Bessie the witch

Bessie the witch DEFAULT

The Story Behind This Florida Grave Site Is Both Spooky And Fascinating

Posted in FloridaCreepy August 20, 2019by Marisa Roman

The oldest public cemetery in Tallahassee is worth checking out from a historic vantage point, but many visitors do not know the spooky tale that lurks behind this final resting place. You can take a self-guided tour to learn all about this cemetery if you’re brave enough, but the truth behind the witch that was buried here only makes the visit that much more fascinating. Real hauntings in Florida don’t get much better than this.

During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.

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Here is the epitaph written on the front of Bessie’s grave, which is a passage from Edgar Allan Poe’s Lenore:

“Ah! Broken is the golden bowl.

The spirit flown forever!

Let the bell toll! A saintly soul

Floats on the Stygian River;

Come let the burial rite be read

The funeral song be sung;

An anthem for the queenliest dead

That died so young

A dirge for her the doubly dead

In that she died so young.”

Address: 400 W Park Ave, Tallahassee, FL 32301-1416

So, what do you think? Brave enough to visit this witch’s gravestone in Tallahassee? Share with us your thoughts on whether or not Bessie was a witch in the comments below!


The Double-Dead White Witch of Tallahassee Florida

The grave of Elizabeth Budd-Graham is somewhat of an enigma to Tallahassee residents and visitors. Rumors of her witchcraft make the grave a popular destination for anyone visiting Tallahassee’s Old City Cemetery, making it the most visited grave in the whole cemetery.

In 1889, the real Elizabeth Budd-Graham passed away when she was only twenty-three (23) years old. She left a husband (Alexander Graham) and two young children. Elizabeth was the daughter of David and Florence Wilson. She was born in 1866, married Alexander in 1887, and then died in 1889 from heart disease.

Her grave is a sumptuous example of funerary architecture. It’s a tall obelisk with ornate carvings, surrounded by a low stone wall. The stone is grey French granite with the vases being granite. It would have been one of the more expensive tombs in Tallahassee in the late 1880s, showcasing her family wealth and esteem. It also follows the popular funerary design of the 1880s, making it a great example of funerary of the Gilded Age. Her obituary can be read here

The epitaph is from a passage from Edgar Allan Poe’s Lenore:

“Ah! Broken is the Golden Bowl.

The spirit flown forever!

Let the bell toll!

A saintly soul

Floats on the Stygian River;

Come let the burial rite be read

The funeral song be sung;

An anthem for the queenliest dead

That died so young

A dirge for her the doubly dead

In that she died so young.”

The rumor of Elizabeth being a witch was not begun until decades after her death. There is no extant documentation that associates Elizabeth with any witchcraft. Yet the theory is that she is a ‘double-dead white witch’ who bewitched a wealthy man into marrying her, and when she passed he built this elaborate tomb to her. This is mostly from the poem on the tomb and the gravestone face direction.

Believers of Elizabeth’s witchery claim that Poe’s poem alludes to her power via a few of the lines. The lines “the spirit flown forever” and “floats on the Stygian River” are meant to imply that a witch’s spirit is unable to ‘cross the Stygian River (of death)’ and is trapped between life and death. The line "for her the doubly dead“ intimates that a witch must be killed twice while “the queenliest dead“ refers to a witch being ‘Queen’s of the Dead.’ Most likely, the inscription came from a popular poem and nothing else.

The gravestone does face west, which believers of Elizabeth’s tie to being a witch point out as a sign of disgrace. The claim is that all Christian burials face east. This is untrue; her grave does face west but this is not a sign of ill-respect. Many other tombs in the cemetery also face west as it was once quite common. The motif at the top of her obelisk denotes “no cross, no crown” which is actually a sign of good standing and respect.

For more information about Tallahassee’s Old City Cemetery, click here


Atlas Obscura. “The Grave of Elizabeth Budd-Graham”.

Dehart, Jason. “Fear and Dread in Tallahassee: The Days of the Second Seminole War Proved Harrowing For the People of ‘Middle Florida’”. Tallahassee Magazine. July 20, 2012.

Dexter, Kerry. “Secrets and Stories in Tallahassee’s Old City Cemetery.” Perceptive Travel. 28 October 2019.

Dobson, Byron. “Old City Cemetery offers FSU students lessons in history, archaeology.” Tallahassee Democrat. 5 April 2018.

