The Tale of Moll Dyer
By Christina Durner
After ten years of nightmarish terror, saved only by the conviction of the reality that I witnessed that night, I will vouch for the truth of what really happened to Ruby Trent. For the longest time I held onto the hope that my experience was partly phantasmagoria. Yet, the reality of it is so horrific that I often wish for it to be a figment of my imagination.
Assuming that I was sober and sane, what I witnessed that night was a warning to heed the advice conveyed to us through myth and legend. There is no proof that my story is true. But if you have ever believed in the darkness of the human soul and the existence of otherworldly forces I pray that you will believe my tale and learn from our mistakes.
When I came upon the specter I’d been alone. I could not stop Ruby from tempting the spirit. But maybe you will listen to my counsel. My name is Laura Walker. Perhaps you recall the moniker from last decade’s newspapers and television exposure. The news casts at the time were inundated with the details of my miraculous survival and the grisly death of my late friend Ruby. After all, as a rather famous Baltimorean writer once said “The death of a beautiful woman is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world.”
Ruby and I were in the midst of the winter semester of our senior year at Bryn Mawr High School. Ruby was known for her stunning beauty while I, on the other hand, had been more of the bookish persuasion. I relished in the idea of being best friends with the queen bee. One might question how such a kinship came to be. The answer is simple. Both Ruby and I were obsessed with horror. Not the horrors of everyday life of course. We were not obsessed with the horrors of war, famine, and disease. We were not interested in the horror that our beloved city was decaying and crumbling before our very eyes. We delighted in tales of the macabre. Local urban legends held a special place in our hearts and that winter I discovered one of the most captivating urban legends Maryland had to offer.
The first mistake I made was telling Ruby the legend. Long ago in the village of Leonardtown, Maryland lived a woman named Moll Dyer. Accused of witchcraft, Moll fled from her captors on a snowy winter’s night. Taking refuge in the woods she stopped to rest against a large boulder. The next morning Moll was found dead, frozen and fused to the rock. Legend says that anyone who touches the impressions that she left behind on the boulder will be visited by the spirit of Moll Dyer but will never live to tell the tale.
Naturally Ruby was intrigued by such a proposition. We’d visited many local haunts. But Black Aggie’s statue never wrapped its arms around us. There were no cries when we turned off our headlights on Crybaby Bridge. And no caretaker tracked us down with his shot gun and vicious dogs at Hell House. Ruby and I held fast to our hopes of witnessing something paranormal in our lifetime. That is where we made our next mistake and made our pilgrimage to Leonardtown.
Friday evening after school we made our way to Leonardtown. The quaint village was located in St. Mary’s County and was known more for its oyster-shucking competition than its sordid history of witch hunts. But the tale of witchcraft and the curse of Moll Dyer loomed over the ancient Maryland town. The skies were moist and cloudy that evening, and the weather forecast promised a substantial snowstorm later that night.
Piecing together the tales which we’d collected from the internet and supplementing them with the accounts of several local residents, I’d deduced the relative location of Moll Dyer’s rock. I was much less disturbed by the legend of the ghost and more concerned about traveling into an unfamiliar forest with and impending storm. But the allure of the story had been too great for Ruby and she managed to persuade me to accompany her into the woods. That was the most fatal of my mistakes.
Night was swiftly descending upon us as we reached the outskirts of the forest. In the dank twilight we trudged into the darkness of the woods. I shivered fiercely while struggling to find a foothold through the overgrown gnarled tree roots that twisted and protruded through the wasteland as far as the eye could see. Stumbling through a rocky makeshift path in somber solitude, the shade grew denser and the air around us filled with the dismal sense of malice.
The endless woods seemed to swallow us up as my feet groped in vain for purchase of a smooth path. There was none to be found. It was likely that this woodland had remained isolated and unvisited for decades. Then unexpectedly we came upon the boulder, rough with strange indentations that resembled the legendary handprints of Moll Dyer.
At that moment a terrible feeling seeped its way through me like a stain seeps through a piece of cloth. The nightmare was quick to come. Against my advisement, Ruby placed her hand to the impression on the slab. There occurred immediately the most horrific event that I had ever or would ever see. Her cries were shocking. So shocking that for a moment I stood dazed and trembling, cursing myself for the swigs of Mr. Jack Daniel’s liquid courage that we’d snuck in the car before we stepped into this hellhole. Ruby was unable to move her hand. It had become affixed to the massive stone.
I moved toward her as quickly as my feet would carry me under the petrifying circumstances. The closer I came to her the less I became sure of what measures to take in order to help my friend. Standing no more than three feet away from the boulder I beheld in full, formidable vividness, the beginnings of heavy snowfall as lightning struck Ruby dead in an instant. My companion’s charred and blackened remains lay slumped over the rock. The mingled scents of scorched flesh and seared hair assaulted my nostrils. With the putrid stench came the terrifying revelation that I was now alone in the desolate countryside that I was unaccustomed to. With nothing more on my person than a coat that was too thin for the biting cold that enveloped me and a fickle flashlight that only functioned half the time, I frantically searched for a way out.
