Hanging Elizabeth Reed: A Ghost Story (2020) - full transcript

This is the story of Elizabeth Reed who in 1845 became the first woman to be hanged in Illinois. She was accused of poisoning her husband Leonard with arsenic laced tea and was convicted by...

[music swells in abruptly.]

[Acoustic instrument playing
a three note repeating pattern]

- [zapping noise]

[music is ominous. Synthesizer wind noises

[And dark sounding notes ring out]

[music title: The village]

[deep bass notes can be
heard underneath higher

[pitched notes and synth noises]

[acoustic instrument
changes to a four note,

[repeating pattern. Same ominous tone]

[vocalization can be heard. No words]

[inaudible words and quick phrases
can be heard in background]

[long vocalization. Vowels
only. No audible words]

[high pitched, synthesized
female vocalization.

[Long vowel sounds. Ahhhhhhh]

[female vocalization continues]

[thunder or loud noises
can be heard periodically]

[very long vocalization and all
notes end and ring out to fade]

[voice echos in distance as music fades]

[new music. Slow, electric
blues guitar & harmonica]

[music title: Traveling crawford]

[traditional blues riff
in the keys of E and A]

[music quites a bit as narration begins]

(Male Narrator) Southern Illinois,
old earth, old forests, old testament.

This ground holds tales of
many ancient civilizations,

historic events, and fantastic folklore.

The portion of the state that identifies
itself as “Little Egypt”

is surrounded by the Mississippi,
Ohio, and Wabash Rivers.

The rivers not only define its boundaries

but have shaped the histories and lives of

all who have lived there.

These waters encapsulate a land hundreds of

miles, attitudes and lifestyle away from

the cosmopolitan cities to the north.

This countryside has challenged all those

who have staked their
claim here leaving behind

a place filled with
fading stories, histories,

and lessons from the past.

[blues music continues in background]

This is the story of Elizabeth Reed

who in 1845 became
the first woman to be hanged

in Illinois.

She was accused of
poisoning her husband Leonard

with arsenic laced tea
then tried and convicted

by a jury of 12 men.

Betsy was hanged on May 23rd

which to most
would be where the story ends.

However, Elizabeth
Reed's story had just begun.

The circumstances of her arrest,


conviction, execution,
burial, and afterlife

have been debated ever since.

The folklore that exists today suggests her

restless spirit wanders the countryside.

Does her ghost haunt
the site of her execution

because she was falsely accused

or due to the very nature of her crime?

Some may argue it was
because her voice was never heard.

While these ghostly debates may never end

what is known is that this

“murderous witch's” story

fascinates to this day.

To fully appreciate the tale of
Elizabeth “Betsey” Reed

one must understand the history

and culture of Southern Illinois.

[Chris Sutton]
Well terrain wise Southern Illinois is…okay

you've got the rivers. Okay?

[blue music ends and fades] So the
terrain is Southern Illinois is such that…

[upbeat acoustic guitar strumming]
they slope down towards the rivers.

So you've got these hilly areas you know

around the rivers.

Cause there is a lot of
towns around the rivers.

These river towns
have a lot of barge traffic.

That's where a lot of these
towns in Illinois start.

[pleasant synthesizer notes]
But then you get towards the middle of it

and it's flat. It's prairie
land so to speak.

So you've got rolling
hills as you go around

the rivers as it goes down and you've got

flat terrain in Southern Illinois.

Normally after that there's a lot of forest

and things like that around.

But there's lots of agriculture

and corn and all that kind of stuff.

[Rob Byrley] Well, we
have a lot of farming.

It's a really agricultural area.

And then right out our backdoor

we have the Wabash River.

So a lot of recreation there

and commercial fishing.

To the south we have the timber.

It's just a unique place;

A lot of agriculture,

a lot of industry related
to the agriculture.

[music title: A peaceful life]

Early settlers in Illinois didn't view most

of the land as fertile, advising to build
and farm where trees grow.

In fact, for Leonard Reed

the farm ground had proven

to be a challenge greater than the

meager farming skills either

he or Elizabeth possessed.

It wasn't until John Deere's invention

of the metal plow in
1837 that farmers could

till Southern Illinois ground.

Little Egypt's soil was much richer than

the eastern United
States and therefore more

difficult to cultivate.

Up until the metal plow
open plains were used

for a variety of
livestock, especially cattle

and hogs.

Settlers foraged for
much needed sustenance

and their options were limited

to what an area provided.

(John Winterbauer) I think it's
a cultural thing because Illinois

was settled from the south.

Those people came out of the upper-southern

region of the United
States into an area already

seeped with the Mississippian culture

and the French culture.

And all that combined into a unique blend

of people

that have contributed,

or it's contributed to
the feel of the place.

It just hangs there.

There's a different feeling
in Southern Illinois

then there is say in Chicago, which

is bustling and crazy and violent.

That's not really like that down there.

They are…

[music fades out]

They keep to themselves

from time to time.

But for the most part they are a friendly

group of salt of the earth people.

(Narrator) Before Illinois became a state
[birds chirping]

it was known as the Indiana territory.

This new frontier presented many obstacles

to anyone attempting
to carve out a life there.

Indigenous tribes grew increasingly alarmed

by the growing number
of settlers that continued

to populate their lands.

In addition to the native tribes,

early settlers
were met by a variety of forest creatures

who also laid claim to the territory.

[deep, rising tones and echoes]

Yes the land proved to be bountiful

but it also brought forth hardships

that not everyone was prepared to handle.

And this was virgin timber.
(Rick Kelsheimer)

It was hardwoods.
[birds chirping]

It hadn't become Southern
Illinois's fields today.

But back then

it was hardwood forest.

There would be prairies in-between

that would look like oceans of grass

but where Betsy lived

it was old-growth hardwood forest.

At the time there were bears,

there were wolves,

there were panthers,
which are mountain lions,

other than every other critter out there.

[Native American flute note echoes]

(Narrator) When the
populations of the settlers

and Indians initially merged relations were

peaceful and friendly.

This proved to be
short lived as the natives

grew to be uncomfortable with the foreign

incursion which increasingly

used up the areas resources.

Shawnee Chief Tecumseh came to the area

in the early 1800's to
recruit the Illini tribes

in his efforts against the white settlers.

[birds chirp in background]

The growing conflicts

with the Indian tribes

continued through the
founding of Illinois in 1818

before culminating in the

Blackhawk War of 1832.

