Sylvania Area Family Services (SAFS) has been serving the needs of residents in the Sylvania, Ohio community for over fifty years. While the SAFS volunteers and employees spend most of their time giving to others, twenty years ago they found themselves on the receiving end... of a terrifying curse.
For decades, SAFS operated the Huntington Farms Thrift Shop at their office location near Alexis Road. There, gently used goods were offered for free or at generously reduced prices. One day, when the winds of October had begun to blow cold and temperatures were dipping down to uncomfortable lows, a woman came into the thrift shop.
A bell hanging from the ceiling gave a quick ring-ding as the front door swung by it, and a thrift shop employee came out from behind a curtained doorway and sat down at the check out desk. She smiled and waved to the customer, then set to work on the catalogues she’d brought in. She looked up briefly to take in the sight again, then looked back down to the work in front of her.
Dressed head to toe in boldly-colored garb, and with a sixty-something face thickly covered with make-up that signaled her taste in bold colors was, if nothing else, unwavering, the shopper began to shuffle along the three short aisles of clothing racks and folding tables. She scanned over the clothing until an item seemingly caught her eye as she stopped, eyebrows raised, and smiled. Pulling a pair of red-rimmed eyeglasses out of her darkly dyed hair, she squinted at the tag of the item, a knit sweater, then grabbed it and held it up in the air. After surveying the sweater for a moment, she seemed to become perplexed and abruptly dropped the garment back onto the table, promptly heading for the exit and out into the parking lot.
Within minutes the shopper returned, and she was not alone.
Accompanying her for this second trip into the second-hand store, at the end of a black leather leash, was a dog.
The shopper and her canine made a beeline for the sweater of interest, while the thrift shop employee at the checkout desk stared in amazement. She could hear the woman having a conversation with her four legged friend, and quickly realized what their intent was. In order to ascertain the correct size needed, the woman was going to dress the dog, right there between the shoe rack and umbrella stand.
The employee did an about-face and quickly disappeared behind the green curtain, nearly running up the stairs and down the hallway to the nonprofit's main offices. She burst into her supervisor’s office and tried to explain, while simultaneously catching her breath and suppressing the urge to laugh, that a woman was dressing a dog in the middle of the store.
After her stunned superior had a moment to process the strange picture being painted, she shushed the clerk, took her by the elbow and together they went back into the store.
By now, the shopper was seated on the floor between two piles of clothes, apparently with invisible labels of “maybe” and “No, this won’t fit.” Busy conversing with her dog, she appeared not to notice the two women as they approached.
“Now this is a good color for you,” the shopper said lovingly as she tried to push the hound’s head through the neck of a woolen sweater. “This will keep you all nice and snugly and handsome too!”
"Excuse me, ma’am,” said the supervisor. The shopper’s hands froze around the dog’s neck, but she did not turn to look at the employees.
“Ma’am,” the supervisor repeated. And then again. “Ma’am?”
The shopper sat up straighter, and began talking to the dog.
“No, I think this is too tight, let’s try something else,” she said as she yanked and tugged at the sweater which was now inside-out with a dog firmly stuck inside.
“Ma’am, I’m sorry but you cannot have a dog on these premises,” said the supervisor, while the clerk stood behind her with her mouth hanging open at the sight of the shopper who was also on all fours now, as she struggled to get the sweater off the dog.
The shopper ignored the supervisor’s words and continued fumbling with the knot of dog and sweater until suddenly she fell backwards and two furry ears and a snout popped out. She stood up, laid the garment back on the table where she‘d found it, calmly smoothed her hair away from her face and with a deep breath turned to face the two women.
“I need to try on a few things before I can buy them,” she said firmly through a stiff smile.
The dog, disinterested in the affairs of shopping, sniffed left and right on the ground until he found a trail worth following, then disappeared under a table of pajamas.
“No, I cannot let you do that. It’s store policy. You have to remove that dog from the premises immediately,” said the supervisor.
“I don’t think you heard me,” the shopper replied, with her head now cocked to the side as she looked both employees up and down with a steady gaze. “I need to try things on.”
