By Kathi Kresol
This story has been around for years, some people say it started circulating in the 1980s while others put the origin even further back. Over the years the story changed until there were several different versions.
One story claimed that there was an old witch named Beulah that lived in a house in some secluded woods on McGregor Road. She was allegedly responsible for abducting children to use in her satanic practices. Instead of deterring teenagers from going to the woman’s house, this story had the opposite effect.
Another version claimed that this woman had been a teacher in a one room schoolhouse located on McGregor Road. While Beulah was teaching one day, the building caught fire and two of her students died. Beulah was so devastated by the fire she purchased the school and turned it into her home. The parents of the children she taught held her responsible for the deaths and ostracized Beulah. The guilt she felt and the treatment by the locals pushed her over the edge into insanity. She was seen wandering the woods around her house, calling to the children that were lost in the fire. Beulah was sometimes accompanied by her two large German Shepherds, one white and one black.
No matter the version heard, the stories always caused the same reaction and gave locals a reason to drive by Beulah’s house at all hours of the night and day. These visitors would throw items into her yard and beep their horns in an attempt to get a glimpse of the witch.
Researching stories like these for anything factual is always challenging and this story is no different. There are no newspaper articles for the time period (Beulah was supposedly alive into the 1980s) claiming that anyone named Beulah was a witch.
There was an article, however, about two men who were arrested for harassing a retired school teacher who lived on McGregor and Weldon Roads. The 1973 article listed the elderly woman’s name as Marie Buskie and further research confirmed this as the identity of the woman who lived on McGregor road.
Marie Buskie was born on May 7, 1907 to parents Richard and Augusta Buskie. There would be two boys and three girls born into the family. Marie was active in several clubs in high school and participated on the swim team. She showed interest in working with children as a teacher very early. The family was very involved in the Calvary Lutheran Church and Marie, like her sisters, would teach Sunday school there.
Marie and her sisters also appeared to be quite daring. In a newspaper article dated 1925, Marie and her sister, Lulu were attending college courses in DeKalb when the girls and their roommates decided to walk home to Rockford. The roommates gave up after only a few miles but the girls made it all the way to Rockford. They accepted a few rides from “kind motorists” but the girls estimated they walked over 22 miles. It took them five and a half hours to get home. The sisters decided to take the train back down to school, claiming that they had already obtained a good deal of their gym credits for the year.
Marie taught in several Rockford schools after obtaining her degree, including Highland and Kishwaukee schools. She also continued her work with children through her church and during summers at supervised playgrounds.
Unlike her siblings, who all married, Marie lived with her parents on Prairie Road until their deaths. Her mother died in 1949 and her father in 1958. Sometime in the early 1960s, she moved into the house on McGregor Road. Though Marie dedicated her life to children, she never had any of her own.
Marie was 78 years old when she died on March 31, 1986 in Amberwood Care Center on Rockton Avenue.
The legend of “Beulah the Witch” will, no doubt continue. The real mystery might just be why this elderly woman, who spent her life caring for children, would become the target of such maliciousness in the first place and why this story would continue for decades.