The brutalities of
their conflicts left scars

throughout the region.

(Chris Sutton) The Natives
were not, obviously [birds chirping]

and I don't blame them, were not too keen

about the white settlers moving in

and taking their land.

And so yes there were massacres.

There was fighting.

Of course, we know who won the war.

But there were times where the Natives

fought back just like you and I would do

if someone was trying to take our land.

[music swells into new song]

[acoustic guitar strums
as electric guitar notes play]

[music title: Little egypt]

So traveling down to Crawford County,
(John Winterbauer)

I hadn't been there before I didn't

get to spend as much time
as I had wanted to.

I met up with Jason
and his team in Palestine

[harmonica plays]


explored just a little bit around before

we went out to the
cemetery to visit Elizabeth.

And I got to tell you,

like most of Southern Illinois, it's a


friendly, welcoming

place, which most of Southern Illinois is.

It's a cultural thing.

I think they're nicer (chuckles)

In Southern Illinois

than a lot of places in the state.

And that's what I found in Palestine and

down around Crawford County.

I spent a lot of time on the
dirt roads out there.

Didn't see a lot of people

but those that I did see


very pleasant people,

glad to see people, happy to help

with what we were doing.

I really enjoyed it.

[guitar and harmonica continue]

(Jason Snider) We're the Crawford County
Ghost Hunters Society

and we investigate claims

of paranormal activity and phenomena

all over the state of Illinois

and parts of Indiana.

We investigate anywhere
people call us into.

We've investigated businesses,

houses, any other place

people call us into that they

think they have any
type of paranormal activity

or occurrence taking
place at their location.

Crawford County is considered to be one of

the most haunted counties
in Illinois, I would say,

because we have one of the oldest

white settlements in the state,

which is Palestine, Illinois.

And there's a lot of activity

and historical
sites in Palestine.

They've found city upon city of ancient

civilizations where they've dug into them.

There's archeological
dig sites in Palestine.

Crawford County back in the day

actually stretched its
border up into Canada.

Crawford County is
one of the oldest counties

in Illinois if not the oldest.

[music fades]

Crawford County has
a lot of historical locations.

We had a Hutson massacre that took place

here in Hutsonville, Illinois.

[music begins. Synthesizer vocals. Ominous]

[periodic tapping noises heard echoing]

[music title: Hutson massacre]

[notes hold and a deep,
Australian didgeridoo note plays]

[huanting notes play]

The location we are
currently at is the site

of the Hutson Massacre

that took place in 1813.

And what happened here…

It was a horrible event that took place

behind us here at this location

The cabins that are currently here now

are reconstructed cabins.

These aren't the original cabins

from the massacre.

But in 1812

Isaac Hutson came to this area from

Turman Township in
Sullivan County, Indiana.

He moved to this area because
he liked the prairie.

He just thought it was a neat area.

He enjoyed this area.

He built a little cabin
here with his family.

He had a wife

and I believe it was six kids

and he went to…

He went to Hutsonville…well

the this whole town here was named after

this event you know
Hutsonville you know Isaac Hutson

that's how Hutsonville got its name.

But he went to Palestine one night

to the mill

so when he went to the mill he came back

home it was real late at night

when he got back here.

He saw a glow off in the distance.

When he got closer he
kinda feared the worse,

you know, knowing something
bad had happened.

When he got up here he realized his family

had been massacred by Indians.

When he got up there,

there was a guy by the name of


which was his neighbor.

He lived close to Hutson here too.

When he got up here,
Dixon was laying on the ground

with his chest tore open

and his heart was on a post.

They were pretty brutally massacred.

His baby, they took it…

She was…like when
they raided the cabins,

the Indians came into

the cabins,

Mrs. Hutson was
holding the baby in her arms.

They took the baby and

put it in a boiling kettle of soup

and killed the baby like that

and then killed the rest of the family.

They chopped their heads off

and put them on a post out here…

Was what some of the
historical accounts say.

They scattered their heads and

put them on posts out here

by the cabin.

So it was a pretty

brutal murder that took place here.

After that, Hutson swore revenge.

He moved to the, well

what is now current day Terre Haute.

Fort Harrison was located there.

He joined the Army

there at Fort Harrison

which was kind of
his downfall because he

was later killed by Indians, himself,

in a fight about a half a
mile south of the fort

where Terre Haute now stands.

[Music fades out]

We're currently about seven mile

north of Palestine.

So this massacre ties into the

early settlers in the Palestine area.

And then Heathsville and Baker's Cemetery

where Elizabeth Betsey Reed was buried is

a little south of Palestine.

There was a lot of stuff
and a lot of historical

evidence in this area showing the

hard time a lot of these
settlers went through

back in the day.

The pioneers in the early area…

So you know it was a just a lot of

bad happenings.

(Narrator) Throughout history,

it has often been the
tragedies of life that have lead

to the tales that are passed down

from generation to generation.

[deep, droning music]

In the world of the paranormal,

these tales often grow dark.

Hauntings are a lot of times
(Robbin Terry)

Caused by traumatic experiences or deaths
[eerie synth tones]

that might have occurred.

It could be just from a hanging.

It could be from violent car crashes,

murders, [haunting notes]

just about any type of
traumatic experiences

someone might encounter

could cause a haunting.

They could also be from

people who are basically staying back

and staying in a location where

they want to stay

just because they are not sure

where to go and how to get there.

And so they stay behind.
[scraping noises in music]

We see different hauntings

that are residual
and intelligent type haunting.

Where residual

is kind of like a tape replayer
...tape recorder

that just keeps repeating

itself, running over in time

over and over and over.

Where intelligent hauntings

are someone that's
[odd noises in music]

stayed behind, left in the building, or a

location, or just in the grounds.

It doesn't even have
to be inside a building.

It could be where

someone… they know they're there

and they want to communicate

to other people and
[music tension rises]

you can ask them questions.

You can get intelligent,

which is why we call
them intelligent hauntings,

you can get actual

answers back from them

that describe why they're there,

maybe who they are

and what they're doing there.

[music continues w/ haunting undertones[

Crawford County is among the oldest

territories in Illinois
and contains possibly

more cemeteries
than any other county.

Old plots and family
cemeteries are scattered

along Highway 33,

many within mere
minutes from one another.

[dissonant musical notes]

And the more graves there are,

the more folklore
there is attached to them.

