Author Topic: Molly Crenshaw's tombstone  (Read 8762 times)

raycastile

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Molly Crenshaw's tombstone
« on: December 20, 2008, 02:53:36 AM »
Most of you probably have probably never heard of Molly Crenshaw.  But if you grew up in St. Charles County, Mo., you might have heard Blair Witch-type stories about this local urban legend.

Here is a synopsis from my web site, State of Horror:

***

The witch was chopped to pieces.

Her butchered body parts were buried in separate graves, scattered through the wooded countryside.

But beneath the shallow soil, the pieces are moving. Year by year, inch by inch, they draw closer together - crawling, wriggling, struggling to reassemble into the living corpse of Molly Crenshaw.

From one generation to the next, teenagers throughout St. Charles County have passed down this homegrown urban legend about a supposed witch who died a century ago but still haunts the local forests.

The tale varies depending on the storyteller. According to most versions, Molly Crenshaw was a freed Jamaican slave who lived in western St. Charles County during the late 19th century. A voodoo practitioner, Molly was often called upon to dispense spells and potions for local townsfolk.

One year, an unusually harsh winter decimated local crops. Villagers blamed Molly and her evil witchcraft. Pitchforks raised, they descended on her modest home. Molly defiantly confronted them, placing a curse on anyone who touched her. Unflinching, the mob attacked and killed her. Some say they cut her in half. Others say she was drawn and quartered. But every version of the tale ends with the townspeople burying the dismembered portions in separate graves.

***

It became a rite of passage for teenagers to waste a Saturday night stumbling around the woods, searching for "Molly's grave."  Or one of her graves, since she was cut in half.

There were tales of people being found dead in the woods, people committing suicide because they were haunted by Molly, etc.  Very much like the stories in The Blair Witch Project.

In researching Molly for a newspaper story, I found at least one documented death attributed to Molly.  A young girl really did kill herself because she was reportedly being teased about the witch, and developed some kind of obsessive fear of Molly.  I imagine kids were telling her "Molly's coming to get you," and she started to believe it.

I uncovered all kinds of info on Molly.  She was a real person.

According to newspaper stories and birth/death documents, her name was Mollie J. Crenshaw.  She committed suicide at 10:20 a.m., Feb. 22, 1913 in the home of Harry Towers near Cottleville.  She swallowed carbolic acid. Mollie was 52, according to her death record. She was listed as a single, white female.

Mollie was no Jamaican slave.  She was a school teacher who went deaf and fell into depression.  There is no evidence connecting her to witchcraft.

Mollie was buried in a small, family cemetery.  A descendant allowed me to visit her grave site in October, 2001.  Here it is:



You will notice there is no tombstone.  That is because the family removed it in 1978 or 1979 to protect it from vandalism.  Its whereabouts became obscure, even to Mollie's descendants.  They knew a member of their family had it, but they were not sure who.

This October, I received an e-mail from a member of the family.  He said he had Mollie's tombstone in his garage and asked if I wanted to see it.  He had no idea there was anything special about the tombstone until recently.  Years ago, a family member asked him to store it and he complied.  He had never heard of the Molly Crenshaw legend until this year, when he casually mentioned the tombstone to another family member.  They could not believe he had Molly's tombstone.  He did not know what the big deal was.  Then he went online and read my story on www.stateofhorror.com.  He realized he had something very special in his garage.

It took me a few weeks to find time to drive out to his rural residence.  It was a spooky, late-autumn evening in November.  The sun was setting behind the leafless trees.  I wondered if, like the kids the The Blair Witch Project, I would never be heard from again.

I pulled onto the man's gravel driveway.  The man, who asked that I keep his name and location secret, greeted me at my car.  He seemed like a nice fellow.  We shook hands and made our way to his stand-alone garage, which was sort of a barn-like structure.  I kind of felt like Cornel Wilde at the beginning of Gargoyles, traveling to meet the old man with the strange skeleton in a shack.

Inside the garage, the man opened a metal took cabinet and removed an oblong object wrapped in a yellow towel.  He placed it on the open tailgate of a pickup truck and unwrapped it.






There was Molly's tombstone.  He said my eyes were the first to see it in years.









I noticed that the name was spelled "Molley," different than both the legendary "Molly" and the officially documented "Mollie."  I remember reading a genealogical paper that noted the name on the tombstone was spelled differently than on the death certificate.  Since we're talking about a very small town in 1913, who knows how reliable their records were.

You can see in the photos how people have tried to scratch graffiti onto the tombstone.  I can make out what looks like "HELL" and maybe an anarchy symbol below. 

It was in another Crenshaw descendant's home for about 10 years before it was passed on to the current owner.  He said he took the tombstone as a favor, because he was asked to do so.  But he had no clue about its history until this year.  Now he seems very interested in the Molly legend and wants to learn more about her.  He is going to try to interview family members to assemble an authoritative history of Molly, while the people with that knowledge are still around to share it.  I asked him to tell me what he learned.  He promised to keep me posted.

So there it is.  The long lost tombstone of a real "Blair Witch."  To think of all the young people who have scoured the woods and cemeteries over the decades, looking for Molly's grave.  It is quite an artifact to see in person.