Fennell, Jennifer. “Florida’s First ordained black minister.” The Tallahassee 100. February 2018.

Find A Grave. Old City Cemetery.

Flank, Lenny. “Photo Diary: Tallahassee’s Old City Cemetery.” March 2016. Daily Kos.

Florida Cemeteries Project. “Old City Cemetery,  Tallahassee, Florida”.

Florida Memory. Various.

Florida Public Archeology. “The Tallahassee Old City Cemetery.”

Hare, Julianne. Tallahassee: A Capital City History. Arcadia Publishing. 2002

LaFevor, David. “What Catholic Church records tell us about America’s earliest black history.” 27 February 2019.

Leon County GenWeb. Green Hill Chaires Cemetery.

Newspapers. “Old City Cemetery Mummy.”

Political Graveyard. “Old City Cemetery”.

Robinson, Erik T. Images of America: Tallahassee. Arcadia Publishing. 2003. P. 100.

Roman, Marisa. “The Story Behind This Florida Grave Site Is Both Spooky and Fascinating.” Only In Your State. August 20, 2019.

Tallahassee Cemeteries. “History of Old City Cemetery and St. John’s Episcopal Cemetery.”

Tallahassee Daily Photo. “Old City Cemetery”. March 2019.

Tallahassee Government. “Old City Cemetery.”

TalGov. “Old City Cemetery.” PDF Brochure.

Thompson, Sharyn. “ An Historical Overview of Tallahassee’s Old City Cemetery.” Florida’s Historic Cemeteries: A Preservation Handbook. December 12, 2004. The Center for Historic Cemeteries Preservation.

USA Today. “A virtual tour through the African American history of Tallahassee.” Via: Visit Tallahassee and Tallahassee Democrat. February 19, 2020.

Visit Tallahassee. “Old City Cemetery.”

Waymarking. “Union Solders Section, Old City Cemetery”. 21 December 2017.

Weird US. Tallahassee Witch Grave.

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Bessie Dunlop of Lynn

Bessie Dunlop

Lynn Glen small spout.JPG

The Caaf Water in the Lynn Glen




Edinburgh, Scotland

OccupationFarmer and housewife

Bessie Dunlop, Elizabeth Dunlop or Elizabeth Jack was an Ayrshire farmer's wife who was 'burned at the stake' at Edinburgh for the crime of sorcery, witchcraft, incantations, etc.[2] Her case was unusual in the amount of fine detail related in her testimony and the lack of anything but positive or neutral outcomes of her recorded ministrations and actions. Her admission to the use of a 'familiar spirit' and association with the fairies were the main cause of her conviction and her death sentence. For consistency the name 'Bessie Dunlop' is used throughout.

Life and character[edit]

Bessie was the wife of Andrew Jack of Lynn, Lyne, Lin, or Linn, a hamlet and the name of a glen through which the Caaf Water runs, lying in the Barony of Lynn, then owned by Robert, Master of Boyd, eldest son of Lord Boyd.[3] It seems therefore that their farm lay near or at the bottom of the Lynn Glen on the Caaf Water, near Dalry in North Ayrshire, Scotland. She was married to Andrew Jack and her surname suggests an Ayrshire connection as the town of Dunlop in the old Cunninghame district lies in the nearby parish of Dunlop. She is recorded as driving cattle at one point and sheep are also mentioned together with a horse and a journey to Edinburgh and Leith with her husband to collect animal feed, so a small family farm is implied at the very least.[4] Bessie also records a meeting at the 'Thorn of Dawmstarnik' which is probably Dalmusternock on the Kilmarnock to Glasgow road.[5]

A kiln is mentioned on one of the visits of Thomas Reid to Bessie's house and it is possible that her husband was the miller at one of the mills in the Lynn Glen. She was called the 'goodwife' which was one step down from a laird and a miller's wife would have a right to that assignation.[6][7] She was of child bearing age at the time of these events and had surviving children with another born during the four-year period that she knew Thomas Reid.[8][9]

Her husband features very little in the story considering how often Thomas Reid is in her company, but very little evidence exists of any impropriety other than the breaking of relatively minor social conventions such as trying to tug her by her apron strings to encourage her to go to the elfhame. A John Jack is mentioned as the father of one of her patients.[10]

Association with Thomas Reid and the Queen of Elfland[edit]

