Real Life Ghost Stories: The Witch's Chair
By J. L. Thurston
In Pontiac, Illinois there is a cemetery where sits a gravestone that has become locally known as the Witch’s Chair. Not many facts are known about the chair, as legend corrupts quickly with the passing of time. Here, we take a walk through the cemetery to see it for ourselves.
Nervous footfalls, quickened from anxiety, make soft tapping sounds on the pavement only to be swallowed up in the night. The neighborhood is quiet, dark, sleeping. The trees loom overhead like skeleton arms reaching out to stop you. Turn back, they call out in silent voices. Go home.
The road bends and you follow. The steady flow of adrenaline has sharpened your vision. The road runs by a park with grass blackened in shadows. Ancient trees stand sentinel. Your fingers brush the cold metal gates and the stone pillars that welcome all, living or dead, into the cemetery.
From the entrance, your destination is not far. But the cemetery road is narrow and pocked with ruts and gravel. It is easy to stumble. The road branches this way and that way, allowing access through the mixture of old graves and new. A plot has been dug earlier that day, and an empty grave awaits the host. You cannot help it, your eyes look down into the grave, the perfect rectangle of darkness. It’s fathomless in the dark, a chasm of eternity.
Your pace quickens.
This cemetery is not overlarge, but it is tucked against a river, so it sidewinds in an oblong direction. The river has been a massive problem for the many plots that it runs by. On more than one occasion the river has flooded and washed coffins away.
Crypts are nestled into the ground, little houses for the dead. Family names engraved boldly on their facades. The Goblin Tree marks the halfway point. This tree that has frightened children for centuries, ever since it’s bark formed in such a way that an unmistakable, disfigured face appears in it. But only at night. When the sun shines down upon the tree, it appears knotted but normal. It needs shadows to reveal the goblin’s face.
The wind is cool and smells of the river. Somewhere in the park across the bridge, teenagers laugh. It bounces off the walls of a pavilion and reaches your ears discordantly. A cat scurries away from it’s hiding spot behind a tombstone, a mouse hanging dead in its mouth. You jump. You’re wound up tight, the slightest sound puts you on edge.
You’re convinced that in this cemetery lies evil. And you are going to see it with your own eyes.
Curiosity killed the cat.
There’s a beautiful gravestone that is shaped like a tall tree stump, a book resting on top of it. Black marble stones, decades old but still appearing brand new, glisten in what moonlight there is. Moss-covered, rounded tombstones stand crooked and half-sunk from centuries of weather. You pass by all the beauty and sorrow.
Then there it is. The Witch’s Chair.
It’s a gravestone, over a century old, and degraded. It was once a stone chair with an epitaph on the side, but today it is a stone block, crumbled and broken. There are so many legends about this chair. Each generation spins their own version of the curse, the backstory, the misfortune.
Growing up, you heard that the Witch’s Chair is a stone that marks the grave of an evil witch who killed her child for a spell. She was hanged for her crime and if you stand on her grave at midnight you can hear her baby crying. But, as you got older, you were told if you sit on the gravestone and recite the epitaph, you’ll die before your eighteenth birthday. Satisfying the child-murderer beneath the dirt. A girl who went to another school sat on that stone and died in a horrible car crash. That seemed to solidify everyone’s belief. It was why you never even dared come to the chair.
But it’s always been on your mind. Like a bad song that keeps playing, you feel that if you can just get to the end you can silence it for good. So, here you are. At the end. Looking down upon this chair and wondering why on earth it bothered you so much in your childhood.
It is a bit sad, actually. Because there’s no such thing as witches, and this woman’s grave has obviously been destroyed by careless teenagers. Time didn’t wear away the stone, that much could be seen by the much older tombstones all around in perfect condition. The epitaph is mostly illegible. The name is Perry. 49 years. Possibly the word missed.
There’s no record of a woman killing her child and being hanged for it. There’s no record of a witch in Pontiac. But that doesn’t mean anything. History is selective. But do you still believe in the curse? Would you dare to sit upon the stone? You are not a child, anymore, so you would be immune to the curse. Probably.
You’ve come all this way. You’ve come at night. You wanted the full experience that you so long denied yourself. You’re here to satisfy your curiosity, to see the evil that was buried in the cemetery. You expected more, but it is what it is.
And so you sit.
And somewhere beneath you, a woman cackles…