The Voice of a soul on the other side -The miraculous story of The Wizard Clip
-The incredible spiritual drama of a mystic voice from the other world, demonic activity, priestly intervention and extraordinary conversions in early Virginia
By: Glenn Dallaire
Had this incredible story been not so well documented by numerous well educated and highly respectable individuals, some would certainly struggle to believe it. Nevertheless, the numerous persons who have personally witnessesd these extraordinary events have all testified as to the authenticity of the supernatural manifestations that transpired at the Livingston home beginning in 1794, and culminating with the Livingston's surprising conversion to the Catholic Church.
John Adam Livingston was born in Lancaster County, PA in February, 1739. When he was age 33, he inherited his fathers 70 acre farm in Smithfield, Va. (which has since become Middleway-Kearneysville, Jefferson County, West Virginia) and moved his family there in 1772. Adam and his wife were were practising Lutherans who had three sons and four daughters.
The Livingston family is plagued by an unexplainable series of unfortunate events.
The historical records state that while still living in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the Livingston family was plagued by numerous negative events, such as the death or sudden disappearance of livestock, failed crops, items suddenly missing or found broken, strange scratching and other unaccountable noises in the house etc. And so it was with a certain joy and hope that Adam inherited his fathers 350 acre farm in what was then Smithfield, Virginia, for the entire family had hoped that moving out of their current home and into a new one in Virginia might relive them of the dark events that were opressing them. Unfortunately the string of evil events continued to occur in their new home with the scratching at the walls, sounds of footsteps and other strange noises, financial losses because of the death or sudden disappearance of livestock etc.
The strange death of a visitor to the Livingston family home
This part of the story is not related in all of the historical documents, but I will include it here as it may have some bearing on the case. One day in 1794, a middle aged man knoocked at the door of the Livingston family home and asked to lodge their. Adam agreed to this request out of charity for a stranger. A few days after the arrival of this traveler he suddenly became ill and as his illness became more threatening he called Adam Livingston to his bedside and told him that he was a Catholic. He then requested that a Priest be summoned as he apparently felt that his sickness was life threatening.
Livingston, who at the time was a Lutheran who was not very favorable to the Catholic church, unkindly replied "that he knew of no priest in that neighborhood, and if there was one, he should never pass the threshold of this door." Once again the dying man repeated his entreaties for the spiritual assistance of a Catholic priest, but Livingston refused his request because in his own defense there was no Catholic churches nearby, and neither did he know of any Catholic priests in the area. Soon afterwards, the stranger died without even his name being recalled by Adam, along with there being nothing among his papers to throw any light upon his identity.
The poltergeist activities increase in intensity and number
And so it was that on the night of the strangers death, Adam Livingston employed a man by the name of Jacob Foster to sit up with the corpse, out of respect for the deceased. But as darkness fell and candles were lighted in the room of the deceased, they suddenly all went out, and the room was left in darkness. Mr Foster then attempted to relight them several times, thinking the candles were defective or perhaps where extinguished by some sudden breeze (which he attested later that he never felt) but the candles kept being suddenly extinguised without any apparent cause.
Notified of the strange occurance, Livingston then brought two candles into the room which he had been using in his own family room, which were about one-third burnt down and which he knew to be good. But so soon as they were placed in the room with the corpse they became immediately extinguished. This remarkable event so alarmed Foster that he abandoned the vigil and immediately left the house.
The next day, with the help of neighbors, Adam Livingston buried the stranger on his property, without of course being able to mark the grave properly since he did not know the man's full name or date of birth etc.
The mysterious "Wizard Clip"
Soon after the burial there began the negative events described at that time as the "Wizards Clipp". It all began with the peace of Livingston family being greatly disturbed by the apparent sound of horses galloping around their house. On the first night of this occurance, Mr Livingston investigated the strange sounds and he frequently rose during the night but was unable to ascertain any cause for the strange galloping sounds. While he and his family could distinctly hear the tramping of horses, none of them could seem find the cause or the source of the disturbing noises.
