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The Charmers

Story ID:3683
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Local Legend
Location:Sambro Nova Scotia Canada
Year:1960
Person:Uncle Bill
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This one is a bit spooky, but it is true.

The Charmers

Many times over the years, my Mum told me stories about the people who could
cure things. “They were ‘charmers’.” she said.

One night, during a fierce winter storm, we lost power. My brothers were in our
room entertaining themselves with a game of checkers by candlelight. Mum and I were in
the kitchen. We talked as she washed dishes by hand. Each time a gust of wind shook our
small house, the lantern flicked and created shadows that moved around the room.

“Mum, can you tell me about the charmers again?” I asked. “What’s a charmer?”

She sat down across the table from me and leaned close. “They have special
powers.”

“Really?” For some reason, I felt the need to whisper. “Were they witches and
warlocks?”

“No! They were just like you and me.” She whispered too. Another gust of wind
shook the house, sending the shadows dancing around the room again. “I knew a lady in
Bull Creek (This is an area close to our village that had about six homes in it) who had a
goiter in her throat.”

“What’s a goiter?” I interrupted.

“It’s lump in the lymph nodes in the neck. This lady’s goiter was so big, it was
closing her throat. She couldn’t eat and had trouble breathing. Well, I forget the man’s
name now, but he was a charmer. They say he went to the lady’s house, walked up to her,
placed a hand on the lump, closed his eyes, and mumbled words no one understood. He
then told her she would be fine.”

“What happened?” I interrupted again. I was wide-eyed with fascination and
scared to death.

“A week later the goiter was gone. It just disappeared.”

“Wow!” I still didn’t understand what a goiter was, but was cool to know
someone could make it go away with magic words.

Snow and hail, whipped by the winds, rattled against the kitchen window. “There
was another time.”

“Where?”

“Hush! Let me talk.” She scolded me. “Your dad and I were at Clarence and
Sylvia’s. You don’t know them. They were old and are gone now.” She took a sip of her
tea and leaned close again. “They say Clarence had the power too.

“We were playing cards that night. They didn’t have electricity in their house.
Most houses didn’t back then you know. All they had were candles or lanterns like this
one.” She pointed to the lamp beside us. “Your father and I were playing cards with
Clarence. He always seemed to win. Best card player I ever saw. Anyway, Sylvia was in
the kitchen drying dishes. She’d washed a glass chimney for a lantern that night. It was
just like the one.” I looked at our lamp again.

Mum continued. “She was drying the chimney. Her small hand pushed the dish
cloth inside and twisted to dry the inside. The glass broke and slit her wrist. Michael,
blood poured from her wrist in a river of red. Your father and I were scared. We thought
she would bleed to death right in front of us.

“Clarence wasn’t fazed at all. He calmly got up, walked up to Sylvia, and took her
wounded hand in one of his. He held the cut face up, waved his other hand over it and
mumbled words we couldn’t hear. Michael, I swear, the blood stopped flowing. They
bandaged her wrist, and in a few days she was fine. It was the most amazing thing I have
ever seen.”

The wind whipped more hail and snow against the window. I turned pale.
“Wow!” was all I could say.

“There are some people who just have these powers.” Mum said.

“How do they get them, Mum?”

“I don’t know for sure, but I do know they can pass it on. They say the person
with the power can pass it on to someone else, but that person cannot use the power until
the person who gave it to them dies. If a man has the power, he has to pass it to a woman,
and if a woman has the power, she has to pass it to a man.

“I’ve known several people who had ‘The Power’. Not one of them passed it on.
They took their secret to the grave.”

“Why didn’t they tell anyone?” I asked. Another blast of wind, snow and ice
shook our house.

“No one knows. Uncle Bill has the power too ya know. He can charm warts.”

I knew who Uncle Bill was. Everyone in Sambro knew him. He wasn’t my uncle,
but everyone called him that. He was a short man. Years of salt spray and sun had etched
deep lines in his face. He was old, but he was strong. Even in his 70’s, we’d saw him
row his dory (A large row boat with good stability) out to sea for a day of fishing. In the
summer, kids would go to his place, sit outside by a fire, and listen to him tell ghost stories.

“Uncle Bill can charm warts?” I asked in a whisper.

“That’s what they say. He does it just after the new moon, when the moon is just a
sliver in the sky.”

A year later, I witnessed Uncle Bill’s power. One of my older brothers had more
than sixty warts on his hands. He went to Uncle Bill. The first time didn’t work, so he
went back the next month. Within a week, his warts began to grow smaller. A few weeks
later, his hands were wart free. They just faded away.

When I was eleven, three warts appeared on my hands. One day I saw Uncle
Bill, then in his late eighties, walking down the only street that wound through our
village. “Uncle Bill, I have three warts. Can you charm them for me?”

“Let me see your hands, son.” When he took my hands, I felt a warmth flow
through me. His old rheumy eyes, buried behind the heavy grey eyebrows, stared at me.
“Come to me the next time the moon is just a sliver in the sky. Wait until the sun sets. I’ll
be waiting. You must come alone.”

I watched the moon. One night it was gone. It was the new moon. A few days
later, it was time. “Michael, it’s dark now. Go to Uncle Bill. He’ll be waiting for you.”
Mum said.

I felt small and scared. The dark street led past our church and down the dirt road
to Uncle Bill’s small, wood-heated shack. Stars shined brightly over my head. In the
western sky, the moon was a thin crescent.

The door opened, just as I lifted my hand to knock. Uncle Bill stepped outside.
“I wondered if you’d come. Come with me.” I followed him to his woodpile. “Get
down on your knees. Make sure the moon is over your left shoulder.”

I did as I was told. “Like this?”

He gripped my shoulders with surprising strength for a man of his age. “No!
Turn more to the left.” I would have done as I was told, but I didn’t need to. His strong
hands forced me into the proper position. His hand on my shoulder supported him as he
slowly knelt on the dirt in front of me. One of his old knees popped as he settled to the
ground.

We knelt face-to-face in the dark. “Give me your hands!” he commanded. He held
them both and then reached into the dirt with his right hand, grabbed a handful of soil and
woodchips, and rubbed it all over my hands as he mumbled words I couldn’t
comprehend. “Now hold this dirt in your right hand and toss it over your left shoulder
toward the moon.”

I did as I was told. “Michael, the warts will go away in a few weeks. I want you to
forget about them. Don’t check them every day. Forget about them and they will one day
be gone. If it doesn’t work, come back to me in a month.”

Of course, every day I checked the warts. They remained the same. After a while,
I forgot about the charming and went on with my childhood. One day I was washing my
hands and saw something amazing. The warts were smaller. In another few weeks they
were gone.

They do exist. They’re among us.

Uncle Bill died in 1987. His powers went with him.

Michael T. Smith