“Witches Ride”

Oct 31, 2011 by

This is an actual 19th century Witch Story that takes place in and around Glen Providence Park! This story was found among the papers of the late Dr. Anna E. Broomall, who died in 1931.  She was a relative of John M. Broomall, who owned the land that is now Glen Providence Park until his death in 1894.

We have confirmed some of the geographic locations in the story, as detailed in our End Notes.  There is also a Ghost Story recounted in the same article.

For the full experience, you can listen to the score of The Witches’ Ride via archive.org, from Engelbert Humperdinck’s 1892 opera Hansel & Gretel, while you read the story!

From the May 15, 1931 Chester Times article, Local “Witches” of Long Ago Described by Dr. Broomall:

“The pumping station of the Media Water Works occupies the sight [sic] of an old Grist Mill dating back in the eighteenth century, indeed part of the old mill still exists in the present building. [1] On the other side of the old mill race the miller’s house stands, not much altered from its original shape and occupied now by the engineer of the water works.  In the latter part of the eighteenth century and the first part of the nineteenth century this mill property was occupied by an old miller named Seth Levis, the hero of the following account.  He was a well known character of the neighborhood and died about 1840, aged some 75 years. [2]

1870 map of Media & Upper Providence - shows F. Cannon house

“A little way up the state road towards Media at the corner where the road turns off up the Valley in front of Scroggie,[3] is a small old stone house, now belonging to the heirs of Frank Cannon. [4] Years ago at the time to which this account refers this old house was occupied by three single women, sisters whose name is not now known.

“It is with these old maids and the miller above referred to, that our legend is concerned.  Back in the early days of this region before civilization had turned too strong a light on things occult, the neighborhood was peopled with its full quota of goblins and ghosts and witches and report had it that the hours on the “Witches Ride,” and witches. [sic] 

“These malicious reports were to the effect that the good old ladies, armed with the bridle of a horse, would go to a man’s house at night, enter through the keyhole and finding him asleep would throw the bridle over his head with the result of which he would turn into a horse.  He would then be taken out and rode about for hours on the “Witches Ride,” and then towards morning would be driven back to his house, the bridle removed, and he would once more be allowed to take the form of a man.  There must have been some truth in these stories as many were the men who woke up in the morning tired and fagged out as by a week’s work.

“The “Witches Ride” we have mentioned was located on top of the hill west of Media about opposite the projection of Front street. [5] For many years there could be seen more or less a circular line around the top of this hill some hundred yards in diameter which was reported to be the remains of this nocturnal tract.  

“But these night excursions came to a strange and sudden stop, a result brought about according to rumor, by the following chain of circumstances.  

1810 Map of Delaware County - shows Levis property

“One night one of the old women concluded to play a trick on old man Seth.  Quietly she entered his room, in the orthodox way, through the keyhole, and attempted to throw the bridle over Seth’s head.  Unfortunately for her Seth was awake and heard her coming.  He pretended sleep until she came near and then seizing here threw the bridle over her head and was surprised to find the charm worked both ways and that his enemy had turned into a horse.  He thereupon took her to the stable, saddled her and started out upon a midnight ride.  All night long they rose far and wide over the rough country roads, until both rider and horse were fagged out.  When dawn came he put his new horse in the stable along with the other animals.  During the day he noticed the new arrival was without shoes so he led her to the black smith’s shop and had her shod. [6] The following night the long country ride was repeated, covering if possible even more miles than before.  At dawn of the second morning tired of the joke he had played on the old lady, Seth removed the bridle and set her free once more in human form.

“We can be sure that friend Seth told the story of his adventure with great relish to his friends.  Of course there were many who doubted his story, but its truth was strangely confirmed by the fact that one of the old women fell violently ill and the doctor, when questioned, admitted that he did not understand the case.  He was greatly puzzled over certain wounds on the hands and feet of the patient, which were only accounted for when Seth’s story became known.  

 

End notes:

[1] According to Media historian Frank Lees, there were mills near the current Aqua plant (located at Ridley Creek Road and Baltimore Pike) starting in the early 1700‘s.  Media Borough bought the property in 1871 for waterworks, which it owned until 1994.

[2] According to the 1914 A History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania and its People, Anna Broomall is remarkably accurate in her account of Seth Levis.  He inherited a mill at Ridley Creek from his father Isaac Levis in 1798, and immediately sold a one-half interest to his brother-in-law, Edward Lewis.  Seth operated the mill until 1825 when he passed his remaining interest to Edward.  Seth Levis died in 1841 at 74 years old.   Levis and Lewis are shown on the above 1810 map of Delaware County.  This dates the witch story between 1798 and 1841 at the latest!  

1909 Map of Upper Providence Township - shows "Scrogie"

[3] The house at Kirk & Ridley Creek, at the mouth of the valley, was called Scroggie as late as 1952- as marked (“Scrogie”) on this 1909 map of Upper Providence Township. In the 1800’s, the land that is now the park was called Scroggie Valley.

[4] The Frank Cannon house, where the three sisters lived, is marked on the 1870 map of Media & Upper Providence!

[5] The Witches Ride was “on top of the hill west of Media about opposite the projection of Front street”, the same location as the circular path at the top of the hill at the park’s Kirk Lane entrance!

[6] The black smith may well have been at the Minshall House, Media’s oldest house!  According to the Media Historical Society, “during the early nineteenth century, the house was owned by a blacksmith.”

We will add to these end notes as we learn more information!

 

Researched by Stephanie Gaboriault

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