"...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, June 9, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

Since few things personify the Strange Company spirit better than “hoodoo cats,” here is a fine example of the breed from the “Cincinnati Enquirer,” March 3, 1892:

English, Ind., March 2. English and vicinity are stirred up by an incident for which, had it occurred in the days of the forefathers, some one would have been ducked in the horse-pond and burned at the stake. For many years Zip Bennett was a prominent and successful farmer of Sterling Township, and he and his family dwelt in peace and plenty within what might be well termed a palatial frame residence in a country like this. All this it at an end. The Bennett family have swapped the home of their youth, where fruit abounded the year around, and where the smokehouse, cellar and granary were never empty, for a little residence in English, valued at no more than $230.

Mr. Bennett and his family claim that their late residence has been haunted by witches in the form of a black cat with a white ring around its neck, which they honestly believe to be one of numerous neighbors versed in the black art. "And," said the old man to your correspondent today, "they are all poor, worthless wretches, and they will never be any better for it; for the devil has that creek, and he will have all of them what's a working by his methods to beat honest people out of their homes. Yea, I swapped my old home to Sam Benz for the little house in the suburbs, but I have had one good night's rest and one day free from the devil’s plague. And this is more than I have had o. the farm these many months.”

The black cat with the white ring around its neck has been guilty of all sorts of pranks, such as sitting before the bread-tray and preventing the "light bread" (wheaten bread) from rising; watching the yeast with the same sinister purpose, and sitting with its eyes fixed upon the oven to prevent the bread from baking properly. On such occasions the bread was sure to be flat, soggy, and sour, unfit for eating. There was no use to kill the d----d thing. Nothing could hit it, and it always vanished like a flash when an attempt was made. Though each room was mouse-proof, the cursed witch went out at the hole left by the carpenter despite bolts and locks. The imp of darkness has been known to evade a bullet and jump at least 100 yards in two leaps.

Other ordeals which these good people had to undergo was to see this veritable witch leap upon the table and select the choice bits, sit on the pillow and make night hideous with its cries, jump upon horses in the stable or set them wild by scratching them, kill young chickens, suck eggs and a thousand other things.

The farm upon which these scenes occurred is not three miles from the town of English, on the Louisville, Evansville, and St. Louis Railway. It contains 128 acres of fine land one third of which is bottom land, a fine orchard, and a lot of meadow land: in short. yesterday morning it contained everything that ought to satisfy a Crawford county farmer in the way of comfortable residence, stable and out-houses. 

Mr. Benz, who is a prominent merchant and sensible man, saw a bargain in this and felt that he could rent it to advantage, as well as to have pasture for his horses and cows.  In one point he was wrong--everyone whom he approached yesterday shook their heads dubiously and showed plainly that they believed as faithfully in the matter as Mr. Bennett and his family did.  No one wanted it. No one would have it as a gift.  Mr. Benz threatened to send to Germany for a kinsman to cultivate it and prove the foolishness of their ideas, but this morning some of Bennett’s old neighbors who wished to end the witch's work at that place set fire to every building on the place. Benz is at a loss what to do. He dreads the effect of the ignorance of a few adjacent farmers may have upon his place, but has given out that he "don't care, he didn't want the houses any way and intends to make a sheep farm of it."

Mr. Bennett’s family claim to have been sick all the time of late months, and that no medicine was beneficial while they remained on the farm. This was especially the case with Mrs. Bennett, who, though but a few days in town, is now moving about her house work with alacrity. The occurrence proves that there are many believers of witchcraft in the community, who are shaking their beads knowingly, but will not name the ones whom they "know" to be disciples of the black art.

1 comment:

  1. I think there may have been other causes of the Bennetts' misfortune than a staring cat, as unnerving as we all know that can be. But two things stand out about this story. One, the name "Zip"; that's going to be the next craze among baby-names, I think. And two, the fact that English, Indiana, has suburbs (according to the U.S. Census, the town had 423 people in 1890...)


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