During this time his barn was burnt to the ground and number of his cattle and livestock either died or strangely disappeared. Inside the family home, the cookware was thrown upon the floor and broken without any apparent cause, and a strange bells would clang, disturbing its hearers. Along with the dead or missing livestock and phantom bell clanging he additionally reported a string of other negative events such as a sudden disappearence of coins, the heads of his turkeys and chickens being strangely removed and burning embers of wood suddenly leaping from the fireplace several feet out onto the floor, endangering the house and its frightened and bewildered inhabitants.
Soon the negative events which were destroying the peace of the family assumed a new form. One night the sound of a large pair of shears (scissors) could be distinctly heard in his house, clipping in the form of half moons and other strange shapes and figures his blankets, sheets, tablecloths, shoes and clothing. Thus began what was soon called "The Wizard Clip" or "The Livingston Wizard" because of the incredible clipping that continued daily for upwards of three months.
By this time, the news of all these strange events was spread through the countryside for thirty miles around, and especially attracted the local citizens of Smithfield. An old Presbyterian lady of Martinsburg, hearing of the strange clipping that was going on at Livingston home soon arrived to satisfy her curiosity. Before entering the door she took from her head her new silk cap, wrapped it up in her silk handkerchief and put it in her pocket to save it from being clipped, if such stories were even true, she thought. After her visit she stepped out of the Livingston home and while doing so she drew out of her pocket her handkerchief containing her new silk cap, and opening it to her shock and horror she found the cap cut in narrow ribbons.
Soon afterwards came to the Livingston home three adventurous young men from Winchester who were friends, declaring their utter disbelief of the strange reports and requesting to sleep in the house in an effort to refute all that was said to be going on the home. However, a few moments after they became seated in the house, a large stone was seen to proceed from the fireplace and to whirl around the floor with great velocity, which immeditately caused the once daring young men to hastily leave the home in utter fright. And add to these already amazing events, many visitors reported a alleged "rope" that appeared to be blocking the road leading up to the Livingston house, however when those who saw it attempted to grab or move the rope, it was found to be immaterial, and thus it was termed as the "phantom rope" by some. The purpose of the phantom rope, it is thought, was to deter people from visiting the Livingston family for it is often a tactic of the demons to isolate those of whom they are attacking and oppressing.
The devastating toll on the Livingston family -Local ministers are consulted
Meanwhile, the extraordinary negative events were taking a deep toll on Adam Livingston and his family, as can easily be imagined. Everyone knew that the source was evil. The loss of their farm animals and other similar events caused by the strange events where taking a deep toll on not only the Livinsgton familes financial resources, but even moreso on their mental and emotional peace and well being. At first Adam sought the help of his local Lutheran minister, whose efforts did not help according to the records. It is said that after consulting his local pastor he also sought the help of two Methodist ministers, according to the testimonies, but apparently neither of these individuals were able to help with the extraordinary manifestations that were plauging himself and his family.
A remarkable dream
However one night, Mr. Livingston had a extraordinary dream. He saw a beautiful Church and in it was a “minister dressed in peculiar robes” and he heard a voice say to him: “That is the man who can relieve you.” Upon coming out of his dream, he immediately decided to seek out the man in this vision at all costs. That morning he set out for Winchester and sought Rev. Alex Balmaine, an Episcopal minister, knowing that Episcopalian preists dress in such "robes". Reverened Balmaine convinced the thoroughly frightened man that he was not the robed individual he had seen in his vision and that he was not in the business of removing "spells, ghosts, and things of that nature." However it is said that Rev. Balmaine suggested that he consult a Catholic priest, 'since the Catholic church is more familiar with such things'.
So with reservation because of his Lutheran background, Mr. Livingston asked around about finding a Catholic priest. He was directed to the home of a devout Catholic family named McSherry. Late that evening Mrs. McSherry saw Mr. Livingston, whose farm was about four miles away, coming toward her house and she met him at the gate. When he asked to see a priest, she told him there was no priest there then, but that one would be celebrating Mass at a home in Shepherdstown the following Sunday morning.
