The Red Tide

Informant: The informant here is an Irish Catholic girl from Beverly, Massachusetts, a small town made out of the original Salem settlement and as such a traditionally superstitious area.


I’ll tell you about the Girl Scout leader. She’s kinda scary. Okay, so yeah, Salem, I’m from there. My Girl Scout leader, and her family, the Estes, were one of the big Salem families and they’re direct descendants of Rebecca Nurse, one of the witches who was killed. And supposedly if a woman has two different-colored eyes, then she was a witch, and a really powerful one. And my Girl Scout leader was probably like eighty-five and she had two different-colored eyes so everyone said “oh, there’s the witch” and she was actually so nice, we had no reason to assume she was a witch. And when she was really young, around my mom’s age, she had a baby and the baby pulled the TV down on himself and died and that night it was, I think the blizzard of ’78. Some blizzard in the seventies where a bunch of people died and it was that night or the next day. And when Mrs. Estes died at eighty-something and of natural causes, a red tide rolled in and it killed all of the seafood for several months. So witches. Natural energy. My mom was the one who told me all of this. And I guess the story was pretty common in my tiny little town amongst the townies, like the Estes are the witches, that’s just who they are. Kinda common in my town. Scary as hell.


Elements of the supernatural are a common trend in folklore, but rarely are they taken seriously. A major exception to this occurred in Salem, Massachusetts during Puritan times, in which nearly a dozen citizens were burned at the stake for suspicion of being witches. The area remained superstitious up to the modern day, with the later generations of these supposed “witches” finding more mundane professions, like a Girl Scout leader. The idea that a person can be more in tune with the natural order things or possess some extranormal, occasionally malevolent, power pervades much folklore due to both the wish fulfillment nature of such stories and the element of fear that attaches to it. And when human events and greater climatological events coincide, one can never be truly certain that they’re just coincidence.