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Excerpt for The Witches of Shamanoire Hollow by , available in its entirety at Smashwords





The Witches

Of

Shamanoire Hollow


By


Martin Thompson












Dedicated To:


Doug and Ilona Fye



Sometimes we rediscover treasures

from our past.

Sometimes we discover new treasures

in our present.

The lucky man finds both,

and includes them in his future.













Disclaimer


This novel is a work of fiction and should be viewed as such. It does not represent the author’s viewpoints, biases, or discrimination in any manner. Get over it, Snowflakes!














CHAPTER 1


The hollow was a place of peace and beauty before the time of man. And it retained that balance of peace and beauty when the Natives settled there. They understood the symbiotic necessity of man and his environment, that both could live and flourish together. But then came the pale-faced men from abroad in their mighty wooden ships.

They had little to no respect for the natives of this land they brazenly named Pennsylvania, after one of their own. They held even less homage to the land. The natives they drove from their homes, through unfair deals and violence. They ravaged, pillaged, and raped the land as well.

Whole forests were cut down to make room for their new towns and villages. The wildlife residing therein either run off or massacred to feed their greedy bellies and egos. The rivers, land, and very air they polluted with the remnants of their construction and uncaring ways of life. There was no symmetry between these men and nature. They simply took what they wanted, without a second thought about their rapture of nature. They were the true savages here?

This was the beginning of the Native-Americans migration westward, beginning in the late 17th century. By the end of the 18th century, the colonists of America, who had fought and won independence from their own homeland oppressors had become just as evil. By the end of that century, they had nearly driven out all of the Native-Americans from the lands of Pennsylvania. Almost entirely. In a small undiscovered hollow in Western Pennsylvania, approximately 80 miles northeast of a new city by the name of Pittsburgh, there remained one last Lenape tribe.

One hundred years before, these “Delaware Indians” as the white men had dubbed them, had been crowded out of their territory on the eastern border of the Pennsylvania. The majority of the Lenape had moved westward, out of the state, and out of the reach of these colonists. This particular tribe of the Lenape had travelled here to this out-of-the-way hollow though. They named the hollow Shaman-Wa, after the leader who lead them here. For nearly one hundred years now, the white man hadn’t found or bothered them here in this bountiful unknown paradise.

Being a few miles from the nearest trade route, the Great Shamokin Path, and so deep in the congested woodlands, the greedy white men hadn’t plowed their way into this peaceful part of the wooded countryside just yet. It was only a matter of time though. By the beginning of the 19th century, their hundred years of solitude in the hollow of Shaman-Wa were about to come to an end.


* * *


Shaman-Taz was as stubborn and pig-headed as his grandfather, had been 100 years ago when he had convinced his Lenape tribe not to flee from the lands of Pennsylvania as the rest of the Lenape and Native-American tribes had. Shaman-Wa had chosen to gamble his family and tribe’s safety, hiding them here in this secluded hollow, refusing to be driven from his homeland. Shaman-Taz was honoring and continuing the man’s conviction.

There had been some trepidation on the tribe’s part, but his decision had obviously been well founded. For the remainder of his life, and theirs, the tribe had known nothing but peace and prosperity in their new home. And up until the year 1803, so had the tribe under Shaman-Taz’s leadership. That was when a hunting party from the newly established town of Punxsutawney, settled along the Great Shamokin Path had wandered into the hollow, looking for game to fill the town’s stores for the coming winter.

The Lenape would have been more than willing to not only share their hunting ground, but to share their own food stores as well with the hunters. That was their way. Unfortunately, the hunters were not as accommodating. Having a tribe of “savages” so close to their small town of defenseless women and children was too much of a threat for them. No more than 48 hours after the hunters had discovered Shaman-Wa, the hunters returned with the rest of the able-bodied men of the neighboring town and massacred every man, woman, and child of the Lenape village.

Shaman-Taz was one of the last of the tribesmen to fall. In his dying words as the townsmen literally beat him to death, he cursed all white men who would settle upon this sacred land. Not understanding the native’s language, and most likely not having taken it seriously anyway, the curse fell on deaf ears. Only the Spirits of Nature were privy to his last words. And only the Spirit of The Elemental responded at that time with an unexpected thunderstorm rolling in at the chief’s passing. The white men were not impressed.

After the last of the Lenape were slain, their unclean bodies were burnt on a pyre, and the town was looted for all its worth. At first, the towns people were going to burn the native’s huts and the rest of the small village to the ground, but they changed their minds. The village would make for a useful settlement outside of the neighboring town of Punxsutawney. Its proximity to a river made it an optimum location for a water-driven woodmill. Furthermore, its virtual seclusion between two great hillsides would protect it not only from the harshest of the winter elements, but from the summer’s as well.

It was an excellent location for a settlement, village, or even a small town. They would have to get busy building though, if were to be truly livable by the coming winter though.

And so it was, that just before the winter weather of December set upon western Pennsylvania, the small town of Shamanoire Hollow was formed; A much fancier and befitting name for a white man’s town. Only a few scant buildings had been added to the existing Lenape ones in that short time, but they would suffice until there were better construction conditions the coming Spring.


* * *


Tucked away in Shamanoire Hollow, protected from the harshest of the Western Pennsylvania’s winters winds, the newly constructed domiciles, not to mention the ones built by the Lenape, survived unscathed. Unfortunately, the settlers who had moved from the local town to live there, did not fair the winter as well as those roofs above their heads.

