As Retold by Bekah Ferguson
(4 min read)
In 1761 Saint-Vallier, New France, fifteen months after the mysterious death of her first husband, Marie-Josephte Corriveau married a second farmer. Two years later he was found dead in the barn with his head smashed in. At first, his death was deemed accidental—multiple kicks from a horse’s hooves—but rumors of murder quickly spread about the town. The local British military authorities soon charged Marie-Josephte’s father, Joseph Corriveau. His daughter was thought to be an accessory only and given 60 lashes; the letter M branded onto her hand with a hot iron.
Joseph, however, admitted that his daughter was the murderer, claiming she’d killed her abusive husband with two blows from the back of a hatchet while he slept. Thus, thereby found guilty by the tribunal, she was put to death in Quebec City by hanging. Her corpse was fastened into an iron cage-gibbet and dangled from a tree branch at the crossroads of Saint-Joseph Street and De l’Entente Boulevard in Lévis. There it rotted on public display for an entire month; feasted upon by flies and maggots, torn asunder by crows.
It wasn’t long before the hauntings began. Travelers soon learned not to take the river road leading past the cage at night, lest her vacant eyes should glow blood red and her shackled, leathery arms should stretch out towards them. Even after the gibbet was taken down, her body buried within the cage, the hauntings continued; her spirit rising from the grave each night to torment travelers.
One such night, a well-known citizen named Dubé was walking alongside the St. Lawrence River when the air turned chill. He stopped short just as a pair of bony fingers closed in around his throat from behind. Tendrils of greasy black hair tickled his cheeks and a ragged voice whispered, “Take me across the river.” Dubé swung around, glimpsing over his shoulder a set of red eyes and yellow teeth within a face of putrefied flesh. He fell to his knees—tearing at the slimy hands that refused to let go. “Leave me!” he screamed, then passed out from fright. The next morning his wife found him and shook him awake on the vacant road. His story spread and a curate was called in to exorcise the spirit.
A century later, the cage was dug up during an expansion project and put in the church cellar. It was stolen and sold to an American who put it in his museum in a glass display case with a placard that read simply: “From Quebec.” In time it was returned to Canada and placed permanently in the Museum of Civilization in Quebec City.