|Bluefield, WV in 1890
Source: WV History on View
Bluefield, by West Virginia standards, is a decent-sized city, located in Mercer County. It sits in the southeastern part of the state, bordering Virginia, and is home to Bluefield State. It’s also home to a strange tale of witchcraft, chronicled in a 1936 newspaper article:
Witch stories still are believed, it has been found. At least, the story of mysterious happenings near Bluefield is taken seriously.
It seems that many years ago, a small boy suddenly stopped eating, although he was not ill. Every few days, however, a certain neighbor would visit the boy’s home to feed him, and the boy ‘would eat like a pig,’ according to reports, for this man only and no one else.
The boy’s father thought of a way to get to the bottom of the mystery. He drew a picture of the man and tacked it to the wall. He then drove a nail through the head.
The man failed to appear the following day. It developed that he had been stricken suddenly with a splitting headache. The father then withdrew the nail from the picture—and the man’s headache mysteriously disappeared. The boy regained his appetite and never again was troubled by a lack of it.
To this day people familiar with the story believe that the man had placed some sort of spell over the boy, “just for fun,” and the driving of the nail through his likeness caused him to release his strangle hold on the boy.
Throughout Appalachian folklore, you’ll find tales of similar apotropaic measures against witchcraft. An iron nail being driven through a likeness of a suspected witch, an effigy of that witch, or even the witch’s footprint, can be beneficial in binding a witch’s powers and causing physical harm. What I personally haven’t seen much of is tales about taking a child’s appetite, but coming to feed them. I’m not sure what the end game for such an action would be, unless it’s just ‘for fun,’ as the article surmises. This is one of those stories where I’d love to know more…such as what the relationship between this unnamed man and the family was before the boy’s affliction, and was the food being eaten brought from the man’s home, or was it food prepared by the boy’s family? But, maybe I’m reading too much into what is otherwise just a fascinating tale told of Appalachian witchcraft! If you’re interesting in learning more about the protective elements of pins/needles/nails, check out THIS LINK.
Happy Witchy Wednesday!
The Charleston Daily Mail
26 January 1936
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