[eerie music continues]

So down here (Jason Dickerson)

Or south Palestine

there's been a few stories.

They're kind of

I don't know if they're urban legends

so much but I know a lot of kids used

to come down here to
scare themselves little bit.

There's a church up here

called Pleasant View

and it's got a bell and there's three

crosses out here.

And supposedly

three witches

were killed here,
buried here, or something.

And so if you ring
the bell at midnight

[sudden, jarring tone]

It's supposed to ring

and if it rings one less

than how many people are in your party

[grating noises in music]

One of you is supposed

to die is supposed to be the story.

[synthesized, haunting vocals]


A few years ago I come down here

with my kids and

we rang the bell at midnight like

you're supposed to and

it tolled three times
and as soon as it stopped,

which was weird,

[dissonant notes]

Three birds flew out
of the bell after it rang.

Well (chuckles) it freaked everybody out.

We took off for the vehicles

and drove away.

[dissonant undertones]

(Narrator) Yet another legend involves

the Bartmess Cemetery
that was once located at

the top of this hill.

Cleared to create more farmland,

the Bartmess family headstones

were moved over to nearby

Greenhill Cemetery

while their remains were left behind.

[droning music continues[

The custom of farming over old graveyards

was a common measure
in the Illinois early years.

The value of Illinois farmland

sometimes supersedes even burial customs.

[higher pitched dissonance]

There are countless reasons
why family plots

are altered,

moved, and sometimes forgotten.

[rising ethereal music begins]

Paranormal traditions

cite the separation of bodies

from their gravestone marker

as a possible contributing factor

to ghost haunts.

[music sounds more angelic]

[soft tones, synthesized notes]

[music swells then fades]

[deep, throaty, synthesized music
with slow eerie keyboard]

[music title: Heathsville]

(Narrator) The Reed's
lived and sharecropped

on farmland in Heathsville Illinois.

This nondescript parcel of land lies

off an ordinary curve
next to highway 33.

The doomed pair never made a decent living,

leaving Elizabeth in debt
when her husband

Leonard passed away.

[odd tapping and inaudible female voice]

One of the things about Southern Illinois

Is the

multitude of names that have

ominous overtones.
[creepy, breathy noise]

In the Crawford County area there's

Purgatory Swamp,

which of course purgatory

implies you're wandering
in the afterlife,

The Devil's Neck along the river,

Devil's Backbone
is the name of the ridge.

Where those names come from
I'm not exactly sure

but they all imply this ominous vibe.

And the area actually gives that off

in strange ways.

Not that I'm a psychic

or have that ability but the

the air

it just picks up on those names

and it permeates everything around it.

That interests me a lot about

Southern Illinois.
And that feeling's still there

even when you're not looking for it.

Well Heathsville is the closest town
(Teri Nash)

And nowadays it's about six houses.

But it was a little bigger than that

in the early 1800s.

And the center of the community

was the Heath Inn.

[eerie voice]

Which, was

besides being inn it
was a stagecoach stop.

And the mail went there

so everyone gathered there.

And it would have been about
a half a mile from

the Reed cabin.

And the lady that

worked for our family name
was Orma Baker

and her family, on her mother's

side of the family, were the Heaths.

And so they knew the Reeds.

And, um

Then Leonard Reed is
buried in the Baker Cemetery,

which sits behind our property.

[music continues.
High-pitched swells and clicking]

(Snider) The Betsey Reed story as we know
it goes like this:

Elizabeth Betsey Reed was convicted

and found guilty

of poisoning her husband

with arsenic-laid sassafras tea.

On April 261845

she was actually convicted

or they started the trial

and then on April 28th of 1845

that's when she was convicted
and found guilty.

(Narrator) Elizabeth Reed's
story seemed destined to exist

between generational gossip

and cemetery tales

until attracting the attention

of The Lawrence County Historical society.

Through countless hours of research

led by society treasurer John King

the society compiled

the official record

including newspaper accounts

from as far away as London England.

The local arts council
staged the play “Hanging,

The Saga of Betsey Reed”

which Dann Norton wrote
based on the historical societies'

meritorious research.

[ominous music fades away]

There was nothing in the records
(Dann Norton)

That explained how they knew for sure this

was arsenic.

The only reason (John King)

To suspect arsenic poisoning

was that Evaline Deal

said that she found

this particular piece of paper

between two plates in the cupboard

and and then Mrs. Reed
threw it outdoors.

She retrieved it

and in that traced back to

Dr. Logan at his pharmacy in Russellville


"it had to be me."

That had to be bought at my store.

I don't remember selling it to anybody but

only I would have packaged it in this way

"in this sort of paper."

(Dickerson) So some of the
[birds heard in background]

accusations the
reason why they accused her of it

was there was a I assume
a salesman in a general store

that swears he sold her the arsenic.

And the only witness that actually saw her

put the powder in
his tea was I believe a

niece or a younger daughter.

That was who testified and

that testimony was enough.

You know, she was a woman.

Back then they really didn't have rights.

That was good enough.

[birds stop[

I got involved with the "Hanging

Of Betsey Reed"

book by Rick Kelsheimer

when a mutual friend introduced us

when he was writing the book

and she knew that I had grown up

on the farm where
Leonard and Betsey Reed had lived

in the 1840s.

And that

an elderly woman who
worked for my family

had a close connection to the case

and had

taught me about the case
since I was young.

Then I

started working with Rick

on researching the book.

(Kelsheimer) Leonard her husband had

gotten sick over a period of time.

And then what Evaline Deal said is that

she saw Betsey puts
a white powder

in his squirrel stew
[dark music begins]

And then [weird chattering]

of course

at the end

supposedly he put it in her…

She put it in his sassafras tea.

But, and there's another neighbor who

[music title: The gift of poison]

The Reeds owed money to

who came over and said

he'd seen her

feed him squirrel stew and he'd get

deathly sick,

and they thought he
was going to die then

but he didn't say anything

'cause he didn't want
to get involved.

But he said it after they hung her.

She was arrested (Nash)

After the neighbor

girl who would have been Evaline Deal

had went to the neighbors

and reported she saw

Betsey put white powder in his tea.

And supposedly it was sassafras tea

because tea was
very expensive then.

Among the claims against the Reed estate

Following Betsey's trial were that

from Doctors Boyle, Wynn, and Logan,

who had separately been
treating Leonard for a persistent

stomach aliment over a three-year period.

