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.
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.
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.