Women veiled in black walked behind men wearing sombre mour-ning suits. The chapel bells rang a muffled peel. The only difference was that there was no hearse, no coffin and no body.
What was being interred in the marble vault of the village's Gulloti family was not human remains but a small metal casket containing a single photograph...
As the priest muttered an incantation, two villagers lifted the black marble slab and a woman leaned in and placed the picture on the top of a coffin bearing a silver plate inscribed "Aldo Gulloti. 1910-1948".
It was a spring day in 1950 and for two years since Aldo's death his widow, Maria, claimed to have been troubled, bewildered and finally terrified by the violent behaviour of something not of this world which had apparently moved into her home.
More than half a century later, Italian psychical researchers are still intrigued and puzzled by the strange and disturbing events and yet another book on the subject is due to be published next year.
Today, Carambia Bene is pretty much like it was all those years ago ... two dozen white houses in various stages of disrepair on a rutted road between usually-parched vineyards. The Gulloti house stands higher up the hillside, larger than most, with flaking white walls, and it was here in April 1948 that the body of Aldo Gulloti, mangled in a car-crash on the Catania-Messina road, was brought while arrangements were made for his burial in the family tomb.
Aldo was only 36 when he died and was by all accounts a remarkable man. He had taken over the family vineyards at 18 on the death of his father and was well on the way to turning them from a bare living into a reasonably prosperous business.
He was a small dark man with intense eyes and an air of restless vitality and his devotion to his wife and family almost verged on obsession.
"I will never leave you," he had frequently told his wife. "Even if I die first I will want you by me". And what Maria took to be just an expression of his love was to take on a more disturbing meaning after Aldo's death. Following the normal rural Sicilian custom, her mother moved from a nearby village to live permanently with her daughter in the Gulloti house and help take care of the two children.
Both women were to notice occasional muffled thumps in the early hours of the morning but dismissed them as the noise of a restive goat or mule, or perhaps a cat jumping from a roof.
But by September 1948, the noises had grown so insistent that such simple explanations could no longer be considered.
On the night of September 15, Maria locked up the house and went to bed about 10pm. As was her custom she turned the key in the walnut writing desk in the living room which had been her husband's and which contained a little money, the deeds to the property and other domestic documents. It also contained a metal box about six inches square containing some family photographs. The lid of the box was secured by a tiny lock.
About 2am, Maria was woken by what she later described as "a noise like a gun going off, but quieter." She instinctively knew that someone was downstairs. She also knew that as there was now no man in the house, it was up to her to investigate.
Shivering with apprehension, she put on a dressing-gown and went quietly downstairs. Now the house was still. Putting on the hall light she saw that the living room door was open — she had closed it before going to bed. The lid of the bureau was hanging open, the lock and hinges wrenched off by brute force.
The money and documents were undisturbed but not the box of photographs. Here again the lid had been torn off and all the photographs swept to the floor ... all except one ... a picture of Maria on her wedding day had been placed on the living room table.
She was later to tell an Italian magazine: "From then on, no matter where I put the photograph, it always ended up on the table. I could think of no rational explanation for this. It