The claims were for unpaid medical bills

including doctor visits
and antimony treatments,

which were used to purge
inflamed bowels.

The treatments should beckon the question

as to the whether the white powder seen by

Evaline Deal

was prescribed by
one of Leonard's physicians.

[bubbling sounds heard in music]

Our county at

Charlottesville, which is

west of Birds

between Birds and Chauncey

where the Birds - Chauncey blacktop

crosses the Embarras River,

was a mill operated by the Shakers.

This was the westernmost

Shaker community in the nation.

[music continues]

The Heaths…

They gave up on the mill

after it had been washed out
and they had rebuilt it

and the Heaths purchased it.

And it's this same family that

has the namesake of Heathsville

in southeastern Crawford County.

And family members
have gone on to form the

Heath Candy Company of Robinson

who is now owned by the

Hershey Candy Company
of Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Then the Harrimans who she reported

Seeing the poison to

Mrs. Harriman's father was

the constable

which was Duane Gaines…

And if you could see this
area it's all within

about a two mile radius…

And so they got her father

who was the constable and they

told him that they thought

Leonard had been poisoned

and the doctors came

[creepy sounds in ambience]

When he had died because
he became very ill suddenly.

But um

he had been having
chronic stomach illness

[music continues. Airy and dark]

So they suspected that he was being

slowly poisoned.

And then Betsey

got a little excited or in a hurry and

gave him a bigger dose that day

that killed him.

And I think that's what his autopsy

led them to believe.

She told me

that her grandfather…

Might have been great grandfather

I can't remember at the time

right now… what she said but

he was a ten-year-old boy

about the time of the murders

and he knew them,

that they would come down

to do their trading at the store

that was down there and

stop in and get their mail.

And that Betsey was very odd.

She wasn't liked.

That she wore a white bonnet…

She never mentioned a veil which

has been mentioned

in some of our research…

And Rick Kelsheimer's
book says it was a veil.

It's a historical novel

but in our research
that's why he said a veil.

But I was told a white bonnet.

And when she would go outdoors

she would put a black bonnet

on top of that and that was odd

is what the neighbors said.

(Kelsheimer) But even the eyewitness

reports that I found

contradicted each other.

Some people said she was horribly ugly


and then there are
eyewitness reports from

the hanging that said she was beautiful,

even angelic-like.

So everything was contradicted.

But from reading and all

there a couple things
became perfectly clear;

Women hated Betsey Reed,

[ambience continues]

The men, not so much.

I mean so

maybe she was kind of
a gal the men liked

maybe she's easy to look

at or maybe she…

But the women really did.

There was a lot of hatred for her.

(Nash) It kind of creeps you
out to go over where

the house was.


I don't know

because I guess you know the
murder occurred there.

There's a creepy feeling there.

I'll say that.

[ambience ends but new music swells in]

[music title: Palestine]

[periodic, rhythmic drums sound]

(Terry) the historical
part of the hauntings

is probably some of my favorite part.

Because history is what is really kind

of cool with these
older locations and

the older buildings that are out there

and even the older
grounds like the Gettysburg.

Places like that.

That's the most fascinating part of it.

And it's kind of like

why are why are they still there?

What keeps those spirits

and that energy at
those locations?

And I've always tell people

before is like

the only thing we know about the paranormal

is we don't really know anything

about the paranormal

until we've crossed
over to see it ourselves.

But we can still talk

to some of these intelligent spirits

at these locations and probably get

bits and pieces

and put it together and try

to figure out a little
bit more all the time

of what's happening

at different locations
and different grounds.

[high pitched, frequency noise in music]

Southern Illinois since it's older

Than our friends up north.

It's older. It's got more ghosts.

Because there's been
more people living here.

It's been around longer.

And some of these river towns…

I have not come across a river town yet

that is not haunted in some way.

Whether you go up to Hannibal

which is up in Missouri

all the way around the Wabash

up and around that area,

there's always some
type of haunt going on.

It's because they've
been here for so long.

And back then you know

when the state started

there was a lot of
frontier type of justice

still going on.

Things like that.

It was settled pretty early

and so lots of
weird things happened

in Southern Illinois

as far as around violence
and things like that.

(Narrator) Downtown Palestine
has all the comforts

one comes to expect from a

Southern Illinois community.

This historic downtown area
is loaded with charm

but visitors are most likely never aware

of the circumstances that befell

this small town in 1845.

[Palestine music continues.
High frequency ambience]

As far as the main (Byrley)

Towns in Crawford County
we have Robinson which is

the county seat.

Originally the county seat was in Palestine

from I believe 1821 to 1847.

In 1847 it moved to Robinson

and that's our...
our biggest town.

And you have Oblong to the west,

Palestine here to the east,

Flat Rock to the south,

and you have a Hustonville to the north.

And there's been different little towns

that popped up and faded away.

One was Vernon right south of town here.

It got started in about 1830

and by 1883 it was gone.

There's Bolivar a little settlement
north of town here.

It's long gone.

(Narrator) The early pioneers
had entrenched themselves

in Fort Lamotte

and a recreation

can be found along the edge of town.

The standard French
fort is a stark reminder

of the hazards the
encroaching settlers faced.

Yes that was the beginning.

And actually

when the people
started arriving here

[ambient music fades]

It wasn't called Palestine.

The first name

that I've come across was

a Lamotte settlement,

the settlement of Fort Lamotte.

And then later when the town was laid out.

And actually the first name

of this town wasn't Palestine.

The first name was Mount Pleasant

[music ambience begins]

And for some reason

Cullom and Kitchell you know donated

the ground for Palestine…

[dark, airy ambience]

For some reason they

must have or someone must have told them

you know the lore of Jean Lamotte …

The land of milk and honey…

And they changed
it to Palestine.

[music title: Calling Forth Flame]

[dissonant clanking]

And then they

brought her to Palestine

which was at the time the county seat.

She was held in the jail at Palestine

and this is where the whole

witch story comes in with Betsey Reed.

But some people claim
she was a witch because

while she was being
held at the Palestine jail

she actually burnt the jail down

with no source of ignition, no matches.

You know no way of
actually burning the jail down and

she somehow managed
to set fire to that jail.

So that's still a mystery in a legend
[sounds of fire]

to this day how Betsey
actually burnt the jail down.

