Fact or Fiction: The Witch’s Grave

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Woodlawn Cemetery, September 2019. Photo by Jessica Hilburn.

If you grew up in Titusville, you likely heard about the witch’s grave. Maybe a friend told you in a hushed whisper or you heard a group of kids chattering in trembling tones about the witch buried on the hill. Supposedly, a witch was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery almost 150 years ago. Upon her stone is a skull. When it rains, the water runs in red rivulets down its face in tears of blood. Many people have sought out her headstone and others have even camped out in the cemetery to see if her ghost may greet them in the night. But the question remains: is the story true?

As the historian at Benson Memorial Library, I have been asked more times than I can count about the witch’s grave, who the witch was, and how she practiced her witchcraft. Thus, for Halloween 2019, I present to you the truth about the alleged witch’s grave in Woodlawn Cemetery.

Elizabeth Cummings’s Grave Stone. Photo by Jessica Hilburn, 9.20.2019.

Elizabeth E. Falkner Cummings was born around 1849 in the Toronto, Canada area. Her first appearance in Titusville was the 1870 census. She was 21 years old and a servant living in a boarding house in Titusville’s First Ward. Elizabeth found love in the Oil Region and married Daniel A. Cummings on August 17, 1870 in a ceremony back in Canada.

In 1872, Elizabeth and Daniel had a daughter named Hattie in 1872 and a son named Harry William Cummings, born November 21, 1874. Unfortunately, Elizabeth was not long for this world after the birth of her second child. She died on July 6, 1875 at the age of twenty-six years old. Daniel married again less than one year after Elizabeth died. His second wife’s name was Violet Heron Cummings. The marriage expanded the family since Violet’s first husband passed away, and she brought to the new marriage a son, Elbert Heron.

The inscription on Elizabeth’s gravestone is an 1831 song by George J. Webb titled “Weep Not For Me: A Sacred Song.” The song was used in Christian congregational churches. Thus, while one could be a secret witch and a churchgoer, it’s very unlikely this young lady was both. The song lyrics on her grave are:

“When the spark of life is waning, 

Weep not for me.

When the feeble pulse is ceasing, 

Start not at its swift decreasing, 

’Tis the fettered soul’s releasing, 

Weep not for me.”

As for her cause of Elizabeth’s death, we cannot say for sure. The state of Pennsylvania did not start documenting death certificates until 1906. Youthful death was not unusual in the late 1800s, particularly for new wives and mothers. Contagious disease is a likely cause (tuberculosis, scarlet fever, etc.) given the date of her death and age, but we cannot know for sure since her obituary did not detail the circumstances of her death.

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Rose motif.

The icon on her gravestone is not a skull, but a rose. The rose most often symbolized a person dying in the prime of their life. Due to the location of her grave, rainwater and runoff have eroded the motif, making it look unfortunately sinister. Furthermore, the minerals in the stone and ground, coupled with rainwater dripping from overhead trees, produces the reddish tint to the water that pools in the crevices of her final resting place.

The one thing we can say with fair certainty is that Elizabeth E. Falkner Cummings was NOT a witch. But don’t worry – there are plenty of other spooky stories from Titusville’s past to keep you watching for ghosts as you walk through the graveyards of the Oil Region…

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Titusville Herald 10/31/1978

10 thoughts on “Fact or Fiction: The Witch’s Grave

  1. Nicolas Matkozich

    The truth of the matter is that something in that area of the whitch grave was not of this flesh. I saw something I cannot explain , my friend that was with me now is a part of the multitudes buried there.


  2. Patrick John Miller

    Bog hollow a lady in all black with a pointed witch hat would just appear in the middle of the road think you hit then she seemed to appear in the rearview mirror walking away like she passed through the automobile somehow and/or you could hear s horse and buggy coming sounds like something being pulled or dragged to end up being nothing. Just Stories, but something maybe of interest. Now just remember, when dealing with spiritual, try not to be alone! It’s always good to have two minds which is better than one as one can help the other not fade into something he/ or she can’t get out of alone if his/ or her mind is being manipulated where one out of two might see right through it! Out here a few years ago before I was rear-ended by a semi on my sport bike heading to Sturgis on I90, something hard to describe as it was quick but like nothing I’ve ever seen! Seven, eight, maybe nine feet tall. No facial features, clothes, or hair. Solid in color greyish no noticeable mouth, ears, nothing but dark eyes. Leaped from all fours as if to be startled, all the way across the dirtroad out in the Gamelands in Guys Mills, Townville area. When it hit the bank on the other side of the road which had a little upgrade it was gone faster than anything I’ve ever seen even in Hollywood movies! Anything on TV like vampires and such! Never could I fully describe it for what I saw and give it justice, but it was definitely a out of control goosebump experience! Someone suggested Slenderman, no! More like if you Google scariest game cam photos, the one that looks like an alien taught see through apparition on all fours but with no facial features, only those eyes! Something to check out with Bog Hollow I thought because this was an interesting read! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this story! We used to rent the upper level of the home that bordered this cemetery. My son, who was five at the time, has never been able to forget this creepy headstone. Over the years, I tried to come up with a logical explanation for the reddish, blood-like substance that was always present on the headstone, but I never could.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Shawnice Savage

    I can almost hear Elizabeth saying “Thank you, Jessica!!” Finally…..maybe I can rest in peace now!!??” Or? “Gee, I’m going to miss all that attention!!” Either way, there are PLENTY of ghosts in Titusville, PA to send shivers down your spines, rest assured!! Every block has a story………..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: “That’s a !@#$ing witch!” – Caretaker

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