The Shirting Needle & Other Appalachian Tales of Bewitchment

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Granny Witch. Artist unknown. See signatures at bottom of etching. (Pinterest)

The Old Cap-Woman

The following stories come down from American ethnologist, Frances Albert Doughty, who recorded them in his journal in 1899, and later published them in an article called “Folklore of the Alleghenies”. Doughty credited the source of the story to “one of the oldest residents of Monroe County” who claimed the bewitching events took place duringthe 1840’s:

Not so long ago, in Monroe County, there was a woman who lived down near the sweet springs who was always seen with an old-fashioned bonnet cap on her head; nobody ever saw her without the cap. She was a hard, grim-lookin’ monster. During the rare instance when anybody was watchin’ to see her untie her cap strings, and remove the cap, it was said. they never could see anything underneath it, her very likeness disappearing, until she’d put the cap back on her head.

The Strange Calf

When the old cap-woman first came to Monroe County from somewhere over in Botetourt County it was said, she lived over a small forested hill from a man and his wife who’s two children walked to and from a nearby school every morning and afternoon.

The story goes that an odd calf began to follow the children along the route to school, and had been in the habit of “attackin’ ‘em and bitin’ ‘em, when they was walkin’ to school”. When the children became too afraid to walk to school, their father decided to investigate. One day, about the same time the children would’ve been passing the location where the attacks seemed most often to occur, the father concealed himself one day and was watchin’ to catch the calf. On that occasion it come out and attacked the children on a bridge across a little stream of water. The father chased and caught the calf and cut off its ears with a knife.

Folks in Botetourt County had believed for some time that the old woman was a witch, possessed of some uncommon art. They said she could turn herself into a calf, and had been known to do so on numerous occasions. Interestingly enough, the next time the old woman was seen around town, a crowd mobbed her, and pulled off her cap. As was expected, she was missing both ears!

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“Witch-Compass”, a Horror Story by Graham Masterton … an Excerpt

AE89A34A-46D8-4738-A3A5-AE02E1D1B8DEOn his last night in Libreville, Paul went for a long aimless walk through the market. A heavy rainstorm had just passed over and the air was almost intolerably humid. He felt as if he had a hot Turkish towel wrapped around his head, and his shirt clung to his back. There were many things he would miss about Gabon, but the climate wasn’t one of them, and neither was the musty smell of tropical mold.

All along the Marché Rouge there were stalls heaped with bananas and plantains and cassava; as well as food-stands selling curried goat and thick maize porridge and spicy fish. The stalls were lit by an elaborate spider’s-web of electric cables, with naked bulbs dangling from them. Each stall was like a small, brightly colored theater, with the sweaty black faces of its actors wreathed in theatrical steam and smoke.

Paul passed them by, a tall rangy white man with short-cropped hair and round Oliver Goldsmith glasses, and already he was beginning to feel like a spectator, like somebody who no longer belonged here.

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House of John Proctor, Witchcraft Martyr, 1692, by Wm. P. Upham

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John Proctor House, Peabody, Massachusetts. (Public Domain)

House of John Proctor, Witchcraft Martyr, 1692

Wm. P. Upham

Peabody: Press of C. H. Shepard, 1904

[A paper read by William P. Upham at a meeting of the Peabody Historical Society at the Needham house, West Peabody, September 2nd., 1903.]

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Map showing the location of the John Proctor House used in Upham’s book. (Public Domain)

Note on John Proctor:

John Proctor was the first male accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials. He was accused in April of 1692 during his wife Elizabeth Proctor’s examination. At the time, the Proctor family was living on this farm, where Proctor also ran a tavern called the Proctor Tavern, in what was then the outskirts of Salem Village. After Proctor’s arrest, Sheriff George Corwin raided the farm and confiscated all of the beer, food and valuables on the property.

