Legends of the American Bell & Blair Witches, Moll Dyer & Salem
The Sad Story of Moll Dyer
The legendary story of Moll Dyer is prevalent in the state of Maryland...specifically in the Southern Maryland area. This story hits close to my hometown...and actually takes place in the town where I was born...Leonardtown, Maryland.
In the late 1600s in the small town of Leonardtown, Maryland in the first settled county of the state of Maryland...St. Mary's County, lived an older lady by the name of Moll Dyer. The citizens of the town viewed her as though she was a hag...and eventually she was rumored to be involved in black magic...witchcraft. She was accused of being a "witch".
In one of the coldest winters of the late 1600s, in 1697, Moll Dyer was ran out of her small run-down shack in the backwoods of Leonardtown, Maryland. How was she run out of her home? Townsfolk had came with flaming torches and pitchforks...sort of like a lynch mob...to burn her and her home to the ground..the rumors had spread that she was an evil old hag and was causing the town a long and arduous winter. However, Moll Dyer escaped the flaming timbers of her small home and fled into the snow-covered wood. She travelled no more than five miles from her home and fell upon a large rock, praying or possibly cursing her enemies with her hand held towards the heavens. There...she died.
Her supposed hand imprints remained on that rock for hundreds of years...and the legend carried on so long that the historical society has it placed in front of their building to this day.
Many people of that time found Moll Dyer to be a frightening witch, but honestly I find this story to be quite sad. Historically, there is no documented proof of existence of a woman named Moll Dyer; however, a Mary Dyer and a family of Dyers were documented to have resided in Leonardtown in the 1600 - 1700s. It is quite possible that maybe "Moll" was a nickname...or maybe her birth certificate was never in existence.
Whatever the case, there is even a road named after Moll Dyer and teenagers to this day still go searching for the charred remains of Mrs. Dyer's shack. It is a sad and debatable legend of St. Mary's County, Maryland and probably will remain for many years to come. If you are ever in Leonardtown, Maryland, you will be sure to visit the Moll Dyer rock in front of St. Mary's Historical Society...the rock...although somewhat normal and obscure...has a presence that is quite chilling.
The Infamous Salem Witches
Tituba was the name of a young Native American woman who was the first to be accused and admitted to witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts. Tituba worked for a minister named Reverend Samuel Parris and also resided in his home to assist with his family's day-to-day duties. She also aided in raising his children, including her favorite child named Betsy. The story goes that Tituba tried to find out "who" was afflicting Betsy and causing her to have sporadic spells of fits and tantrums...Tituba used what she called a "witchcake", which disgustingly consisted of rye and Betsy's urine. Tituba fed this concoction to the family's dog, in the belief that the dog would reveal the afflictor's identity to Tituba. The Reverend found out about this weird occurrence in his home and was deeply angered and afraid of Tituba. The good ol' Reverend battered Tituba until she openly admitted to performing "witchcraft". Because of her confession, she was able to escape death...but in the escape of this death she named other ladies in the Salem community that were involved in witchcraft. Two of these ladies were Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne. Tituba ended up in jail for quite a few years after the incident and was eventually bought by a different benefactor...who also bought Tituba's husband (who, by the way, also had random attacks of seizures and weird fits). Interestingly, Betsy's illness that started the whole witchcraft trial era of Salem was most likely due to consumption of rye, which contains ergot. Ergot is present within the hallucinogenic drug LSD...so we can conclude that Betsy's symptoms of sporadic seizures and hallucinations could have logically been caused by this chemical within the rye. After this first case of consumptive ergotism, there were more young girls in the community coming down with the same scary symptoms. This occurrence coupled with the strange stories of "flying on brooms" told by Tituba...accusations escalated rapidly between the townsfolk. They wanted to discover and demolish these witches that were tormenting their daughters and causing these crazy fits of illness.
Sarah Good was one of the women accused by the Native American slavegirl Tituba. Sarah was a beggar but also a mother, and her four-year-old daughter Dorcas was also accused by other ill girls within the town. Both were thrown into jail for their supposed black arts skills and Sarah was later hanged. Her daughter remained in jail for three months after Sarah's hanging took place. Because Dorcas confessed to following her mother's craft, she was set free but her father claimed that she had totally lost her sanity after watching her mother's death and being abandoned by her entire family in a cold prison cell.
Other women were brought into this world of crafty crime due to the made-up stories of ill children within the town. When these so-called witches were in trial, the little girl accusors would be brought into the court, only to go into their "fits" as soon as they saw the women they were accusing of their afflictions. One little girl even screamed out to the jury, "Don't you see her? She's sitting on the beam with a yellow bird between her fingers!" Sixteen women were tried and hanged for these false crimes...which I believe was absolutely ludacrous. It just shows how far a lie can be taken, especially in the midst of idiots.
The Legend of the Poltergeist Witch
The horrifying story of the Bell Witch is somewhat more of a haunting than a traditional witch tale. However, it is a very intriguing and terrifying story nonetheless. As you can see to the right, there is even a historical marker within the town of Tennessee where the Bell Witch tormented the Bell family.
