Suspected Witch Who was Burned Alive Believed to Haunt Kentucky Woods
It's human nature to fear things we don't understand. Throughout history, there have been countless examples of horrific atrocities committed in the name of ignorance and misunderstanding.
Instead of searching for answers and keeping a positive, open mind, we have always found it easier to ignore, dislike, hate, persecute or even kill those that are different. Dating back to biblical times, we have reacted badly to anything we perceive as a threat to what we are used to, what we are comfortable with, or what we think we know.
The burning of women who were perceived as witches is one of humanity's most terrifying crimes.
When did witchcraft become a crime and why were women accused more than men?
According to the University of Queensland, Australia,
Witchcraft was a crime in Europe during what is generally referred to as the early modern period: that is, the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries...women made up the vast majority of those accused and executed...They were believed to join with the Devil, meet with him at night-time sabbaths, pledge homage, engage in lurid sex, kill children and maim pregnant women. They were also believed to make men impotent.
It seems so ridiculous to think that all of the things men didn't like about themselves; their behavior or their physical health, they blamed on a woman who they considered a witch. It's so insane to think about.
But, what is even more insane is the fact that many times other women accused other females in the town of witchcraft. There were no women joining together to empower each other back then.
Anyone could accuse anybody of being a witch and you were guilty until proven innocent. That is if you made it to any sort of trial before you were killed. That was the fate of a beautiful, intelligent, gentle, twenty-two-year-old from Meade County, KY in August of 1840.
The legend of the Battletown Witch
The legend of Leah Smock is terrifying and intriguing. It sounds like a plot for a Hollywood movie. Folklore says she was the first witch burned in Kentucky.
This is the description of a video promoting a book about her from edwardfranke on YouTube.
In a hollow, deep in the back woods of Kentucky, there is an unassuming grave of a young woman who died at the young age of twenty-two. Folklore tells us that a beautiful and intelligent woman with long flowing black hair is buried here in this peaceful spot of the woods. However, folklore also tells of a more sinister secret about this seemly innocent young woman, and the circumstances that surround her death as an evil witch named Leah Smock
In my research about the young woman that was, according to legend, hog-tied, dragged from her home, and burned alive while her family was away, I found nothing that indicated she was guilty of anything other than being in attendance during some tragic and strange occurrences.
Newsbreak blogger Sara B. describes what lead up to Leah's murder like this,
Many also believed she could predict the future and had ¨ second sight.¨ During the 1800s, being beautiful and intelligent was already a threat, but add in a strong intuition, and she was a triple threat to those around her; many said she was a witch.
The fear of Leah infested the town of Battletown, KY. Stories of the strange and different things she did lead to evil exaggerations. It is said that she was near a baby and it died soon after. She also was blamed for a horse she was around that died a few days after their encounter. Once she had a target on her back, her fate was pretty much sealed.
Soon after her death, her ghost was seen.
Sara B. goes on to say,
There is a story that when her mother saw the burned smokehouse, she saw her daughter's ghost and asked ¨why didn't you save yourself¨, there was no response.
The remains of Leah Smock were buried on a piece of property near Batletown, KY. Today, it's The Elizabeth Daily cemetery.
Many people hike to the Meade County KY cemetery in the hopes of seeing her ghost. Many have reported seeing her near her grave with ropes around her wrists in a thick purple haze.
I can't help but feel that if Leah had lived at another time, she would have lived a full, successful, and happy life.
Was Leah Smock just misunderstood, or was there something more evil at work? I guess we will never know.
If you want more info about Leah Smock, I found a podcast about her.