Hannah Cranna, the Wicked Witch of Monroe – Tales from Wo-Fan’s Land

Hannah Cranna, the wicked witch of Monroe, or more accurately, Hannah Hovey was born in 1783 in Connecticut. Very little is known of her early life. She was married to Captain Hovey, and lived in the Stepney area of Monroe, Connecticut. While some people claim that she had a difficult personality throughout her life, it was not until her husband’s death that her reputation for witchcraft developed. According the the New England Historical Society, one evening, Captain Hovey went out for his customary evening walk in a familiar area near his home, and mysteriously fell from a cliff to his death. Locals did not believe that Captain Hovey could have gotten so confused as to forget about the cliff unless Hannah had bewitched him to make him fall. The fact that she then took to wear nothing but widow’s black for the rest of her life made it easy for townspeople to brand the eccentric old woman a witch.

Many stories of her alleged witchcraft dominate local lore to this day in Monroe. Every Halloween, her story gets trotted out by the local library and historical society. The popularity of the story is something in and of itself, when one considers that the town was also home to the world famous paranormal experts the Warrens who ran many Halloween programs until Lorraine’s death earlier this year. Going to school in Monroe, I heard stories about Hannah galore. Most famously, a local woman renowned for pies had just taken a batch out of the oven when Hannah was passing her house. Hannah asked if she could have one of the pies, and the woman refused. Hannah cursed her, and she was never able to bake a pie again. Similarly, when Hannah caught a boy fishing in a brook on her property, the boy was never able to catch a fish again. According to Damned Connecticut, locals believed that her property was guarded by snakes. While she was openly accused of being a witch, New England was still ashamed enough in the wake of the witch trials of the previous century to avoid prosecuting Hannah for her supposed witchcraft. However, locals did assign her the sing song name “Hannah Cranna” and she quickly became known as the “Wicked Witch of Monroe.”

My personal favorite Hannah story has always that of her burial. Hannah owned a pet rooster, Old Boreas, who many believed was her familiar. When Old Boreas died, Hannah announced that she too would soon pass. As she was nearly 80 years old in a time when lifespans were nowhere near what they are today, this wasn’t a groundbreaking pronouncement. But it was at this point that she gave those around her specific instructions as to her burial wishes. She wanted to be buried after sundown, and have her coffin carried by hand from her house to the burial ground. Hannah passed away shortly after, and was so be buried the day after a snowstorm had hit. The deep snow made carrying her coffin impractical, so it was placed on a sled drawn by horses. However, Hannah’s coffin would not stay on the sled. Time after time, it slid off until those accompanying the coffin gave up and carried it. After having stopped so many times to replace the coffin on the sled, coupled with the slow progress carrying Hannah through the snow, by the time she was buried it was after sundown. When the funeral party reached Hannah’s house again after the burial, it was to find it engulfed in flames.

Personally, what I find most interesting about Hannah is the fact that, according to the New England Historical Society, it seems once she was branded a witch, she used this status to get what she needed from those around her. Her husband’s death had left her in poverty, so when favors were refused her by neighbors who she didn’t get along with, she would threaten witchcraft in retribution. There is a resourcefulness and an independence about this approach to dealing with the stigma of being a witch that I absolutely love. Being branded a witch in what was then rural Connecticut, and a largely Puritan society and having limited options to support herself, she used it to her advantage. “You think I’m a witch? Fine. I’ll be your witch.” She didn’t run away from what was at the time a very dangerous accusation, but flaunted it. There is something enduring about her story, perhaps because she was never tried and was allowed to live out her life as a “witch.” She got away with it, and got her way in the end.

via the New England Historical Society

Written by Whitney Wildman (she/her) from Shelton, Connecticut, USA. Follow her on Instagram! This project, Tales from Wo-Fan’s Land, is a series of stories written by Frank Turner fans, inspired by his new album No Man’s Land.

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