In a small town in Tennessee, in the early 1800s, a family with the last name of Bell resided in a quaint log cabin on acres of farmland. After thirteen years of living in this cabin, the family started experiencing frightening paranomal activity...including catching a glimpse of a mutant creature with the head of a rabbit and the body of a dog. They also heard tappings and bangings on the outsides of their walls throughout the night...and with each night, the sounds grew louder and occurred for longer bouts. The children started complaining of rats gnawing on their bedposts at night and they also heard singing throughout the house on different occasions. There was also claims that they were being thrown from their beds, or had their pillows or blankets ripped away from them in the middle of the night. These tales spread so far and so quickly, that a crew of men, including General Andrew Jackson, decided to travel to the Bell Family farm to investigate these claims. On the way to the Bell house, the wheels on Andrew Jackson's wagons stopped dead in their tracks, for no visible reason that the men could find. Suddenly they heard a woman's shrill voice petitioning them to move on and that she would see them soon. Andrew Jackson pushed the crew onwards to the Bell farm and ended up staying there for a small amount of time, in which a few of his men experienced feelings of being stuck with needles or pinched...even showing bruising. They heard the witch's voice resonating throughout the house each day, singing hymns, quoting bible verses and sermons, and making threats to end the head of the house (John Bell's) life.
Many other curious visitors came to call upon the Bells with a desire to verify that the rumors of this haunting were reality...each of them finding the unbelievable story to be horrifyingly true. On different occasions, the poltergeist witch's voice claimed that her name was Kate and that she was a neighbor and that her key reason to being amidst this poor family was that she wanted to kill John Bell. John Bell eventually got sick and took to his bed in a coma...the next day he died. His family could not figure out exactly what ailed their father but they came across a weirdly unknown half-empty bottle in their cabinets...John Bell's son decided to test the remains of the bottle on their cat. After feeding the strange substance to their kitty, the cat fell over and passed away within a few hours. Immediately following the family pet's death, the disembodied voice of the poltergeist witch exclaimed that she had poisoned John Bell and that her deed was done. She also claimed that she would reappear within seven years, and then again within another hundred and some years.
To this day this legend exists so that there has been books written and even movies created. The legend also tells of a cave in which the Bell Witch has supposedly been seen and heard...this cave being nearby to where the old Bell farm existed in the 1800s. People have photographed a spectre or spirit looming in the midst of the cave...one of those pictures are posted to the right.
My question on this story is, how could it not have been true? There were so many witnesses to this phenomenon...what other logical sense is there other than to believe this story? Whatever the cause of this poltergeist witch's haunting of the Bell family...it is bone-chilling nonetheless...even hundreds of years after the fact.
The Blair Witch
So you've seen that cheesy and frankly nauseating movie from the 90's, The Blair Witch Project? Well, I can tell you with certainty that the movie was a fake...all staged, so that is not the question or story here. What I can tell you is that the Blair Witch movie is based on some pretty creepy legends and documented happenings circulating around the town of Burkittsville, MD since the mid 1800's.
One story involves a little girl, about the age of ten, that was pulled into the creek by a ghostly white hand...never to be seen again. Reportedly, someone heard the girl scream and saw a white hand reach for her from within the river at the little girl's side. The girl went into the icy cold river, assumingly was drowned, and her tiny body was never recovered. Immediately following the girl's watery disappearance, the creek was mysteriously filled with oiled-up bundles of sticks. The purpose of the sticks or if they were related? I have no clue, but creepy, nevertheless.
Then in the year of 1886, Robin Weaver went missing and later claimed to have followed a person who was floating in the air, into an abandoned house in the woods of Burkittsville. A search party was sent out in search for the missing Robin, the search party to later totally disappear at the same time that Robin surprisingly pops back into his worried family's home. So in order to recover the missing search party, more people went out to the abandoned home, and could not find anyone from the search party. Later someone stumbled upon their disemboweled bodies lying on Coffin Rock. Now most sites claim that Coffin Rock is a made-up location within Burkittsville, but many of the town's residents claim to know the way to the infamous, bloody rock.
No one knows who or what caused these evil goings-on, but these well-known local stories were used cleverly by Hollywood to build a creepy plot behind the ill-composed Blair Witch Project movie. If you travel to Burkittsville, Maryland, you will meet many people who claim that there is a witch still residing somewhere in the town's surrounding woods...possibly still wreaking havoc on the town today.
Wiccademous - The Infamous Floridian Witch
There is a legend known in Florida as the Legend of Wiccademous' Grave. The story goes that a young teenage girl was accused of practicing witchcraft in a town near Fernandino, Florida. This supposedly happened back in the 1700's, though this area of Florida was not settled at this point, so there are definitely some inconsistencies with the legend. However, the tale is one that frightens Florida's youth and keeps the high school students near the spot of her grave from traipsing off during school hours.
Some of the beliefs circulating the Amelia Island area state that Wiccademous lost her life due to her craft practices and is supposedly buried in a part of the woods, behind the Fernandino High School. Kids have gone exploring through the woods, in search for Wiccademous Grave and have had many frightening experiences. Some kids claimed that they were "held" in place by an invisible force...something that was not physically manifested but was so powerful that they were all literally frozen in place. Others say that the wooded area was a meeting place for witches back in the 1700's and this is the reason for the mysterious and ominous events surrounding the forest.
Whether Wiccademous ever lived or whether the woods are haunted, I could not say for sure but you could ask many locals if they believe in the curse of Wiccademous' grave and they will tell you that it is without a doubt a real thing.
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© 2011 Nicole Canfield