“It's rare to find a novel that sends shivers up your spine. The Witch of Persimmon Point not only leaves you spooked, it'll give you chills whenever you see it on your bookshelf.” – Redbook
This house is a whole other ball of wax. I’m sure its feelings are hurt as I write this. It fancies itself a horror house. Home of witches and murderesses. Of death and decay and destruction. And here I am calling it comforting…
When Byrd Whalen returns to her family’s ancestral home to uncover secrets threatening to destroy a legacy she holds dear, she gets more than she bargained for. Over the course of one harrowing weekend, the dark haunted histories of the Amore women reveal themselves, leading Byrd to question everything she's ever believed about herself.
In 1890, Nan, the Amore family matriarch, was sent away to America with little more than a baby and a rocking chair, quickly finding work on the sprawling estate of the wildly eccentric Green family. This new life is one she wanted: loving and free with a family that understands and shares in her magic. But when tragedy strikes, destroying the mansion and the precious lives inside, Nan is left alone and pregnant with Reginald Green’s child. With nothing more than the deed to the property, she builds a house from the rubble and a new, pragmatic life. It would become a haunted life that would lead to other haunted lives. It would become a house both terrible and wonderful. It would become known as “The Witch House.”
An unforgettable family saga in the Gothic tradition, Suzanne Palmieri’s The Witch House of Persimmon Point is her most powerful novel yet.
Release date: October 11, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Print pages: 400
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The Witch House of Persimmon Point
Journal Entry on the Night of the Biggest Doom
MONDAY, JULY 14, 2025
HAVEN PORT, VIRGINIA
There’s a portrait of a woman hanging on the second-floor landing of the Witch House, holding court over the sweeping staircase and crooked, bloated foyer. Her piercing green eyes span the darkness, waiting. When I first cracked open the heavy front door the day I arrived, sweeping back the expected cobwebs, hers was the first face I saw.
And goddamn, I knew I was home.
At first, I thought the house was having some fun at my expense, painting a picture of a future me as some kind of welcome present. A psychic gag gift or what have you. But then, I was fourteen and self-absorbed (as most fourteen-year-olds are wont to be). It didn’t take too long for me to figure out she was the lady I was looking for though, dead or not. The keeper of the secrets. Crazy Anne Amore.
We share black hair that’s a beast to tame, stubborn chins, and big eyes. I swear until I saw it, I’d never seen another person who wore the same “Do what you want, but cross me and die” look that I wear. And inside that gaze, if you look real close, you can see the real message. “Don’t get close to me because I’ll love you, and when you leave me, and you will, I swear it, it will destroy me. And then I’ll have to destroy you, because … fair is fair.”
She’s painted sitting on a window seat with her elbow resting on the sill, not looking out the window, but looking straight ahead with a purpose I’m still trying to understand. The colors melt together in greens and golds and garnets, but it’s the lighting in the painting that invokes a little fear.
See, I’ve always been obsessed with light. Especially the way it falls in late afternoon. Like thick, honey-colored hope. And that’s the kind of light in the painting. It obscures half her face with shadows and the reflection of the windowpane makes a blurry glass tattoo of the other side.
You can’t hardly figure out where the darkness ends and her figure begins. From what I’ve learned about her, the painter’s perspective suited her perfectly.
So there she hangs, staring straight down the stairs at the wide front door.
Because there was no way in hell anything could stop Anne Amore from guarding her Witch House.
Not even death.
I swear, her gaze follows me each time I walk by—like something out of a Sunday matinee haunted-house movie, shifty eyes and all that mess—but especially when I’m on my way to the third floor. After all these years, I still can’t tell if she likes that I took her room or not. And I still canNOT stand how she won’t actually come right out and haunt the place. Sometimes I want to yell, “Show yourself, old woman!” but I don’t. Because even though I never met her, and even though she won’t visit me proper, I know I’m her favorite and that she has her reasons.
But if there ever were a time for her to show herself plain, today would be the day. Because today is the day I die. I could use some advice, really. What good are supportive, loving family ghost witches if they can’t come save you when you’re about to give up the good fight?
I’m so tired.
I spent the first half of today searching for my mother’s wedding dress. I bought the black dye at the Woolworth last Sunday and thought, “PERFECT. I’ll dye that fancy frock a deep shade of black and wear it.”
