Born and raised in the south, I have encountered many folk tales and wish to pass the lesser known and unpublished folk lore onto you.
If you've come here to read a fictional story about a witch that never was, you have come to the wrong place because this story actually happened. Everyone enjoys a spooky campfire story, but to be honest, many of those stories are fictional and conceived only to scare or entertain the masses. How about a true story of Halloween for once? This factual story takes place in a small southern town in Mississippi. And what better location than a place that is known for it's numerous ghostly tales? There have been several witch stories claiming to be genuine, but the fact is, most aren't. Today you get a treat, not a trick. This is the true story of a Mississippi boy who witnessed the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Yazoo City Witch.
Our tale begins in the year 1884. It was an autumn evening in the small town of Yazoo, Mississippi. A young man by the name of Jim Bob Duncan was guiding his raft along the banks of the Yazoo River, making his way back home from fishing. As he was steering his raft alongside the riverbank, he heard screams of what sounded like adult men coming from a nearby rundown shack. Realizing that these were not screams of joy or terror, but that of agony, Jim Bob docked his raft on the bank and proceeded to investigate. As Jim Bob closed in on the house where he had heard the screams, he suddenly realized it was the abode of the alleged Yazoo Witch. Many rumors of the witch had circulated around the town, but Jim Bob's curiousness and concern for his fellow townsmen impelled him to investigate the scene. As Jim Bob approached the window of the shack, he saw the woman, who was perceived to be a witch, performing a tribal dance over and around two lifeless bodies resting on her floor. Frightened, Jim Bob hastily made his way back to his raft to summon the Sheriff.
As soon as the Sheriff heard Jim Bob's claims, there was no doubt in the Sheriff's mind that these actions had most likely occurred, as Jim Bob was not known for being dishonest. The Sheriff, hurriedly, gathered his deputies and they rode their horses to the shack Jim Bob had mentioned, but found no evidence of Jim Bob's accusation. Insisting that the events certainly must have occurred, the Sheriff and his men decided to investigate a bit more. Upon entering the attic, they found 2 corpses hung from the ballasts. There was no doubt that the woman was at least a murderer, if not a witch.
As the sheriff and his deputies made their way out of the attic, they heard sounds of rustling leaves outside. They rapidly lunged towards the door only to see woman fleeing on foot. As the men gave chase throughout the woods and along the riverbank, they lost track of the witch for a brief moment. After finally catching up to her, the witch had evidently fallen into a pit of quick sand. The only portion of her body still protruding from the quick sand pit was her head. With a demonic gaze and her dying breaths the woman declared a curse upon the town.
This is not the last time you shall witness me. In 20 years I will arise to take vengeance on your town with fire and malice.
The Sheriff and his men rushed as fast as they could to retrieve the woman from the pit, but were too late. When they were finally able to retrieve her from the pit the woman was lifeless. Her lungs had filled with the sands of the pit where she died.
The witch's body was taken to Glenwood Cemetery and chains were placed around her grave, as it was believed that evil could not break through iron bindings, so that she would not be able to return to fulfill her hex upon the town. The letters "T W" were placed on the gravestone with the intention of warning people that this was the place where "The Witch" lies and to not break the chains that bind her to her grave. The letters "T W", however, would soon come to mean more than the townspeople could have ever imagined.
As years passed by, the townspeople gradually forgot about the witch and her "so-called" prophecy. During the following twenty years, Jim Bob got married and became a father to two sons and one daughter. The middle child, whose name was William was a roustabout kid, always playing in the town streets, and was known throughout town.
On the morning of May 25th, 1904 young William made his rounds around town as usual. On the same morning a young woman who was preparing for her wedding entered into the hair parlor with all of her wedding gifts to show to her friends. The woman's servant supposedly knocked over a lantern, which caused the curtains in the parlor to catch fire. For some eerie reason, the winds were unusually strong for this time of year and the fire quickly spread to other homes and businesses throughout town. Local and neighboring towns' firefighters came together to attempt to vanquish the flame, but the winds were too strong. As soon as they could put one fire out, another fire had already claimed another residence. When the firefighters were finally able to vanquish the flame, every residence in town had been burned to the ground.
After Jim Bob returned home from assisting the firemen, his son William cheerfully approached him and said "Hey daddy!". Unsettled by his son's cheerful attitude, Jim Bob replied "Son, the whole town has burned down. What puts you in such a good mood?" William remarked,"I know daddy. It was terrible, but I was having fun before it all happened." "And what, pray tell, were you doing", Jim Bob asked. "Well I met a nice lady in town today and she danced with me. We were outside the general store, right across from the hair parlor, having so much fun until all that fire started", William replied. "You mean you were in town when all that was going on? Son you could have been killed", said Jim Bob. "I know daddy, but Tandy carried me away from the fire", said William. "Who is Tandy", Jim Bob asked. "She's the lady I was dancing with. Oh yeah and she told me to give you this", William said, handing his father a letter. "She said she knew you before I was born", said William.
