Myth of the ‘witch girl’ next door
We all know that Halloween is a great time to hear and tell ghost stories and maybe even get together with some friends and make a trip to a cemetery on a dark, moonless night.
Well, a few years ago I heard about a wonderful place to go visit and tell a great ghost story.
I was collaborating with my good friend Bonnie Gass who had asked about putting pictures of headstones in different cemeteries on my Crittenden County GenWeb site. She would visit a cemetery, make pictures and send them to me via email to Newburgh, Ind., and I would make pages and put them on the website.
I was thrilled to do this and Bonnie made such beautiful pictures.
Eventually, she sent me Pilot Knob Cemetery photos and I soon got to Mary Evelyn Ford’s grave picture.
Bonnie told me the story about the little Witch Girl that has been told for many years in Crittenden County. The story is also told on several websites including Haunted Places in Kentucky and Urban Legends.
The story goes like this.
It seems that in the 1910s, in the small town of Marion, Ky., the townsfolk believed that Mary Evelyn Ford and her mother were witches.
Instead of taking them through the traditional judicial system, they immediately sentenced them to be burned alive. Mary Evelyn Ford was 6 years old. Her mother’s charred corpse was buried somewhere far from Marion, and the little girl was decidedly buried in Pilot Knob.
The townsfolk believed her spirit would return to take revenge, and so they buried the girl in a steel-lined grave. They covered her casket with concrete and gravel instead of dirt, and surrounded her grave with a white fence made of interconnecting crosses.
Town folklore states that this little girl’s spirit cannot cross the gate around her grave, but she reaches out to anyone who dares to come near. She can pull a mortal into her grave, and it is said that she makes faces to provoke people so she can get them near enough to pull you into her gated area.
On the other side of the fence lies something much darker, “The Watcher.” He is an evil presence that is trying to get to the little girl, but cannot. He cannot cross over the crosses which guard and entrap her. Instead, he carefully attempts to snatch her soul, and chases any bystander away.
I felt I had to do some fact checking to learn if any part of this story were true. My husband Ken and I had access to Crittenden County census books at our home and at the time we were transcribing dєαth certificates for LDS Family Search.
First I found the dєαth certificate of Mary Evelyn Ford, 5-year-old daughter of James and Rebecca Davis Ford, showing that she díєd from peritonitis (inflammation of the abdominal lining).
Her mother, Rebecca, was still living at the time the 1920 Crittenden County census was taken. Ken and I had transcribed and published this census book and found Rebecca Ford in it at that time.
I added this information to the website and got emails from some of her relations thanking me for proving that none of this was true and how hurtful it had been listening to this story all these years.
Mary Evelyn Ford’s dєαth certificate shows that she was not burned as a witch but díєd from peritonitis and rectal impaction. Her dєαth date was May 31, 1916.
Also, her mother Mary Rebecca (Davis) Ford was still living in the 1920 Crittenden County census — house/hold #64/64 Ford’s Ferry District, four years after the dєαth of Mary Evelyn.
Neither was burned for being a witch.
Shame on the one that started this story about a “Little Witch Girl.” Tell your Halloween stories and have fun but not at the expense of others.