|Posted by occultrix on October 13, 2009 at 9:43 AM|
By Saraline Grenier
Come sit by the fire and I’ll tell you a heart-chilling tale...
According to legend, Marie-Josephte Corriveau was a beautiful young girl living in Saint-Vallier, QC. She married her first husband when she was 16. Much to her father’s despair, the couple never had children.
Because of the herbal remedies that she made, it was suspected that Marie-Josephte was a witch, but when her husband died mysteriously in his sleep, she appeared to be very upset and nobody suspected her at the time. She remarried three months later.
She had six husbands after this, who all died. The second one was found hung, the third died in his sleep, the fourth was poisoned, the fifth killed with a blow from an axe to his head and dragged out to the stables, the sixth died from an awl puncture to his belly-button, and the seventh was stabbed with his own fork. The large number of deaths made people very suspicious. The body of her first husband was exhumed and it was discovered that he died from having molten lead poured into his ear. It became apparent that Marie-Josephte had murdered all of her husbands. She was indeed a witch; twice a week she would go to the Island of Orleans to practice rituals with other witches. When her husbands found out and tried to put a stop to it, she killed them.
The witch’s father, Joseph Corriveau, loved his daughter; he initially took the blame for the deaths to save her and was condemned to death. When he went to confession before being hanged, he revealed that he had lied to protect his daughter. This information was conveyed to the authorities, and Marie- Josephte was sentenced to death—her body was placed in an iron cage and left exposed to the elements at the crossroads of Point-Lévis. Her last words were, “I will be avenged!”
After her death, she became known simply as “La Corriveau.” Many people were frightened to pass by the cage hanging at the crossroads. There were reports of rattling bones and screams, and of passersby being attacked by an unseen being. The grass under the cage always burned; La Corriveau was still leaving at night to go to the Island of Orleans.
After several years, the cage and La Corriveau disappeared. It was believed that they had been collected by the devil. More than 80 years after La Corriveau’s death, the cage was found in a nearby cemetery. All that was left of her body was one leg bone. The cage was sold to a museum in Boston and today one can go and see the twisted and corroded cage with a placard that simply reads “From Quebec.”
A legend is a story that is based on fact but has been greatly exaggerated over the years. La Corriveau was a real person, but a great deal of the story that I’ve just told you is untrue. I’d taken the most fantastical versions of the legend, fueled by rumours and fear, and interwoven them. When examining a legend such as this one, it is often difficult to separate fact from fiction. Marie-Josephte Corriveau did not have seven husbands; she only had two, and was only convicted for murdering the second one, Louis Dodier. She did marry her first husband, Charles Bouchard, when she was 16 on Nov. 17, 1749. They were married for 11 years. Contrary to some versions of the legend, they had three children together. Charles died of unknown causes and although some believe that Marie-Josephte killed him in his sleep by pouring molten lead into his ear, it was never proven. From the research that I’ve done, she would not have had any reason to kill him. Marie-Josephte married Louis Dodier a little over a year later, in July of 1761. She killed him in January of 1763. She most certainly had a motive for doing so, but it wasn’t because Louis found out that she was a witch; it was because he physically and sexually abused her on a regular basis.
Louis was found dead in the stable on the morning of Jan. 27, 1763. A report was drawn up by the neighbours saying that he had been trampled by the horses. At the time, the British had just gained control of Canada, and the report was taken to Major Abercombe, the English Chief warrant officer. Louis’ body was buried immediately. After Louis Dodier’s burial, a neighbour, Isabelle Sylvain, started telling people contradictory stories of what she’d heard the night of Louis’ death.
The rumours spread, as did reports of arguments between Louis and Marie-Josephte’s father, Joseph Corriveau. An English governor ordered that the body be retrieved and examined. It was discovered that the wound to Louis’ head was four inches deep and could not have been inflicted by the hoof of a horse. Joseph and Marie-Josephte Corriveau were both arrested.
The trial lasted for two and a half months and Joseph Corriveau was found guilty of Louis Dodier’s murder. He was sentenced to hanging. Marie-Josephte Corriveau was found guilty of aiding and abetting her father. She was to receive 60 lashes from a whip and marked by a red iron with the letter “M” for murder.
Before the hanging was to take place, Joseph Corriveau made a confession to Father Glapion, the Superior of the Jesuits of Quebec, and told him that his daughter was the one who had killed her husband and that he had only helped her once the deed had been committed. The priest told him that being hung for a crime he didn’t commit was a sin and akin to suicide. Joseph then told the authorities the true version of events. Joseph’s wife Françoise and Marie-Josephte’s daughter, Angélique Bouchard, confirmed the new story.
Marie-Josephte Corriveau’s second trial took place on April 15, 1763. She plead guilty to striking her husband in the head with an axe as he slept. She was hanged on April 18 and her execution was the first under British rule. Her body was suspended in an iron cage at Point-Lévis.
The people who lived in Point-Lévis weren’t thrilled with the chosen location. The rumours, the sound of the rattling bones in the cage caused by the wind, and the sight of La Corriveau’s carcass were giving children nightmares. Merchants complained that people who went to Quebec City now preferred to go by boat instead of taking the road. After two months, the body and cage were buried in a part of the cemetery reserved for unknown persons.
The cage was found in 1853 when the cemetery was being expanded and sold to American P.T. Barnum who was famous for founding a circus. It probably no longer exists. According to the Barnum Museum, it was sold to the American Museum in New York City which burned down in 1865. None of the museums in Boston that I contacted had ever heard of an exhibit of a mangled cage with a placard that reads “From Quebec.”