The entrance to the 'Elfhame' at Cleeve Cove in the Disk Water Glen

Thomas Reid[edit]

When Bessie Dunlop was accused of sorcery and witchcraft she answered her accusers that she received information on prophecies, the whereabouts of lost goods and the natural remedies from Thomas or Tom Reid, a former barony officer of Blair near Dalry who claimed to have been killed at the Battle of Pinkie some 29 years before in 1547.[11][12] She describes him in terms of an elderly, well dressed, honest and respectable man with a long grey beard who carried a white wand.[13] Bessie revealed to her interrogators that she had "Never known him when he was alive",[14] but had first met Thomas or Tom Reid circa 1572 whilst driving cattle to the common grazing between her own house and the yard or garden of Monkcastle and after a discussion he then disappeared through a hole in a wall or dyke at Monkcastle garden, apparently a hole too small for a living person to pass through.[15] Service records that he came out of a stone dyke, more than once, without reference to anything unusual.[16][17]

On their first meeting she had been crying and at a total loss with worry for a cow had died, her new born sickly child, she was still weak from her child birth exertions and finally her husband was taken with 'land ill' and she did not expect him to live. It was at this point that they had first met when he approached her.

It has been proposed from a number of lines of reasoning that Thomas Reid was actually a Catholic priest or an adherent to that faith, in hiding within the new Protestant regime. He seems to have known her for he greets her with Gude day, Bessie and uses the Catholic greeting Sancta Maria. When she tells him of her troubles he replies in a priest-like fashion first asking "Why must tho make such dole and weeping for any earthly thing?",[18] adding that she must have angered God by questioning him and his advice was to make amends to the Almighty.[19] He had expressed an opinion that the Reformation was not good[20] and when he tries unsuccessfully to draw her away from Christianity he oddly adds a comment about the faith she took at the font-stone.[21] The scene of their first meeting and his supposedly odd disappearance, Monkland or Monkcastle, was a former property of the abbots of Kilwinning Abbey[22] that may have afforded a good place to hide and had many small holes or gaps in garden walls, an ice house, the main dwelling and its cellars, etc. that could be seen as too small to squeeze through, especially as he was at some distance from her at the time.[23] He himself said that he lived with the fairies in the Elfhame.

Thomas Reid's death at the Battle of Pinkie is unconfirmed, but his employer, John Blair, did die at the battle.[24] The evidence for Thomas Reid being a ghost is not overwhelming for he is abroad during the day, physically able to hold objects, tug on her apron and even handle fruit, etc. His passage through a narrow hole in a wall or dyke is ambiguous at best and others being unaware of his presence in her house when her husband is busy talking to three tailors is again a matter of opinion as to how this should be interpreted. She is forbidden to speak to him when others are present, such as in Dalry and Edinburgh. His dealings with the members of the 'Court of the Elves' is also open to interpretation as to who they really were. The regular visits she made on his behalf to his son and relatives[25] adds to the general picture of a man in hiding constantly covering his tracks as does an odd incident when Bessie visits a survivor of the Battle of Pinkie with proof of who sent her but no clear reason for the visit.[26]

The Court of the Elfhame[edit]

The gable end of the Caaf Mill in Lynn Glen on the Caaf Water

Bessie asked Thomas why she had been chosen as the recipient of his time, knowledge and advice, the answer was that he had been ordered to help her by the Queen of Elfland. It transpired that at the time of her recent labour a stout lady had come to her door seeking a drink and this was none other than the Queen herself.[27] A drink had been provided and this element brings various tradition folklore aspects into the equation such as a changeling child as hers was sickly and both she and Thomas predicted its death as well as the recovery of her husband.[28]

Bessie once met Thomas at the 'Thorn of Dawmstarnik' (probably Dalmusternock Farm near Craufurdland Castle[29]) on the Glasgow to Kilmarnock road where he tried to persuade her to deny Christendom in return for living a 'life of luxury'. She turned him down flat and he left in disgust however he appeared again not long after at her home and this time he had eight women and four men from the Court of Elfland who hoped to persuade her to join them. Oddly Thomas had advised her not to speak and they left with a horrible howling hurricane-like sound.[30] They were dressed smartly and Thomas referred to them as 'good wights' or fairies.[31]

