“That’s a !@#$ing witch!”

Stop me if you’ve heard this one…”There is a grave of a woman named “Elizabeth”, she was hanged as a witch, and now her grave is haunted…”

This is the tale of two Elizabeths, one was the initial subject of the story, and the other was discovered in another state with a similar tragic end.

We begin with Elizabeth Randall Sheffield King, who passed away in 1911 at 84. Elizabeth was married into the King family (of which Kingsland Georgia is named). Elizabeth’s parents, John & Sarah Ann Cook Sheffield, are also buried in this cemetery. The burial grounds seem to have begun around 1855, with its most recent burial reported as 2018.

Like many older cemeteries in the South, the symbology and funeral practices are foreign to modern society. You will find iron gates still, and in the case of Elizabeth, a stone crypt.

Clearly a witch.

While I am hesitant to give folks like these views, I think it’s important to hold them accountable for spreading the modern folklore/ghost stories on real individuals whose burial plots are feeling the effects of these tall tales.

A few choice cuts:

02:26 (in response to a viewer’s question “Josh why would they bury a witch in a consecrated (sic) cemetery?”) “I don’t know, you’ll have to ask the witch hunters that.”

09:00 “What did I say that witch’s name was?”

10:10 (After sticking a camera into the cracked stone crypt in a cemetery) “There’s human remains down there!! Of course, it is!! Holy !@#$ it’s a god!@#$ crypt! Mother &*&^! !@#$ing Jesus Christ! This was a bad idea.”

13:50 “Elizabeth! Why did they try you for witchcraft?”

24:19 (in response to the comment ‘there was a little girl talking’) We get the immortal line: “There is no little girl out here….IT’S A !@#ING WITCH!”

The mind boggles.

Note the area was roped off due to previous vandalism

Lastly, At 15:50 he says “Alright Elizabeth, I’m going to leave a nickel for you.” He later leaves more coins and allegedly the shiny nickel disappears. Remember that, it’ll come up in the next part.

From all information I gathered from the video, the individual drove an hour and forty-five minutes to do a TikTok live based on a legend that seems to have started from a Youtube video by some local paranormal folks from 2018. I’ve talked in the past about “local legends”, I think it’s important to remember when you upload that legend, it removes it from the safety of the community into the web of intent. With that simple act, you place its well-being in the hands of those that will exploit these sacred places to the god of views.

When you look up ‘Elizabeth the witch’ you see so many supposed witch graves across the country. Stories like Elizabeth Budd-Graham of Tallahassee, Elizabeth Jane Bradley -the Tilley Bend Witch, Elizabeth E. Falkner Cummings of Titusville, and our second subject, Elizabeth Simpson of Williamson County Texas.

When I was researching the subject from Georgia, Elizabeth King, I came upon a story that mirrored a lot of the same benchmarks for a typical witch grave legend, but when digging further, I found some things that deeply resonated with me, and this project in general. I need to direct you to two particularly fine articles that came from what is happening in Texas, the first written by Waylon Cunningham: ‘Witch’s grave’ legend destroying family cemetery, real history‘. Within it, I was directed to an even more poignant piece by Anita Dalton at “Odd Things Considered’.

Dalton makes an excellent point about coins (remember giving the change to Elizabeth in Georgia?) You see this at the Angel statue at Turley cemetery at Red Ash locally as well.

Certainly, when we look at coins on graves, the story of the ferryman and the river Styx comes to mind, but it’s questionable that it has any relevance to this particular legend.  It’s unlikely that part of Greek mythology is influencing those who leave coins on graves in Bittick Cemetery.

Outside of military graves, which have a very specific symbology behind leaving coins on the stones of dead men and women who served in the military, I know of no common custom of leaving coins on the graves of civilians in Texas.  I consulted several books to see if I have overlooked this custom –  a notable book being Texas Graveyards: A Cultural Legacy by Terry G. Jordan – and could find no scholarly documentation of coins left on civilian stones in Texas.