But anyway when he had died,

he had obviously been poisoned

and she was arrested.

Because you remember at that time

Palestine was a county seat.

There's a land office
up here on the square.

Where the high school now

is now was the town square

land office on the south end.

The jail was on the north end.

She was arrested and brought to jail.

And this jail was a formidable structure.

I mean

it was recessed into
the ground a couple feet.

It had 12 by 12

timbers 12 inch by 12 inch

on the inside and outside

but and then 12
inch gap between them

that vertical boards
were just stuck in.

There wasn't a door
entering the jail. You had...

at first you had to go up a ladder to

the second story.

A two foot by two foot trap

door would be lifted up

and you would go down into it.

And later on they actually put a stairway

up to the second story.

And there's two windows.

I don't recall the size but

they had one inch iron bars I believe

about three inches apart.

So it was pretty well escape proof.

Somehow she had got hold of matches or

a lighting device anyway.

You got to figure if that jail went

up in around 1821

or 1820 by 1844 the timbers

would have been pretty well dried out.

So it may have got started fairly easy.

[dark ambient music continues]

Betsy was held in the Palestine jail

and somehow

they never knew how she did it

but she managed to burn

the wall of the jail
a little bit at a time.

Until one night

the fire got away from her.

And when the fire got away from her

she burned the jail down.

And she was running down Main Street

in Palestine

because the jail sit where

what is now the

high school sits in Palestine.

And there was a

hotel where the
Fife Opera House sits

and a gentleman was sitting outside

and his last name was Gerard.

And he saw her running
down the street and

I think her clothes were smoking.

And he tackled her and saved her.

And I know one thing that

Orma Baker told me was that

helped lead to the

rumors that she was a witch

because they didn't know

how she started that fire.

[music is very quiet]

(Narrator) One interesting
story that we were

told is that of the belief that a secret,

select few practiced the craft of

creating fire from thin air

and that Elizabeth Reed

was gifted with this ability.

It is a hypothetical explanation

as to how she was able to set her

formidable confines ablaze

with no known source to do so.

Whether or not one believes
in this is not important.

But it certainly adds to the belief

in witchcraft

that the people of the time
accused Betsy of.

It is interesting to note

that the jail fire was Betsey's

only documented attempt at

any type of defense

or desire to escape her fate.

Unfortunately for Mrs. Reed,

the failed plot was further proof

of her guilt in the
eyes of the community.

One thing is for certain:

The townsfolk were relieved

when she was finally
removed from Palestine.

[music swells to a crescendo and fades]

Lawrence County, Illinois

is a small county

in rural Southeastern Illinois.

We have a population of
about 15000 people.

We have...

we are about

back to our population
of the 1880s.

We are a county

that suffers economically.

The oil industry is on a…

It's been the lifeblood of this county

along with farming

and both industries have taken

it on the chin
here in recent years.

We used to have a massive Texaco

refinery in our county

and employed good jobs

for a lot of people.

That is gone.

The Marathon Ohio Oil Company

and the Marathon
Oil Company are gone.

There's very little industry.

There's a huge unemployment

of numbers.

It's a low-income county,

one of the poorest in the state.

But yet it's a fine place to live.

We have all the amenities that one needs.

We are close to metropolitan areas.

It's as good a county as any in our nation

to to reside in.

[music swells in. Dark, rhythmic synth.]

And the jail was

pretty much destroyed
so they had to move Betsey to


And when they moved her to Lawrenceville

that's where she was tried.

[music title: Lawrenceville]

[pulsating notes]

Betsey Reed's two

lawyers defense
lawyers, she had two.

One was Augustus French, who I mentioned

a year and a half after trial became the

ninth governor of the State of Illinois.

But the second lawyer and

the one who actually was the lead

lawyer in the case name was Usher Linder.

Usher Linder

was a famous attorney in Illinois.

He had been Attorney General
of the state.

He had been involved in Alton, Illinois

with the with the case
of Elijah Lovejoy

when he was executed

and his press destroyed, which

is the whole basis of
freedom of the press

in this nation,

based upon this Lovejoy case.

In Alton, Illinois

there was an abolitionist
named Elijah P. Lovejoy

and he didn't believe in slavery.

So he printed, he was
the newspaper printer.

He was the editor.

He owned the paper.

He kept printing you know

kept writing his paper…

Not... that we should not have slavery.

And first they threw his
printing press in the river.

And so after that he got another one.

Well then they burned
it and they killed him.

And so they say that his ghost

haunts part of Alton, Illinois.

Now Usher Linder

was born where Abraham Lincoln

was born in Kentucky,

in the same town.

They grew up together

and they both came to Illinois.

Illinois was really if you wanted…

The political stars were coming out there:

Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, all that.

Well, Usher Linder

was a real good friend
of Lincoln's.

But he was also

kind of a rebel rouser.

At age 27

became the youngest

Attorney General
for the State of Illinois.

They were having a big

convention down
there with Lovejoy

and he's writing his anti-slavery

paper, and he's a speaker.


Usher Linder got everybody riled up

there and they actually

got the mob together.

And then,

and this is while he's Attorney General,

and basically did a speech to get

them, the mob to go…

They burned down the newspaper,

Lovejoy's newspaper

at the time, pulled him out and

lynched him.

One thing that interests me

is about this story is Usher Linder

who in 1837

was a pro-slavery advocate

who battled

with Elijah Lovejoy

whose death in November

of 1837 in Alton

not only

lit the fuse that sparked the civil war

but left a haunting

behind where Elijah Lovejoy died.

There's a vacant lot there now and

his ghost is said to wander there.

[music ends]
Later on

Linder was

Betsey Reed's attorney

and then

her ghost wanders the cemetery.

So there's this weird
connection between Linder

and these two historic
vents in Illinois' history

that I just find kind of interesting.

From what I read, hangings were kind of a

big event back then and people would
[birds in background]

actually come in and
set up like a festival.

Like, they would sell and trade and barter.

And the people got mad

because when they moved her

everyone was supposedly set up

had shops set up to to sell things.

And when they moved to Lawrenceville,

which is 20 some miles from here,

that's a long trip by a horse-drawn cart

or something like that.

So everyone had to move down there

for the hanging.


supposedly when they
got there I think

the estimate was
20 thousand people, I don't

know if that's accurate or not, but

a rather large crowd.

When I started writing the play I

had just kind of assumed that

Betsey Reed was probably guilty.

