In Episode 105, Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger visit the small town of Weare, New Hampshire, in search of three witches from the earliest days of the town. The stories were documented in 1888 by town historian William Little and include stories of spectral attacks, incredible feats of speed and strength, and dastardly deeds conducted women of the town. We try to figure out which witch is which in Weare.
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*A note on the text: Please forgive punctuation, spelling, and grammar mistakes. Like us, the transcripts ain’t perfect.
JEFF: Ray, it’s a nice day for a drive into southern, New Hampshire. The weather is good, traffic is pretty light.
RAY: Sure, but where are we going?
RAY: Huh? (PAUSE) No, I asked where are we going?
JEFF: And I said you’re correct.
JEFF: I’ve never been to What. Never even heard of it.
JEFF: There you go again. You want to get us lost?
RAY: (MAD/FRUSTRATED) Where. Are. We. Going?!
JEFF: You. Are. Correct.
RAY: We’re going to Where.
JEFF: No you’re making sense.
RAY: (FRUSTRATED) I don’t even know what I’m talking about!
JEFF: We’re going to Weare, New Hampshire, in search of a witch.
JEFF: Hi, I’m Jeff Belanger, and welcome to episode 105 of the New England Legends podcast. If you give us about ten minutes, we’ll give you something strange to talk about today.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger, thank you for joining us on our mission to chronicle every legend in New England one week and one story at a time. We’d like to thank our Patreon patrons for making this all possible. If you go to patreon.com/newenglandlegends, for as little as $3 bucks per month you’ll get early access to new episodes, plus bonus episodes that no one else gets to hear.
JEFF: And please, if you enjoy our show, consider telling a friend or two about us. Post a review, or tell others on your social media. We believe sharing these stories not only connects us with our past, but with each other. Every legend sticks around for a reason. We just tell the stories and then watch what happens from there.
RAY: Okay, Jeff. We’re going to Weare?
RAY: To meet who?
JEFF: Not who. Witch.
JEFF: There you go with What again. There’s no What!
RAY: So we’re in Weare looking for a Witch.
JEFF: Now you get it.
RAY: I’m not sure I do!
JEFF: Fortunately, I found this book called The History of Weare, New Hampshire 1735-1888 by William Little.
RAY: Weare is a small town. I can’t imagine this is a big book.
JEFF: Well, Bill Little must have been thorough because this mighty tome is almost 1200 pages.
JEFF: And inside he devotes some space to three Witches who have haunted Weare.
RAY: So there was a witch in Weare?
RAY: (Sighing) Okay, for the sake of my sanity, I think it’s time we break out of this Abbott and Costello routine and head back to 1764 to the very earliest days of… this town.
RAY: It’s 1764, and this region just southwest of Concord, New Hampshire, has been under a few disputes in recent years. Basically, two different groups claimed the rights to settle here, but in 1764, New Hampshire Governor Benning Wentworth incorporates the town of Weare. That’s spelled W-E-A-R-E.
JEFF: Right, the Governor isn’t being cheeky by naming the town Weare, and we’re guessing maybe he can’t foresee the endless “where” jokes that will arise from the name. It turns out “Weare” is an Old English term that translates to an enclosed place on a river.
RAY: The Piscataquog River runs through town, as do various brooks and streams. So the name is really more descriptive than clever.
JEFF: Once the town is incorporated, it doesn’t take long for small-town gossip to turn into accusations of something darker. More sinister. Witches, it would seem, are running amok in Weare.
WILLIAM: At the time of the settlement of this country the belief in witches was universal.
JEFF: William Little reported.
WILLIAM: It was supposed that Satan was in rebellion against God and in warfare against the church; that he exorcised his malevolent influence through the agency of human beings, who by formal compact had agreed to become his subjects and to serve him. Such persons bore upon their bodies a witch-mark affixed by Satan, which was known by the point where it was made becoming callous and dead. In compensation for this service, supernatural powers to afflict others and do all manner of mischief were transferred to them.
Satan furnished his witch with a bridle, which put upon anything animate or inanimate made a steed of it, that could fly swift as a sunbeam through the air from place to place. Witches could ride in at a key hole, mount up in the ether, run on the steepest roof, walk head down like a fly on the ceiling, be in two places at once, the real body at home, the apparition abroad, could take the form of an animal, generally that of a black cat, and had a Pandora’s box from which could be let out all the ills that flesh is heir to.
RAY: That’s pretty descriptive. It sounds like witches can do almost anything.
JEFF: Very true. From here, we meet our first Witch, Mrs. William Dustin. There’s even a little poem written about her:
She roamed the country far and near,
Bewitched the children and the peasants,
Dried up the cows, and lamed the deer,
And sucked the eggs, and killed the pheasants.
JEFF: Mrs. Dustin is bewitching a young lad named Reuben Favor who lives on Barnard Hill. He’s very sick, and his family suspects Mrs. Dustin is using her powers to hurt him. To break the spell, they boil some of Reuben’s urine, then they speak Mrs. Dustin’s name. The spell is instantly broken, and Reuben gets better. Reuben’s father, not wanting to take any chances, gathers up an axe and some friends and storms over to Mrs. Dustin’s house to inform her that if she hexes his boy again, he’ll kill her. Mrs. Dustin, fearing for her life, says if she had anything to do with the boy’s illness, she’ll stop at once.
