Museums are a magical place, they have the power to take you back in time. Each object on display, tells a story.
But what you may not be aware of, is that there are some objects that are not on display. Some that have a history so dark. That they must be locked way. One of these objects is a Chest of Drawers.
It was donated to the Kentucky History Museum in 1976 and there It still sits, in a storage room, locked away from the public eye. It stands 45.5 inches high, 44.5 inches wide and 25 inches deep. Its color is of a deep mahogany, with four drawers and glass knobs, the top being curved and extended out from the other three. There are panels at either side of the top drawer with an acanthus leaf design. A truly beautiful work of art. But, why is it hidden away? What’s there to fear?
This Chest of Drawers, has a name. The Conjure Chest, and it’s said to be cursed.
Now, if you know of the Conjure Chest, the names that I’ll be mentioning may throw you off. The names that you know of, originated in a newspaper article in 1982 to protect the identity of the family. Since then, a book has been written and released about the history of the Conjure Chest. You can find the book (Here)
The story begins in 1840, on a Plantation in Kentucky. The owner, Jeremiah Graham, was said to be a cruel man. Ever ready to discipline his slave with a beating whenever he saw fit. When he learned that his wife was carrying their son. He went to his one of his slaves Remus, who also happened to be the best Craftsman in Kentucky and demanded him to craft a chest for his unborn son.
And so, he did, he worked tirelessly night and day in his workshop creating the perfect chest for his master. Once he was finished, what stood before him was a magnificent chest of drawers. One that anyone would have wanted in their home. However, for whatever reason, Jeremiah did not see it that way. What he saw, infuriated him.He beat Remus mercilessly and sadly, he died of his injuries days later.
Remus’s friends and fellow slaves wanted revenge for the senseless murder. Late one night, while Jeremiah Graham slept, they snuck into Remus’s workshop with their leader and “Conjure Man.” They opened a drawer to the chest and sprinkled dried owl’s blood while they hummed and danced a song of conjure.
Their plan was to summon an evil power and Curse the Graham family from generation to generation.For whatever reason, whether it was the effects of the Curse, or sudden feelings of Remorse, Jeremiah took the chest that he hated so much, and it was placed in his son’s nursery.
When Jeremiah’s son was born, his clothes were placed into the Chest next to his bed. Shortly after, the baby passed away from unknown causes. Thus, beginning the Curse of the Conjure Chest.
Jeremiah’s brother, had a son and wanted to give him the perfect gift on his birthday. With the chest of Drawers being unused, he sent it over to his nephew. On his 21st birthday, Jeremiah’s nephew was stabbed by one of his servants.
It seemed Jeremiah escaped the curse of the Chest as he died peacefully in his sleep at old age. The Chest was inherited by one of his sons Moses, who lived his life as a bachelor. He soon met Amanda, who was three times younger than he was. The two married and Amanda, knowing of the Chest’s background locked it up in the attack. Not wanting to risk anymore death in her new family.
Amanda’s younger sister, Catherine met and quickly married an Irishman named John Ryan. However, they had nowhere to live and raise a family. With Moses and Amanda doing well and owning several farms, they gladly gave the couple a farm of their own to run.
While giving birth to and raising several Children, Catherine also worked hard on the farm, breeding and slaughtering animals for food, she was overworked and tired. John did very little to help his wife. He just sat back and enjoyed the fruits of her labor. Amanda saw Catherine’s discontent and offered to help in any way she could. John,ungrateful and spiteful never allowed Amanda to help and eventually stopped her from coming over.
But, Amanda couldn’t allow her sister to remain miserable, the only happiness she ever saw was the sunset. Amanda then remembered the Chest of Drawers, locked in the attic,covered in cobwebs.
She faintly remembered why she placed it up there, however by this point since nothing has happened to them, nor anyone else. She chalked it up to just “Talk.”
The Chest of Drawers was cleaned and delivered to her sister. Hoping that it would bring some light and happiness into Catherine’s life. But, the conjure chest had different plans.
Not long after being gifted the chest, Catherine’s husband left her and the children for a life in New Orleans. Catherine, broken-hearted and with no more fight left in her, became bedridden and passed away, grey haired, and barely out of her thirties.
