The Kniveton Stone

The Kniveton Stone The Will-o-the-wisp or spook light.

The Will-o-the-wisp or spook light.

Well, here we are back to the spook lights again, although this one comes with the additional fillip of a stone with mysterious markings dug up where the light came to rest.


By LEOPOLD A[gar]. D[enys]. MONTAGUE

Among my duties is to answer questions on certain subjects, sent by readers of the journal to which I am attached; and the extraordinary story here given first came to my notice in this way. The matter, however, would be more suitably followed up in such a publication as the Occult Review, as there seems to be no explanation on the ordinary lines, and it is clearly a case for investigators of psychic phenomena.

The correspondence commenced with a letter from Mr. C. Brown (of Ashbourne, Derbyshire), who asked for information about “a perfectly round stone, about an inch across, found in a field, about a foot below the surface,” and stated that a very bright light appeared on the same spot for several nights, and that the stone was dug up exactly where the light appeared. The stone was described as having several old markings upon it, which could not be made out. I replied that no explanation was possible without fuller particulars, and wrote privately to Mr. Brown, asking him to answer the questions below, and to send me the stone for examination if possible.

In due course my questions were answered as follows:—

(1) Where was the stone found?

At Kniveton, Derbyshire.

(2) Was it discovered on cultivated land, grass land, or down


On down land.

(3) How many times was the light seen, and by how many persons?

The light was seen twice, by two persons.

(4) Can you name the persons who saw the light, and give dates?

Mr. Charles Massey, of Petthills Cottage, Kniveton, and another (since deceased). Exact dates forgotten, but in autumn, 1908 (November).

(5) Were there any ancient ruins or earthworks near where the light was seen?

No. [There are actually barrows at Kniveton.]

(6) Describe the light and its position.

Very bright light similar to an acetylene lamp in colour and shape (but brighter), and about 1 foot from the ground.

(7) At what distance was it first observed?

Seen from a distance of about 200 yards.

(8) Was it walked up to? If so, what happened?

When observer walked up to it, it disappeared.

The stone was sent to me, and turned out to be a sphere, 1 1/2 in. in diameter, weighing nearly 1/4 oz. The surface is greenish- brown, and at first sight the material appears to be chert, but examination shows that the interior is white and soft. I took the ball to the curator of the Exeter Museum for report, but it could not be identified with any common stone, and no definite opinion could be given without injuring the object by removing a small portion for analysis. It is certainly not metallic, and may possibly be made from some heavy composition, and altogether artificial. The surface is slightly glossy, and on it are painted, apparently with some kind of black ink, the curious letters or signs of which I append as accurate a copy as I was able to make, aided by a lens. They would seem to be either ancient Oriental characters or a magical sigil; but resemble no sigil or sign published in the standard works on magic which I have consulted.



The ball has every appearance of great antiquity, and is not in the least suggestive of a fake of any kind, but I cannot imagine any use for it, unless possibly as a sling-stone or missile.

I am aware that the information I have gleaned leaves many questions to be answered, and is merely a basis for fuller investigation, which I hope may be carried on by others, and that, at any rate, some explanation may be suggested.

I have submitted the ball to a clairvoyante (Mrs. Letheren, of Exeter) on the chance of getting something interesting about it by means of psychometry. The first impression it gave her (not having been told anything about its history) was one of horror, causing her to tremble and perspire, and impelling her to hurl it away. She said it had been connected with some terrible catastrophe in which many persons, including its owner, had lost their lives, and that it had been through terrible conditions in various times, and had been from one place to another —“ a bloodthirsty, fiery influence.” She thought it had come from a land inhabited by brown people, and saw, in connexion with it, a hairy human hand like the hand of a gorilla.

Mr. Brown informs me that a similar ball was found in the same district some years ago, and it would be interesting to find out more about this, and whether such “stones” have been elsewhere discovered in Derbyshire. Whether the ball had any connexion with the mysterious light is another question to which no answer has as yet been found. As far as I am aware, such lights have never been accounted for by any object buried beneath the place where they were observed.

The Occult Review, June 1920: pp 342-3

Am I right in thinking that the Kniveton ball assumed a greater importance because of the spook light that revealed its position? Such lights are often thought to mark the site of buried treasure. And what about those symbols “inked” on the stone? Or the soft center to the stone? And that “terrible catastrophe” sensed by the sensitive lady, not to mention the Hairy Hand?  It doesn’t appear that anyone tried to profit from a hoax or start a cult based on the Stone That Was Guarded by Lights. Is this really such an odd stone or just a misunderstood one?

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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 Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead. And visit her newest blog The Victorian Book of the Dead.

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