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The Witch Doctor of Long Point

(Added 11 June 2009)

“Step softly over the grass, this a Witch House, a little tumble-down shed behind a hidden road, weed-choked, and desolate. There is nothing to see, unless a trace of folk-lore is a sigh, or an old legend (…)

It is a forlorn spot. Thrice cursed I should say—the shell of a wild, forgotten phantasy holding nothing but an old superstition. For the tale of Dr. Troyer, once owner of this shack, belongs a century and more ago, when doubts may have been fashionable—but not in a rustic community like this.

Long Point, about a mile and a half east of Port Rowan, was originally settled by German, Dutch, French and British immigrants. Dr. Troyer was a German and his specialty was witches. Yet he was a liberal person and believed in all kinds of magic, with a natural leaning, perhaps, toward black. And he did a little mineral-rodding, by which he divined where gold was hidden. But nothing took the place of witches with him (…)

Dr. Troyer looked upon certain of his neighbbours as witches, one of the most dreaded being the widow of a well-known captain in the local militia. She was a very clever woman who used her wit and beauty to torment him. If he chanced to meet her when starting on a hunting expedition he would at once turn about and go home. Here, at the foot of his bed, a huge trap was bolted to the floor, where it was set every night to catch witches. The jaws were about three feet long and when shut were two and a half feet high. But in spite of this defensive means the witches would occasionally take Dr. Troyer out into the night and transform him into various kinds of animals, compelling him to act the part. “One night the witches took him out of a peaceful slumber, transformed him into a horse and rode him across the lake to Dunkirk where they attended a witch dance. They tied him to a post where he could witness the dance through the windows, and fed him rye-straw. The change of diet and the hard treatment to which he was subjected laid him up for some time. It required several doses of powerful medicine to counteract the injurious effects of the rye-straw and restore his digestive organs to normal condition.”

Nevertheless, Dr. Troyer was considered a sane man. He is described as wearing a long white flowing beard. It is said he lived to be ninety years old and that just before his death he shot, off-hand, a hawk, perched on the peak of the barn roof.

Do you wonder that we felt a little nervous as we glanced, from time to time, at the decaying structure before us? The lonely door is unbarred now against magic, black or white. We shivered as the gloaming came and the coarse field grasses creaked in a sudden wind. “Emptiness personified,” we said. But who can tell? It may not be so completely abandoned after all…Certainly it gave us a peculiar stare as we turned to leave it, for (so far as we were concerned) as long as it has strength to hold up its head, there in the weedy field.

-from Canadian Houses of Romance by Katherine Hale _ Dorothy Stevens, 1926.

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