Thursday, December 22, 2016

"Witch" Arrested When Child's Hip Is Found Broken" Peculiar Stories Are Told About Josefa Lalofski, Who Refuses to Explain

Detroit Free Press, May 31, 1914
Josefa Lalofski was called the "Witch of Poplar Street" but her reputation was more in line with Rose Veres than Gundella in that she practiced a crude form of quackery rather than the subtle craft of the witch.

Superstition was a lucrative business in the burgeoning colonies of immigrants in Detroit of the early 1900s and charlatans prospered from the ignorance of the newcomers either through financial reward or fear itself.

In an 1908 article entitled Under the Witches' Spell a Free Press reporter detailed the superstitious beliefs prevalent in the lower strata of the Polish, German and Belgian communities of Detroit. From harsh beatings of children to chase out the devil to the wearing of shawls by women and cleansing of house and its wares for the same purpose, so-called witches and witch chasers were highly prominent in these sects though serving in an underworld capacity so as to avoid detection by city authorities.

Josefa Lalofski was the Germanic version of the witch and witch chaser. She believed herself to possess the power to heal and her reputation preceded her. Especially so since her services were gratis. While the article doesn't delve into precisely why Lalofski appeared at the residence of John Demps--often times both parties involved in rituals gone wrong were fearful of consequences from occult dealings; the practitioner from the police and the victim from both the witch doctor and the Devil himself--it's likely that she had been summoned by a concerned neighbor or relative of the family.

Either way, the remedy meted out by Lalofski for Demp's 10-month-old daughter's ills was to bend her tiny leg backwards until heel and head almost touched. The child reacted in agony and a practitioner of medical science in the form of Dr. F. N. Henry arrived to diagnose the child with a displaced hip and not the broken back that the witch had surmised from her examination.

Lalofski was arrested and a follow-up blurb a few days later indicated that Demps wanted to press charges but the determination would be left up to the District Attorney. I've been unable to track down further information on the matter. Since the Free Press was notorious for misspelled names it's possible that more details will emerge from the shadows.

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