Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Suzanne Shell, Sjaani and the Online Distributed
[Illustration: A Grand Jury Presentment for Witchcraft Reproduced from the
original in the Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford
May it please yr Honble Court, we the Grand inquest now setting for the
County of Fairefeild, being made sensable, not only by Common fame (but
by testamonies duly billed to us) that the widow Mary Staple, Mary
Harvey ye wife of Josiah Harvey & Hannah Harvey the daughter of the
saide Josiah, all of Fairefeild, remain under the susspition of useing
witchecraft, which is abomanable both in ye sight of God & man and ought
to be witnessed against. we doe therefore (in complyance to our duty,
the discharge of our oathes and that trust reposed in us) presente the
above mentioned pssons to the Honble Court of Assistants now setting in
Fairefeild, that they may be taken in to Custody & proceeded against
according to their demerits.
Fairefeild, Fby, 1692
in behalfe of the Grnd Jury
JOSEPH BASTARD, foreman]
DELUSION IN COLONIAL
BY JOHN M. TAYLOR
Author of "Maximilian and Carlotta, a Story of Imperialism," and
"Roger Ludlow, the Colonial Lawmaker"
"Connecticut can well afford to
let her records go to the world."
_Blue Laws: True and False_ (p. 47).
J. HAMMOND TRUMBULL.
The true story of witchcraft in old Connecticut has never been told. It
has been hidden in the ancient records and in manuscripts in private
collections, and those most conversant with the facts have not made them
known, for one reason or another. It is herein written from
authoritative sources, and should prove of interest and value as a
present-day interpretation of that strange delusion, which for a half
century darkened the lives of the forefathers and foremothers of the
TWO INDICTMENTS FOR WITCHCRAFT
"John Carrington thou art indited by the name of John Carrington of
Wethersfield--carpenter--, that not hauing the feare of God before thine
eyes thou hast interteined ffamilliarity with Sattan the great enemye of
God and mankinde and by his helpe hast done workes aboue the course of
nature for wch both according to the lawe of God and the established
lawe of this Commonwealth thou deseruest to dye."
Record Particular Court, 2: 17, 1650-51.
"Hugh Crotia, Thou Standest here presented by the name of Hugh Crotia of
Stratford in the Colony of Connecticut in New England; for that not
haueing the fear of God before thine Eyes, through the Instigation of
the Devill, thou hast forsaken thy God & covenanted with the Devill, and
by his help hast in a preternaturall way afflicted the bodys of Sundry
of his Majesties good Subjects, for which according to the Law of God,
and the Law of this Colony, thou deseruest to dye."
Record Court of Assistants, 2: 16, 1693.
A WARRANT FOR THE EXECUTION OF A WITCH[A] AND THE SHERIFF'S RETURN
To George Corwin Gentlm high Sheriff of the County of Essex Greeting
Whereas Bridgett Bishop als Olliver the wife of Edward Bishop of Salem
in the County of Essex Sawyer at a special Court of Oyer and
Terminer ---- (held at?)[B] Salem this second Day of this instant month of
June for the Countyes of Essex Middlesex and Suffolk before William
Stoughton Esqe. and his Associates Justices of the said Court was
Indicted and arraigned upon five several Indictments for useing
practising & exercising on the ----[B] last past and divers others
days ----[B] witchcraft in and upon the bodyes of Abigail Williams Ann
puttnam Jr Mercy Lewis Mary Walcott and Elizabeth Hubbard of Salem
Village single women; whereby their bodyes were hurt afflicted pined
consumed wasted & tormented contrary to the forme of the statute in that
case made and provided To which Indictmts the said Bridgett Bishop
pleaded not guilty and for Tryall thereof put herselfe upon God and her
Country ----[B] she was found guilty of the ffelonyes and Witchcrafts
whereof she stood Indicted and sentence of death accordingly passed agt
her as the Law directs execution whereof yet remaines to be done These
are therefore in the name of their Majties William & Mary now King &
Queen over England & to will and command you that upon Fryday next being
the fourth day of this instant month of June between the hours of Eight
and twelve in the aforenoon of the same day you safely conduct the sd
Bridgett Bishop als Olliver from their Majties Goale in Salem aforesd to
the place of execution and there cause her to be hanged by the neck
until she be dead and of your doings herein make returne to the Clerk of
the sd Court and precept And hereof you are not to faile at your peril
And this shall be sufficient warrant Given under my hand & seal at Boston
the Eighth of June in the ffourth year of the reigne of our Sovereigne
Lords William & Mary now King & Queen over England Annoque Dm 1692
[Footnote A: Original in office of Clerk of the Courts at Salem,
Massachusetts. Said to be the only one extant in American archives.]
[Footnote B: Some of the words in the warrant are illegible.]
June 16 1692
According to the within written precept I have taken the Bodye of the
within named Bridgett Bishop out of their Majties Goale in Salem &
Safely Conueighd her to the place provided for her Execution & Caused ye
sd Bridgett to be hanged by the neck till Shee was dead all which was
according to the time within Required & So I make returne by me
Perkins' definition--Burr's "Servants of Satan"--The monkish idea--The
ancientness of witchcraft--Its universality--Its regulation--What it
was--Its oldest record--The Babylonian Stele--Its discovery--King
Hammurabi's Code, 2250 B.C.--Its character and importance--Hebraic
resemblances--Its witchcraft law--The test of guilt--The water test.
Opinions of Blackstone and Lecky--Witchcraft nomenclature--Its earlier
and later phases--Common superstitions--Monna Sidonia's invocation--
Leland's Sea Song--Witchcraft's diverse literature--Its untold history--
The modern Satanic idea--Exploitation by the Inquisitors--The chief
authorities--The witch belief--Its recognition in drama and romance--The
Weird Sisters--Other characters.
