Ghosts and Witches

Leona Newton White

Leona Newton White was a granddaughter of Jacob Hunter (2)(b. 1-18-1809 d. 12-21-1874) and Mary Moore Duncan Hunter (b. 5-1-1814 d. 8-21-1896).  She was a daughter of Lucina Evaline Hunter Newton (1853-1933).

Leona Newton White (b. 1-5-1886 d. 5-29-1982) recorded her memories in notebooks that were passed down in her family.  Leona dedicated her writings to her daughter Pauline White Mason (b. 12-25-1911 d. 4-2-2003).  Leona’s notebooks were given to the Jacob Hunter Trust for copying by her grandson, James Mason of Indianapolis, IN.

In her (Aunt Pop) mothers time [Aunt Pop is Mary Moore Duncan Hunter, wife of Jacob Hunter (2).  Aunt Pop’s mother was Lydia Spiller (1771-1843), a daughter of Warrenton King Spiller (1737-1840) and Leannah Nicholas Spiller (1740-1771) and wife of John Pekin Duncan, Jr. (1763-1834).  “In her mothers time” refers to Lydia Spiller] people believed in ghosts and witches.  She Mary Moore Duncan Hunter (Aunt Pop) said she had seen her mother Lydia Spiller get a switch and whip the churn when the butter wouldn’t come.  She said she was whipping the witches out of it.

My grandmother Aunt Pop was very superstitious herself and knew all the old superstitions.  She knew my mother Lucina Evaline Hunter Newton was not superstitious and did not believe in ghosts and witches.  And she Aunt Pop tried hard not to believe in them herself but childhood teachings are hard to discard.

I remember one of our neighbors came to spend the afternoon with my mother Lucina Evaline Hunter Newton bringing her three small children.  They all had the sore eyes.  Grandmother Aunt Pop would not look at their eyes for fear she would catch the sore eyes.  If she forgot and did look, she would place her two thumbs side by side and steadily look at her thumbnails for a minute or two.  That was an old fashioned preventative for sore eyes.  She didn’t take them (catch sore eyes) but we children did.  Maybe we didn’t look at our thumbs enough.  I thought so at the time and thereafter I was very careful to look at my thumbs if I chanced upon anyone with the sore eyes.

One of my father’s friends spent the night at our house while we had the sore eyes and my sister Lula cried all night with her eyes; they hurt her so bad.  We children thought she had disgraced us for life.

For the rooster to crow before the door of the house meant company, and it was an omen of death for a bird to fly into the house.

If the horses tail and mane were tangled and knotted in the morning, it was a sign that witches had ridden them the night before.

On no account must we kill a frog or our cows would give bloody milk.

For a hen to crow meant bad luck unless the hen was killed.  Many an old hen crowed herself into a pot with dumplins in those days.

It was also considered bad luck for a girl to whistle.  One of the sayings at that time was, “a whistling girl, and a crowing hen, will always come to a bad end.”

For the nose to itch meant company.  If the foot itched you would walk on land you never had before.  And, if your hand itched you would shake hands with a stranger.  If you back itched, that meant a whipping sure.

It was bad luck to start somewhere and have to go back into the house again, but if you would make a cross with your toe on the ground and spit in it, then you could safely go back.

Every unusual thing that happened was thought to be an omen, and every disaster was supposed to be caused by a witches curse.

If any stock died from an unknown cause, everyone supposed it to be bewitched by some witch that was mad at the owner.  One sure way to find out was to burn the dead creature and the witch that bewitched it would began to cramp in the limbs and the only remedy was to send to the owner of the animal and borrow turpentine to rub on.  If they loaned the turpentine the cramping would immediately stop.  If not, it would continue as long as the animal was burning.  Consequently, every old person that was crippled with rheumatism was looked upon with suspicion.

She Aunt Pop would tell us children all these things and many more, and then would say, “But this is just all old folk sayings.  I don’t suppose any of it is true.”  We were all so glad when grandmother came to stay with us and we never wanted her to leave.