A Story of a Grave

Years ago when we first moved to our little village by the sea, we spent a lot of our free time taking long walks along the coast, the valley and the woods.  It was during one of those walks when I first noticed this desolate looking grave that was obviously buried outside the graveyard, but still near Minster Church.

I became even more intrigued when I read what was written on the headstone.

Joan Wytte

Born 1775

Died 1813 in Bodmin Jail

No longer abused.

Abused?  Was she a victim of a ghastly crime which happened long ago?  I couldn’t wait to go home and do a bit of sleuthing on-line and google did not disappoint.  After typing in her name, I learned that she was a witch, also known as the Fighting Fairy Woman.  During her time everyone knew her as a clairvoyant, a diviner and a healer.  However, she developed a tooth abscess which probably was the reason why she became so bad-tempered later in life and would shout and pick fights with incredible strength (as reported), which led people to believe that she was possessed by the devil.  She was later imprisoned not because of sorcery, but because of public brawling and died of pneumonia  at age 38 in Bodmin jail.

Apparently, over the years her bones were disinterred and used in seances and other pranks, before being displayed at the Witchcraft museum in our little village.  Not only was she persecuted through life, but even in death, she was ridiculed as visitors gaped at her and stared at her bones through the window display of the museum.

In the late 80s, the then curator decided to have her bones laid to rest, especially since they were experiencing some “disturbances” in the museum.  After almost two hundred years, she was finally at peace … no longer abused.

Not on consecrated grounds though –  see that fence?  She’s buried just outside the boundaries of the church’s grounds, into the woods.

This post is linked-up with PODcast’s #WhatsTheStory.

Hope everyone has a lovely week ahead of them!


  1. thereadingresidence

    Absolutely fascinating! I love that you went away and researched this, as I think I would, too, as that headstone is begging for investigation. Thanks for sharing such an interesting tale.

    • Dean B

      It is, isn’t it? I’m just glad that she’s finally “resting in peace” 🙂

  2. ortsofsorts

    I’m glad she is no longer abused. Great story, and I am glad you shared…

  3. cariemay

    What a curious story – and yet somehow it seems very typical of the west country way of doing things!!

  4. Kate @ Did That Just Happen?

    Shut the front door!! That is an amazing story! I love how the museum was experiencing some “disturbances” so they laid her to rest… again…
    Such a live lived in so few years! Wow – that is too cool Dean!

    • Dean B

      I know… I wonder though, do you think the then curator would’ve gone through the trouble of having her buried if not for the “disturbances”? I would’ve hoped so! 🙂

  5. Charly Dove

    What a fascinating post Dean, just brilliant. Must have been great that you managed to glean all the information you wanted too. Awesome, thank you so much for sharing with #whatsthestory

  6. Sara (@mumturnedmom)

    Oh, this is so interesting! Very appropriate that ‘disturbances’ led to her finally being laid to rest, although there is something a little too ‘horror movie’ having her grave just outside the church yard… Isn’t that just asking for trouble?! Brilliant post Dean x #WhatstheStory

    • Dean B

      I know. Every time we pass the grave in our walks I keep expecting to hear unsound horror-theme 😉

  7. Merlinda Little (@pixiedusk)

    Wow. Thats a nice read! I feel sad for her though but at least she is resting now. Thank you for sharing her story! #whatsthestory

  8. hurrahforgin

    Wow Dean – what a discovery and interesting tale! I bloody love stuff like that – also very telling that they buried her juts outside of the church wooooo

    • Dean B

      I know. I should’ve saved this post for Halloween! 😉 x

  9. krissottoh

    Amazing story Dean. Love that you found out about her and told her story. So often women who helped heal using natural remedies were considered witches. It’s heartbreaking thinking of her life dying in prison at only 38 years old and then her bones being played with and displayed for others amusement. You should get the local papers to publish this post.

    • Sad isn’t it? I also find it a bit depressing how the grave is so obviously meant to be buried outside consecrated grounds. It’s like even in death, she was also an outcast 🙁

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