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The Witch Girl of Crittenden County
Here's a tale that's too terrifying to be real. Read in the daylight.
This is a tale of mistaken identity and fake news. But before we get there, this is a tale that will chill you right down to the marrow.
Deep in western Kentucky, maybe a dozen miles from the Illinois state line, sits the tiny Pilot Knob Cemetery. Far off interstates, deep in Crittenden County, it’s not easy to get to, but here’s a tip: if you can find Pilot Knob Cemetery Road, you’re on the right track. Careful when you go, though, because after sunset … things happen.
Here’s the story. Back in 1910, the locals in nearby Marion feared that five-year-old Mary Evelyn Ford and her mother were witches. Even though it was the 20th century, witches generally did not receive due process, and Mary Evelyn and her mother were found guilty and sentenced to be burned alive.
The charred remains of Mary Evelyn’s mother were buried in an unmarked and undisclosed grave. The justice-minded townspeople of Marion feared that Mary Evelyn would return to exact revenge, which, if you’re already believing in witches, is a pretty reasonable leap to make.
So they buried Mary Evelyn in a steel-lined grave, weighing down her casket with gravel and concrete. For good measure, they surrounded her grave with a fence made of connected crosses.
It wasn’t enough.
Mary Evelyn’s spirit, tethered to the grave, can’t cross the fence. She appears at night, wearing a white dress scorched at its bottom edges. She lures people over to her gravesite by making cute little-girl faces at them, and if anyone gets curious or worried and dares come too close, she’ll snare them and drag them down into the grave with her. If you cross the fence yourself and lie down on her grave, her tiny hands will hold you fast … and if no one helps you up, it’s into the earth you go.
If you do manage to elude her clutches, you can expect to find your car dead when you try to leave the cemetery. And then, it might just be a matter of time before little Mary Evelyn lures you back again …
I don’t need to tell you how unsettling the thought of a little girl in a singed white dress alone at night in a cemetery is. So much about that sentence is just wrong, on a primal level, and whatever is going on in Crittenden County is the kind of elemental force that’s best left alone.
To get a sense of what the gravesite looks like up close and at night, join these YouTubers in a journey that (spoiler) does not end up with them dragged down into a moldering grave. Still pretty damn freaky, though:
Thing is, Mary Evelyn isn’t the only spirit wandering the Pilot Knob Cemetery. According to legend, there’s also an evil presence known as The Watcher, who was hung from a nearby bridge. Those who wander into the cemetery at night feel the sensation of being watched, and can hear the dull crunch of footsteps coming up the path behind them. The Watcher lurks around Mary Evelyn’s grave and …. and …
… yeah, you know what? This is where the story pretty much grinds to a halt. Like everything from “The Brady Bunch” to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, when you start bringing in second-rate characters to pump up interest, well, the tale of the Witch Girl of Crittenden County runs aground here.
Which is a good thing, because, well … it’s all fiction. Sad but true.
Remember what I said about mistaken identity and fake news up top? It turns out that while Mary Evelyn Ford was indeed a real young girl, she was not a real witch. She died of peritonitis — not from being burned at the stake — and her mother lived on until 1955, outliving her husband and at least two of her children. She’s buried at the same cemetery as her daughter. Mary Evelyn’s death was a tragedy, but decidedly not a supernatural horror.
I still wouldn’t recommend laying down on any graves, though. Just in case.
This is your reminder that I’m always looking for weird-ass Southern stories. If you have one, have heard of one, or feel like making one up out of thin air like we just read, well, you should …
Song of the Week: Killer Mike, “Don’t Let The Devil”
Atlanta-based Killer Mike, as part of the duo Run The Jewels, is keeping old-school heads-ringing thundering-bass hip-hop alive. Throw in a dizzying spiral of lyrics (Try to keep up with “Catch me after Sunday service / Disturbin' the church’s workers / Tell the deacon we ain't speaking / Need money, his prayers worthless”), a plaintive choir, a shag-carpet ‘70s organ line, and damn, you’ve got a fine tune, the first off his upcoming solo album. Nod your head to “Don’t Let The Devil” and the rest of the ever-growing Flashlight & A Biscuit Spotify playlist right here:
Have a fine week, my friends, and we’ll see you right back here next Saturday!
Land Cat, Georgia
This is issue #101 of Flashlight & A Biscuit. Check out all the past issues right here. Feel free to email me with your thoughts, tips and advice. If you’re new around here, jump right to our most-read stories, or check out some of our recent hits:
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