Fundamentals--The scriptural citations--Old and New
Testament--Josephus--Ancient and modern witchcraft--The distinction--The
arch enemy Satan--Action of the Church--The later definition--The New
England indictments--Satan's recognition--Persecutions in Italy, Germany
and France--Slow spread to England--Statute of Henry VIII--Cranmer's
injunction--Jewell's sermon--Statute James I--His Demonologie--Executions
in Eastern England--Witch finder Hopkins--Howell's statement--John
Lowes--Witchcraft in Scotland--Commissions--Instruments of torture--Forbes'
Fiske's view--The forefathers' belief--Massachusetts, Connecticut and
New Haven laws--Sporadic cases--The Salem tragedy--Statements of
Hawthorne, Fiske, Lowell, Latimer--The victims--Upham's picture--The
trial court--Sewall's confession--Cotton Mather--Calef and
Upham--Poole--Mather's rules--Ministerial counsel--Longfellow's
opinion--Mather's responsibility--His own evidence--Conspectus
The Epidemic in Connecticut--Palfrey--Trumbulls--Winthrop's
Journal--Treatment of witchcraft--Silence and evasion--The true
story--How told--Witnesses--Testimony--All classes affected--The
courts--Judges and jurors--The best evidence--The record--Grounds for
examination of a witch--Jones' summary--Witch marks--What they were--How
discovered--Dalton's Country Justice--The searchers--Searchers' report
in Disborough and Clawson cases
Hamersley's and Morgan's comment--John Allyn's letter--The
accusation--Its origin--Its victims--Many witnesses--Record
evidence--The witnesses themselves--Memorials of their delusion--Notable
depositions--Selected testimonies, and cases--Katherine Harrison--The
court--The judge--The indictment--Grand jury's oath--Credulity of the
court--Testimony--Its unique character--Bracy--Dickinson--Montague--
Graves--Francis--Johnson--Hale--Smith--Verdict and sentence--Court's
appeal to the ministers--Their answer--A remarkable document--Katherine's
petition--"A Complaint of severall grieuances"--Katherine's reprieve--
Dismissal from imprisonment--Removal
Mercy Disborough--Cases at Fairfield, 1692--The special court--The
Grey--Godfree--Search for witch marks--Ordeal by water--Cateran Branch's
accusation--Jury disagree--Later verdict of guilty--The governor's
sentence--Reference to General Court--Afterthought--John Hale's
conclusion--Courts call on the ministers--Their answer--General
advice--Reasons for reprieve--Notable papers--Eliot and
Hawthorne--Latimer--Additional cases--Curious and vulgar testimony--All
illustrative of opinion--Make it understandable--Elizabeth
Seager--Witnesses--What they swore to--Garretts--Sterne--Hart--Willard--
Pratt--Migat--"Staggerings" of the jury--Contradictions--Verdict--
Elizabeth Godman--Governor Goodyear's dilemma--Strange doings--Ball's
information--Imprisonment--Discharge--Nathaniel and Rebecca Greensmith--
Character, Accusation--Rebecca's confession--Conviction--Double execution
Elizabeth Clawson--The indictment--Witnesses--"Kateran" Branch--Garney--
Kecham--Abigail and Nathaniel Cross--Bates--Sargent Wescot and Abigail--
Hugh Crotia--The court--Grand jury--Indictment--Testimony--Confession--
Acquittal--Gaol delivery--Elizabeth Garlick--A sick woman's fancies--"A
black thing at the bed's featte"--Burning herbs--The sick child--The ox'
broken leg--The dead ram and sow--The Tale burning
Goodwife Knapp--Her character--A notable case--Imprisonment--Harsh
treatment--The inquisitors--Their urgency--Knapp's appeal--The postmortem
desecration--Prominent people involved--Davenport and Ludlow--Staplies vs.
Ludlow--The court--Confidential gossip--Cause of the suit--Testimony--
Brundish--Whitlock--Barlow--Lyon--Mistress Staplies--Her doings aforetime--
Tashs' night ride--"A light woman"--Her character--Reparation suit--Her
later indictment--Power of the delusion--Pertinent inquiry
Present opinions--J. Hammond Trumbull--Annie Eliot
complete roll--Changes in belief--Contrast--Edwards--Carter--"The
THE WITCHCRAFT DELUSION
IN COLONIAL CONNECTICUT
"First, because Witchcraft is a rife and common sinne in these our
daies, and very many are intangled with it, beeing either practitioners
thereof in their owne persons, or at the least, yielding to seeke for
helpe and counsell of such as practise it." _A Discovrse of the Damned
Art of Witchcraft_, PERKINS, 1610.
"And just as God has his human servants, his church on earth, so also
the Devil has his--men and women sworn to his service and true to his
bidding. To win such followers he can appear to men in any form he
pleases, can deceive them, enter into compact with them, initiate them
into his worship, make them his allies for the ruin of their fellows.
Now it is these human allies and servants of Satan, thus postulated into
existence by the brain of a monkish logician, whom history knows as
witches." _The Literature of Witchcraft_, BURR.
Witchcraft in its generic sense is as old as human history. It has
written its name in the oldest of human records. In all ages and among
all peoples it has taken firm hold on the fears, convictions and
consciences of men. Anchored in credulity and superstition, in the dread
and love of mystery, in the hard and fast theologic doctrines and
teachings of diabolism, and under the ban of the law from its beginning,
it has borne a baleful fruitage in the lives of the learned and the
unlearned, the wise and the simple.
King and prophet, prelate and priest, jurist and lawmaker, prince and
peasant, scholars and men of affairs have felt and dreaded its subtle
power, and sought relief in code and commandment, bull and anathema,
decree and statute--entailing even the penalty of death--and all in vain
until in the march of the races to a higher civilization, the centuries
enthroned faith in the place of fear, wisdom in the place of ignorance,
and sanity in the seat of delusion.
In its earlier historic conception witchcraft and its demonstrations
centered in the claim of power to produce certain effects, "things
beyond the course of nature," from supernatural causes, and under this
general term all its occult manifestations were classified with magic
and sorcery, until the time came when the Devil was identified and
acknowledged both in church and state as the originator and sponsor of
the mystery, sin and crime--the sole father of the Satanic compacts with
men and women, and the law both canonical and civil took cognizance of
his malevolent activities.
In the Acropolis mound at Susa in ancient Elam, in the winter of 1901-2,
there was brought to light by the French expedition in charge of the
eminent savant, M. de Morgan, one of the most remarkable memorials of
early civilization ever recovered from the buried cities of the Orient.