I spent the afternoon dyeing it. I don’t care that it’s not an even sort of color. I don’t like anything even, really. Not even numbers, or even lengths of things. Evenness has always seemed like some sort of lie. If I had the chance to give a little girl one piece of advice, it would be, “Don’t trust a person who likes things even. Only trust the people who thrive in chaos.”
I’m not sure I fully believe that. But it sounds good.
Now I’m sitting here, in my room on the third floor of this terrible, wonderful house, and I’m waiting for the damn dress to dry properly so I can prepare myself for the execution. I’m sure I’ll have to wear it damp. But I don’t mind.
Can a person call this type of situation an execution? Probably not. Still, I like the idea of taking my final walk through the moonlit garden with the satisfying flurry of satin and tulle all around me.
It’s all very dramatic.
I’ve always loved this room. The cheery wallpaper and wide windows facing the idyllic shoreline of Persimmon Point don’t even really hint that a madwoman planned murders here while she brushed her long black hair. The pillowcases she rested her head on after digging that grave out by the juniper trees don’t give up her dreams. The sunlight playing across the wide, uneven wooden floors don’t echo many tears.
I don’t think there’s anything more comforting than sunlight on wood floors. And the more I think about it, the more I think that this room, and maybe even the whole house, is hardwired for human comfort.
Which makes sense in ordinary circumstances … I mean, a house is supposed to be like that, right? Well, this house is a whole other ball of wax. I’m sure its feelings are hurt as I write this. It fancies itself a horror house. Home of witches and murderesses. Of death and decay and destruction. And here I am, calling it comforting.
Because, see …
There always seems to be a soft breeze weaving through its salt-marsh-and-juniper-scented rooms, which some poet somewhere should have likened to the way a woman’s hair smells when she’s in love.
Maybe I should have been a poet. Avoided this whole mess. Poets make livings on unhappy, un-endings. Granddad would say, “Sugar, you missed your calling!”
I’m of the mind that we should expect more unhappy endings than we do. Sure, we say we do. But we don’t.
I don’t care what anyone says about us, that’s something this monstrous family of mine did right. We expected the bad. We created it. We embraced it. Hell, we imagined it and then gave birth to it.
I’m an unhappy ending myself. A whole embodied, unhappy ending of my own mother’s life.
But I won’t dwell on that. Not today.
My fate is my own. And I own my fate.
So I’m going to sit here and tell this goddamn story while my goddamn dress dries.
I left Magnolia Creek, Alabama, for Haven Port, Virginia, in the summer of 2015. It wasn’t an even-numbered year, so I figured it was safe.
When my aunt Wyn tells the story, she says I ran away from home and wove a web of lies so thick no one even knew what was happening until I was good and safe and settled. She was secretly proud of my fourteen-year-old machinations, I suspect. Only I wasn’t running away, I was simply moving.
I don’t run away from anything.
And God knows I probably should. Like right this very moment, but that’s beside the point.
Growing up in Magnolia Creek I always felt like a stranger in a strange land.
I was loved, I can’t argue with that, but as I grew older, things changed. Sometimes knowing people love you but also knowing they don’t really know you is downright lonely.
So, I focused on this house. This side of my family I never knew, from a place I’d never been. One I’d been warned about. My mother’s home. My mother’s people.
“Stop mooning over those crazy women. You aren’t a lick like ’em. At least, not much,” my granddad Jackson always grumbled.
“No, Byrd, we can’t go there and visit. They’re all dead. And don’t go on and on about how you can visit with them anyway, because there’s no guarantee they haven’t gone on to the other side. Besides, I want you to live here in Alabama in the sunshine. I don’t want you surrounding yourself with so much darkness, sweet girl. Promise me you’ll let that all rest. It’s what your mama wanted,” pleaded my aunt Wyn who had “strange ways” of her own, but that fact never seemed to stop her from wanting to not let me enjoy them a little.
(That’s what they call our “gifts” back home. I grew up feeling like my aunt and I were each something of a human anomaly. Why can’t the ordinary people be thought of as the anomaly? Damned unfair is what it is.)
But nothing anyone said could deter me. I’m driven when I want to be. Besides, what’s the harm in a little conversation with family? So what if they’re ghosts?
By the time I was thirteen I was a regular scholar on the history of Haven Port, Virginia, and the Witch House. There wasn’t a book or an article I hadn’t read. Wasn’t a show I hadn’t watched. And I was IN LOVE with the idea that I was one of them. My favorite book on the subject was called An American Haunting: Wild Ponies, Wild Women, and the Invention of Sin in Haven Port, Virginia.
