A wealthy bachelor named McKim owned a gristmill and much prosperous farming land in Virginia. His wealth made him very influential and citizens from the town all respected him. He was generous and kind, hosting many dinners and society events at his home. The parties he threw were lavish and enjoyed by all. McKim was also a lonely man. He’d worked away his youth and still didn’t have a family.
One day, McKim announced he was going on a vacation. He would be gone for some time. He’d been known to vacation, previously, and the locals didn’t believe there would be anything unusual about this episode. He left the usual instructions with the right people to keep his mill and farm going while he was away.
However, they weren’t expecting him to return a married man. He did. He brought back an exotic bride unlike anyone had ever witnessed before. She had flawless, cream-colored skin and deep black eyes. She wore a strange diamond cluster ring on the middle finger of her right hand. McKim didn’t get it for her, and it was never said how she came to own it.
People tried to be friendly with the new bride, but she was cold and distant. She brought her own servant, an old woman, and they became the oddities of the community. The other house servants did not like either of the two. The bride proved to be difficult and temperamental, and her servant grew angry if anyone else tried to wait on the new lady of the house. It became so extreme that anyone else in the home, aside from McKim, was forbidden even to look in on the new bride. The bride and the older lady always stayed together and refused to associate with anyone else.
The house servants were resentful of the hateful intruders. They felt powerless to say anything because McKim seemed oblivious to the drastic changes around him. Locals began to act just as the servants had. Fewer and fewer people attended his events. Once the bride and her servant entered any gathering, the atmosphere immediately darkened. The laughter silenced. The music even lost its ability to improve the mood.
A few months passed by and McKim decided his new wife should be settled into her new home well enough. He’d previously been a regular at the local church and he wanted to take her. He believed it would improve her spirits to meet with the other ladies and perhaps participate in their community efforts. She adamantly refused to go. He went without her, but felt guilty over arguing with her. 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 much McKim begged. Servants began to whisper. They were already resentful of their snobbery, so they wouldn’t overlook her nightly exploits as if she were in perfect health.
By this point, McKim nearly stopped hosting the get-togethers. They were never as fun as they once were. The only thing he had that seemed to be working was the mill and the farm.
One night, he was devastated when both the nightly mill workers were found dead. They both died from the same bizarre animal. They’d been torn apart. Rumors soon spread like wildfire. His mill was haunted. Rumors then said it was cursed.
When the rumors of the mill’s curse began, no one would work there. His mill fell into disrepair and near disuse because the workers abandoned it. Even if he could keep help during the day, no one would dare work there at night.
One day, a brave young man came to McKim. He wanted to work at the mill. McKim laughed and refused. The young man persisted in his claims. 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 went to work and carried both an axe and a bible with him. He worked there two nights with nothing unusual. 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 creatures, but they were human-sized. They had terrible claws and frightening roars. He grabbed the axe and began swinging towards the beasts. Luckily, he was able to cut one of the claws off the closest being. He threw his handkerchief across it so he didn’t have to look at it.
They continued to struggle until it seemed to strange beings were exhausted. They fled. He tried to chase them, but they disappeared when they went outside.
The light of dawn was now over the hills and McKim nearly ran to the mill. He heard roars and 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 severed appendage.
Unfortunately, there was no claw to show him. Now, there lay a lady’s right had with a diamond cluster ring on the middle finger.
McKim 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 tragedy the two had 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 go after them, but when they reached the witch bride’s quarters, the two had disappeared.
A former slave from Virginia told this story to reporters in 1893. The slave was known only as “Phoebe,” with no surname. Many who hear the tale believe that she was a servant in the house. Her story discussed a wealthy landowner known only as McKim. She didn’t mention a specific location in Virginia, or say the owner’s given name. His name might also have been McKin and the reporter misheard. For the purpose of this story, he will be McKim.
This tale can refer to any of several places. In Tyler County, West Virginia, there is an area named McKim. There’s also a McKim Creek in Pleasants, West Virginia. One fascinating aspect of this story is that the same tale was also popular among slaves in North Carolina. This was at a time when a mere 20 miles was an all-day journey. Perhaps voices carried the tale, or perhaps there was more than just a rumor to it all.
Such tales go all the way back to the Dark Ages in Europe, when nobles were marrying strange maidens in the forest, only to find their livelihoods and loved ones destroyed for it.