It is a monolith--a stele of black diorite--bearing in bas-relief a
likeness of Hammurabi (the Amrephel of the Old Testament; Genesis xiv, 1),
and the sixth king of the first Babylonian dynasty, who reigned
about 2250 B.C.; and there is also carved upon it, in archaic script in
black letter cuneiform--used long after the cursive writing was
invented--the longest Babylonian record discovered to this day,--the
oldest body of laws in existence and the basis of historical
It is a remarkable code, quickly made available through translation and
transliteration by the Assyrian scholars, and justly named, from its
royal compiler, Hammurabi's code. He was an imperialist in purpose and
action, and in the last of his reign of fifty-five years he annexed or
assimilated the suzerainty of Elam, or Southern Persia, with Assyria to
the north, and also Syria and Palestine, to the Mediterranean Sea.
This record in stone originally contained nineteen columns of
inscriptions of four thousand three hundred and fourteen lines, arranged
in two hundred and eighty sections, covering about two hundred separate
decisions or edicts. There is substantial evidence that many of the laws
were of greater antiquity than the code itself, which is a thousand
years older than the Mosaic code, and there are many striking
resemblances and parallels between its provisions, and the law of the
covenant, and the deuteronomy laws of the Hebrews.
The code was based on personal responsibility. It protects the sanctity
of an oath before God, provides among many other things for written
evidence in legal matters, and is wonderfully comprehensive and rich in
rules for the conduct of commercial, civic, financial, social, economic,
and domestic affairs.
These sections are notably illustrative:
"If a man, in a case (pending judgment), utters threats against the
witnesses (or), does not establish the testimony that he has given, if
that case be a case involving life, that man shall be put to death.
"If a judge pronounces a judgment, renders a decision, delivers a
verdict duly signed and sealed and afterwards alters his judgment, they
shall call that judge to account for the alteration of the judgment
which he had pronounced, and he shall pay twelvefold the penalty which
was in the said judgment, and, in the assembly, they shall expel him
from his seat of judgment, and he shall not return, and with the judges
in a case he shall not take his seat.
"If a man practices brigandage and is captured, that man shall be put to
"If a woman hates her husband, and says: 'thou shalt not have me,' they
shall inquire into her antecedents for her defects; and if she has been
a careful mistress and is without reproach and her husband has been
going about and greatly belittling her, that woman has no blame. She
shall receive her presents and shall go to her father's house.
"If she has not been a careful mistress, has gadded about, has neglected
her house and has belittled her husband, they shall throw that woman
into the water.
"If a physician operates on a man for a severe wound with a bronze
lancet and causes the man's death, or opens an abscess (in the eye) of a
man with a bronze lancet and destroys the man's eye, they shall cut off
"If a builder builds a house for a man and does not make its
construction firm and the house, which he has built, collapses and
causes the death of the owner of the house, that builder shall be put to
It is, however, with only one of King Hammurabi's wise laws that this
inquiry has to do, and it is this:
"If a man has placed an enchantment upon a man, and has not justified
himself, he upon whom the enchantment is placed to the Holy River
(Euphrates) shall go; into the Holy River he shall plunge. If the Holy
River holds (drowns) him he who enchanted him shall take his house. If
on the contrary, the man is safe and thus is innocent, the wizard loses
his life, and his house."
Or, as another translation has it:
"If a man ban a man and cast a spell on him--if he cannot justify it he
who has banned shall be killed."
"If a man has cast a spell on a man and has not justified it, he on whom
the spell has been thrown shall go to the River God, and plunge into the
river. If the River God takes him he who has banned him shall be saved.
If the River God show him to be innocent, and he be saved, he who banned
him shall be killed, and he who plunged into the river shall take the
house of him who banned him."
There can be no more convincing evidence of the presence and power of
the great witchcraft superstition among the primitive races than this
earliest law; and it is to be especially noted that it prescribes one of
the very tests of guilt--the proof by water--which was used in another
form centuries later, on the continent, in England and New England, at
Wurzburg and Bonn, at Rouen, in Suffolk, Essex and Devon, and at Salem
and Hartford and Fairfield, when "the Devil starteth himself up in the
pulpit, like a meikle black man, and calling the row (roll) everyone
"To deny the possibility, nay actual evidence of witchcraft and sorcery,
is at once to flatly contradict the revealed word of God in various
passages both of the Old and New Testaments." _Blackstone's
Commentaries_ (Vol. 4, ch. 4, p. 60).
"It was simply the natural result of Puritanical teaching acting on the
mind, predisposing men to see Satanic influence in life, and
consequently eliciting the phenomena of witchcraft." LECKY's
_Rationalism in Europe_ (Vol. I, p. 123).
Witchcraft's reign in many lands and among many peoples is also attested
in its remarkable nomenclature. Consider its range in ancient, medieval
and modern thought as shown in some of its definitions: Magic, sorcery,
soothsaying, necromancy, astrology, wizardry, mysticism, occultism, and
conjuring, of the early and middle ages; compacts with Satan, consorting
with evil spirits, and familiarity with the Devil, of later times; all
at last ripening into an epidemic demonopathy with its countless victims
of fanaticism and error, malevolence and terror, of persecution and
It is still most potent in its evil, grotesque, and barbaric forms, in
Fetichism, Voodooism, Bundooism, Obeahism, and Kahunaism, in the devil
and animal ghost worship of the black races, completely exemplified in
the arts of the Fetich wizard on the Congo; in the "Uchawi" of the
Wasequhha mentioned by Stanley; in the marriage customs of the Soudan
devil worshipers; in the practices of the Obeah men and women in the
Caribbees--notably their power in matters of love and business, religion
and war--in Jamaica; in the incantations of the kahuna in Hawaii; and in
the devices of the voodoo or conjure doctor in the southern states; in
the fiendish rites and ceremonies of the red men,--the Hoch-e-ayum of
the Plains Indians, the medicine dances of the Cheyennes and Arapahoes,
the fire dance of the Navajos, the snake dance of the Moquis, the sun
dance of the Sioux, in the myths and tales of the Cherokees; and it
rings in many tribal chants and songs of the East and West.
