Las Vegas sisters claim family link to Salem witch trials


Their homes sport Halloween decorations year-round, and they're not afraid of black cats crossing their path ---- but then, that's how witches are.

Mabel Maultsby, who lives in Desert Shores, and her sister, Victoria O'Conner, who lives on the east side of the valley, say they are descendents of one of the "witches" who was hung in Salem, Mass. Their great-grandmother six times over was Mary Towne Estey, who, along with two sisters, was hung in June 1692.

Even though the Las Vegas residents grew up in Stoughton, Mass., just south of Boston ---- a town named for William Stoughton, the one-time lieutenant governor who presided over Estey's trial ---- they lived most of their lives unaware of their witch trial ancestry. Stoughton and other magistrates condemned 13 women and five men of witchery.

In 2002, they learned from one of their cousins, who had delved into genealogy, of the link back to the Salem witch trials. The reason Estey had heirs was because she was hung when she was an old woman.

"She was born in 1624/1625 and hung in 1692, so she was old by then," said Maultsby, adding that another one of Estey's sisters also was accused but "could recite hymns and stuff from the Bible, and they said, 'Well, if you can recite the Bible, you must not be a witch.' But they still locked her up for quite a long time ... I guess in England, they were burning them at the stake at the time, so at least they were just hanging them here."

"Usually it was older women ... who were healing people with herbs ... historically, when we go to Salem, we hear that anybody who wasn't in church, in that religious group, were singled out," O'Conner said.

She told of a TV show, "Who Do You Think You Are?," that followed actress Sarah Jessica Parker as she traced her heritage. Parker's ancestors also were in Salem at the time of the witch trials.

"She didn't know if her ancestors were prosecutors or victims in the trial, and at the very end, she's walking through a cemetery, in the snow, and she wipes it (snow) off a gravestone, and that's the headstone for Mary Towne Estey," O'Conner said. "Of all the graves in there, she wiped away the snow on that one."

Since then, the sisters have embraced their witchy past and have fun with it each Halloween. While visiting family a few years back, they made a special trip to Salem and bought brooms and witch costumes. They try to visit Massachusetts in the fall for the changing colors.

Maultsby wears skeleton cuff links. O'Conner wears a pendant necklace from Salem that she never takes off. The pendant is a silver broom.

While some of their home decorations are cartoonish green-faced witches and oversized spiders spinning webs, others are a little more, well, witchy. There are mock potion bottles, a ceramic book with an "eye of newt" recipe and skull-topped wine bottle stoppers.

Maultsby makes small talk with players as she's dealing card games at the Bellagio, mentioning that she has a link to the Salem witch trials. She has perfected her witch's laugh to further entertain them. Since she found out her link to Salem, she has taken Halloween off from work. With the holiday comes traditions.

"It started out as a gag," she said. "I had Halloween off, and I went (into work) dressed up (in costume) ... I had so much fun that day, walking about in the Bellagio's conservatory, and people were stopping me to take pictures with them and everything. So for the last few years, I've dressed up every Halloween, and I haunt the Bellagio."

O'Conner has been a cocktail server at the Monte Carlo since it opened. Fellow employees joke with her about her long hair.

"They say, 'At least you're a good witch,' and I say, 'That depends entirely on you' ... I do cast (spells), never in anger, but I do," she said.

She displayed a photograph of the family in witch hats and cloaks.

"I take every Halloween off, and when I request it, I put in the comment section, 'religious holiday,' " O'Conner said in mock seriousness, "just to make sure they know where I stand. It's sacred ... we can openly be who we are."

She has a cabinet in her house with things from Salem. Her daughter, Tara, she said, would have friends over "and they'd see the items, and they'd say, 'Oh, you're all ready for Halloween,' and I'd say, 'Every day.' "

The pair say they are careful not to "cast spells" because if they inadvertently wish for something, the wish can come true.

Maultsby recalled trying to call in sick and was told by her casino boss that she had better make it in to work or else. She went to work but told him she wished he felt as poorly as she did. Maultsby couldn't finish her shift and was admitted to the hospital with appendicitis. Five hours later, so was he.

O'Conner told of winning a sports bet with a friend, Roger Reeves. He lost and was supposed to buy her a pizza. Reeves kept putting it off, so she cast a spell on his golf clubs. About a week later, they ran into one another.

"I asked him how his golf game was going, and he said, 'Gosh, it's been horrible.' I said, 'Well, pay your bet.' "

What does Tara, 13, think of all this?

"I'm kind of used to it by now," she said, adding that she doesn't tell her friends.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 702-387-2949.

 

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