(Orig. published 9/2005)
They say that deep in the heart of mysterious Mormon country in Kirtland, a mysterious grave exists at the side of a rural road. Supposedly, it is the grave of a witch executed by local townsfolk in the early 1800’s. If you are lucky enough to find the grave, and even braver still to approach it, something *strange* happens:
If you stare at the grave, turn your back to it, then turn around again, the grave will move closer to you.
Is this another urban legend or is there some truth to this old piece of lore?
As it turns out, the grave DOES exist. After much snooping, we were able to find the infamous grave, along a side road next to a farm.
So, that part of the legend is true. Now, what about the “test”?Hmmm…..
Did it move closer or is this a trick of the eye?
Wait a minute, there is definitely a difference now….
Ok, ok. The grave really didn’t move. So, that part of the legend is false.
The inscription on the headstone reads:
In memory of Levi Smith, Sept. 25th, 1774 to Jan. 5th, 1820 and Ruth Holbrook Smith (his wife) , Jan. 2nd, 1779 to October 28th, 1818. Who moved from this farm from Derby, Connecticut in 1814
So, this is the grave of Levi and Ruth Smith, who migrated here in the early 1800’s. They died a few years after they arrived, at a fairly young age and within a short tune of each other. It is not known how they died.
Derby, Connecticut, where the Smiths came from, was one of the first towns established in the American colonies in the late 1600’s. What is also known is that Connecticut was a hotbed for alleged witchcraft delusions. Following the Revolutionary War, the colonies acquired a great amount of land, including the Ohio and surrounding Ohio Valley, and used it to provide property for displaced colonists following the devastating war. This land for many years was known as the Connecticut Western Reserve.
Levi Smith is known to be one of 12 members who started a small church in Kirtland, which later evolved into Mormonism. From its inception, the church met with a string of bad luck.
The first log church burned down under mysterious circumstances shortly after it was built. Another church was built. That one was quickly destroyed by a cyclone. Yet another church was built. But changes in the local population (most Mormons were driven out of the area by increasing hostilities from other settlers) caused the church to be relocated out of town.
Did we find any evidence of alleged witchcraft that would lend credence to this legend? No.
But one wonders if the legend has its origins in anti-Mormon sentiments against one of the movement’s earliest founding fathers.
The grave, by the way, is in remarkable condition, with barely any signs of wear or vandalism. It’s quite an interesting thing to see while going on a casual Sunday drive in Melon Head country.
10/26/05: Ashley offers up this, um, interesting variation of the legend:
The more well-known legend surrounding the witches grave is that if, on Halloween, you pee on it, the pee will quickly rise off the grave. Not particularly astounding, as its often cold up here on Halloween, but it’s a fun trip to make. However, when peeing on this mysterious stone, I recommend being very careful. The roads are windy, and the Kirtland Police seem to come out of nowhere sometimes. They won’t appreciate you peeing on the grave, but they’ll just chase you away if you say you came only for a look.