It lives as well, and thrives luxuriantly, ripe for the full vintage, in
the minds of many people to whom this or that trivial incident or
accident of life is an omen of good or evil fortune with a mysterious
parentage. Its roots strike deep in that strange element in human nature
which dreads whatsoever is weird and uncanny in common experiences, and
sees strange portents and dire chimeras in all that is unexplainable to
the senses. It is made most virile in the desire for knowledge of the
invisible and intangible, that must ever elude the keenest inquiry, a
phase of thought always to be reckoned with when imagination runs riot,
and potent in its effect, though evanescent as a vision the brain
sometimes retains of a dream, and as senseless in the cold light of
reason as Monna Sidonia's invocation at the Witches' Sabbath: (_Romance
of Leonardo da Vinci_, p. 97, MEREJKOWSKI.)
"Emen Hetan, Emen Hetan, Palu, Baalberi,
Astaroth help us Agora, Agora, Patrisa,
Come and help us."
"Garr-r: Garr-r, up: Don't knock
Your head: We fly: We fly:"
And who may count himself altogether free from the subtle power of the
old mystery with its fantastic imageries, when the spirit of unrest is
abroad? Who is not moved by it in the awesome stillness of night on the
plains, or in the silence of the mountains or of the somber forest
aisles; in wild winter nights when old tales are told; in fireside
visions as tender memories come and go? And who, when listening to the
echoes of the chambers of the restless sea when deep calleth unto deep,
does not hear amid them some weird and haunting refrain like Leland's
"I saw three witches as the wind blew cold
In a red light to the lee;
Bold they were and overbold
As they sailed over the sea;
Calling for One Two Three;
Calling for One Two Three;
And I think I can hear
It a ringing in my ear,
A-calling for the One, Two, Three."
Above all, in its literature does witchcraft exhibit the conclusive
proof of its age, its hydra-headed forms, and its influence in the
intellectual and spiritual development of the races of men.
What of this literature? Count in it all the works that treat of the
subject in its many phases, and its correlatives, and it is limitless, a
literature of all times and all lands.
Christian and pagan gave it place in their religions, dogmas, and
articles of faith and discipline, and in their codes of law; and for
four hundred years, from the appeal of Pope John XXII, in 1320, to
extirpate the Devil-worshipers, to the repeal of the statute of James I
in 1715, the delusion gave point and force to treatises, sermons,
romances, and folk-lore, and invited, nay, compelled, recognition at the
hands of the scientist and legist, the historian, the poet and the
dramatist, the theologian and philosopher.
But the monographic literature of witchcraft, as it is here considered,
is limited, in the opinion of a scholar versed in its lore, to fifteen
hundred titles. There is a mass of unpublished materials in libraries
and archives at home and abroad, and of information as to witchcraft and
the witch trials, accessible in court records, depositions, and current
accounts in public and private collections, all awaiting the coming of
some master hand to transform them into an exhaustive history of the
most grievous of human superstitions.
To this day, there has been no thorough investigation or complete
analysis of the history of the witch persecutions. The true story has
been distorted by partisanship and ignorance, and left to exploitation
by the romancer, the empiric, and the sciolist.
"Of the origin and nature of the delusion we know perhaps enough; but of
the causes and paths of its spread, of the extent of its ravages, of its
exact bearing upon the intellectual and religious freedom of its times,
of the soul-stirring details of the costly struggle by which it was
overborne we are lamentably ill informed." (_The Literature of
Witchcraft_, p. 66, BURR.)
It must serve in this brief narrative to merely note, within the
centuries which marked the climax of the mania, some of the most
authoritative and influential works in giving strength to its evil
purpose and the modes of accusation, trial, and punishment.
Modern scholarship holds that witchcraft, with the Devil as the arch
enemy of mankind for its cornerstone, was first exploited by the
Dominicans of the Inquisition. They blazed the tortuous way for the
scholastic theology which in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries
gave new recognition to Satan and his satellites as the sworn enemies of
God and his church, and the Holy Inquisition with its massive enginery,
open and secret, turned its attention to the exposure and extirpation of
the heretics and sinners who were enlisted in the Devil's service.
Take for adequate illustration these standard authorities in the early
periods of the widespread and virulent epidemic:
Those of the Inquisitor General, Eymeric, in 1359, entitled _Tractatus
contra daemonum_; the Formicarius or Ant Hill of the German Dominican
Nider, 1337; the _De calcatione daemonum_, 1452; the _Flagellum
haereticorum fascinariorum_ of the French Inquisitor Jaquier in 1458; and
the _Fortalitium fidei_ of the Spanish Franciscan Alonso de Spina, in
1459; the famous and infamous manual of arguments and rules of procedure
for the detection and punishment of witches, compiled by the German
Inquisitors Kraemer and Sprenger (Institor) in 1489, buttressed on the
bull of Pope Innocent VIII; (this was the celebrated _Witch Hammer_,
bearing on its title page the significant legend, "_Not to believe in
witchcraft is the greatest of heresies_"); the Canon Episcopi; the bulls
of Popes John XXII, 1330, Innocent VIII, 1484, Alexander VI, 1494, Leo
X, 1521, and Adrian VI, 1522; the Decretals of the canon law; the
exorcisms of the Roman and Greek churches, all hinged on scriptural
precedents; the Roman law, the Twelve Tables, and the Justinian Code,
the last three imposing upon the crimes of conjuring, exorcising,
magical arts, offering sacrifices to the injury of one's neighbors,
sorcery, and witchcraft, the penalties of death by torture, fire, or
Add to these classics some of the later authorities: the _Daemonologie_
of the royal inquisitor James I of England and Scotland, 1597; Mores'
_Antidote to Atheism_; Fuller's _Holy and Profane State_; Granvil's
_Sadducismus Triumphatus_, 1681; _Tryal of Witches at the Assizes for
the County of Suffolk before Sir Matthew Hale, March, 1664_ (London,
1682); Baxter's _Certainty of the World of Spirits_, 1691; Cotton
Mather's _A Discourse on Witchcraft_, 1689, his _Late Memorable
Providences Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions_, 1684, and his
_Wonders of the Invisible World_, 1692; and enough references have been
made to this literature of delusion, to the precedents that seared the
consciences of courts and juries in their sentences of men, women, and
children to death by the rack, the wheel, the stake, and the gallows.
