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The Unquiet Grave of Mary Nasson

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Close up of Mary Nasson’s tombstone

In trying to complete my challenge of finishing out Volume 2 of Haunted America here on the blog, I stumbled across an interesting cemetery legend from York, Maine. It seems that in the historic Old York Burying Ground, there lies a unique tombstone, said to mark the final resting spot of a witch!

When Mary Nasson passed away on August 18th, 1774 at the age of 29, her husband Samuel had her grave marked with tombstone bearing a carving of Mary herself. From my experience, its rare to see portraits carved on tombstones of this time period, especially portraits that do somewhat evoke an image of fictional witch, Winifred Sanderson. But, even more damning in terms of legends and lore, Samuel covered the top of her grave with a granite slab. 

No one knows for sure just when the rumors of Mary being a witch began, but they date back to at least the late 1800′s. George Alexander Emery’s 1894 book, Ancient City of Georgeana and Modern Town of York (Maine) from it’s Earliest Settlement: Also its Beaches and Summer Resorts, mentions Mary’s grave in the Old York Burial Ground, noting that the granite slab was added as a means of keeping the witch in her grave. Since then, the legends of Mary Nasson being a witch have only grown and evolved with each telling. 

Protective Granite Slab

Some believe that Mary was actually hanged, or otherwise executed, for being a witch. However, there is no proof of that.  Others believe she was simply a woman who knew a lot about the medicinal properties of herbs…too much, in fact…and that’s how she gained a reputation as a witch. Crows that hang out in the cemetery during the summer are often attributed to being her familiars.  And, others just believe that the best explanation for a granite slab (sometimes said to emit its own heat) is that it must be there to keep something sinister at bay. 

More than likely, the granite slab was put over the grave to keep cattle, pigs, and other roaming animals away from the body. In fact, it was a pretty common practice, and there’s a good chance that even though Mary’s grave is the only one that STILL has its slab in place, at one time, quite a few burials implemented the system. 

But, granite slab or not—witch or not—if you believe local legend, the slab hasn’t succeeded in keeping Mary’s spirit still. According to Joseph Cito’s book, Weird New England, Mary’s ghost enjoys interacting with children. Her apparition has been seen giving them wildflowers and pushing them on swing sets. 


Atlas Obscura


New England Folklore


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