Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Oddities & Curiosities: Haunting of Dorothy “Dolly Mammy” Pauls Messick

The urban legend of Dorothy “Dolly Mammy” Pauls Messick began in the marshes of Messick. (WYDaily/Nancy Sheppard)
Welcome to Oddities & Curiosities…
This limited series, which will run every Friday throughout September and October 2021, will dive into some of the odd, curious, and intriguing things in and around the Historic Triangle! -Ed.

POQUOSON — On a small peninsula at the southern end of Poquoson sits Messick Point, a location sits that provides a backdrop to an urban legend that’s been passed down among the city’s residents from generation to generation.

This would be the story of Dorothy “Dolly Mammy” Pauls Messick, a hardworking woman from Poquoson who is said to have haunted her “lazy” daughters for years after her death because they refused to help her with a task.

There are different versions of Dolly’s story, with some saying that she died in the late 1850s and others reporting it was 1904, but, no matter what version is told, the legend still says that her ghost haunts the area to this day.

It was a cold day in the marshes of Messick, clouds dark and winds raging. Preparing for a storm to hit, Dolly Mammy asked her two teenage daughters to help her bring in the cows from the marshland, but the girls refused.

Angry, but deciding that she had no time to continue to argue with her daughters, Dolly wrapped herself in a cloak and left the small wooden farmhouse to head into the marshland by herself.

When Dolly did not return by dark, her daughters started to get worried. However, because of the storm, the girls could do nothing but wait until the morning.

Messick Point in Poquoson is near the location where Dolly Mammy was discovered after suffocating in a sinkhole. (WYDaily/Nancy Sheppard)

The next day, a search party of friends and neighbors was assembled and they trudged through the swamps to try to locate Dolly.

It was at a site in Poquoson known as Bells Oyster Gut where a leg was discovered to be sticking up out of a deep mud patch, and Dolly’s body was soon recovered.

Dolly was supposedly sucked into a sinkhole and, unable to free herself, she suffocated.

Soon after Dolly’s death, her daughters began to hear mysterious knockings. Each day when the sun set, they heard the loud knockings echoing through the house that were even heard by neighbors all throughout Messick, terrifying the residents.

The strange occurrences did not stop there. The daughters, who slept together in a trundle bed, awoke to find their hair had been braided together while they were sleeping. The girls would also sometimes awaken to find deep scratches and marks covering their faces.

In one instance, the girls’ bed lifted from the floor and levitated in the air during the night.

The unexplainable encounters terrified neighbors, and soon word reached an Army officer from Fort Monroe, who came to visit the site with his men.

He had his troops search the house from top to bottom and the surrounding land, but found nothing. They stayed that night, with men guarding the house.

As usual, the loud knockings began and the men were terrified. The frightened officer went home to write about the events in a report and told his wife of the incident.

The officer learned of a medium who might be able to help, and she showed up to the house to hold a seance with the daughters and a few other family members.

Messick Point in Poquoson (WYDaily/Nancy Sheppard)

The medium communicated with the spirit and asked it to make itself known. Suddenly, a knock could be heard and a shadowy figure appeared in a chair and began to knit.

Following a command from the medium, a loud, shrill shrieking sound was heard from the figure, resembling a moan or a laugh, effectively scaring the group and ending the séance.

Versions of the story vary, with some saying that this séance was the last appearance of the supernatural force, while some say that the hauntings did not end until one of the daughters died.

Each version of the urban legend states that there is a patch of ground in the Poquoson Commons where nothing will grow – the exact spot where Dolly Mammy’s body was found.

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