WITCHER CREEK, W.Va — It's likely that few English speakers who have observed the "Witchers Creek" road sign on US-60 have done so without considering the association with the word "witch," surely a coincidence.
But it turns out a witch legend is, in fact, associated with the stream, though few seem to know how believable the tale might be, and fewer appear to know of the tale at all.
Jim Comstock, an admitted serial tall-tale teller, recited the following account of the witch in volume 17 of The West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia, which he edited in 1976. We've included the entire tale here as Comstock rendered it with few amendments.
The Petrified Witch of Witcher's Creek
Kanawha County might have been the only place in the world where you could see a real dead, petrified witch had you lived thereabouts in the early 1900s.
They say an anonymous widow-lady witch had asked friends not to bury her when she died but to place her coffin under a cliff near the head of Witches Creek, now Witcher Creek, and they obliged. Eyewitnesses who saw her laid out in an open chestnut coffin could scarcely be expected to forget the sight of "brown hair, an ugly-and-evil face, and of a bluish or brown color."
While alive, some say she used her mystical powers to help miners in the 1912 strike. They laughed when she predicted Paint and Cabin creeks would flood out and that she would float away on the steeple of a church. But then Paint Creek did flood, and a church was washed away, and although no one saw a witch clinging to the steeple, the prediction helped establish her witch credentials.
As is fitting for a witch story, no one knows what became of her body. Some say it was stolen for a riverboat show. Others say Governor Glasscock ordered its burial. Some even declare that Governor Hatfield tried to squelch the story in 1915 by announcing that there were no such things as witches.
He explained that the Witch's Creek witch was a story invented to keep slaves from running off. That the slave trade had ended 50 years earlier probably didn't add to the force of his argument, especially with those who had seen with their own eyes the petrified body in the coffin on the ground under the cliff on the banks of Witchers Creek.
The name of the creek was, in actuality, taken from that of an early settler by the name of Witcher, an apparent coincidence.
Other tales of witches, devils, and the paranormal in West Virginia
- Windy nights recall legend of Sam Hart and race with the Devil
- Did a lunatic discover West Virginia?
- Introducing the five most haunted places in W.Va.
- Hanging the bloodthirsty Bluebeard of Quiet Dell, W.Va.
- Tale of Nicholas County witch unique in West Virginia lore
Sign up to receive of FREE copy of West Virginia Explorer Magazine in your email weekly. Sign me up!