Whether it was Karma, or The Curse of the Chest, shortly after Catherine’s death. John, living in New Orleans was bashed in the head by a steamboats gangplank and died.
With no one left to care for the Children, Amanda sent Moses to bring them back. They couldn’t care for them all, so they were sent to live with other relatives. Moses however,was taken by the youngest daughter, three-year-old Eliza. The moment when her an to him with her arms open, he knew he needed to raise her himself.
Eliza grew before his eyes into a beautiful and smart young woman. When Eliza turned 16, she passed her exams, and became a school teacher. Not even two months after being a teacher, she met and married a man by the name of John Gregory, a clerk at a shoe store. As a present Amanda gifted them the Chest of Drawers.
Even though she had the chest, Eliza didn’t use it right away. She had a few children, and adopted a young orphan named Mabel.
Years passed, and It seemed as though the Curse was long forgotten. When Mabel got married, Eliza placed her wedding dress in the chest after the ceremony. Shortly after, Mabel’s husband suddenly died.
This began a series of events that would make the Curse of the Conjure chest stick in the minds of the family who owned it.
-Mabel lost her child after she placed her clothes in the chest.
-Eliza’s Daughter in law placed her wedding dress in the chest, she died
-Eliza’s Aunt Sarah hid a birthday present for her son in the Drawer for Christmas, a few days before Christmas he fell through a trestle and was killed.
Two more tragedies effected Eliza’s family, her son in law deserted her daughter, and a child suffered an injury and was crippled for the rest of her life.
With so much tragedy in the family, Eliza’s husband John was still doing remarkable well, he had become a successful business man. When he died, he had owned a farm, a coal yard, a lumber mill, a department store and in total owned 5 homes.
Even with so much, Eliza felt as though she had nothing after her husband died. She moved to a different room in the house, so she wasn’t reminded of her husband, she also moved the chest into her room.
With so much pain in her heart, and with disappointment for two of her children, Eliza took her own life in 1914.
The Chest was then inherited by Virginia Cary Hudson from her grandmother Eliza. She heard the stories of the curse and numerous tragedies that had befallen her ancestors.However, she felt as though the stories were just tall tales. It wasn’t until she placed her baby girl’s clothes into the Chest that she realized she was wrong.
After the death of her daughter, she used the chest for her other child, who then contracted infantile paralysis. When she put the wedding dress of another daughter in the chest, her daughter’s husband died.A friend of the family came and placed his hunting clothes in the chest, the next day while he was out hunting, he was shot. Virginia’s son was stabbed in the hand after he placed his clothes in the chest.
Virginia had had enough, she wanted this curse to be over. It had taken so much from her family. She asked an old family friend, Sallie if she knew how to remove a conjure. She did, and she began to give her instructions.
First, she needed an owl, however it must have been given to them by a friend. An owl? How was she to get an owl from a friend? She then remembered, that in her son’s room, there was a stuffed owl that was given to them by a friend.
Next, she needed to have leaves from a willow tree, but it had to have been planted by a friend. As luck would have it, she had a friend. Mrs. Hoover, who had planted a Willow tree many years back. Virginia hoped the tree was still there. So, she got into her car and drove over there, and sure enough there it was. Sallie had told her that “Willow means sorrow” and that she needed one leaf for every victim of the Conjure Chest.
Virginia plucked 16 leaves off the willow tree. The next step was to put the leave in a pot and boil them from sun up to sun down adding water and to watch for the Curse-Breaking Owl.
When that was completed, the water needed to be placed in a jug and buried under a flowering tree with the jugs handle facing the east.
Sallie took Virginia aside a few days later and told her solemnly. “If this works, once the flowers have fallen from the tree. One of us will die, and the curse will be lifted.”
The days came and went, the flowers on the tree soon began to fall. On the day that the last flower fell. Sallie took ill and passed away September 1946.
The Chest was kept in the Hudson family until 1976 when it was finally donated to the Kentucky History Museum. Inside the second drawer, there sits a bag and inside, are the Owl feathers, with a note next to it, warning all who open the drawer to never place anything inside of it.
Well, what did you think of the Conjure Chest? Will you come back for another?