It’s said that the town of Lafayette, Oregon has been cursed since the 1800s when a woman was accused of witchcraft and then hung for her alleged crimes. Before her execution, she placed a curse on the town, saying that it would burn down three times–and it has since burned in its entirety twice–those who are wary of the curse she placed wonder when it will happen again! To this day, her ghost is seen roaming the town’s cemetery. Another version of the legend has it that in 1886, a woman and her son killed the woman’s boyfriend, her son was arrested and hanged for the crime–in this version of the story, while her son was being executed, his mother screamed that the town would burn down three times.
Here’s the real story…
Richard Marple, his mother Anna, and his wife Julia moved to Lafayette, Oregon from Corvallis in 1885. Despite the availability of jobs, Richard was unable to keep a job, so he turned to a life of crime–allegedly–but he was suspected of multiple robberies. Between 1885 and 1886, his mother Anna became involved with a local shop owner by the name of David Corker. Unfortunately, on November 1, 1886, Corker was found hacked to death by an ax and his store had been pillaged and town Sheriff Harris brought Richard in for questioning. While Richard was not a fan of Corker–even disparaging the man during his questioning–he maintained his innocence. Evidence of his guilt, including a bloody shirt, a bloody piece of paper, as well as tools that he could have used to break into the store were found at his home. Richard, not relenting, made a claim that the evidence had been planted at his home by the sheriff’s office to frame him.
Neither his mother nor his wife corroborated his alibi and stated that he had not been at home when the murder was being committed; Richard was subsequently convicted of first-degree murder on April 9, 1887. His mother, Anna, was indicted as an accomplice, but a lack of evidence resulted in the charges against her being dropped. By November 11, 1887 Richard was set to be executed by hanging next to the county jail and thirty people bore witness to his death. Sheriff Harris ordered that Richard be executed with a black hood over his head, and Richard desperately yelled one last thing out into the crowd, “Murder! May God judge you all!” Unfortunately for Richard, when the trap door was released, the knot slipped under his chin and instead of breaking his neck, he was slowly strangled to death over the span of eighteen minutes.
It is true that during Richard’s execution, his mother Anna shouted that the town would burn and never prosper–after his death, Richard was buried at the Oddfellow’s Masonic Cemetery in Lafayette. According to sources, Richard apparently confessed his guilt to a fellow inmate while his execution was pending and ended up implicating his mother, stating that she had become involved with Corker in order to gain his confidence. After Richard’s execution, his mother moved to Jackson County for the remainder of her life and was buried in the cemetery there. Several years after she moved out of the area, their home in Lafayette was destroyed and the bloody ax used to kill Corker was discovered. It’s not known whether Anna Marple was a witch or a gypsy, but since she was not buried in Lafayette, it is unlikely that she haunts any of the area’s cemeteries. The fact that she was reported to have cursed the town to burn down and it completely burned down twice may have been entirely coincidental. Fires were actually a commonplace occurrence that people had to face in the years before buildings were constructed out of less-flammable materials.