Halloween is just around the corner, and so I thought it was time for a seasonal tale. This children’s story, wrapped up in verse, tells the tale of two boys heading off into the woods in search of a witch. Written back in 2000 when I was much younger in my writing life, I still like how it turned out. Hope you do too 🙂
“The Legend Of The Lachmere Witch”
They say somewhere in the forest of Lachmere Wood
lives an old, haggard witch always up to no good
She’d lived there forever or so that’s what they say
But no one had ever seen her til one October day
When I and my friend, that crazy Johnny B.
went out to the forest to get a good look see;
we trudged through the woods of old creepy moss
until we got so turned around, we were helplessly lost.
No one ever went far into the forest of Lachmere
for the witch held sway and filled everyone with fear
yet no one could tell you where she had come from
or how long she’d been there, away from the sun.
There were legends and tales we all had heard
whispered around campfires with a hushed word
but we had to go out there and see for ourselves
despite how it seemed not to be good for our health.
See, we’d both heard the tales of the dreaded crone
and the townfolk said it’s best to leave her alone
for she was wicked and evil and a fright to behold
these are the things that the children were told:
She had a black heart and lips dark as pitch
and cackled just like the old wicked witch;
she once killed a child, and a grown man, too
and cooked them in her cauldron of bubbling stew.
It was also said that she could freeze a man
with her gaze to the spot wherever he stand
and that she made candles from human skin
removed from her victims at her darkest whim,
so maybe you think it foolish just what we did
to go blindly in the forest like two little kids,
but Johnny B. and I, we were growing up fast,
in just another year our childhood would pass.
Now we stumbled around in the light of day,
lost and wandering while the sunlight hid away.
The tall, darkened trees nearly shut out the sun,
no wonder we were lost and coming undone.
And then we saw flickering lights along a trail
Just up ahead, we thought it the door to hell:
An archway created from felled trees and briar
while beyond it the trail was lit by dark, tiny fire.
We went under the archway like two brave souls,
shivering inside but not from the cold.
We noticed the tiny fires were candles of red,
and we wondered if they were the skin of the dead.
We stepped lightly along this fearsome track,
afraid of what we’d find, but too scared to go back;
and we could hear her cackling somewhere close
our faces turned so white, you’d thought we were ghosts.
There was a cottage ahead at the end of the path
and we heard it more clearly, the witch’s dark laugh;
we reached the path’s end right at her open door
and the laughter stopped, we knew why for.
“come in, my brave youngsters”, whispered her voice
and we did as she said as if we hadn’t a choice.
Stepping over the threshold, we went on inside
where it was just one room the whole cottage wide.
We saw a boiling cauldron, brewing over a fire
and bones were dangling from the ceiling with wire.
The room was near black and smelled of dark things
there on a table, a pile of feather and wings.
The witch sat in the corner, at home in the dark
but we could not see her in the blackness so stark,
“what brings you here, what did you hope to find”
hissed her rough voice to our frightened minds.
“We came to see if there was a witch as we heard
and now that we know, we’ll leave without a word”,
so we both turned to go and get out of there
and that’s when the witch slowly rose from her chair.
“and what did you hear”, she so sinister asked
so we told her the town tales and legends intact.
The witch still in darkness, she cackled out loud
“Oh my, It’s a wonder what time does allow”.
“I had thought”, she now spoke, “they would be wise
and had found something new they could despise,
instead of me who never caused them much harm
except in their tales to cause their children alarm”.
And she stepped out of the shadows, into the light
we froze to the spot, hypnotized by the sight
of a beautiful woman with black hair and dark eyes
her lips painted black and smiling so wide.
“Why, you’re not a crone”, I said, “like we were told
you seem nice and beautiful, and not wicked and old”
she sighed at last and said “do you want the truth
of the Lachmere Witch and the sins of her youth?
Look around this room closely what do you see?
Certainly not the things you were told to believe”.
So we looked around the cottage with closer eyes,
and we saw things more clearly than at first disguise.
The bones from the ceiling were white candlesticks
not made of human flesh, but from wax and wicks.
The dark things we had smelled were just incense alit
and we were no longer scared, not even a small bit.
The feathers and wings on the table we first saw
was only cloth and material she was making into a shawl,
and in the boiling cauldron was the most wonderful stew
of beef, peas and potatoes, and a few carrots, too.
“Now let me tell you the real story the townsfolk won’t tell,
about why I’m a witch without nary a black spell.
See, when I was a young girl, I was carrying the child
of the local Reverend whom I was in love with so wild.
He wouldn’t admit that the child was his own
for it would mean he’d have to give up the life he’d known.
So, he charged me a witch, and in a way that I am,
For I was a student of nature, not of Satan, nor damned.”
“Now the Reverend knew the truth would get out soon,
so he held me prisoner and locked me in a cold room,
where I miscarried, as he coaxed a confession
of witchcraft and evil, and even demon possesion.
I escaped the jailed room on a dark hallowed night
and fled to the forest in a mad, desperate flight.
He came after me alone for I was condemned to hang,
and I killed him in defense as the churchbells rang.”
“That’s why they say I killed a child and a grown man,
but they made up tales to justify the reverend’s plans.
They didn’t pursue me in the woods again as he had
and I made a home here far from a township gone mad.
They didn’t want anyone to ever discover the truth
so the tales grew larger as they told them to their youth,
that’s all right with me, I prefer conversation with the wind
than the lies and corruption in the black hearts of men.”
“The Lachmere Witch is content here all alone
with the forest and the trees and the comfort of home”,
She smiled at us, we knew what she said was true.
“But now the legend of me rests entirely on you”.
Johnny was speechless as she kissed us on the cheek,
and I have to admit, I too couldn’t speak.
“you better go and return home”, she then said
“don’t glance back, keep your eyes on the path ahead.”
So we left the cottage and back on the candle path,
laughed about the town stories of the witch’s wrath,
Despite what she said I looked back walking away
I guess she didn’t want us to see her smile as she waved.
but I smiled back and thought, soon I’ll return again,
to sit with the witch and maybe help her heart mend,
and as we arrived back at our homes in the town,
the people knew where we’d gone and gathered around.
“The witch is dead”, I said, “If she ever existed at all,
only thing out there is dark woods and the owl’s call”.
The adults nodded their heads and they were satisfied
but all the children knew Johhny B. and I had lied,
and it wasn’t long before I took all the kids to see
The witch wasn’t what our parents made her out to be,
And the woman of Lachmere, not a witch to us anymore
was always happy to see us when we came to her door.
© 2000 Paul D. Aronson. All Rights Reserved.