Monday, August 24, 2015

The Witch of Yazoo

Updated book

This story was first made widely popular when Willie Morris * mentioned it in his book Good Old Boy published in 1971. 

Residents of Yazoo, Mississippi have passed it down for several generations.

According to the legend in the late 1800s an “old ugly witch” who lived along the Yazoo River was caught torturing fishermen, she lured in off the river.

In this tale, a young boy by the name of Joe Bob Duggett in the fall of 1884, while passing by the witches’ house heard loud screams. He peered through one window and to his horror, he saw two dead fishermen on the floor as the witch danced around them chanting.

He then alerted the sheriff and when the two arrived at the house they found no one home but they discovered two skeletons hanging from the rafters.

Hearing the witch outside they chased her into the swamp. By the time they caught up to her, she had fallen into quicksand. It was too late to rescue her.

As she sank deeper into the sand with her last breath, she cursed, “I shall return from my grave in twenty years and burn down the town.” Then she disappeared beneath the muck.

Glenwood Cemetery
When she was buried in Glenwood Cemetery heavy chains were placed atop her grave to ensure she stayed buried.

As the years passed, few remembered her threat—that is until the morning of May 25, 1904. What began, as a small fire soon became a raging inferno driven by what some described as fierce winds:

“The flames were said by witnesses to have leaped through the air, as if driven by some supernatural force.”

This fire destroyed 200 homes, and every business in Yazoo City. In all 324 building were damaged.

Old Main Street Yazoo City
It was said the fire started innocently enough in one young woman’s—a Miss Wise’s-- kitchen as she prepared food for her wedding later that day.

But since the force of the winds were such a strange occurrence for the area many believed it was the witches curse that spread the fire so quickly.

The Witches Grave with large chains.
It was exactly twenty years since she had cursed the town. A group of citizens headed for the cemetery and found that several of the large chains surrounding her grave were broken.

Today the locals still like to retell this story. Children in the town affectionately call the witch—The Chain Lady.

No one knows the witches real name, the original stone that marked her grave is long gone with only had the letters "TW" engraved on it—The Witch.

The heavy chains still surround what is known today as The Witches Grave.

The newer headstone that replaced the old one mysteriously cracked in half shortly after being placed on the grave. Even more mysterious is the heavy chains near the witches' grave have to be regularly repaired. It is stated because they fall apart shortly after they are fixed.

After publishing this post a reader, Joshua Ray Lancaster contacted me and shared a photo he took at the Yazoo grave in 2006. It appears to have a ghostly figure hovering near the witches grave. Here is his picture.

Click to enlarge.
* Willie Morris grew up in Yazoo City and when he died in 1999, he was buried close by The Witches Grave.

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