Mr Livingston seeks the help of the Catholic Church
On Sunday, the McSherry family met Mr. Livingston in the Catholic home in Shepherdstown. As soon as the priest, Father Dennis Cahill of Hagerstown, appeared at the altar vested for Mass, Mr. Livingston suddenly burst into tears and exclaimed, "That is the man I saw in my dream! He is the one who will relieve me!" When the Mass was over, going right to the priest, he poured out his sad story and earnestly begged him for help. After some persuasion, Fr. Cahill agreed to visit the haunted house. The priest questioned the whole Livingston family, children and all, and they all told him exactly the same stories concerning all that was happening. He therefore consented to say some simple prayers of exorcism along with sprinkling the house with Holy Water. To everone's utter amazement, as Father Cahill was leaving, a sum of money that had recently mysteriously vanished from the farmer's locked chest was suddenly laid by what seemed to be invisible hands on the doorstep near the priest's feet! Needless to say all were surpised, and Mr and Mrs. Livingston were overjoyed at having suddenly been given back their lost sum of money.
According to the written testimonies, the "poltergeist" activity stopped for some days after Father Cahill's prayers and blesing, but then suddenly began to occur once again. This time Mr. Livingston immediately went to Father Cahill and explained the recent events. Father Cahill came to the Livingston family home once again, interviewd the family concerning the recent events, and this time he celebrated holy Mass inside of the home. The supernatural activity immeditately stopped, and afterwards the weeks and months passed in a renewed peace and calm for the Livingston family. The remarkable spiritual help of the priest -who it seems was the only one who could help- made a huge impression upon Mr. Livingston and his family, and also the neighbors who had witnessed the unfolding of the amazing events.
And so Mr. Livingston, his wife, and the rest of the family were so overjoyed that they sought instruction in the Catholic faith, and soon afterwards through the hands of Father Cahill they all entered the Catholic church, along with several neighbors who had witnessed all the events that transpired. And many more conversions to the Catholic church would soon come because of all the news concerning these astounding manifestations and events. Given all they experienced, the family and friends made their profession of faith with deep devotion. But this is not the end of this extraordinary story....
A learned priest is sent to investigate
News of the remarkable events in the Livingston home and the families subsequent surprising conversion into the Catholic Church reached even the distant Archdiocese of Baltimore, where the United States first Bishop, His Excellency John Carroll (1735-1815) caught wind of the remarkable story, and thought it prudent to send a holy and learned priest Father Demetrius A. "Smith" Gallitzin (photo left) to further investigate the matters. And so it was that the learned Jesuit priest was sent by his superiors to investigate these strange happenings at Smithfield, Va. (or "Cliptown" as some were now calling it).
The 27 year old Father Demetrius A. "Smith", was born Prince "Mitri" Gallitzin, the son of a German countess and a Russian prince-ambassador of the Empress Catherine the Great and was well educated, had attended several top schools in Europe. This Prince-Priest of Pennsylvania later became known as the "Apostle to the Alleghenies" and his cause for canonisation is well underway, as he has currently been declared a "Servant of God" by the Catholic Church. He was also known as Augustine Schmidt (or Smith), a name he assumed (in his humility) to hide his noble birth.
Before arriving at the Livingston home, Father Gallitzin was initially very skeptical, and it was his intention to disprove of the alleged events through science and/or psychology. Concerning this he wrote "My view in coming to Virginia and remaining there three months was to investigate those extraordinary facts at Livingston's, of which I had heard so much...and which I could not prevail upon myself to believe; but I was soon converted to a full belief of them. No lawyer in a court of justice did ever examine or cross-examine witnesses more strictly than I did all those I could procure."
For some reason, the odd disturbances recommenced upon his arrival, with a volley of strange knocks and clanging sounds, all without a material source. He quickly came to the conclusion that the source was demonic, and as he related afterwards to Reverend Bradley (a priest-friend of his), that he immediately began to exorcise the evil spirits with prayers of the Church.
However as he commenced praying, the rattling and rumbling increased as if coming from innumerable horse driven wagons which filled the house, rattling his nerves to such an extent that he has to stop the prayers of the simple exorcism. After a few moments of reflection he came to the conclusion that he needed the assistance of Father Cahill, who returned with him to Livingston's, and bidding all of the family to kneel down, together they commanded the evil spirits to leave the house and cease all the disturbances. After what seemed like some resistance on the part of the evil spirit(s) they were finally conquered and compelled to obey the priests. The unpleasant manifestations were gone for good, and never returned. And then began an extraordinary time of grace for the Livingston family.
