About all I ask from the Blog Gods is that every so often, they send me stories about towns haunted by sinister witch cats. The “Buffalo Enquirer,” January 22, 1897:
Toledo, O., Jan. 22. About twenty-one miles out of Toledo in a little town known as Richfield Center, a remarkable condition of affairs exists, and the German country residents are panic stricken. Nearly twenty families are down with a disease which baffles them completely. They can find no explanation for it, and tell extraordinary tales of the singular manifestations of some evil influence among them. They believe they are bewitched, and nothing can move them from this opinion.
The afflicted ones insist that they can neither eat nor sleep, and that many of their number are slowly dying from witchcraft. A. F. Miller, a farmer, came in from there last night after a daughter who was in the city and whom he wanted to go home and assist in nursing her mother who is down with the disease. In his family there are also four sons stricken, and one of them is near death. He says, and in this Henry Nieman, another farmer, confirms his story, that at night their great trouble occurs. Black cats, in some mysterious manner, enter the bedrooms, no matter how securely the doors may be fastened, and hiss, snarl and caterwaul about the room, leap up on the bed and follow the inmates about the room when they arise. If the bedrooms are vacated the animals disappear as miraculously as they appear.
The epidemic, affliction or plague started three or four weeks ago, although a disease somewhat similar existed in the community last autumn. The youngest son of one of the families who is afflicted cannot sleep in a bedroom, but lies down in the kitchen beside the stove. He will not go into a room where there are any beds. It is claimed this is true with the children in at least a dozen other families.
One woman, who has three children, says that they have all been sleeping in one room recently, and that as many as four of the black cats have entered the room at a time and their actions are such as to frighten the strongest hearted. A farmer, Andrew Wolson Miller, it is related, put up a stove in his barn and took his family there to sleep, but they experienced the same illusions as in the house. The livestock also became frantically alarmed.
Miller says the farm horses, which have been in good condition until recently, will suddenly snort and rear around their enclosure, wild with fright. Sometimes the animals will do this for several hours at a time, until completely exhausted. Several have died as a result of fright and exhaustion. The milk of the cows in these families, it is alleged, is red, and this is cited as one of the surest evidences of witches.
Another remarkable part of the story, as told, is that the feathers in their pillows and beds have been found to be formed in perfectly made wreaths, hard and compact. Mrs. Miller says that she has destroyed at least ten pounds of feathers in a hope of removing the spell, and that the other women in the neighborhood have burned whole feather beds for the same reason. One man says that wooden chips in a box near a bedroom door curled into wreaths.
Doctors seem unable to give any relief or diagnose the condition of affairs. They are of the opinion that the trouble arises from some sanitary arrangement from which a disease which plays havoc with the imagination grows and which is slowly spreading in the neighborhood.
As late as May of that year, newspapers continued to report weird, mysterious illnesses and deaths in Richfield Center, for which no cause could be found other than our goblin cats. Then, as generally happens, the story seems to have quietly faded away with no known resolution.