The Witch’s Grave

The Witch’s Grave

I squeezed my eyes closed. I was sure I felt my heart in my throat. My fingers wrapped around the wheel and turned my knuckles white. My foot pressed uselessly on the brake. Sudden warmth spread through my jeans and told me I had just shamed myself in a way I had not done since I was seven years old. The car was out of control and speeding towards the 100-foot drop down to the rock ravine below.

Sarahann had warned me but I did not listen. Greed had once again tangled me in her sinister snare.

When Shoppe of Earthbound Souls opened up in the village advertising that they bought and sold antiques, I saw another opportunity to make money. There was something about Sarahann the owner that made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end but the draw of the money to be made kept me keen. I worked hard that first week trying to impress her with all the antiques I owned or at least those she thought belonged to me. Sarahann would describe in detail the period and history behind each piece I brought to her. Sometimes she got a distant faraway look as if she knew even more about the junk then she told me.

One day I was feeling particularly fond of my find. It was an expensive looking gold watch, which had come directly from the pocket of the town’s lawyer. As I polished it up, I fantasized about the money Sarahann would give me for it. Sarahann did seem pleased with my find and paid me a hefty price just as I had imagined. While I was leaving the shop, my eyes fell on an iron gate. The price tag made my heart skip a beat. I asked Sarahann if she got much demand for that type of item. She told me many old home owners look for reclaimed decorative items to make their homes as authentic as possible and fences and gates from a long time ago were very valuable.

That got me thinking about a certain little fence that I had stumbled across in my youth. Back in my school days a group of us used to go up to Top Point Cemetery and party. It was located in a wooded area at the top of a narrow winding hill and was out of the way of any passers-by.

I made my way once again to the top of that hill. Despite the chill in the air, I had to wipe the sweat from my brow. Leaves crunched below my feet as I walked under the cemetery arch and towards the treasure.

The rough terrain and legends of ghosts and witches kept most of the locals from visiting it. Just as I had remembered it, the fence itself was around the grave of a woman said to be a witch. Her head stone featured writing I could not read and had an ornate carved serpent on it. The fence appeared to have been made of iron. Each post was topped with decorative flourish. The post above her headstone featured a devil’s pitchfork. The grave of her husband the warlock was also located nearby but there was nothing left of any value there. Nearly 150 years of weather aided me in my work and within minutes, I broke off one of the posts. It had such weight to it that I struggled getting it to the car.

I took the post to Sarahann. She smile as I approached her obviously pleased at the item I held in my hand. I leaned it against the counter of the shop. Sarahann ran her fingers over it just as she did with all of the other items I had brought to her. Suddenly her smile faded.

“Where did you get this?” She asked.

Fearing she might be on to me, I quickly made up a story right there on the spot. “It belonged to my Uncle Charlie. He has more of it in his barn. I think it is part of an old fence. Why is it really valuable?”

Sarahann looked at me and said, “It does have a high value, it is from the 1800s, hand worked solid iron and shows incredible craftsmanship.”

“If I brought the rest of it in would you buy it off me?”

“If you managed to get it all here I would buy it from you but it is unlikely you will be able to do that. Some things are just not worth the trouble.” There was something in the way Sarahann spoke that I noticed but chose to ignore.

I decided it might be best to drive the car as close to the grave as possible and waited until I had the cover of the night on my side. I had a flashlight and crowbar with me and made my way into the cemetery. Leaves rustled as the wind blew them about. Clouds kept obstructing the moon and darkening my progress.

Nearly two hours had passed and I had been left alone in my venture. The footstone on the grave had shifted slightly as I had used it as leverage to pry apart the first few rusty bars. Now all that remained was the devil’s pitchfork. I had loosened it with my crow bar and now wrapped my gloved hands around it and gave it a mighty tug. As it came free, I heard a shriek but decided it must have been from a nearby animal. Still the sound sent a shiver down my spine.

As I heaved the final piece of treasure into the trunk, a loud booming clap came from behind. I shined my light through the cemetery arch towards the grave to reveal the top portion of the headstone had cracked and fallen onto the cement slab over the grave. It was old anyway, I told myself. I was lucky it held in place while I leaned against it to loosen that last post.

I got in and began to reverse the car out onto the narrow lane. I thought I saw two figures walking through the graveyard behind me but shrugged it off. Then I heard odd noises and watched as dancing lights began to appear in the cemetery. Probably just some kids coming to entertain themselves, I thought. Not wanting to be spotted and accused of theft I quickly made my way towards the decent of the hill.

The car began to gather speed as I was nearing one of the bends. I began to stamp on my brakes but they were not working. I knew I would not survive the drop to the rocky ravine below. I undid my belt and jumped from the car. I rolled along the ground and watched as the car launched itself over the edge.

Relieved to be alive. I tried to roll over but winced at the pain in my shoulder. Then I looked towards the road, two foggy figures materialised before me. I began to back away slowly discovering my knee too must have been shattered when I jumped from the car. The vapour from my breath was now visible as the air grew chilly around me. I used my good leg and pushed myself back even further. Fog rolled around me as if an extension of the ghostly apparitions before me. They looked angry.

Then a more familiar figure appeared. I had never noticed her translucent appearence. She spoke in an echoing voice, “I warned you Stanley.”

I edged back a little further. Sarahann reached her hand out towards me. The two other figures stood just behind her now. I dug my heal into the ground and pushed off one more time. No firm ground was below me to hold me in place and so I fell to my death.

