When strange happenings occur within a community, the public’s perception of the validity of those happenings often hinge on the credibility of the witnesses. The family in this case was a well known and respected family and their unusual experience in the spring of 1870 was documented in the local newspaper.
Henry Fisher (1795-1882) and Elizabeth Kritz (1796-1880), born in Pennsylvania, moved to the Tuscarawas County region around 1818. The couple had eleven children and acquired significant tracts of land in northern York Township. One of their sons, George Fisher (1831-1900) married neighbor Sarah Walters (1838-1919) in 1856 and raised their own large family on their farm on the northern edge of York Township. During the spring of 1870 the family, through the Fisher’s daughter Mary (1860-1944), experienced very odd incidents around the farm.
That spring, objects on the farm were being moved or broken without any person being present. Mary, then 10 years old, reported to her parents that she was seeing strange things around the farm. The family witnessed window panes inexplicably cracking and breaking. One day, after the entire family had eaten dinner together, they found a partially sawn board in the yard with bowl of sugar from the cupboard on it and the saw still in it. Mary, while in the company of others, claimed to see a ghostly figure riding a white horse on the farm trailed by a ragged dog. Soon, stories of the goings-on at the Fisher farm were making the rounds with the locals.
It did not take long for those stories to find their way into the local newspaper. The newspaper reported on the “strange doings in Stonecreek” and claimed that “reliable men from the neighborhood say the story is not without foundation.” The paper reported that some of the more pious members of the community were convinced that Mary was “bewitched” while others believed that the entire property was haunted. These phenomena were happening to one of the most prominent families of the area and the paper committed to sending a reporter to gather more facts about the case and report back to the public.
Mary continued to be the center of the unusual events occurring around the Fisher family. The Fisher children often visited their grandfather, Abraham Walter, at his nearby farm. According to another article written two weeks after the initial report, Mary was seated at the table eating with her siblings when she appeared to be slapped so forcefully by an unseen entity that she was thrown off her seat. Her grandfather witnessed her being slapped, stating that he heard the slap and saw Mary fly off her chair from the force of it.
During another visit to her grandfather’s farm, Mary claimed to see what she thought to be a witch and gave chase after it. Her grandfather and siblings followed, though they could not see the alleged figure. They gave chase for “50 or 60 rods” and, when they reached a fence, Mary’s grandfather noted that it had scuff marks on it as if someone had struggled to climb over it. The group walked back to the farm only to have Mary tell them that the witch had returned and she could see her standing near the bake oven.
The local paper went to great lengths to state that they believed that Mary, George Fisher and Abraham Walter were all being truthful in their accounts of the events on the Fisher and Walter farms. The editors claimed that things of this nature had occurred in the area “often” in the past. The clergy, during those occurrences, had been called on to ascertain the causes of such phenomena. When they determined that the cause was “troubled spirits”, they would gather for prayer meetings to put the spirit to rest. Often an object was blessed in a manner to serve as suitable place to “put” the spirit. The editors in 1870 implored the local clergy to do the same in the case of Mary Fisher’s “witch.”
Whether there was a prayer meeting to put the 1870 spirit to rest is unknown, though there were no further articles in the newspaper about Mary Fisher and her paranormal experiences. Perhaps the local clergy did as the editors of the paper requested, or perhaps the incidents simply ceased. Mary J. Fisher would marry and go on to raise her own large family in western Ohio. Who knows, maybe the “troubled spirits” went with her?
© Noel B. Poirier, 2021.