When travel in and out of the small valley was possible again in late March, nobody from Shamanoire Hollow came to Punxsutawney or any of its other surrounding villages to restock or visit. After the first week of good weather, with still no word or sign from the village, the townsfolk of Punxsutawney sent a group of men into the hollow to investigate. What they found just led to a lot of questions. The small village of Shamanoire Hollow was completely deserted.

Going through every structure, not a sole person was found, nor any clue to the settlers’ possible whereabouts. In fact, the only bizarre sign, besides the fact that all 29 settlers were missing, was the fact that it appeared that they’d all up and left during dinner time. The majority of the homes had their tables set for dinner, with half eaten meals upon each plate. With the exception of a couple turned over chairs, and clothing dressers with open drawers, everything appeared to be in order.

Whatever had occurred here had obviously happened unexpectedly for everyone to have left in the middle of a meal. Furthermore, it had led to them fleeing their homes without the time or inclination to take any family heirlooms or wealth with them. The only obvious belongings they’d taken with them was perhaps some extra clothing from their opened dressers. Yet not one of the 29 souls had made it to the neighboring town of Punxsutawney or other villages?

Yes, with the harsh winter the area had just come out of, travel in and out of the hollow to the Punxsutawney would have been treacherous at best. You would have thought that at least one of the heartier men would have been able to make the long cold trek? Not one person had though. So where were all of the settlers, and what tragedy had occurred here?

As none of the settlers’ valuables were missing, foul play could easily be ruled out. Who would have attempted travelling down into the snowed in hollow this time of year anyway? It was just a simple little village at this point, barely worth plundering, especially being so difficult to reach in the treacherous weather. No, there definitely had to be a different motive here.

As for the local wildlife, the only predators of Wester Pennsylvania consisted of wolves and bears, hardly a match for the settlements’ nine grown men and their guns. Not to mention the fact that an animal attack would have left some form of evidence in the families’ homes. It’s not like every man, woman, and child would have run out of their homes in the middle of dinner to fight off a family of bears or wolves and all died during the attack. What other possibilities were there though? None!

And that’s what lead to the most unease…the macabre mystery of it all. There is no evil that chills a heart more than the unknown and unexplainable one. It leaves the mind to wander and grasp for the improbable, the unthinkable, the better-left-unpondered. Whatever had befallen the 29 souls of this new little village could creep out and infect others. Therefore, out of fear and superstition, Shamanoire Hollow was abandoned and left untouched, lest anything removed from there spread its curse outward.

Local municipalities and travelers were told the eerie tale and warned against visiting the mysterious valley. It didn’t take more than a couple years of non-travel for the paths leading to the village to become overgrown and the purity of nature to take its hold over the hollow again. Once again, the land saw peace and tranquility again.

Yes, overtime there was still the curios group of youth or adventure seekers who attempted to find the doomed village of Shamanoire Hollow. Some were even lucky enough to follow its narrow river to the overgrown and eventually shambling buildings and huts. Anybody who dared to stay there overnight were obviously overstaying their welcome though, as they would never be seen again. Official search parties would be sent out for the locals, but no signs of them, or any of the other visitors would be found.

Eventually even the bravest and most curious people stopped searching for or visiting the tainted land. Eventually, even its exact location faded into obscurity, and only scary little folktales of the doomed settlement remained; Told around campfires to frighten the young and gullible.


* * *


For nearly 85 years, Shamanoire Hollow knew nothing but the peace and tranquility of nature. Over those years, the structures which had been left by the Lenape and the white settlers had not stood up well against the ravages of weather and time. The Native-American huts had deteriorated, collapsed and were completely grown over by the thick vegetation of the healthy landscape. As for the settler’s building, only two of the five houses built still wobblily stood; The only testament to man’s presence here at all. In another 10 to 20 years, they would have been gone as well.

Before the town could completely disappear into obscurity though, it was rediscovered again; This time, as the last, by local hunters from the neighboring town. Unlike Shamanoire and many other Pennsylvania towns in the 19th century, Shamanoire’s neighboring town of Punxsutawney had truly prospered. Plentiful deposits of soft coal had been found in its almost mountainous hillsides and had brought the railroad to the formerly insignificant town.

Formerly, a supplier of lumber for local cities such as Pittsburgh, the town was now a statewide supplier of coal. And where there was coal, there were jobs and people a plenty. The town had grown to the point where Shamanoire Hollow was an even closer neighbor. When the hunters reported their rediscovery of the hollow to the town officials it was decided that, once again, Shamanoire Hollow would be settled. The location was optimum for another river-driven saw mill, and who knew what coal deposits might be found in its hillsides?

Though the folktales of the curse of Shamanoire Hollow were still circulated as ghost stories, that was truly all the credibility they held in this time period. It had been nearly 80 years since the disappearance of the original settlers, and there were no living souls left to give testament of that dark time. They were all folktales and credited as such.

The remains of the former structures were cleared, a wood mill was setup along the small river that ran through the lower depths of the hollow, and a small village was built up around it. By the turn of the century, Shamanoire Hollow was on the verge of becoming a full-blown town of its own right, rather than a large village.

Besides the wood mill, the hollow boasted a coal mine, a textile mill, blacksmith shop, stable, general store, and a small outdoor marketplace. All of these businesses, surrounded by a company house for the miners to live in, small shanties for the single workers of the town, and several family homes. All told, the population of the village stood at nearly 300 souls. It was definitely far more than the small settlement it had once been. It grew and prospered into the 20th century.














