VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Editor's Note: This story is part of our 13News Now Vault series.
If you’ve driven around Virginia Beach, you’ve probably seen or heard the word "Witchduck" so often, you probably don’t think about its origins.
You know Witchduck as an exit, a road, or maybe even a neighborhood. But if you go back to the late 1600s, there’s a much darker meaning to the name.
It was the era of the Salem witch trials, and one local woman became known as “The Witch of Pungo.” Although, she certainly didn’t deserve the title.
Grace Sherwood was an unconventional woman living in Pungo at the time. Because of her good looks and knack for farming, people around town blamed her for bad weather and their dying crops and animals. She was called a witch and forced into a trial with an impossible outcome.
With her thumbs tied to her toes, she was "ducked" into the Lynnhaven River. If she was able to escape, they’d call it witchcraft. If she drowned. she would be proven innocent.
Sherwood chose to save herself and spent nearly eight years in jail, before returning to her sons and living a long life. She died at the age of 80 at her farm in Pungo.
Today, a bronze statue of Sherwood stands at the corner of Independence Boulevard and North Witchduck Road.
In 2006, 300 years after her trial, she was exonerated by then-Governor Tim Kaine.
Legend has it, every year on the anniversary of Sherwood's trial, people reportedly see a moving light -- believed to be her spirit -- over the place where she was thrown into the water in Witchduck Bay.