Where in history are the horrors of the curse more graphically told than
in the words of Canon Linden, an eye witness of the demonic deeds at
Trier (Treves) in 1589?
"And so, from court to court throughout the towns and villages of all
the diocese, scurried special accusers, inquisitors, notaries, jurors,
judges, constables, dragging to trial and torture human beings of both
sexes and burning them in great numbers. Scarcely any of those who were
accused escaped punishment. Nor were there spared even the leading men
in the city of Trier. For the Judge, with two Burgomasters, several
Councilors and Associate Judges, canons of sundry collegiate churches,
parish-priests, rural deans, were swept away in this ruin. So far, at
length, did the madness of the furious populace and of the courts go in
this thirst for blood and booty that there was scarcely anybody who was
not smirched by some suspicion of this crime.
"Meanwhile notaries, copyists, and innkeepers grew rich. The executioner
rode a blooded horse, like a noble of the court, and went clad in gold
and silver; his wife vied with noble dames in the richness of her array.
The children of those convicted and punished were sent into exile; their
goods were confiscated; plowman and vintner failed." (_The Witch
Persecutions_, pp. 13-14, BURR.)
Fanaticism did not rule and ruin without hindrance and remonstrance. Men
of great learning and exalted position struck mighty blows at the root
of the evil. They could not turn the tide but they stemmed it, and their
attacks upon the whole theory of Satanic power and the methods of
persecution were potent in the reaction to humanity and a reign of
Always to be remembered among these men of power are Johann Wier,
Friedrich Spee, and notably Reginald Scot, who in his _Discovery of
Witchcraft_, in 1584, undertook to prove that "the contracts and
compacts of witches with devils and all infernal spirits and familiars,
are but erroneous novelties and erroneous conceptions."
"After all it is setting a high value on our conjectures to roast a man
alive on account of them." (MONTAIGNE.)
Who may measure in romance and the drama the presence, the cogent and
undeniable power of those same abiding elements of mysticism and
mystery, which underlie all human experience, and repeated in myriad
forms find their classic expression in the queries of the "Weird
Sisters," "_those elemental avengers without sex or kin_"?
"When shall we three meet again,
In thunder, lightning or in rain?
When the hurly burly's done,
When the battle's lost and won."
Are not the mummeries of the witches about the cauldron in Macbeth, and
Talbot's threat pour la Pucelle,
"Blood will I draw on thee, thou art a witch,"
uttered so long ago, echoed in the wailing cry of La Meffraye in the
forests of Machecoul, in the maledictions of Grio, and of the Saga of
the Burning Fields?
Their vitality is also clearly shown in their constant use and
exemplification by the romance and novel writers who appeal with
certainty and success to the popular taste in the tales of spectral
terrors. Witness: Farjeon's _The Turn of the Screw_; Bierce's _The
Damned Thing_; Bulwer's _A Strange Story_; Cranford's _Witch of Prague_;
Howells' _The Shadow of a Dream_; Winthrop's _Cecil Dreeme_; Grusot's
_Night Side of Nature_; Crockett's Black Douglas; and _The Red Axe_,
Francis' _Lychgate Hall_; Caine's _The Shadow of a Crime_; and countless
other stories, traditions, tales, and legends, written and unwritten,
that invite and receive a gracious hospitality on every hand.
"A belief in witchcraft had always existed; it was entertained by Coke,
Bacon, Hale and even Blackstone. It was a misdemeanor at English common
law and made a felony without benefit of clergy by 33 Henry VIII, c. 8,
and 5 Eliz., c. 16, and the more severe statute of I Jas. 1, ch. 12."
_Connecticut--Origin of her Courts and Laws_ (N.E. States, Vol I,
p. 487-488), HAMERSLEY.
"Selden took up a somewhat peculiar and characteristic position. He
maintained that the law condemning women to death for witchcraft was
perfectly just, but that it was quite unnecessary to ascertain whether
witchcraft was a possibility. A woman might not be able to destroy the
life of her neighbor by her incantations; but if she intended to do so,
it was right that she should be hung." _Rationalism in Europe_ (Vol. 1,
p. 123) LECKY.
The fundamental authority for legislation, for the decrees of courts and
councils as to witchcraft, from the days of the Witch of Endor to those
of Mercy Disborough of Fairfield, and Giles Corey of Salem Farms, was
the code of the Hebrews and its recognition in the Gospel dispensations.
Thereon rest most of the historic precedents, legislative,
ecclesiastical, and judicial.
"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Exodus xxii, 18.
What law embalmed in ancientry and honored as of divine origin has been
more fruitful of sacrifice and suffering? Through the Scriptures,
gathering potency as it goes, runs the same grim decree, with widening
"And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits and
after wizards ... I will even set my face against that soul and will cut
him off from among his people." Deuteronomy xviii, 10-11.
"There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his
daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an
observer of times, or an enchanter, or a consulter with familiar
spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer." Deuteronomy xviii, 10-11.
"Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards out
of the land." Samuel i, 3.
"Now Saul the king of the Hebrews, had cast out of the country the
fortune tellers, and the necromancers, and all such as exercised the
like arts, excepting the prophets.... Yet did he bid his servants to
inquire out for him some woman that was a necromancer, and called up the
souls of the dead, that so he might know whether his affairs would
succeed to his mind; for this sort of necromantic women that bring up
the souls of the dead, do by them foretell future events." Josephus,
Book 6, ch. 14.
"For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft." Samuel i, 15-23.
"And I will cut off witchcraft out of the land." Micah v. 12.
"Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together
and burned them." Acts xix, 19.
"But there was a certain man called Simon which beforetime in the same
city used sorcery and bewitched the people of Samaria." Acts viii, 9.
"If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is
withered, and men gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are
burned."[C] John xv, 6.
[Footnote C: In the opinion of the eminent Italian jurist Bartolo,
witches were burned alive in early times on this authority.]