The supernatural Voice from Purgatory -extraordinary graces
For scarcely had the Livingston family been relieved from the renewed torments of the spirit(s) than they were visited by a consoling Voice, which remained with them for seventeen years. It has been strongly believed that this Voice came from some soul suffering in purgatory, very likely a priest because of the Voice's knowledge of Latin and liturgical hymns, who for some reason was permitted by God to visit, console and to instruct the family in the Catholic faith. Many suppose that all the supernatural events that occured to the Livingston family over the years--both the evil manifestations and later the mystical Voice, were all willed by God to give evidence to the truth of the Catholic faith, and the power of the Church and Its priest-representatives.
And so it was that one night a bright light awoke Mr. Livingston, and a clear, sweet voice told him to arise, call his family together and to pray. He did so, and the mysterious Voice prayed with them, guiding and leading their prayers. After prayers the Voice from the other side then spoke to them, in the most simple yet eloquent manner, of all the great mysteries of the Catholic faith to which they had recently assented, but with only a limited instruction and understanding. But now these truths, dimly understood before, yet accepted with faith because the Church gave them, now became clear, intelligible, fascinating and even more beautiful in their extraordinary truth. Good and evil, and the power of Jesus, His Church and Its representatives over the devil and his demons were made manifest to the Livingstons and all who knew them in a most extraordinary and unforgettable way.
The Voice and the souls in Purgatory
One day when Mr. Livingston was working in the fields with his sons, all of a sudden he was apparently taken ill, for they saw him turn deathly pale and double up. As they helped him to walk home, he explained that he had just heard a soul in Purgatory screaming for help. And later he often said that he could never forget that terrifying shriek which made a permanent impression upon his heart and mind, and made him always mindful of the suffering souls in need of our prayers.
A burnt hand from purgatory is impressed upon a piece of cloth
One night the Voice made the Livingstons get up three times to pray for a certain soul in Purgatory. And when one of the girls began to think- "...after all the souls could have saved themselves and so they have deserved their pains! And besides the whole thing is exaggerated" when suddenly they all heard a voice shrieking: "Help! Help!" When asked what kind of help was needed it replied, "Prayers, for we are in excruciating torments!"
At that moment a human hand was burned into a nearby piece of clothing, leaving the spaces between the fingers not scorched. The entire family saw both the flame and the hand. Father Gallitzin asked for and was given this extraordinary piece of clothing with the burnt hand impressed upon it, and later he often showed this "relic" while giving testimony to the supernatural events that occurred in the Livingston home.
On another occasion the mystic Voice once asked Mr. Livingston to pray for three hours for the soul of a "Fr. Pellins" (Jesuit Father James Pellentz, S.J., Bishop Carroll's recently deceased Vicar-General).
Among other things which they could remember to repeat to others, the mysterious Voice said that "all the sighs and tears of the whole world were worth nothing in comparison with one Mass in which a God Himself is offered in reparation for the sins of the world." It exhorted them to have boundless devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and It continually implored them to pray for the suffering souls in purgatory, whose agony the voice could never weary of describing. It also urged all the members of the Livingston family to charity and hospitality towards others, to simplicity, modesty and chastity in ones dress and in one's actions and behaviour; it would reprove them when they sinned against the Gospel and the commandments of God, and would encourage them to various voluntary penances and sacrifices, along with encouraging them in fasting and prayer. And whenever the Voice came –sometimes accompanied by the bright light- it would begin by saying "In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost".
Mr. Livingston, to whom the Voice most often addressed Itself, was made Its agent for innumerable good works; he would be awoken at night to undertake long journeys to persons taken suddenly ill, or those suffering hardship; he would receive messages without any explanation, which he was told to give at once to various people, and the messages would soon prove to be of immense relief, amazing prophecy or of timely warning. It foretold events which were often later verified, and explained the meaning of current events.
An amazing visit from a young man
Upon one occasion Mr. Livingston and his family were together in one room, when there suddenly appeared among them a young man, very poorly-clad, and surprisingly barefooted even though it was a bitterly cold day. They asked him where he came from and he answered "From my father"
"And why are you here" they asked.
