Bret Norwood

Poet, Writer, Conlanger, Cartoonist

Witches' Circle, Sheridan, WY at Belleview Cemetary

The Witches’ Circle, Sheridan Wyoming (Bellevue Cemetery)

The young people of Sheridan, Wyoming, know the ruined monument in Sheridan’s old cemetery as “the Witches’ Circle,” and little else about it is common knowledge. The only additional information I have seen on the Witches’ Circle comes from an article in the Sheridan Press weekend edition dated March 10, 11, 2012, and titled “A Place of Rest” by Caitlin Addlesperger.

Who Built the Witches’ Circle?

An Origin Stranger than the Urban Legend: a Sun Temple of Osiris

Bellevue Memorial Park was created in 1930 by developers George Carroll and his son, Granville, as a private cemetery. After selling 225 plots in five years, including the burial plots of several eminent early Sheridanites, the Great Depression led to the sale of the property, and to its closure. Bellevue Cemetery remained closed for nearly 50 years, until its purchase by Sheridan Municipal Cemetery in 1981.

The designer of the cemetery’s defining pergola is known, Edith Goelet Gallatin, but Addlesperger did not recover any information about the Witches’ Circle from the designer’s notes.

The type-written caption of a 1936 photo of the pergola, showing its missing tympanum and flowers at its base, refers to the circle as a “100 ft. diameter Sun Temple dedicated to Osirus [sic].” The photo is in the collection of the Sheridan Fulmer Public Library’s Wyoming Room.

witches_circle_bellevue_wyoming_room

Similarly, a 1984 article in the Billings Gazette, according to Addlesperger, cites an expert who was under the impression the pergola replicates an Egyptian temple. The article in the Gazette also points out that the columns function as a sun calendar similar to ancient stone circles around the world (including, famously, Stonehenge, or, locally, the Medicine Wheel of the Bighorns). This source apparently claims Native Americans had already established a sun calendar on the hill that would become Bellevue hundreds of years prior.

The article notes how the sun rises during an equinox, framed by the east entrance to the pergola, “out of a defined swell in the hills, which represents the Egyptian god [sic] Isis; when it sets in a notch in the mountains, near Steamboat, it represents her husband Osiris.” This evokes the Ancient Egyptian symbol of the sun disk nested between two hills, a significant cult symbol that occurs in the Papyrus of Ani (commonly called the Egyptian Book of the Dead), and which was connected to eternal life in the religion of the Sun.

Ancient Egyptian Akhet from Ani Papyrus

 

It cannot be known whether any of this is true to the designer’s intent or it is merely the case that the trappings of ancient religions and occultism have been added over the years to increase the allure of the local legend. However, the mystery of the Witches’ Circle of Sheridan, Wyoming still entices the imaginations of Sheridan’s youth and beckons teenagers to illicitly visit the ruins by night.

Bellevue-Witches-Circle-Map-Sheridan-Wy

I made a simple map showing the Witches’ Circle with its ring of columns and adjacent ring of cedars. Not all of the original columns are present, but there are 26 pair of foundations.

 

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7 Comments

  1. clint campbell

    I used to walk the top of this structure in the late 40’s, early 50’s. That was before the woodwork all along the top that connected all of the pillars rotted and fell away. As the wood fell away, we would jump from pillar to pillar. I lived in Witney and would walk thru the cemetery and witches circle to get to my aunt Berneice Gillenwater’s small farm.

    • Norma Jean Williams

      Just wondering what the wood structure on top of the pillars looked like when you were there. Was it a floor? or a roof? Was this at one time a place to hold a funeral or get in out of bad weather?

      • Bret Norwood

        Norma, I don’t know if Clint will happen to come back and see your question. I would also be interested in his reply, however.

        You can see in the 1936 photo above (you can click to enlarge it) that it doesn’t look like a full roof, but a series of slats between the two rings of columns, running around the circle. It looks like you can see light and shadow beneath them, suggesting that it wasn’t fully covered, at that time at least. Clint might have had some pretty good balance.

  2. Clint

    The circle was not totally covered. There were only slats running from one pillar to another.

  3. I would love to see this!

  4. jackie

    we used to part there in high school

  5. Melissa

    We used to play Ouija board in the middle in junior high

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