Old York’s “witches”
The grave of Mary Nasson, the White Witch
By Thomas D’Agostino
New England and witches go hand in hand. Some were arrested for their “powers” while others were revered. Many of these so-called minions of the devil were feared or respected well into the 19th century, and in some cases, the 20th century. In York and Wells, Maine, there are two famous yet true stories of witches.
Witch Trot Road would be a weird name for a thoroughfare in anywhere but New England. Reverend George Burroughs of Wells, who was accused of witchcraft during the height of the Salem Witch Trials. Burroughs pleaded his innocence and agreed to prove it in front of the Magistrate in Danvers. The Reverend suggested a shortcut that would bring them to Danvers much quicker. The men later believed that the witch enchanted them, then brought them to a dark forest bedeviled with evil throes of nature. When they came to a strange, high ridge, the sky grew dark and thunderclouds rumbled ominously above them.
The three lawmen became frightened out of their wits for they believed the man had summoned the powers of the devil against them. Lightning struck on all sides and the horses flew in fear, yet the shadow of Burroughs in the flashing light remained calm and steady in his journey. The party hurried through the hilly terrain as the storm grew worse. Their doom loomed in the hands of the accused witch as they hurried along what would later be called Witch Trot Road. Soon the storm subsided and Reverend Burroughs remained undaunted in his trek to Salem. Burroughs, who was arrested on April 30, 1692, was executed for witchcraft on August 19th of that same year.
The next account may be more familiar with readers of witchery and ghosts in New England.
Mary Nasson was a noted and respected herbalist in the community. It was because of her knowledge in healing with plants that she became known as the “White Witch.” Mary, born in 1745, grew up in the York Village where she met and married Samuel Nasson. They had six children: Peter, William, Susannah, Samuel, George, and Mary.
She was also a skilled exorcist who rid many houses of demons and infliction in her time. Her time was rather short though as Mary died on August 18, 1774 at the age of twenty-nine, less than a year after having their youngest child.
It is quite obvious she loved children as her ghost not only roams the burial ground, but the playground across the street as well. Many mothers have sworn seeing their children being pushed on the swings in the playground near the cemetery by an unseen force. When asked, the children say it is a nice young lady named Mary who is playing with them. Any local will tell you there is nothing to fear in the spirit of Mary Nasson.
Not only does her portrait adorn the top of her gravestone, there is a great granite slab between the headstone and foot stone. Legend has it that the townsfolk put it there after she died to keep the “White Witch” from rising out of her grave. There is speculation that all of the graves in the burial ground were covered with a large granite slab due to the fact that wandering livestock tended to dig up the interred. Some time later, a wall was erected to keep the animals out and the great slabs were taken from the graves and used to line the top of the wall. Hers was the only one left with a stone in far corner of the small graveyard. After her death, her husband moved to Sanford, Maine. Each family was in charge of the upkeep of their graves, but being so far away, he would not have been able to care for Mary’s grave, so the townsfolk left the stone there to keep the livestock from uprooting her remains. It is presently the only grave in New England of such nature.
Thomas D’Agostino and his wife Arlene Nicholson are seasoned paranormal investigators, authors, and co-organizers of Paranormal United Research Society. You can find out more about them by visiting www.tomdagostino.com.