Monroe’s Infamous Witch

Many a Tale is Told of Hannah Cranna

Hannah Hovey may have been the victim of  bullying as a child receiving the singsong nickname of Hannah Cranna - a hurt that stuck.  She was married to Capt. Joseph Hovey, and lived  a rather comfortable adult life in a house at the summit of Cragley Hill in the Bug Hill area off Cutler's Farm Road on a parcel where homes now stand unaware.

Her infamous reputation began after her husband met an untimely death. He went for a walk in the dark of night and strolled off a cliff. Suspicion that she bewitched him swirled around her and all her pent up anger from her childhood turned into bitterness,  revenge and perhaps crafty survival. She seldom lacked for food or firewood. When in need, it’s said she threatened those that had both with “dire misfortunes” and played on their superstitions.

Some say her property was guarded by slithering snakes of all kinds. Her only companion was Old Boreas, a Shanghai rooster thought to be her spirit guide by the fearful. Old Boreas, it was said, crowed every night exactly at midnight, the witching hour. Hannah Cranna displayed her affection for birds by creating a “magic circle” around her property that no bullet or buckshot could penetrate -  and hunters came from miles around to test it. It seemed the fowl were easy prey.  Yet, not a bird was taken.

Hannah had a favorite rock along Cutler’s Farm road  (It’s still there if you know where to look.) a seat from which she watched life go by. Lore has it that the devil appeared to her at that spot and that the clear indentation in the stone is the mark of his cloven hoof. .

One morning Hannah walked down Cutler’s Farm Road, nearly to Purdy Hill Road,  to the home of a woman making apple pies. As several were cooling on the window sill, Hannah asked the woman for a pie. She was given the smallest one. Enraged,  Hannah called her “selfish” and  told her  that from that day forth she would never bake delicious pies. And though she tried and tried again, the “Apple Lady” as she came to be known never baked a decent pie again. The house still stands today  and the current owner admits to testing her ovens. Apparently, it was the poor woman who was cursed not the house.

Three weeks after Old Boreas died, a wailing Hannah told a passing neighbor, "The spirits have called and it won't be but a short time before I will be in the great beyond. I have a wish to make that must be carried out. I am not to be buried until after sundown and there must be ample bearers to carry my coffin from the house to the grave." Her final warning was "Obey my wishes if you would avoid trouble and vexation."  The next morning she was found dead in her doorway.

With deep snow blanketing the ground, her neighbors decided walking the coffin from Hannah's house all the way down to the cemetery off Spring Hill Road would take too long. Instead they placed the coffin on a sled. After traveling only a short distance, the coffin slid off the cart and ended halfway down the hill back toward her house.

Undaunted, they lifted it back on the sled and secured it with chains. A few men climbed atop her coffin for the ride. As they descended the final hill to the burial ground the coffin began to shake so violently, the disrespectful men were thrown into the snow. So spooked were the residents who had gathered to see Hanna Cranna the witch of Monroe buried and finally gone, that they reconsidered her final request.  Her coffin was finally raised up and borne on the shoulders of men in the old tradition to her grave. They arrived at sundown and buried her soon after.  Returning home from the funeral Hannah’s neighbors discovered her house in flames.  No one dared get close enough to put out the fire and it supposedly burned to the ground.

 

 

Where is Hannah Now?

Hannah Cranna is supposedly buried in the tiny Gregory’s Four Corners Burial Ground on Spring Hill Road in Trumbull, just off  Route 25.  A grave there with its too white tombstone bears her name. It is the only well preserved stone in the cemetery established in 1791. It  stands atop an embankment within spitting distance of the pavement below. Coins are often found on her grave, perhaps offerings, from unseen visitors.

The date of Hannah Cranna’s demise has two dates “1859-60” on her tombstone. The story is that having found Hanna Cranna dead in the morning, no one was sure if she died Dec. 31, 1859 or Jan. 1, 1860. So to prevent the wrath of any lingering spirit both dates were chiseled in the stone.

On dark nights it’s said Hannah Cranna walks Spring Hill Road. One report has a motorist, hitting her squarely with his car as she appears suddenly in front of his vehicle. He feels the thump of her body against metal and stops full of dread and near panic. But he finds no body beneath his wheels.  He frantically searches the area with a flashlight only to find Hannah’s grave just above the point of impact.