In the winter of 1938, a story of bewitchment floated out of Lee County, Virginia and into the national press. Bertha Sybert, a 60 pound, nine year old from the Wallen’s Creek community was finding it difficult to sleep due to visits by a “white fuzzy thing” making noises like a rat gnawing wood. It would begin vibrating her bed until it bounced up and down, sometimes quite violently. Folks in the community heard about Bertha’s predicament and came to visit. The bed continued to bounce, even with four strong men at each post, trying to keep it from doing so.
Word got to Mr. Virgil Q. Wacks, native Lee Countian, who was a former semi-pro baseball player, a trained cinematographer, the former mayor of St. Charles, and associate editor for the county’s own Powell Valley News. He got several stories into major magazines and newspapers through United Press International and the Associated Press. Bertha was suddenly the talk across the nation. Wacks took Bertha to the town of Pineville, Kentucky and attempted to get her to recreate the haunting experience, but the spirit was unwilling to perform for the crowd.
Two professors from the University of Tennessee came to inspect the scene. Dr. Axel Brett and Dr. George Haslerud, professors of philosophy and psychology, visited with the Sybert family and shared a meal with them. According to the Spartanburg Herald, the spirit became very boisterous, sausages jumped around their dinner plates and a tureen of soup fell over seemingly by itself. The professors stated later that there were “peculiar” happenings and wrote in their report that Bertha displayed “unusual and noticeable body contractions”. Soon after, the press were publishing stories of various explanations of what was actually happening, but none of them were supernatural.
Eventually the press and visitors ceased traveling to the Sybert home. Bertha grew up, married, raised a family and finally passed at the age of 57 in Surry County, Virginia.
No one really knows what was going on with little Bertha in 1938. But Ralph Miner, a relative and first hand witness to the events back then stated “there was something there that was beyond this world.”