She was probably from a

hard life and things
just happened.

But Donna Burton from the society had

pointed out this antimony.

So for me the big surprise

was that

he…the man is taking antimony

and she said,
"You look up antimony."

So I looked this up

and of course

you find out that

antimony poisoning
mimics arsenic poisoning.

So very much so his symptoms

could have been
caused by this antimony.

The next big surprise for me

was that he was
sick for three years

but then all of a sudden

in 1844

they think it's arsenic poisoning.

Nobody thought this

for the two and a
half years prior to

his death?

One of the aspects I appreciate

about this story is
the fact that she left

no record of a defense.

Her attorneys apparently didn't
put her on the stand.

There are no public statements

with her defending herself.

She could have very easily said,

“my husband had been ill

with stomach problems
for three or four years”

which gives credence to the idea

that she didn't kill him.

Ghosts hang around places

for a lot of different reasons.

In her case,

even though I believe she was guilty and

committed the crime,

maybe she didn't

and her ghost still wanders

the cemetery
because she's accused of

a crime she didn't commit

in the 1840s

I don't think they
would have questioned

the guilt of a woman.

I mean she was a woman

everybody could see it was

a possibility and they just

moved on with their lives.

Well and remember she had


had had the jail
at Palestine on fire

whether to commit suicide or

it's just an

It caught on fire.

So they were considering her

a witch and a bad lady

[deep, ominous music]

[music title: May 23, 1845]

[loud clang]

[loud clang]

[creepy hissing and stretching sounds]

[inaudible whispers and breathing noises]

We are in Lawrence County Illinois

at the location where Elizabeth Betsey Reed

was taken to be hung.

Behind me here is
the old football field

and this is the location

where they brought her.

The judge said to
take her to a place within

one mile of the
courthouse to a convenient place,

which ended up being
the location where

this football field is now located at.

So the crazy thing about all this

and still a mystery

is there's no historical marker

at this location whatsoever

indicating that
she was hung out here.

So if you just come
out here and look it's

just an abandoned
football field that's grown

up now and it's creepy.

[music continues. Breathy
noises over dark ambience]

[grating noises of tension]

[sounds like distant wind]

[creepy deep breath]

So uh it's still a big mystery

as to the exact location of where

the scaffold and the she

was actually placed to be hung.

It says that there was
people that watched

this event from a hill

and that she was down

at the bottom of the hill.

So the location over
here definitely fits

the description and all
the scholars definitely

say this is the
location where it was at.

We just don't have an exact

you know spot with a marker

saying you know this is where

Elizabeth Betsey Reed was hung.

So that's just weird.

I think a lot of people today are

more fascinated with
the afterlife and the

spirits and ghost stories

than they ever have
in the past just because

basically the tvs.

The tv has put a lot of
people out there and

they've talked about it,
they've seen it on tv

and they consider... it's more of

a way of life now than it used to be.

It was kind of the old thing was like

oh no. You don't
talk about the spirits.

You don't talk
about that type of thing.

In comparison to what it is today

it's more accepted.

And I think people enjoy going out

and they want to find
more about the paranormal

and see what's out
there and see what the

see what's happening.

Because they've all had experiences

and they've never wanted
to talk about those experiences

until now.

They feel more comfortable
that they can share those

and everybody's had an experience at

one time or another probably.

They just either don't know it

or didn't want to talk about it.

[ambient music still
playing but very low key]

Historical records actually show that

the county just doubled in size you know

during her hanging like Dickerson said.

You know people came in from

all over the
place to watch that.

And backing the story up just a little bit

but before she was
actually hung as she was

being brought out to her execution site

she was actually put on her own coffin.

She was in a white dress

and she was on her own coffin

and she got religion you know.

She became very religious when she

found out (chuckles) she
was going to get executed.

There was a guy that actually

baptized her

in the river near where the new bridge is

located at now in Lawrenceville.

So she got baptized
you know found religion.

She was actually singing gospel songs

as she was going to her own grave.

Singing they said she was singing

all kinds of songs on the way there.

So that's kind of a weird and eerie side.

I'm sure too, seeing somebody sing

as they go to their grave.

There's a lot of,

a lot of reports
you know with the haunting too.

You know people seeing that

that's what they see.

They see the residual activity

and the residual occurrence of

that event taking place so.

John Seed was a Baptist preacher who

did a sermon who was
her minister at the time.


Once he gets her Betsey rides down the

hill to the side of the hanging

riding on her coffin on this robe.

And she's singing hymns
on the way down there.

And this John Seed
he's he's from Scotland

and he's a firebrand,

hell and brimstone preacher.

He sees whatever this crowd is

20,000 people

and he said he's
going to deliver a sermon.

So he preaches for over
an hour and it's a hot sun.

Betsey Reed

is sitting on her coffin yelling,

“hallelujah and amen” all the way through

the sermon.

And then she gets up,

Sheriff Samuel Thorn
puts a bag over her head,

a white or excuse me a black bag,



pulls the or… chops
the rope.

She hangs

and about a half… they let her
hang for about a half hour

and then they put

her down into that shallow

open grave there
underneath the gallows.

(Male Narrator, southern accent)
Psalms 23: The Lord is my shepherd

I shall not want.

He maketh me lie down in green pastures.

He leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul.

He leadeth me in the path

of righteousness for his name's sake.

Yea though I walk through the

valley of shadow of death

I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.

Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

[different dark, ambient music begins]

(Dickerson) There's a hill
that the high school sits on now

and I guess a lot of people
were sitting on it watching.

But some people decided
to climb up in a tree

and sit on a branch.


after they you know they announced the

conviction this that the other,

right as they were getting
ready to throw the lever

to hang her,

the tree branch those
people were sitting on broke.

Well when they fell they all screamed

and it stated that the
majority of the crowd

heard the screams

and turned to look

to see what the commotion was about

and missed the actual hanging.

[music title: From the rope to the ground]

Now I don't believe there was any actual

organized protest at the hanging.

But I wanted this character to show up

and explain to

the audience watching the play

that this was something
that was controversial.

Especially that it was a woman

who was to be hanged.

Although I think the

majority of people in this area

probably were a

pro death penalty

and they were excited

about this execution.

It was going to be something

entertaining to watch.

And we have an eyewitness account

of Alexander McCarter

who as a young boy came

with his grandfather, Hamilton, to

Lawrenceville to watch this.

