My wonderful Mother-In-Law (and Brad's "Mum"), Ramonde, sent this to me and I would like to share it here:
"When Brad was only 2 (about 1980) we went up to Ballina, Australia, to stay with my sister and her husband. My brother-in-law took me out to see The Lismore Cross, and Yes! it did glow very brightly!!!!! We went at about 9pm so it was already dark out and there were no other lights around. There was no moon that night either because there was a bit of cloud cover. It was like looking at a neon light!! We checked it out and there was no where for any artificial lighting to be used that could be seen - no possible way that the stone was artificial or could be lit from inside it!!!!!"
The original cross and gravesite of William Steenson - picture taken in October 1927. This is the way it looked during the day. Note - looks like a very typical gravestone of the period.
The original cross "glowing" - photograph by Warren Croser published in The Northern Star on 6 April 1984.
On September 30th, 1907, William Thomas Thurling Steenson, a 29 year old railway worker, died as a result of a shunting accident while trying to stop a runaway train carriage or hopper at nearby Mullumbimby. He was buried in what was then called the North Lismore Pioneer Cemetery on Terania Street in the outskirts of town in Lismore, Northern NSW, Australia. In 1978, seventy years after his death, the story of Mr. Steenson's glowing gravestone gained the attention of media, leading to global attention.
It was discovered than some of the locals had known about the glowing stone for more than 60 years but had kept it quiet trying to avoid the very religious fervor the crowds were starting to display. The locals began noticing the glow sometime during World War I - 1914 to 1918. The stone glowed sporadically at first, but sometimes for a week at a time. It seemed to increase in illumination power until it glowed 24 hours a day but was only truly visible from twilight til dawn. The cross was made of Balmoral red granite from Scotland, and bore a carving of a Masonic compass-and-square symbol below the name. Even though he was a member of several fraternal lodges, Mr. Steenson had no outstanding interest in religious or occult matters. An out-of-towner happened upon it and started spreading the word. Before that, it was often used as a prank to scare newcomers in town - usually children were offered a penny if they would go read the name off the stone... after dark of course.
The cemetery stopped any a new burials soon after Mr. Steenson's death, possibly because they knew it was glowing. It was in quite a neglected state, with overgrown weeds and gravestone deterioration when the media controversy began in 1978. As the rumors of a glowing or 'fiery' cross started to draw crowds in the hundreds, it forced the locals to set the cemetery to rights. Soon people from all over Australia & beyond, and from every walk of life came to see the stone.
The locals began to see even more vandalism from the faith healers, scientists, religious 'pilgrims', psychics and the curious that were flooding the town. Vandals and souvenir hunters, alike, were using hammers, stone chisels and even rocks to chip off pieces of gravestone. People wanted to be healed, wanted to rub the stone for luck, or wanted a chunk of it as a relic or lucky piece. Some just wanted to talk to it, wanted enlightenment from it, or wanted to witness the paranormal phenomenon for themselves. Even though the townspeople wanted the notoriety to stop, the local papers ran articles about the phenomenon, explaining it as some kind of reflection of the red granite from the street lights or the moon. The nearest street light was nearly a kilometer away and it seemed to glow even when there was no moon, as my Mother-In-Law witnessed for herself. Surely, the Steenson's gravestone is not the only one made of red granite from Balmoral. Some believe it was absolutely supernatural in origin. Perhaps some sort of phosphorescent quality? None of the tests run on the stone could determine the light's source for sure.
In 1986, while in a period of fresh media attention, the gravestone disappeared. Not a trace of the stone could be found. The pedestal that it rested on does not exude any light on its own.
Two years later a replica was constructed from the same Balmoral red granite and set exactly as the original, but light has never shone from it. The original has never been recovered. Evidently, wherever it is, it is not in the public view, or it no longer glows. Hopefully, Mr. Steenson's relatives, who did not want the world to know about the stone to start with, can quietly recede back into obscurity.
There has been talk of a glowing gravestone in a small cemetery in the north-western town of Mungindi, a border town between Queensland and NSW, but I could find no evidence to support the story. After all, I know that some Australians love to warn tourists about Drop Bears - said to be unusually large, vicious, carnivorous koalas that inhabit treetops and attack their prey by dropping onto their heads from above - don't they? (Clearing throat quietly, don't they Norm?)