My youthful foolishness led me to believe that I’d memorized the map that was left behind in Ruby’s car. Even though I had examined the ancient map with the greatest care, I was unprepared for the difficult trip ahead of me. My memory of our expedition was broken; for my mental health was greatly disturbed after witnessing my friend’s demise.
I wandered for what seemed like eons, the snowfall accumulating quickly around me. Soon it became ankle-deep, making it increasingly challenging to travel. I noticed that there were footprints all around me and was convinced that I had been traveling in circles. That is, until I saw a hooded figure hunched over in the distance.
Crying tears of relief I ran as fast as I could toward it. Surely one of the villagers we’d spoken to earlier that evening had come searching for us. As I approached the figure my flashlight faltered and the voice of an old woman beckoned me to follow her to safety. I was apprehensive about following this shrouded stranger. But there were no alternative options at my disposal.
The flashlight flickered but I remained on the heels of the old woman as we made our way through the trees. Desperately I tried to see the face of my savior but all I was able to make out was the ratty gray cloak that encased her. The wind howled and ice crystals stung my face as I straggled along.
Hours passed and my guide remained silent throughout our journey. My gloveless fingers began to tinge with the unmistakable signs of frostbite. Numb feet carried me sluggishly through the twisted maze of petrified timber. I staggered onward, weakening with each cumbersome step. The snow was almost knee-deep and I said a silent prayer that we would come upon sanctuary soon.
Once again I attempted to speak to the old woman, questioning where we were going. She spoke not a word. But the sinister laugh that she unleashed told me everything I needed to know. In my desperation for escape I’d neglected to notice that she was not leading me back to the car. This whole time she’d been leading me further into the woods.
A mixture of rage and horror filled me. My faulty flashlight flickered back on, illuminating the figure that stood before me. With frozen hands I yanked the hood from her head and shined the artificial light upon her face. Nothing could have prepared me for the monstrosity that stared back at me. So hideous was this creature that it is almost indescribable. But I shall do my best to give you an accurate portrayal so that you may know the beast should you happen upon it.
Her eyes were hollow, pitch black, and the recesses that once held eyeballs now writhed with the likes of maggots and worms. The monster’s gray hair was caked with mud and the crumpled remains of dead leaves and decaying tree bark, a stray spider climbing the filthy strands as if it were its web. Thin, cracked lips peeled back over rotted teeth as the hideous creature smiled menacingly at me. But more frightening than anything else I’d seen was its face, for it resembled melted wax that made all of its remaining features indistinguishable.
There was no forehead, no cheeks, no chin. The entity lacked a nose and ears. It was then that I realized that the featureless face was not composed of wax-like skin but rather bluish white icicles that had once been a human face, the face of Moll Dyer.
Transfixed by the repulsiveness that stood before me, I was almost paralyzed. My eyes, refusing to close, were mercifully blurred by the gusting wind and slashing snow. I tried to lift my hands again to shield myself from the sight of her. Yet my nerves had been so stunned by the cold and by the horror in front of me that I could not make them obey. Such efforts disturbed my balance causing me to stagger backwards, falling into a mound of snow.
The world around me spun and fell silent. I could not hear the bending of the trees or the howling of the wind. Only the sound of the witch’s hideous hollow breathing could be heard. I did not shriek for the ability had escaped me. Her figure hovered above me, kneeling down to make eye contact.
Her sour breath skittered across my face as several maggots fell from her eye sockets onto my cheeks. I writhed and twisted to move away from her but my body refused to obey me. The monstrous cackled that she discharged chilled me in a way that the storm could not rival. The last thing I remember before blacking out was her wicked grin and the touch of her frigid bony fingers on my forehead.
The details of my rescue are still rather vague. At some point my parents had phoned the local police station. A search party found me on the brink of death and I awakened the following day in a hospital bed. That trip had cost me a great deal. I lost more than you could ever dream of losing. Three fingers, four toes, my best friend, and for a brief time my sanity. Eventually I came back around and began to speak again. How I survived the curse of Moll Dyer remains a mystery. I still wonder why my life was spared. Perhaps she wanted me to issue a warning to others.
No eye has seen and no hand has touched that wretched rock ever since. That is why I implore you to call off your search for the accursed thing. Perhaps you think me mad or believe that Ruby’s death is a coincidence, a random act of nature. But I beseech you, please, do not search for the witch. I somehow escaped her clutches but you may not be as lucky.
Credit: Christina Durner