Stars and Rumours of Stars. Part 3
Kevin McClure

After this, as will be seen, the Cambrian News started to take a different attitude to Mary Jones and the paranormal events of the Revival, and the continuing story was left to the Barmouth Advertiser. In a way, the reports are surprisingly sparse, considering their subject-matter, but I rather suspect that by March 1905 the whole business was becoming something of and embarrassment to the respectable society of the Barmouth area. Perhaps that is why such reports as were published were less credulous than before. Three reports follow – the last seems particularly valuable. The first, again by Beriah G Evans, appeared in the Barmouth Advertiser of 23.3.05. For once, witnesses are clearly identified:

“The Rev. H D Jones, Baptist minister of Llys Iolyn, Llanbedr RSO Merionethshire, has just given me particulars of a remarkable personal experience of these lights in connection with Mrs Jones’ mission. I give here his statement in full, with the names and addresses to authenticate it: -

“Mrs Jones was holding a revival meeting at a Methodist schoolroom, Ty’n-y-Drain, a mile and a half from Llanbedr in the direction of the mountains. We had a most effective meeting, Mrs Jones being at her best. A local farmer, Mr Morris Jones, Uwch-law’r-Coed, drove Mrs Jones back to her home at Egryn, there being three others also in the car. I, in company with Mr and Mrs Hugh Jones, Bryn Hyfryd, Llanbedr, followed on foot a short distance behind the vehicle. It was about 11 o’clock at night, Monday, March 13th, with a little drizzling rain, but not very dark. Mrs Jones had previously assured us that the ‘Lights’ had accompanied her there that night, though none of us had seen them.

After proceeding some distance the mysterious ‘light’ suddenly appeared above the roadway, a few yards in front of the car, around which it played and danced, sometimes in front, at other times behind Mrs Jones’ vehicle. When we reached the crossroads where the road to Egryn makes a sharp turn to the left, the ‘Light’, on reaching this point, instead of following the road we had travelled and going straight on as might have been expected, at once turned and made its way in the direction of Egryn in front of the car!

Up to this point it had been a single ‘light’ but after proceeding some distance on the Egryn road, it changed. A small red ball of fire appeared, around which danced two other attendant white lights. The red fire ball remained stationary for some time, the other ‘lights’ playing around it. Meanwhile the car conveying Mrs Jones proceeded onwards, leaving the ‘lights’ behind. These then suddenly again combined in one, and made a rapid dash after the car, which it again overtook and preceded. For over a mile did we thus keep it in view. Mr and Mrs Hugh Jones were together the whole time, and saw what I have described, and we are each prepared to make sworn testimony to that effect if desired.” Replying to questions I put to him, the Rev.Jones said he had frequently travelled that road before, late at night, but had never seen any such ‘light’ there before. He had made inquiries of respectable farmers, lifelong residents of the neighbourhood, and they all affirmed the same thing.”

The second report is from the edition of 20.4.05, an article titled, ‘The Merionethshire Seeress – the Lights seen at Wrexham.” It would seem to be by a staff writer -

“This week Mrs Mary Jones of Egryn, the ‘Merionethshire Seeress’, is conducting revival meetings in the Wrexham district. Some of the women present at the afternoon meeting on Monday declare that they saw a light hovering over the head of Mrs Jones while she was speaking and praying.

At the evening meeting, during the time she delivered a very powerful address, and while she offered a most earnest prayer, the ‘lights’ were seen by a large number of people in the chapel. The first was a flash like lightning while she delivered the first part of her address; a second flash appeared when she began in her address to describe the ‘lights’ in the Egryn district, and a third flash was seen when she was praying. She said in the course of her address that the ‘lights’ had appeared wherever she had visited, with two exceptions, and now she knew that she had not been divinely guided to go to those places where the lights did not follow her. The visit of Mrs Jones, followed by the lights, has created quite a sensation in the district.”

A report of an investigation by apparently responsible witnesses, from the Barmouth Advertiser of 27.4.05. The places mentioned are in the area of Llangollen -

“Mrs Jones told a correspondent she had seen the lights at Pontcysyllte, Cefn Mawr and Vroncysyllte. The ‘lights’ appeared over several cottages in Vroncysyllte in which were persons who were spiritually troubled . . .

