Appalachian Gothic

Tales of the paranormal from the Appalachian Mountains.

The Two Witches of Timber Tree

“Timber Tree” is a folksy name for a relatively isolated road that bridges the Gate City/Bristol Highway, in Virginia, with the Bloomingdale area of Kingsport, Tennessee. This tale has lingered in the area for well over a century.

Few were as notorious as the Powell sisters of Scott County, Virginia. Moonshiners feared them and outlaws avoided them. The Powell sisters weren’t just wicked or troublesome, legend says they were in league with the devil himself. Their legacy of malevolence lives on nearly two hundred years after their demise, and is known in both Southwestern Virginia and Northeastern Tennessee.

Drusilla and Irene Powell had always been troublesome, but it wasn’t until later in life that their propensity for cruelty emerged. Their families noticed that, for some reason, people always ended up fighting when they visited. The fact that they were both married and had children didn’t stop them from abandoning their families to disappear. No one knew where they went or why they left so often.

The sisters were effective midwives in their community, before the real trouble started. Neighbors often asked the sisters for favors, to help them heal from an injury, or just find luck in love or money. It became apparent that those who asked anything of the women soon had a tremendous price to pay. Their “healing” led to violence and misery. Their “luck” led to disease.

The two women stopped coming home as often as time passed. Days away lead to weeks, and finally months away. The people in the village saw them even less. Then, the only time they came home was to unleash chaos and anger with their families. They abused their children and grew determined to ruin their husbands through false accusations and rumors. The constant battles became so traumatic for everyone that the families told both women to stop coming home at all.

No one knew where they went or what they did after that, but they lingered in the darkest hollows of the mountains. Trouble followed wherever they went. The women began to draw strange stray dogs. Before long, ten or twelve unusual dogs followed at their heels. Locals were certain they weren’t just strays or runaways. There was something peculiar about each animal. Hunters and trappers began claiming the women had unnatural relationships with the dogs, and that the animals weren’t dogs at all, but demons who did their bidding.

Local farmers seldom saw success. Crops died, murrains hit the livestock, and disease struck every family who crossed the women, no matter how innocently. Fortunately, their reign of terror wasn’t to last.

One day, something happened with the dogs. Some said they went rabid, while others said it had simply come time for the sisters to pay for their evil. Irene went to draw water from the creek. The dogs attacked Drusilla when she was alone. Drusilla screamed and cried for help, but no one in the area heard anything. Whatever darkness enveloped the sisters also muted their pleas for help.

By the time Irene returned, her sister was torn to pieces and the devil dogs had disappeared. She grabbed and old piece of rope and hanged herself from the nearest tree.

The community was relieved to be rid of the curse, but faced with a new set of problems, including what to do with the remains. They were certain the witches’ mortal remains were cursed, and anyone who attempted to put them in hallowed ground would share their curse.

It was decided to bury them beside hallowed ground. The locals went to the old McMurray cemetery, behind New Hurland church. They buried them on the outskirts of the hallowed ground. Since that time, the cemetery has been visited by otherworldly events. People have reported hearing the sisters beating the lids of their coffins to get out. Visitors have reported the sounds of a ghostly wagon bringing a body for burial. Disembodied screams permeate the air as if someone is being torn apart. The strain of an old rope resounds from a nearby oak. The most frequent sound is a female scream that grows louder and louder, as if the woman screaming is running towards the listener. Some say if you don’t leave when the screams start, you’ll be hearing your own screams when they catch you.


This story and much more available in Bizarre TriCities!

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