CHAPTER 2


Johnathan Miller and his wife Susan were two of the last people to move into Shamanoire Hollow in the Spring of 1902. The couple owned farmland right outside of the overgrown hollow but had never enjoyed living out on the open flat landscape. Both of them had grown up in the woods and felt too exposed out in the wide-open land. Being right along the Great Shamokin Path to the neighboring boom town, Punxsutawney, there was somebody always riding past their place. Add to that the ceaseless racket of the coal trains, and it was almost as bad as living in the city itself.

Having had their eye on Shamanoire Hollow and its relative seclusion, they finally took a leap of faith and moved there. Yes, it meant having closer neighbors, and a longer travel for Johnathan to tend to his fields, but it was totally worth it. Living in a small woodland village was nothing compared to living right outside a boom town with its excessive traffic and noise. It was a simpler, quieter life, even if it was just a few miles from where they’d once lived. A perfect, little, quiet home to begin their family.

And the change of venue must have been what they had needed. It wasn’t more than a few short months after they’d moved into their small log cabin in Shamanoire Hollow that Susan was finally with child. They had lived up on that plain for several years without ever being blessed with that good news. They both took it as a sign that they’d made the right choice.

Even the small garden that Susan insisted Johnathan plant out back of the cabin had taken hold, against his premonition to the contrary. Being in such a shaded area with little open sunlight, he had figured that they would end up with sickly sprouts at best. Yet, by the end of their first summer there, Susan was pulling all types of healthy and large vegetables out of there. Definitely another sign that they were supposed to be there.


* * *


Reverend Gerald Privy and his small family, as well, had taken up residency in Shamanoire Hollow around this time. He, his wife Gertrude, and their toddler son, Albert had moved into the hollow as it was on the verge of becoming a small town. Unlike the Miller’s, he much preferred the conveniences of town life with everything and anything you could desire being at your fingertips. It was only because the hollow had so desperately needed a man of the cloth and a teacher for their children, that he agreed to move to this backward, little, hole-in-the-wall village.

Rev. Privy was a strict member of the clergy, and tyrannical in both his teachings of the lord and as a teacher of youth. He put up with absolutely no disobedience or poppy cock in either station. His flock revered his every word Sunday mornings, and the children of the hollow harkened to his every word in the classroom. That was the way of things; The only way of things in his righteous opinion. No poppy cock!

Thus, you can imagine his temperament when he stepped into the little, one-room building that was utilized as both church and school on a Sunday morning. It was his 9-year-old son, Albert’s job to dust and sweep the building every Saturday in preparation for Sunday services. It was also his job to move the school desks out of the center of room to its sides and align the church pews, which lined the sides of the room into the center. After Sunday services then, he was to switch the furniture back in preparation for Monday class instruction again.

The telltale dusty shoe prints of youngsters, and the fact that the furniture had not been moved yet for today’s services was a dead giveaway. Albert had not completed his chores yesterday! What’s worse, is that he had lied to Privy about having finished the chore when he asked to go fishing with his gentle friend Harley Yates.

Rev. Privy referred to the smallish welp as gentle, because he took on the composure of a girl more so than a country boy. He was continually bullied by the other male children for it, and Privy had no idea what drew his son to the likes of the welp. Eventually, he knew that it would be up to him to intervene on that friendship, and force Albert to man up like the other boys. That was a discussion for another time though. He had bigger fish to fry with his son at the moment. Sticking his head out of the nearest window, he yelled loud enough that most of the hollow folk probably heard him.


“Albert Allen Privy! Front and center,” he bellowed.


And truthfully, most of hollow folk getting up and ready for the morning’s strong sermon, did hear him. Heard him and were infinitely glad that none of them were Albert Allen Privy at that moment. They were all in for the usual venomous service this morning, but nothing compared to what poor Albert was about to face. Sitting at the family table, his mother just serving him breakfast, she shooed him to quickly respond to his father’s call. She felt sorry for the boy, but knew it wasn’t her place to come between the two when Albert was in trouble. She said a prayer for him nonetheless.

Obediently bolting into the church which was right next to their house, Albert took a deep breath before entering the building. He knew he was in trouble, and he knew why. Harley had found a downed bird yesterday morning and had needed his help to get it back up into one of the trees. Harley was far from the best tree climber, mind you, but he knew if he left the nest on the ground that some predator would get the three eggs residing in it. That’s why he’d come looking for his friend’s assistance. Shirking his chores, planning on doing them later, Albert lied to his father and went to help his friend with the birds.

Getting the nest back up into the tree didn’t take vey long. Unlike Harley, Albert was an excellent tree climber. He scrambled right up several branches, then turned around and took the bird nest from Harley’s outstretched hands. He found a suitable nook to securely place it, then came back down. All told, the humanitarian act took him all of five or ten minutes. But what if the mother never came back for her eggs? The boys knew that chickens sat on their eggs to keep them warm before hatching. Was it the same with other types of birds?

Not wanting to take a chance, the two boys stayed there watching for the Mamma bird to return. If she didn’t, they were going to have to find some way to keep the eggs warm and care for them themselves. Yes, they weren’t the typical boys who would have most likely just smashed the eggs for fun. Albert was just as gentle and caring as his friend; A fact that his father never would have condoned.

