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The Legend of Tessa

Thomas D'Agostino

The St. John River in Northern Maine is the scene of this legend regarding witchcraft and the devil. The main character, a woman named Tessa.

Tessa's mother was believed to be a minion of the devil, having practiced witchcraft and spells. Her name was known far and wide and the locals always kept a wary eye on her, as they were sure she was possessed by the devil himself. When she died, the fearful folk of the community buried her in the local burying yard for fear she might come back and curse them if they did otherwise.

Several years later the town’s people decided to relocate the cemetery. They exhumed the bodies for reinterment. Most all had gone to bone and ashes. All except Tessa's mother who remained exactly as she was when she was buried. In fact, when they opened her coffin the smell of lilacs permeated the air. Tessa was so amazed by this strange unearthly occurrence that she took a piece of her mother's flesh and placed it in a bottle on a shelf beneath a portrait of the deceased mother.

Tessa began to notice on occasion the portrait would be wet as if someone was weeping over it and the bottle below would reek of lilac perfume. Neighbors were worried that Tessa was also in league with the dark one, as she used to disappear into the woods for long periods of time. On one occasion a neighbor found Tessa under the ice of the river smiling up toward the sky. Her neighbors realized that she too had become possessed by the devil.

In her home, windows flew open and furniture would topple over. Any door with a crucifix above it would not open until the cross was removed. A black cat perched itself upon her windowsill and couldn’t be coerced away from its perch until a priest came and exorcised the familiar figures of Satan. Invisible demons began to claw at her. Witnesses saw the marks left on her skin as these creatures, many thought to be the devil himself, tortured the young girl.

Her father passed and she was taken away to live with her uncle but the journey was not without many mishaps. The wheels of the wagon refused to stay fastened to the axles and the horses at many points stopped and refused to plod forward. When she finally arrived at her new home the house shook violently as if a great tempest had taken to it.

It was only a few nights later that Tessa passed away. While the family prepared for her interment, her corpse mysteriously vanished. Two years later her body was found in a nearby old abandoned home, perfectly preserved. When the family came to claim it, they were overwhelmed by the smell of lilacs.

The funeral was once again arranged and a local farmer brought a large ham to feed the party. No matter how many slices were taken from the ham, it did not diminish in size. It seems the devil had one more prank up his sleeve. Astonished by this event, the farmer's wife took the wholesome ham home in a sack. When she opened the sack at home all that remained was a large bone infested by maggots.