The Amherst Mystery is one of the most controversial episodes of
poltergeist activity to have ever been recorded. The events of the
story bear a striking commentary on the social inequalities of the
time, but also illustrate the reactions of those coming toward the end
of the spiritualist movement. To this day investigators who visit the
site of the events are baffled by what could have possibly taken place
It all began in August of 1878 when Esther Cox, an 18
year old girl with her married sister, their husband, and two
children. After Esther escaped an attempt by a friend to sexually
assault her she became greatly distressed and extremely introverted.
During this time a strange knocking sound was observed in the house.
As the knockings became more insistent and even terrifying to the
occupants of the house, they were soon followed by other sounds.
Rustling would be heard roaming the corridors, and other strange sounds
would suddenly emit from rooms where no one was present. Upon
investigation there would be no discernable cause. And the incidents
only became more extreme as time went on. Soon objects were
disappearing, reappearing, and flying off shelves toward the occupants
of the house. As Esther grew ill with diptheria the noises subsided.
As she returned to health, however, the noises were followed by
sightings by Esther and the others in the house of a terrifying male
figure. Esther said the man told her several times the words “Esther
Cox, you are mine to kill.” It should be noted that the noises
continued even when Esther was heavily sedated and sleeping.
was convinced that her life was in danger if she did not leave the
property. Attempts to communicate with the entity resulted in taps. A
language was worked out so that communication could begin with the
mysterious entity. The words appeared next to her bed, “Esther Cox,
you are mine to kill” burned somehow into the wall. Random fires would
spring up throughout the house with no obvious cause. Doctors
recommended she leave the place in order for her to find some peace of
mind. Locals would appear from time to time to look in the windows in
the hopes of catching a glimpse of the doomed girl and her spiritual
tormentor. Rumors spread throughout town.
Finally in 1879 the
ghost proved too much for Esther, and she moved to another house with
friends of her family. But something had followed her. As if to show
other witnesses that Esther was not only not responsible for the
sounds, but completely helpless against this bizarre spiritual
tormentor, she was stabbed in the back by a clasp knife. The ghost
claimed through a series of knocks and rappings that it was once a
shoemaker named “Bob Nickle” and eventually other ghosts appeared as
well. Bob Nickle was joined by Peter Cox (a deceased ancestor of
Esther’s) and eventually Maggie Fisher. A live-in investigator named
Walter Hubbell moved in to the house and personally witnessed several
events. When Esther eventually left the house, she lived with a farmer
and almost died in a barn fire that seemingly started from nowhere. It
seems the incident that almost consumed Esther somehow also consumed
the spirit tormenting her, as the events stopped after the almost