Bad Girls: Hannah Cranna, the witch of Monroe

Hannah Cranna, the witch of Monroe

Originally uploaded by katknit.

Monroe, CT is a small rural town in the western part of the state. Hannah Cranna is one of its most illustrious and colorful 19th century characters.

Hannah’s real name was Hannah Hovey, the Cranna likely added as her reputation grew. A widow, she lived at the summit of a prominent hill. She knew her neighbors were superstitious and took full advantage of that trait to get what she needed from them.

Many stories about Hannah have become ensconced in local folklore. She was fond of sitting on a large rock on the edge of the road, said to be marked with the devil’s footprint to this day. Her house was supposed to be protected by a crew of snakes of all sizes. Apparently Hannah liked animals. She was adept at preventing hunters from shooting birds with some sort of magic circle. She also cried curses upon a local fisherman, who never again snagged a thing.

Hannah also cursed a neighbor who was legendary for her wonderful pies, because when she requested one, the woman gave her one that Hannah thought was too small. The woman’s pies ceased to be wonderful. Once, during a drought, Hannah was asked to do what she could to bring rain. She replied, If you have faith in me, by sundown tomorrow your wish shall be granted. It was. After this incident, admiration for Hannah increased.

Hannah’s final winter on this earth was severe. One morning, after a heavy snowstorm, a neighbor heard low wailing coming from Hannah’s house and knocked on her door. Her pet rooster, old Boreas, had died 3 weeks earlier, and Hannah took that as an omen. She answered the door and told the neighbor that the spirits had called her and she would be going to the great beyond in a very short time. She asked the man to promise to follow her instructions regarding her burial.

She must be buried after sundown, and she wanted “ample” bearers to carry her coffin from house to grave. No other means of transport was acceptable. Her final words were a warning: “Obey my wishes if you would avoid trouble and vexation.” Hannah died that night.

With all the snow, the neighbors felt that walking the coffin to the cemetery would be too arduous, so they placed it on a sled and set off. Within a few moments, the coffin slid off the cart and halfway down the hill. They retrieved it, chained it down, and several of the more daring men sat on top of it. As they descended the hill, the men were shaken right off. That proved to be enough to convince them to follow Hannah’s wishes, and carried the coffin on their shoulders the rest of the way. They completed the burial without further incident.

Or so they thought. Returning back up the hill, they were astounded to see Hannah’s house in full blaze. The fire was too advanced to extinguish, so the house burned to the ground, smoldering for several weeks. Even today, strange wails and moans are heard about the site around sundown.

There is a strange post script to Hannah’s story. Every year near the date of her death, a woman is seen standing by Hannah’s stone, which is located close to the road. Every year, someone is obliged to swerve to miss hitting her. She disappears when the car crashes into the gravestone, which has to be replaced yet again.

There are two years of death on the stone, probably b/c the original stone could not be placed till the ground thawed, and it was known that she died during the winter of 1859/60.


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