Nestled in Tallahassee’s oldest public cemetery, the curious grave of Elizabeth “Bessie” Budd-Graham is a unique memorial to a woman some believe was a kindly “white witch.”
The Old City Cemetery was established in 1829. Its eternal inhabitants represent a cross-section of Tallahassee during the 19th century: governors, store clerks, veterans of wars, victims of yellow fever, slaves and planters. In 1889, Elizabeth Budd-Graham, a 23-year-old wife and mother, was buried under an elaborate headstone in the august cemetery.
Almost immediately, legends sprang up around the memorial. Elizabeth was born in the witchy month of October. Unlike the rest of the cemetery markers, and contrary to Christian tradition, the gravestone faces West. Most mysterious of all is Elizabeth’s epitaph, an excerpt from Lenore, Edgar Allen Poe’s ode to a dearly departed young love:
“Ah! Broken is the golden bowl. The spirit flown forever! Let the bell toll! A saintly soul Floats on the Stygian River; Come let the burial rite be read The funeral song be sung; An anthem for the queenliest dead That died so young A dirge for her the doubly dead In that she died so young.”
Rumors soon circulated that Elizabeth had bewitched her husband into marrying her. It was said that she was a “good witch,” who cast spells of love and protection. No one has ever been able to find any documentation associating Elizabeth with witchcraft. It is much more likely that her heartbroken family simply wanted to honor a young woman cut down in life much too soon. And who better to do that than Edgar Allen Poe?
However, the legend of Tallahassee’s very own “white witch” persists. To this day, many curious visitors and fellow “witches” visit the grave to pay homage and leave gifts for “the doubly dead”(witches must be killed twice) Elizabeth.
Know Before You Go
Located between Park Avenue and Call Street, one block off Tennessee St.