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The Legend of the Witch of Yazoo

spooky witch

The Witch of Yazoo

Located in the middle of the historic section of Glenwood Cemetery, Yazoo City’s public cemetery, is a grave surrounded by chain links known as, “The Witch’s Grave”. The legend of the Witch of Yazoo became famous in Willie Morris’ book, Good Old Boy published in 1971. This story is an example of the unusual folklore surrounding Yazoo County. Many have pointed out that the grave and the legend were there long before Morris was born, and that the chain had been broken for a long time.

According to the legend, the old woman lived on the Yazoo River, and was caught torturing fishermen who she lured in off the river.  The sheriff is said to have chased her through the swamps where she was half drowned in quicksand by the time the sheriff caught up with her.  As she was sinking, she swore her revenge on Yazoo City and on the town’s people.  “In 20 years, I will return and burn this town to the ground!”  No one thought much of it at the time.  Then came May 25, 1904…

The Fire of 1904 destroyed over 200 residences and nearly every business in Yazoo City – 324 buildings in total.  Many theories evolved as to how the fire started, but none were conclusive. The most popular theory is that the fire started in the parlor of a young Miss Wise who was in preparation for her wedding to be held later that day.  While this is quite possible and certainly innocent enough, it is the strange and fierce winds that were blowing on that fateful day, unusual for the time, that lead many to blame the witch.  The flames were said by witnesses to have jumped through the air, as if driven by some supernaturally forceful winds. This is one of the eeriest facts of the story. Area weather reports from May 25, 1904, make no mention of high winds in the area.

A group of citizens made their way into Glenwood on the day after the fire, and found the large chains around the grave of the witch broken in two.

Today, adults and children alike enjoy taking the tour of Glenwood Cemetery and hearing the story of the witch, (affectionately termed by, “The Chain Lady,” by many in modern-day Yazoo) as well as the story of many other famous and infamous Yazooans, led by our costumed storytellers.  Many others visit to see the grave by themselves, and to enjoy the peace and serenity that can be found only in such an historic resting place as Glenwood.  You can learn more about scheduling a tour for your group by visiting our Tours page, or download the witch brochure (including a map to the grave) to visit on your own time, if you like.

Some folks have said that the truth of the witch’s grave is that a man is buried there.  Make no mistake, there is no evidence of this.  In fact, the only record ever to have been found, to our knowledge, shows that a woman owned the plot in Glenwood where the witch’s grave is located.  Many years ago, the stone (now long gone) which was original to 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.  No one knows why for certain.  The heavy chains surrounding the grave are constantly being repaired, only to fall apart again shortly after.

There is certainly some mysterious force at work here.  Come see for yourself, and hear the story.  Then, decide what you believe…

Current 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. To this day, our cemetery sextons are very careful to keep the chains repaired and in place, though they often are broken again very soon after being repaired.

 

Witch of Yazoo on Mystery Monday (WJTV)

23 Comments
  1. This story is very interesting to me but is it really true i would like to read a book on her is there one published if so can u please let me know u can notify me by phone or mail my cell number is 331-551-2083 and my mailing address is 540 n Yale ave in villa park I’ll 60181 and actually i was just in yazoo mississippi and i did go to see that grave but i could not find that grave anywhere is it still there. !!!!!!!!

    • Thanks for your post, Lolita. I hate to hear you had a hard time finding the grave. Yes, it is still there. I don’t think any book has been published to tell the factual story, being that all records burned in the fire. However, several people, including Willie Morris, have taken a stab at writing their version of the story.

      Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks, again, and we hope to see you in Yazoo again soon! 🙂
      Dawn

    • Me too is she real

    • I was just there April 29, 2016 and it is still there. I actually took lots of pictures of her grave as well as other old graves.

      • That’s great to hear, Angie. Thanks for posting. If you share any of your images on social media, please tag us (Visit Yazoo on Facebook and @VisitYazoo on Twitter and Instagram). We’d love to share your images with our fans! 🙂

  2. Does anyone know the name of the witch or the name of the woman that owned the plot? I have a very dear friend that is from there. His family lived there for generations. Unfortunately there is no one left. I’m trying to do some research for him.

    Thank you
    Lynnette

    • Thank you for your comment and question, Lynnette. Unfortunately, no – all records of who owned the plot were destroyed in the Fire of 1904. To my knowledge, no one in Yazoo ever knew her name – she was always referred to as “the witch.” This is all that has remained – the legend of the “witch of Yazoo” – Even the original stone marker from the grave disappeared many years ago. It was simply inscribed with the letters “T W” (The Witch?). The stone that currently marks the grave is a replacement and was placed in honor of a sexton of the Glenwood Cemetery, and is inscribed with a bit of the legend.

      Now… I have heard tale that one local historian was able to track down information with a woman’s name who supposedly owned that plot (though I don’t know if that is true), but I don’t think there was any information available as to who she was or if she was, indeed, buried there.

      If you are searching for historical or genealogical information, please let us know. I have a list of local historians and genealogists who may be able to help you.

      Happy Monday! 🙂
      Dawn

  3. I have a group that is very intrugued by her story & we have been doing some research on her as well. Could we speak with the local historians for help.

    Thanks,

    Stacy Manning

    • Thanks for your message, Stacy. We would be happy to put you in touch with some local historians. Please call our office at 800-381-0662 (M-F, 8-5)

  4. Hi I had no idea the was a witch I am very interested in these sorts of things and I was looking up secrets of Mississippi and it showed if u hear my plz tell me I would love to know more about this !?🤔😀and send me some info on this to my email pls
    Thank you

  5. Can someone tell me if the tale is real and was she a witch? I believe and stuff like this and its interresting like the blair witch thing project

    • Iesha, no one can prove if she was real or not. The legend has been around in Yazoo for a very long time. Unfortunately, the facts may always remain a mystery, because the records all burned in the fire of 1904.

