; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Tuesday, February 21, 2023


An Appalachia man describes some of the strange stories that he heard while growing up in the mountains. Tales of witches and other magical occurrences told to him by his Grandpa.

I recently received the following account:

"I have heard you talk about your family folk healing background on your YouTube channel. I thought that I'd share some of the stories that my Grandpa used to tell me.

My dad's side of the family is Appalachian Mountain folk from North Carolina. All great storytellers. I grew up listening to tales of witches in the mountains and magical things they'd experienced.

Now, when I was young my dad would cut my hair. He'd scoop it up and then go over to the woods. I never questioned why this was until one day my youngest brother got his first haircut. As usual, when my dad was done he'd scoop up the hair like he always did. My Grandpa was there at the time and he would say to make sure to bury it. Dad nodded and went out into the woods. I asked about it and Grandpa said that witches can use your hair to cast spells on you. He said that you've got to go out when no one can see you, dig a hole, and bury it. Otherwise, the witches will use it to curse you. Grandpa was surprised that my dad never explained how to tell if a witch made a curse out of your hair. He explains that witches can put spells on bits of human hair to make a person sick or to make them do things occasionally. This will result in a hairball. He describes it as a big tangled wad of hair that just appears from thin air wherever you are.

It sounds crazy, I know. But Grandpa calls my older cousin over to stay with us at the time. He says to my cousin to tell this young lad about the time that you found a hairball. He says that one morning when he was at the breakfast table talking to his brother they were sitting there across from each other when a big wad of hair materialized out of thin air. They watched it appear right in front of their eyes as it floated over like a tumbleweed toward my cousin. He jumped out of his chair. Those 'witch balls' can burn your skin he told me. He grabbed a pair of tongs and plucked it out of the air, careful not to touch it. Then he tossed it in the fire. I asked him if anything ever happened after that. He said no. I asked if he had ever been burned by one of those hairballs and he said no but his friend had apparently.

His friend was on his farm one day when he heard a cow in the woods. He was thinking that one of his cows escaped so he went over to bring it back. He followed the sound until he came to a small clearing but there was no cow. Then a bunch of witch balls appear and encircled him. He knew what they were immediately and he took off running. He ran into a few more on his way out and the next day his face, arms, and neck were covered in big burns.

My Grandpa told me to be careful about my hair after that and from then onward I always made sure dad buried my hair if he cut it. I know that it's probably not a true story or at least there's some other explanation for it but I still do it myself, you know, just in case he was telling the truth.

There was something else that my Grandpa would talk about. There's something that happens before some people die. They call it 'The Knocking.' Before someone died they'd hear tapping at the front door. The tapping always stopped as soon as someone went to check on it. The next day somebody in that house would be dead. Sometimes only the person who was about to die would hear it, but usually, multiple people would hear it. Apparently, it happened to someone in my family.

One of dad's cousins was outside with a bunch of friends and family when they all heard someone pounding on the front door of the house. They looked and nobody was there. They figured that maybe one of the kids had gone inside and was playing around, so they got back to talking. Then the pounding started again and my dad's cousin went over to tell the kids to stop messing around, but nobody was there. He closed the door and began walking toward everybody in the yard when the knocking started again. Again, nobody was there. My Grandpa said everyone got spooked because they all knew that this meant a death in the family would occur. The very next day my dad's cousin was found dead in his bed with no apparent cause of death.

One more tale my Grandpa would tell. When my dad was growing up there was some woman named Miss Ada who everybody knew was a 'good witch.' If people were sick or needed help removing a curse they'd go to Miss Ada.

Grandpa sent dad to Miss Ada's house one day to help her chop wood. He worked up a sweat and Miss Ada asked if dad would like some milk. He said sure and followed her inside. She checked the fridge but there was nothing in it. She says that she must have run out. She asked dad to help her with something really quick and she'll get him some milk. Miss Ada grabs a little towel and dad follows her outside. She has this big bundle of sticks tied up next to the house. She grabs the bundle, lays it on a stump, and then covers it with the towel. She asks, 'Can you chop these sticks for me?' My dad obliges, only when he brings the axe down the sticks don't break. Miss Ada removes the towel and lo and behold the bundle of sticks is fine. There's no damage whatsoever. She then grabs a big pail and sets it at her feet. She takes the towel that she used to cover the bundle of sticks and squeezes. As she rings it out a huge amount of milk comes pouring out of it. She fills up the entire bucket and pours two glasses of fresh milk. My dad takes a sip nervously, then he chugs the entire thing. My dad said it was the sweetest glass of milk that he had ever drunk." MN


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