To test the claims of the seeress, a party consisting of the Revs Huw Parry, Congregational Minister, Acrefair, A Lloyd-Hughes, Wesleyan Minister, Cefn Mawr, and Thomas Jones, of Vroncysyllte was organised and visited the ‘infected’ area at ii.30pm on Wednesday night.

Interviewed on Friday afternoon, Mr Parry said, ‘We posted ourselves on the north end of the Pontcysyllte (Agueduct) at 11.30pm, and watched continuously for over an hour over the valley of the Dee, and particularly over some fields near the Argoed farm. Twice I distinctly noticed a large ball of fire rise from the earth and suddenly burst luridly. On the third occasion I saw a similar light travelling towards Vroncysyllte.’ Mr Hughes, who was also interviewed gave corroborative evidence of the third manifestation, and all three persons stated that they saw the lights twice afterwards. Mr Hughes says the light resembled electricity. It rose from the earth, and was certainly not sheet lightning. He was certain it was no light from any carriage, as no conveyances were about at midnight. Mr Parry added that all thre were sceptical at first, but they returned to their respective homes thoroughly satisfied that some mysterious phenomenon had appeared in their midst simultaneously with the visit of the seeress.”

The only serious and protracted enquiry made at the time of the Revival was that conducted by the Society for Psychical Research. The major part of this enquiry, which was organised by the Rev.A T Fryer, a member of the SPR Council, was a postal questionnaire. While this produced a considerable response, and while the Rev.Fryer displayed great perception in his discussion of the events in the SPR Proceedings of December 1905, the frequent anonymity of the reports, and their vague dating both present significant problems. The accounts are, however, worth quoting at length. These letters were sent in response to questionnaires distributed by the Rev.Fryer.

1. From Mary Jones herself, on 16.1.05 -

“I have seen the light every night from the beginning of the Revival, about six weeks ago. Sometimes it appears like a motor-car lamp flashing and going out, and injures nothing at all; other times like two lamps and tongues of fire all round them, going out in one place, and lighting again in another place far-off sometimes; other times a quick flash and going out immediately, and when the fire goes out a vapour of smoke comes in its place; also a rainbow of vapour and a very bright star.” I asked if they had been seen by anyone who had not been converted and the answer was yes. She said that the lights were always seen out of doors, and at about six o’clock in the evening.”

2. A young woman of some education wrote (4.2.05).

“I saw the light you refer to one night at the beginning of January (between 10 and 10.30pm). At first I saw two very bright lights, about half a mile away (it was between Dyffryn and Llanbedr) one a big white light, the other smaller and red in colour. The latter flashed backwards and forwards, and finally seemed to have become merged in the other. Then all was darkness again. It did not appear in the same place again, but a few minutes after we saw another light which seemed to be a few yards above the ground. It looked like one big flame, and all around it seemed like one big glare of light. It flamed up and went out alternately for about ten minutes, very much in the same way as some lighthouses.”

3. “It was hovering above a certain farmhouse, and it appeared to me as three lamps almost three yards apart, in the shape of a Prince of Wales’ feathers, very brilliant and dazzling, moving and jumping like a sea-wave under the influence of the sun on a very hot day. The light continued so for ten minutes. All my family saw it at the same time. It was 10.40 at the time.”

4. An account, originally in Welsh, from Mr J.J. of D – - – (possibly Dyffryn), Merionethshire. Dated January 1905.

“In reference to the fire concerning which you wrote to me. There are several here who have seen it in varying forms – sometimes near Chapel Egryn, sometimes on the roof thereof, and sometimes some half mile or more from the place. When I saw it, it was about half a mile from the chapel, and about a mile from where I stood. That was about 5 o’clock in the evening. The first form in which it appeared to me was that of a pillar of clear fire quite perpendicular. It was about 2 feet wide, and about three yards in height. Suddenly another small fire began by its side some two yards distant from the first pillar, and increased rapidly until it assumed the same size and form as the other two pillars. So there were three pillars of the same size and form. And as I gazed upon them I saw two arms of fire extending upwards from the top of each of the pillars. The three pillars and their arms assumed exactly the same shape and remained so for about a minute or two. As I looked towards the sky I saw smoke ascending from the pillars, and immediately they began to disappear. Their disappearance was equally swift with their growth. It was a gradual disappearance; the fire became small and went out. I thought they were natural fire, but it was a very wonderful fire. I never saw fire the same as it in my life – three pillars or columns of the same measure and of exactly the same shape and equidistant from each other. I do not propose to offer any kind of explanation. I leave that to you.”

