The Legend of Moll Dyer

A few days ago, when over to a friend’s place to watch a few horror movies which including the Blair Witch Project. I remember the first time watching the film in theater and enjoying those few moments of suspense, but now it does nothing much for me. I guess that what occurs with any movie you watched 15 years after its release. However, I did learn something new about the film that my friend had informed me about. The Blair Witch Project was inspired from an actual legend of a witch named Moll Dyer who lived in Maryland, USA, during the 17th century.

Before I continue, I want to note that tens of thousands of innocent people throughout the centuries were falsely accused, trailed and executed as witches. They were believed to possess supernatural abilities, cast spells and even curse people while making pacts with demons or the Devil. Today we now know differently. Most of the victims were ordinary women who owned businesses, mid-wives, had knowledge in herbal medicine, lived independent or didn’t follow society norms at the time. They became targets of jealousy, fear, hatred, political or financial gains or when a scapegoat was needed. Moll Dyer was no different.

The legend has been part of Leonardtown in St. Mary’s County, Maryland for 300 years. There are no historical records of Moll Dyer, yet all the town’s residents know her story. According to legend, Moll Dyer migrated to Maryland alone with no one knowing her past or origins. She lived in a cottage just outside of town which was then Seymour town. Moll was a strange woman who lived alone and isolated herself from the daily events of community life. She was known to be a herbal healer that sold remedies to the local town folk. Many of residents were uneasy with her from the beginning and over time suspicion would have them calling her a witch.

As the legends goes, in 1697, Seymour town was hit with harsh winter. During the fall, crops failed and some livestock mysteriously died. With food already scarce an epidemic hit the area resulting in many deaths from either starvation or sickness. With all that was occurring, Moll Dyer had remained unscathed. The locals soon blamed her for the misfortunes and hardship believing she was truly a witch that cursed the town. Then, one night a group of the townsfolk gathered together and decide to put an end to witch’s terror. They set the cottage on fire, yet Moll had fled into the woods. Legends says that even though she escaped, she was alone in the forest in the middle of the coldest night of winter.

Several days later, Moll’s body was found frozen kneeling with one hand on a rock with the other raised as if crying out for mercy or a curse. The legend continues that when her remains were removed, prints of a hand and knees were left on the boulder. Many believed that Moll Dyer had cursed the town as the legends mentions harsh winters, poor crops, and disease continue to plague the area for several years. Over the past century and even today strange occurrences are reported to happen in Leonardtown. There are accounts of those claiming to have seen Moll Dyer’s ghost roaming the forest along with stories of specter animals, shadowy figures, a glowing fog and abnormal weather patterns. The rock believed to have the Moll’s prints lays in front of the Leonardtown courthouse where people reported experiencing some ill effects.

Sources:

Okonowicz, Ed . Haunted Maryland: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Old Line State Stackpole Books: 2007 USA.

“Legend of Moll Dyer”. Wierd MD. (Accessed July 12, 2015). http://www.waymarking.com

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