All that research made me feel close enough to that whole, previously unknown part of my life that I decided maybe I’d wait until I was older to visit, like Aunt Wyn said. I figured it’d be easier that way.
But then, as I was about to hit pause on the whole shebang, this big ol’ news story broke, and guess what it was about? Yep. Seems a special program was set to air featuring a local journalist who dabbled in paranormal investigation. He was planning to figure out, once and for all, if the rumors were true. And he’d gotten permission from the current owner to do an investigative report.
The Mystery of the Witch House
That man had done a little ill-fated magic himself. He had taken a perfectly intriguing name and managed to make it sound like a middle school reader. BORING. Or so I thought. Evidently, America found it fascinating. The interest surrounding the show, some silly show that at the time didn’t even have an air date, was overwhelming. Ads were selling by the billion or some such nonsense.
That’s when I started to worry.
He could find out the real truth before I could.
Hell no. I couldn’t wait. I had to get there. So I moved.
And I spent that whole summer searching for some damn thing I simply could not put my finger on. A mystery that refused to be solved until it was good and ready (which, I’ll admit, was fairly admirable, if frustrating).
I remember talking to the house and the property and the trees, real polite. I’d say, “I respect your need for privacy, but these damn people are on their way with a bulldozer, so you better just SHOW ME WHAT YOU ARE HIDING!”
I needed to unearth their secrets before anyone else got the chance. Not to make excuses or clear their names. No sir. I promise.
I came to learn all I could about the evil, so I could control their legacy of terror. My family would walk hand in hand with the other great evils in the world, or they wouldn’t walk at all. They deserved a seat at the head of the “most fascinating people of all time” table.
Which meant, of course, I would have a seat there, too.
I know … I know. But remember, I was fourteen years old, and fourteen-year-old girls tend to spend most of their time going off the deep end.
That reporter was going to ruin everything, no matter what he found. Exposing the raw underside of a thing drains all the interesting right out of it. And I don’t think there’s anything worse than being uninteresting.
To be honest, I was more worried they’d find out it was a normal, everyday family. Debunking urban legends should be criminal, I swear. I didn’t want some plastic Ken doll from TV telling me my family was virtuous.
Great-grandma Anne summed up the whole thing best when she wrote, “Only foolish people believe in virtue. The imposition of virtue is a manipulative tactic used by those who run the world. If the masses are taught virtues, they don’t fight back. Human beings are naturally evil.”
That wonderfully wicked woman had a lifetime of journals right there in that trunk by the window. I read them all the week I arrived, and now I add my own to the collection year by year.
I suppose this will be my very last entry.
It’s terribly sad.
So, anyway, I was only fourteen, and I was living on my own, in a haunted house, on a piece of haunted property, telling lies to my people back in Alabama so I could stay. And I searched. I hoped I’d find something. I was counting on it.
I worried it would be something boring, like an adulterous affair with a pious politician, or something typical like that. But I dreamed there would be some kind of murderous truth rotting at the bottom of a well.
What I didn’t count on was a garden of human bones.
It was downright exciting.
I guess that’s why I’ve decided to write the whole thing down today, a full ten years after those three days where the past and the present collided in one big glorious bang. Because, see … at the ripe old age of twenty-four, adventure has all but left my life.
I’m doomed, really. I’ve never, ever been a wallowing, sad type of person. But loss affects me now in a way that would have made my younger self ashamed. And it’s weak. And that’s why I can’t continue to live.
Like, I never thought I would hear a song about young love and mourn that I won’t ever fall in love for the first time again. It’s those last firsts that tear me up inside. They’re the only things we can’t really ever get back.
I’ll never make love again for the first time. I’ll never see Jack again for the first time.
I guess that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing tonight. So I can have another “first.”
Loss makes a person want vengeance against time. Sometimes I think that’s what adulthood is all about. A war waged every day against time, and memories, and all the happy endings that didn’t come.
That’s how my cousin Eleanor Amore (the rightful owner of the Witch House) was when I first met her. Full of quiet vengeance against the lie of a happy ending. Her fairy-tale marriage was over. Her anchor, her one true friend, was dead. She was full of piss and vinegar and sold on the crazy idea that once free of everything she knew, she’d be fine. She’d be able to lay down her weapons and live a peaceful life. No one bothered to tell her there ain’t no escape from love. It follows you, haunts you, terrorizes your sleep, ambushes you.
Love waits until you look for it, and then it hides.
Copyright © 2016 by Suzanne Palmieri
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