Bessie on one occasion had tied up her horse near Edinburgh at Restalrig Loch when she became aware of a group of riders passing and vanishing into the lake. Thomas explained that these were the fairies on one of their "cavalcades upon earth."[32]

The Elfhame of the Blair[edit]

A map of the Cleaves Cove - The Elfhame o'the Blair

An interesting associated aspect of Bessie Dunlop's story is that the extensive limestone Cleeves Cove site, one of Ayrshire's greatest natural history sites, lies on the Dusk Water only a few miles from Lynn Glen and Monkcastle. As the barony officer to the Blair Thomas Reid would have known this area well. Tradition records that the caves were the "Elfhame o'the Blair" or the 'Elfhouse'[33] and the locals at that time believed that these magical creatures had made this their abode within the many chamber containing stalactites and stalagmites.[34] At Halloween it was said they would come riding out of the caves on horses that were the size of mice, their long yellow hair straming or tied in knots with crimps of gold. Their quaichs were acorn cups and they drank wine beneath the toadstools. Their cloths were green velvet and their arrows were made of moss-reed tipped with flint arrow heads that were dipped in hemlock poison. The bows were made from the rib bones of unbaptised babies who had been secretly buried in the shaws and glens.[35] It is not known how old these 'Elfhame' traditions are however excavation shows that it was dwelt in by man and was used by Covenanters seeking a hiding place from the king's troops.

Healing and other practices[edit]

The veracity of Bessie's testimony at court will never be known for sure, however torture seems to have been used as Service records that a "witch doctor, a skeillie man, was fetched frae yont Glesco' to deal wi' the case".[36] He goes on to say that she stripped and a search made for the Devil's Mark and she was also "scored abune the breath",[37] that is being slashed with a knife above the mouth as a form of torture used on witches[38] and that other tortures may have been used.[39] She does not seem to have benefited financially from the help that she gave people although gifts of food are noted such as "a peck of meal and some cheese". Bessie had various clients from the aristocracy and merchant class, none of whom came to her assistance at her trial. The Laird of Stanely's wife, daughter of Lady Johnstone sought Bessie’s assistance when her daughter became ill and Bessie prepared a potion of strong ale, bolstered with ginger, cloves, aniseed and liquorice. Lady Kilbowie was suffering from a 'crooked leg' and Thomas this time advised that nothing could be done to help the elderly patient without making the condition worse. Lady Thirdpart in the barony of Renfrewshire involved Bessie in the search for gold coins stolen from her purse and indeed the money was found after Bessie named the thief.[40]

William Blair of the Strand in Dalry is an example of a person who received unsolicited advice. William Blair’s eldest daughter was due to be married to the Crawford Laird of Baidland. Bessie advised him of dire consequences if the marriage went ahead such as madness and suicide. The Laird of Baidland agreed to marry William Blair’s youngest daughter although the thoughts of the elder sister are not recorded.[41]

Bessie had some involvement in midwifery, disclosing that as usual she could do nothing for them without Thomas's assistance, specifically he gave her a green silk lace that she tied around her clients left arm in contact with the skin.[42] She treated the children of John Jack and Wilson of Townhead with herbs and they recovered.[43]

Events leading to the trial and execution[edit]

An 1811 map showing Dalry, Monkcastle, the Blair, etc.

Bessie's problems with the authorities seem to have started with the incident regarding the theft of a cloak belonging to a Hugh Scott. William Kyle, an Irvine burgess had come to her about this and after gaining a promise of him being discrete about her involvement she told him that the culprit was one Mally Boyd who had quickly made the cloak into a kirtle to disguise her actions. William Kyle dealt with this failure to recover the item by having Bessie arrested and confined in Irvine's tolbooth until released thanks to an influential acquaintance, James Blair.[44]

James Jamieson and James Baird of Mains of Watterton asked for Bessie's help over the theft of plough-irons, of which two blacksmiths, Gabriel and George Black, were accused and the items were said to have been moved to their father’s house at Locharside. The Archbishop of Glasgow, James Boyd of Trochrig, was brought into the affair when the blacksmiths took official steps to try and repair their reputations. William Dougal, sheriff's officer, is also said to have taken a bribe of £3 not to find the plough-irons.[45]

