Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween Greeting Cards - Late 19C - Early 20C

Halloween - Witchcraft was above all a religious & political crime

Emerson Baker's A Storm of Witchcraft. The Salem Trials and the American Experience (October, 2014)

In 1692 Massachusetts, 156 residents of Essex, Middlesex & Suffolk Counties were formally accused of practicing witchcraft, a capital crime; 113 were imprisoned, 20 persons were put to death & at least 5 died in prisons in Boston, Cambridge, Ipswich & Salem.  

A Most Certain, Strange and True Discovery of a Witch, 1643

Witchcraft was above all a religious crime, which took on terrifying significance at a time of extreme danger in New England's history. New England Puritans inherited centuries of belief in witches as a probable cause of things gone wrong due to the malicious mischief they committed as agents of the devil. Nearly everyone feared witches, for they could be held responsible for epidemics, crop failure, shipwrecks, & storms. Witches could cause a child to sicken & die or cause a cow to cease producing milk. Any man, woman, or child could be a witch just as any cat, dog, or bird might really be a "witch's familiar." And witches didn't even have to be seen to strike. Their specters or spirits even had the power to escape from prison to afflict others. Witches not only brought family suffering & sometimes death, they could overthrow your government, your religion & your culture. 

Balthasar Bekker & another man (Christian Thomasius?) sieve diseases from devils. Engraving, c 1695.

The many problems that coincided at this time included Mass Bay Colony's reactions to the Royal Charter of 1691, which many citizens believed limited freedoms set forth in their original charter & threatened Puritanism in its provision to permit other religious practices. Now, by order of the King & Queen of England, other religions had to be tolerated.  Religious tension at the close of the 17C was a major cause of the witch hunt & many members of non-Puritan clergy & their immediate & family members were targeted. Many of the accused had ties to Quakers & Baptists which threatened Puritan orthodoxy. 

Puritains had been through a series of wars with the Native Americans & the French. Puritans, convinced they were God's Chosen People, could not comprehend why they were losing battles on the frontier.  In 1692, Salem was involved in a "disastrous & costly war (which) exacerbated existing economic, political & spiritual tensions." A number of the "afflicted girls" were survivors & orphans of Native American attacks in Maine & New Hampshire.  And in the 1690s, there was growing opposition to the witch trials.  Massachusetts Bay residents came to realize that innocent victims had been incarcerated & put to death.  Some courageous citizens who expressed disapproval of the witch hunt almost from the moment it began. 

In his just published book, Emerson Baker examines the Salem Trials as a metaphor not for magic but for persecution, paranoia, ignorance, superstition, jealousy, judicial blindness, guilt, shame, & bigotry.  Baker says the "witch trials triggered political, social & religious changes that would transform Massachusetts Bay Colony."  Salem in 1692 was a critical moment for the fading Puritan government of Massachusetts.

In both the British American colonies & in Europe, the Enlightenment, beginning in the 1600s, contributed to the end of witch-hunts.  The Enlightenment brought empirical reason, skepticism, &  humanitarianism, each of which helped defeat the superstitions of the earlier age.  The Enlightenment suggested that there was no empirical evidence that alleged witches caused real harm.

A Complete History of Magic and Sorcery and Witchcraft 1715-16

Over years, Salem became "Witch City" & the Halloween capital. The colony's attempts to suppress the story of the trials & erase them from memory only served to fuel popular imagination. Travelers & authors from England & there were writing about Salem's Witch Trial a century before American literary icons Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Longfellow, & Louisa May Alcott spun their witchey tales & put Puritans in their fiction.  Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible which was never meant as history but as a metaphor for Senator Joseph McCarthy's persecution of supposed communists during the 1950s. Public fascination with Salem as early America's "witch city" actually began in 1699 with a London travel writer named Ned Ward, and continues to this day.

See:  Emerson Baker A Storm of Witchcraft. The Salem Trials and the American Experience (October, 2014)

Halloween - Wenlock Christison defends Quaker Witches in 1659 Puritan Massachusetts

Article from The Salisbury Times (now The Delmarva Times), Salisbury, Maryland by Dr. William H. Wroten, Jr.

"In the middle of the 17C, religious freedom was not a major characteristic of Puritan New England; in fact, persecutions were being committed; and Massachusetts was on the threshold of her witchcraft period. In September, 1659, three Quakers, Mary Dyer, William Robinson and Marmaduke Stevenson counting martyrdom were banished from Massachusetts. All three, however, returned and the two men were hanged. Mrs. Dyer, after having her hands and legs bound, face covered and the rope adjusted about her neck was reprieved. When she returned again in the spring of 1660, she was executed. Later in the same year Quaker William Leddra was to suffer the same fate...

"Massachusetts theocracy was fighting a hopeless battle. The suffering of the Quakers was winning sympathy from thousands who were not necessarily interested in the Quaker doctrine. Shortly before the execution of Leddra, Wenlock Christison walked into the office of Governor John Endicott, and looking him straight in the eye said, "I came to warn you that you should shed no more innocent blood, for the blood that you have shed already cries to the Lord for vengeance to come upon you."

"For his action, Christison was brought to trial but the magistrates were not sure what should be done, for public sentiment was turning against the cruel persecutions. Yet there was one among the group who was not hesitant, and that was Governor Endicott. Pounding on the table, the good governor exclaimed, "You that will not consent, record it. I thank God I am not afraid to give judgment." Governor Endicott had his way and Christison was condemned to death, but the sentence was never carried out. Partly from fear of interference by the King and also because of the growing opposition by the people, persecution began to take milder forms.

"Before this at Plymouth, Christison had been robbed of his waistcoat, had his Bible taken to pay for his fines, and suffered a whipping. Later he was banished from Boston and threatened with the death penalty should he return - but return he did, and on this occasion was told to renounce his religious principles or be executed. Although it was at this time that Christison saw Leddra hanged, he refused to change his faith or in any other way seek mercy from the court... 

"Back, by way of Salem, Wenlock Christison in June, 1664 met two other Quakers, Mary Thompson and Alice Gary, who recently had arrived from Virginia where they had been persecuted. Christison was shortly arrested on the old charge, and along with the women once again banished form the colony. Only this time all three were stripped to the waist, fastened to a cart and whipped through Boston, Roxbury and Dedham. Christison received ten lashes and the two ladies six lashes in each of the towns.

"Finding no haven in Rhode Island, (probably the only colony in all New England which could claim any religious toleration at this time) the three came back to Boston supposedly under the protection of the King's Agents. But again there was trouble, a trial and the sentence that they should be whipped out of the province. However, shortly after this all three sailed to the Caribbean region - never to return to New 1670 Wenlock Christison and Alice Gary were in Maryland. Dr. Peter Sharpe of Calvert County turned over to Christison 150 acres of land in Talbot County - a plantation fittingly named in Christison's case, the "Ending of Controversie."  The Quaker records of Talbot County show that a daughter, Elizabeth, was born to Wenlock and Mary Christison in 1673. 

"Christison soon rose to a position of trust in Maryland; he was one of the first Quakers to have the honor of holding public office. He became a member of the House of Delegates from Talbot County in 1676 and served in that body at St. Mary's City until his death in 1679." 

Post Script
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow recreated Christison's 1661 trial in John Endicott, one of three dramatic poems in a collection called New England Tragedies.

Halloween - A 1692 condemned Salem Witch & her Husband both appeal for justice.

An old British American colonial woodcut showing witches was printed in a collection of Cotton Mather's writings on witchcraft.

Mary Towne Easty, the daughter of William Towne & Joanna Blessing Towne of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, was baptized on August 24, 1634. One of 8 children, she & her family sailed for Massachusettes around 1640.

Mary married Isaac Eastey in 1655, in Topsfield, Massachusetts. Isaac, a successful farmer, was born in England on November 27, 1627. Together the couple had 12 children. Two of Easty's sisters, Rebecca Nurse & Sarah Cloyse, were also accused of witchcraft during the Salem outbreak.

At the time of her questioning, Easty was about 58 years old.  The magistrate became angry, when she would not confess her guilt, which he deemed proven beyond doubt by the reported sufferings of the afflicted.

Easty was condemned to death on September 9, 1692. She was executed on September 22nd, despite an eloquent plea to the court to reconsider & not spill any more innocent blood. On the gallows she prayed for a end to the witch hunt.

Petition of Mary Easty To his Excellency S'r W'm Phipps: Govern'r and to the honoured Judge and Magistrates now setting in Judicature in Salem.