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John Proctor was found guilty on August 5 and executed on August 19, 1692 at or near Gallows Hill. Proctor’s family reportedly retrieved his body from the execution site and buried it on the northeast corner of the family farm. The farm was later passed down to Proctor’s son, Benjamin, and it remained in the family until the late 1800s. It is not known what happened to Proctor’s original house but there is another house still standing on the property that is often referred to as the John Proctor house despite the fact that historians believe it was built in the 1700s by Proctor’s son Thorndike Proctor. The house and the farm are privately owned.

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Transcriber’s Note: Sections of this text have been quoted from historical documents written with great variability in spelling and punctuation. These inconsistencies have been retained. A list of corrections made to the 1904 portions of this text can be found following this text.

It is now nearly forty years since I assisted my father, the late Charles W. Upham, in the preparation of his work on Salem Village and the Witchcraft tragedy of 1692, by collecting what information could be obtained from the records as to the people and their homes in that locality. In doing this I was enabled to construct a map showing the bounds of the grants and farms at that time. On that map is represented quite accurately the Downing Farm, so called, owned, in 1638, by Emanuel Downing, father of Sir George Downing, and occupied as tenant, in 1692, by John Procter, the victim of the witchcraft delusion. When I made the map I knew that John Procter at his death owned, as appears by the inventory of his estate, fifteen acres of land in Salem, but I was not able then to locate it with exactness. Lately, in making a more complete study of the records relating to the Downing farm and the surrounding lands I have learned the exact situation of the fifteen acre lot owned by him, and also that he had a house upon it as early as 1682 and until his death in 1692. It appears that this lot is the place where he was buried, according to the family tradition, although the knowledge as to its being once owned by him seems to have passed out of the neighborhood for more than a century.

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“Thirst” a Horror Story by Gerald W. Page, an Excerpt…

‘“Hush,” said his mother. “A child your age shouldn’t even know about such a thing. They shouldn’t even let you see those picture shows and horror movies…”

The boy’s grandfather stopped eating and looked up at his daughter, the fork poised in mid-air above the beans that were his supper. “He ought to know. A boy lives this close to Overhill Mountain ought to know about the things that go on up there.”

“He won’t live here all his life,” she said. “He’ll get an education… You’ll see. He’ll go North to live.”

“But it’s daylight, Ma,” the boy said, courage bolstered by his grandfather’s words. “Everybody knows they crumbles up in daylight. I saw a movie where—”

“They don’t die in sunlight,” said the grandfather. “Sunlight robs their strength. They’re things of the night and have no strength in the day—but it doesn’t kill them if they aren’t exposed too long. How long, depends on how strong they are to begin with. But they do hate the sun. I think the reason they’re scared of crosses is that the holy things shine like the sun to them—”

“I don’t want my boy to know about them, Daddy.”

The old man went on, ignoring her. “They do have to go back to their grave, like in the movies, but it don’t kill them to spend a day away from it. It’s the need for that grave, though, that’s strong in them. That and the fear of the sunlight. Those are strong in them and only thing that’s any stronger is the Thirst.”’

– Gerald W. Page, “Thirst”—from The Year’s Best Horror Stories, Series II, ed. Richard Davis (Daw 1972)

The Diary of Xander Tully, a Novella-in-Progress by Sanguine Woods, Coming Winter, 2018

22FE38E1-A688-4586-AA8C-B3C173D42767Dear Book Lovers and Ardent Readers,

RE: A quick note from the writer’s desk…

Greetings!

Working on my novella The Diary of Xander Tully. It is a frightening tale set in the years before America had become a nation, up in the woods of what is now the border between Michigan and Canada, where French-Canadian settlers have started a fledgling colony led by two old families.

Xander Tulley is a stranger here. His origins are not known to the community. But he is a clever man; he shows the world a practical and rational side; a lover of facts and the path they reveal to truth. But Tulley has other sides. He hails from a foreign land, across the sea. His people are tall, fair of hair and pale of skin. He appears as an artisan printer in the colony of River Raisin, where the villagers have a respect for the past and their heritage (one of the families traces its roots all the way back to a French king).

