The Mystery of Witch Burials: A Paranormal Investigation in Missouri

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The history of graves and cemeteries in European America since the Colonial period is a very fascinating study. Generally, before the 17th century, family and friends were placed in a simple hole dug by a living relative. A wooden marker with the deceased name carved or burned upon it or a piece of stone crudely etched was the only reminder that a soul was buried on a property. Many times these markers eroded away or were destroyed by nature. It wasn’t until the 18th century, when churches began to be erected throughout the country that the concept of a cemetery was born. The earliest graveyards were located right next to the local church. In the New England areas, this practice remained a standard practice into the 20th century. The only exception was the Puritans, who believed any such Church affiliations were idolatrous and breeched the boundaries of heresy. They were the first to set aside land used as a common ground for burials. They rejected the formal Church iconography on the headstones and preferred instead to use images like skulls to represent the secular fate of all humans.

After westward expansion moved the settlements across the Mississippi River, traditions of church graveyards began to change in the Midwest and the South. In very small towns where a church was present, a graveyard may have existed, but for the most part this practice became very impractical. Farms and plantations were built to accommodate the large scale cash crops and so having the traditional churchyard was too far away for landowners to travel with their dead. Transportation was very difficult in those days and so family cemeteries were purposely situated on a high point of land, away from the fears of flood, and were usually enclosed with some sort gate, fence or wall. There are many of these cemeteries scattered throughout southeastern Missouri, many of them erected by German immigrants. Over the past few years my wife and I have had opportunities to experience paranormal activity associated with two of them. Our latest investigation was very eye-opening.

Hermann Cemetery sits on the eastern slope of the bowl-shaped town that is located right on the Missouri River. Hermann itself is full of paranormal activity, as it has a very rich history. As any paranormal investigator knows, we understand that it is the history of a site which determines the intensity of the activity.

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The history of the cemetery itself has a fascinating and mysterious past. Many of the tombstones have actual portraits of the deceased on the headstone, which makes standing over their bodies a rather creepy experience. Another distinguishing feature, which is common in the German tradition of “green living”, is the prevalence of raised concrete landscape beds that are planted right on top of the deceased individual. Here in Hermann, these once beautiful flowerbeds look like slabs of dominoes collapsing onto themselves and sliding down the hilly slope where the cemetery was built.

Our investigation of this site was done during the day, about two hours before dusk. Normally we would do our investigations at night, as orbs and shadow figures tend to be more prominent when the sun isn’t shining. This time we were adopting a different approach to this reportedly very haunted location.

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It is rumored throughout the town and by some visitors that the Hermann Cemetery was once used as witchcraft ritual grounds. Although we have not been able to find any documentation of this rumor, we did discover some things during our investigation that have us scratching our heads and pondering the possibility.

It is generally known that during the 18th and 19th centuries witches, pirates, and other people who were perceived by society to be of ill-repute, were buried on the corners of cemeteries without any inscriptions of who they were. In the two far western corners of Hermann Cemetery all we found were modern grave sites, however, as we walked up the hill to the two top eastern corners, we did find several tombstones that fit the description perfectly, aligned in three short rows. HPIM7367Although most were smooth and with no inscriptions, there were a couple headstones emblazoned with skulls, bones, and similar engravings. Each one was mottled with a type of yellow mossy growth. These headstones had more Puritan-type symbols sculpted on them, much like the witch’s grave seen in the first picture of this article. Judging by the erosion and by comparing them to adjacent grave sites, they would seem to be dated back to the very early 1800’s.

The area of the “witch’s corner” felt very uneasy and, as we walked further south, we came across the isolated grave of George F. Bayer, the builder and founder of Hermann, Missouri. His story is rather lengthy, but to give you the meat and potatoes of it, it is important to note is that he died rather tragically and with a broken heart. His great ambitions for purchasing and literally building the town of Hermann HPIM7373by himself were stripped from him by the German government, due to complaints that his work was not progressing in an appropriate manner. As a result of harsh political decisions, George was banished from society and this drove him to an early death. He was buried near the witch’s corner and no one was allowed to be buried within 75 feet of his grave. It is suspected that George still roams this cemetery and the town which once shunned him, carrying with him a very heavy heart.

After reviewing the dozens of photos we took of the Hermann Cemetery, we have not yet found any evidence to suggest paranormal activity… at least not in the main area where all of the gravestones lie. What we did find was discovered while we walked down the final gravel pathway of our investigation. Here, we turned and began shooting photos in the wooded area. All throughout our spectral investigation my wife and I felt there was something peculiar about this area, almost as if something or someone was watching us.

HPIM7421In the top corner of the woods we peered through the outside limbs and brush and noticed just inside the foliage that it was exceptionally dark. This immediately struck us as very unusual because upon looking up at the canopy, we saw that the tree cover was not very dense. Why would the sunlight be literally sucked out of this area? As we traveled along the pathway a few feet further down, the wooded area was lit up as it would be expected normally. What phenomenon could be occurring in this corner of the woods and is it possible that it may have some connection to the rumored witchcraft practices?