As Jim Bob began to read the note that his son had given him, his eyes widened and his face turned as pale as a ghost. Folklore surrounding this story claims the note contained a short, simple phrase:
"I told you so" - Tandy Warren
After reading the note, Jim Bob was speechless and raced to the Glenwood Cemetery. When he approached the grave where the witch's body was buried, he noticed that the chain around he grave had been broken and there was a link missing. Still holding the note in his hand, he noticed the initials on the grave "T W". To this day, a Tandy Warren can not be accounted for in a census of Yazoo during that period after the Witch's death. While the accused witch's name was indeed Tandy Warren, there is no evidence suggesting that there was another woman by the same name during this era. Did William dance with the devil? I will let you decide.
Little known facts of this tale
The witch's suggested name from this account was indeed Tandy Warren. Tandy is a variant of an old Norse word meaning fire. If this account of the story is made up, it is done with excellent research and quality.
Willie Morris is the first to publish anything about this story. He does go into great detail, but mind you, he had to embellish a good bit of the book to make it interesting.
Most accounts of this story claim that several people remember what the witch said before her dying breaths and went to visit her grave the day after the fire, but this particular story comes from a generation that was actually raised in Yazoo City. In other words, this is straight from the horse's mouth. The woman who told me of this story is my former 6th grade teacher. She was born and raised in Yazoo City along with the famous comic, Jerry Clower and actually attended Church with him when she was a young lady. Today she is 78 years old, which would place her only 35 years removed from the Yazoo City fire. The original story of this witch has Jim Bob Duncan renamed as Joe Bob Duggan and Joe Bob Duggett, but with the several Duncans that can be found in Mississippi and the Yazoo area, I find this telling to be more believable. The Duncans were also members of the Church where my teacher attended and are the original source of this story. However, their account has never been published in any content. I was just a curious boy lucky enough to inquire about this woman's raising in a small town.
Gilbert Arevalo from Hacienda Heights, California on July 13, 2018:
Jesse James (author) from Crooked Letter State on July 12, 2018:
Thank you, Gilbert. Believe it or not, many people actually believe 99% of this story. Whether all of it could be true is one's opinion. My wife and I actually visited the witch's grave a couple years ago. There are still chains around the grave, but they are regularly broken, due to people wanting to prove their rebelliousness or bravery. I've heard many variations of this story, but this is the one I grew up with and was told by more than one person. Either way, it is one of my favorite local legends, because it holds at least a margin of authenticity.
Gilbert Arevalo from Hacienda Heights, California on July 11, 2018:
It's a chilling story, Jesse. It seemed I was reading short story fiction. I'm urged to believe the story about Tandy actually happened. The parts about the boy dancing with her supposedly as a ghost, the town fire of her wicked curse, the witch sinking in quicksand after leaving hung corpses, gives me the creeps.
Will on July 11, 2011:
I remember my elementary school teacher reading us this story when I was a kid in Memphis, TN. This really brings me back.
Jesse James (author) from Crooked Letter State on November 01, 2010:
Oh yes Louisiana has many. The Yazoo witch is widely know to most Yazoo natives. Time has forgotten her,but I couldn't help but to remember stories I heard about her. Glad you enjoyed.
bayoulady from Northern Louisiana,USA on October 31, 2010:
What an awesome story to read on October 31st!!!
Rate up! my daughter lived in Yazoo City for 3 years. I wonder if she heard about this tale. I lived in Natchez for years as I was a child.lots of ghostie stories there.By the way , I live in Louisiana , and since you are in MS, you sure know about all of our ghost legends. I don't know if we have witch legends.
Debra Allen from West By God on October 25, 2010:
Wow what an interesting turn of events and a good story. I hear there are lots of ghost stories coming from your area of the country. I watch those on the History Channel.
This may sound spooky but I live in Glenwood Forest..............in WV.
libby101a from KY on October 25, 2010:
Spooky tales! I love it! Jesse are you trying to scare people? LOL
Great hub!!! Keep'em coming!
poetvix from Gone from Texas but still in the south. Surrounded by God's country. on October 20, 2010:
Being originally from Vicksburg, this was a most welcome visit home in a way. I can remember hearing many spooky tales about witches and ghosts growing up. Thanks for introducing me to this one that I had not. The video of the lady was fantastic. Her voice was music to my ears.