"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Newspaper Clipping of the Day [Updated]

Gettysburg [PA] Times, Sept. 28, 1911


Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Hex Cat of Tumbling Run:

Pottsville, Pa., Sept. 28.--In the gray of the early morning a score of the more intrepid farmers of Tumbling Run Valley and a few interested ones, on invitations given by Miss Mary Isabella Thomas, who alleges that a "hex" or witch has placed a spell on the family through the machinations of a relative living in Orwigsburg, watched in vain for the appearance at the farm house of the black cat, which the young woman says has assumed gigantic shape, at times reaching the maximum height of four feet. They waited with a gun loaded with a gold bullet, but the feline for the first time in many weeks failed to put in an appearance.

Some of her waiting guests believe the evil spirit was frightened away by reason of the fact that they carried Bibles, crucifixes and talismans to break witches' spells. Miss Thomas says that the big cat will surely appear some morning, and then either she or her uncle will shoot it with the golden bullet. They have great faith in the precious metal messenger of death, although lead bullets failed them on other occasions. Miss Thomas has taken up her residence with a neighbor, and the haunted farmhouse has been deserted.

Since she made public her statements that a "hex" is following the family, she has had five offers of marriage. [Ed. note: ?!?!?!] She has decided to accept none of them. Mrs. Sarah Potts has offered to give her sister, Mary, a home with her, despite the fact that she is named by the latter as being the author of the family's misfortunes. Miss Thomas still possesses charms sent to her by a California witch doctor, and she says that she will guard them closely for future use.

The farmers of the Tumbling Run Valley are greatly wrought up over this mysterious "hex" case and want the strange affair thoroughly sifted to the bottom. The Republican, of Pottsville, the largest daily, in an editorial asks for an investigation.

While the "hex" stories from Tumbling Run have created derision and laughter in Pottsville, the authorities were surprised at the number of weird complaints which came in from that vicinity. One farmer, who has brought a large quantity of milk from the Tumbling Run Valley for many years, declares that the fresh fluid was discolored as he brought it to market. There were also three automobile accidents in that vicinity.

The sequel, from the "Spokesman Review," Oct. 8, 1911:

Pottsville, Pa.--Captured by a Bible thrown at it, the only witch cat the "hex" believers of Schuykill county known to be in captivity, has been exhibited in a show window here, behind eight-inch steel bars, where "hex" doctors are anxiously studying the creature to determine whether it is the animal which Miss Mary Thomas blames for the death of her father and a long train of other misfortunes in the Thomas family.

The cat was captured by Charles Lawless, one of the posse which had been looking for the demon creature described by Miss Thomas as sometimes taking on four-foot proportions during calls at the Thomas farm. Having failed to appear while men armed with a gold bullet lay in wait for it Lawless provided himself with an old blunderbuss, said to have been blessed by a saint, a web taken from the intestines of a pure white lamb, a book of counter action voices against witches' spells, and many other talismans, and was rewarded for his labors by the appearance of a black cat as he watched on the Thomas farm.

Too much excited to use his gun Thomas threw a Bible at the cat, whereupon it walked over to Lawless, spit in his face and clawed him. Lawless got a good grip on pussy, however, and brought her to town, though Miss Thomas wasn't sure that it was the witch cat. The cat has the witching green eyes.

Lawless has been advised by several witch doctors from various parts of the country to guard the cat closely, some mystic words being supplied to keep it a close prisoner, until they can carefully inspect it and ascertain positively whether it is really a "hex" cat.

If you think this was the end of the matter, you just don't know your Hex Cats. From the "Reading [PA] Eagle," June 16, 1916:

Pottsville, June 16.--William R. Thomas, who achieved wide notoriety three years ago by his allegations that the burning of his barn at his Tumbling Run farm and numerous deaths in his family, ending in the ruination of the farm, were due to the spell cast by a big black cat, was arrested by the police of this city while he was in the act of setting fire to a double tenement building owned by him on North Third street.

Thomas had soaked the two houses in oil and but for the timely discovery of his plot a dangerous fire in the heart of the city would have been started.

Since the "persecutions" of the hex cat, on the once prosperous Thomas farm, Thomas has lived in this city, but he lately declared the cat was again pursuing him.

He had $1,000 insurance on the building, but this would not pay a mortgage having the first claim. In the possession of Thomas was found a revolver in which was a silver bullet, molded by Thomas himself.

Thomas declared that lead bullets passed clear through the cat without harming it. Thomas' niece, Miss Alda Thomas, who also declares she has been bewitched by the hex cat, tried to shoot herself when taken into custody by the police.

Thomas was sentenced to three months in jail.  Nowadays, of course, he would instead be given his own smash-hit reality TV show.

Update 1/14/2014:  According to the "New York Evening World," the Hex Cat invaded Wall Street in 1911:


7 comments:

  1. I feel sorry for the poor cat. The Bible is a good book (THE good book, you might say) but if I were hit by it when thrown by someone, I might spit and claw the person, too. Being annoyed at having been struck by an object is hardly evidence of demonology. It shows how close to the Dark Ages some parts of our advanced countries were even just a few years ago.

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    1. I don't know what became of the cat they captured, but I hope he made a clean getaway.

      Yes, it's always startling to see attitudes you'd think died out by the Middle Ages linger into our own era.

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  2. Wow. I am sharing this over at my blog. And this was going on as late as the teens!

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  3. Unfortunately, the cat they caught didn't fare too well, as it was nailed to the barn door. In later years, it was quite the activity to go to the ruins of the farm and gawk at the remains of the cat (which was what was called a hexhemeron, supposedly it was born on June 6th and was the 6th in its litter). Also, W.R. (the articles I saw call him W.S.) Thomas was found in about 1918 frozen to death in a little ramshackle hut on the banks of the Run.

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  4. Unfortunately, the cat was nailed to the barn door, so didn't make out too well. In later years, folks used to go out to the ruins of the farm and check out the remains of the cat. Grisly. W.R. Thomas (articles I've seen name him W.S. -- I wonder which was the proper name) was found frozen to death in a ramshackle hut on the banks of the Run in about 1918. Apparently he had become a hobo. The Run has a lot of other stories, too -- giant snakes swimming around, several murders, and an inordinately high number of drownings.

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    1. I feared the poor Hex Cat came to a bad end. Thanks for the additional info.

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