BURRILLVILLE – After multiple repairs, the 1885 headstone of the woman accused of haunting the family depicted in The Conjuring has again been damaged, and has been removed from the cemetery indefinitely.
The stone belongs to Bathsheba Sherman, a name made famous by the 2013 blockbuster horror movie. Accused of witchcraft and blamed for the demonic hauntings of the Perron family, Sherman died in 1885, and was buried in Riverside Cemetery.
Her headstone has been vandalized more than once over the past few years. And according to local experts, it’s been weakened over time and won’t withstand additional damage.
Husband and wife team Betty and Carlo Mencucci are members of the Association for Graveyard Studies, and have made it their mission to restore such stones, found in some 130 graveyards across town.
Betty notes that like many in the historic Callahan School Street cemetery, Sherman’s stone was broken long ago, but in 2011, an unknown party repaired the marble structure.
But the wrong methods and materials were used according to Mencucci, leaving it “very unstable and in danger of tipping over.”
“I remember seeing it, and it was so unstable that a light wind could have blown it over,” she said.
In August of 2013, the stone did tip over, but was again repaired by an outside party before the Mencuccis could retrieve it.
“Whether someone gave it a shove or whether a breeze blew it over or whether someone just touched it or leaned on it a little, we’ll never know,” Mencucci said. “Again this person used improper methods and materials, but this time it was more stable.”
The headstone held up for three years before someone knocked it over and again re-broke it.
This time the historic experts got it, and spent some 30 hours repairing the headstone, removing all of the old, improper adhesives.
“This is a long, tedious process that must be done with great care to make sure you don’t damage the marble as marble is a very soft stone,” said Mencucci.
The couple cleaned and set the structure with the proper materials, filling in a missing piece on the bottom piece with an expensive material that is similar to the properties of the marble stone.
Now, just three years later, it has again been destroyed.
Mencucci, who said she drives by the Harrisville cemetery every few weeks to check on the stones, was the one who reported the vandalism to police on Friday, June 14.
“I saw Bathsheba’s stone was knocked over and broken in three different pieces, and also multiple small fragments broken away around and at the inscription lines,” said Mencucci. “The infill that we made broke away and is missing; I assume it was stolen.”
Now, the historic stone has been moved to a secure location.
“This stone cannot withstand being broken again,” said Mencucci. “We have no plans to put this stone back up until we can get some type of security either in the form of fencing, surveillance, etc.”
Mencucci notes that while the person who previously repaired the stone had the best of intentions, those not trained in how to repair such structures can actually do more damage.
“The Burrillville Historical & Preservation Society strongly advises people not to attempt to repair broken headstones without first getting training as to the correct methods and materials, especially on marble and slate stones,” said Mencucci. “It is difficult, and many times impossible, to remove some of these incorrect materials without doing more damage to the stone.”
The society is always looking for volunteers to help clean cemeteries and help with tasks such as cutting brush and raking. Volunteering their time and expertise, Betty and Carlo have completed preservation work in 28 of the town’s 130 cemeteries, reseting all the leaning stones and repairing broken stones.
“We need volunteers to weed-whack the cemeteries where preservation work is complete,” Mencucci said.
As for Sherman’s stone, it will remain outside the cemetery until a solution can be found to protect it.
Mencucci said she plans to put up a sign that explains the situation.