The Liberty Witch is a legendary being in Bedford Virginia. Several mysterious events over the course of centuries has been blamed on an exiled woman named Liberty, who was said to have practiced witchcraft.

Since the mid-18th century, a settlement has existed on the site of this picturesque town that is surrounded by the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The settlement was originally named Liberty when it became the county seat of Bedford in 1782.

The story of how the town of Liberty (now Bedford) got its name is an interesting one. When New London, which served as the county seat until 1782, became a part of the newly formed Campbell County, Bedford was forced to look for a new site. William Callaway, Jr. was asked to make a survey of the county in order to locate the new courthouse as near the center as possible.

In the meantime, an offer of a hundred acres of land along what was known as Bramblett's Road was made by Joseph Findings and Robert Downey. That particular hundred acres is how this whole tragic story began! Findings and Downey were ruthless landowners trying to run Robert Bramblett out of business. Bramblett was a single father of six daughters, raising his children after the unfortunate death of his wife during childbirth. His property, Bramblebush Farms, was a prosperous apple orchard happily situated between the other two landowners’ farms. In what many people still say was a crooked deal, Findings and Downey were successful in obtaining Bramblebush Farms. With the town of Liberty conveniently located in the middle of these two greedy land barons, they knew their futures were secured. Robert Bramblett however, didn’t meet with such a happy ending. After publicly accusing Findings and Downey of swindling him out of his property, Robert Bramblett and five of his children died, presumably in their sleep, when their plantation house caught fire. Liberty was the only survivor. She had been out that night gathering herbs in the forest when the house caught fire. Although Findings and Downey were suspected by the townspeople for starting the fire, no one was ever arrested.

A committee, consisting of William Mead, William Leftwich, William Trigg, Henry Buford, and James Buford, was asked to examine the hundred-acre tract to determine its suitability and report to the court by July 23, 1782. Trying to right the suspected wrong doing of Findings and Downey, the committee unanimously voted to name the newly formed town for the oldest daughter of Robert Bramblett, Liberty.

James Buford was asked to make a contract for the building of a courthouse, prison, and stocks. Accordingly, a courthouse 20' by 30' with a twelve-foot pitch and a chimney of stone was erected in a grove of oaks on the site of the present Bulletin- Democrat building. Sadly, that grove of oaks was the Bramblett Family Cemetery.

On October 12th of 1785, Liberty Bramblett was banished from the town of Bedford after several local children accused her of performing witchcraft. She was discovered later in the forests of Huddleston, in Bedford County, by a group of hunters running rabbits. She was presumed dead from exposure. Her body was hung on a tree with stones tied to each of her limbs, stretching her body down with gravity. The following year, all of her accusers and half the town's children vanished without a trace.

By 1881, Bedford was the fifth largest manufacturing center in Virginia with 11 tobacco manufacturers. But during these prosperous years, a mysterious and devastating fire spread through the commercial area of the city, on October 12, 1884, destroying almost every building in its path and causing close to one million dollars’ worth of damage.

By 1890 the townspeople, fearing a strong curse upon them, officially changed the name to Bedford. In hopeful celebration that the curse could be broken by the towns name change, the villagers held the first annual Tobacco Harvest Picnic. During the event, ten-year-old Ellen Overstreet wandered off towards Goose Creek, in Huddleston, and drowned in the shallow water. Eleven eye-witnesses claim to have seen a ghostly white hand reach up out of the water and pull her in.

The creek was searched, but Ellen's body was never recovered. Afterwards, the creek mysteriously became clogged with oily bundles of sticks, rendering the water useless for thirteen days. A man drank the water sometime later, and it killed him, while several animals also got sick and died. The incident wasn’t the first to be blamed on the Liberty Witch.

On October 12th , 1896, eight-year-old Robin Woodford was in the forests around Bedford County (in Huddleston) when she got lost and met an old woman, whose feet, according to Robin, "did not touch the ground". She came to the old woman, who acted in a seemingly generous manner, and she followed the old woman deep into the wood to an old, abandoned house, which she entered. The house had no back wall, only a vine covered opening in the side of a mountain. Robin followed the woman down into bowels of the cave. The old woman said she had to depart but promised a quick return. Hours passed, and as Robin sat in the cave, which slowly grew darker as afternoon faded into evening, she grew more and more frightened. She had been sensing a growing feeling of evil ever since she stepped in the front door of the house. As soon as she couldn’t stand the creepiness anymore, Robin stood up and found an opening in the roof of the cave, through which she squeezed herself and then ran through the darkening woods, and out of the forest completely! Once out, she slowly made her way back to Bedford. From then on she avoided the woods completely, claiming to feel an evil presence about the Bedford forest.

While Robin had been in the cave, however, she had been missed. Her grandmother had become anxious about her and she had alerted the authorities. The Bedford police sent a search party up into the woods to rescue her. When they arrived at Coffin Rock, the evil spirit of Liberty Bramblett assailed the search party, having just left Robin in the cave. The search party were soon slaughtered by the Liberty Witch, who disemboweled them and left their corpses on Coffin Rock, then returned to the house, supposedly to kill Robin. Upon discovering the empty cave, she realized that Robin had fled. Infuriated, the Liberty Witch took the corpses of the search party, and dragged them off into the forest, but not before another search party had witnessed the corpses and knew of an evil force in the Bedford woods of Huddleston.

Massacre of the Bedford Seven

On the twelfth day of October 1940, a hermit named Rusty Orr began abducting children from Bedford, having been previously ordered by the evil spirit of Liberty Bramblett to walk into Bedford and take the first group of children he found. He accomplished this by promising candy to the children. As Rusty was already being driven mad by the spirit of Liberty stumbling about the woods at night and chanting foreign phrases in his sleep, this was an easy task for him to accomplish. He took the children back to his secluded house in the forest and brutally disemboweled them, just as the Liberty Witch had done with the search party. Rusty hid this secret for two days, until Liberty reappeared to him in his dream and proclaimed "Peace shall come to thee, if thee reveal thy actions." Rusty followed out this order and he walked into town, claiming "I'm finally finished." Initially no-one knew what he meant, but the police ventured into the woods, seeking his abode, and found the seven corpses of the children in the cellar. They removed them, taking them into Bedford, and this revelation tore up the community. The citizens of Bedford proclaimed Rusty Orr guilty as charged, and desired to have him executed. Orr did not deny anything - he confessed to the last degree, informing the authorities of Bedford that he was merely doing what an old woman dressed in black had told him to do. Orr was convicted and the authorities executed him by hanging in 1941.

The trail hike that we’re taking you on leads up to the abandoned shack of the Liberty Witch.