10/15/2013

The Witch Of Edison: The Legend of Mary Moore

I am a straight-up Jersey guy; born and bred in the great state of New Jersey, I've lived here all my life and will probably be here until I die. If there's one thing that I know about New Jersey, it's that it's steeped in urban legends and stories of the supernatural. Everybody has heard of the Jersey Devil, a topic that my friend, Jay, likes to cover over on his site The Sexy Armpit.

The Jersey Devil is a creature with the head of a goat, the body of a deer, giant horns and wings. It is said that the Jersey Devil was the 13th child of Mother Leeds back in 1735 and was born a demon through a curse. There have been a number of sightings of the Devil since then, one of them even being reported by the brother of Napoleon, Joseph Bonaparte. In 1909, there were a string of reported sightings of and attacks by the Jersey Devil all over the state. It's been the focus of the movie Jeepers Creepers and has been explored on television on shows like Paranormal State, Mysteries of the Museum and even fictionalized on The X-Files. Knowledge of the Jersey Devil permeates the citizens of the state and has been a topic we've always been aware of.

We even have warning signs about the Jersey Devil.
But there is a legend that predates the existence of the Jersey Devil, one that has been almost literally in my backyard for nearly my entire life. The Witch of Edison, Mary Moore.

On Woodbridge Avenue in Edison, there is an old white church which sits in front of one of the oldest graveyards in New Jersey. This graveyard is the Piscatawaytown Burial Ground and is the final resting place to soldiers from the Revolutionary war. The grounds were also used at one time as the training grounds for the British Army as they moved through the state. Right next to the commons yard was a tavern where both George Washington and Alexander Hamilton visited. This area has a deep, rich history.

One of the oldest gravemarkers still legible today is dates back to 1693 and lies upon a pair of brothers. The brothers died after eating poisonous mushrooms and were buried together. Below I've included an image of the marker and transcribed the inscription.

SPATATER. UNDERNEATH
THIS TOMB
LIES 2 BOYES THAT
LAY IN ONE WOMB
THE ELDEST WAS FULL 13
YEARS OLD
THE YONGEST WAS
V TWICE TOLD
BY EATING MUSHROMS
FOR FOOD RARE
IN A DAYs TIME THEY
POYSEOND WERE
RICHARD HOOPAR
AND CHARLES HOOPAR
DESESED AUGUST ANNO
DOM 1693




But that's not all that resides in the graveyard.

In 1731, a woman named Mary Moore was buried here. Mary was accused of being a witch and put to death for her "crimes". However that may not be the full truth as reports on her death vary greatly; one source I found on-line claims that she was hung while another said she poisoned herself after she murdered her husband. Despite that, the claim that Mary Moore was a witch, that she grew strange plants in her yard, caused animals to do strange things and even dressed as a witch, remains the same across the board.

There are even some accounts that Mary Moore was the inspiration of the legend of "Bloody Mary". For the three people that don't know what Bloody Mary is, it's basically a game of Dare that pre-pubescent girls play at sleepovers. One girl stands in front of the mirror at midnight in the dark and says "Bloody Mary" three times. At that point, the ghost of Mary is supposed to appear and either scare the shit out of you or rip you to shreds. Though no one is really sure what the actual source of Bloody Mary is, some people think it has to do with Queen Mary I, who was nicknamed "Bloody Mary" in life, while others think it has to do with a girl named Mary Worth who was once beautiful until an accident tore her face to shreds. At that point she vowed that no one else would be beautiful. But even with those others to consider, if you ask someone from Jersey where Bloody Mary comes from, they'll tell you Mary Moore.

So what does this have to do with anything, you ask? Well, the legend goes that the Piscatawaytown Burial Ground is haunted by the ghost of Mary Moore. At night, it is told that if you walk around Mary's grave three times and spit, you will come face to face with Mary's ghost. I don't necessarily believe that, being a skeptic when it comes to ghosts, but it's a fun story to tell when I only live two blocks away from the graveyard.

