“The Red-Headed Witch of Ingham”… and more

Posted on October 29, 2010 by

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With only two nights left after tonight, October is getting away from me. Not wanting to miss a few more opportunities to address the topic of ghosts and witches in the Blue Ridge, I’ve got one more about witches that you might find of interest. Once again, one of my favorite story-tellers, Jacob R. Seekford, does us all the favor of sharing this tale, which he wrote in 1930… oh, and note the part where he adds the remark… “No one now has the honor of being a witch.” Wow! most interesting… Anyway, on to the story…

Up at Ingham lived a red-headed woman that all classes of people were afraid of. She was a witch and when she went to the store at Honeyville the people along the road would close up all the doors. Men working along the road would leave their work and go out in the fields. When people had to meet the witch almost all would give her a piece of money. She died about twenty-five years ago. All of the old time witches died years ago. No one now has the honor of being a witch. Many of the old witches would lose their husbands and most of them could talk with their dead. I have heard some of the old witches tell about talking to their husbands, most of whom had gone to rest. I knew of many of the old witches.

Not long after Seekford’s front page article on witches, Jacob H. Coffman wrote of knowing about local witches as well.

Seeing that my old friend Mr. Seekford has been telling you of old time ways and witches, I will tell you what I know about them.

I knew a woman in Page county that was always called a witch, and her real name was “Granny” – who lived and owned what was later known as the Harvey Coffman place near Stanley, Va. There are a few people still living near Stanley that know of the old graveyard of this old today’s family just Southwest of Stanley, if it is there yet.

Whether she was a witch or not I cannot say but one thing I do not know, she kept a padlock on the windlass of her well so that people going to the mountains for huckleberries could not get water from the well. My father had moved from near Mauck in 1869, to the old lady’s neighborhood and as soon as an acquaintance had been formed, she invited our woman folks to call and spend the day, as was the custom of those days. My sister and sister-in-law called on them about 10 a.m. and soon drifted into a homelike entertainment when the old lady put on a big pot of snitz and dumplings on the fire in a kettle handing on a chain, hanging down the chimney. After they had cooked and stewed for a few hours and things seemingly looked bright for a good old winter dinner, until about 2 o’clock the pot and contents were removed and placed in a corner besides the fire-place, so our women folks seeing their prospects vanish for a good dinner, they immediately left for home and never called there again.

I knew some people who took babies to that old woman to have so-called “spells” broken and cured. Again Mr. Seekford speaking of the old woman at Honeyville said all would take to the fields rather than pass her on the road. Well, I can see a lot of wisdom in that for it is often cheaper to run than part with a nickel.

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