Celebrating Moll Dyer Day in Leonardtown
Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and the residents and businesses of Leonardtown, Maryland, are busy clearing away the hearts and Cupid décor to make way for their next festive holiday.
It’s a special event only celebrated in this charming St Mary’s County town. From February 24-26, Leonardtown plays host to paranormal investigations, mind-reading mentalists, palmistry projects, and plenty of Witches Brew. It’s not Halloween— it’s Moll Dyer Day, a holiday that celebrates the legacy of Southern Maryland’s most famous witch.
As the story goes, in 1677, Moll Dyer, a British indentured servant, relocated from the West Indies to the area now known as Leonardtown. As a single woman with a reputation for cultivating medicinal herbs and offering healing services, Dyer was accused of practicing witchcraft. After a harsh winter riddled with influenza and starvation, the nearby colonists had had enough of their neighbor. They set upon Dyer’s home with torches and forced her to flee for her life into the unforgiving night. Her body was later found draped over a rock which still bears the imprint of her hand…and her curse if local legends are to be believed.
The famed rock now sits on display at the St. Mary’s County Historical Society headquarters at Tudor Hall Manor, where it was relocated from its previous home at the Old Jail Museum to better preserve it from the elements and from those who want to test out the curse firsthand. “Approach the Moll Dyer Rock with caution!,” reads its commemorative placard. “Its curse is whispered to linger, causing injury, illness and even camera failure if touched by any mortal…all because of Moll Dyer’s vengeance on that cold night in February 1698.”
Though Moll Dyer is said to have been the inspiration behind The Blair Witch Project, it remains unclear whether she was an actual practitioner of witchcraft or an unfortunate victim of fear-mongering and ignorance. On February 26, 2021, the commissioners of Leonardtown and Mayor Dan Burris declared it to be Moll Dyer Day to celebrate both the legend and the real woman whose life was taken by bullies. As such, event organizers have said that the ongoing theme of festivities is “Be Kind.”
Mixed in with the psychic readings and ghost tours are lectures by authors and historians, Kindness Rocks crafts for kids, and free admission to the Old Jail Museum.
“The legend of Moll Dyer and the rock that bears her name are known well beyond Leonardtown and St. Mary’s County,” said Peter LaPorte, executive director of the St. Mary’s Historical Society. “We’re happy that she and her legend convey across the 325 years since her death an important message for us all—that is, to be kind.”
See www.visitleonardtownmd.com/molldyerday for a complete schedule of events.