BCH Podcast (Ep24): Local Folklore
On episode 24 of the Beaver County History Podcast, we talk with folklorist, author, and Beaver County native Michael Kishbucher about the Pig Lady of Cannelton tale, the importance of capturing, preserving, and sharing local folklore, and we talk about his latest book, The Appalachian Legend of the Wizard Clip: America’s First Poltergeist. In this episode we also preview the 2023 Pig Lady Fall Folklore Celebration.
About the author
Michael Kishbucher has been a guest on several TSVP podcasts. He resides in Virginia with his wife and daughters but grew up in Pennsylvania, and Ohio. In his spare time, Mike writes and volunteers working stewardship and citizen science projects as a certified Virginia Master Naturalist. He is a member of the Little Beaver Historical Society, the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research and thoroughly enjoys “free-searching” for a certain astonishing podcast. He first learned intelligence tradecraft while serving in the United States Air Force rising from the enlisted ranks to retire as a field grade officer. Michael earned a Master of Science degree in strategic intelligence from the Department of Defense’s National Intelligence University, and now he analyzes adversarial military capability for the Defense Intelligence Agency as a civilian in federal service. Michael thinks it’s bizarre that authors always write their bios in third person.
A dark and bloody past lurks beneath the folklore of the Little Beaver Creek watershed in Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. The first American frontiersmen hesitantly settled this region in the late 1700s following more than forty years of warfare. Fables like Barbara Davidson, the Pig Lady of Cannelton, sprang from this long, horrific conflict. The legends of Esther Hale, the White Lady of Sprucevale, and Gretchen’s Lock rose shortly thereafter, whereas the age of the Indian Rock petroglyph remains hotly debated. Today, most locals know these stories. But few know the purpose of Indian Rock or why Barbara’s restless spirit sometimes appears with a pig’s head. Using methods honed over twenty years of service as a Department of Defense intelligence analyst, author Michael Kishbucher uncovers the history and potential origins of these and other tales.
In the early 1790s, a Lutheran family in Appalachia fell victim to a menacing spirit that Lutheran, Methodist and Episcopal clergy as well as Folk magic practitioners failed to remove. The entity, which came to be known as the Wizard Clip, was said to cut or slice anything made of cloth or leather. Was it a ghost or a demon? After years of torment, the deeply Protestant family finally found respite from a seemingly impossible ally, a Catholic exorcist. This legend has eerie parallels to lore of ghosts and witches from the Old World as well as the early American Republic. As American religious leaders sought to find a place for their congregations in a post-Revolutionary time of enlightened secularism, tales like these helped churches define themselves, and this particular story was used to distinguish Catholic supernaturalism from later spiritualism. Author Michael Kishbucher tells a spooky and incredibly compelling story that shines a light on the region’s religious history.