——————————————————————————————-

Eva Messer - Witch's Grave

This story is based on The Witch’s Grave located in my hometown. It is reported to be the grave of Eva Messer who died at the young age of 21 on December 26, 1870. It is believed she died in childbirth but local legend includes other stories such as drowning in a local lake. Her husband a reported warlock was buried nearby but his grave had been completely destroyed before any known pictures could be taken of it. It reportedly featured an unrecognisable symbol, which prompted the legends of him being a warlock. Later historians think the symbol may have been masonic in origin.

An iron fence surrounded Eva’s grave. Each post had a decorative item on it. It appeared to be very rustic as if homemade. Her grave is also reported to have a serpent on it. Some of the explanation behind the mysterious symbols chosen for the graves may reside in their German heritage. It is unclear at what point the two were accused of being a witch and warlock. It may have been well after their deaths but newspapers were scarce in the area in the time and so were records.

I have been doing my own research into the strange decoration and position of the graves. Usually when someone was accused of being a witch they were burned at the stake. However, I have found several graves from the time through google that are reported to be “witch’s graves” and one thing they seem to have in common with Eva’s grave is the use of a fence around the grave. They also often seemed to be made of iron and decorated with crosses so that the witch could not escape. Reports also say that Eva was buried upside down and that there once was a footstone at the grave. Whether this rumour came about at the time of her death or long after is unclear.

Their final resting place was in the Turner family’s cemetery at the top of a hill that is only accessible by steep winding road. As a child, my parents, keen genealogists and history buffs, took me to see the grave. At that point, all that was left of it was a bit of the stone and the main iron frame of the fence. The picture above is one of the few known and shows that even then parts of the grave had already been looted.

As a high school student, tales of pagan rituals, the finding of a dead black cat at the gates of the cemetery and other spooky tales circulated from time to time. Several of my classmates even had the experience of partying up at the witch’s grave. They too reported having their brakes fail on the way back down the mountain. One of my friends was even in a car wreck after a visit to the witch’s grave. I think these types of stories may have more to do with the drink consumed and the poor servicing of the vehicles used to travel up to the treacherous road in the first place.

There are several local news stories that have carried on the curious legends surrounding the witch’s grave. Here are a few articles relating to these:

http://alb.merlinone.net/mweb/wmsql.wm.request?oneimage&imageid=5431442

http://www.altamontenterprise.com/Weekly%20Archives/2006/06-01-06/Hilltowns3.html

http://historicnewspapers.guilpl.org/altamont-enterprise-2006-january-june/altamont-enterprise-2006-january-june%20-%201054.pdf

Sadly, the grave is reported to be completely desecrated now. There is none of the fencing left and the stone has been totally smashed. Locals want to squash the legend of the witch’s grave to stop the vandalism that continues in the cemetery. I think it is a shame people cannot enjoy the legend without doing the damage. I am also sure that with it being Halloween today a few brave youngsters and perhaps even some old timers may try to make their way up to pay George and Eva Messer’s final resting place a visit.

Happy and safe Halloween to all my blog readers!

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About Billie Jo Schinnerer

Born and raised on the edge of the Helderberg Escarpment in eastern New York. Formerly a primary and middle school teacher. Moved to the North West area of England in 2003. Now a mother of three and a wannabe author.
This entry was posted in Flash Fiction Stories and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The Witch’s Grave

  1. Nice story, Billie Jo. Poor ol’ Stanley. What did he ever do to deserve such a fate?

    I do have one question/comment though. Didn’t Ken’s rules require that Sarahann be ‘neutral’ and ‘never willingly lead anyone to their death’? I thought I read that, which is why The Eyes of the Cat on my own site wasn’t from Sarahann’s shoppe.

    Either way, I enjoyed the story and the background on the real grave it was based on.

    • Thanks Mike. I guess Stanley was a thief from day one and his greed eventually got the better of him. In my mind Sarahann and the shop appeared in the town to save Stanley from his fate (a bit of a Christmas Carol type thing). In the end Sarahann was still neutral she tried to save Stanley as she reached out to him but he was too afraid to take her hand and he pushed away from her. I reread that bit and perhaps I did not make that clear enough. Thanks for pointing that out. I will have to be more careful.

  2. Selena says:

    Love the story, Billie Jo. Very spooky!

  3. I like the way you blend this story with the one you wrote for yesterday. You’re right…it is a shame people destroy these old relics.
    There was a very cool old graveyard in my hometown (Martinez, California) that had the grave of an Indian princess, and loads of old headstones from the 1800s. We used to love to party up there. Once, heavy rains washed a bunch of old coffins up and they were all tossed in a jumble and some were thrown open. There was one with the dessicated corpse of a woman in a long black lace dress with a high collar and narrow sleeves. Her hair was piled on top of her head. I’m sure it was from another century.

  4. Sandra says:

    Great story. Keep going!

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  6. Chris Restifo says:

    You write very well, great story! I am interested in telling her history. But I don’t think a lot of folks are happy about it? My co- researcher and I have just about the whole real history of Eva cataloged but need to verify a few facts, and obtain some documentation. It is our feeling that if the truth about her is told, maybe people will finally let her rest in peace? Take the wind out of their sails, so to speak! I was on the Hilltowns group but left, no-one seemed to want to help and I didn’t’ want to ruffle any more feathers than I already have. But I am not the type of person who is easily swayed by popular opinion, so the search continues, but on a much lower key basis Take care!

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  9. jayson romanczuk says:

    we have a group on face book for the purpose of righting the wrong over this horrible rumor,please check us out to learn more about Eva,here is where the facts are ,she is no witch the stories are false,george is not buried there,etc.please go eva messers friends group ,there is where the truth is,

  10. jayson romanczuk says:

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