The Cursed Farmhouse

The Cursed Farmhouse
Can a tragic event initiate a curse upon a house or property? According to many locals living in the Spaulding and Old Paris Gravel Road area of Ralls County well over 100 years ago, an argument between neighbors and subsequent murder in 1876 is behind a curse on the old Morawitz Family farmhouse located 5.6 miles west of Highway 61, on the north side of what is now known as Route HH.

Goldena Roland Howard mentions the curse in her book, Ralls County Missouri, in a section she calls House of Tragedy on page 238. Howard states that the house “is situated in a spot where tragedy seems to take on some diabolical form and stalk, lying in wait for its victims.” “It began with a murder,” continued Howard.

The house was built in 1835 for Dr. Tyree Rhodes or possibly “Rodes” (unfortunately, spelling was not a huge priority in those days). In 1850, he owned nine slaves. They lived in the cellar and slave quarters located behind the house. They prepared meals in the cellar for the family and then carried the food up to the dining room.

The Scott family occupied the house in the 1870s. In 1876, there was considerable flooding of the nearby creek and John L. Scott’s fence had been washed away.

According to the Thursday, June 22, 1876 edition of the Ralls County Record provided to me by Mr. Ron Leake of the Ralls County Historical Society, this was causing an issue between Scott and his neighbor, Aaron Mefford.

Mefford’s cow had taken to wandering into Scott’s field, ruining his crop. Rather than attending to the washed out fences, the neighbors let the matter escalate. Scott threatened to shoot Mefford’s cow if he caught her on his property again.

One summer evening not long afterwards, Mefford found his cow “with blood running from her hips.” Assuming that Scott had made good his threat, he went to visit his neighbor with a loaded shotgun at his side.

Mefford confronted Scott, who denied shooting the cow, adding he hadn’t handled a gun for over a fortnight. Evidently Mefford didn’t believe him because he “emptied one barrel into Scott’s left groin, completely shattering the femoral artery, causing nearly immediate death.” He then made his way to New London to place himself into the hands of the Sheriff.

According to Howard, this is when the real trouble began. Scott’s widow and two sons tried to stay on and operate the farm. One son eventually left to find work out west and was killed in a railroad accident. The other son was killed by his own horse on the farm.

Mr. and Mrs. William Henry Morawitz purchased the farm in the early 1880s. Mr. Morawitz was a local butcher in Hannibal.

They owned the property in 1887 when 21-year-old Mike Lafferty, son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Lafferty of Spalding, was scalded to death by a steam engine that broke through the bridge over the creek near the Morawitz house.

I had the pleasure of speaking with William Henry Morawitz’s daughter, Wanita, recently. She was born at the farm in March of 1921. She remembers an interesting story from her childhood at the house. One night, the neighbor lady to the east of their house showed up at their door with her dog in her arms. She was hysterical, claiming that her son had just killed her husband and some cows and that he was after her. The family hid the woman and her dog under the bed until the sheriff arrived. Wanita also remembers the day her father was killed on the property on April Fool’s Day of 1935. She was 14 years old, and had ridden her horse to school in Rensselaer with her brothers that day. They received word to come home immediately. At first they thought it was an April Fool’s joke. But when she arrived home, the first sight to greet her was her father’s body lying on the floor with a handkerchief over his face. The family believed that Henry must have had a heart attack while backing his car out of the driveway and turned the wrong way. He went over the bluff and was killed instantly.

Do you believe the property might be cursed? I know from firsthand experience that this is a mysterious area outside of town. I lived out on HH many years ago and had a few strange experiences. One night while driving home from hanging out with friends in Hannibal, my accelerator cable broke on my 1972 Mustang. It was very late and very dark and very quiet on the road. I was not very far from where the Morawitz farmhouse is located. Probably a mile or so east of it. The first thing I noticed as I got out of my car to work on the cable was an odd noise coming from behind a dilapidated old house. It was a very loud vibrating kind of sound. I tried to ignore it, and was grateful when a couple stopped to offer help. The first thing they said to me was to ask about the noise coming from behind the house…and wasn’t I frightened out here in the dark by myself with that weird noise. We all declined to investigate the source of the sound. To this day, I wonder if there was a UFO behind that old house that night.

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