The leaving of the coins is clearly directly linked to the creation of this legend.  No coins were left in Bittick Cemetery before the creation of this legend, the family reports gifts and coins began to be left solely on Elizabeth’s gravestone in the 1990s, and there is no cultural tradition in this area for leaving coins on the graves of long dead children.  I have never seen coins on gravestones of children outside of Bittick Cemetery.  I’ve seen toys and balloons and very touching statuary.  I’ve seen dishes left behind with cake for the child on a birthday. But in all my travels in and out of Texas cemeteries I have never once seen coins strewn across a child’s grave in or around central Texas outside of Bittick Cemetery.  It is very hard to attribute the coins on the graves of the two children in this cemetery to old pagan traditions or a desire to show respect when the only graves that receive this treatment in Bittick family cemetery are those two child graves – one belonging to a child who was born near Halloween and is an excellent stand-in for spooky rituals now that Elizabeth’s stone is destroyed – and Elizabeth’s.

There may be a rich folklore tradition behind leaving coins on graves but in this case it’s safe to put to bed the idea that these coins have anything to do with pagan rituals to see the dead safety into the afterlife and far more to do with a bastardization of the traditions surrounding Marie Laveau’s tomb.

The Liberty Hill Witch Grave: Bad Legends and Cemetery Desecration

What disturbed me about Elizabeth’s story in Texas is it had even less to do with the actual person than most of these stories do, she was even renamed. Per Find-A-Grave: “Elizebeth Simpson was a slave who took her master’s horse and tryed to run away. She was found and hanged.” I took the liberty of sending in a correction based on the articles mentioned above and now it reads as follows:

It’s important to do whatever we can to stop the unnecessary foot traffic that is being brought in by online stories of these older cemeteries. I get frustrated sometimes when I see what has happened to the stone of “Elizebeth” for example, seeing that it has been chipped down to nothing by thrill seekers that wanted a souvenir of their brush with the paranormal.

Photo by Anita Dalton, 2018

Here is how the stone looked back in 2007:

Photo by AKL via Find-A-Grave

I think Anita said it best:

But let’s be frank – no one cares about the truth.  Lots of people have tried to set the record straight, from news paper articles to people correcting data on genealogy sites.  I know the folks who live near the cemetery want this nonsense to end.  Mr OTC and I caught the attention of a family as we were in the cemetery.  From a distance we look far younger than we are and a dual cab pickup stopped right in the middle of the two lane black-top highway that passes outside the cemetery to make sure we weren’t doing anything wrong.  They recorded the plate number on my car and when we realized they were worried about our presence there, so close to Halloween, we walked toward the fence and waved at them.  The kids in the back waved back and the adults, seeing clearly that we are in fact a staid, middle-aged couple, finally drove away.  It was unsettling knowing the locals were taking note of us, gathering information in the event that something even worse happened in that cemetery, but who can blame them?  God only knows what fresh hell awaits people come November the first.

Sadly, I imagine no one is going to read this article next year before going to test their mettle at a witch grave on Halloween.  This article will never rate higher than the ghost hunters and assorted ghost fans who have shared the legend online. 

I feel this in my bones sometimes. But at the end of the day, all the Elizabeths (and the other alleged witches) need our protection the best way we know to give it. By continuing to try to spread the truth, return respect to the act of being a paranormal investigator, and remember that in the end, going to a site to investigate will greatly depend on what you are bringing to the location.

I have sat in perfect peace with the spirits in many “haunted” graveyards, but then, I never came with the intention of bearing false witness against their truth. If you are there for the wrong reasons, you will most likely find what you are looking for. This is a good rule of thumb with all things, especially magick and the paranormal. So if you hear a new story “only in your state” of the most haunted place in America, and it’s just down the road…maybe stop and look at the source. After all, who else is going to do it?

Further Suggested Reading:

Witch’s Tombs are not what you think by Tui Snider

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