Wednesday, October 09, 2013


I thought for Halloween this year I'd post some old scary legends and folktales of
New England. So I did a Google search and came up with a collection of stories by
Charles Montgomery Skinner published back in 1896. I can't say for sure how
historically accurate any of these stories are, but they are important because they
give us a glimpse at the culture of the time and the stories our ancestors told
in front of their fireplaces to entertain each other at the end of the day. When you
read these, see if you can hear in your mind the voice of someone telling the tale.

The first of the stories tells about a legendary figure from Plymouth, Ma.


MOTHER CREWE was of evil repute in Plymouth in the last century. It was said that she had taken pay for luring a girl into her old farm-house, where a man lay dead of small-pox, with intent to harm her beauty; she was accused of blighting land and driving ships ashore with spells; in brief, she was called a witch, and people, even those who affected to ignore the craft of wizardry, were content to keep away from her. When the Revolution ended, Southward Howland demanded Dame Crewe's house and acre, claiming under law of entail, though primogeniture had been little enforced in America, where there was room and to spare for all. But Howland was stubborn and the woman's house had good situation, so one day he rode to her door and summoned her with a tap of his whip.

"What do you here on my land?" said he.

"I live on land that is my own. I cleared it, built my house here, and no other has claim to it."

"Then I lay claim. The place is mine. I shall tear your cabin down on Friday."

"On Friday they'll dig your grave on Burying Hill. I see the shadow closing round you."

"Bah! You have heard what I have said. If on Friday you are not elsewhere, I'll tear the timbers down and bury you in the ruins."

"Enough!" cried the woman, her form straightening, her voice grown shrill. "My curse is on you here and hereafter. Die! Then go down to hell!"

As she said this the cat leaped from her shoulder to the flank of the horse, spitting and clawing, and the frightened steed set off at a furious pace. As he disappeared in the scrub oaks his master was seen vainly trying to stop him. The evening closed in with fog and chill, and before the light waned a man faring homeward came upon the corpse of Southward Howland stretched along the ground.

Charles Montgomery Skinner    Myths and Legends of Our Own Land: Vol. I (Google eBook) J.B. Lippincott, 1896 Philadelphia Pa pp304-305

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