bridgnorth Shillings, and a young medium who materialized and dematerialized money. Other mysterious cascades of cash? chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com. Pre-war silver coins only. No checks.
Until I started this post I had no idea how pervasive the pennies from heaven folklore had become. See this account from a woman who believed that her dead father was showering her with loose change. And some modern examples of money falls and windfalls here.
Thanks to Brian Chapman of Legends & Rumors for this collection of Pennies from Heaven links.
Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.