When Tulley becomes curious about a tale of an odd grouping of stones located in the deep woods that begin about a mile northeast of the village, he is drawn to the site. There is no visible path to the outcropping, and reaching it is difficult unless you know the woods, and the way. The stones circumscribe what appears to be a gash in the earth, an opening some five paces across at its widest. The villagers don‘t appear to know of the spot, its history, or the fact that a grove of trees surrounds the area in almost a perfect circle. They are deciduous trees, “evergreens”—-and they are the only trees in the wood that turn the color of glowing embers when autumn steals the light from summer and creeps toward the winter solstice.

The story of the woods is old. Some things—some geographies, secrets—-some stories—-lay quiet and undisturbed for a reason. Xander Tulley has been dreaming about the burning trees. His preoccupation with learning the history of the Wood leads him to seek out an indiginous tribe that once dwelt near the area, but has since moved higher north. It is in the tribe’s legends, wrapped tight within in an ancient language, that Tulley begins to see a story form in the forgotten shadows of time, one that once breathed life, and should now be left alone.

Xander Tulley reaches a proverbial fork in the road, where he may learn more about himself than he ever cared to know; and where he will be faced with making the hardest decision he will ever have to make.

Stay tuned for more!

SW

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The Witches MEGAPACK® — New Ebook of Horror Stories for $.99!

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Table of Contents

  1. Thou Shalt Not Suffer, by Matt Neil Hill
  2. No Holds Bard, by Adrian Cole
  3. Laying The Hairy Book, by Josh Reynolds
  4. Here Is Where Your Proud Waves Halt, by Erica Ruppert
  5. Vicious Circles, by Paul Dale Anderson
  6. Assorted Shades of Red, by Franklyn Searight
  7. Strange Days in Old Yandrissa, by John R. Fultz
  8. Fertility Rites, by Glynn Owen Barrass
  9. The Witch’s Heart, by Rachel Bolton
  10. Hag Race, by Andre E. Harewood
  11. Best Friend Becky, by Wayne Faust
  12. The Rat in the Rabbit Cage, by Ashley Dioses
  13. Two Spells, by Neva Bryan
  14. Pulled Over, by Paul Spears
  15. The Witch of Skur, by L.F. Falconer
  16. Cat and Mouse, by Duane Pesice
  17. Last of the Ashiptu, by Paul Lubaczewski
  18. Firestorm, by Richard H. Durisen
  19. The Witch of Pender, by John Linwood Grant
  20. The Nora Witch, by Brandon Jimison
  21. The Broken Witch, by Scott Hutchison

*Also includes: poetry by Maurits Zwankhuizen, Lucy A. Snyder, David F. Daumit, S.L. Edwards, Lori R. Lopez, Frederick J. Mayer, K.A. Opperman, Clay F. Johnson, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Oliver Smith, and Darla Klein.

“I’ll breathe a spell, shall Cleve the ground…”

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“He took the sacramental chalice, and stretching forth his bare arm, cried in a loud voice:

‘Come ye viewless ministers of this dread hour! come from the fenny lake, the hanging rock, and the midnight cave! The moon is red—the stars are out—the sky is burning—and all nature stands aghast at what we do!’

Then, replacing the sacred vessel on the altar, he drew, one by one, from different parts of his body, from his knotted hair, from his bosom, from beneath his nails, the unholy things which he cast into it.

‘This,’ said he, ‘I plucked from the beak of a raven feeding on a murderer’s brains! This is the mad dog’s foam! These, the spurgings of a dead man’s eyes, gathered since the rising of the evening star! This is a screech-owl’s egg! This, a single drop of black blood, squeezed from the heart of a sweltered toad! This, an adder’s tongue! And here, ten grains of the gray moss that grew upon a skull which had lain in the charnel-house three hundred years!’

And his eyes seemed like balls of fire as he cast them upwards. ‘I call ye once! I call ye twice! Dare ye deny me! Nay, then, as I call ye thrice, I’ll wound mine arm, and as it drops, I’ll breathe a spell shall cleave the ground and drag you here!’”

– William Mudford, “Reign of Terror”

Source: “I’ll breathe a spell, shall Cleve the ground…”