Anyways, it was almost three hours before the Mamma bird finally returned to her nest. It was a great relief to both boys, who knew little to nothing about bird parenting. Smiling at their good deed, they went off playing together, Albert completely forgetting about his Saturday chores. That is, until the following morning when he heard his father hollering for him from the church next door. Adding to his mother’s kind words, he said a prayer for himself as well as he entered the building to face his father’s wrath.


* * *


Sean Alan Jacobs was a mighty adventurer, and explorer of the great frontier. His exploits throughout the Pennsylvanian wilderness were known far and wide in the first years of the 20th century. There was no man more rugged, sturdier, and braver. Wild animals and savages alike quivered when they saw him, or even heard his name. He was unbeatable on all accounts. The fact that he was all this, at the tender age of 9, was even more impressive. Just ask his parents, Theodore and Nellie Jacobs. They revered in his brave triumphs every day.

A man before his time, he really didn’t fit in with the rest of the village youth. While the other boys were off fishing, hunting, or playing sports games together, he was more interested in reading about great adventures and great explorers throughout history; Marco Polo’s excursions throughout China and the Far East, Ferdinand Magellan and his famous expedition to sail around the world. And let’s not forget Christopher Columbus who had discovered the Americas in which he now stood and lived.

Yes, yes, yes…in actuality, it was first settled by the Native-Americans, and visited by the European, Leif Ericsson long before. It was the famous Spaniard, Christopher Columbus, whose voyage led to the first true exploration and settlement of the country by the white man though…technicalities be darned. It was these courageous men and their discoveries which set them apart from the common rabble. It was men like them that young Sean Alan Jacobs wanted to emulate…even if it were only in books.

Someday…someday when he was older and more capable, he would explore the great wilds of America and beyond. Until then, his books would have to suffice. The other children, especially the other boys, didn’t understand. They accused him of being a bookworm, a sissy, an egghead. He would show them some day. Someday, they would be reading about his rugged adventures and know who the true man was. Still, the bullying took its toll on him. He’d show them! He’d show every last one of them!


* * *


Not unlike Rev. Privy, Amanda Ball was really not happy living in Shamanoire Hollow. Her husband Percy was a lumberer who had taken on the challenge of building the water-driven woodmill next to the hollow’s river. He had moved here with her and their two boys before the rest of the village sprung up around the mill. With coin which he had managed to save up from his years of labor as a lumberer, and a sizable loan from the bank, he set about his dream of owning his own business.

The work was hard, with limited help, but it was worth it to be able to line his pockets rather than someone else’s. His wife, Amanda, understood and supported his dream, but living in the hollow still bothered her. Especially with them always living next to the river. All her life she’d been afraid of the water and had nightmares of either her or her loved ones drowning. To the day, she’d never gone swimming once for fear that those nightmares might come true.

She would be on the verge of sheer panic when Percy would take the boys swimming. She needn’t have worried. Like him, they were quite taken to the sport and were both strong and capable swimmers. Still, the nightmares continued, and she wanted nothing to do with it. A warm bath was the closet anyone was getting her to those frightening depths.

The unfounded fear became even worse when she got pregnant and they had their first little girl. She would have night terrors of the helpless waif being swept under and away by the river currents. She would be damned if Percy or the boys were ever going to take her new daughter Melissa anywhere near that horrible river!


* * *


Whereas Amanda Ball was terrified of the water, especially the hollow’s river which ran right past their house and the mill, Mary Smith was alternatively afraid of fire. She too had nightmares. But in her dreams, it was her entire family being trapped and dying in a burning inferno. It didn’t help matters that her and John’s cabin was at the furthest reaches of the village, and about as far away from the river as it could physically be. She would have been more than happy to exchange living quarters with Amanda Ball for this reason.

In these nightmares, she was never aware of just how these fires began. Just that they occurred in the middle of the night while the family was sleeping. She chided herself for succumbing to them as much as she did. If anything, they’re home was safer due to the existence of the dreams. She double checked every inch of their 3-room dwelling before she retired each evening. Every candle was extinguished, and the hearth fire was either put out, or banked for the night if the weather were getting colder. Even with these precautions, she slept light.

Admittingly, her fears weren’t totally without merit. Her one son, Dean, was an up and coming pyromaniac. Regardless of both her and John’s warnings, the boy loved to play with fire and took every opportunity to do so. They were constantly having to hide the striker and other forms of combustion away from his anxious little hands. If someone was utilizing fire for any reason in the village, you could bet that Dean was there drooling all over it. This was probably the root of Mary’s actual fear, when it came right down to it.

Thankfully, Samuel was like the Anti-Dean when it came to his behavior. If you told dean not to do it, you can damn bet Dean was going to give it a try. As for Samuel, he was much more of a rule follower than a rule breaker. He wouldn’t outright tell on his brother, as he was an honorable follower of the Code of Brotherdom. He wouldn’t just stand by and let his brother do something that might end up hurting himself or someone else though. It was a very tight rope to walk sometimes.














CHAPTER 3


One area of the hollow which young Dean Smith truly loved was the row of burning coke ovens in the upper quadrant of the large hollow.. They burnt 7 days a week, purifying soft coal into refined coke. This dried out, greyish product was usually transformed into fuel to run the countries growing number of manufacturing plants. Like many other locations throughout Pennsylvania, the hills of Shamanoire Hollow were rich with these soft coal deposits.

A large portion of the hollow’s population was made up of the coal miners and coke preparers living in a company house in the village. The crew worked out of a mine dug about halfway up the north side of the hollow.

