Text for People with Impairments
Hi there! Welcome to the virtual Mercer Monster Mash. I’m Sam the man. Happy Halloween to you my dear friend.
Tonight I want to share a tale with you too strange for fiction. The true story of the very last witch ever convicted of witchcraft in Virginia.
Grace Sherwood was born in the year 1660 in the Virginia Colony. Grace was naturally affectionate to animals from a young age. She was also fascinated with herbal remedies. Nobody living today knows exactly what Grace looked like, but she was described as incredibly beautiful.
Grace’s neighbors grew suspicious of the beautiful woman who spoke to animals and made herbal remedies. Many of these neighbors also wanted Grace’s land for their own. In 1697 Richard Capps accused grace of cursing his livestock to death. In 1698 John Gisburne accused Grace of enchanting his crops to wither. And the accusations grew wilder from there. Elizabeth Barnes accused Grace of transforming into a black cat, attacking her, and escaping out the keyhole. Further accusations against Grace included casting spells, bewitching sailors, causing miscarriages, and even dancing with the Devil himself.
In 1706, Grace Sherwood was brought to court and formally tried for Witchcraft. A jury of 12 “Ancient and Knowing” women were appointed to examine Grace’s body to look for the mark of the Devil. The forewoman of this Jury was Elizabeth Barnes – the same Elizabeth Barnes who had previously accused Grace of transforming into a black cat. Barnes and her fellow jurors testified that Grace had been marked by the Devil.
Grace Protested her innocence. She said to the court, “I be not a witch; I be a healer”.
The Magistrates decided to test Grace by ducking her in water. They reasoned that since water is so pure, a witch would be rejected by the water and float to the top, but an innocent woman would surely sink to the bottom.
On July 10th 1706, Grace was taken to the mouth of the Lynnhaven River. The weather was sunny. Her Thumbs were tied to her feet. A thirteen pound bible was tied to her neck. She was placed into a sack. A crowd of rowdy onlookers gathered near the shore. The crowd started shouting and chanting “duck the witch”. Grace was heard to exclaim, “Before this day be through you will all get a worse ducking than I.”
The Sherriff then tossed Grace into the river, but there’s one thing the Sherriff didn’t consider: Grace knew how to swim. Grace freed herself from the sack and the ropes, and she swam right back up to the surface. Just then a sudden storm blew in, and an unexpected downpour drenched the whole crowd. Grace was right; they all got a worse ducking than she did.
The spot along the mouth of the Lynnhaven River is still called Witchduck point to this very day.
Grace was hauled off to the local jail, but a funny thing happened while Grace was in jail. All of Grace’s accusers fell ill and died under mysterious circumstances. Must’ve been a coincidence, right? When the local Magistrate also met his end, the authorities decided perhaps it was best to free Grace. They never again convicted anyone of Witchcraft in Virginia.
Grace returned home, reclaimed her land, and lived to the age of 80 in peace and contentment. [pause] Local legend says that on the day Grace finally died, a strange wind blew down her chimney. Her body disappeared amid the embers, with the only clue being a cloven hoofprint. But that’s probably just a legend, right?
300 years after Grace’s conviction, the governor of Virginia pardoned Grace for the crime of Witchcraft. Today there are markers and statues in Grace’s honor. Local residents near Witchduck point still report a strange, moving light near the spot where Grace was ducked in the water 300 years ago.
Thanks so much for hearing the story of Grace Sherwood, the last convicted Witch in the colony of Virginia. If you happen to see any little witches running around, be sure to give ‘em an extra piece of candy for Grace. Happy Halloween, my friends.