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!