Urban legends are fascinating bits of history that often contain at least some kernel of truth.
In Yazoo, located north of Jackson, in the western part of Mississippi, there’s a strange legend which may have more truth to it than skeptics would like to believe.
According to legend, an old witch lived on the banks of the Yazoo River where she lured fishermen into her hut, tortured and killed them. When word finally got around to law enforcement, the local sheriff came looking for the missing men and he found their bodies in the witch’s shed. She fled, running into the swamp, and there she met her fate.
By the time the sheriff and his deputies caught up with her, the witch was already caught…in a pit of quicksand.
As she slowly sank, she put a curse on the town of Yazoo stating that she would be back in 20 years to burn to the town to the ground.
The witch was later buried in Glenwood Cemetery, with a chain placed around her gravestone to keep her from escaping and to keep her spirit trapped inside.
While they were fairly certain that the witch couldn’t possibly come back from the dead, they made careful note of the date of her death: May 25, 1884.
No one thought much of it at the time.
Then came May 25, 1904…
Exactly 20 years later, the town of Yazoo caught fire.
A historic report states that the fire started around 8:30 AM and burned until 5 PM, destroying a total of 200 houses and even more businesses, 36 city blocks estimated at $2,000,000 worth of damage (about $56,000,000 in today’s money). One man was killed in the fire and another, Mayor Holmes, was badly injured. The fire quickly spread and witnesses said that it had a strange quality, with the flames jumping, twisting and leaping in a way they’d never seen fire behave before. Strange and fierce winds were blowing on that fateful day, unusual for the time, and many believed that the flames were dancing by command of the witch. This is one of the eeriest facts of the story, because area weather reports from May 25, 1904, make no mention of high winds in the area.
Stories vary about how the fire actually started, but none were conclusive. Some said it was a young boy playing with matches, and others supposed it was an electrical mishap started in the parlor of a young Miss Wise who was in preparation for her wedding but, in any case, the true source of the fire remains unknown.
After the fire was extinguished, the townspeople went to the witch’s gravesite: the chain around the grave had been broken.
Local author Willie Morris memorialized the Witch of Yazoo in his novel, “Good Old Boy”, published in 1971.
Today, the Glenwood Cemetery can be toured where the witch’s headstone still lies, encircled in chains.
Mr. Morris is also buried there.
Many years ago, the original stone on the grave only had the letters T. W. (The Witch??). The stone which is now in place mysteriously fell and split in two shortly after installation, and the heavy chains surrounding the grave are constantly being repaired, only to fall apart again shortly after.
More recent local lore says that when all of the chains are gone from her grave, the witch will return again to exact her revenge on Yazoo City. However, it seems that the cemetery sextons are very careful to keep the chains repaired and in place, even though they often are broken again very soon after being repaired….
Images from web – Google Research