Hannah Cranna

September, 2009 by Ray Bendici

hanna_cranna2The Damned Story: When she was alive, Hannah Cranna was known as "The Wicked Witch of Monroe," a reputation that continues to follow her over 150 years after her death.

Unlike other supposed witches, the story of Hannah Hovey -- who apparently picked up the nickname Hannah Cranna while she was still alive -- doesn't culminate at the end of a hangman's noose or in ashes around a stake. She lived a fairly comfortable life on her property near Cutler's Farm Road in Monroe, dying of natural causes at the age of 77. (Hmm ... isn't 7 supposed to be a magical number? Just sayin'.) But obviously, her life wasn't exactly ordinary, or she wouldn't have be known to this day for allegedly dabbling in the black arts.

According to most accounts, her reputation as a witch didn't begin until the demise of her husband, the good Capt. Joseph Hovey, an event with which Hannah was rumored to have somehow been involved. The tale goes that one night, Capt. Hovey went out for a simple walk and somehow toppled over a cliff, resulting in his untimely demise. Not believing that Capt. Hovey could've been the victim of an unfortunate accident, whispers started that Hannah had somehow bewitched him, causing him to become so dazed and confused he inadvertently fell to his death.

Hannah -- whose shrewish behavior apparently hadn't exactly endeared her to others while Capt. Hovey was alive -- became even more loathesome after she became a widow. She often insisted that her neighbors give her free food and firewood, and if they didn't immediately comply, she relied on her witchy reputation to threaten them. When one local farmer's wife allegedly tried to deny her a fresh-baked pie, Hannah "cursed" her, so the story goes, and the poor woman was never able to bake again.

Another story tells of how after catching a man fishing for trout in a brook on her property without her permission, Hannah laid a curse on him and he never caught another fish. Over the years, other such incidents demonstrating her otherworldly prowess supposedly occurred, solidifying her infamy with -- and power over -- the locals. From her house on Craig Hill (allegedly guarded by snakes), she helped those who venerated her and poured down misery on those who crossed her.

Ultimately, it was her demise -- and the odd events surrounding her burial -- that truly cemented her legend.

It seems that Hannah kept a rooster named "Old Boreas," which some suspected was her "familiar." Shortly after the cock crowed its last, Hannah told a neighbor that her end was also near. "My coffin must be carried by hand to the graveyard," she instructed. "And I must not be buried before sundown."

Hannah Cranna died the next day.

As it was a snowing heavily, the locals decided that rather than follow her instructions, it would be easier to pull her casket across the snow on a sled. But as the procession started toward the cemetery, the coffin came off the sled and slid all the way back to her front door. They tried again, but met with more trouble. Rather than further incur the supernatural wrath of Hannah, they decided to just carry her to the graveyard. After much struggling, they eventually got the old witch into her grave, just after sunset. Happy to finally be rid of her, they returned to Hannah's home, only to discover it completely engulfed in flames.

Obviously, that only served to burn Hannah Cranna, "The Wicked Witch of Monroe,"  into their minds forever.

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Like with any good legend, there are stories that still revolve around her today, the most popular of which is that from time to time, the spectre of a mysterious woman will suddenly appear in the middle of Spring Hill Road, causing an unfortunate driver to swerve, lose control of his car -- and eventually his life -- as he crashes into the gravestone of Hannah Cranna.

Of course, Hannah's gravestone is up on the hill overlooking the road and would require a spectacular aerial crash that would put Evel Knievel to shame, but why let that get in the way of a good urban legend, right?

As you might expect, David Phillips recounts the tale of Hannah Cranna in more detail in his Legendary Connecticut.

hanna_crannaOur Damned Experience: We visited Gregory's Four Corners Burial Ground on a rainy Sunday morning in September 2009.

As with the Old Leather Man, Hannah's grave was ridiculously easy to find -- right on the hillside in the front of the cemetery, overlooking the road and bright white. (If this is the original stone, it's in amazing condition for being 150 years old!) Interestingly, it's actually marked "HANNAH CRANNA" as opposed to Hannah Hovey -- an early proponent for women's rights? From the stories recorded about her, it seems as though she was a strong-willed woman who was not to be trifled with, and apparently that went for her husband as well.