  6. An interesting story indeed. We have many spooky tales like this here in Northern Ireland too! Has the town ever considered doing an exhumation of the grave? Maybe that could shed a little more light on it. Although, perhaps not the best course of action!

    • Thanks for your post, Alex. The idea of “digging up” the “witch” has been tossed around here and there. Ultimately, it’s probably not going to ever happen.

      I bet the legends of Northen Ireland are fascinating! The tour guide who plays the witch for us is very proud of her Irish heritage. I’m sure she would love to visit with you when you’re in our area.

      A news story broke a few months ago about some vandalism to the witch’s grave. Two of the 12 large chain links came up missing. Now a third has. Legend has it, once all of the links disappear, she will come back and burn the town again. Thankfully, our cemetery sexton is working to replace the missing links. We don’t really believe in all of that superstition, of course… but why chance it? May 25th is right around the corner. 😉

      DRD

  7. My grandmother is buried in Glenwood Cementary but I haven’t seen the witches grave,how can I find where it is located there

    • Thanks for posting, Lou. The Witch’s Grave can be easily located when you enter the cemetery from the main entrance. As you enter the cemetery, you will see a fountain ahead of you. Look behind and to the left a bit and you will see a concrete bench, which is located next to the Witch’s Grave. If you have a hard time seeing this, be sure to look for the grave of author Willie Morris. His grave marker is taller and much more modern than anything else in that old section of the cemetery. He is buries “13 paces to the South” of the Witch’s Grave, which makes her grave very easy to locate once you find his.

  8. no its not true thats my 6th generation aunt

  9. I went out to this woman’s grave the other day while i was visiting my hubs who is working in yc. I had read about this lady and wanted to see the grave. Pretty cool… but there are a lot of holes in the story and i got to thinking… the late 1800s isnt too far from modern times and whatever. I kinda feel like she wasn’t a witch… only an outcast and maybe the guy that snuck on her property didn’t see anything at all. Maybe he was just pervy and when another fisherman saw him maybe he made up a story. I just wish there was more evidence and more stories because i feel like this was a woman and a person. Its fun to believe tho

    • Thanks for your comment, TC. As is the case with most legends, there is no way to prove (or disprove) the legend of the “Witch of Yazoo.” We all enjoy hearing (and telling) the story, though, either way. 🙂 We’re glad you enjoyed the visit.

  10. Great stuff.
    As someone that lived in Yazoo for years this has always been awesome to research.
    I found this online,will leave the link

    And Yazoo City did have several large racial and gender battles at work during the time when the witch rumors first began.

    First there was Harriett N Prewett of Yazoo City who one of the first female newspaper editors in the United States. In 1884 (same year as the witch), she was a widow living on the outskirts of Yazoo City in a wisteria covered cabin. The 1880s was a time when newsmen could be challenged to a duel for stories that were perceived as inflammatory. However, this did not pertain to women. Mrs. Prewett took advantage of her immunity to fearlessly take on the Democratic party which at the time embraced a racist agenda and controlled most of the Southern state. One could theorize that these rumors of witchery could have been directed at Mrs. Prewett in an act of revenge against a woman with the audacity to speak her mind, who was immune to pistols at ten paces.

    The story may have also been used to distract from another major event in Yazoo City which made national news in 1884 (the same year the witch supposedly died and cursed the town).Yazoo City had been a hotbed of racial tension since the end of the Civil War. Although African American made up two-thirds of the population, they were forcibly bared from voting, despite it being their right. On Christmas Eve in 1884, an altercation between a group of black men and a group of white men erupted in violence. The incident occurred when a white plantation owner T.D. Kirk was insulted by his black employee, Abe Johnson. Kirk, feeling the need to dole out discipline, went back to his home to retrieve a bat, a gun, and a few armed friends. Johnson went off to do likewise. When both groups returned, a gun fight ensued leaving three white men including Kirk dead, and a fourth white man would die from his wounds a few days later. Weeks after the shootout, an angry mob attacked the prison shot one of the prisoners in his cell then pulled the remaining three men and killed them.

    Despite its possible origins, the witch of Yazoo is still an ominous presence in the Yazoo City. Even more ominous is the fact that, to this day, no one knows who exactly is buried in the witch’s grave. Just this year, the chains which were placed around the grave to keep the witch contained were stolen. Perhaps someone is wanting to see if the witch still feeling a bit vengeful.
    http://www.blumhouse.com/2016/05/18/mississippis-vengeful-witch-of-yazoo-and-the-creation-of-a-legend/

    As well as tales on another site that said she was a gypsy that had settled there cursed with her own bad luck,and after losing her family,that she was the last survivor of her group
    So the gypsies, from the mere fact of being wanderers and out-of-doors livers in wild places, became wild-looking, and when asked if they did not associate with the devils who dwell in the desert places, admitted the soft impeachment, and being further questioned as to whether their friends the devils, fairies, elves, and goblins had not taught them how to tell the future, they pleaded guilty, and finding that it paid well, went to work in their small way to improve their “science,” and particularly their pecuniary resources. It was an easy calling; it required no property or properties, neither capital nor capitol, shiners nor shrines, wherein to work the oracle. And as I believe that a company of children left entirely to themselves would form and grow up with a language which in a very few years would be spoken fluently, so I am certain that the shades of night, and fear, pain, and lightning and mystery would produce in the same time conceptions of dreaded beings, resulting first in demonology and then in the fancied art of driving devils away.
    http://conspiro.net/
    But all in all it is still a great story.

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