Battling the Clip Wizard, or Mad Shearer

Clip Wizard
“Wandering from the Nightly Shore” by Gustave Dore.

The Clip Wizard was a legend out of Middleway, West Virginia. The Middleway area has been known by a variety of names: Smithfield, Wizard Clip, or just Clip. The area gained legendary status due to an Eighteenth Century haunting.

Adam Livingston was a Middleway farmer in 1794. A stranger came by his house one evening and asked about a room for a little while. Livingston allowed him to stay, which was good for several reasons. Primarily, the stranger grew gravely ill just a few days later. His illness reached the dire point where recovery was doubtful. The stranger must’ve felt the passage of what little time he had remaining. He begged Livingston to send for a priest before he died because he needed the last rites.

Livingston was an avid Lutheran, with no tolerance for Catholics. He sternly declared no priest would come into his house, for any reason. The sick man continued to plead as his conditioned worsened, but it was no use.

It wasn’t long before the stranger died. It seemed just as he drew his last breath, strange things began at the Livingston house. That night, and most nights after, occupants of the Livingston house heard a group of horses galloping during the night. The phantom steeds approached the house, circled it a number of times, and faded away. No one in the home ever found any actual animals making the noise.

This was just the beginning of the family’s torment. The barn soon burned down. Livingston’s cattle were stricken with fatal murrain and he lost nearly all of them. The malevolent spirit wasn’t done. Chickens and fowl were next found decapitated around the yard. The cuts were perfectly made, as if someone had removed the heads with scissors or a surgical knife. Livingston’s own savings were the next item to disappear.

Attacks began on people, although none was known to be physically dangerous. The house became home to a “Mad Shearer,” or “Phantom Clipper.” Fabric in the house was cut to pieces, with no reason. The sounds of scissors clipping could be heard at all hours through the house.

Clothing, furnishings, even boots and shoes were clipped to pieces while people wore them or sat upon them. Visitors could come up to the front door, only to have their clothing cut off their backs. One lady visited with a piece of silk hidden within a cotton handkerchief in her bag. She doubted the spirit’s ability to do what she’d heard. The visit went without problem. On the way home, she found the cotton intact, but the silk had been clipped to pieces.

Horses weren’t immune to the ghostly scissors, either. Saddlecloths were clipped to pieces beneath the saddles. The cuts always appeared in crescent or half-moon shapes. Visitors came from all directions to try and solve the mystery, but Livingston grew despondent. He doubted that anyone would ever be able to help them.

As a last resort, Livingston consulted with a local priest to visit the home. The priest visited and performed a “bell, book and candle,” ritual in the house. After that initial mass in the house, all activity stopped. Rumors came of later activity, but the few unusual events were benign and soon forgotten.

Note: “Bell, Book and Candle” is a ritual from old Europe. It involves performing a prayer, rite or ritual, which utilizes a hand bell, a holy book, and a candle.

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