As with many older cemeteries, the burial ground is not a very big parcel of land, and the majority of stones appear to be in their original condition -- inscriptions worn, stones faded or toppled.

We didn't see any unusual figures standing in the road, nor any spectral mists or apparations -- not even so much as an orb. Then again, we haven't crossed Hannah, so maybe she has no business with us. Yet.

If You Go: Gregory's Four Corners Burial Ground is located on Spring Hill Road in Trumbull, right on the border with Monroe. It is near the junction of routes 111 and 25. As mentioned, Hannah Cranna's white gravestone is right at the front of the cemetery, very close to the street.

It is open to the public, but like with any cemetery, we always suggest you be respectful during your visit. There's no formal entrance or parking area, the road is a bit busy, so be careful where you leave your vehicle.
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Comments

Submitted by Loretta (not verified) on

Hannah Cranna's tombstone was placed in the mid-20th century by a local historian who wrote about her life.
She may not even have had an engraved tombstone to start, being poor and with no family survivors to care, though I think the plain flat rock footstone is original. There are several similar uninscribed, uncut plain stones in the cemetery which may mark the graves of Indians or slaves--- indeed this little burying ground is almost like a potter's field. And where is Captain Hovey buried? Perhaps under one of the fieldstone markers? P.S., the historian who wrote the bio and obtained the tombstone said there was some question as to whether Joseph Hovey was Hannah's husband or father (maybe there was a big age difference between the couple?) There are still Hoveys who live in the area.

Submitted by hannah cranna (not verified) on

I know that many times, over many years the tombstone was ran over so it was replaced MANY times. so she is still alive in spirit but not not mortal.

Submitted by cassie (not verified) on

I live quite close to where hannah supposedly lived. today its a typical family house, but the road has been renamed. the brooke is still there. growing up though i heard a slightly different version of the story. having lived in monroe my entire life, its natural to hear about the infamous hannah cranna and how she "brought herself to the grave." heres the story i know...
hannah cranna was outcasted by the towns people of monroe for her alleged fasination of the occult. no one really can say how legit this was, but whatever they were superstitious. so she married, and years later her husband died. still, no one knows how exactly he died, weatcher it was accidental or if he was sickly...or even if hannah did it. but you know, typically it was veiwed that hannah did it, which only isolated her more and scared the towns people. *a few details in the story get alittle foggy* but i know that she died sad and alone in the late winter of 1859. being as feared as she was, they didnt find her body until the next march. thats why theres two death dates on her grave...no one was really sure if she died in 1859 or 1860. but it is rumored that before her death, in the rage of being outcasted and shutout of the neighborhood, hannah shouted "No man shall take me to my grave." while they were carrying her casket to the already dug hole, the men holding it slipped and fell. the creepy part? hannahs coffin slid all the way to the grave, landing perfectly in it.
now im not sure if this is true...but also around monroe its said that many mysterious happenings seem to circulate around her ORIGINAL tomb stone. *it has never been replaced, although is still in very good condition. witchery???* anyway, again...these are just storys. im not sure how true they are, but theres alwasy a possibilty so......just dont do it okay? its rude. Ive heard that a younger boy (10-15) decided to be funny one day so he went up to Gregorys Cemetary and took a pee on hannahs grave. OOPS!!!!! in mid piddle a tree fell on him and broke his back.
okay thats it lol...i just took particular intrest in this story, living in the town in which it took place. thank you

Submitted by stolidog (not verified) on

I grew up in Monroe. The story that I heard was that Hanna strangled her husband, and her husband's mistress, and threw their bodies into the pond in front of her house. It took three days to bring the coffin up the hill, and snow never sticks in the tombstone's shaddow. In the summer, the pond where she threw her husband is always covered with a green slime, although all the other ponds nearby are crystal clear.

wowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww likasemboadeeeeeeee

this is very crazy right here ! likasemboadeeeeeeeeeee.