The shopper took one long step forward to the employees, moving so quick they imagined a rush of wind moved with her, so that they could almost feel it blow through their hair as the woman stopped just inches away from the supervisor’s face. The shopper remained motionless for one, two, three, four seconds, staring expressionless into the supervisor’s eyes, and then she turned her back on the women and nonchalantly picked up another sweater, looking at the tag and stretching out its arms. The employees exchanged worried looks. They had never had to throw anyone out of the shop before, but the strange woman’s demeanor had become so defiant, it almost felt...threatening.
“I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” said the supervisor. “Now.”
Any trace of congeniality was long-gone from her voice.
“I need to buy some warm clothes for my dog, and I need to try them on,” the shopper replied through clenched teeth while rummaging through a pile of socks. “And I need you to mind your own business.”
The shopper looked down and started to say a word of comfort to her canine companion then gasped at the empty collar at the end of the leash. She hurried around the displays of piled up merchandise, calling out in her shrill voice, until he finally appeared, his white furry face peeking out from behind the green curtain that led to the “Staff Only” employee’s area.
“He can’t be back there! And he can’t be out here either,” the exasperated supervisor said. She crossed her arms and took on a serious tone to make it clear that she meant business. “If you do not leave right now, I will call the police. I have asked you to leave, so now you are actually trespassing!”
After only the slightest hesitation, the shopper put her chin up and stared straight ahead as she came out from behind the checkout counter with the dog securely attached to the collar and leash. “What were you doing back there,” she whispered off to the side.
The shopper appeared to be leaving as she walked toward the door, but then she stopped. A smile began to grow on her face.
Slowly, ever so slowly, the shopper turned to face the two employees.
She straightened to her full height and threw her arms straight up above her head. Reaching to the sky she leaned her head back and began moaning.
The frightened employees stepped back as the shopper began the sing-song rhythm of a chant. The words were like chunks of sound that had no meaning, yet they were terrifying to the ears. It was a language, if it could be called that, that the women had never heard before. The chant lasted less than a minute, then the shopper paused, then she began again. Three times she repeated the chant.
When she was done, the shopper lowered her arms, returned her gaze to the living and addressed the employees.
“You have been cursed,” she said in a matter-of-fact tone while she waved her fingers through the air, writing invisible words on an invisible paper. “You, and all who come this way ever after, all shall be bound by the hex put on this place, on this day. There is no escape. All who work here, upon walking through this doorway, will experience pain and loss, sorrow and ill-luck, the greatest you’ve ever seen.”
And with that she turned and left, dog in tow.
Many months later, after the weather had become light and warm again and the memory of that day had nearly faded, the supervisor was sitting at her desk when one of the non-profit volunteers came running into her office waving a newspaper.
“I knew it! This has got to be her,” the volunteer said as she opened up The Toledo Blade newspaper and spread it out on the supervisor’s desk. “She really is a witch!”
On the front page of the paper was the headline “1st candidate to file Toledo mayoral petitions.” Underneath was a photo of a sixty-ish woman with darkly-dyed hair, and still-unwavering boldly colored clothes and makeup.
“She is a self-proclaimed prophetess,” read the volunteer. “And she said that if she didn’t get what she wanted, Toledo would experience the greatest destruction you’ve ever seen! Sound familiar?”
The supervisor silently skimmed the paragraphs below the headline, avoiding direct eye contact with the woman who had been in their second-hand shop on that fateful autumn day. Yes, it was her. The woman who cursed SAFS was running for Mayor of Toledo. She folded the newspaper closed and handed it back to the volunteer.
“Okay, enough hocus pocus, I’m busy here,” she said with a smile, and waved her off. But as the office door closed and the supervisor was left alone with her thoughts, she almost, just almost, dared to wonder. “No! There is no such thing as witches, magic, or curses. I refuse to believe!”
From that day on, when luck turns bad, the employees of SAFS often laugh and say “Oh, it’s the curse!” And while nervous laughter may ease the tension it does little to erase the truth, that a curse was laid upon the foundation of Sylvania Area Family Services by a woman who lives nearby, a woman who believes she has the power of magic.
And maybe, she does.
"Anyone who curses does it with witchcraft. If whatever the person may say happens, it is witchcraft." -Prophetic Media and Witchcraft, 2017
Based on the true story of a Toledo "self-proclaimed Prophetess," her dog, and the curse she placed upon employees and volunteers of the Huntington Farms Thrift Shop in Sylvania, Ohio.
Contact the author with feedback, comments, or questions at: Minerva@HauntedSylvania.com