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|Monroe Historical Society|
Monroe, CT 06468
Hannah Cranna, The Witch of Old Monroe
A historic sketch of Monroe would not be complete without mention of the tale of Hannah Cranna, the witch of old Monroe. The uncanny stories told about this poor creature are undoubtedly more the product of vivid imaginations than fact and are, thus, Monroe's contribution to American Folklore.
that Hannah's real name may have been Hannah Hovey and that Cranna was just a nickname given in jest. She reportedly lived at the summit of Cragley Hill in the Bug Hill - Cutler's Farm area of town. A victim of charity, she was perhaps more shrewd than most in her era and seldom lacked for firewood and food. She knew that area folk were partial to superstitions and by threatening them with dire misfortunes she tricked her neighbors into accommodating her. As her infamy grew, many catered to her since few wished to draw her displeasure and wrath.
A more courageous element in the community sought to bring her to trial for practicing witchery and the occult. She was supposedly arraigned but continued to live out her days, still held in awe by the populace.
Hannah surveyed her domain from a rock seat still found on the edge of Cutlers Farm Road. Her His Satanic Majesty allegedly appeared and left the mark of his cloven hoof.
One of the now legendary tales tells of her house being guarded by a legion of snakes of all kinds and sizes. Hannah protected her bird friends with a magic circle. The best shots in the county tried, without success, to break this spell and shoot into the circle but always missed their target.
A stream, alive with large trout, ran through Hannah Cranna's land. A young man, on learning this, could not resist the temptation and went fishing there. He had caught his first trout when Hannah appeared on the scene. She reproved him but he laughed and once again baited his hook. Wielding a crooked cane high above her head Hannah cried "Curses upon you and your fishing." The man fished a good many times after this but always returned home with an empty creel.
One morning Hannah appeared at the home of a woman noted for her good pies. This housewife was busily engaged in taking some pumpkin pies from the oven. The witch remarked that they looked delicious and asked if she might have one. The good lady handed her a small pie, whereupon the witch remarked, "Why don't you give me one of the larger ones, you selfish woman?" Somewhat miffed, the woman told her that was all she could spare. As in the incident with the fisherman Hannah cursed the woman and her pie-making - the outcome being that this unfortunate woman never had luck with her pies again.
Another startling incident happened during a drought. The farmers were frantic. The crops and meadows were yellow and parched and many wells went dry. A farmer appeared at Hannah Cranna's home and asked her to use for so-called mysterious power to bring rain to the countryside. She said, "If you have faith in Hannah, by sundown on the morrow your wish shall be granted." The following day, the villagers were aroused by claps of thunder, and by nightfall a steady rain had set in. After this many looked upon Hannah as a deity.
Late on afternoon two men came along the road by Hannah's house with an ox-load of hay. Upon seeing the witch in her garden, they began to chide her and asked for some of her boasted power. Aware that they were jesting, she replied, "Before you pass yonder tree, your wish shall be granted." Laughing, they coaxed the oxen and, although the cart was on a down grade, no amount of tugging was able to move it. The nuts loosened on the cart, the wheels came off, and the oxen ran away, leaving the men looking on despair. The men headed for home and it was days before the oxen were found.
Hannah's closet companion was a huge Shanghai rooster, which she named Old Boreas. He was said to crow exactly at midnight each night. Boreas was so famous for his timing that residents for miles around set their clocks and watches by his crowing. Timepieces set by his crow were said to keep perfect time from then on. The only time Hannah was known to have wept was when Boreas died. She buried him by starlight in the exact center of her garden, holding a strange funeral service. The loss of her rooster is believed to have hastened Hannah's own death three weeks later.
That winter was severe and Hannah kept close to her home. On a morning in January, after one of the heaviest snows of the winter, a passing neighbor heard a low wail coming from the witch's house. Floundering in the deep snow banks, he waded to the door. The noise subsided and the door opened. There stood Hannah, her face pallid. Inviting him in, she said, "The spirits have called and it won't be but a short time before I will be in the great beyond. I have a wish to make that must be carried out. I am not to be buried until after sundown and there must be ample bearers to carry my coffin from the house to the grave." No other means of transportation for her body was acceptable. Her final warning was "Obey my wishes if you would avoid trouble and vexation." The next morning she was found dead in her doorway.
Snow blanketing the ground, the villagers reasoned it would take too long to walk the coffin form Hannah's house to the cemetery, so that afternoon the coffin was placed on a sled. Traveling only a short distance, those involved were given quite a jolt. The coffin slid off the cart and ended up halfway down the hill toward the house. Next they secured it with chains and several of the more daring men sat atop. As they descended the final hill the coffin began to shake, dumping those astride it. This happening so frightened the townsfolk who had gathered that they agreed to follow Hannah's final request. So it came to be that her body, in the old tradition, was carried on the menfolk's shoulders to the gravesite just over the town line into Trumbull. They arrived at sundown and disposed of their duties as quickly as possible.
Returning home from the eerie funeral it was found that her little house on Cragley Hill was ablaze. No one dared to go near enough to extinguish the fire and it smoldered for weeks thereafter. Moans and strange occurrences reportedly still take place in her old haunts,