Feel free to test that theory but good luck trying to find her grave. You see, there's another story that tells about two boys, either friends or brothers, the details are unclear, that stole her headstone in the 1980s, or 1950s. After stealing the headstone, one of the boys was trying to cross Route 1, a busy, major highway that runs through Edison, and was killed instantly. After that, the second boy smashed the headstone, fearing that it had been cursed. OR another way the story goes is that the boy was hit by the car on the way home from stealing the headstone and it fell into a sewer.

You'll notice that information about Mary Moore is not cohesive. While many people will say that all the inconsistencies means that the story is crap, I feel differently. See, urban legends have to start somewhere and they always seem to happen to "the brother of a friend of my cousin who knows a guy that heard that it happened". From that one vague starting point, a tale of terror springs to life. Even though the information regarding Mary Moore is scarce (or "nonexistent" would be a better way to describe it), the idea that she was accused of being a witch is pretty much the same from everyone.

Now I'm not saying the ghost of Mary Moore will rise from the grave if you spit on the burial ground. But it is the great origin for a local urban legend. Jersey always seems to get a bad rap from people all around the country but truth be told, it's a pretty great place, especially if you happen to be a fan of the supernatural.

5 comments:

  1. I grew up in Edison in the 70s, although I've long since moved away. My maternal grandparents are buried in the same churchyard, on the Woodbridge Avenue side in front of the church. I am familiar with both the Hoopar brothers and Mary Moore legend and grave sites, as was my father, who grew up in the neighbor hood in the 30sand 40s. I personally visited both in my boyhood with school mates, and can attest that the Mary Moore stone had a skull and crossbones on it, above the text if memory serves. I don't remember any additional details (birth/death dates) but can say for sure that it had nothing on it that would signify she was alleged to be a witch. If she was, would she even have been buried in consecrated ground?

    In any case, her legend was definitely part of local lore and the "curse" was a deliciously scary piece of my childhood. We all talked about what would happen if you walked around her grave at midnight, counterclockwise, chanting, "I hate Mary Moore," which is how I remember it. No one I know actually ever attempted doing so, mind you. It is my understanding that her stone was eventually defaced beyond recognition by vandal(s). Your statement of what may have befallen them fits in with the legend, but regardless, it is a shame that future schoolchildren will miss the absolute pleasure/terror of seeing the stone intact, which gave the legend a certain patina of authenticity, at least to a 4th grade mind:-)

    Thank you for keeping the legend alive!

    Gene Graff

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  2. Excuse me sir, I've developed a huge interest in locating the site of her grave, if not the actual marker itself. Would you be able to provide any direction as to where in the cemetery she's buried, or some graves that are nearby? I have hunches but I would love some perspective from before the marker's removal. Thank you so much!

    Rachel James

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  3. I can tell you exactly where it was in the 80s. I also heard the story of the stolen headstone and what happened to the boys that did it. I believed it then as there was a newer looking headstone for her when I was a kid and they said that people bought a new one after the vandalism. It stood out as every other stone was old. There were 2 supposed sites for her within that cemetary but the one with the new stone had bars around the plot and was next to the little walking path. The grave of the twin boys used to scare me more though. At the time it was moved slightly and you could see the darkness underneath it. In the photo here it looks like it got refurbished a bit since I was a kid.

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  4. I can tell you exactly where it was in the 80s. I also heard the story of the stolen headstone and what happened to the boys that did it. I believed it then as there was a newer looking headstone for her when I was a kid and they said that people bought a new one after the vandalism. It stood out as every other stone was old. There were 2 supposed sites for her within that cemetary but the one with the new stone had bars around the plot and was next to the little walking path. The grave of the twin boys used to scare me more though. At the time it was moved slightly and you could see the darkness underneath it. In the photo here it looks like it got refurbished a bit since I was a kid.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I was born in Edison not far from that cemetery my mothers family was also from Edison the headstone was stolen in the mid to late 70s by 2 brothers by the last name perupski or something to that effect one brother stole it and hid the stone in his closet and was later hit and killed by a car and the other brother smashed the headstone and was also later killed in an automobile accident

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