Bessie's public profile had been growing and unwanted attention was focussing on her activities. She was now accused by person or persons unknown of "the using of sorcerie, witchcraft and incantatione, with invocation of spretis of the devill, continewand in familiarite with thame, at all sic tymes as sche thocht expedient, deling with charmes, and abusing pepill with devillisch craft of sorcerie foirsaid .. usit thie divers yeiris bypast".[46] This was in 1576, thirteen years after Scotland had passed the Witchcraft Act.[47] She was taken to the High Court of Justiciary in Dalkeith 20 September 1576 and on 8 November she was found guilty and sentenced to be strangled and then burnt[48] on Castle Hill in Edinburgh.[49]



  1. ^Scott, Page 91
  2. ^Love, Page 138
  3. ^Henderson, Page 14
  4. ^Love, Page 107
  5. ^Scott, Page 92
  6. ^Henderson, Page 18
  7. ^Scott, Page 92
  8. ^Henderson, Page 11
  9. ^Henderson, Page 17
  10. ^Scott, Page 93
  11. ^Chalmers, Page 70.
  12. ^Love, Page 137.
  13. ^Love, Page 137
  14. ^Henderson, Page 27
  15. ^Chalmers, Page 71.
  16. ^Service, p.194
  17. ^Service, p.195
  18. ^Scott, Page 92
  19. ^Scott, Page 92
  20. ^Scott, Page 94
  21. ^Scott, Page 92
  22. ^Hay, Page 11
  23. ^Love, Page 108
  24. ^Henderson, Page 26
  25. ^Scott, Page 93
  26. ^Scott, Page 93
  27. ^Henderson, Page 4
  28. ^Henderson, Page 20
  29. ^Ayrshire, Sheet XVIII. Survey date: 1856 Publication date: 1860.
  30. ^Scott, Page 92
  31. ^Scott, Page 92
  32. ^Scott, Page 95
  33. ^Paterson, Page 140.
  34. ^Dobie, Page 125.
  35. ^Service, Page 54
  36. ^Service, p.196
  37. ^Service, p.196
  38. ^Service, p.244
  39. ^Service, p.197
  40. ^Henderson, Page 15
  41. ^Henderson, Page 16
  42. ^Henderson, Page 17
  43. ^Scott, Page 93
  44. ^Scott, Page 93
  45. ^Scott, Page 93
  46. ^The Scotsman
  47. ^The Scotsman
  48. ^Henderson, Page 14
  49. ^Chalmers, Page 72.

Sources and Bibliography

  1. Dobie, James D. (ed Dobie, J.S.) (1876). Cunninghame, Topographized by Timothy Pont 1604–1608, with continuations and illustrative notices. Glasgow : John Tweed.
  2. Hay, John (1967). Kilwinning Parish. A Short History. Session of the Abbey Church.
  3. Henderson, L. (ed.) (2009). Fantastical Imaginations: The Supernatural in Scottish History and Culture. Edinburgh : John Donald. ISBN 9781906566029
  4. Love, Dane (2009). Legendary Ayrshire. Custom: Folklore: Tradition. Auchinleck: Carn. ISBN 978-0-9518128-6-0.
  5. Paterson, James. History of the Counties of Ayr and Wigton. V. - III - Cunninghame. Edinburgh : J. Stillie.
  6. Scott, Sir Walter (2001). Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft. The Folklore Society & Wordsworth Editions. ISBN 1-84022-511-4.
  7. Service, John (1913). The Memorables of Robin Cummell. Paisley : Alexander Gardner.
  8. Smith, John (1895). Prehistoric Man in Ayrshire. Pub. Elliot Stock
  9. Chalmers, Alexander (1885). Domestic Annals of Scotland. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers.

External links[edit]


In Tallahassee’s Old City Cemetery stands an imposing monument that—many people insist—denotes the grave of a witch. Curious symbols atop the marker and a cryptic verse, together with other factors—notably the monument’s facing west rather than the traditional east—are cited as evidence in the identification. But was “BESSIE,” as her name is boldly incised, truly a witch, or can we unlock the secrets of this mysterious grave? (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The so-called “Witch’s Grave” in Tallahassee’s Old City Cemetery. (Sketch by author.)


Old City Cemetery, established in 1829, is the oldest public graveyard in Tallahassee. Once scandalously overrun by hogs and cattle, it was acquired by the city in 1840. It was laid out in lots the following year when an epidemic of yellow fever swept the area, mandating sanitation regulations to protect the public. Originally burials were segregated, with the graves of whites restricted to the eastern section, while both slaves and free persons of color were interred in the western half. Today the cemetery is considered “one of Tallahassee’s most distinctive historic sites” (“Walking Tour” n.d.).