The original plans for the mine’s location was lower in the hollow, closer to town. Being that they wanted to construct the coke ovens as close to the mine as possible though, to increase productivity, it was decided a location above the village level would be preferable.

When coal is burned in a coke oven, the resulting smoke has a very high sulfur content.

Though pollution wasn’t a major concern at the turn of the 20th century, the pungent, rotten-egg-like odor it emitted was. Nobody wanted to live right next to that. Yes, there were days that the winds through the hollow would send the nasty smelling plumes of smoke down into the village. More often than not though, the wretched plumes travelled upward and away from the town. The odor didn’t bother Dean Smith. He would have sat there and watched the coke preparers working the ovens night and day if his parents had allowed.

His parents wouldn’t be surprised, in later years, if he eventually chose to take on the laborious task as a future career choice. There were obviously plenty of such jobs in Western Pennsylvania for such laborers, and it was safer than being a miner. Yes, mining had come a long way in the last generation. That being said, it was still quite a risky profession with a lower mortality rate than most would find acceptable. In those days though, a job was a job, and a man was lucky to have good steady work. Being safe didn’t always put food on your family’s table.


* * *


A Shamanoirian who did put food on everybody’s table in the hollow, was local farmer, Jeb Reynolds. His large patch of land in the hollow not only housed his humble home, where him, his wife, and their three boys lived, but a barnful of pigs, sheep, and chickens. He made his main living in the hollow selling eggs and wool, but also supplied the small village with meat when his flock was prospering. He obviously didn’t produce enough of any of these commodities to maintain the entire growing population of Shamanoire Hollow, but enough to support his small family’s humble needs.

Him and his boys tended the farm daily, and the boys would also help out at the Balls’ woodmill to bring in a little extra money for the family. Percy Ball definitely appreciated the extra laborers. Operating a woodmill was definitely not a one-man job. Even with his own two sons help, he would have been hard pressed to keep it up and running without the Ball boys. That’s what good neighbors did though…help out wherever and however they can. That’s the only way a small community can truly survive.

And there were plenty of times that Bill and Larry Ball helped the Reynolds on the farm as well; Feeding, cleaning pens, etc. The only time they were reticent to help was when it was time to slaughter the pigs, sheep, or chickens. They not only didn’t have the farmer’s stomach for it, they made the #1 mistake when it comes to livestock.

Until you’re able to handle the responsibility, you NEVER name or befriend your animals.

It makes it too painful when it comes time to kill them, and next to impossible for you to enjoy sitting down to a breakfast of Porky and Henrietta. And lambchops are just too tasty to get hung up on the fact that they came from a small, white and fluffy sheep called Cotton ball.

So, regardless of the good-hearted jabbing by Mark, Brett, and Jeb Reynolds, The Ball boys wanted nothing to do with slaughter time. And trust me, the Reynold’s boys would tease them unceasingly about it. As boys will do, the Ball boys always found a way to get even with them though. Regardless of their incessive teasing back and forth, they were all the best of friends..


* * *


In a small community the size of Shamanoire Hollow, everyone tends to get along fairly well. Sure, there was the occasional squabble over the trade of goods or services, or where one man’s land ended, and another’s began. These were far and few between though. Most people just let these differences of opinion go by without a word. Why let it poison the day-to-day flow of things in the community? Why raise a stink over something small and unimportant? Yes, once in a great while a major issue came to light that would end up in blows, or worse, but they were so rare.

Like if Sophie Stein had ever found out that her husband Henry was having an affair with that young thing, Cynthia Manners. Henry was not only the owner and operator of the general store in the village, but the community’s elected Mayor as well. If people ever caught wind of the perverse little things he did with the much younger girl in his store’s stockroom, it would definitely cause quite a stir. A we’ll say is, it had to do with the use of bailing twine, a fire stoker, and assorted vegetables and leave it at that.

Not only was he breaking the wedding vows he’d made before his Maker, but he was most likely breaking some laws of decency, decorum and physics as well. No doubt his wife, Sophie Stein, would not have been as amused and entertained as the rest of us. Such a truth coming to light could not only rock their marriage, but most likely the town’s faith in him as well.

Luckily for him, his mistress Cynthia was just as good at keeping her mouth closed as she was at keeping it open. He was getting what his twisted libido craved, and she was being compensated nicely for it. It was the perfect hush hush, long term arrangement. Everybody was happy, and nobody was getting hurt. At least, for the time being.


* * *


To say that nobody was privy to the little arrangement between Henry Stein and Cynthia Manners was actually a bit of an over-statement. Neither of them had ever peeped a word of the affair to another soul, yet there were actually five people in the town who knew about the kinky things that went on in the general store’s back stockroom. Luckily for the dirty couple, these five had no intent on exposing the sorted little tryst. In fact, they found it infinitely entertaining.

They were the Witches of Shamanoire Hollow. Or, at least, that’s how they jokingly referred to themselves. The witch trials of the 18th and early 19th century may have been long before their time, but none of them were brazen or stupid enough to publicly declare themselves as such. Even now, at the turn of the 19th century into the 20th, the fear of witchcraft still existed and would most likely see them hung…or worse.

Contrary to both religious and government belief in the Early Modern Period, from the 15th century to the tail end of the 19th, those who practiced magic were not inherently evil. Of course, there were those who used it for that intent, but those were isolated cases. True witchcraft had been around since the beginning of recorded history with the Mesopotamian civilization in 3500 BCE.

