Certainly the Native Americans knew her. Animosh Ikwe. Dog Woman. Early settlers to the area heard the Indian’s stories. How the native peoples stayed away from these woods. The natives spoke of the Nigamo Nagadan- the singing leaves. But it wasn’t singing actually. It was sounds in the night. Whispered mutterings in strange languages. Unearthly voices.
It was shortly after 1760, when the first recorded disappearance occurred. It may have happened earlier-no one knows for sure. Silas Turnbull was a tenant farmer on this land in 1763. He had arranged for his wife to come over from Liverpool and had spoken about her arrival to the neighbors for months. But when his wife got off the stagecoach at the Ordinary at what is now Dranesville, there was no one to greet her. Turnbull was never found- yet his cabin showed no sign of struggle or violence.
The disappearance of the Hannah children came next. By 1835, Thomas Hannah had 1795 acres where the new Georgetown Turnpike met the Alexandria Leesburg Turnpike (now Route 7). The seven white-blonde Hannah children ranged from 4-14 years of age and could often be seen by travelers on the Georgetown Turnpike. On the first warm day of May, the children packed a lunch and went to the river to play. When nightfall approached and they still had not returned, Thomas and his wife Mariah took a lantern and went looking. Closer to the river, they saw a figure in the woods and called out to it but it disappeared. Deeper they went towards the river. They saw the figure again and realized it was a woman though she never showed her face. She wore a long black cloak and moved silently through the forest towards the outcroppings above the river. It was there they found the bodies of the children. Arms and legs tied together. Strange markings carved into their foreheads. Mouths stuffed with sticks. It was with these killings that the Seneca Witch got her name.
Several Union videttes disappeared in late July 1864. The bodies of three were later found carved up. Col. Mosby was blamed and that led to Union officers ordering the well-documented reprisal hangings of 10 of his men later that fall. Yet there was no mention of a skirmish in his or any of his men’s usually detailed records. The sightings of the cloaked figure continued.
During the 1890s, four Maryland fishermen who regularly camped on the islands of the Potomac saw her pacing on the Virginia riverbank seemingly trying to get to them but unable to swim. One family was found on the riverbank by their canoes in the summer of 1926- the horror on their faces marking the terror of their final minutes. In 1952, a group of teenagers had driven down Seneca Road to the riverbank. The car was found still running the next morning. Their bodies never were. Later that month, the (now defunct) Evening Star carried an article connecting the murders and disappearances. The Seneca Witch had made the papers.
One October night in 1979, under a full moon, Terry Golden, a county police officer, had parked his car with no lights on at the end of Seneca Road. He saw a cloaked figure running across the road. Officer Golden was shocked to see the figure attack and down a deer at the wood’s edge. When he turned his lights on to illuminate the scene, the figure looked back at him then ran into the woods. Golden gave chase for almost a quarter mile but returned. “You know I never knew for sure. Never got a good look at it”, Golden would say later, “But I sensed it was a woman; though no women, I know could run that fast. When I was deep in those woods, I got scared. I’ll tell ya’, I got the feeling at one point that she was drawing me in. She was the one hunting me.”
If you follow the directions below you come to a spot where I saw her one night. Never close up, mind you....didn't have the guts to get closer. But what I saw couldn’t be anything but her.
But when you look for her, start early. While this park closes at dark- believe me! You want to be back in your car long before then.
From the parking lot at the end of Seneca, head towards the yellow gates and take the path with the wattle fence. Follow the yellow blazes to the posted coordinates (N 39° 03.245 W 077° 19.550)- a spot where several trails come together. Take the trail heading east and down the hill. It meets up with other trails at the bottom of the hill. Continue east until you pass through a swing gate. A couple of hundred feet further, where a black circle on the left is waist high above the ground, turn into the woods towards the river. Make your way through the woods until you came to a narrow path at the bluff’s edge over looking the water and follow that downstream. At this point, you will want to walk slowly and listen carefully. You are getting close. It would be wise to keep checking behind you. After a while the path crosses a stream over a culvert (approx. here: N 39 03.114, W 77 18.936) next to a large multi-trunked tree. Once it crosses the stream, the path turns north towards the river. To your left you will see a very large downed tree. Approach it carefully!! This is where I saw her late one evening. I heard a noise and turned my flashlight towards the sound. I lit up the massive twisted trunk of a downed tree. But in the cool night air, I realized I was also watching the vapor of someone's breathing. Someone hiding behind the tree. I called out and got no reply but saw that it held its breath. Waiting. That is when I decided to run! To let someone else, anyone else, be the first to find the Seneca Witch.
The cache is small and separate from the container with the stamp. While there is no room to put your stamp on the log, please feel free to add this stamp to your personal letterbox logbook. But remember to leave it here!