« Last Edit: December 20, 2008, 02:57:53 AM by raycastile »
Raymond Castile

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Re: Molly Crenshaw tombstone
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2008, 03:41:02 AM »
 It is incredibly sad that the tombstone had to be removed to protect it, instead of honoring her memory.  A lot of graveyards are vandalized every year, respect for the dead seems to be a thing of the past.  Maybe some day Molly Crenshaw tombstone can be returned without fear of desecration.   It's kind of sad the REAL Molly isn't remembered, though the legend is so interesting and fascinating.  These Urban Legends will always be a part of our society.  Thanks for sharing this one Ray, this isn't in any of my books.
" THIS BLANKET IS A NECESSITY.  IT KEEPS ME FROM CRACKING UP." - LINUS VAN PELT

Unknown Primate

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Re: Molly Crenshaw's tombstone
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2008, 04:01:47 PM »
I've been fascinated by the Crenshaw legend since I first read about it on your awesome "State of Horror" site.  Thanks for sharing the photo (and the story).  I have a cousin who lives down in Steelville, whom I plan to visit next spring.  He said they have a few strange tales there, also.  Have you heard of any?
" Perhaps he dimly wonders why, there is no other such as I. "

raycastile

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Re: Molly Crenshaw's tombstone
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2008, 04:13:06 PM »
I've been fascinated by the Crenshaw legend since I first read about it on your awesome "State of Horror" site.  Thanks for sharing the photo (and the story).  I have a cousin who lives down in Steelville, whom I plan to visit next spring.  He said they have a few strange tales there, also.  Have you heard of any?

Steelville doesn't ring a bell. But I'd be interested in hearing about any legends you uncover.
Raymond Castile

poseablemonster

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Re: Molly Crenshaw's tombstone
« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2008, 08:31:55 PM »
Great story!

typhooforme

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Re: Molly Crenshaw's tombstone
« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2008, 10:03:49 PM »
Fascinating stuff, Raymond!  Thanks for sharing!
Robert in Ohio

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Kenneth

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Re: Molly Crenshaw's tombstone
« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2008, 12:29:43 AM »
Thanks for the great story. Enjoyed it. I will have to visity your site! In my neck of the woods, we have the Bell Witch (Tennessee). She is a popular internet site subject, as well as in books and movies.

raycastile

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Re: Molly Crenshaw's tombstone
« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2008, 02:39:03 AM »
I guess the Bell Witch is the top-of-the-line among regional witch legends.  Who else has a local witch story?
Raymond Castile

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Re: Molly Crenshaw's tombstone
« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2008, 03:31:45 AM »
I wish I did, although I was sure that my 2nd Grade teacher was a witch, when I was a kid!

A great story, and, as always, excellent reporting of it!

Max

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Re: Molly Crenshaw's tombstone
« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2008, 03:48:09 PM »
I guess the Bell Witch is the top-of-the-line among regional witch legends.  Who else has a local witch story?

Did I mention my mother-in-law lives with us?? Can't get more local than THAT.
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toysoldierman2001

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Re: Molly Crenshaw's tombstone
« Reply #10 on: December 21, 2008, 07:33:08 PM »
In my neck of the woods we have the Hookman a long with a few other local horror legends.

CreepysFan

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Re: Molly Crenshaw tombstone
« Reply #11 on: December 21, 2008, 11:18:11 PM »
 Here in Tennessee the Bell Witch IS our big legend, and the only one I know of here.  Growing up in South Carolina we had: The Grey Man (warns people when hurricanes or danger is around), the Phantom Hitch-hiker (If you pick her up, she give you an address in Columbia. You cross over to the other side of the bridge, and she's no longer sitting in the car.  She's disappeared.), The Three Eyed Man (Non-human creature originally stalking around the Congaree River, now haunts the tunnels under University of South Carolina. The University closed off the tunnels permanently in the `70's when a couple of students were injured after sneaking into the tunnels to search for the Three Eyed Man, and were supposedly attacked by it. Reports of sightings over 70 years.)  This is not even listing Ghosts (South Carolina is a very haunted state).
" THIS BLANKET IS A NECESSITY.  IT KEEPS ME FROM CRACKING UP." - LINUS VAN PELT

raycastile

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Re: Molly Crenshaw's tombstone
« Reply #12 on: December 22, 2008, 12:03:30 AM »
I like that three-eyed man.  He sounds cool, especially if he actually attacks people.  These cryptids need to be a little more assertive, in my opinion.  Stop skulking around in the shadows, running when spotted.  Start eating people.  Cause some damage.  Pull some kid's arm off by the roots.  That's the spirit.
Raymond Castile

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Re: Molly Crenshaw's tombstone
« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2008, 05:51:00 PM »
I like that three-eyed man.  He sounds cool, especially if he actually attacks people.  These cryptids need to be a little more assertive, in my opinion.  Stop skulking around in the shadows, running when spotted.  Start eating people.  Cause some damage.  Pull some kid's arm off by the roots.  That's the spirit.

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Dr.Teufel Geist

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Re: Molly Crenshaw's tombstone
« Reply #14 on: September 27, 2009, 02:14:29 PM »
Came here by accident, or was it something esle that drawn me here, I did a google search on Molly Crenshaw, and didnt notice the link
I clicked on, and *Poof* here I am ;D

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Re: Molly Crenshaw's tombstone
« Reply #14 on: September 27, 2009, 02:14:29 PM »
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