Maria Josť Ferreira -
In December 1965, in Jabuticabal, 220 miles from S„o Paulo,
Brazil, a respectable
Catholic family became the centre of malicious and violent poltergeist activity.
To begin with, pieces of brick began falling inside the
house, seemingly from nowhere. A local priest attempted an exorcism but this
only made things worse.
A neighbour, JoŠo Volpe, a dentist, who had studied
psychic matters, became interested and visited the house on 21st December. He
soon realised that the focus of the disturbances was a quiet, pretty 11-year
old girl called Maria Josť Ferreira, who slept in the servants' quarters. Volpe
thought she was a natural medium and took her into his house to see what he
could do. Nothing happened for a few days, but then the bombardments of stones and
eggs began, appearing from nowhere and flying round the rooms. Later Volpe
counted 312 stones
that had fallen inside his home since Maria arrived. Not all of these stones
were pebbles, as is often the case in poltergeist disturbances - one of them
weighed 3.7 kilos. On one occasion a large stone appeared and began descending from the
ceiling; it then broke into two pieces about four feet from the ground. When someone picked up the two pieces, they
seemed to snap together
as if they were magnetically attracted to each other.
Maria began to get used to the
frenzied activity, and was even able to ask the unseen presence for a sweet, a
flower or some other small item, and it would immediately appear at her feet. One day while Maria was out walking with Volpe and a friend, she remarked
that she would like a little brooch. Immediately a brooch appeared at her feet.
Soon after, while out in the yard, Maria was showered with sugarapple fruits.
The fruit had been in the house inside
a bag. The 'spirits' also had a sense of humour; on one occasion a stone appeared out of
thin air, tapped three people lightly on
their heads, and fell on the floor. All three said that it was like being hit by a 'ball of compressed air' rather than a stone.
Perhaps this partly explains why stones 'thrown' by poltergeists rarely hit or
But this state of affairs was not to last.
For some reason the poltergeist changed its
character and one day began causing mayhem in the house. For
almost three weeks plates, glasses and even heavy flower vases were thrown
around the house in all directions. All the tableware was
broken, furniture was thrown about, and pictures were torn from the walls
and flung into other rooms. On one occasion, two people witnessed a glass dish from the kitchen and a mirror from the bedroom cross
in mid air before proceeding to the bedroom and kitchen respectively.
Then Maria herself became the target
for vicious attacks. The poltergeist repeatedly bit her and slapped her on the face
or bottom (see Eleonore Zugun article on this
site for a similar case), leaving bruises all over her body. It threw chairs at her, a large
sofa, and even a gas cylinder which had been wrenched off the wall. Apparently,
it also attempted to kill her by suffocation while she was asleep, by forcing cups or glasses over her mouth and
nostrils.Needles were sometimes found
stuck deep into the flesh of her left heel, even when she had shoes and socks on. Once, fifty-five needles had to be
removed at the same time. When bandages were put on her heel, they would be torn
off without the knots
Things got worse. On 14th March,1966, Maria was eating
her school lunch when her clothes suddenly caught fire, apparently originating from a round
scorch mark that looked like it had been caused by a cigar burn. On the same
afternoon the Volpes' bedroom burst into flames (see the case of Carol
Compton for parallels). Maria lived with the Volpes for about a year
during which the phenomena abated a little but never stopped completely for long.
Finally, in a last desperate attempt to find
a cure, Volpe took her to a Spiritist centre. While there a spirit came and spoke through the
well-respected medium, Chico Xavier, and announced: 'She was a witch. A lot of people
suffered and I died because
of her. Now we are making her suffer too . . .' Back at the Volpes' house
there were special prayers and appeals to spirit guides, as well as 'magnetic
passes' over Maria's body, and although all this prevented any more serious attacks
on the girl, it failed to stop poltergeist activity altogether, and stones,
fruit and vegetables still flew around the house when Maria was present.
Thinking there was nothing more to be done,
the girl was sent back to live with her mother. But there was an unexpected
and tragic end to the case. One day in 1970, when she was fifteen or sixteen, Maria
committed suicide by swallowing formicide mixed in with a soft
drink, and died almost instantly.
This extremely sad
case seems most likely to be either a case of accidental death or perhaps suicide brought on by depression.
Maria may have simply taken the poison deliberately, and the poltergeist
activity originated in her unconscious mind, with no-one or
nothing else involved. Contemporary reports, if they are to be believed, would
have us believe otherwise, citing the materialisations and the other unexplained events
which took place in Marie's presence. There is certainly a
similarity here with the early 19th century Bell Witch poltergeist case, where
John Bell died seemingly after drinking poison. In that
case, the poltergeist, known as 'the Witch', apparently celebrated at his death, and
said it had been responsible for it, though the evidence for this is purely
anecdotal and probably fabricated.
Another point is that it is very rare for poltergeist
activity to become so actively malicious. Usually the poltergeist is characterised by the fact that, though it
reported to cause serious trouble, more often than not no one is
physically harmed. When a poltergeist case became violent in the past, it was often termed
an incidence of 'demonic possession.', as is suggested by the contempt by the
'spirits' for exorcisms. Some have suggested that the 'spirits', whatever they were and
wherever they originated, believed that Maria had been a witch in a
former life? This is an extreme and rather silly suggestion, and one that is entirely without
foundation; it also brings us no closer to understanding what really happened in
this tragic case.
Sources and Further Reading
Playfair, Guy Lyon. The Indefinite
Boundary. London, Souvenir Press, 1976, pp 242-6.
Spencer, John & Anne. The Poltergeist
Phenomenon. London, Headline. 1997, pp 47-8.
Wilson, Colin. Poltergeist! A Study in Destructive
Kent, New English Library. 1982,
© Copyright 2003 by Brian Haughton. All Rights Reserved.