Adam Livingston moved his family from Pennsylvania to a parcel of farmland near a village then known as Smithfield, West Virginia, sometime in the 1770s. The village’s name would evolve over the years to the more pragmatic name of Middleway. However, colloquially, it would also acquire the moniker of “Clip” or “Cliptown” for the bizarre events that would transpire there. A few years before 1790, the once-thriving Livingston family would begin to endure supernatural harassment so extreme that they were beleaguered and exhausted, leaving their neighbors and visitors bewildered. According to one popular account, a mysterious Irish stranger appeared at Livingston’s door seeking shelter one dark and stormy night. Livingston provided hospitality to the weary traveler until the stranger summoned his host when fearing his death was near, begging that he send for a priest to deliver last rites. While Livingston was generous in his accommodation, being a Lutheran and having a disdain for Catholic priests, he refused to send for one. The stranger died during the night and was buried in unconsecrated ground the next day. Soon after, it seems a curse had befallen the Livingstons. Progressing as many stories of prolonged poltergeist bedevilment do, the haunting started with strange and unexplained noises about the home. Then, unseen forces would smash their crockery, light their bedding on fire, and roll great balls of fire from the hearth across the floors, causing panic. Livingston’s cattle all died, and his barn burned down. The entity’s most noteworthy destruction was making a persistent sound of clipping as if by invisible shears and leaving any family or visitor’s cloth or leather sliced, often with crescent shapes cut into them. This peculiar practice would lend the phenomenon its name, the “Wizard Clip.” While we may never know the accurate details of the happenings, something otherworldly apparently did materialize at the Livingston homestead. We can more easily explore why such mystical occurrences transmogrify into enduring folklore. To help us with that challenge, we’re joined by author and intelligence analyst Michael Kishbucher, whose recent book, The Appalachian Legend of the Wizard Clip, thoroughly investigates this early American story. Aiding in the elucidation is Appalachian folklore expert, lead researcher, and producer for Small Town Monsters
Heather Moser. Cautiously pull up a chair close to the fire as we examine the obscure yet harrowing tale of “America’s first poltergeist.”
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