HER VACANT CHAIR
Updated: Jun 6
MAYFLOWER HILL CEMETERY
DATE(S) VISITED: MAY 28, 2023
LOCATION: TAUNTON, MA
This marble rocking chair memorial is the resting place of Pearl E. French. She was born on August 21, 1878, and died on March 26, 1882, at the age of 3 years, 5 months, and 25 days. Due to this being a unique looking grave marker it has acquired a lot of legends to surface around it over the years. It was said that Pearl was scolded by her mother and was told to sit in the corner. Her mother had to head out to the store and before leaving told her, “Don’t leave the chair while I am gone.” Whilst she was gone the house caught fire and the young girl died as she followed her mothers order.
As gruesome and dramatic as this story sounds, it has been debunked from archival records as they clearly state that Pearl sadly passed away from Spinal Disease. Her parents are listed as Alson & Ida Johnson. She had a younger brother Carl born two years after her birth, who was living with his father and grandfather in the 1900 census. Her mother Ida died in 1898 at a young age from diabetes.
There is also no mention of a fire in any records, and considering Massachusetts death records were well regulated by the late 19th century I think we can safely say that no fire ever existed. It just goes to show how legends can be made up and be passed on, probably having more added to them as the years progress. This is probably why there are so many different versions of the story.
Another legend surrounding this grave is that people have said they have witnessed glowing lights near it at night, and some say they have even seen it moving, rocking backwards and forwards. Could unsuspecting passers-by just be seeing firefly's? Or is it a trick of the light with reflections from the marble making it seem like the chair is moving? Who knows? But "Her Vacant Chair" will be a forever legend for the resident's of Taunton, MA. Even to this day people leave toys and trinkets at Pearls grave to pay tribute to a girl that sadly died too young.
Goth/Industrial band Batavia released an album back in 2022 which features 8 tracks related to folklore and legends. They wrote a wonderful piece of music about this very one, aptly named "Her Vacant Chair".