These citations make clear the scriptural recognition of witchcraft as a
heinous sin and crime. It is, however, necessary to draw a broad line of
demarcation between the ancient forms and manifestations which have been
brought into view for an illustrative purpose, and that delusion or
mania which centered in the theologic belief and teaching that Satan was
the arch enemy of mankind, and clothed with such power over the souls of
men as to make compacts with them, and to hold supremacy over them in
the warfare between good and evil.
The church from its earliest history looked upon witchcraft as a deadly
sin, and disbelief in it as a heresy, and set its machinery in motion
for its extirpation. Its authority was the word of God and the civil
law, and it claimed jurisdiction through the ecclesiastical courts, the
secular courts, however, acting as the executive of their decrees and
Such was the cardinal principle which governed in the merciless attempts
to suppress the epidemic in spreading from the continent to England and
Scotland, and at last to the Puritan colonies in America, where the last
chapter of its history was written.
There can be no better, no more comprehensive modern definition of the
crime once a heresy, or of the popular conception of it, than the one
set forth in the New England indictments, to wit: "interteining
familiarity with Satan the enemy of mankind, and by his help doing
works above the course of nature."
In few words Henry Charles Lea, in his _History of the Inquisition in
the Middle Ages_, analyzes the development of the Satanic doctrine from
a superstition into its acceptance as a dogma of Christian belief.
"As Satan's principal object in his warfare with God was to seduce human
souls from their divine allegiance, he was ever ready with whatever
temptation seemed most likely to effect his purpose. Some were to be won
by physical indulgence; others by conferring on them powers enabling
them apparently to forecast the future, to discover hidden things, to
gratify enmity, and to acquire wealth, whether through forbidden arts or
by the services of a familiar demon subject to their orders. As the
neophyte in receiving baptism renounced the devil, his pomps and his
angels, it was necessary for the Christian who desired the aid of Satan
to renounce God. Moreover, as Satan when he tempted Christ offered him
the kingdoms of the earth in return for adoration--'If thou therefore
wilt worship me all shall be thine' (Luke iv, 7)--there naturally arose
the idea that to obtain this aid it was necessary to render allegiance
to the prince of hell. Thence came the idea, so fruitful in the
development of sorcery, of compacts with Satan by which sorcerers became
his slaves, binding themselves to do all the evil they could to follow
their example. Thus the sorcerer or witch was an enemy of all the human
race as well as of God, the most efficient agent of hell in its
sempiternal conflict with heaven. His destruction, by any method, was
therefore the plainest duty of man.
"This was the perfected theory of sorcery and witchcraft by which the
gentle superstitions inherited and adopted from all sides were fitted
into the Christian dispensation and formed part of its accepted creed."
(_History of Inquisition in the Middle Ages_, 3, 385, LEA.)
Once the widespread superstition became adapted to the forms of
religious faith and discipline, and "the prince of the power of the air"
was clothed with new energies, the Devil was taken broader account of by
Christianity itself; the sorcery of the ancients was embodied in the
Christian conception of witchcraft; and the church undertook to deal
with it as a heresy; the door was opened wide to the sweep of the
epidemic in some of the continental lands.
In Bamburg and Wurzburg, Geneva and Como, Toulouse and Lorraine, and in
many other places in Italy, Germany, and France, thousands were
sacrificed in the names of religion, justice, and law, with bigotry for
their advocate, ignorance for their judge, and fanaticism for their
executioner. The storm of demonism raged through three centuries, and
was stayed only by the mighty barriers of protest, of inquiry, of
remonstrance, and the forces that crystallize and mold public opinion,
which guides the destinies of men in their march to a higher
The flames burning so long and so fiercely on the continent at first
spread slowly in England and Scotland. Sorcery in some of its guises had
obtained therein ever since the Conquest, and victims had been burned
under the king's writ after sentence in the ecclesiastical courts; but
witchcraft as a compact with Satan was not made a felony until 1541, by
a statute of Henry VIII. Cranmer, in his _Articles of Visitation_ in
1549, enjoined the clergy to inquire as to any craft invented by the
Devil; and Bishop Jewell, preaching before the queen in 1558, said:
"It may please your Grace to understand that witches and sorcerers
within these last few years are marvelously increased within your
Grace's realm, Your Grace's subjects pine away even unto the death,
their colour fadeth, their flesh rotteth, their speech is benumbed,
their senses are bereft."
The act of 1541 was amended in Queen Elizabeth's reign, in 1562, but at
the accession of James I--himself a fanatic and bigot in religious
matters, and the author of the famous _Daemonologie_--a new law was
enacted with exact definition of the crime, which remained in force more
than a hundred years. Its chief provision was this:
"If any person or persons use, practice or exercise any invocation or
conjuration of any evil and wicked spirit, or shall consult, covenant
with, entertain, employ, feed or reward any evil and wicked spirit to or
for any intent or purpose, or take up any dead man, woman, or child out
of his, her or their grave, or any other place where the dead body
resteth or the skin, bone, or any part of any dead person, to be
employed or used in any manner of witchcraft, sorcery, charm, or
enchantment, or shall use, practise, or exercise any witchcraft,
enchantment, charm, or sorcery, whereby any person shall be killed,
destroyed, wasted, consumed, pined or lamed in his or her body or any
part thereof: every such offender is a felon without benefit of clergy."
Under this law, and the methods of its administration, witchcraft so
called increased; persecutions multiplied, especially under the
Commonwealth, and notably in the eastern counties of England, whence so
many of all estates, all sorts and conditions of men, had fled over seas
to set up the standard of independence in the Puritan colonies.
Many executions occurred in Lancashire, in Suffolk, Essex, and
Huntingdonshire, where the infamous scoundrel "Witch-finder-General"
Matthew Hopkins, under the sanction of the courts, was "pricking,"
"waking," "watching," and "testing" persons suspected or accused of
witchcraft, with fiendish ingenuity of indignity and torture. Says James
Howell in his _Familiar Letters_, in 1646:
"We have multitudes of witches among us; for in Essex and Suffolk there
were above two hundred indicted within these two years, and above the
half of them executed."
