The Hopkins Hill Witch Rock: A Rhode Island Mystery

A Bewitched Rock You Can’t (Easily) Visit

Many a rock has a witch legend attached to it. For instance there’s one in Rochester, Massachusetts; another in Rockbridge, Ohio; and yet another in Carlops, Scotland. A person can locate and visit these rocks pretty easily. However, there’s a bewitched boulder near West Greenwich, Rhode Island, that’s waiting to be discovered. Of course, it might never really have existed it all.

The earliest transcript of the legend I’ve found appears in the June 14, 1885, issue of New York’s The Sun. (It then spread to other newspapers, reaching such spots as Kansas and the Dakota Territory.) The tale recorded there, attributed only to “an aged Rhode Islander,” is fairly detailed. The anonymous storyteller sets the story in roughly the late 1600s, “when settlers had begun to break ground in the neighborhood of Hopkins Hill.” A pesky witch, who lived by a particular rock, was blamed for tools gone missing, cows growing sick, and showers of stones hitting her neighbors’ windows. The witch was even tied to damaging weather because “people saw her flying through the air, driving the storm onward with her broom.”

Finally, the witch was driven away. She was compelled to leave the land around the rock. But she left it cursed. That patch of property could not be plowed or otherwise cultivated, and the storyteller says it remains “enchanted to this day.”

Reynolds Attempts to Plow Through the Curse

A man named Reynolds, continues the storyteller, scoffed at the idea of the land being cursed. This skeptic boasted that he could and would successfully plow the land. A crowd formed to witness his attempt. Things started out fine. However, Reynolds’ plow became disabled once he reached the border of bewitchment. He tried again. Again, the curse stopped him. The crowd not only dispersed — it fled!

Besides Reynolds, the only person remaining was the landowner. Together, they witnessed something far stranger than a plow breaking down a couple of times. The storyteller explains, “Reynolds said that, as soon as the people ran away, a crow came from the north.” After cawing a few times,

the crow changed into an old woman with a cocked hat on. She was pursued by the men to the rock, when she turned into a cat and disappeared into its mysterious underground recesses.... After that, the lot was left to grow up to weeds, wild grass, and bushes; the cabin fell to pieces about the enchanted rock, and finally the thick woods that you now see covered the tract, hiding the witch's stone from the world.  

The reporter ends the article by saying that, these days, the rock is visited only by the occasional hunter or those intrigued by the legend. Is it still there? It would take a determined paranormal investigator to relocate it. I, for one, think it’s worth the archeological effort, though.

Another Transcription — or the Article Summarized?

The legend is also included in Charles M. Skinner’s Myths and Legends of Our Own Land, an 1896 collection of American folklore. Unfortunately, this short piece doesn’t add anything new to The Sun’s article and, in fact, looks as if Skinner were drawing directly from that source. On the other hand, a few differences appear when Edgar Mayhew Bacon recounts the legend in his 1904 travelogue/history, Narragansett Bay: Its Historic and Romantic Associations and Picturesque Setting. Here, the witch isn’t run off and Reynolds gives plowing a third try. Perhaps Bacon was chronicling the tale as he had heard it from a different teller. Maybe he was just adding his own touches.


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