The lack of sunlight is not the only thing that drew our suspicion. We were only able to capture two photos of the wooded area because it was in that moment the batteries in our digital camera went dead. We were also walking with an ASR Voice Recorder app on my Android phone that was continuously running throughout our investigation. Right around 41:00 we lost all audio – no just once, but six times! Each time was very brief, perhaps a second or two, and the dead time showed up as white areas in amongst the black lines of recording on the phone screen. I have not been able to figure out or debunk how this was able to happen. I tried covering up all speakers and receivers with my hand to see if any zero reading would occur, which it does not. Air movement does not seem to be a factor because a steady light wind was present throughout our entire investigation and the audio is not affected anywhere else. Somehow the audible energy from the atmosphere was sucked out in short increments. What logical explanation can be derived from multiple energy sources being expended so mysteriously?

We have one last piece of evidence to offer you that comes from a very unusual source, but one my wife and I are very familiar with using. It is called Zillow. Yes, it is the real estate website. Many of us have used this resource to either find our dream home or one we can actually afford. And yes, it is a wonderful tool for finding paranormal activity.

In our research of searching for homes for sale around Hermann Cemetery, we found one whose property line lies very close to the cemetery grounds. We suspected that if this graveyard were truly haunted then any homes for sale around it should have paranormal activity in them as well. We had found other sites in the Hermann area which have apparent fairy activity in the woods and, in this case, Zillow did not disappoint us. The 3 photos below are taken from the Zillow site.

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In this photo you will see an orb right in front of the blue chair. Perhaps this is an entity taking a load off her feet by relaxing in the plush chair?

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Here is another orb closer to the ceiling but still quite defined.

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In this bathroom photo you can see at least one orb reflected in the mirror. Could this possibly be one of the witch’s admiring herself?

All of these questions tied to the photos are simply conjecture, however, it is rather interesting that a home right on the edge of Hermann Cemetery has so many light anomalies in it. And so now we sit back and reflect upon the history of cemeteries in America, the possible roles witches had on their plot corners, and the evidence we gathered at Hermann cemetery. We ask ourselves – what are the possibilities that, with further investigation and more equipment, we may be able to verify the rumors that witchcraft was performed in this cemetery at one time? We definitely believe there is something very odd happening on this site because it drained sunlight, audio waves, and lithium battery energy right before our eyes. Hermann Cemetery has provided evidence that there is something unusual going on with this site and that perhaps some the legendary rumors are, in fact, true.

3 Replies to “The Mystery of Witch Burials: A Paranormal Investigation in Missouri”

  1. Tim, excellent coverage of your cemetery adventure. We didn’t realize you and your wife, like us, constitute a paranormal team. A fine job of organizing the coverage by including contextualizing history and practices followed by your own investigation. Your decision to investigate at twighlight intrigues us. As you know, we almost always conduct our own inquiries in daytime, but ironically we did our own first cemetery investigation this past summer at midnight! Your battery experience is solid corroboration of anomalous activity, but the drained light experience is particularly intriguing. It’s never occurred to us to research other folks’ photos for corroboration (the realty pics). Clever you!

    1. Thank you, Kym-n-Mark, for such kind words! Yes, my best partner in paranormal investigations has always been my wife. Like the two of you, I’m certain, there is a fluid chemistry that makes these events work so well. We had wanted to investigate at night, but since we were also on an anniversary trip, we had plans later that night. We’re glad it worked out that way since we would have never noticed the strange absence of light in the wooded corner. We have been looking to relocate for a while now and noticed in our searches for homes that many, many photos realtors and home owners had taken were filled with strange light anomalies. It was a discovery quite by fluke. Always appreciate your thoughts! 🙂 Cheers!!

  2. I moved here to Hermann last april..I’ve encountered a few paranormal experiences in the past, but the last month I’ve encountered 2. I Bank at The Bank of Missouri..about 3am one morning I was getting money from the atmosphere there..I work out of Springfield, mo..I felt uneasy as I got out of my truck , like someone was watching me. My heart was beating fast. Then all of a sudden, some entity jumped at me but it seemed to have been knocked away from me by something..I literally jumped..it went away. Today, I went to the laundromat by Casey’s..doing my laundry before the weather got nasty..about 6am. I was just about to leave and a dryer that I didn’t use and there was no one else in there, it started up..by itself!! I just stated out loud..knock it off, I’m not afraid of you..went over and opened the dryer door so it would stop..I’m not familiar with any history here in Hermann..I’m do live on 4th Street in an apt above one of the stores. I originally came from Illinois..things used to happen to me and my mother before she died..it’s funny really, I just wonder why this thing is following me..lol

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