By Jamie Lindsey
“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Exodus 22:18
Fear of witches has almost always brought the same ending: death. People that were suspected of being a witch or practicing witchcraft were caught, tortured, and burned at the stake. Some deaths resulted in hanging from a tree or in the middle of town. Those that were suspected and tried, mostly women, ended in rejection, banishment, or death. There is a suspected witch buried here in the Four-States. Specifically, in Riverton, Kansas at the Quaker Valley Cemetery.
May D. Knotts was fourteen when she died and was buried in Riverton in 1904. On a spooky evening this month, a friend and I visited the gravesite of the suspected witch. The mood was eerie — after all, it was a cemetery. After walking around for a while, and trying to get the attention of the graveyard cat, we finally found May’s grave. The grave looked new, surprisingly. There were brightly colored flowers of pinks and purples placed carefully in front of the grave. However, the most interesting thing about May’s grave was the ominous message that read:
“Remember friends as you pass by
As you are now so once was I.
As I am now so you will be
Prepare for death and follow me.”
That’s pretty straight forward for a fourteen year old’s grave. Urban legend states that May was suspected of being a witch (for reasons unknown) and was burned at the stake. Another story states that she was hung by a tree. May’s gravestone says “prepare for death and follow me.” Is this her (or her family’s) way of warning us that witchcraft will surely bring death?
I found the real story of May D. Knotts from an article by Ron Warrick in 2010 that states that he had contacted the Cherokee County Genealogical-Historical Society, where he found that she really died of pneumonia. However, doing other research, people have claimed the death to be more than just a teenager dying from an illness. Some people have claimed that during witching hour (3:33 a.m.), spooky things have happened. Some have spotted orbs floating near the grave. Others report the grave being completely bare during a snowstorm, untouched by the weather.
I did quite a bit of research to find out how the legend of May D. Knotts being a witch began, but I couldn’t find much… it’s just a story that’s been passed down from generation to generation.
Despite how May D. Knotts really died, or if she really was a witch, the history behind the story definitely sparks interest in the local community.