5. From Mr L.M. of H – - – (Harlech?)

“The night which I am going to relate you my experience was Saturday evening, March 25th, 1905, when Mrs Jones, the evangelist of Egryn, was conducting a service in the Calvinistic Methodist Chapel at Llanfair, a place about a mile and a half from Harlech, on the main road between Barmouth and Harlech.

My wife and myself went down that night specially to see if the light accompanied Mrs Jones from outside Egryn. We happened to reach Llanfair about 9.15pm. It was a rather damp evening. In nearing the chapel, which can be seen from a distance, we saw balls of light, deep red, ascending from one side of the chapel, the side which is in a field. There was nothing in this field to cause this phenomenon, ie. no houses, etc. After that we walked to and fro on the main road for nearly two hours without seeing any light except from a distance in the direction of Llanbedr. This time it appeared brilliant, ascending high into the sky from amongst the trees where lives the well-known Rev.C.E. the distance between us and the lightwhich appeared this time was about a mile. Then about eleven o’clock when the service which Mrs Jones conducted was brought to a close, two balls of light ascended from the same place and of a similar appearance to those we saw first. In a few minutes afterwards Mrs Jones was passing us home in her carriage, and in a few seconds after she passed, on the main road, and within a yard of us, there appeared a brilliant light twice, tinged with blue. In two or three seconds, after this disappeared, on our right hand, within 150 or 200 yards, there appeared twice very huge balls of similar appearance as that which appeared on the road. It was so brilliant and powerful this time that we were dazed for a minute or two. Then immediately there appeared ascending from a field high into the sky, three balls of light, deep red. Two of these appeared to split up, while the middle one remained unchanged. Then we left for home, having been watching these last phenomena for a quarter of an hour.

Perhaps I ought to say that I had an intense desire to see the light this night for a special purpose; in fact, I prayed for it, not as a mere curiosity, but for an higher object, which I need not mention. Some will ridicule this idea, but I have great faith in prayer.”

6. A report from a professional man, Dr.R.J.M. of Tylorstown, of an incident on 27.5.05.

“About 10pm on Saturday night I was coming home with Mrs M. when she drew my attention to a bright light which could be seen over the Libanus (C.M.) chapel, towards the side of the mountain. It appeared as a ball of fire about the size of a cheese plate; it was perfectly fixed. As soon as I saw it I marked its position, in order to be sure that it could not be due to some one with a light on the road which passes over the mountain, but its position was far enough away from the road.

I then looked towards Stanley Town – which is on the same side of the mountain in another direction, and which is nearer to the place I was standing – in order to compare the lights from the gas lamps on the road. There was no comparison between the lights, as the gas lamps were not nearly so brilliant as this light, and the light I saw was of more reddish colour. It remained fixed in the same position for about three minutes, and then disappeared instantaneously. Mrs Jones was in the chapel at the time, holding the meeting. I may say that I was not thinking of the light at the time.”

7. From the Rev.E.W.E. Report of incidents witnessed by him and his wife after attending a meeting with Mrs Jones, on 24.5.05.

“It appeared to us in the form of a column of fire about two feet wide and several feet high, quite distinct, and of the tint of a fiery vapour. After looking at the column for a second or two, then some bright balls of fire appeared in the column near its base, then these brilliant balls would burst and disappear upwards. Then the column would disappear, but in a moment would appear again in the same form, in the very same spot, and then the balls would appear in the column, and the balls burst and disappear upwards in the same way. This we distinctly saw six times. It was, as nearly as we could judge, about 12.45 on Thursday morn, May 25th, and lasted in all about three minutes.”

8. Two reports from a multi-witness incident at Ynysybwl, near Pontypridd, Glam., on 23.7.05. Chronologically, this is the latest report we have of this type of event. It occurred some three weeks after Mary Jones’ mission there, but it may be reasonable to associate it with her. Apparently, the percipients of this event were at the time involved in a spontaneous prayer-meeting, begun while returning from a more formal one on the mountain-side.

