BURRILLVILLE – While those with an interest in the supernatural flock to Burrillville from destinations far and wide with hopes to catch a glimpse of the unknown, the grave of one woman defamed by the story that brought them to town sits desecrated.
Repaired many times, the stone at Bathsheba Sherman’s final resting place remains broken since vandals last destroyed it in 2019. Sherman was identified as the ghost responsible for the haunting portrayed in the 2013 hit horror movie The Conjuring, based on tales spawned from a 300-year-old Round Top Road farmhouse known as the Arnold Estate.
But in reality, Sherman had no involvement with the property, according to historians. The real life Sherman, accused years later of becoming a malevolent spirt, was born on March 10, 1812, to parents, Ephraim Thayer and Hannah Taft. She lived nearby, and was buried in Harrisville Cemetery following her death in 1885.
“It was not until the 1970’s that mysterious rumors sprang up out of thin air, ruining Bathsheba’s reputation posthumously,” said J’aime Rubio, a writer who has done extensive research on Sherman.
The fact has done little to deter vandals, who have repeatedly knocked over and destroyed the gravestone.
Burrillville-based husband and wife team Betty and Carlo Mencucci are members of the Association for Graveyard Studies, and have more than once taken on the time-consuming task of restoring the stone.
It never lasts.
In 2017, the pair spent some 30 volunteer hours on the tedious restoration job using their own supplies, only to find it broken again two years later. Pieces of the historic stone were moved to a secure location, and have remained there since.
Now, Rubio aims to right that wrong, and to install security to protect the marker from future damage.
“It really saddens me that Bathsheba’s grave has been desecrated by vandals and by time and the elements itself, and yet no one wants to right the wrong that had been done to her name, by helping restore or replace her stone,” she said.
Rubio points to the films, TV specials and other money-making gimmicks based on the legend that have recently taken place at the farmhouse.
“With all the famous paranormal celebrities jumping on the bandwagon in the recent years, I am astonished that no one has offered to help pay to restore Bathsheba’s grave, especially since they go out of their way to pretend to care about the story,” Rubio said. “They have the means to help and they don’t.”
“It is disheartening that there is no accountability for anyone’s actions,” she said.
Now, Rubio has started a fundraising campaign to pay for the restoration. A GoFundMe page with a goal of raising $2,000 will benefit Burrillville Historical & Preservation Society. The Mencuccis are members of BH & PS, with Betty serving as president, and through the organization, the couple has performed gravestone restoration work in dozens of the historic cemeteries in town.
Rubio notes that Burrillville’s most often maligned deceased was buried with her first husband, Judson Sherman, and all of Bathsheba’s children are also interred at the Harrisville cemetery. None of the children died of any suspicious or questionable circumstances, and Bathsheba died an old woman in her bed at home.
She said funding will restore the stone along with security cameras.
“I am not rich by any means, otherwise I would have cut the historical society a check to take care of this long ago, but I am just a normal person who writes about history because I love it,” said Rubio, who lives in California. “This is the only way I could think of helping out and (am) hoping finally, this will get done.”
Editor’s note: An original version of this article misstated that Bathsheba Sherman was buried in Riverside Cemetery. We apologize for the error.