You can learn more about the colorful history of Washington County at the museum in Chipley. Click on the photo for more information.

Newspapers of the 19th century were more accepting in general of the existence of ghosts, demons and haunts than are the cynical media outlets today. As a result, we know much more about the strange happenings of that era than we do about those of our own time.

A good example is an incident that reportedly took place in Washington County in 1883. It story appeared in the Marianna Times and picked up by other newspapers around the country:

We heard recently of a man, over in Washington county, who is strangely affected. When in his house he burns all over as if with fire, until his torment is well nigh unbearable. When he leaves his house the torment ceases. The afflicted one went to a medicine man who told the sick one that there was a medicine to cure him, and that this cure was in an augur hole stopped up by a plug of wood.[1]

The augur hole was apparently to be found hidden in the unidentified man’s home. The article does not explain how the “medicine man” – a term commonly used for an herb doctor – knew where the cure for the victim’s bizarre affliction would be found, but he was apparently correct in his diagnosis:

…The afflicted took some of the cure (whether found in the augur hole or not, we did not hear), and was relieved instantly of his malady – the devil was exorcised – but his wife fell prone, screaming and fainting.[2]

The fate of the wife is not known but the implication of the article was that she had placed a spell or curse on her husband. One of the newspapers that republished the account, in fact, called it a “sublime story of voodooism.” Spells and potions to cause such harm were fairly common in the Deep South and Caribbean during the 18th and 19th century. Whether they actually worked is another story, although people who believed that they were being “witched” often experienced real symptoms.

Whatever the truth of the incident, it is an intriguing story from the history of Northwest Florida that was reported as news in 1893.

Dale Cox
January 31, 2018

To learn about other bizarre stories from Washington County’s past, just click the play button below:

[1] 1893 article from the Marianna Times, published in Texas Siftings, September 29, 1883.

[2] Ibid.