"Within the compass of two years (1645-7), near upon three hundred
witches were arraigned, and the major part of them executed in Essex and
Suffolk only. Scotland swarms with them more and more, and persons of
good quality are executed daily."
Scotland set its seal on witchcraft as a crime by an act of its
parliament so early as 1563, amended in 1649. The ministers were the
inquisitors and persecutors. They heard the confessions, and inflicted
the tortures, and their cruelties were commensurate with the hard and
fast theology that froze the blood of mercy in their veins.
The trials were often held by special commissions issued by the privy
council, on the petition of a presbytery or general assembly. It was
here that those terrible instruments of torture, the caschielawis, the
lang irnis, the boot and the pilliewinkis, were used to wring
confessions from the wretched victims. It is all a strange and gruesome
story of horrors told in detail in the state trial records, and
elsewhere, from the execution of Janet Douglas--Lady Glammis--to that of
the poor old woman at Dornoch who warmed herself at the fire set for her
burning. So firmly seated in the Scotch mind was the belief in
witchcraft as a sin and crime, that when the laws against it were
repealed in 1736, Scotchmen in the highest stations of church and state
remonstrated against the repeal as contrary to the law of God; and
William Forbes, in his "Institutes of the Law of Scotland," calls
witchcraft "that black art whereby strange and wonderful things are
wrought by a power derived from the devil."
This glance at what transpired on the continent and in England and
Scotland is of value, in the light it throws on the beliefs and
convictions of both Pilgrim and Puritan--Englishmen all--in their new
domain, their implicit reliance on established precedents, their
credulity in witchcraft matters, and their absolute trust in scriptural
and secular authority for their judicial procedure, and the execution of
the grim sentences of the courts, until the revolting work of the
accuser and the searcher, and the delusion of the ministers and
magistrates aflame with mistaken zeal vanished in the sober
afterthought, the reaction of the public mind and conscience, which at
last crushed the machinations of the Devil and his votaries in high
"Hence among all the superstitions that have 'stood over' from primeval
ages, the belief in witchcraft has been the most deeply rooted and the
most tenacious of life. In all times and places until quite lately,
among the most advanced communities, the reality of witchcraft has been
accepted without question, and scarcely any human belief is supported by
so vast a quantity of recorded testimony."
"Considering the fact that the exodus of Puritans to New England
occurred during the reign of Charles I, while the persecutions for
witchcraft were increasing toward a maximum in the mother country, it is
rather strange that so few cases occurred in the New World." _New France
and New England_ (pp. 136-144), FISKE.
The forefathers believed in witchcraft--entering into compacts with the
Devil--and in all its diabolical subtleties. They had cogent reasons for
their belief in example and experience. They set it down in their codes
as a capital offense. They found, as has been shown abundant authority
in the Bible and in the English precedents. They anchored their criminal
codes as they did their theology in the wide and deep haven of the Old
Testament decrees and prophecies and maledictions, and doubted not that
"the Scriptures do hold forth a perfect rule for the direction and
government of all men in all duties which they are to perform to God and
Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Haven, early in their history
enacted these capital laws:
In Massachusetts (1641):
"Witchcraft which is fellowship by covenant with a familiar spirit to
be punished with death."
"Consulters with witches not to be tolerated, but either to be cut off
by death or banishment or other suitable punishment." (_Abstract New
England Laws_, 1655.)
In Connecticut (1642):
"If any man or woman be a witch--that is, hath or consulteth with a
familiar spirit--they shall be put to death." Exodus xxii, 18; Leviticus
xx, 27; Deuteronomy xviii, 10, 11. (_Colonial Records of Connecticut_,
Vol. I, p. 77).
In New Haven (1655):
"If any person be a witch, he or she shall be put to death according to"
Exodus xxii, 18; Leviticus xx, 27; Deuteronomy xviii, 10, 11. (_New
Haven Colonial Records_, Vol. II, p. 576, Cod. 1655).
These laws were authoritative until the epidemic had ceased.
Witches were tried, condemned, and executed with no question as to due
legal power, in the minds of juries, counsel, and courts, until the hour
of reaction came, hastened by doubts and criticisms of the sources and
character of evidence, and the magistrates and clergy halted in their
prosecutions and denunciations of an alleged crime born of delusion, and
nurtured by a theology run rampant.
"They had not been taught to question the wisdom or the humanity of
English criminal law." (_Blue Laws--True and False_, p. 15, TRUMBULL.)
Here and there in New England, following the great immigration from Old
England, from 1630-40, during the Commonwealth, and to the Restoration,
several cases of witchcraft occurred, but the mania did not set its
seal on the minds of men, and inspire them to run amuck in their frenzy,
until the days of the swift onset in Massachusetts and Connecticut in
1692, when the zenith of Satan's reign was reached in the Puritan
A few words about the tragedy at Salem are relevant and essential. They
are written because it was the last outbreak of epidemic demonopathy
among the civilized peoples; it has been exploited by writers abroad,
who have left the dreadful record of the treatment of the delusion in
their own countries in the background; it was accompanied in some degree
by like manifestations and methods of suppression in sister colonies; it
was fanned into flames by men in high station who reveled in its
merciless extirpation as a religious duty, and eased their consciences
afterwards by contrition, confession and remorse, for their valiant
service in the army of the theological devil; and especially for the
contrasts it presents to the more cautious and saner methods of
procedure that obtained in the governments of Connecticut and New Haven
at the apogee of the delusion.
What say the historians and scholars, some of whose ancestors witnessed
or participated in the tragedies, and whose acquaintance with the facts
defies all challenge?
"It is on the whole the most gruesome episode in American history, and
it sheds back a lurid light upon the long tale of witchcraft in the
past." (_Fiske's New France and New England_, 195.)
"The sainted minister in the church; the woman of the scarlet letter in
the market place! What imagination would have been irreverent enough to
surmise that the same scorching stigma was on them both." (_Scarlet
"We are made partners in parish and village feuds. We share in the
chimney corner gossip, and learn for the first time how many mean and
merely human motives, whether consciously or unconsciously, gave impulse
and intensity to the passions of the actors in that memorable tragedy
which dealt the death blow in this country to the belief in Satanic
compacts." (_Among my Books--Witchcraft_, p. 142, LOWELL.)
