The Witch of Ringtown Valley

In March 1934, a taxi-driver by the name of Albert Shinsky (also spelled “Yashinsky” in some accounts) crept through the evening darkness to the home of Mrs. Susan Mummey. The house was barely lit, so it was not until the woman’s daughter entered the room carrying a lamp that Shinsky could make out the figure of Mrs. Mummey. He took aim and fired. His bullet struck the 63-year-old in the side, killing her. Susan Mummey, known locally in their Pennsylvania Dutch community as “The Witch of Ringtown Valley,” had put a hex on him eight years ago—or so Albert believed. He said that there was just one way to break the curse: murder with a magic bullet. Shinsky openly confessed to the crime, even re-enacting it for county detective Louis Buono. He explained that he shot the woman because she had “hexed” him eight years previously by bringing a spirit down out of the sky. The hex made him ill, tired, and depressed, Shinsky said.

Yashinsky claimed that ‘Old Suss’ had burdened him with a hex in the form of a monstrous black cat with huge green eyes and the witch’s face. For seven years, he had been climbing into his bedroom through the window, as otherwise “unless he trod evenly on each step, the cat sprang out at him.” He also claimed that at least once per month, the black cat visited him as he slept:

It slowly crawled through his closed bedroom window and towards his bed. Then it would rest itself on the side of his bed and claw at his side. It was painful torture… Once a month and sometimes more often, this huge black cat would visit him and make it impossible for him to sleep… after a visit from this cat he would be completely lost and bewildered. He was actually helpless and unable to work.

Apparently, the murder of ‘Old Suss’ was not effective in the banishing of this cat. While in prison, Yashinsky claimed to still be visited by this fiery-eyed, witch-faced phantom, rather like a feline equivalent of Keziah Mason’s infernal familiar, Brown Jenkin, in Lovecraft’s “Dreams in the Witch-House.”

It was a brutally precise single shot that did the deed, as described in the March 19, 1934 Pottsville Republican article :

"The shooting occurred at 8 o’clock Saturday evening the bullet a pumpkin ball fired from a 12 gauge shotgun entered the front window of the living room. Shattering the window glass in its course. It struck the victim in the right side passing through the lung and heart and finally lodging in the stomach ... Chief Detective Buono said this morning that there was no question the women had been the victim of an assassin’s bullet and the police hoped to get the killer."

Once Shinsky was identified as the killer, he claimed to have been “prescribed” the bullet he used to kill his elderly neighbor by a “hex doctor” who suggested it was the only way to break Mummey’s hold over him.

Unsurprisingly, the article noted, the prison doctor who examined him pronounced him “unbalanced” and “suffering from hallucinations.” But to hear Shinsky tell it, as he did to reporters, Mummey’s death was a huge relief: “I was hexed. There was nothing else for me to do. I had to kill her ... the electric chair will be better than the suffering.”

After initial resistance by the prosecutor, Shinsky was declared insane and sent to a state sanitarium rather than being tried for murder.


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