The Lost Art of Bloodstopping

Ransom Riggs

Back in the days before modern medicine, in the parts of North America where the work was rough and a doctor might be a day's ride away -- the Ozarks, the mining towns of Appalachia, and among the lumberjacks of the Great North Woods -- there existed a trade, a kind of faith-healing, really -- called bloodstopping. Legends and folktales of bloodstoppers and their inexplicable medical miracles have been passed down through the generations, though I had never heard of it until recently.

Here's how the old-time bloodstoppers did their work. It was really rather simple, provided you had, you know, the Power. You simply recited the sixth verse of the sixteenth chapter of the book of Ezekiel in the presence of a bleeder, while walking to the East:

"And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou vast in thy blood, Live."

And then the wound in question, it is said, would stop bleeding. This was standard practice, though from the legends it seems like every bloodstopper had their own patented technique. The Old Farmer's Almanac quotes one bloodstopper explaining that he "forgot everything and concentrated on the person hurt," imagining himself "right there holding the blood back and saying, 'It's stopping, it's stopping, it's stopped.'"

One old woman, reputed to be the best bloodstopper in McDonald County, Missouri, would simply hold up her hands and say, "Upon Christ's grave three roses bloom, stop, blood, stop!"

This 1986 article on bloodstopping details yet another technique:

Another tale of a blood-stopper's compassion concerned the mother of a little boy who had suffered from nosebleeds for three days and nights, conventional medical science having failed completely to help the poor child. In a desperate gamble, she drove her son to the house of a well-known blood-stopper. The old man supposedly hobbled out onto his front porch when he saw the car pull up and "took the scene in at once - the wan little boy holding a bloody rag to his nose, the distraught mother. He raised his hand as in salute and said, 'The bleeding is stopped.' So it had. The little fellow did not have another nosebleed for two years."

Just tuck this away in your "I can't believe that existed" file.