Not to be confused with Sorcery, which entails a much more dogmatic and intellectual approach to magic, witchcraft is a completely different animal, so to speak. Where sorcerers spend years learning how to create and cast amazingly supernatural effects with their spells, witches are born with their talents to manipulate mind, body, and nature.

Yes, like the sorcerer, they can create spells and potions of their own to supplement their natural talents. These practices come much easier to them due to their intimate connection to mind, body, and nature. It’s a complex difference between the two, and easier seen and experienced than explained. Sorcerers see witches as nothing but savages, where witches see sorcerers as pompous blowhards with only the scantest understanding of the world’s magic.

But getting back to the subject at hand, these witches of Shamanoire Hollow were the first white children conceived and born in the wooded hollow since the land was owned by the Lenape. All of them were born within the first two years of the village’s resettlement. In the 18 years which followed, many families with children moved into the prospering village. In that timeframe though, only six children were actually born there. For this reason, this place held a sacred connection with them, drew the five of them together, and taught them who they truly were; The Witches of Shamanoire Hollow. Here are their stories.














CHAPTER 4


Though there were many families with children in Shamanoire Hollow, Sarah and Judith Campbell were the first two actually conceived and born in Shamanoire Hollow. The rest had been born and partially raised before the resettlement of the town. The twin girls were a miracle to their parents, who had been trying to conceive since their marriage seven years before.

They’d suffered a couple miscarriages in their time living outside of Punxsutawney, but absolutely no successes in their endeavor to grow their family. When the twin girls were conceived shortly after they’d settled in Shamanoire Hollow, they took it as a good omen for their family’s future.

As is common with twins, Sarah and Judith seemed to have a special bond between the two of them, even if infancy. If one was happy, the other was happy. If one of them was upset, you had two crying babies on your hands. Early on, it was quite the challenge for their parents discerning exactly which babe was fussing for food, a diaper change, or attention, and which one was just empathizing with her sister. The toddler years weren’t much better. Having two children in their terrible twos was bad enough.

It always seemed that, what mischief one of them didn’t cause, the other one thought of and got them both involved in. The Campbell’s house looked like a tornado had passed through it until they were of the age where they knew better and had to clean up their own disasters. One of the more bizarre traits they shared though was being very uncommunicative. For the first three years of their lives, they tended to only babble or talk to their parents if prompted to. Even then, they tended to only respond in monosyllabic answers and phrases.

It wasn’t until they were around the age of 5 and spending more time with other children in school that they truly opened up and became chatterboxes like most children are. Even so, when they were at home, or it was just the two of them, they would totally clam up again. It worried their parents, until they started opening up at school. Seeing their open communication from that point on, they breathed a sigh of relief and put the matter to rest.

They theorized that the two rarely spoke to each other due to some kind of unconscious link between the two of them. They were more correct then they could have guessed. The two of them had been born with a telepathic link and could not only read each other’s thoughts but they could communicate between each other quite clearly. Why did they need to learn and use clumsy language when they’d been communicating quite clearly since their time in the womb?

Of course, the first few years of their lives, they didn’t realize what a special gift they shared. As babies and toddlers, they didn’t know any better. This is just how things worked. Eventually when they realized it didn’t work with their parents, or the other people in the community, that’s when they figured out that it wasn’t such a common place thing. As they learned from Reverend Privy, their pastor and teacher, such unholy powers were the work of the devil.

Even at that tender age, they realized the necessity of keeping their little secret. It didn’t keep them from still using the connective ability though. Where was the harm and evil in simple communication between sisters? None that they saw. Yes, they felt guilty for disobeying the instruction of their pastor and teacher, but not enough to give up what they were sharing. If they went to hell for it, at least they’d have each other to lean on. As long as they kept it secret though, who would ever know, right?

And they hid it well throughout their childhood. For the most part, the other children and inhabitants of the hollow just passed off their quiet demeanor as the girls being shy and well-behaved. This was a day and age where children, let alone female children, were meant to be seen and not heard. There was the occasional child who would accuse them of being stuck up or too close to each other, but most people just saw them as being good girls. And, for the most part, they were. Let’s face it, no child is a perfect angel.

Due to their near hermit-like social existence, they passed through their early years of youth with little to no instance. It wasn’t until their adolescent years of puberty that their true powers became apparent to them and to each other. Yes, even in their infancy and childhood, their special gifts peeked out every now and then, but not commonly enough to raise suspicion from anyone, even themselves.

An example of this is when they were still infants and toddlers. It wasn’t completely uncommon that, when Sarah became upset that the skies would darken with clouds, the wind would pick up, and it would begin to rain. If her cranky mood persisted, or she was highly upset, an all-out, unexpected thunderstorm might build up. As this didn’t happen every single time in unison with her bad moods, nobody ever made the correlation, not even her or Judith. As they were entering their teen years though, both girls began to see the pattern.

Sarah even began to experiment with the notion, intentionally making herself upset to see if she could affect the weather. With increased practice, it became more and more apparent to her and her sister Judith that it was far from coincidental. Sarah Campbell had the ability to control the weather; By today’s term, the fictional ability of atmokinesis! In her case, there was nothing fictional about it though. And she wasn’t alone in her seemingly unique ability. Judith was realizing her true potential beyond telepathy as well.

In her case, her ability was a bit more apparent, not only to her and Sarah, but to her family and community as well. It was a much less controversial power though. From the time she was able to wobble around on two feet, Judith possessed a true affinity with animals. Not only did all of the local pets such as dogs and cats seem to adore her, but the livestock and wildlife as well. It was nothing for you to find her entertaining an entourage of animals when she was playing outside.

