March 18, 2012

The Devil's Bride

Here's a great story that happened in Salisbury, New Hampshire. It was supposedly recorded in the diary of one Asa Reddington, a soldier in the Revolutionary War.

The story goes something like this. One evening a farmer in Salisbury was inspecting his farm after a thunderstorm when he saw tall man slip out of the barn and walk into the thickening gloom. The farmer went inside to investigate, where he found a local elderly woman of sitting on the barn floor. She was known to be the town drunk, and indeed next to her was a large empty liquor jug.

The woman said, "You have to help me! I came into this barn to take escape the storm, and the Devil crept in here after me. He made me promise to marry him, and in six days he's coming to take me away on our honeymoon!"

The farmer was skeptical of her story since he could clearly see she was inebriated. However, word of her plight spread around town and Parson Seales, the local minister, agreed to help her battle Satan.

The day arrived when the Devil was supposed to take his bride. Parson Seales and twelve ministers from nearby towns brought the woman to an apple orchard, where they tied her securely to a chair. The ministers formed a circle around her, and began to pray. Devout members of the church formed a second circle around the ministers.

As they ministers prayed, a strong wind arose, shaking the apple trees. A large black cat leapt down from one of the trees, spitting and hissing. Was it the Unholy One himself? Strange things happened - the woman's chair rocked back and forth violently, and one of the ministers felt himself punched by an invisible hand. The dress of one church member was even lifted over her head by the wind -  or by some unseen demon.

Undeterred, the ministers continued praying until  the violent wind and supernatural shenanigans stopped. The black cat had long since disappeared, and the weather became calm and peaceful.

"We have been successful!" Parson Seales said. "The Devil has been denied his bride!"

The old woman became a faithful churchgoer after this and always praised Parson Seales for his great faith and courage. One Sunday morning, however, the congregation noticed that she was not present for the service. A search party was formed, and the woman's body was located at the bottom of a nearby well.

Some people in Salisbury felt the Devil had finally taken his bride. Others, more skeptical, pointed out that an empty liquor jug had been found next to the well.


I found two contradictory versions of this story. The version in Eva Speare's New Hampshire Folk Tales, which is older,  makes it pretty clear the whole situation was concocted by the drunk woman, and doesn't mention that she dies in a well. The other version I found, in Lewis Taft's Profile of Old New England, plays up the supernatural aspects and includes the final shocking death. Taft also says the story took place in Salisbury, Massachusetts, which I think is incorrect. Richard Dorson's Jonathan Draws the Long Bow mentions a rock formation in Salisbury, NH called the Devil's Chair. I wonder if it is related somehow to this story?


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Rich Clabaugh said...

Thanks for the story, Peter! The old devil was quite busy around these parts back in the day!