That whereas your poor and humble petitioner being condemned to die Doe humbly begg of you to take it into your Judicious and pious considerations that your Poor and humble petitioner knowing my own Innocencye Blised be the Lord for it and seeing plainly the wiles and subtility of my accusers by my Selfe can not but Judge charitably of others that are going the same way of my selfe if the Lord stepps not mightily in i was confined a whole month upon the same account that I am condemned now for and then cleared by the afflicted persons as some of your honours know and in two dayes time I was cryed out upon by them and have been confined and now am condemned to die the Lord above knows my Innocence then and Likewise does now as att the great day will be know to men and Angells

-- I Petition to your honours not for my own life for I know I must die and my appointed time is sett but the Lord he knowes it is that if it be possible no more Innocent blood may be shed which undoubtidly cannot be Avoyded In the way and course you goe in I question not but your honours does to the uttmost of your Powers in the discovery and detecting of witchcraft and witches and would not be gulty of Innocent blood for the world but by my own Innocency I know you are in this great work if it be his blessed you that no more Innocent blood be shed I would humbly begg of you that your honors would be plesed to examine theis Afflicted Persons strictly and keep them apart some time and Likewise to try some of these confesing wichis I being confident there is severall of them has belyed themselves and others as will appeare if not in this wor[l]d I am sure in the world to come whither I am now agoing and I Question not but youle see and alteration of thes things they my selfe and others having made a League with the Divel we cannot confesse I know and the Lord knowes as will shortly appeare they belye me and so I Question not but they doe others the Lord above who is the Searcher of all hearts knows that as I shall answer att the Tribunall seat that I know not the least thinge of witchcraft therfore I cannot I dare not belye my own soule I beg your honers not to deny this my humble petition from a poor dying Innocent person and I Question not but the Lord will give a blesing to yor endevers.

Petitions for Compensation and Decision Concerning Compensation
Account of Isaac Easty -- Case of Mary Easty
Topsfield Septemb'r 8 th. 1710

Isaac Esty (Senior, about 82 years of age) of Topsfield in the county of Essex in N.E. having been sorely exercis'd through the holy & awful providence of God depriving him of his beloved wife Mary Esty who suffered death in the year 1692 & under the fearfull odium of one of the worst of crimes that can be laid to the charge of mankind, as if she had been guilty of witchcraft a peice of wickedness wich I beleeve she did hate with perfect hatered & by all that ever I could see by her never could see any thing by her that should give me any reason in the lest to think her guilty of anything of that nature but am firmly persuaded that she was innocent of it as any to such a shameful death-

Upon consideration of a notification from the Honored Generall Court desiring my self & others under the like circumstances to give some account of what my Estate was damnify'd by reason of such a hellish molestation do hereby declare which may also be seen by comparing papers & records that my wife was near upon 5 months imprisioned all which time I provided maintenance for her at my own cost & charge, went constantly twice aweek to provide for her what she needed 3 weeks of this 5 months she was in prision at Boston & I was constrained to be at the charge of transporting her to & fro. So that I can not but think my charge in time and money might amount to 20 pounds besides my trouble & sorrow of heart in being deprived of her after such a manner which this world can never make me any compensation for.

I order and appoint my son Jacob Esty to carry this to the pointed by the Honored Generall Court & are to meet at Salem Sept. 12, 1710. Dated this 8th of Sept. 1710

Easty's family was compensated with 20 pounds from the government in 1711, for Mary's wrongful 1692 execution.

Halloween - The Life of Accused Massachusetts Witch Rebecca Nurse 1621-1692

Rebecca Nurse, "Oh Lord, help me! It is false. I am clear. For my life now lies in Your Hands..."

Rebecca Nurse (1621-1692), victim of the Salem witchcraft mania, was born at Great Yarmouth, England, the oldest child of William & Joanna (Blessing) Towne. When she was about 20, the family came to America & settled in Salem, Mass. There Rebecca married Francis Nurse, a woodworker & “tray maker.” His affairs prospered, & he was able to buy a rich 300-acre farm in Salem Village (later Danvers), to which they removed in 1678. 

As their 8 children-Rebecca, Sarah, John, Samuel, Mary, Elizabeth, Francis & Benjamin- married, they were given land & houses on the family property; so that by 1692, the old couple were surrounded by a brood of loyal descendants. Throughout her life Rebecca Nurse took particular pains in the education of her children. Though a member of the Salem Town Church, she usually attended the Rev. Samuel Parris’ church in nearby Salem Village, where she was seated (on the women’s side) with the Widow Putnam, matriarch of the most powerful local family, an indication of her respected place in the community.

As 1692 began, little but the infirmities of age, especially a growing deafness, disturbed the peaceful tenor of Rebecca Nurse’s life. In February of that year, however, several high-strung girls & women in the households of Samuel Parris & Thomas Putnam began to have hysterical outbursts, which were readily attributed to witchcraft. The important role of the Devil in Puritan theology made Massachusetts highly vulnerable to this still widely believed superstition, particularly at a time when Satan’s hand seemed so evident in the revocation of the colony’s charter, in Indian warfare, & in the decline of religious zeal. Furthermore, Salem Village, had special afflictions, including a divided congregation & land disputes involving the Putnams, the Nurse clan, & others.

When 3 accused witches were arrested, Rebecca Nurse took a guarded stand against the action, averring “that there was persons spoken of [as witches] that were as innocent as she was.” While the Rev. Mr. Parris & others fanned the flames of emotion she absented herself from meeting, & from the magistrates’ examinations of the accused. Consequently, when Mrs. Ann Putnam, Mrs. Putnam’s daughter (also named Ann), & others continued to suffer mysterious seizures, they readily added Rebecca Nurse to the list of their tormentors.

She was arrested on Mar. 24, 1692. The next day, when she was examined by 2 magistrates, “the great noise of the afflicted,” rolling about in their fits & howling accusations against her, was such that Samuel Parris, acting as clerk, admitted his inability to hear all the testimony. A man walking some distance from the meetinghouse later reported that he had never heard “such an hideous scrietch & noise” (Burr, p. 159). Undeterred, Mrs. Nurse earnestly professed her innocence. Great pressure was brought upon all the accused to plead their guilt, & in the outcome no “witch” who confessed was executed. However, neither Rebecca Nurse nor her 2 sisters who were also arrested would ever do so, refusing to “belay their souls.”

From March to June, Mrs. Nurse lay in chains in filthy & verminous jails in Salem & Boston, enduring false testimony, the mockery of visitors, & the humiliating search for “witches’ marks” on her body without losing her composure of her faith in God’s ultimate justice. The punishment for witchcraft was clearly set forth, in the Old Testament command “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” & in May 1692 a special Court of Oyer & Terminer, comprising 7 eminent men of Massachusetts, was established at Salem to execute this stern injunction upon the rapidly growing group of the accused. The first to be tried, Bridget Bishop, was hanged on June 10.

The trial or Rebecca Nurse came next, on June 30. Unlike some of the accused, she was unfailingly supported by her husband, her family, & many friends, & for a time it appeared that she might be cleared. Forty citizens of Salem Village, including 7 members of the Putnam family, signed petitions of her behalf. Although the trial gave full weight to the “spectral” evidence of those who testified to visits from her “shape,” the jury at first returned a verdict of not guilty. At this the “afflicted” girls in the courtroom began howling, moaning, & twitching, & the stern William Stoughton, chief justice of the court & lietenant governor of the Commonwealth, urged the jurymen to reconsider. They did so, but again returned, this time requesting that Mrs. Nurse be asked to explain one of her remarks. She was asked but, being deaf, did not hear the request & sat in silence. Now at last the jury brought in a guilty verdict, & Mrs. Nurse was sentenced to hang. Her family submitted to the court a deposition explaining her silence at the critical moment, as well as the innocuous meaning of the queried statement, but to no avail. They next petitioned the governor, Sir William Phips, for a reprieve, which was at first granted. Unnamed “Salem gentlemen” intervened, however, & the reprieve was withdrawn. On July 3, in her presence, an edict of excommunication was pronounced against Rebecca Nurse in the Salem church. About two weeks later she & 4 others were hanged on “Gallows Hill” in Salem. The bodies were at first placed in a common grave near the gallows.

Eleven more hangings-including those of Martha Corey & Mary Esty, Mrs. Nurse’s sister-occurred before the hysteria ran its course. None of those executed in 1692 had as much said in her favor & as little against her as did Rebecca Nurse, & the Nurse family continued to work for her vindication after her death. They refused reconciliation with Samuel Parris, & in 1696, for this & other reasons, Parris left the ministry.

In 1706 young Ann Putnam, seeking church membership was forced publicly to confess that it was “a great delusion of Satan that deceived me in that sad time;” she asked especial forgiveness for her accusations against Rebecca Nurse. Five years later the Massachusetts legislature reversed the convictions of Mrs. Nurse, her sister, & 12 others whose families had also petitioned. At last, in 1712, after 20 years, the Salem church revoked the excommunication of their former member “that it may no longer be a reproach to her memory & an occasion of grief to her children.”

Rebecca Nurse Homestead

According to descendants, Nurse’s children brought her body back to the property after her execution and buried her somewhere in the family graveyard on the property. In 1885, the Nurse family erected a monument in her memory. The house is still preserved, & two granite shafts mark the traditional burial site, the second commemorating those who signed the petition on her behalf.

Rebecca Nurse 1885 Monument

The monument includes a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier:
“O, Christian martyr! who for truth could die,
When all about thee owned the hideous lie!
The world, redeemed from superstition’s sway,
Is breathing freer for thy sake today.”

The other side of the monument reads:
“Accused of witchcraft she declared “I am innocent and God will clear my innocency.”
Once acquitted yet falsely condemned she suffered death July 19, 1692.
In loving memory of her Christian character even then fully attested by
forty of her neighbors This monument is erected July 1885.”

The story of Nurse and her family is the focus of the film Three Sovereigns for Sarah. The Sarah of the title is Sarah Cloyce, and the film follows her quest to clear the names of her executed sisters Mary Easty and Rebecca Nurse.

This posting based on information from Notable American Women edited by Edward T James, Janet Wilson James, Paul S Boyer, The Belknap Press of Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1971

Halloween - Double, Double Toil and Trouble: Witchcraft in Maryland

Double, Double Toil and Trouble: Witchcraft in Maryland
By Francis O'Neill and Lara Westwood August 8, 2013
From the library blog of the Maryland Historical Society "Underbelly from the deepest corners of the Maryland Historical Society"

The perilous waters of the Atlantic Ocean condemned Maryland’s first witch. The Charity of London set sail for the New World in 1654 from England with her crew and small group of passengers looking to settle the new colony. Mary Lee was one such passenger, but she never set foot on Maryland’s shores.

Travelers knew that the trip across the ocean was a dangerous endeavor, but this crossing proved particularly hazardous. Choppy seas and violent winds plagued the Charity of London’s journey from the start. An attempt to make land in Bermuda had failed due to crosswinds, “and the Ship grew daily more leaky almost to desperation and the Chiefe Seamen often declared their Resolution of Leaving her if an opportunity offered it Self….”(1) The passengers and crew grew more agitated as the ship weakened and the weather refused to yield. Rumor took hold amongst the crew that a witch had conjured the storms. Father Francis Fitzherbert, a Jesuit traveling to Maryland aboard the Charity, recalled the sailors reasoning that the foul weather “was not on account of the violence of the ship or atmosphere, but the malevolence of witches.”(2)

The sailors decided that Mary Lee was that witch and petitioned the captain to put the woman on trial. The storms delayed the proceedings, so two seamen decided to take matters into their own hands. They seized Lee and searched her body for the Devil’s markings. They found a damning mark—a protruding teat from which the Devil and his familiars could supposedly feed—a well-known sign of witchcraft at the time. She was subsequently hanged and her corpse and belongings dumped overboard. The Charity landed in St. Mary’s City, Maryland worse for wear but in one piece and without a witch.

Accounts of witchcraft, such as the story of Mary Lee, were common in the 17th century. An anti-witch hysteria had recently swept across Europe, and the English crown enacted several statutes criminalizing sorcery. The Devil and black magic were real and present dangers in everyday life, and witches could summon that dark power with the mere mumbling of a curse.

These old world superstitions and religious convictions immigrated with the colonists. Witchcraft left an indelible mark on Maryland’s early court cases and became embedded in local folklore. Maryland never saw witch hunts on the scale of Salem, Massachusetts, but men and women alike were accused and convicted of witchcraft. Sources vary on the exact number of prosecutions, but only about 12 people were brought to trial over a hundred year period, compared to 19 executed in Salem in 1692 alone.

Rebecca Fowler holds the dubious honor of being the only person executed for witchcraft in Maryland. In 1685, Fowler was found guilty of bewitching Francis Sandsbury and several others in Calvert County. Her victims claimed that her evil incantations had left them, “very much the worse, consumed, pined & lamed.” (3) The exact nature of the harm Fowler caused was not included in the court documents, but any manner of bodily weakness, injury, or illness could fall into those categories and was common in describing symptoms brought about by witchcraft. John Cowman became perilously close to stealing the title from Fowler as he was convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to hang in 1674 for bewitching the body of Elizabeth Goodale. But luckily for Cowman, as he stood at the gallows with the hangman’s noose around his neck, he received a pardon from the Governor. 

Accusations of witchcraft often arose from town disputes. These cases typically unfolded in the same manner. An argument would erupt between neighbors, and shortly thereafter one of the begrudged would fall mysteriously ill or his or her chickens would be suspiciously killed one night. Such is the story of the last witch ever tried in Maryland—Virtue Violl of Talbot County. Violl found herself on trial in 1715 in Annapolis after a quarrel with a fellow spinster, Elinor Moore. Moore accused Violl of cursing her tongue, which rendered her unable to speak. The jury however was not convinced of her guilt and acquitted her of all charges. Falsely accused witches were not without recompense. They could sue for defamation of character, and a few were awarded damages, which was often a few hundred pounds of tobacco.

While few witches met their untimely end in Maryland, local folklore is rife with legends of evil sorceresses and superstitious antidotes for bewitchments. Glass bottles containing sharp objects, such as pins, and urine were buried under the entrance of a home to prevent a witch from entering the property or cursing its inhabitants. These so-called witch bottles have been unearthed in archaeological digs across the state. The urine “was the most important ingredient in witch bottles, as it is the agent with which the spell is turned back upon the witch.” (4)  They were also buried upside down to reverse the black magic. Another trick to keep witches at bay was to place a broomstick across the threshold of a home’s entrance. A witch supposedly could not exit the dwelling without counting the broom’s bristles, thus revealing his or her identity.

The Moll Dyer Rock

Many tales of witches have surfaced over the years. Each county seems to have its own wicked woman who tortured the innocent townspeople and met a gruesome death for it. The legend of Moll Dyer out of Leonardtown in St. Mary’s County has endured the centuries. The details of Dyer’s story have changed and been embellished over time, but all accounts agree that in February of 1697 she was chased from her home by torch-bearing townsfolk. She fled into the woods where she froze to death after cursing the town. Dyer died kneeling upon a rock, which still bears the imprint of her hands and knees and can be viewed in front of Leondardtown’s circuit courthouse.

(1) Alison Games, Witchcraft in Early North America (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010) 133.

(2) William H. Cooke, “The Maryland Witch Trials.”

(3) Francis Neal Parke, “Witchcraft in Maryland,” Maryland Historical Magazine 31 (1936):283.

(4) Rebecca Morehouse, “Witch Bottle.”

“Witchcraft, trials for, in Maryland. [manuscript] : Document, 1702/3 1712,”  MS 2018, MdHS.

Halloween - New England's Puritains & Cotton Mather 1663-1728 on Witches

Until the 1680s, Massachusetts government had been dominated by conservative Puritan secular leaders. Puritans, influenced by Calvinism, opposed many of the traditions of the Protestant Church of England, including the Book of Common Prayer, the use of priestly vestments (cap & gown) during services, the use of the Holy Cross during baptism, & kneeling during the sacrament, all of which constituted "popery" to the Puritans.  Repression of these dissenting non-Anglican views accelerated in the 1620s & 1630s, resulting in a major migration of Puritans & other religious minorities to North America, & resulted in the establishment of several colonies in New England. Self-governance came naturally to them, since building a society based on their religious beliefs was one of their goals. Colonial leaders in Massachusetts were elected by the freemen of the colony, who were those individuals who had had their religious experiences formally examined, & had been admitted to one of the colony's Puritan congregations. The Puritan British American colonial leadership were prominent members of their congregations, & regularly consulted with the local ministers on issues facing the colony.

In the 1640s, England erupted in civil war, resulting in the Puritan-dominated Parliamentary faction winning & then executing King Charles I. The Commonwealth's failure under the Lord Protector's successor Richard Cromwell led to restoration of the old order under Charles II. Emigration to New England slowed significantly in these years, & a successful merchant class began to develop which was less religiously motivated than the British American colony's early settlers.

In the small Salem Village as in the colony at large, all of life was governed by the precepts of the Puritan Church, which was Calvinist in the extreme. Music, dancing, celebration of holidays such as Christmas & Easter, were absolutely forbidden, as they supposedly had roots in Paganism. The only music allowed at all was the unaccompanied singing of hymns—the folk songs of the period glorified human love & nature, & were therefore against God. Toys & especially dolls were also forbidden, & considered a frivolous waste of time. The only schooling for children was in religious doctrine & the Bible, & all the villagers were expected to go to the meeting house for 3-hour sermons every Wednesday & Sunday. Village life revolved around the meeting house, & those celebrations permitted, such as those giving thanks for the harvest, were centered there.

Prior to 1692, there had been rumors of witchcraft in villages neighboring Salem Village & other towns. Cotton Mather, a minister of Boston's North Church was a prolific publisher of pamphlets & a firm believer in witchcraft. In his book Memorable Providences Relating to Witchcrafts & Possessions (1689), Mather describes his "oracular observations" & how "stupendous witchcraft" had affected the children of Boston mason John Goodwin. Mather illustrates how the Goodwins' eldest child had been tempted by the devil & stole linen from the washerwoman Mary Glover. Glover was a miserable old woman whom her husband often described as a witch; this is perhaps why Glover was accused of casting spells on the Goodwin children. After the event, four out of six Goodwin children began to experience strange fits or what some people referred to as "the disease of astonishment." The manifestations attributed to the disease quickly became associated with witchcraft. These symptoms were things like neck & back pains, tongues being drawn from their throats, & loud random outcries; other symptoms included having no control over their bodies such as becoming limber, flapping their arms like birds, or trying to harm others as well as themselves. These symptoms would fuel the craze of 1692.

Cotton Mather 1663-1728

Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions... Written by Cotton Mather, Minister of the Gospel, and Recommended by the Ministers of Boston, and Charleston. Printed at Boston in N. England by R.P. 1689.

Witchcrafts and Possessions. The First Exemple.

Section I. There dwells at this time, in the south part of Boston, a sober and pious man, whose Name is John Goodwin, whose Trade is that of a Mason, and whose Wife (to which a Good Report gives a share with him in all the Characters of Vertue) has made him the Father of six (now living) Children. Of these Children, all but the Eldest, who works with his Father at his Calling, and the Youngest, who lives yet upon the Breast of its mother, have laboured under the direful effects of a (no less palpable than) stupendous Witchcraft...

Sect. II. The four Children (whereof the Eldest was about Thirteen, and the youngest was perhaps about a third part so many years of age') had enjoyed a Religious Education, and answered it with a very towardly Ingenuity....

Sect. III. About Midsummer, in the year 1688, the Eldest of these Children, who is a Daughter, saw cause to examine their Washerwoman, upon their missing of some Linnen ' which twas fear'd she had stollen from them; and of what use this linnen might bee to serve the Witchcraft intended, the Theef's Tempter knows! This Laundress was the Daughter of an ignorant and a scandalous old Woman in the Neighbourhood; whose miserable Husband before he died, had sometimes complained of her, that she was undoubtedly a Witch, and that whenever his Head was laid, she would quickly arrive unto the punishments due to such an one. This Woman in her daughters Defence bestow'd very bad Language upon the Girl that put her to the Question; immediately upon which, the poor child became variously indisposed in her health, an visited with strange Fits, beyond those that attend an Epilepsy or a Catalepsy, or those that they call The Diseases of Astonishment.

Sect. IV. It was not long before one of her Sisters, an two of her Brothers, were seized, in Order one after another with Affects' like those that molested her... for one good while, the children were tormented just in the same part of their bodies all at the same time together; and tho they saw and heard not one anothers complaints, tho likewise their pains and sprains were swift like Lightening, yet when (suppose) the Neck, or the Hand, or the Back of one was Rack't, so it was at that instant with t'other too.

Sect. V. The variety of their tortures increased continually... Sometimes they would be Deaf, sometimes Dumb, and sometimes Blind, and often, all this at once. One while their Tongues would be drawn down their Throats; another-while they would be pull'd out upon their Chins, to a prodigious length. They would have their Mouths opened unto such a Wideness, that their Jaws went out of joint; and anon they would clap together again with a Force like that of a strong Spring-Lock. The same would happen to their Shoulder-Blades, and their Elbows, and Hand-wrists, and several of their joints. They would at times ly in a benummed condition and be drawn together as those that are ty'd Neck and Heels;' and presently be stretched out, yea, drawn Backwards, to such a degree that it was fear'd the very skin of their Bellies would have crack'd. They would make most pitteous out-cries, that they were cut with Knives, and struck with Blows that they could not bear. Their Necks would be broken, so that their Neck-bone would seem dissolved unto them that felt after it; and yet on the sudden, it would become, again so stiff that there was no stirring of their Heads; yea, their Heads would be twisted almost round; and if main Force at any time obstructed a dangerous motion which they seem'd to be upon, they would roar exceedingly...

From Saducismus Triumphatus or, Full and Plain Evidence Concerning Witches and Apparitions… by Joseph Glanvill. London, 1689.

Sect. VI. It was a Religious Family that these Afflictions happened unto; and none but a Religious Contrivance to obtain Releef, would have been welcome to them. ...

Sect. VII. The Report of the Calamities of the Family for which we were thus concerned arrived now unto the ears of the Magistrates, who presently and prudent y apply'd themselves, with a just vigour, to enquire into the story... when she was asked, Whether she believed there was a God? her Answer was too blasphemous and horrible for any Pen of mine to mention. An Experiment was made, Whether she could recite the Lords Prayer; and it was found, that tho clause after clause was most carefully repeated unto her, yet when she said it after them that prompted her, she could not Possibly avoid making Nonsense of it, with some ridiculous Depravations...

Sect. VIII. It was not long before the Witch thus in the Trap, was brought upon her Tryal... Order was given to search the old womans house, from whence there were brought into the Court, several small Images, or Puppets, or Babies, made of Raggs, and stuff't with Goat's hair, and other such Ingredients. When these were produced, the vile Woman acknowledged, that her way to torment the Objects of her malice, was by wetting of her Finger with her Spittle, and streaking of those little Images... when they asked her, What she thought would become of her soul? she reply'd "You ask me, a very solemn Question, and I cannot well tell what to say to it." She own'd her self a Roman Catholick; and could recite her Pater Noster in Latin very readily; but there was one Clause or two alwaies too hard for her, whereof she said, " She could not repeat it, if she might have all the world." In the up-shot, the Doctors returned her Compos Mentis; and Sentence of Death was pass'd upon her.

Sect. IX. Diverse dayes were passed between her being Arraigned and Condemned. In this time one of her Neighbours...had seen Glover sometimes come down her Chimney; That she should remember this, for within this Six years she might have Occasion to declare it. This Hughes now preparing her Testimony, immediately one of her children, a fine boy, well grown towards Youth, was taken ill, just in the same woful and surprising manner that Goodwins children were. One night particularly, The Boy said he saw a Black thing with a Blue Cap in the Room, Tormenting of him; and he complained most bitterly of a Hand put into the Bed, to pull out his Bowels.The next day the mother of the boy went unto Glover, in the Prison, and asked her, Why she tortured her poor lad at such a wicked rate? This Witch replied, that she did it because of wrong done to her self and her daughter. Hughes denied (as well she might) that she had done her any wrong. "Well then," sayes Glover, "Let me see your child and he shall be well again." Glover went on, and told her of her own accord, "I was at your house last night." Sayes Hughes, "In what shape?" Sayes Glover, "As a black thing with a blue Cap." Saye's Hughes, "What did you do there?" Sayes GIover, "with my hand in the Bed I tryed to pull out the boyes Bowels, but I could not..."

Sect. X. While the miserable old Woman was under Condemnation, I did my self twice give a visit unto her. She never denyed the guilt of the Witchcraft charg'd upon her; but she confessed very little about the Circumstances of her Confederacies with the Devils; only, she said, That she us'd to be at meetings, which her Prince and Four more were present at. As for those Four, She told who they were; and for her Prince, her account plainly was, that he was the Devil...

From Saducismus Triumphatus or, Full and Plain Evidence Concerning Witches and Apparitions… by Joseph Glanvill. London, 1689.

Sect. XI. When this Witch was going to her Execution, she said, the Children should not be relieved by her Death... It came to pass accordingly, That the Three children continued in their Furnace as before, and it grew rather Seven times hotter than it was. All their former Ails pursued them still, with an addition of (tis not easy to tell how many) more, but such as gave more sensible Demonstrations of an Enchantment growing very far towards a Possession by Evil spirits.

Sect. XII. The Children in their Fits would still cry out... the Boy obtain'd at some times a sight of some shapes in the room. There were Three or Four of 'em... A Blow at the place where the Boy beheld the Spectre was alwaies felt by the Boy himself in the part of his Body that answered what might be stricken at; and this tho his Back were turn'd; which was once and again so exactly tried, that there could be no Collusion in the Business. But as a Blow at the Apparition alwaies hurt him, so it alwaies help't him too; for after the Agonies, which a Push or Stab of That had put him to, were over, (as in a minute or 2 they would be) the Boy would have a respite from his Fits a considerable while ' and the Hobgoblins disappear...

Sect. XIII. The Fits of the Children yet more arriv'd unto such Motions as were beyond the Efficacy of any natural Distemper in the World. They would bark at one another like Dogs, and again purr like so many Cats. They would sometimes complain, that they were in a Red-hot Oven, sweating and panting at the same time unreasonably: Anon they would say, Cold water was thrown upon them, at which they would shiver very much. They would cry out of dismal Blowes with great Cudgels laid upon them; and tho' we saw no cudgels nor blowes, yet we could see the Marks left by them in Red Streaks upon their bodies afterward. And one of them would be roasted on an invisible Spit, run into his Mouth, and out at his Foot, he lying, and rolling, and groaning as if it had been so in the most sensible manner in the world; and then he would shriek, that Knives were cutting of him. Sometimes also he would have his head so forcibly, tho not visibly, nail'd unto the Floor, that it was as much as a strong man could do to pull it up. One while they would all be so Limber, that it was judg'd every Bone of them could be bent. Another while they would be so stiff, that not a joint of them could be stir'd. They would sometimes be as though they were mad, and then they would climb over high Fences, beyond the Imagination of them that look'd after them. Yea, They would fly like Geese; and be carried with an incredible Swiftness thro the air, having but just their Toes now and then upon the ground, and their Arms waved like the W'ings of a Bird. One of them, in the House of a kind Neighbour and Gentleman (Mr. Willis) flew the length of the Room, anout 20 foot, and flew just into an Infants high armed Chair; (as tis affirmed) none seeing her feet all the way touch the floor.

Sect. XIV. Many wayes did the Devils take to make the children do mischief both to themselves and others... "They say, I must do such a thing!" Diverse times they went to strike furious Blowes at their tenderest and dearest friends, or to fling them down staires when they had them at the Top, but the warnings from the mouths of the children themselves, would still anticipate what the Devils did intend. They diverse times were very near Burning, or Drowning of themselves...When they were tying their own Neck-clothes, their compelled hands miserably strangled themselves, till perhaps, the standers-by gave some Relief unto them. But if any small Mischief happen'd to be done where they were. as the Tearing or Dirtying of a Garment, the Falling of a C'up, the breaking of a Glass or the like; they would rejoice extremely, and fall into a pleasure and Laughter very extraordinary...

Sect. XV. They were not in a constant Torture for some Weeks, but were a little quiet, unless upon some incidental provocations; upon which the Devils would handle them like Tigres, and wound them in a manner very horrible. Particularly, Upon the least Reproof of their Parents for any unfit thing they said or did, most grievous woful Heart-breaking Agonies would they fall into... It would sometimes cost one of them an Hour or Two to be undrest in the evenin , or drest in the morning. For if any one went to unty a string, or undo a Button about them, or the contrary; they would be twisted into such postures as made the thing impossible. And at Whiles, they would be so managed in their Beds, that no Bed-clothes could for an hour or two be laid upon them; nor could they go to wash their Hands, without having them clasp't so odly together, there was no doing of it. But when their Friends were near tired with Waiting, anon they might do what they would unto them. Whatever Work they were bid to do, they would be so snap't in the member which was to do it, that they with grief still desisted from it. If one ordered them to Rub a clean Table, they were able to do it without any disturbance; if to rub a dirty Table, presently they would with many Torrnents be made uncapable. And sometimes, tho but seldome, they were kept from eating their meals, by having their Teeth sett when they carried any thing unto their Mouthes.

From Saducismus Triumphatus or, Full and Plain Evidence Concerning Witches and Apparitions… by Joseph Glanvill. London, 1689.

Sect. XVI. But nothing in the World would so discompose them as a Religious Exercise. If there were anv Discourse of God, or Christ, or any of the things which are not seen qnd are eternal, they would be cast into intolerable Anguishes... Once, those two Worthy Ministers Mr. Fisk' and Mr. Thatcher bestowing some gracious Counsils on the Boy, whom they there found at a Neighbours house, he immediately lost his Hearing, so that he heard not one word... Yea, if any one in the Room took up a Bible to look into it, tho the Children could see nothing of it, as being in a croud of Spectators, or having their Faces another way, yet would they be in wonderful Miseries, till the Bible were laid aside...

Sect. XVII...I took the Eldest of them home to my House. The young Woman continued well at our house, for diverse dayes... But on the Twentieth of November in the Fore-noon, she cry'd out, "Ah, They have found me out! I thought it would be so!" and immediately she fell into her fits again. ..

Sect. XVIII. Variety of Tortures now siez'd upon the Girl... she often would cough up a Ball as big as a small Egg, into the side of her Wind-pipe, that would near choak her, till by Stroking and by Drinking it was carried down again. At the beginning of her Fits usually she kept odly Looking up the Chimney, but could not say what she saw. When I bad her Cry to the Lord Jesus for Help, her Teeth were instantly sett; upon which I added, "Yet, child, Look unto Him," and then her Eyes were presently pulled into her head, so farr, that one might have fear'd she should never have us'd them more. When I prayed in the Room, first her Arms were with a strong, tho not seen Force clap't upon her ears; and when her hands were with violence pull'd away, she crted out, " They make such a noise, I cannot hear a word!" She likewise complain'd, that Goody Glover's Chain was upon her- Leg, and when she essay'd to go, her postures were exactly sluch as the chained Witch had before she died...

Sect. XIX. In her ludicrous Fits, one while she would be for Flying; and she would be carried hither and thither, tho not long from the ground, yet so long as to exceed the ordinary power of Nature in our Opinion of it: another-while she would be for Diving, and use the Actions of it towards the Floor, on which, if we had not held her, she would have throwrn her self...

Sect. XX. While she was in her Frolicks I was willing to try, Whether she could read or no; and I found, not only That If she went to read the Bible her Eyes would be strangely twisted and blinded, and her Neck presently broken, but also that if any one else did read the Bible in the Room, tho it were wholly out of her sight, and without the least voice or noise of it, she would be cast into very terrible Agonies...

From Saducismus Triumphatus or, Full and Plain Evidence Concerning Witches and Apparitions… by Joseph Glanvill. London, 1689.

Sect. XXI. ... A few further Tryals, I confess, I did make; but what the event of 'em was, I shall not relate, because I would not offend...

Sect. XXII. There was another most unaccountable Circumstance which now attended her... Ever now and then, an Invisible Horse would be brought unto her, by those whom she only called, "them," and, "Her Company... "They say, I am a Tell-Tale, and therefore they will not let me see them." Upon this would she give a Spring as one mounting an Horse, and Settling her self in a RidingPosture-she would in her Chair be agitated as one sometimes Ambleing, sometimes Trotting, and sometimes Galloping very furiously...

Sect. XXIII. One of the Spectators once ask'd her, Whether she could not ride up stairs; unto which her Answer was, That she believe'd she could, for her Horse could do very notable things. Accordingly, when her Horse came to her again, to our Admiration she Rode (that is, was tossed as one that rode) up the stairs: there then stood open the Study of one belonging to the Family, into which entring, she stood immediately upon her Feet, and cry'd out, "They are gone; they are gone! They say, that they cannot,-God won't let 'em come here! "

Sect. XXIV. ...Presently upon this her Horse returned, only it pestered her with such ugly paces, that she fell out with her Company, and threatned now to tell all, for their so abusing her. I was going abroad, and she said unto them that were about her, "Mr. M. is gone abroad, my horse won't come back, till he come home; and then I believe"...

Sect. XXV. From this day the power of the Enemy was broken; and the children, though Assaults after this were made upon them, yet were not so cruelly handled as before...

Sect. XXVI. Within a day or two after the Fast, the young Woman had two remarkable Attempts made upon her... Another time, they putt an unseen Rope with a cruel Noose about her Neck, Whereby she was choaked, until she was black in the Face; and though it was taken off before it had kill'd her, yet there were the red Marks of it, and of a Finger and a Thumb near it, remaining to be seen for a while afterwards.

Sect. XXVII. This was the last Molestation that they gave her for a While...

Sect. XXVIII. ... I was in Latin telling some young Gentlemen of the Colledge, That if I should bid her Look to God, her Eyes would be put out, upon which her eyes were presently served so. I was in some surprize, When I saw that her Troublers understood Latin, and it made me willing to try a little more of their Capacity. We continually found, that if an English Bible were in any part of the Room seriously look'd into, though she saw and heard nothing of it, she would immediately be in very dismal Agonies.

Sect. XXIX. Devotion was now, as formerly, the terriblest of all the provocations that could be given her...During the time of Reading, she would be laid as one fast asleep; but when Prayer was begun, the Devils would still throw her on the Floor, at the feet of him that prayed. There would she lye and Whistle and sing and roar, to drown the voice of the Prayer; but that being a little too audible for Them, they would shutt close her Mouth and her ears, and yet make such odd noises in her Threat as that she her self could not hear our Cries to God for her. Shee'd also fetch very terrible Blowes with her Fist, and Kicks with her Foot at the man that prayed; but still (for he had bid that none should hinder her) hei, Fist and Foot would alwaies recoil, when they came within a few hairs breadths of him just as if Rebounding against a Wall; so that she touch'd him not, but then would beg hard of other people to strike him, and particularly she entreated them to take the Tongs and smite him; Which not being done, she cryed out of him, "He has wounded me in the Head." But before Prayer was out, she would be laid for Dead, wholly sensless and (unless to a severe Trial) Breathless; with her Belly swelled like a Drum, and sometimes with croaking Noises in it; thus would she ly, most exactly with the stiffness and posture of one that had been two Days laid out for Dead...When Prayer was ended, she would Revive in a minute or two, and continue as Frolicksome as before.

Sect. XXX. After this, we had no more such entertainments. The Demons it may be would once or twice in a Week trouble her for a few minutes with perhaps a twisting and a twinkling of her eyes, or a certain Cough which did seem to be more than ordinary...

Sect. XXXI. ...We could cheat them when we spoke one thing, and mean't another. This was found when the Children were to be undressed. The Devils would still in wayes beyond the Force of any Imposture, wonderfully twist the part that was to be undress't, so that there was no coming at it. But, if we said, untye his neckcloth, and the parties bidden, at the same time, understood our intent to be, unty his Shooe! The Neckcloth, and not the shooe, has been made strangely inaccessible...

Sect. XXXII. The Last Fit that the young Woman had, was very peculiar. The Daemons having once again seiz'd her, they made her pretend to be Dying; and Dying truly we fear'd at last she was: She lay, she tossed, she pull'd just like one Dying, and urged hard for some one to dy with her, seeming loth to dy alone... Anon, the Fit went over; and as I guessed it would be, it was the last Fit she had at our House...

Sect. XXXIII. This is the Story of Goodwins Children, a Story all made up of Wonders! I have related nothing but what I judge to be true. I was my self an Eye-witness to a large part of what I tell...

From Saducismus Triumphatus or, Full and Plain Evidence Concerning Witches and Apparitions… by Joseph Glanvill. London, 1689.

Books & Articles -- Salem Witchcraft Trials

Adams. Brooks.  The Emancipation of Massachusetts: The Dream and the Reality.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1887 Feels that Samuel Parris preached “inflammatory” sermons and “garbled the testimony it was his sacred duty to truly record.”Image of a man speaking with women outside from the book "Saducismus Triumphatus or, Full and Plain Evidence Concerning Witches and Apparitions…" by Joseph Glanvil

Bliss, William Root.  Side Glimpses from the Colonial Meeting-House.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1894   Chapter XII, “The Notorious Ministers,” is on the Salem witchcraft trials.

Bonfanti, Leo.  The Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692.  Wakefield MA: Pride Publications, 1971  Overview of the Salem trials.

Boyer, Paul and Nissenbaum, Stephen.  Salem Possessed:  The Social Origins of Witchcraft.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974 Describes social and economic conditions in Salem that led to the witchcraft accusations.

Boyer, Paul S. and Nissenbaum, Stephen, comps.  Salem-Village Witchcraft:  A Documentary Record of Local Conflict in Colonial New England.  Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub. Co., 1972  Transcriptions of original proceedings and testimony pertaining to the cases of Sara Good, Rebecca Nurse, Bridget Bishop, John Willard, and George Burroughs and related Salem records.

Breslaw, Elaine G.  Tituba, Reluctant Witch of Salem:  Devilish Indians & Puritan Fantasies.  The American Social Experience.  New York: New York University Press, 1996  Examines the life of one of the instigators of events resulting in the Salem witchcraft trials.

Carlson, Laurie M.  A Fever in Salem: A New Interpretation of the New England Witch Trials.  Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1999   Attributes the 1692 Salem witchcraft craze to encephalitis.

Caufield, Ernest.  Pediatric Aspects of the Salem Witchcraft Tragedy: A Lesson in Mental Health  "Reprinted from the American Journal of Diseases of Children, May 1943, Vol. 65, pp. 788-802."

Demos, John.  Entertaining Satan:  Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982  A psycho-historical analysis of the trials; sees desires for attention as one of the motives of the afflicted.

Fowler, Samuel P., ed.  Salem Witchcraft: Comprising More Wonders of the Invisible World, Collected by Robert Calef, and Wonders of the Invisible World, by Cotton Mather….  Boston: W. Veazie, 1865

Fox, Sanford J.  Science and Justice: The Massachusetts Witchcraft Trials.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press [1968]

Francis, Richard.  Judge Sewall’s Apology:  The Salem Witch Trials and the Forming of An American Conscience.  New York: Fourth Estate, 2005  Insights into Judge Samuel Sewall's shift in conscience between 1692, when he served as a judge in the witchcraft trials, to his public apology in 1697.

Gemmill, William Nelson.  The Salem Witch Trials:  A Chapter of New England History. Chicago: A. C. McGlurg & Co., 1924

Gragg, Larry.  The Salem Witch Crisis.  New York: Praeger, 1992  Chapter 10, “Afterword,” compares the approaches of the various books on the Salem witch trials that were published as of 1992.

Hansen, Chadwick.  Witchcraft at Salem.  New York: George Braziller, 1969  States that real black magic was practiced and contributed to the Salem hysteria.

Hoffer, Peter Charles.  The Devil’s Disciples:  Makers of the Salem Witchcraft Trials.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1996

Hutchinson, Thomas.  The Witchcraft Delusion of 1692.  Boston: D. Clapp & Sons, 1870  "Reprinted from the New-England Historical and Genealogical Register for October, 1870, pp. 381-414.  Written by a Governor of Massachusetts (1771-1774), also a historian.  As Governor, Hutchinson had unlimited access to state papers on the trials.  Includes partial transcriptions of questioning in Andover witchcraft trials, among others.  The draft  upon which this survived the riots of 1765, when a mob attacked his house.  (A later draft went into his History of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, ed. by Wm. Frederick Poole.  3 vols.  Orig pub. 1764-1828.  Reprint New York:  Arno Press, 1972)

Kenses, James. “Some Unexplored Relationships of Essex County Witchcraft to the Indian Wars of 1675 and 1689.”  Essex Institute Historical Collections 120 (July 1984): 179-212.

Koehler, Lyle.  A Search for Power:  the “Weaker Sex” in Seventeenth-Century New England.  Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1980  States the afflicted girls and women challenged the gender relationship/hierarchy.

Konig, David.  Law and Society in Puritan Massachusetts:  Essex County, 1629-1692.  Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979  Suggests that the afflicted accusers in the witchcraft trials used the legal system to challenge authority.

LaPlante, Eve.  Salem Witch Judge:  The Life and Repentance of Samuel Sewall.   New York: HarperOne, 2007  An overview of Samuel Sewall’s life by a descendant of Anne Hutchinson.

Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth.  The New-England Tragedies.  Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1868 See Chapter II, “Giles Corey of Salem Farms.”  Corey did not admit either guilt or innocence and was pressed to death, thus allowing his goods to go to his heirs and not the sheriff.

Moore, George Henry.  Notes on the History of Witchcraft in Massachusetts.  Worcester, MA: Printed by C. Hamilton, 1883  A leading writer of the later 1800s on the witchcraft trials.

Mudge, Zachariah A.  Witch Hill: A History of Salem Witchcraft: … Sketches of Persons and Places.  New York: Carlton & Lanahan, 1870

Murdock, Kenneth Ballard.  Increase Mather:  The Foremost Puritan. Cambridge: University Press, 1925  See Chapter XVII, “Dolefull Witchcraft,” pp. 287-317, on the belief in witchcraft in late 1600s New England and on the involvement of the Mathers in the Salem trials.  Also see “Appendix B:  The Return [i.e.,statement]…Upon the Present Witchcraft in Salem Village,” pp. 405-6, for witchcraft trial guidelines from 1693.

Nevins, Winfield S.  Witchcraft in Salem Village in 1692.  Salem, MA: Salem Press Co., 1916  Has a number of drawings and photos of places connected with the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692.

Norton, Mary Beth. In the Devil’s Snare:  The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002. Examines the effect the prominence of women in the witchcraft trials had on society; also discuss the possible post-traumatic influence of pre-1692 Maine Indian raids on the coming forth of the trials in Salem.

Parkin, Robert E.  Our Ancestral Witch.  St. Louis: Genealogical R.& P., [1986]  About Susanna Martin of the Salem witchcraft trials.

Parrington, Vernon Louis.  Main Currents in American Thought:  An Interpretation of American Literature from the Beginnings to 1920.  New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1927-30. Suggests that Cotton Mather’s “speech and writings dripped with devil–talk” that encouraged the witchcraft “delusion.”

Perley, Sidney.  The History of Salem, Massachusetts.  Salem, MA  See pp. 254-95 for "The Witchcraft Delusion."

Robinson, Enders A.  Salem Witchcraft and Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables. Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 1992

Roach, Marilynne K.  The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-By-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege.  New York: Cooper Square Press, 2002  Day-by-day chronology of the Salem witch trials and related events.

Rosenthal, Bernard.  Salem Story:  Reading the Witch Trials of 1692.  Cambridge Studies in American Literature & Culture.  New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995   An analytical view of the Salem trials.

Starkey, Marion Lena.  The Devil in Massachusetts:  A Modern Inquiry Into the Salem Witch Trials.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1949 Sees the witchcraft hysteria as caused by teenagers with no real emotional outlets.  Image of a man flying from the book from the book "Saducismus Triumphatus or, Full and Plain Evidence Concerning Witches and Apparitions…" by Joseph Glanvil

Trask, Richard B.  The Devil Hath Been Raised:  A Documentary History of the Salem Village Witchcraft Outbreak.  Danvers, MA: Danvers Historical Society, 1992

Upham, Charles W.  Salem Witchcraft:  With an Account of Salem Village and a History of Opinions on Witchcraft and Kindred Subjects.  Reprint 1959 (2 vols.).  New York: Ungar Mr. Upham, a native of Salem, was one of the first to thoroughly examine all the Salem town records -- land and probate as well as vital and church -- and to analyze the trials in the light of the town’s history and previously little-known “jealousies, discontent, and animosities” of its residents.

_________. Lectures on Witchcraft, Comprising a History of the Delusion in Salem in 1692.  Boston: Carter, Hendee and Babcock, 1831

_________. Salem Witchcraft and Cotton Mather…. Morrisania, NY:  n.p., 1869

Weisman, Richard.  Witchcraft, Magic and Religion in 17th-Century Massachusetts.  Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1984  A historical, theological, and sociological examination of the Salem witchcraft trials.

Whitmore, William Henry. Andros Tracts: … a Collection of Pamphlets and Official Papers Issued … Between the Overthrow of the Andros Government and the Establishment of the Second Charter of Massachusetts….  Boston: The Prince Society, 1868-74 Robert Calef’s accusations against Cotton Mather as a promoter of the Salem witchcraft hysteria, and Cotton Mather’s replies.

Halloween - A Scholar looks at New England's 1692 Salem Witch Trials

This Halloween seems like an appropriate moment to look at the Salem witch trials of 1692, through the research of Dr. Richard Godbeer of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.

"Salem witches & their accusers were swept up in a witch panic that gripped Essex county, Massachusetts, in 1692. The witch hysteria began in Salem village when girls & young women reportedly had begun to suffer strange fits, diagnosed by the local doctor as symptoms of witchcraft. Once they were pressured to name their alleged tormentors other villagers began to come forward with accusations of their own. During that year formal charges of witchcraft were brought against 156 people. Many others were named informally. Over half of those indicted lived in Salem village & Andover, but the accused witches included women & men from 24 New England towns & villages.

"On both sides of the Atlantic, witchcraft was perceived as a primarily female phenomenon & over ¾ of the accused were women. Puritans did not believe that women were by nature more evil than men, but they did see them as weaker & thus more susceptible to sinful impulses. Ministers regularly reminded New England congregations that it was Eve who first gave way to Satan & then seduced Adam, when she should have continued to serve his moral welfare in obedience to God.

"Some women were much more likely than others to be suspected of witchcraft. Throughout the 17th century New England women became especially susceptible to accusation if they were seen as challenging their prescribed place in a gendered hierarchy that puritans held to be ordained by God. Women who fulfilled their allotted social roles as wives, mothers, household mistresses, & church members without threatening assumptions about appropriate female comportment were respected and praised as the handmaidens of the Lord; but those whose circumstances or behavior seemed to disrupt social norms could easily become branded as the servants of Satan.

"Especially vulnerable were women who had passed menopause & thus no longer served the purpose of procreation, women who were widowed & so neither fulfilled the role of wife nor had a husband to protect them from malicious accusations, & women who had inherited or stood to inherit property in violation of expectations that wealth would be transmitted from man to man.

"Women who seemed unduly aggressive & contentious were also likely to be accused; behavior that would not have struck contemporaries as particularly egregious in men seemed utterly inappropriate in women. Bridget Bishop & Susannah Martin, both executed in 1692, exemplify these characteristics: both had been widowed; Bishop had assumed control of her first husband's property before remarrying; Martin had engaged in protracted litigation over her father's estate in an unsuccessful attempt to secure what she considered her rightful inheritance; both women had displayed an assertiveness & fiery temper that some of their neighbours found deeply troubling.

Devil Snatches Woman on Pitchfork

"Many of those accused in 1692, male & female, either had reputations for occult expertise or had at least experimented with magical techniques for divination or healing. Although ministers condemned any form of magic as diabolical, layfolk often appreciated being able to consult ‘cunning folk’ for benign purposes. Yet such individuals were vulnerable to allegations that they had also deployed their abilities to harm enemies. Samuel Wardwell (d. 1692), for example, was known to have told fortunes & had boasted of his abilities. One neighbor was reported as having declared that he must be ‘a witch or else he could never tell what he did.’

Witches at Cauldron from Ulrich Molitor. De Lamiis et Phitonicis Mulieribus, 1493

"Other suspects became vulnerable during the 1692 panic, because they were associated with recent threats to the New England colonies. American Indian attacks, political reforms imposed by the government in England that threatened to undermine the colonists' independence, the increasing visibility of religious dissenters, & the imposition of a new charter in 1691 that gave freedom of worship & the vote to previously disfranchised groups such as Quakers combined to leave the colonists feeling imperiled by alien, invasive, & malevolent forces.

"They described these threats in much the same language used to characterize witchcraft. Puritans believed, furthermore, that there was a close connection between heresy, heathenism, & witchcraft. A significant number of the accused had close Quaker associations & several suspects were linked by their accusers to American Indians. Samuel Wardwell had Quaker relatives; one of John Alden's accusers claimed that he had sold gunpowder to Indians & had been sexually involved with their women. Tituba, an accused American Indian woman who had lived in the Caribbean before coming with her master to Salem village, was marked by her race as well as her reputation for occult skills. Many of the accused were clearly perceived as outsiders, either literally or figuratively. Eight of the Andover suspects were marginalized by ethnic affiliation: Martha Carrier (d. 1692), for example, was Scottish & had married a Welshman.

1598 Trial of a Witch

"During the decades leading up to the witch hunt Salem village itself had become bitterly divided around a series of issues that paralleled crises in the region at large. The village was legally subordinate to Salem town & had no civil government of its own. Some villagers wanted independence from the town, partly because the latter had proven remarkably insensitive to their concerns & partly to separate themselves from the commercial spirit that increasingly characterized the town, which was flourishing as a seaport. Villagers who saw that way of life as spiritually suspect tended to distrust neighbors who lived near to or were associated with the town's interests. Factional division was shaped by disparate economic opportunity as well as by cultural values. Those farmers who lived closest to the town had land of a higher quality, enjoyed easier access to its markets, & tended to see the town's development as an opportunity; those living further west had poorer land, were less able to take advantage of the town's growth, & tended to resent those who could do so.

"Proponents of separation from the town secured the establishment of an independent church in 1689 & the ordination of Samuel Parris (1653–1720), a failed merchant, as their pastor. Parris, whose position as pastor was under threat by 1692, fueled hostilities by translating factional division into a cosmic struggle between the forces of good & evil. His daughter & niece, Elizabeth Parris [married name Barron] (1682/3–1760) & Abigail Williams (b. 1680/81), were among the initial accusers. Ann Putnam (1679–1715), daughter of the minister's close ally Thomas Putnam (1653–1699), was another member of that core group; Mercy Lewis [married name Allen] (b. 1672/3), a servant in the Putnam household, & Mary Walcott [married name Farrar] (b. 1674/5), a niece who lived with the Putnams, were also prominent accusers. The elder Ann Putnam [née Carr] (1662–1699), wife of Thomas, claimed that she too was afflicted.

"Divisions within the village were reproduced in the pattern of accusations in 1692: most accused witches & their defenders lived on the side of the village nearest to Salem town, whereas most of the accusers lived on the western side. Many of the accused had personal histories or interests that either associated them with Salem town or otherwise marked them as threatening outsiders. In Salem village & in the county as a whole those individuals & families who had become identified with forces that seemed disorderly & immoral fell victim to accusations of witchcraft as the initial afflictions in the village ignited witch panic.

From the book The Wonderful Discoverie of the Witchcrafts of Margaret and Phillip Fowler... 1618  The Examinations of Anne Baker, Joanne Willimot, and Ellen Greene

"By early October, when the court proceedings were halted amid acrimonious controversy, 19 people had been hanged: Bridget Bishop on 10 June; Sarah Good, Elizabeth How, Susannah Martin, Rebecca Nurse, & Sarah Wilds on 19 July; George Burroughs, Martha Carrier, George Jacobs, John Proctor, & John Willard on 19 August; & Martha Corey, Mary Easty, Alice Parker, Mary Parker, Ann Purdeator, Wilmot Reed, Margaret Scott, & Samuel Wardwell on 22 September. Giles Corey was pressed to death under interrogation on 19 September. Over one hundred individuals were in prison awaiting trial, four of whom died during their confinement (Lydia Dustin, died on 3 March 1693; Ann Foster (d. 1692/3); Sarah Osborne, died on 10 May 1692; & Roger Toothaker, died on 16 June 1692).

Chronica Mundi 1493 Demon et Stryge

"Three-quarters of those tried before 1692 were acquitted because the evidence against them, though compelling in the eyes of their accusers, proved unconvincing from a legal perspective. The Salem trials were halted primarily because of controversy over the court's reliance upon problematic testimony, which reaffirmed & intensified judicial concerns regarding evidentiary issues. Such concerns combined with embarrassment & distress over the deaths that resulted from the trials that year to discourage future prosecutions, though an end to witch trials in New England by the century's close did not signify an end to the belief in & fear of witches."

Reverse Baptism 1257

Events in Salem Village in 1692

January 20

Nine-year-old Elizabeth Parris and eleven-year-old Abigail Williams began to exhibit strange behavior, such as blasphemous screaming, convulsive seizures, trance-like states and mysterious spells. Within a short time, several other Salem girls began to demonstrate similar behavior.


Unable to determine any physical cause for the symptoms and dreadful behavior, physicians concluded that the girls were under the influence of Satan.

Late February

Prayer services and community fasting were conducted by Reverend Samuel Parris in hopes of relieving the evil forces that plagued them. In an effort to expose the "witches," John Indian baked a witch cake made with rye meal and the afflicted girls' urine. This counter-magic was meant to reveal the identities of the "witches" to the afflicted girls.

Pressured to identify the source of their affliction, the girls named three women, including Tituba, Parris' Carib Indian slave, as witches. On February 29, warrants were issued for the arrests of Tituba, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne.

Although Osborne and Good maintained innocence, Tituba confessed to seeing the devil who appeared to her "sometimes like a hog and sometimes like a great dog." What's more, Tituba testified that there was a conspiracy of witches at work in Salem.

Feeding Demonic Creatures

March 1

Magistrates John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin examined Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborne in the meeting house in Salem Village. Tituba confessed to practicing witchcraft.

Over the next weeks, other townspeople came forward and testified that they, too, had been harmed by or had seen strange apparitions of some of the community members. As the witch hunt continued, accusations were made against many different people.

Frequently denounced were women whose behavior or economic circumstances were somehow disturbing to the social order and conventions of the time. Some of the accused had previous records of criminal activity, including witchcraft, but others were faithful churchgoers and people of high standing in the community.

March 12

Martha Corey is accused of witchcraft.

March 19

Rebecca Nurse was denounced as a witch.

March 21

Martha Corey was examined before Magistrates Hathorne and Corwin.

March 24

Rebecca Nurse was examined before Magistrates Hathorne and Corwin.

March 28

Elizabeth Proctor was denounced as a witch.

April 3

Sarah Cloyce, Rebecca Nurse's sister, was accused of witchcraft.

April 11

Elizabeth Proctor and Sarah Cloyce were examined before Hathorne, Corwin, Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth, and Captain Samuel Sewall. During this examination, John Proctor was also accused and imprisoned.

April 19

Abigail Hobbs, Bridget Bishop, Giles Corey, and Mary Warren were examined. Only Abigail Hobbs confessed. William Hobbs "I can deny it to my dying day."

April 22

Nehemiah Abbott, William and Deliverance Hobbs, Edward and Sarah Bishop, Mary Easty, Mary Black, Sarah Wildes, and Mary English were examined before Hathorne and Corwin. Only Nehemiah Abbott was cleared of charges.

May 2

Sarah Morey, Lydia Dustin, Susannah Martin, and Dorcas Hoar were examined by Hathorne and Corwin. Dorcas Hoar "I will speak the truth as long as I live."

May 4

George Burroughs was arrested in Wells, Maine.

May 9

Burroughs was examined by Hathorne, Corwin, Sewall, and William Stoughton. One of the afflicted girls, Sarah Churchill, was also examined.

May 10

George Jacobs, Sr. and his granddaughter Margaret were examined before Hathorne and Corwin. Margaret confessed and testified that her grandfather and George Burroughs were both witches. Sarah Osborne died in prison in Boston.

Margaret Jacobs "... They told me if I would not confess I should be put down into the dungeon and would be hanged, but if I would confess I should save my life."

May 14

Increase Mather returned from England, bringing with him a new charter and the new governor, Sir William Phips.

May 18

Mary Easty was released from prison. Yet, due to the outcries and protests of her accusers, she was arrested a second time.

May 27

Governor Phips set up a special Court of Oyer and Terminer comprised of seven judges to try the witchcraft cases. Appointed were Lieutenant Governor William Stoughton, Nathaniel Saltonstall, Bartholomew Gedney, Peter Sergeant, Samuel Sewall, Wait Still Winthrop, John Richards, John Hathorne, and Jonathan Corwin.

These magistrates based their judgments and evaluations on various kinds of intangible evidence, including direct confessions, supernatural attributes (such as "witchmarks"), and reactions of the afflicted girls. Spectral evidence, based on the assumption that the Devil could assume the "specter" of an innocent person, was relied upon despite its controversial nature.

May 31

Martha Carrier, John Alden, Wilmott Redd, Elizabeth Howe, and Phillip English were examined before Hathorne, Corwin, and Gedney.

June 2

Initial session of the Court of Oyer and Terminer. Bridget Bishop was the first to be pronounced guilty of witchcraft and condemned to death.

Early June

Soon after Bridget Bishop's trial, Nathaniel Saltonstall resigned from the court, dissatisfied with its proceedings.

June 10

Bridget Bishop was hanged in Salem, the first official execution of the Salem witch trials.  Bridget Bishop "I am no witch. I am innocent. I know nothing of it." Following her death, accusations of witchcraft escalated, but the trials were not unopposed. Several townspeople signed petitions on behalf of accused people they believed to be innocent.

June 29-30

Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Sarah Wildes, Sarah Good and Elizabeth Howe were tried for witchcraft and condemned. Rebecca Nurse "Oh Lord, help me! It is false. I am clear. For my life now lies in your hands...."


In an effort to expose the witches afflicting his life, Joseph Ballard of nearby Andover enlisted the aid of the accusing girls of Salem. This action marked the beginning of the Andover witch hunt.

July 19

Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth Howe, Sarah Good, and Sarah Wildes were executed. Elizabeth Howe "If it was the last moment I was to live, God knows I am innocent..."Susannah Martin "I have no hand in witchcraft."

August 2-6

George Jacobs, Sr., Martha Carrier, George Burroughs, John and Elizabeth Proctor, and John Willard were tried for witchcraft and condemned. Martha Carrier "...I am wronged. It is a shameful thing that you should mind these folks that are out of their wits."

August 19

George Jacobs, Sr., Martha Carrier, George Burroughs, John Proctor, and John Willard were hanged on Gallows Hill. George Jacobs "Because I am falsely accused. I never did it."

September 9

Martha Corey, Mary Easty, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Dorcas Hoar, and Mary Bradbury were tried and condemned. Mary Bradbury "I do plead not guilty. I am wholly innocent of such wickedness."

September 17

Margaret Scott, Wilmott Redd, Samuel Wardwell, Mary Parker, Abigail Faulkner, Rebecca Eames, Mary Lacy, Ann Foster, and Abigail Hobbs were tried and condemned.

September 19

Giles Corey was pressed to death for refusing a trial.

September 21

Dorcas Hoar was the first of those pleading innocent to confess. Her execution was delayed.

September 22

Martha Corey, Margaret Scott, Mary Easty, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Wilmott Redd, Samuel Wardwell, and Mary Parker were hanged.

October 8

After 20 people had been executed in the Salem witch hunt, Thomas Brattle wrote a letter criticizing the witchcraft trials. This letter had great impact on Governor Phips, who ordered that reliance on spectral and intangible evidence no longer be allowed in trials.

October 29

Governor Phips dissolved the Court of Oyer and Terminer.

November 25

The General Court of the colony created the Superior Court to try the remaining witchcraft cases which took place in May, 1693. This time no one was convicted.

Mary Easty "...if it be possible no more innocent blood be shed...I am clear of this sin."

Swapping Book of Salvation for the Devil's Black Book of the Damned

See:  Salem witches & their accusers. Richard Godbeer Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004  Richard Godbeer received his B.A. from Oxford University in 1984 & his Ph.D. from Brandeis University in 1989. In addition to witchcraft, he specializes in colonial & revolutionary America, with an emphasis on religious culture, gender studies, & the history of sexuality. He has taught at Virginia Commonwealth University.  Godbeer is author of The Devil’s Dominion: Magic and Religion in Early New England (published in 1992 by Cambridge University Press), Sexual Revolution in Early America (published in 2002 by Johns Hopkins University Press), Escaping Salem: The Other Witch Hunt of 1692 (published in 2004 by Oxford University Press), The Overflowing of Friendship: Love Between Men and the Creation of the American Republic (published in 2009 by Johns Hopkins University Press) & The Salem Witch Hunt: A Brief History with Documents (published in 2011 as a volume in the Bedford Series in History & Culture).