The cats and dogs would literally knock her to the ground and almost smother her with their affections. Furthermore, birds would flitter around her head, and land on her hands and shoulders as if she were a fairytale princess. Squirrels and chipmunks would follow her about like she was the Pied Piper, and she would have long and detailed conversations with the lot. The townsfolk were fascinated by it and chuckle heartedly when she would decipher her communications with the animals. They found it totally endearing.

They might have felt differently if they’d known that it was more than a simple and innocent little girl, harmlessly communing with nature. She really could communicate with all of the animals, and them with her. Besides Sarah, they were her dearest and truest friends. That level of truth would have disturbed the general populace, and probably been seen as some form of demonic communion by the more religiously zealot.

Like her sister, she eventually realized how different she was from everyone else. By the time she was entering her teen years she had stopped publicly talking to the animals. That is, beyond the playful conversation which even adults will display towards their pets and other animals. There was no reason to draw undue attention to her or her woodland friends.

The only person the twins truly shared their special secrets with, up to this point, was each other. With their telepathy, it was near impossible to have any secrets between the two of them. With that mental connection, they shared a special bond which wouldn’t have allowed secrets. They kept nothing from each other. It was just the two of them against the world…for now.


* * *


Hilary Dyer was a witch who Sarah and Judith Campbell would meet and befriend later in their teen years living in Shamanoire Hollow. Hillary was born one year after the Campbell girls, and had led a perfectly normal childhood before realizing her true gift in her early teen years. Perfectly normal, save for one inexplicable occurrence…when she brought the dead back to life. No, she didn’t create a Frankenstein monster or zombie that shambled around killing people in the small hollow village. Nothing so amazingly horrific. She brought a baby bird back to life. Here’s what happened.

Her and her brothers, Terry and Daniel, were picking blueberries in the woods behind their family’s small cabin. Their mother had promised to bake them a blueberry pie with their dinner if they found her enough berries. Sweet treats not being a daily staple in their diet, the children were more than happy to comply and spend an hour or so picking the delicious berries. Yes, almost as many ended up in their mouths as they were picking as ended up in their baskets. Still, they ended up with plenty for a pie or two.

They were just getting ready to return home and give the berries to their mother when Terry and Daniel spotted a bird’s nest with an abundance of chirping coming from it up in one of the trees. There were no low branches in which they could easily climb up, and the nest was too high for them to reach. This meant they would have to throw stones to get at it. You could raise the question, why would two red-blooded, American boys want to pelt a nest full of birds with a handful of stones?

You would have pretty much answered your question by identifying them as two red-blooded American boys though. They did it because they could, and because it would most likely make their sister whine and plead with them to stop. Nobody ever said big brothers were the nicest creatures on the planet.


“Come on guys, leave the poor birds alone. What did they ever do to you,” Hillary protested.

“Let’s get these berries to mother so she can make our pie, okay?”


Her attempt at distraction fell to deaf ears. With neither of them being able to hit the bird nest with their first volley, it was now a competition between the two of them. Who could knock it out of the tree first? Again, we’re talking boys here. Competition was life! They continued taking turns throwing stones and even rocks at the defenseless nest. And finally, the birds luck ran out. One of the bigger rocks Terry threw up at it connected and sent the nest falling to the ground. Long before it landed, two small birds, most likely babies by there size, took flight to a safer venue.


Laughing, hooting, and hollering in triumph, the boys approached the nest. Hillary reticently followed. Reaching down to claim his trophy, Terry suddenly dropped the nest as quickly as he’d grabbed it and stepped back. Catching up to the boys, Hilary inspected the nest, expecting the worst. And there it was…the reason Terry had dropped the nest like it was the hot end of a stove poker; A dead baby bird, bleeding from its mouth was lying in it.

Typically, either boy would have been overjoyed to not only find a dead animal, but to have the notoriety of killing it. They were country boys and raised to hunt and live off the land. Up until this point in their lives though, they themselves had never killed anything yet, let alone something so young, frail, and defenseless. It took them back a bit.

Finally regaining their composure in front of each other and their watching sister, they laughed and headed off towards home with their berry baskets. They’d be talking about their “great kill” for weeks to their friends and family, the bird becoming larger and more savage with every telling. But Hilary knew the truth.

After the boys had run off, she reticently reached down and picked up the poor baby bird. She squeezed its frail little dead body in her hands, trying not to cry. Her brothers were such uncaring brutes. Laying the bird down in the soft grass, she took up a sharp-edged rock and began digging a little bird-sized grave for the poor fellow. It was the best she could do for the little guy. At least, that’s what she had thought. After finishing her shallow hole, she turned to pick up the little one to bury him.

He was standing there, on his two tiny feet, eyes looking up at her. Letting out a couple small cheeps of thanks, he suddenly took off in the direction his brothers had flown…perfectly healthy from the looks of his agility and speed. Somehow, she miraculously healed the bird or brought it back to life! How could that be though?

Reverend Privy said that only angels and The Lord could make miracles; Especially ones as almighty and powerful as resurrection. Not wanting to claim herself as either, lest she be struck dead for the blasphemy, she changed her mind on the subject. It wasn’t her creating a miracle, the bird had merely been stunned and woke up.

