Happy first day of Halloween to you all! I will be your dark hostess throughout October. :)
For a full month, we will be having all kinds of spooky fun, both on the blog and the podcast. I hope you are as excited as I am and I can't wait to take you into the darkest regions of the earth where no man dare enter (or something like that).
Anyway, we are kicking things off with some lore that's fairly local to where I am. See the thing is that it's sometimes the smaller towns that have the richest history, and that includes haunted history. One such town is one hidden among the Steel City (Pittsburgh, PA), just along the Monongahela River.
It is the town of Monongahela.
Now those of you that have been following me on social media know that in addition to all else I do, I am involved in the reenacting community. One place I have done quite a bit at is the Depreciation Lands Museum in AllisonPark (this place has its own benevolent ghost called The Deacon which I will be covering later this month).
Now every Halloween, the museum puts on their Lantern Tours with an ever changing theme. A couple years ago, the theme was a dramatized reenacting of the witch trial of real life 17th century accused 'witch', Mary Bliss Parsons. And as a side note, what has two thumbs and got to portray Mary Bliss Parsons?
Yep, that's right.
Now as I was reading over the script for and doing research, I came across another interesting figure (who was also portrayed in this event). This other figure that caught my attention was Mary or "Moll" Derry, also known as the Fortune Teller of the Revolution and/or The Witch of Monongahela.
According to a brief description in a sample from Thomas White's book, Witches of Pennsylvania: Occult History and Lore (a book that I definitely recommend adding to your fall reading list), Derry was born in Germany during the year 1760. During the Revolutionary War, she moved to America with her husband, who was a Hessian soldier.
After the war ended, they moved to Fayette County in the 1790s. It is said that Derry lived in Georges Township until passing away from old age in 1843 (which would have made her 83 at the time of her death).
Throughout her lifetime, Derry was said to have told fortunes, removed hexes, and cured ailments. There is even a story of how she tried to help a young woman with a warning of an abusive fiance. Unfortunately, the young woman did not listen and was later found dead.
While Derry did much in using her abilities to help those around her, she was also said to have a vengeful side, and abandon all hope all ye that dared cross her. There are many stories of curses and affliction place upon individuals that angered Derry, from farmers having their livestock mysteriously perish, to men that tormented her having their lives cut short by hanging.
Either way, her reputation as "the most well-known witch of the western side of the [Pennsylvania] state" made her a legend long before her earthly life came to an end.
Many find it rather curious as to how Derry managed to slip beneath the radar of being brought to justice as a witch. Some suggest that perhaps people feared crossing her just that much. But as someone whose pet subject (or one of my pet subjects) happens to be the witch hunts and trials, I have done a lot of careful research on it over the years, and like many other events in history, witch hunts and trials weren't nearly as cut and dry as they are often portrayed and there are many, MANY inaccuracies put out there in entertainment and the media (yes, I'm throwing a little shade at you, American Horror Story: Coven). But American Horror Story isn't alone in my shade throwing, for most Hollywood productions and videos making the rounds on social media (throwing more shade at outlets like Buzzfeed and NowThis...at least I think that's what it's called) seem to enjoy spewing garbage, seemingly for the sake of shock value and making modern folk feel good about themselves because as messed up as we are, "at least we're not like THOSE people!" But I digress. That's for another blogpost. These October postings are for fun.
But anyway, like many other parts of history, the witch hunts and trials are yet another giant, mysterious labyrinth with many different and unexpected twists and turns. And speaking of twists and turns, who doesn't love a haunted house? Especially one said to have a haunted tale behind it.
Well, I have something for you. Demon House - also know as Emerald Mansion.
Now bear in mind that I am not entirely sure of whether this is the real history behind it or if this is a fabrication simply part of the haunt. But either way it's a cool story, and one to maul over as you await your turn to enter into the old McCue Mansion.
I can say that I did experience Demon House a couple years ago, and I will say that it does deliver.
As for the story told behind it, the story goes a little something like this:
The mansion has over 138 years of haunted history and the land on which it sits was once used as a burial ground (possibly Native American but also might have been used by the Spanish). There is also a story about a mysterious woman by the name of Carla, who owned a title on the land in the mid-late 1800s. Supposedly, she was not bothered by the land's history as burial grounds. It is said that she even asked to keep some of the bones of the exhumed bodies.
Carla was said to be a healer and a witch by some, and many sought out her cures for a variety of ailments. In 1894, she mysteriously vanished, as did some of her patients. When the sheriff and his deputies conducted a search of the house, four members of the search party entered the mansion only to never be seen again.
The house remained empty until 2004, when it was purchased by the owners and operators of the haunted attraction, Demon House.
Now, the current owners of Demon House have stated in a couple interviews that there definitely is an energy about the area. So perhaps one of these days it would be interesting to sit down with them and see just how much of the story stems from truth.
Either way, the moral of the story is...always keep your eyes open, for sometimes the smallest towns have the most interesting history and legends.
I hope you enjoyed this first installment of Halloween Inside the Labyrinth as there are many more to come.
Til the next one, pleasant dreams...
Sample of Witches of Pennsylvania:
Demon House Legend:
Mary Bliss Parsons: