top of page

< Back

Mermaid in a Jar by Cookie Washington (details)                                                                                                           

Mermaid in a Jar


This quilt depicts the story of, "The MERMAID IN A JAR", a true incident that took place in June of 1867 in Charleston, South Carolina also referred to as, The Mermaid Riot. This story was also showcased on an episode from The Travel Channel's, Monumental Mysteries, starring Torreah Cookie Washington as the Root Doctor.

This well-known account in Southern folklore depicts the dynamics that erupted after Dr. W. Trott, owner of a local apothecary shop, circulated the story that he had a mermaid held captive in a large aquarium in the back of his "curiosity shop". Aiming to gain a profit from the attention gleaned from spectators interested in seeing the captive mermaid, the story continues by depicting the ensuing consequences that came to fruition based on Dr. Trott's actions.

In  June of 1867, a strong hurricane (Category 1-2) stalled over Charleston dumping rain on the town for ten days. In the chaos of the downpour, reports even indicated a boy and his dog drowned on that day. The local Root doctor confronted Dr. Trott saying the mermaid he was holding captive had a baby located out to sea in which she needed to  return to without further delay. The Root doctor claimed the mermaid was causing the storm that was pummeling Charleston which would not stop until the mermaid was free. In reaction, the local townspeople, who supported the Root doctor's accusations, gathered in protest.  More than 500 people stormed Dr. Trott's apothecary shop with the demand to release the mermaid.  As the people flooded into his shop, so did the storm as the building became inundated with water.

The roof of the curiosity shop gave way to the weight of the water, destroying the mermaid tank, As glass and water crashed about, the flood released the contents of the tank as animals, fish and plants were swept away in the rain. On that day, many claim to have seen the mermaid swim out to sea free to return to her baby! It is said the the violent rain stopped that very day.


In a private collection

bottom of page