"I have come to you to teach you the way to him" he replied.
He stayed with them for three days, instructing them on all points of Christian doctrine. In regards to his bare feet, they asked him if he was not cold, thinking of offering him a pair of shoes, he replied that in his country there was neither heat nor cold. When the moment came for him to leave the house the same idea occurred to each of them, that as they had not noticed when he came in, they would watch and see in what direction he took when going away, thinking perhaps to follow him to see where he was going. They saw him go into a lot in the front of the house and then watched in amazement as he seemingly suddenly disappeared.
The Voice guides and instructs the Livingston family
At that time there was no permanent priest settled in the area as it was not only rural but inhabited primarily by Protestants of various denominations. In fact there were very few Catholic books to be had even in the large cities, but Bishop Carroll, Fr. Gallitzin, Fr. Brosius, Fr. Cahill, and Fr Pellentz along with other clergymen who conversed with Mr. Livingston and his family were astonished at their deep knowledge of the Catholic religion, and were all convinced that they indeed had been instructed from above.
The Voice from beyond revealed to Mr. Livingston that it had once been in the flesh just as he was, and that if he persevered in the faith he would know who it was before his death. But he must have taken the secret to the grave when he died in 1820 because the record does not reveal anything further in this matter. The Voice, having sung three times very beautifully in Latin and in English, the Livingstons therefore naturally thought that their mysterious visitor had perhaps been a priest.
On one occasion the Voice requested the Livingstons to keep a forty days fast with three hours of prayer each day. It also commanded them to keep March 4th each year as a special holy day, in thanksgiving for their conversion. And it was on that day, at the end of the forty days fast, that Mr. Livingston heard It sing so beautifully, as also on one All Souls Day. The Voice said that the souls in Purgatory rejoiced greatly on All Souls Day(Nov 2) which is the special day in the Church year where the whole Church is praying for them.
As the years passed the Voice continued to join the family in their prayers, saying the Rosary with them and instructing them how to pray well. It also explained the Mass to them and stated that "One Mass was more acceptable to Almighty God than all the sighs and tears of the whole world put together, for it was God, a pure God, offered up to God."
Mr Livingston's second wife opposed the Voice
Father Gallitzen reports some interesting details about Mr. Livingston's second wife, who according to the record also heard the Voice quite often yet for some reason she became opposed to it, and she even endeavored by every means in her power to falsify it. Among other things, It had said she would die in her own house; and in fact she fell gravely ill at the house of a quaker family of whom she was visiting, and to prove the Voice wrong, she absolutely refused to be taken home, but soon afterwards she was forced to beg to be carried back, and died in her own house, as predicted.
On another occasion the Voice stressed what a blessing it is for us to have the merciful Mother of God as our heavenly Advocate and that She has great power on behalf of poor sinners. Yet apparently because Mrs. Livingston, who had been a Presbyterian, was somewhat stubborn about honoring the Blessed Virgin, the Voice insisted that in the second part of the Hail Mary they all say three times "Holy, Holy, Holy Mary, Mother of God..."
Mr Livingston's second wife herself used to say that she was "the Judas of the family", and she constantly tried to falsify whatever the Voice said. One Thursday evening when some meat-soup was left after dinner, she decided to serve it on Friday and brought it down to the cold cellar. But the next morning she found the pot in which she had left the soup filled with exactly the same quantity of clear water! And the Voice then told her that It had done it, for "it was more proper to take water than to violate the rules of the Church!" Mrs. Livingston herself confessed to the neighbor Mrs. McSherry this whole occurrence. She also stated that the Voice had said, "If she would not submit to the rules of the Catholic Church, she would open her eyes in Hell."
In "The Life of Father Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin, prince and priest" by Sarah M. Brownson we read "Fourteen persons were converted in one winter by these things, which were well known and widely discussed; others, influenced by the account of them, received clearer impressions of the reality of another world, of the close proximity of the evil one, and of the intimate union between the Church militant and the Church suffering, from which they were moved to the serious practice of virtue, and to endeavor to live as they would wish to die."
