Sunday, November 29, 2009

Witches Infested Harlan County in the 1850's

By Holly Timm
Originally published December 24, 1986
Harlan Daily Enterprise Penny Pincher

Witches infested Harlan County [Kentucky] in the 1850's or so Wood Lyttle told the Rev. James J. Dickey in an interview in 1898. According to Lyttle, it began with "cattle dying and hair balls being found in them, hide whole but the internal part shot to pieces."

Log heaps were made and all the horses, hogs and cows that had died were burned as a torture to the witches. The people who feared the witches kept their pockets turned wrong-side-out-wards, at night, for safety.

Elizabeth Clay Turner, wife of James Turner Sr. and daughter-in-law of William and Susannah Turner, was one of the witches named by Lyttle. The other two witches named by Lyttle were "old Aunt Dinah," a slave of William Turner Sr., and Salina Sturgeon, a white woman who was the concubine or wife of Negro George, also a slave of Turner's.

Turner and his wife, Susannah Bailey, were apparently one of the main targets of the witches. Lyttle speaks of them as being both about 100 years old at this time although other evidence places them in their 80's.

In an attempt to cure the Turners, guards were placed around them and their home at a distance of about 500 feet, so that no one could come in for the four days it took to effect the cure. No one was allowed to enter the circle for if anyone inside of the guarded circle gave or sold as much as the value of a pin the charm would be broken and no cure could be affected.

Lyttle says that negro women would scream that the witches were coming through the roof to them but he goes on to say that some of these women told him that they pretended to be bewitched in order to keep from work.

He also states that the Middletons were especially afflicted by the witches and that women, negro boys and sometimes men were bewitched.

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