The “Demons” of Siedlce

There was one family, nicknamed “Demons”. These were not evil or bad people, feared by Siedlce. On the contrary, they were very quiet people. The designation was received from one of their forefathers, who was involved in a strange and bizarre case.

The man’s name was simple – Josel. Josel the baker. He owned a bakery and a store in which he sold cookies and Challahs to farmers, in the middle of the market square. On Tuesdays and Fridays, the days of the fairs, farmers from the area were coming to Siedlce with wagons loaded with grain, potatoes and vegetables, and they would enter into Josels to buy cookies or Challahs, baked in large pans, smeared with oil and seasoned with fried onions.

Josel was a Jew in his fifties, and he had small and alert eyes. As his goatee was always covered by white flour, it was impossible to know whether it was gray or still black. The farmers liked him very much, because he was a smart Jew and liked to talk with them, pat their shoulders amicably and advise them on various matters.

Among the peasants was one, named Anthony, a tall sturdy fellow, with big grey-watery eyes and a blond mustache. Anthony felt very comfortable with Josel, and after the fair he would enter the store, strip off his sheepskin coat and shake out all the money he earned that day over the bed, where there were sliced ​​leaves of dough for noodles. He kept counting the money but and was never able to calculate the exact amount. Having no other choice, he turned to Josel, and the baker would help him. Only then Antony calmed down and ordered a cookie and a cup of tea with sugar cubes.

One day Anthony sat with Josel in the bedroom and was very troubled, his hands clasped around his knees, his eyes hooded and his hat shifted on his head.

“What happened to you, Anthony?” asked Josel, “why are you so gloomy?”

Anthony did not answer.

Josel approached, put his hand on Anthony’s shoulder and asked again, softly:

“What happened, Anthony? I see you’re very troubled. Missing you money? Someone stole from you?”

Slowly Anthony looked up, first stared, and finally said: “Yoske my friend! A disaster happened to me…” and he told Josl the whole story, about demons that appeared to him, and harassed him for a long time and destroyed his farm: sheep drop dead, horses break their legs and dairy cows’ milk goes sour.

When he heard what it was, Josel thought to himself: I will play a trick on Anthony, to rid his head of demons!

“As I see, Anthony” he said to the frightened Gentile, “indeed you have a big problem. I myself had issues with these guys, but, thank God, I got rid of them. It’s in the nature of them Bogey, if they taunt anywhere – they get used to it and you cannot deport them, no way. This must not be neglected, and you must try to get rid of them as fast as possible!”

Things went well into the farmer’s head and he asked Josel wise counsel against demons.

Josel told him to, first of all, appease the demons. Maybe he insulted them with a word, or curse, for no reason, and now they are coming to take revenge.

To appease the demons, explained Josel, one has to prepare a bottle of spirits – hard liquor, almonds, two eggs, a white duck and a black chicken. All these things have to be brought to a ruin near the old mill.

“And when the sun goes down” – said Josel, “Put everything into the ruin and wait outside until midnight. At midnight, exactly, the chief demon will appear. He will talk to you and you’ll be able to settle all matters with him.”

The farmer liked the advice very much. He shook Josel’s hands warmly and promised to carry out everything exactly as he commanded.

When the day has arrived, Josel prepared a flashlight wrapped in black paper. He cut two round holes in it, taped red paper over them and placed a candle inside. He took the sheepskin coat with ruffled hair on the outside, the hood and the extra coat, and hid in the ruins near the old mill.

Josel sat waiting, and here comes Antony with a loaded wagon. Josel was hiding in the corner. Anthony paused, waiting for the sun to go down in the west, then slowly pulled everything off the wagon, entered the ruin full of fear, and laid everything carefully on the ground. He was afraid to look around. Then he went and sat in the cart and began to wait, filled with horror, for midnight.

Sitting in the wagon, the farmer fell asleep. Suddenly he heard a terrifying bellowing. He woke up at once, so scared he almost fell off the wagon. In front of him, in the ruin, was a monster with its head high and pointed and with a pair of big eyes brimming with blood. The creature did not move – but hopped! Anthony’s hands and legs shook feverishly, his teeth chattering, his eyes shifted from here to here, and a strange voice called him:

“Anthony, Anthony, did you bring a bottle of burning water?”

Antoni did his best to understand what it means, and finally answered, with heart pounding and breathless:

“Of course I did!”

“Ninety-six percent? From Hell?”

“Exactly,” Anthony answered with a tremor.

“And two birds that can’t fly – did you bring?”

“I did.”

“and three white-yellow almonds, living in peace and not mixing – did you bring?”

“I brought.”

“And two fresh eggs, without a single drop of blood?”

Anthony remained confused not knowing what to answer: he was afraid to lie, and the truth, he himself does not know.

Suddenly the monster began approaching him. Anthony began to scream, panic-stricken:

“Oh God, oh God!”

People who heard the screams came running and found the farmer lying unconscious on the ground. They barely resuscitated him. Panting, he pointed them to the ruin in front of them.

The people entered, searched, probed and found nothing. When they were leaving, one of them noticed a slight shift in the corner. They went there and saw a large hairy package. Now they too panicked. Coming to their senses they pulled the package out, hauled him, took off the fur, removed the big hood, and saw Josel the baker, his eyes downcast and ashamed for all the trouble he had caused.

Josel paid dearly for his trick. He was sued, and the nickname “demons” was inherited his children after him.

Written by Yehoshua Goldberg in the book: “Ancestors Tell Siedlce”.
Translated from Hebrew by Mr. Yuval Romano.