Father Gallitzin stayed with the Livingston family for three months, meticulously interviewing the entire family, including the neighbors and friends, documenting the entire history of the events up until the time of his visitation. Along with his copious notes he carried back to Conewago a trunk full of clothing which had been cut to pieces during the early period of destruction. Among these clothes, however, are two garments marked in quite a different manner- one bearing the impress as of a hand burnt in the cloth, the other was the letters "IHS" seemingly burnt into the cloth in a similar manner. (The letters "IHS" represent the word Jesus in Greek -editor)
As the weeks and months of his stay progressed, Father Gallitzin and Mr. Livingston befriended each other and they remained close up until Livingston’s death. The servant of God Fr. Gallitzin soon afterwards became known as the "Apostle of the Alleghenes" by spreading his zeal and devotion to the Catholic faith throughout Pennsylvania and beyond, however he often visited Mr. Livingston, and we read in Father Gallitzin's memoirs that the mystic Voice through Mr. Livingston prophetically prepared and guided him for all the trials and sufferings that was to come from his apostolate and mission in Pennsylvania and abroad.
“Mr. Livingston moved from Virginia to Bedford County, Pennsylvania, where he died in the spring of 1820,” stated Fr. Gallitzin in his memoirs. “I had Mass at his house quite often. Mr Livingston continued, to the last, very attentive to his christian duties, but did not receive the rites of the Church in his last sickness, which carried him off too quick to afford any chance of sending for a priest.”. In his writings, Father Gallitzin wrote elsewhere about Mr. Livingston stating: "...soon after (Fr. Gallizin's arrival which coincided with the end of the first part of events) he became a most edifying member of the Catholic Church."
For the building and spread of the Catholic faith in early America
Considering the many conversions to the Catholic church that stemmed specifically from the events that occurred to the Livingston family, several historians have come to the obvious conclusion that the occurances there were primarily for the building and the spread of the Catholic church in the early American colonial period. The news of astounding events had spread far and wide across the countryside, and it gave remarkable evidence to the power and truth of the Catholic faith, and the power given to It's priests who were able to rid the Livingston's of the demonic that was terrorising them, when all the other christian denominations failed them.
In 1802, Adam Livingston and his family moved back to Pennsylvania, thereby spreading the story even further abroad, all the while the mystical Voice continued to guide Adam and his family for 17 years.
The site becomes known as "Priest Field"
While still in Virginia, one day the Voice told Adam that his land "would one day become a great place of prayer". In gratitude for all the graces that he and his family recieved through the Catholic church, Adam Livingston deeded 34 acres of his farmland in Smithfield, Va. (which has since become Kearneysville, Jefferson County, West Virginia) to the Catholic church, and the tract soon became known as "Priest’s Field." The term of course came from the Livingston's assumption that the mystical Voice was that of a Priest who had passed into the next life. Initially the land became a cemetery, however in 1923 a Chapel was built on the land by the faithful in honor of the souls in Purgatory. The Chapel soon became a place of pilgrimage and devotion, especially in honor of the Holy Souls.
In 1922, there was a large celebration on the property beginning on All Souls Day (Nov 2) commemorating the 150 year anniversary of the events, as written in an article on Thursday, Nov. 9, 1922 in the The Shepherdstown Register entitled “At the Priest’s Field". The Right Rev. Dennis J. O’Connell, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Va., celebrated three Masses for the repose of souls. The chapel in honor of all souls remained until 1978 when a retreat center was built on the tract, aptly named PriestField Pastoral Center, it belongs to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, AMEN. +
-For more information about the Voice and the other amazing occurances to the Livingston family see:
The Mystery of the Wizard Clip -Our Lady of the Rosary library
The Wonderous Tale of the Wizard Clip -Angelus online (note: -use mouse or down arrow on keyboard to scroll down the article)
Wizzard Clip -West Virginia Archives and History
-"The Mystery of the Wizard Clip", by Raphael Brown, Loreto Publications.
-"The Mystery of the Wizard Clip", by Father Joseph Maria Finotti, Baltimore, 1879
-"Life of Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin, prince and priest" By Sarah M. Brownson, 1873, availible for free in its entirity here.
-"Adam Livingston, the Wizard Clip, the Voice: An Historical Account", by A.L. Marshall, 1978