Young McCarter was on
his grandfather's shoulders

[female vocalization in ambience]

And at the time when

Elizabeth Reed dropped

from the gallows.

Somebody in a nearby tree

the limb snapped

and the boy's attention was given to the to

that and he missed
the actual instant of death.

The common thought

has always been at
the at the football field

of the old Lawrenceville High School.

All accounts

that I can gather suggest that

it was about a quarter mile to the east.

Walnut Street is in
front of the high School.

That extended with

I believe Fifth or Sixth street.

Would suggest where the Mills Terrace

apartments is, which
would have been

as good of a site

as could be, b ut the same story.

[old time projector sounds]

Some of our night
investigations that we've

conducted out here

we've actually recorded strange

cold spots in the area that
seemed to move.

And they moved through the football field

area behind me here.

We've heard what sounded
like a scream at one point.

But we can't confirm that

it wasn't locals. You know
we are in an urban area.

We try to debunk everything.

But we have heard
mysterious sounds that

just they don't sound right you know.

They don't sound
like your typical noises

you should be hearing out here.

We've captured
[female vocalization in ambience]

a couple evps, electronic voice
phenomena, out here.


not as much as what
we have at Baker Cemetery,

which is where

you know we've got a really good evp

that we captured.

And we're going to be playing that I think.

But the the evp is extremely good

we captured at the cemetery.

But out here it's mostly sounds


things you see out
of the corner of your eye.

But you're not sure it's there.

We haven't got a
whole lot of scientific evidence

of stuff going on in the area

but we have physically
seen and heard more things

than what we've
captured on our equipment.

It's definitely a location that I believe

is haunted you know
[faint music fades out]

especially some type of

residual activity

definitely I believe exists here

due to the hanging that took place on

May 23rd, 1845.

[high-pitched note swells in and fades]

[soft, ominous music begins. New song]

You know there's
a lot of times people

will talk at different spirits

in a location in a different building

and they always think
they're talking to Charlie

or John or whoever

they think the spirit's talking about.

But I always look
back and say, “you know

how do you know
you're talking to that person?”

Because if I was a spirit at a location

you just want to talk to Susie

and I said yeah my name's Susie on a

by tripping an emf detector,
something like that,

you really wouldn't know
that was Susie or not.

You wouldn't know who it is.

It's hard to tell.

The only way I think
that you can actually

really talk to spirits in a location is ask

them questions that

they may be the only one

that knows the answer to that question.

[base heavy synth note
with wind instrument]

(Narrator) The next
mystery of the case involves

the handing of Mrs. Reed's body

following the hanging.

A confusing account states

that she was laid
into a shallow grave

next to the gallows.

But newspaper articles of the time

confirm documents that reference

results from her autopsy.

[subtle, haunting notes]

Speculation is that it may have been

a temporary resting spot

to delay effects of the hot sun

until the body could
be properly examined,

the necessity of which is debatable.

[music title: Finding God in broken glass]

[light chimes throughout ambience]

[higher synth notes play
slow melody over synth bass]

[sounds like synth vocalization. No words]

Well first of all,

a couple named Richards

decided to put a newer tombstone

at Baker Cemetery.

I think they were trying

to keep the history alive.

I didn't speak to them about it

I don't know exactly
what their thoughts were.

And this one included Betsey's name.

There are…

So people assume
because the tombstone is

there with her name
on it that she's buried there

[music present but in background]

In all our research

we found a lot
of different stories.

And um

the one that she was buried

under the scaffolding

after the hanging, if it's true,

she couldn't have
been buried very long

because there was an
article in the New York Times

in 1845

that talked about her autopsy.

And in the autopsy they found

that her stomach was…

Had pieces of brick and glass

where she tried to commit suicide like

that to cheat the hangman.

And so

if they'd have buried her

I don't think
they would have just

dug her up. I don't.

It didn't make any sense

that she was buried underneath

the scaffolding.

The other

things that I read that

seemed the most feasible to me

and the research I did

showed that this is what they did

with a lot of murderers

at the time was they weren't

to be buried

on ground that had been blessed
or hollowed ground,

which were the cemeteries were,

since they had committed murder.

So they usually buried
them outside the gates

or the fence

instead of inside the cemetery.

So from what I read

there's an entrance at the old



and that she was
buried outside the gate.

And there was some kind of depression

you could see there for years.

And that supposedly was
where Betsey was buried.

[haunting ambience continues. Chimes]

Some people they still argue to this day

what happened after she was hung.

And this is where
the real mystery comes in.

Because it doesn't
matter who you talk to

everybody's got a
different opinion on this.

There's some historical
accounts that state

she was hung (buried) right there

on the old where
the old football field

at right underneath the gallows.


the historical records show in some

of the records that

the doctors and there was

a group of medical students

that dug up her body

and used it you know

for examination.

Used it for medical
purposes, back in the day.

That's one story.

Another story is the family actually

dug up Elizabeth Reed

and brought her to where we

are currently standing today,

which is Baker Cemetery.

And that's the whole mystery

behind this thing too.

Is she actually buried here?

Those people that claim she's not.

There's hardcore skeptics that say

she is not buried in the cemetery.

[gentle but ominous ambience continues]

[sounds like synthesized
vocalization. No words]

(Roger Creed) Okay I lived in this area for
about 40 years,

about a mile a half up the road here.

I was on the cemetery board for

about eight years back in the late 90s

early 2000's.

And our duties were to repair stones and

trim brush.

This guy had this dowsing rod that he used

to find graves.

When he located the grave

we would try to find

to see if there was a missing stone.



he went over to Betsey's grave,

just for the heck of it,


he found actually two graves there.

And we were poking around trying to find

maybe another stone

and I found a I found that stone

it's got “ER” on it.

I dug it up.

Re-buried it because I didn't

want somebody to come along steal it.

But since then

somebody has placed it in concrete,

not exactly in the
place that I found it but

somebody has placed it in concrete.

[music ended]

[new ambient music slowly fades in]

[long synth notes with echoes throughout]

[very eerie and creepy]

[bell chimes in the distance]

[deep, base thuds]

[music title: Death by
murder death by hanging ]

[long, synthesizer base
note continues to hold]

[bell in the distance]

[obscure noises and echoes]

[possible synth voices, male]

[sounds like, "ahhhhhhhhhh"]

[no words, only ambient music]

(Snider) Some of the paranormal activity

and claims that we have

heard about and even experienced

ourselves in the cemetery:

People have reported
seeing Elizabeth

Reed walk around in here in a white dress.