The grave markers reflect the evolving attitudes about death in popular culture. While the earliest—wooden head- and footboards—have deteriorated, later marble tombstones of simple shape bear inscriptions expressing loss or hope. Later Victorian monuments reveal that era’s emphasis on classical art forms, as well as on death and mourning.

In the southeast quadrant (bordering Martin Luther King Boulevard) is “The Witch’s Grave,” as it is now known far and wide, marked by a towering obelisk of elaborate Victorian design, its gray French granite estimated to weigh more than fifteen tons. The grave is that of Elizabeth Budd Graham (1866–1889), and the inscription also provides her nickname, “Bessie”; her husband’s and parents’ names; a verse; and other information. The most-sought grave in the cemetery, it often bears coins or other mementoes left by visitors.1

Claims Refuted

Some of the “witch” claims are set forth in Haunted Places: The National Directory (Hauck 1996, 129), as well as some online sources. As we shall see, they are based on whimsy, superstition, ignorance, and misinformation. Let’s look at the main claims.

  1. “To begin with” (says “Weird U.S.” 2016), “Bessie was born in October, the month of Halloween.”

    However, unless we are to accuse everyone born in one of twelve months of witchcraft, perhaps we can move on.

  2. Bessie’s “is the only grave in the cemetery facing west” (Hauck 1996, 129), a statement endorsed by others; “Weird U.S.” (2016) adds, “which some say is contrary to Christian burial customs.”

    In fact, according to the Historic Tallahassee Preservation Board (“Walking Tour” N.d.), it was once a custom to orient a monument facing west, and “there are many examples of this custom in Old City Cemetery.”

  3. Next there is what Hauck (1996, 129) calls the monument’s “enigmatic epitaph.” He cites only a portion, selected lines out of the following excerpt:

    Ah! Broken is the golden bowl!

    The Spirit flown forever!

    Let the bell toll!—A saintly soul

    Floats on the Stygian River. . . .

    Come, let the burial rite be read,

    The Funeral song be sung;

    An Anthem for the queenliest dead

    That ever died so young,

    A dirge for her, the doubly dead—

    In that she died so young.

    Hauck apparently fails to recognize the lines from Edgar Allan Poe’s Lenore. They were obviously chosen to urge proper funeral rituals for one who died at such an early age (twenty-three).

  4. According to some, “queenliest dead” suggests Queen of the Dead, which they interpret as meaning a witch (Mohan 2016).

    Actually, Poe’s poem goes on to say the deceased has passed “to a golden throne, beside the King of Heaven,” the very opposite of a witch!

  5. Then there is the motif near the top of the monument, a cross inside a crown. Some of the “witch” hunters ignore this, while others seem ambivalent about it, conceding Bessie may have been a “white witch.”

    However, “white witch” is not a Christian concept but one of a form of “good” witchcraft popularized by the New Age movement—with its self-styled mediums, psychics, astrologers, folk healers, “druids,” and others engaged in mystical play-acting. The cross and crown motif, on the other hand, combines traditional Christian symbols—the cross representing suffering and death (e.g., Luke 14:27) and the crown eternal reward (James 1:12) (“Cross and Crown” 2006). (More on this later.)

  6. Finally, the very expense of the grave is cited as evidence. Bessie supposedly “bewitched a wealthy man into marrying her and wanted to commemorate her with the most elaborate stone in the cemetery” (“Weird U.S.” 2016).

    This stands her husband’s actual motive on its head. He obviously simply intended—in the showy Victorian fashion of the day—to mourn the loss (as he had the stone read) of “A dutiful daughter, a devoted mother and a loving and faithful wife.”

The Real Bessie

A newspaper obituary for Bessie Graham noted that, the mother of an infant, she was “the lovely young wife of Mr. John A. Graham,” who “loved and adored his wife with all the affection possessed by human nature.” She herself exhibited “rare personal beauty and excellent traits of character” (“Obituary” 1889).

Her husband was a lumber magnate, a cattleman, and leading real estate developer of southern Florida. In 1894, he remarried and still later, despite his age, volunteered to serve in World War I, earning the rank of major (Moore 1922, 248, 387). Meanwhile he raised his and Bessie’s son, John A. Jr.

