Moll Dyer – witch or victim?
It all starts in and around the year 1697 in the small Maryland town of Seymortown (later to be called Leonardtown).
It is said that Moll Dyer lived in a small cottage just outside of town and that prior to 1697 she had been largely ignored by the people of Seymortown.
Now we should take a quick break here for a moment and explain that there is quite a bit of dispute as to whether Moll Dyer even existed in the first place, let alone was subject to the following legend. What we do know for sure is that we have immigration papers for a Mary Dyer, Moll is a nickname for Mary, arriving in Maryland in October 1677. That same Mary is known to have arrived in Seymortown shortly after that. It stands to reason that both are the same person and so it is completely possible that a Moll Dyer was present in 1697 Seymortown.
It was a particularly brutal winter for Leonardtown, Maryland. In 1697, or 1698 depending on who you ask, disease outbreaks, death, crop failures, and a harsh cold plagued the area. Word of the Salem witch trials a few years earlier had made its way south. Superstition and fear found fertile ground in the desperation. Additionally, many people in the area were dying from influenza, which swept the area that winter.
Dyer, who was known as a healer, seemed to be the target of suspicion by townsfolk and gossip soon began as to how they could rid themselves of this misfortune which had befallen the region.
The townspeople decided that Dyer, was the source of their misfortune. They labeled the single woman a “witch” and said that she must have cursed the town. They descended upon her hut on a frigid night, torches in hand, and set her home ablaze.
Dyer escaped the flames, running off into the nearby woods as torch-wielding colonists followed her. The snow fell more forcefully, the winds blew harder, and suddenly, Dyer was deep in the woods in the midst of a blizzard. She had lost those chasing her, but she was alone. She soon found a large boulder and rested her hand and knee upon it.
It was too cold. There was no way she’d survive the night. In her final moments, she stretched out an arm, raising it to the heavens to curse Leonardtown and her persecutors for eternity.
Several days later, a young boy came upon her corpse. Her body was frozen and one of her arms was allegedly stretched towards the heavens, perhaps in a last ditch effort for her or as a way to curse her tormentors.
How do we know this? Well, it is rumored that the imprints of her hand remained burned into the rock for hundreds of years. This boulder is so important that the local historical society had it moved and placed in front of their building. It is also said that at the original site of the rock the fields were strangely barren for years after her passing.
It was said that the men responsible for leading the mob to Moll’s door all had bouts of horrible luck. Their lands became barren, their livestock died, they got sick, and their families suffered.
The woods around Moll Dyer’s cabin become cursed too, never being able to grow crops again. It’s even said that a lady in white can be seen late at night wandering the woods, especially on cold winter nights.
It’s a story that has been passed down from generation to generation. Ask anyone in town and they know all about Moll Dyer. Today, the place where Dyer’s hut is said to have stood is called Moll Dyer Road, and the stream that runs parallel to it is called Moll Dyer’s Run.
There is strong evidence that the story of Dyer was the inspiration and foundation for the hit film, “Blair Witch Project“.