RAY: Another tale of Mrs. Dustin’s witchery involves placing the bridle Satan gave her upon her horse and traveling 140 miles to Whitefield to see her daughter… in only six hours.
JEFF: We have to remember that the fittest of mounted horses might be able to go upwards of 60 miles in a single day. The average horse and rider covers only 30 miles in a single day. Covering 140 miles in six hours can be nothing short of witchcraft. It’s a feat truly impossible on a single horse.
RAY: Mrs. Dustin also bewitches local animals. And the only way to break the spell is to cut off the animal’s ear or tail and throw it in a fire. Only then would the animal get better. And after the spell is broken, Mrs. Dustin would suffer pain wherever the animal was harmed.
JEFF: Another neighbor’s butter just wouldn’t churn. They claimed Mrs. Dustin placed a hex on them. So to break the spell they placed a hot flat iron into the churn. The iron caused Mrs. Dustin great pain, but it also broke the spell.
And if one powerful witch isn’t enough for a small town, Weare has more. Near the center of town lives Mother Carr. A witch considered almost as powerful as Mrs. Dustin, Mother Carr never got along with her neighbors, Lydia and Dolly Green. The Green sisters have this favorite cow, so Mother Carr bewitches the bovine. The cow won’t eat, and when it’s forced to, it throws up any food that was swallowed. This spell is not broken. The cow soon withers away, and then dies.
RAY: Bewitching and killing a cow is one thing. Killing a person is quite another. After the Green’s cow died, suddenly Lydia takes ill with the same sickness. Lydia walks around mumbling incoherently. She isn’t eating. Everyone turns a suspicious eye to Mother Carr. Maybe Mother Carr suspected this could be trouble for her, because the next thing that happens will shock the town. For no clear reason, Lydia Green stumbles head-first into a well where she sinks to the bottom. Neighbors quickly lower the rope and bring up Lydia uninjured, and the spell is now broken. The family figures this was Mother Carr’s last move.
JEFF: We still have one more witch of Weare to meet. And this witch’s name is Sarah Dolby. She once lived with Ezekiel Kimball, east of Mount William. You remember him?
RAY: Yeah, sure!
JEFF: Unlike Weare’s other witches, Sarah Dolby enjoys her dark reputation. Remember Satan’s bridle that we learned about a little earlier?
RAY: Yes. Any animate object the witch places her bridle on becomes her steed.
JEFF: Exactly. This account of Sarah Dolby’s witchcraft is taken right from the reporting of William Little.
WILLIAM: Uncle Tristram Johnson used to say that Sarah Dolby would come to his house in the night, clap her witch bridle on him, change him to a horse, and ride him for long hours. In the morning he would be so tired that he could hardly rise.
RAY: Uhhhmm Jeff, this is a family show, right?
JEFF: Let’s not shoot the messenger, William Little. Moving on with the story, Tristram Johnson would get his revenge.
WILLIAM: Sarah went to Mr. Johnson’s house one very cold day, and sat down close to the fire in the large, old-fashioned fireplace to warm herself. Johnson seeing, as he thought, an opportunity to return good for evil, stepped along and put a needle in the back of her chair, thereby pinning her to the spot.
RAY: We’ve learned before that a witch is powerless against a needle.
WILLIAM: Then he piled on the wood, making a huge blaze, and when the witch, roasting, sweating and writhing in agony, vainly attempted to get away, he would soothingly say, “Sit still, sit still, Aunt Sarah, and warm yourself as long as you wish.” When he thought she could endure it no longer he slyly took out the needle; she at once rose, said she must be going, and vanished. But she never rode Tristram Johnson again.
RAY: After this event, Sarah Dolby moved to Rockland village and took up a room in a shed. When she died she was buried in the northwest corner of Center Square cemetery. Over time, her grave sunk, revealing and rectangular depression in the ground. To those who walked by, this was proof that she was indeed a witch. And that brings us back to today.
RAY: Okay, Jeff, that’s a lot of witches for the small town of Weare.
JEFF: It is. One witch story is memorable enough, but to have three, that makes me think something was afoot in those early days of Weare.
RAY: It sounds to me like Mrs. Dustin wasn’t really a witch, but got the blame for bad things that happened to a family.
JEFF: Sure, she could be the scapegoat here.
RAY: Mother Carr, I don’t know. Some of those things sound pretty sinister. I mean, pushing someone down a well?
JEFF: Or using a spell to push someone down a well.
RAY: Right. But as we’ve learned in other episodes, if a woman didn’t have a husband or children to care for her, she became a ward of the town. And people often didn’t like caring for these women. If they had a witchy reputation, they could use that to their advantage to get extra firewood, food, or whatever else they needed.
RAY: I’m still shocked that there are three stories of witchcraft coming from such a small town.
JEFF: I get it. It makes it tough to figure out which witch is which in Weare.
RAY: We’d like to thank Bud Abbott and Lou Costello for their help in writing this episode.
JEFF: Man I used to love watching them as a kid on Saturday mornings.
RAY: I’m with you. Hey, if we inspire you legendary listeners just a little bit, consider sharing our podcast with a friend or two. You can also visit our Web site at ournewenglandlegends.com and hear all of our past episodes, plus see video clips from the New England Legends television series, and see upcoming dates for Jeff’s on-going story tour.
JEFF: We’d also like to thank Michael Legge and Lorna Nougara for their voice acting talents this week. And of course our theme music is by John Judd.
RAY: Until next time remember… the bizarre is closer than you think.
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