Every town has their own legends, curses, etc. that they want to believe happened. These are the stories that have been passed down from generation to generation, each putting their own spin on the tale. Back in the day that’s how parents made sure their children would listen. Maryland, one of the older states in our line up has some really excellent tales.
We have the historic battleground Antietam, the site of one of the bloodiest war massacres in the U.S in a single day during the Civil War. We have our tales of Edgar Allen Poe in Baltimore. Some claim he still roams the streets around his landmark grave. I’ve been there, but sadly, witnessed nothing. The curse of Moll Dyer isn’t a well known story, but to me it is a favorite. Does she in fact still haunt the woods of Leonardtown? I’ll let you decide.
If you can, picture this: the year is 1697. The place is Leonardtown, Maryland, a successful, though small, Puritan town. They have thriving crops and a shipping business. It’s a perfect little place to live.
Mary (Moll) Dyer is a resident just on the outskirts of this town, but chooses to live by herself out in the woods. Many people go to her to be cured of various ailments paying her with food and herbs. Most folk would not speak of going to see this healer to each other; that wouldn’t be the proper thing to do. Their winters have been very mild so they have never seen a truly bad snowfall or dangerous cold wind. This year, though, influenza was killing people like never before, and the cold, frigid temps on top of the mountainous snow was more than this town could bear.
Whispers of Moll Dyer causing this to happen were running rampant through the town. It was her fault these people were dying, and her fault as well for the weather they were having. She was declared a witch by the town. What else could she be when she was home in a warm house and they are suffering?
They decided they were going to be rid of her so the townsfolk banded together in the brutal weather, and walked the 3 or so miles to her home in the woods. They set fire to her house in the name of God, knowing the old woman would die in that fire. What they didn’t realize was that Moll had seen them coming and escaped out into the woods. It was there they found her body three days later. She was kneeling over a large rock with one hand on the rock, and one up in the air, as if to beg for mercy. The townsfolk decided her hand had been in the air proclaiming a curse to the town and people.
Fast forward to 1972. A large rock was found out in the woods, with what looked like a hand print pressed into it. After all the tales of Moll Dyer, someone had found the rock! They brought the rock out of those woods, and it sits in town next to the 1876 jail house. People will go to this rock and if they choose to touch it, have visions of Moll Dyer, so they say. Some people have claimed to have gotten light headed, even sick when touching it. Could she have cursed that rock?
What about a curse on her property? It’s located about 3 1/2 miles from the center of town. The road is called Moll Dyer Road. People have claimed to see ghost like figures in and out of those woods. Some people have witnessed storms when it is not storming, lightning coming out of no where to drive them away from the location. There have been multiple wrecks on that road as well. Could it be the curves, or the strange things they see?
To look at the facts on this, you have to consider that back in 1697, as well as before and after, their book keeping was not what we have today. There are sporadic pieces of evidence that supports Moll Dyer being in that town at that time. Her family came over on a ship in 1677. The town also has it recorded that there was a great epidemic in the winter of 1697. I’m sure they are referring to influenza and the record number of deaths, but no one knows.
There was a fire in 1831, so most documentation was burned up. In the papers they do have, it does show that her house had been burned. This was written in the 1892 Edition of The Saint Mary’s Beacon. So there is proof to her existence, as well as her house being burned, a rock that is there to this day, and I have been to it myself twice. All the people that have witnessed and or have suffered tragedy due to what they believe to be the curse that she gave to this town. They feel she haunts the woods to this day. Her property is under great scrutiny. It is heavily posted that no one be on it as it is owned by someone.
With all the facts, plus all the witnesses, as well as the legend that has been brought down, one needs to only use their imagination with this one, as Moll Dyer was a real woman. Unjustly accused, or a witch who still has her way in that town? I will let you be the judge.
Either way, it makes for one good tale around a fireplace!