Up Close and Creepy: Wethersfield Witch Trials, Ancient Burying Grounds & a 19th-Century Wake at WDS

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It is a little-known fact that the witchcraft cases of Wethersfield, Connecticut, preceded those in Salem, Massachusetts, by 30 years. Indeed, the confession of witchcraft by Wethersfield resident Mary Johnson in 1648 was the first of 43 Connecticut cases, with 16 ending in execution. The Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum "Witches and Tombstones Tour" begins with these chilling facts and get much creepier from there. Witches and Tombstones tours will be held from 10 a.m. till 4 p.m. Oct 18, 19, 25 and 26. Admission is $13 per person. Space is limited and reservations are strongly advised. ***Please note - the Witches and Tombstones Tours include walking on uneven ground and the use of stairs.

After leaving the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum, the first stop on the 90-minute "Witches and Tombstones Tour"is the 1711 Buttolph-Williams House, with tales from the notorious Wethersfield Witch Trials, including that of Katherine Harrison, who narrowly escaped the noose thanks to a technicality. Instead, she was banished and financially ruined.

The second stop on the tour is the Wethersfield Ancient Burying Ground, where, among other grim details, visitors will hear of Connecticut’s first mass murder and learn how gravestones warned the living of their own impending peril.

At the Isaac Stevens House, visitors will be seated in the front parlor, which is somberly prepared for a 19th-century wake, including a prepared coffin, shrouded windows and mirrors, and tansy and rosemary to mask any “odors.” A guide will detail 1800s mourning practices and how the living dealt with fears of being buried alive.

For reservations or advance purchase, call 860-529-0612. For more information on the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum, visit: http://webb-deane-stevens.org.