As Beulah Wilson recalls, she and her 9-year-old foster son had just gone to bed the night of Dec. 19, when "an orange, apple and a roll of tape fell off a cabinet in the corner of the kitchen. I thought the cat had done it."
The 65-year-old widow said she placed those objects back on the cabinet and went back to bed. "Then a cake pan fell and silverware fell. I set them back on the cabinet and the cake pan fell again. Then, different objects began falling . . . I never saw anything fall. It would always fall away from me. But the boy saw everything fall. He would say, "Granny, it's going to fall."
As dishes shattered and large pieces of furniture toppled, Mrs Wilson said she telephoned her son, a neighbor, and a sheriff dispatcher, all of whom later said they could hear "things crashing in the background," as the dispatcher said.
That mysterious, still unexplained disturbance, another similar incident at the same house on Dec. 20, and two other disturbances at the home of Mrs. Wilson's natural son, Donald, on Dec. 23 and 24, have shaken this Virginia mountain community of 3,500 people.
A factory town located about 250 miles southwest of Washington, Pearisburg is swamped with rumors of supernatural happenings and a host of inquires from local and national media. Television camera crews have trekked up th long, winding road to the Wilson home on Fletcher's Mountain to film the exterior of the house, about 100 feet from the roadway.
The Giles sheriff's department has posted no trespassing sign around the white frame house because curious area residents have come to see what many now call "the haunted house."
Donald Wilson, a 40-year-old state corrections officer, said he and his mother have besieged with phone calls about the disturbances and some people said "they want to go the house and talk to the spirits,"
Mrs. Wilson has given the child back to the welfare department. Wilson said the family did so because they have not been able to come with any reason for the disturbances except for a theory by a University of Virginia parasychologist, who said the child is responsible for the phenomenon.
Dr. J. G. Pratt of the University of Virginia Medical School said the Perisburg incidents are typical of hundreds of documented cases in psychic phenomenon. He said the child somehow possesses psychic energy, which, when released, causes objects to move.
However, the sheriff's office said it rejects the parapsychologist's theory. A sheriff's spokesman said the sheriff's investigation is not centred on the child. "There is a logical reason and we'll find it," he said.
Mrs. Wilson said on the night of Dec. 19, her foster son unexplainedly asked her to teach him the 134 Psalm in the Bible "He said he wanted to learn it. I read it over to him two or three times," she said.
"He's good kid," said Mrs. wilson, whose husband died in October, 1975.
Neighbors, sheriff's deputies and friends of the family describe the foster son as "very polite and mannerly."
After teaching the boy the Psalm, Mrs. Wilson said they went to bed. That's when the violent disturbance began.
Lake Cardwell, a neighbor and friend of Mrs. Wilson's said. "She (Mrs. Wilson) called and asked me if I felt an earthquake. I said no . . . she said something was tearing her house all to pieces. She asked me if I could hear anything over the phone. And I could hear things falling in the background."
Mrs. Cardwell's husband, Martin, described by a sheriff's deputy as "a responsible person who would have no reason to make a story like this," said, "I saw this old sewing machine rise about 3 inches off the floor (at the Wilson house) and fall over . . . Everything in the kitchen was turned over except the Frigidaire, stove and washing machine. There was nobody in the house but three people. I could see the door and no one came in or went out."
Cardwell, who has known Mrs. Wilson for about 25 years, said he was so frightened by the incident that he moved out of his house for two nights and into the homes his son and father-in-law.
Deputy Sheriff Jimmy Niece, the first investigator to arrive at Mrs. Wilson's home, said as he drove up to the house a carton of soda bottles on the back porch fell to the ground. He said the bottles were in a rack and would have had to have been lifted out of the rack in order to fall to the ground. He said he did not see anyone touch the bottles.
The sheriff's deputies said large cabinets and pieces of furniture were toppled or moved toward the center of three rooms in the house. They said three other rooms in the home were untouched.
None of the four investigating officers said they saw any furniture in the house move. Niece said the little boy told him that the objects that toppled would move and fall slowly, except for the Christmas tree. He quoted the boy "kept falling down every time you would place it upright,"
The deputy sheriff said, "It's unbelievable. I went up there checked for strings, trick mirrors . . . went under the house, checked the foundation and still couldn't find anything wrong."
Donald Wilson said on the night of Dec. 20, he, a brother of his and the boy went back to the house. Wilson said they had somewhat straightened things up in the home when he and his brother went upstairs.
"The little boy was standing at the foot of the stairwell, when it started again," Wilson said. A cabinet that had fallen over the night before, but had since been placed upright, toppled over again, he recalled. He said he could see the boy and that he did not knock over the cabinet. He said the three of them quickly left the house.
Three nights later, on Dec. 23, Wilson said something unusual happened at his house. "The boy had just come into the house where my son was. My son said he went to shut the TV off and the table moved. Then an 18-inch trophy in the room fell (to the floor).
Wilson said the foster son did not touch the table, nor tip over the trophy. "I called the local church people in and we prayed," he said. He said there were no further incidents that night.
The next day, Christmas Eve, Wilson said his two children and the foster son were told they could open their presents early. He said that night the foster son went upstairs and things began falling again.
"Books [from an upstairs bookcase in the hallway] were coming down the stairs like someone was throwing them," said Wilson, who said he could see that the boy was not throwing the books. "I shouted in the name of Jesus, "Stop it!" and took the boy outside the house," Wilson said. He said the disturbance stopped once the boy was outside.
Wilson said he called the sheriff's office and told them to come and get the boy. "I hated to do it. But my 12-year-old daughter was in hysterics and I had to protect my family," he said.
Wilson said the family first did not think that the boy was causing the incidents, but after the last incident and from what the University of Virginia parasychologist told them, they said they concluded that it had to be the child. He said the family has not experienced any other unusual occurences since the boy left them on Christmas Eve.
The child spent Christmas Eve in an upstairs room of the sheriff's office and the welfare office placed him with another family on Christmas Day.
Linda Boggs, a county Welfare supervisor, said the child has been placed with another family in the county, but refused to name the new foster parents. She said the welfare department is trying to protect the child because it is concerned that the incident could harm his future. Mrs. Boggs said the foster child "doesn't understand the reason for the move." She described that boy as "very attached" to Mrs. Wilson.
Another welfare worker familiar professor, said that to her knowledge no incident like the four disturbances at the Wilsons' had ever occurred with the child before and nothing similar to it has happened since he has been placed in the care of another family.
Pratt, the University of Virginia professor, said that normally in these cases, "there is no conscious awareness on the part of the child" that he is the cause of the disturbances.
Pratt, who spent a day interviewing people here as part of his investigation, said he knows that many people are probably skeptical of what has happened. But hundreds of cases have been documented in the literature of parasychology, he said. "It's not strange, but it doesn't happen that frequently," he said.
"None of these cases is exactly like any other," he said in an interview, "but they have typical features . . . they usually begin unexpectedly, run their course, then unexpectedly stop."
Pratt, who was reluctant to comment on the specifics of the case until his investigation is complete, said of the boy. "Let's hope he'll be OK. He deserves a break."