WINCHESTER — Parkmoore Cemetery is the final resting place for 22 unfortunate souls, all of them women.
Visitors who dare to drive up to the graveyard’s imposing gate may be shocked when they discover the gruesome details of how some of these women died.
Here lies Sarah Good, killed in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, after a group of young girls said they had been possessed by the devil and blamed dozens of townspeople, most of them women, of practicing witchcraft.
Here lies Marigje Arriens of Schoonhoven, Holland, who spent her days in the late 1500s as a healer trying to cure people of illnesses. For her troubles, she was strangled to death. She, too, was accused of being a witch.
And here lies Martha Corey, also of Salem, who was accused of witchcraft and hanged in 1692. (Her husband, Giles, was also accused but refused to stand trial and was ultimately “pressed” by stones until he died.)
The stories of the American and European women accused of witchcraft are unsettling, but the display is impressive. And for those who appreciate well-done Halloween decorations, the cemetery set up in the Whittier Acres subdivision is a must-see this season.
The chilling scene is the creation of Jeremy Park and Megan Moore, who have constructed the elaborate graveyard in the front yard of their home on Marion Street.
The cemetery was inspired by a trip they took a few years ago to Salem. And although the make-believe cemetery is full of spirit-filled fun, there’s a serious message: innocent people lost their lives because of a paranoid society with an unjust judicial system.
A website they created at www.winchesterwitches.com gives a back story for each of the accused.
The couple began working on the project in early July. Park, an electrician, did the hands-on work while Moore concentrated on telling the stories.
“I’m not the decorator; I’m the researcher,” said Moore, an English teacher in Front Royal. “I fell into a big hole of research while working on this.”
Nights and weekends were spent on the project with the goal of getting it all constructed by the first weekend in October. The tombstones are made of foam insulation and then painted with Drylock paint to give them the look of concrete. The gate and the fence surrounding the cemetery are made out of wood and PVC pipe. The website provides photos and instructions on how Park made the markers, fence and columns.
The couple also created characters and back stories for themselves. Moore is Prudence Parkmoore, a young witch who fled her northern village to the safety of the Shenandoah Valley, where she created a cemetery for women accused of witchcraft. An additional tombstone — the 23rd — displays the name Prudence, who apparently has already chosen her final resting place under a shady maple tree.
Park’s alter ego is Dantalion, a demon pulled from the Underworld to do Prudence’s bidding. “Just like real life,” Park quipped.
The story of Prudence and Dantalion can be found on the website. What’s not on the website is the story of Park and Moore, who have been married for three years and moved to Whittier Acres just over a year ago. They started dating in high school — he was at Handley, she was at James Wood — after they met at a teen lock-in. This is the first time they’ve decorated their house for Halloween, although Park often created elaborate Christmastime light displays at his childhood home.
“I enjoy his creativity and decorating,” Moore said. “But inside the house the walls are bare.”