She put the thought of her healing the bleeding bird’s lifeless body completely out of her mind. If anyone had saved the bird, it had been God, Jesus, or the angels. Not dopey old her. Happy that the bird was healthy, she ran to catch up with her brothers. It wouldn’t be until her early teen years, when her power manifested itself in a much more obvious way, that she would think back to the little bird and realize that it had all started way back then.


* * *


Conner Cunningham, the token male of the five Witches of Shamanoire Hollow, wasn’t able to hide his gift quite as easily as Hilary Dyer or the Campbell twins. This was not only due to the nature of his power, but its rampant manifestation from his earliest years. Just keeping it secret from those outsides of his direct household was a challenge for his parents.

What choice did they have though? It was a choice of keeping their baby’s secret or seeing him destroyed for being a demon of some sort. There was no choice there. They kept it by keeping him inside and away from others until he was old enough to control it better. It was a lonely and difficult childhood for him, and his family, but that’s the way it had to be.

You see, little Conner was born with the power of telekinesis. That is, the power to move objects around with just the power of his mind. Granted, it only worked with small objects, and ones within close proximity to him, but that was enough. The first time he summoned a dropped toy back to his hand at the tender age of 3 months, his mother nearly had a heart attack. When the habit persisted with other items, such as his bottle, small blankets, and unsafe items like her knitting or silverware, she thought she was going to have the demons exorcised out of her little one.

With a lot of patience and understanding on her and her husband’s part though, they persevered and kept the secret. It wasn’t easy, especially going into the Terrible Two’s, and with her husband cheering on the lad’s high jinx from time to time. He especially enjoyed when she was attempted to ween young Connor from breast milk onto cow’s milk. He wanted little to nothing to do with the bottle and would mentally shoot it across the room.

Furthermore, and this really made his father smile, he would unhook his mother’s brassiere and lift the front of her blouse with his mind, trying to get at her breasts. Needless to say, his mother was no more impressed with his attempts than she was with her husband’s howls of laughter. She laid many an evil eye on him for encouraging the lad. Not only was it not helping the weening process, what if he tried such a trick when he was older? To the neighborhood girls? In church? Not only would he be as exposed as they were, the town would most likely string him up until he was dead.

Finally, her husband got her point and would hinder the lad’s actions as well. By the time he was around 10 years old, he rarely if ever used his powers, and even more rarely accidentally. By the time he was growing into his teen years, they were confident enough to let him truly join society. They began taking him to church, enrolled him in school, and would let him play with the other children of the village outside their home.

It was a bit of an awkward transition for him, having been sheltered for so long, but he loved it none the less. Just being around different people was exhilarating for him. Having seen to his education themselves, he was ready academically to go to school with his peers. Socially though, he was a bit awkward as a teen…even more so than the average pre-teen. It wasn’t until he was befriended by the Campbell twins and the other witches that he truly came out of his shell.


* * *


Very much like Hilary Dyer, Hazel Williams was slow to realize the power that laid within her. It only came out at rare moments of her childhood life, and in ways which could be easily passed over as her just being strong-willed, stubborn, and getting her way. For the type of spoiled child she was, these were common adjectives used to describe the young girl. Especially in regard to her grandparents who she lived with in Shamanoire Hollow. The young girl always seemed to get her way.

Her mother having died in child birth, and her father deserting her mother the moment he found out she was pregnant, Hazel never knew her parents. She’d lived her whole life with her mother’s parents who had adopted her right away after their daughter’s passing. Together, they lived a rather unamazing life in the hollow

The fact that Hazel grew up so headstrong and selfish was totally on her grandparents, and they sadly accepted that. Trying to make up for the girl having no mother or father, her grandparents both doted on her ceaselessly. They lavished her with every treasure, every luxury the girl could ask for. Being a retired banker who already came from money, her grandfather could pretty much grant her every wish, and did so.

It wasn’t until the beginning of her teen years that they truly realized the folly of their ways. They’d created a self-centered, spoiled brat of a child. They tried to rectify the situation when they realized their error, but by that time it was too late. Hazel was pretty much already set in her ways, and her developing power made it nearly impossible for them to resist any and all of her desires.

You see, Hazel William’s growing witch power was Audible Mind Manipulation. With a few short words, she could manipulate the will of another human being to a small extent. Given the nature of this power, and her self-centered personality, you can see where it could be easily passed over as a juvenile tantrum. Like many such powers, it laid dormant most of the time, only becoming apparent now and then.

When Hazel would become extremely upset though, meeting resistance to her growing id-enflamed personality, that’s when it would come out. Yes, her grandparents may have been to blame for her becoming difficult and spoiled, but her growing power had something to do with it as well. There were times when her grandparents literally couldn’t say no to her whims or desires.

Luckily for all involved, she didn’t truly recognize this ability as an actual supernatural power until her early teen years. Otherwise, she could have been an even more impossible brat to deal with, both figuratively and literally. In fact, it wasn’t until she was 13 that she realized she actually had it. A local boy tried to get her to do things which older teen boys shouldn’t be trying to get 13-year-old girls to do. That’s when she finally realized her potential. Her ability to get what she wanted was due to more than just her own shrill will.

The boy was 17-year-old Ray Parker, a digger in the local mine. A loner, he had left home at the age of 15, when his poor-excuse-for-a-father had thrown him out. Passing through the area, he had heard about job opportunities in the new mine and had signed up right off. Like many of the miners in Shamanoire Hollow, he had no family or true friends in the small hollow and resided in the local mining company house. He’d taken notice of young Hazel of late and had gone about wooing the young and innocent girl.