Not everyone has an urban legend in their family. But my family does. The first time I heard about it was when I was a brownie, in about 2nd grade. I came home and excitedly told my parents at supper, all about the witch of Hell Hollow. How people have vandalized her grave, and then got into accidents after. How she haunts the woods near her grave. Imagine my shock when my parents calmly told me that she was my Aunt. Yes, you read that correctly, Maude Reynolds is my Great Aunt. In fact my great Grandmother, the one that gave me my silver that I use for holidays, was her sister in law. I wish I had thought to ask my Grandmother more about her when she was alive, but honestly our family never paid much attention to all the talk about Maude.
The reason we never paid much attention to it is because it was a family member. A young girl that passed away from Diphtheria. To us it was a sad story about a young girl that died tragically young. Not a witch that haunted those that disrespectfully treated her grave. Maude was born to Mercy and Charles Reynolds and was one of 8 children. My great Grandfather was her brother, another Charles. Maude was about 7 or 8 when she choked on an apple, and passed away. It was believed that she had diphtheria, which causes your throat to swell, and can cause choking. She was buried in a spot chosen by her grieving mother, so she could see the grave from her kitchen window.
Maude’s sister Lydia, married a man that took care of the grave faithfully till he passed away. I remember going by the grave when I was young, and seeing a little white fence, and some flowers blooming. Instead of respecting a gravesite, people took this innocent fence and flowers as a challenge, to desecrate and ruin a sacred site. I even went to school with a girl that proudly told me she had urinated on Maude’s grave. Shameful. Uncle Jesse faithfully tended to the grave with love for years until his passing. The grave now sits neglected, with just a few stones to mark it. I still hear tales of kids visiting the grave, and hope that eventually people will let her rest in peace. For how would you feel if this was your family member? I know how I feel. Disappointed. That people have no respect for someone that tragically perished young. Our family has a different take on the legend, a heart broken mother looking out her window to her daughters grave. And a man that took care of the grave for years. Maybe if people hear the other side of the story, a more relatable side, they will let her rest in peace. In the meantime, my family enjoys our lilacs from the Reynolds Homestead and the love that Uncle Jesse showed by devotedly taking care of her for years. Because to us the urban legend is the care that Uncle Jesse showed for years, rather than the disrespect of others.
This photo is Maude’s parents, with a little girl. The photo has faded so much, its hard to tell who the little girl is. But I enjoy the photo as its a photo of my great, great grandparents, in front of what may have been their home on Hell Hollow.