“The manner in which the lights appeared to me at the Robert Town Hotel Square was as follows -

Firstly, there appeared in the heavens a very large and bright ball of fire. It was of a much more brilliant lustre than an ordinary star – very much the colour of a piece of iron white-heated. It had two brilliant arms which protruded towards the earth. Between these arms there protruded a further light or lights resembling a cluster of stars, which seemed to be quivering with varying brightness. This was its form when I saw it, but others who had seen it before had noticed it growing from smaller dimensions. It lasted for ten minutes or more.”

“The manner in which it appeared to me was, firstly, a ball of misty light in the heavens about 7 or 8 inches in diameter. It was very misty when it appeared first to me, then it got very much brighter, and as its brilliancy became indescribable, the ball grew very much larger and forming an oval shape, it quivered and glittered very much. Then there appeared to be two great long streaks of misty light coming from the ball forming something like the shape drawn; those almost reached the earth.”

It is perhaps worth mentioning that the participants in this Ynysybwl incident were at the time involved in a spontaneous prayer-meeting, begun while returning from a more formal one on the mountainside.

Though limited by the available tecnonolgy, attempts at scientific investigation were made, and reported by the newspapers:

“Three lonely watchers stood on the mist-swept slopes of the Egryn Hills throughout Monday night waiting for the lights which the local people believed to come from heaven. They were the two special commissioners and the special correspondent from the Daily Mail.

Powerful glasses ranged the hillsides black with night, but never was there a sign of a light appearing except from the two windows of the little Egryn Chapel a mile away, where worshippers were praying and singing with ecstatic fervour.

“Ah, said an old Welshman, you won’t see the light tonight, for Mrs Mary Jones has gone away.”

It was true, we did not see the lights, telegraphs our special correspondent, and it was also true that Mrs Jones was away, but it is only the local villagers who connect the two facts. Mrs Jones, whom the lights are said to follow, had gone to a village fifteen miles away. She is not expected back till tomorrow, but numbers of people believe that the neighbourhood of her residence will continue to be the scene of the lights, in spite of her temporary absence.

Along the lonely road between the hills and the sea scores of devout watchers waited for the lights, but throughout all the dark hours there was no sign of the now well-known balls of fire. Outside the little Egryn Chapel some of the watchers joined in the hymns which were being sung within. On the hillside our long watch was varied by the following incidents, described by Mr Redwood: -

“It was growing dusk when my assistant and I had completed our installation on the lonely hillside. The spot we finally selected had been pointed out to us as the scene of the most frequent occurrences of the mysterious ‘Lights’. We were employing most delicate instruments capable of being influenced by any extraordinary electrical condition of the atmosphere, however small. We therefore felt confident that if these ‘lights’ had an electrical origin we should be able to detect it.

It grew darker and the moon, which had hitherto been giving us welcome assistance by its rays, was completely obscured. Rain was now falling heavily, and the situation began to strike us as uncomfortable. For some time we employed ourselves in testing our ‘lines’, and were pleased to find that we obtained a notable deflection of our instruments by means of one small battery, thus proving our insulation.

The hours passed slowly, and the weather improved, but no abnormal manifestations were visible. The lights shone steadily from the windows of the little chapel at Egryn. we had again tested our ‘line’which we did at intervals throughout the night, using a somewhat powerful electric hand lamp, when we became aware of two figures breasting the hillside at headlong speed.

I walked some distance towards them with the lamp in my hand and, calling out, asked who they were. Giving no answer they rapidly separated, one on each side of me, and rushed straight at our apparatus. I gave chase and arrived in time to see one of the men on his knees before our instruments, taking a snapshot with a camera by the light of a bulls-eye lantern.

“Thought I’d tree’d Mrs Jones’ lights”, he gasped breathlessly and, jumping to his feet, tore on up the hill.

After this diversion time dragged on heavily again, and we had given up all hopes of seeing any abnormal illuminations, when suddenly in the northern sky a brilliant flash appeared, and shortly afterwards a second one, the first flash being followed by a distinct report. This light appeared momentarily, and did not seem to partake of the characteristics of lightning, but was peculiarly like the illumination produced by a magnesium flash lamp. Our delicate instruments did not respond in the slightest degree, and what these flashes really were it is impossible to conjecture.”

 Part Four>>>

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