George McKim was a wealthy bachelor who owned a gristmill and much prosperous land in Virginia. His wealth made him influential with the local townspeople. He generously hosted dinners and many society events at his home. People came for miles to enjoy his lavish parties and to experience the refinement that didn’t exist in their own houses. McKim was incredibly successful, but he was also lonely. In the 1840s, he realized he’d toiled his youth away and still didn’t have a family.
McKim abruptly announced he was going on an extended vacation. He’d been known to take such trips, so the locals assumed this would like the others. He left the usual instructions with the right people to keep the mill and farm working while he was away.
Locals didn’t expect him to return married, but he did. He brought back an exotic bride, unlike any ever witnessed in the region. She had flawless, cream-colored skin and eyes like black obsidian. She wore a strange diamond cluster ring on the middle finger of her right hand. McKim mentioned to a friend that he didn’t get the ring for her. She’d just always worn it. He assumed it was a family heirloom.
People tried to welcome the new bride, but she remained cold and distant. She brought her own servant, and the old woman never left her side. The two became the odd couple of the community. The other servants didn’t like either of them. The bride was difficult, curt, and temperamental. Her servant was likewise arrogant and grew angry if anyone else waited on the lady of the house. Their self-imposed isolation grew so extreme that no one else in the home, aside from McKim, could even look in on the new bride. McKim first believed his bride simply needed time to adjust to married life. Unfortunately, the strange women continued their peculiar relationship no matter how much time passed.
The other servants resented the hateful interlopers, but felt powerless. McKim seemed oblivious to the tensions around him. It wasn’t long before the locals acted as the servants had. Fewer people attended his events. Once the bride and her servant entered any gathering, the atmosphere immediately darkened. The laughter silenced. Music even lost its power to improve the gloomy festivities.
McKim decided his wife should be settled well enough after a few months. He was a regular at the local church and he wanted his wife to attend. He thought it would improve her spirits to meet the other ladies and participate in their community efforts. He believed she needed friends. She adamantly refused. He went without her, but felt guilty over their disagreement. He had a lavish custom prayer book made for her. He gave it to her after dinner, but she nearly threw it at him. She didn’t want it.
Afterward, she became almost an invalid during the day. She wouldn’t leave her room for any reason no matter how McKim begged. Servants whispered about the two strange women. They already resented their snobbery, so they wouldn’t overlook their nightly exploits to places unknown.
By this point, McKim nearly stopped hosting get-togethers. They were never as fun as they once were. The only things that functioned normally were the mill and the farm.
A short time later, he was devastated when he found both nightly mill workers dead. Both had died in a bizarre animal attack. Their bodies were torn apart. Rumors spread like an epidemic, first the mill was haunted, and then it was cursed.
When rumors of an outright curse began, no one would work there. McKim’s mill fell into disrepair because the workers abandoned it. Even if he kept help during the day, no one dared to work at night.
One brave young man came to McKim, and proclaimed he wanted to work at the mill. McKim laughed and refused. The young man persisted. He said he was not afraid and he dared any curse or spirit to come near him. It took several meetings for McKim to agree, but he finally did.
The young man carried both an axe and a bible with him to work. Nothing unusual happened for the first two nights. McKim almost believed the ordeal was over. The third night, the young man was visited by two of the strangest beasts he’d ever witnessed. They were human-sized creatures, shaped like birds, but with massive talons and thundering roars. He grabbed the axe and began swinging towards the beasts. Luckily, he was able to cut one of the claws off the closest beast.
They continued to fight until it seemed the beings were exhausted. They fled. He tried to chase them, but they disappeared once they went outside. He tossed his handkerchief across the severed appendage so he didn’t have to look at it.
The light of dawn was now over the hills and McKim nearly ran to the mill. He’d heard the fighting and the roars. He knew something was wrong. He was relieved to find the young man alive and well. The worker then brought McKim over to the area where he’d battled the beasts. He removed the cloth to show McKim the beast’s severed claw. Unfortunately, there was no claw. Now, there lay a lady’s right hand with a diamond cluster ring on the middle finger.
McKim knew that ring, although he didn’t say anything more to the young man. He went straight to his wife’s quarters and demanded to see her. He found her with her right hand severed. They fought, but it didn’t help. McKim was half-crazed with grief and despondency. He went to the family cemetery and shot himself.
The servants were infuriated with the horrors the women brought upon their house. They had always believed the two were up to no good and too many people had died for their evil. They formed a mob to lynch them, but the two had disappeared by the time they reached the witch bride’s quarters.
A former Virginia slave, known only as “Phoebe,” repeated this tale in 1893. Many suspected she was a servant in the McKim house. She didn’t mention a specific location in Virginia, or reveal the owner’s given name.
This tale can refer to any of several places. There is an area named McKim in Tyler County, West Virginia. There’s also a McKim Creek in Pleasants, West Virginia. This same tale has also been appeared in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Maryland. Perhaps voices carried the tale, or perhaps there was something more than rumors to it all.
Similar tales can be found even in Dark Age Europe, when storied nobles married strange forest maidens, only to have their lives destroyed by the union.