Balladeer’s Blog presents another neglected American horror legend for Halloween Month.


PlagueIn Boston in 1775, shortly after the Revolutionary War had broken out a mysterious old seamstress wandered into the rebel-held countryside. This woman always wore a mantel wrapped about her in such a way that most of her face was always obscured.

The gentle and apparently very aged woman would beg a night’s lodging in the homes she visited, offering to do any sewing work that needed done by way of paying her way. Many families were happy to take her up on that bartering offer. 

The seamstress always moved on the next morning but always claimed to be from different locations. She also gave offense at every household as she departed by taking one of the children aside and telling them a story about their future. The story always ended with some awful fate befalling the child.  

By the time the woman had angered enough families she was on to the next town and with the war going on most people would have forgotten the eccentric woman … if not for the deaths.

At least one or two people died in each household where the seamstress stopped. Others were deathly ill and bed-ridden. With the number of victims climbing a few of the remaining able-bodied men pursued the woman to get to the bottom of things.

When the woman was at last captured several towns west of Boston her mantle was ripped off her body to reveal a Royalist called Lady Eleanore. She had been a particularly haughty woman in the pre-war days, forever abusing her family contacts to make the rebels-in- waiting miserable.

She wore a grey wig to make herself look older, but smallpox had ravaged her face, stealing her former beauty and fueling her hatred. She had set out with the wicked scheme to spread the disease as far as she could among the “commoners” as she called them.

She always sewed some threads from her own contaminated garments into the clothing she mended for the families she visited. Thus her demonic plan had started the spread of the smallpox epidemic that would ravage the entire North American continent from 1775 to the early 1780s.

Lady Eleanore was imprisoned near Boston but before she could be brought to trial the disease she had passed on to so many others had claimed her life as well. +++

Arguments still rage over just what caused the smallpox epidemic of the 1770s – 1780s, so obviously this old legend was a classic example of a folk tale being fueled by the jingoistic attitudes of all cultures at war.    


© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Filed under Halloween Season


  1. This one seemed more like a tall tale than a horror story.

  2. Biological warfare oldfashioned style

  3. Very nice but creepy story!

  4. Not as scary as the other ones of these.

  5. Spreading diseases that way is chilling.

  6. Weird kind of biological warfare the British used on us.

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