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The Deformed Of Zoar


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

The valley of Zoar, in western New York, is so surrounded by hills that
its discoverers--a religious people, who gave it a name from Scripture
said, This is Zoar; it is impregnable. From her we will never go. And
truly, for lack of roads, they found it so hard to get out, having got
in, that they did not leave it. Among the early settlers here were people
of a family named Wright, whose house became a sort of inn for the
infrequent traveller, inasmuch as they were not troubled with piety, and
had no scruples against the selling of drink and the playing of cards at
late hours. A peddler passed through the valley on his way to Buffalo and
stopped at the Wright house for a lodging, but before he went to bed he
incautiously showed a number of golden trinkets from his pack and drew a
considerable quantity of money out of his pocket when he paid the fee for
his lodging. Hardly had he fallen asleep before his greedy hosts were in
the room, searching for his money. Their lack of caution caused him to
awake, and as he found them rifling his pockets and his pack he sprang up
and showed fight.

A blow sent him to the bottom of the stairs, where his attempt to escape
was intercepted, and the family closed around him and bound his arms and
legs. They showed him the money they had taken and asked where he had
concealed the rest. He vowed that it was all he had. They insisted that
he had more, and seizing a knife from the table the elder Wright slashed
off one of his toes to make him confess. No result came from this, and
six toes were cut off,--three from each foot; then, in disgust, the
unhappy peddler was knocked on the head and flung through a trap-door
into a shallow cellar. Presently he arose and tried to draw himself out,
but with hatchet and knife they chopped away his fingers and he fell
back. Even the women shared in this work, and leaned forward to gaze into
the cellar to see if he might yet be dead. While listening, they heard
the man invoke the curse of heaven on them: he asked that they should
wear the mark of crime even to the fourth generation, by coming into the
world deformed and mutilated as he was then. And it was so. The next
child born in that house had round, hoof-like feet, with only two toes,
and hands that tapered from the wrist into a single long finger. And in
time there were twenty people so deformed in the valley: The crab-clawed
Zoarites they were called.

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