The Oak Level Witch

In the early 1900s, a cabin sat near Stebbins, or what is now Oak Level, Virginia. It was known as “Aunt Tabby Anderson’s Place.” Tabitha Anderson, or “Aunt Tabby,” went through a drastic change during the Twentieth Century. Legend turned her into a fine southern belle, who owned a magnificent plantation. Sadly, the original story was then lost, even though it was far more intriguing.

Aunt Tabby was a poor widow with four children in 1861. Were it not for A.A. Forner’s generosity, the Anderson family would have been homeless. He let them stay in his old cabin for free.

Her eldest son was named Joe. The 16-year-old came in one day and said he had to join Lee’s army. He told his mother later that he had a vision of being killed in battle and that he was frightened, but couldn’t ignore his convictions. He didn’t want to see the land invaded. He said he wanted his remains to be buried at the end of the cabin, in the small family cemetery. His mother consented as well as any could have in that situation. She had three other children to consider, including 15-year-old son Meredith.

A month after Joe left, Meredith came home screaming. He fell into convulsions at the front door. When he came to, he said he saw something, but couldn’t recall what. Whatever he witnessed would plague him another 35 years. He frequently came down with episodes of this mysterious illness.

The paranormal events grew common shortly after the onset of Meredith’s illness. Aunt Tabby wanted to inform Joe about his brother’s trouble, and get his advice. Maybe he knew what could’ve happened to Meredith. The boy still hadn’t returned to normal, and she didn’t have anyone else to confide in. They couldn’t afford a doctor.

Aunt Tabby was illiterate and usually asked local merchant and relative, Chelsea Anderson, to author her letters. Before she even got out of her chair, the written letter was at her feet, ready to send. She noticed unusual events occurred more frequently, but still nothing warranted any real attention. Most occurrences were dismissed as having some natural explanation.

Tragic news eventually came to the Anderson household. Joe was killed in battle. Aunt Tabby tried to get his remains back home as quickly as possible. No matter what she did, it seemed they would never release him. Two months later, the remains finally arrived. She buried him just as he requested.

The bizarre episodes now manifested differently. Rocks fell on the cabin, they often went through the roof, and fell on those inside. They fell from impossible directions. Doors rose from their hinges and moved by themselves. Furniture and clothing moved about, frequently winding up in the trees and bushes outside.

Spectators often visited to watch, but no one could solve the supernatural mystery. They wouldn’t even guess a possible explanation. The plow moved itself, sometimes through the house, and the water buckets moved. The activity carried on for over 43 years.

Aunt Tabby lived in the home until her death in 1896. By that point, Meredith had been blind for 20 years. He died in 1901. While she had four children, she only had a single granddaughter, who burned to death as a baby. By the time of Meredith’s passing, the entire family was gone. Joe was not recorded as having any relevance with the activity in the home until much later.

Another family braved the home in 1904. Mr. Willie Dunn and his family kept an eye on the goings-on. The husband was more fascinated by the activity than the wife, who claimed she had no interest in the “ghost work.”

Today, the tale is far different. Legend says Aunt Tabby was born on a plantation in 1810, and she lived there all her life. She had one son, Joe. She lived with her husband until the 1880s. In this story, Joe tried to dodge the Confederate draft. Aunt Tabby supposedly led the recruiters to her son’s hiding place and he cursed her for revealing him. She allegedly had a slave girl who was killed and now her ghost haunts the field where she died.

Mrs. Anderson led a life wholly unlike Gone with the Wind. No plantation house ever existed. The strange activity began when Meredith was first afflicted by his illness, not when Joe died.

The events reported were eerily suggestive of the Bell Witch in Adams, Tennessee. Instead of targeting the father, however the episodes targeted a sibling. Meredith dealt with his mysterious sickness until his death, nearly 40 years later.

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