ADAIR COUNTY NEWS
Adair County News, June 9, 1909, page one
Old Time Witch and Ghost Stories.
Old time fireside talk was very different to what it is now. Old time people used to talk about kinfolks and genealogies, and ghosts, and witches, &c.
In 1885 there was a man lived in Casey County by the name of John Rooks. His daughter had a spell on her, bewitched. Dr. Christopher Reynierson, who was the witch Doctor of the community, was sent to prescribe for her. After a careful examination he diagnosed the case, a spell laid on her by a witch. In the examination the Doctor used a glass, book and slate. He used the looking glass to see the witch, and when he was through he said it was a decided case of whichery. he prescribed a certain number of tickets, and wrote something on each one, and directed that three be taken each day for 6 days. On the seventh day they were neither to lend or borrow anything.
On the seventh day an old lady by the name of Gallaway came to borrow something and it was at once decided that she was the witch that had put the spell on the girl. Then to further justify this decision they placed an awl under the chair and if she made two efforts to get up she, then certainly was the one that had bewitched the girl. Then to further test the matter when the people in the neighborhood would see her coming they would cross straws in the door steps and if she could not step over them then the one with the spell would get well.
Old Mrs. Owens, of Casey county, was accused of being a witch, and a picture was made of her and put on a tree and shot with a silver bullet and it was expected that the witch would soon die. But Mrs. Owens did not die, but the next day she was found at home, spinning on a flax wheel. She didn't die for a long time after that.
In 1850 there was a man by the name of Bannister Gregory, who lived in Marion county, and believed in witches, and he believed a witch could shoot a hair ball for miles, and shoot through people. So he believed he had been shot by one in the leg and it made a bad sore. Some times the ball of hair would not go through the limb and they would find it in the wound and if they could get it out and burn it the wound would get well.
People used to believe that they [witches] could turn people into horses and ride 100 miles and back the same night. There was a man who use[d] to live in Russell county by the name of old uncle Joby Kearnes, who emigrated to this country from North Carolina, and he told my father that before he came to this country the witches would turn him into a horse and ride him to Russell county and back home the same night.
And he showed my father the very spot where they would hitch him and where he would paw the ground and bite the bushes. The old man would tell that story and seemed to believe it was true. My father did not believe in witches, but lots of people in his days did believe in them, and there may be some who still believe in witches, but they are very few in our days.
The old time people told so many ghost stories that the children were afraid to go out after night. I heard my father tell this story about [a] ghost:
He said when he was a young man going to see his sweet heart (who afterwards became my mother), one Sunday night he was returning home, the road led by the Bethel grave yard where many ghosts had been seen, and he was feeling a little uncomfortable as he approached the grave yard on his way home at a late hour, of course.
Well when he came near the grave yard he stepped lightly and breathed easy, and looked with intense enterest. He all at once saw an immense white sheet rise right up out of the midst of the grave yard (that's what they called them then) and it began to move slowly with kind of a broadening-out appearance. He could see it move and down a little in a kind of a waving motion. It was the first real ghost he had ever seen, and he had been very skeptical on the subject all the time, but that settled the question with him for that was sure enough a ghost.
The path led right through the grave yard chose to where the ghost appeared to be, but he did not go the road that night, but found wag around another way. He made quick time from there home. He went quietly to bed but did not sleep any that night, and did not tell anyone of his experience. But the next morning he was up early and dressed himself and went back to the grave yard to see if he could find anything to explain the ghost mystery. For he did not want to believe in the reality of the ghost stories commonly told then without a thorough examination of the facts in the case.
When he got back to the grave yard he observed at once an old hickory tree that had broken off some 6 or 8 feet above the ground and had not pulled loose from the stump, and had turned it into fox-fire, and that was his ghost. Wise investigations like that soon stopped the people from believing in ghosts. -- W.