Submitted by Danielle G (not verified) on

i live in Monroe and my grandmother lives on the same street as Hanna Cranna did. she said when she bought the house the people selling it told her all about the legend. my dad was a part of the Monroe historical society so he also knew about it. when the family would get together they would often talk about it and one time i listened in. i was scared out of my wits. ( note i was 6 ) my dad could tell. Dani, your scared! no i"m not i said! so he put me in the car and took me to the grave. i was so scared but filled with questions. daddy, why is it white? daddy why was she mean? daddy why wouldn't that woman give her a pie? daddy, if you go fishing and a witch sees you will you die? daddy, daddy, daddy,. all the questions pored out of my mouth. now we go every year for the past 6 years. now we have a new part of the family who is 7 years old and she also loves the grave. if you haven't been and you are in the neighbor hood i recommend you go. :)

Submitted by Mark (not verified) on

I grew up in Trumbull and my parents told me the story of Hannah Cranna. From what I heard the townspeople originally tried and hung her for the murder for her husband in '59. She subsequently came "Back to Life" and roamed the streets for a few more months until the townspeople burned her house down, with her in it. This supposedly did the trick, and resulted in there being the 2 dates of death.

There is also the local legend that if you jump over her gravestone you will break your leg within the next year. No idea if this is true or not.

Submitted by Heather (not verified) on

As for the excellent conditiion of the head stone of Hannah Cranna. I went to school with a girl that her father maintaned the Cemertaries and Hannah's head stone would be periodically replaced to keep her happy!

Submitted by Sue DelBianco (not verified) on

I am a local Trumbull rail-to-trails historian, and I was amazed that during one of my rails-to-trails historical bike tours from Trumbull-Newtown, we came across Gregory's Four Corners along the trail where Hannah Cranna was buried. Her white headstone is seen on top of the hill nearest to Spring Hill Road. This is not the original headstone; the original one was set furthur back in the cemetary. I heard through townspeople that the reason there are double dates on the headstone, was that the theory was that when she was buried, they could not lay a headstone down into the frozen ground at the time of her death which was between late winter of 1959, and March of 1960. I also heard that she had a pet rooster name Boreo, and after he died, she died in her house shortly thereafter at the age of 77 of natural causes. I noticed on the headstone that people are placing coins as as some sort of a sacrifice or offering. Rumor has it that her coffin fell off the sled and slid into her dug grave. I rather doubt that it happened that way, but stories like that are popular among urban legends, where stories get convoluted as to what really was happening with the person. Look how many stories are around the infamous Velvet Street in Trumbull, which is coined "Dracula Drive". It is believed that there was an asylum down there in the 1800's and it housed, "Melon Heads"; folks who had enlarged heads. I decided to investigate Velvet Street through the Trumbull Historical Society, and found out the reason they call it "Velvet Street", was because records indicate that there was a seamstress named Mrs. Pusch, who lived on the street, and she made Velvet dresses, and the ladies, during the Victorian era, used to walk down the once dirt road of Velvet street wearing there Velvet Dresses.

Submitted by Sue Del (not verified) on

To John Kachuba! I would love to read your book. Can you tell me why there are two dates on Hannah Cranna's grave? I heard so many conflicting stories. I am also a writer who wrote three books: The Last Phantom Train, Phantom Train II: Crossing Over and Images of America: Bridgeport. I am a local historian and belong to The Trumbull Historical Society. If for any reason, I would love to know what the meaning of the double digits are on Hannah Crannah's grave? John do you, or anyone out there know exactly what date she died, or is there no record of exactly when. I'll be waiting for your answer. Thanks! Sue Delbianco

To Sue Delbianco: No, unfortunately, I do not know the exact date of Hannah's death or why there are double digits on her tombstone. The third posting in this thread suggests that she died in the winter of 1859 but her body was not discovered and buried until the following year; hence, two dates. That sounds plausible to me but it could also simply be that no one knows when she actually died and the dates are estimates; as you know, public records from that time might not have been accurate. In the case of a woman believed to be a witch they might have been nonexistant. Good luck with your books.

Submitted by Jay (not verified) on

I too grew up in Monroe, and knew of the legend. Back in the 70's when I visited the grave, the stone actually had bats instead of angels on it. When I went again around 2001-2, the stone was new, and had no such markings on it.

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