And if you look at the historical accounts

that's what they say she was

buried in because

she was hung in her white dress.

She rode to her execution site

on top of coffin
in a white dress.

People reported seeing Elizabeth Reed

walking around here

at all hours of the night and

even daytime reports

of a lady in a white dress here.

That's one of the ghost stories

you know behind this cemetery,

that she still walks the cemetery grounds.

And people have also reported seeing her go

up and down the lane of the cemetery.

That's one of the cool ghost

stories behind this place.

And it's got to have some type of

evidence behind…

Some type of real thing going on

because there's been so many people

report this event that

we can't really discount it

as people's imaginations

because there's been
so many people see and experience that.

People actually told me that they

see something white move out of the corner

of their eye

and they'll turn and
look and it's not there.

It's never

a defined shape, a dress or anything.

It's just a white blur.

And multiple people have told stories that

didn't associate with each other.

They just came to me and said,

“hey I was there
and this is what I experienced.”

It's weird when more
than one person tells you

(Snider) For sure.

A story that when they weren't together

when it happened.

We have some

records that state that

she was buried underneath

the gallows

when the doctors did the autopsy.

([ambience continues)

But if she was buried there she wasn't

buried there to stay there.

Then there was

the idea that she was going

to be buried in the city cemetery.

The upstanding ladies of the town were not

about to have this “bloodthirsty tigress”

buried in their cemetery.

And so

in the play I had some

upstanding women of the community

stop them from

burying her in the cemetery.

And those women

repeated some of the

items that were supposedly given in

her confession

that was to be published.

And they also gave some other items that I

found in newspaper reports.

But then we believe

that her body was removed.

If she was buried in the city cemetery

it was removed and then buried

in Crawford County

or close to that line by

some relatives of the family.

I believe that she her body was removed

from and reinterred at the Baker Cemetery

in Crawford County.

I accept that notion.

Okay there is the mystery

is she buried here or not.

My opinion is that she

that she is.

Of course I don't know.
Nobody knows.

But some of the things
I've seen and heard

I believe she is buried here.

I was talking to an old timer

up the road here

and his grandfather, I believe it was

his grandfather, said that one night

he looked over here
and saw a bunch of lights.

So he came over here

to see what was going on

and he found

several men with shovels and lanterns,

horses and a wagon.

And he asked them what

they were doing and they said,

“This is none of your concern

you need to leave.”

So he left.

And that's the night that we think

she was reburied

by family members.

[bell tolls in distance
throughout ambience]

Yeah I mean

and you know we've kind of backed up

a lot of the claims here too

with scientific evidence.

We try to rule out

out all natural explanations before

we come to the determination

a location's haunted.

We've brought a lot of equipment

out here over the years.

We've used emf meters,

thermal imaging cameras.

We've set up infrared

camera systems.

We've been out here

night after night trying

to collect evidence of paranormal activity

out here.

One of the strange occurrences

that do take place out here

are strange electromagnetic field spikes.

We've had our tri-field meter

like just spike out here.

We've had emf meters go to like

anywhere from
3.2 to 7.2 milligauss for no reason.

We've documented and recorded strange

field phenomena out here,

balls of light,

just everything you can imagine

from strange feelings

to people smelling things.

I mean a lot of people

will also report the

smell of chocolate out here,

which is kind of weird because this is

another paranormal event

that's associated with this cemetery

that's not what really

related to the Betsey Reed story.

But over in that part of the

cemetery, over here,

there's a Heath buried over there.

The Heath family.

And if you look back into Crawford County

history the Heath bar was actually invented

in Robinson, I believe.
(Dickerson) Mmmhmmm

You've got some of the Heaths buried here

in Baker Cemetery and
(chuckles) people report

the smell of chocolate,
which is really strange.

On one of my haunted tours,

this is kind of strange,

I had a psychic come up to me.

And this psychic,
and this has happened on

two different occasions,
two different people

that claim to be psychic

have told me the same story.

They said that Elizabeth

dances over here

and she likes it when I bring people here

on haunted tours.

And they say that she dances

around over here in the corner.

[background ambience very soft]

[faint echoes and airy sounds]

[ambient noises fade away]

Here at Baker,

over the times
that we've been investigating,

we'll get one lead

and we'll think that,

“Okay this is
the story and this is it.”

And then…

I'm a big believer in synchronicity

and I don't think
anything's a coincidence.

And it just seems odd that

when we're looking for something,

something pops up that has

something to do with what

we're looking for.

So in the process of
investigating this place,

I mean there's
probably three or four other

places that we need to investigate

that's attached to this place.

No one really knows.

No one documented the story

so it's all hand-me-down stuff.

And one person says

you know,

“Well my family
member knows this and said this”…

None of it's documented so

there's no written proof. Everything is

a story.

There's no

there's no truth

that you can actually
read like look it up.

Cold hard fact this is what happened.

I think that's part of the
mystery of the place.

I think that's what draws everybody here.

[music begins. Synthesized
female vocalization.]

[haunting melody]

[music title: Beyond the grave]

This is the story of Elizabeth Betsey Reed

whose alleged crime, attempted escape

trial, conviction, execution, and burial

are debated to this day.

Modern perceptions lead many to look upon

the settlers of the 1800's as backwater,

superstitious hicks

the Reed case wasn't deliberated

by the superstitious or the ignorant.

Rather, it was judged by the Chief Justice

of the Illinois Supreme Court,

argued by a former attorney general,

and a future Illinois governor.

The challenges the pioneers faced

and overcame on a daily basis

would overwhelm the
majority of citizens today.

Modern misconceptions allow us

to dismiss the fantastic

in the light of day

while haunting our dreams at night.

[haunting angelic
vocalization and eerie synth]

(Narrator) We leave you with one final

mysterious piece of evidence

that has been provided by

the Crawford County Illinois Ghost Hunters:

An evp recording which
they believe is a direct

answer to the question,


did you kill your husband?”

[music ends sharply]

[White noise]

[difficult to understand female voice]

[repeats phrase]

(sounds like, “I'm Innocent”)

[somber synthesizer music]

[rhythmic beat and repeating 3 note melody]

[music title: Discovery]

[music fades to end]