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.

Judge Fines Man Who Called Woman Witch: John Says He Did it Because Kraut He Ate on Her Advice Made Him Sick

Detroit Free Press, February 8, 1917
I've long collected articles on the occult and paranormal that pertain to Detroit but have refrained from posting them in hopes that I could compile more information and publish a proper article concerning the matter. Time constraints and other pursuits have thwarted that endeavor. Thus, my recent spate of article posting.

This is no barn-burner but it ties into a previously posted article concerning the apparently erroneous charges against Celia Wrobleski [sic] of being a witch. Similarly, Rose Veres was called such a creature for years before time proved that she was indeed such a monster though psychological defects were likely more to blame than the occult. Miss Wrobleski seems to have been nothing of the sort.

Ancillary research into Miss Wrobleski's (I believe that is the proper spelling) origins in Detroit lead to several possibilities: a one-year-old and six-year old girl, a few teenagers and one older woman who would have been around 26 at the time of the article.

Curiously, this last young woman was born in East Tawas in the 1890s. The same town where Detroit's most famous witch Gundella was born in 1930. Gundella, aka Marion Kuclo (née Clark), said that she descended from a long line of green witches originating in Scotland. Might there be a connection? Probably not but now the notion is out there for any curiosity seeker with the wherewithal to find out whether there was or wasn't.

As for John Burchacki he ate some tainted slaw recommended by Mary Biskupa and became violently ill. He could have just as easily blamed food poisoning or his already sour stomach but instead went the witchcraft route espousing that Mrs. Biskupa was a practitioner of the ancient art. His slanderous accusation earned a $15 fine in Justice Sellers' courtroom.

The tie-in to the Wrobleski story was the MacGuffin in this article:

"We bring this case only to prevent repetition of such an outrage as that perpetrated upon Miss Celia Wroblewski, the girl the superstitious believe turns into a lion and a bear." remarked Charles Turie, the woman's lawyer.

Under the Witches' Spell: Hundreds of Detroiters Believe in the Existence of Evil Spirits and do Strange Things to Cast off the Influence, Often Undergoing Torture

Detroit Free Press, August 2, 1908 (enlarge)

Police Guard Girl Said To Be Witch: Five Bluecoats Needed to Keep Curious Crowd Back From Her House

The Detroit Free Press, January 25, 1917
Five policemen from the Vinewood avenue police station stood guard Wednesday night at the home of Miss Celia Wrobleski, at 260 Twenty-eighth street, to protect her from the curioisty of more than 500 persons who had been drawn there by a report that the young girl was a witch and of late had been transforming herself into lions, bears and so on down the zoo.

Practically all of the curious who gathered in front of Celia's home Wednesday night were foreigners. Many had been there the night before, and, not seeing the rumored witchery then, they returned last night, bringing credulous friends.

The girl, much embarrassed by the report circulated widely in the west side foreign colony that she was endowed with extraordinary powers, remained in her home, with the blinds closely drawn, and would see no one.

Celia's parents blame spiteful relatives for her trouble. They say that they "started the talk" among people who did not know her.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Dreams Guide Ventures of Many Detroiters: BIg Business Deals Often Hinge on Occult. Women are More Fascinated by Study of Mysterious than Men, Observer Says

Detroit Free Press, April 21, 1929 (enlarge)
Occultism was alive and thriving in both notoriety and acclaim in the Detroit of 1929 but the craze of dream interpretation and practical usage in public and private decision making was taking a foothold.

Dorothy Pons, manager of a large downtown bookstore confirmed as much in this Free Press article saying that previous books on the subject were dry, grasping texts that lacked imaginative and scholarly inclination and were looked upon as novelty reading.

There was also a psychological element to these new books that spoke to the fanciful convictions of the reader and seemingly confirmed their biases while simultaneously making the publications best-sellers.

However, the biggest boon for the book industry was the willingness of the consumer to pay significantly more for the new-fangled material. Generally considered dime store reading just a few years past the consumer was ready to part with up to 20 times the previous going rate for the self-serving tomes.

While women were the primary buyers men were just as willing to embrace the fad but were often too busy to procure and disseminate the information within. Wives, female friends and relatives often served as surrogates for promulgating the message to their male counterparts, who eagerly followed the trend and suggestions.