Other information about Bessie is scant, although her monument—properly read—tells more. As an obelisk, its form “was meant to represent rebirth and the spiritual connections between Heaven and Earth, life and afterlife” (Lorentz 2014). Near the top, the cross and crown not only express Christian belief, but the motif is also used in Freemasonry (and indeed, not surprisingly, her husband was a Mason). The verse’s invocation of the tolling (church) bell, “saintly soul,” and singing of “funeral song” all evoke traditional Christian worship, which, in Bessie’s time and place, were antithetical to witchcraft. Although graves traditionally faced east for the rising sun (a symbol of resurrection), the westward orientation would be consistent with Victorian emphasis on dying, sadly evoking the setting sun.


Still, slanders and errors about Bessie continue. One source, a YouTube video, is so egregious I am embarrassed for its amateur raconteur (Mohan 2016). Without offering any evidence, he claims that Bessie was rumored to have been poisoned and suffered “a long, painful death” (although she actually died of heart trouble after a brief illness [“Obituary” 1889]). He says the ghost of a young woman is seen sobbing at the grave (but this too appears suspiciously to lack any source). He insists actual witches perform nighttime rituals at the grave during the full moon (but these are unknown to the cemetery’s management), and he states that anyone visiting the grave will have Bessie appear in his or her dream “that very night” (yet I can attest that that never happened to me).

Everything we know of Bessie Graham speaks of the tragically brief life of a very good woman. Nothing whatsoever has come to light to warrant insinuations about her having been a witch—no document or even folklore from her time. There is nothing but nonsense, and most of that is apparent fakelore and social-media talklore. All of it is born of ignorance or mischief—leading to the careless defamation of her name, the wanton misappropriation of her legacy, and—in a very real sense—the shameful desecration of her grave.



  1. People have long left mementoes at gravesites for various purposes: small stones on a Jewish grave (supposedly originally to keep the soul down), flowers, coins, or other items by people of various beliefs to show remembrance, or a coin left in making a wish, etc. (“Adventures” 2013).



  • Adventures in Cemetery Hopping. 2013. Available online at; accessed May 13, 2016.
  • Cross and Crown. 2006. Cemeteries and Cemetery Symbols. Available online at; accessed May 10, 2016.
  • Elizabeth Budd Wilson Graham. 2016. Available online at; accessed May 12, 2016.
  • Hauck, Dennis William. 1996. Haunted Places: The National Directory. New York: Penguin Books.
  • Lorentz, Lisa. 2014. Grave Concerns. Available online at; accessed May 12, 2016.
  • Mohan, Praveen. 2016. Haunted Grave of Bessie the Witch. Available online at; accessed May 20, 2016.
  • Moore, David Decatur. 1922. Men of the South. New Orleans, LA: Southern Biographical Association.
  • Obituary: A Sad Death. 1889. Given in “Elizabeth” 2016.
  • Walking Tour of Old City Cemetery. N.D. Brochure of Historic Tallahassee Preservation Board and City of Tallahassee. Copy obtained October 17, 2011.
  • Weird U.S. 2016. Available online at; accessed May 5, 2016.

Joe Nickell

Joe Nickell, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and “Investigative Files” Columnist for Skeptical Inquirer. A former stage magician, private investigator, and teacher, he is author of numerous books, including Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (1998), Pen, Ink and Evidence (2003), Unsolved History (2005) and Adventures in Paranormal Investigation (2007). He has appeared in many television documentaries and has been profiled in The New Yorker and on NBC’s Today Show. His personal website is at


The witch bessie

Alla sighed and, muttering "Nothing changes", took off her wide robe, leaving only in a short corset. Taking a soft but heavy belt from the table, she ordered Sergei to kneel down and stick his head between her legs. Squeezing Sergei's head with her lush hips, Alla folded the belt in half and began to flog.

She slapped Sergei on the priest measuredly, but.

Amphibia Season 2. Bessie trông MicroAngelo(Phần 1)

When Andrei woke up, Masha was already dressed. He was lying on the sofa, covered with a blanket. Sensitivity only returned to the hands. Between the buttocks there was a space of fire.

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Another glass of wine. And then there were dances, unhurried, to her favorite music. Does he love this group too. Or just found out from someone.

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