"The tragedy was at an end. It lasted about six months, from the first
accusations in March until the last executions in September.... It was
an epidemic of mad superstitious fear, bitterly to be regretted, and a
stain upon the high civilization of the Bay Colony." (_Historic Towns of
New England, Salem_, p. 148, LATIMER.)
What was done at Salem, when the tempest of unreason broke loose? Who
were the chief actors in it? This was done. From the first accusation in
March, 1692, to the last execution in September, 1692, nineteen persons
were hanged and one man was pressed to death[D] (_no witch was ever
burned in New England_), hundreds of innocent men and women were
imprisoned, or fled into exile or hiding places, their homes were broken
up, their estates were ruined, and their families and friends were left
in sorrow, anxiety, and desolation; and all this terrorism was wrought
at the instance of the chief men in the communities, the magistrates,
and the ministers.
[Footnote D: Fifty-five persons suffered torture, and twenty were
executed before the delusion ended. _Ency. Americana_ (Vol. 16,
Upham in his _Salem Witchcraft_ (Vol. II. pp. 249-250) thus pictures
"The prisons in Salem, Ipswich, Boston, and Cambridge, were crowded. All
the securities of society were dissolved. Every man's life was at the
mercy of every man. Fear sat on every countenance, terror and distress
were in all hearts, silence pervaded the streets; all who could, quit
the country; business was at a stand; a conviction sunk into the minds
of men, that a dark and infernal confederacy had got foot-hold in the
land, threatening to overthrow and extirpate religion and morality, and
establish the kingdom of the Prince of darkness in a country which had
been dedicated, by the prayers and tears and sufferings of its pious
fathers, to the Church of Christ and the service and worship of the true
God. The feeling, dismal and horrible indeed, became general, that the
providence of God was removed from them; that Satan was let loose, and
he and his confederates had free and unrestrained power to go to and
fro, torturing and destroying whomever he willed."
The trials were held by a Special Court, consisting of William
Stoughton, Peter Sergeant, Nath. Saltonstall, Wait Winthrop, Bartho'
Gedney, John Richards, Saml. Sewall, John Hathorne, Tho. Newton, and
Jonathan Corwin,--not one of them a lawyer.
Whatever his associates may have thought of their ways of doing God's
service, after the tragedy was over, Sewall, one of the most zealous of
the justices, made a public confession of his errors before the
congregation of the Old South Church, January 14, 1697. Were the
agonizing groans of poor old Giles Corey, pressed to death under planks
weighted with stones, or the prayers of the saintly Burroughs ringing in
"The conduct of Judge Sewall claims our particular admiration. He
observed annually in private a day of humiliation and prayer, during the
remainder of his life, to keep fresh in his mind a sense of repentance
and sorrow for the part he bore in the trials. On the day of the general
fast, he arose in the place where he was accustomed to worship, the old
South, in Boston, and in the presence of the great assembly, handed up
to the pulpit a written confession, acknowledging the error into which
he had been led, praying for the forgiveness of God and his people, and
concluding with a request, to all the congregation to unite with him in
devout supplication, that it might not bring down the displeasure of the
Most High upon his country, his family, or himself. He remained standing
during the public reading of the paper. This was an act of true
manliness and dignity of soul." (_Upham's Salem Witchcraft_, Vol. II, p.
Grim, stern, narrow as he was, this man in his self-judgment commands
the respect of all true men.
The ministers stood with the magistrates in their delusion and
intemperate zeal. Two hundred and sixteen years after the last witch was
hung in Massachusetts a clearer light falls on one of the striking
personalities of the time--Cotton Mather--who to a recent date has been
credited with the chief responsibility for the Salem prosecutions.
Did he deserve it?
Robert Calef, in his _More Wonders of the Invisible World_, Bancroft in
his _History of the United States_, and Charles W. Upham in his _Salem
Witchcraft_, are the chief writers who have placed Mather in the
foreground of those dreadful scenes, as the leading minister of the
time, an active personal participant in the trials and executions, and a
zealot in the maintenance of the ministerial dignity and domination.
On the other hand, the learned scholar, the late William Frederick
Poole, first in the _North American Review_, in 1869, and again in his
paper _Witchcraft in Boston_, in 1882, in the _Memorial History of
Boston_, calls Calef an immature youth, and says that his obvious
intent, and that of the several unknown contributors who aided him, was
to malign the Boston ministers and to make a sensation.
And the late John Fiske, in his _New France and New England_ (p. 155),
"Mather's rules (of evidence) would not have allowed a verdict of guilty
simply upon the drivelling testimony of the afflicted persons, and if
this wholesome caution had been observed, not a witch would ever have
been hung in Salem."
What were those rules of evidence and of procedure attributed to Mather?
Through the Special Court appointed to hold the witch trials, and early
in its sittings, the opinions of twelve ministers of Boston and vicinity
were asked as to witchcraft. Cotton Mather wrote and his associates
signed an answer June 15, 1692, entitled, _The Return of Several
Ministers Consulted by his Excellency and the Honorable Council upon the
Present Witchcrafts in Salem Village_. This was the opinion of the
ministers, and it is most important to note what is said in it of
spectral evidence,[E] as it was upon such evidence that many convictions
"1. The afflicted state of our poor neighbors that are now suffering by
molestations from the Invisible World we apprehend so deplorable, that
we think their condition calls for the utmost help of all persons in
their several capacities.
"2. We cannot but with all thankfulness acknowledge the success which
the merciful God has given unto the sedulous and assiduous endeavors of
our honorable rulers to detect the abominable witchcrafts which have
been committed in the country; humbly praying that the discovery of
these mysterious and mischievous wickednesses may be perfected.
"3. We judge that, in the prosecution of these and all such witchcrafts
there is need of a very critical and exquisite caution, lest by too much
credulity for things received only upon the devil's authority, there be
a door opened for a long train of miserable consequences, and Satan get
an advantage over us; for we should not be ignorant of his devices.
"4. As in complaints upon witchcraft there may be matters of inquiry
which do not amount unto matters of presumption, and there may be
matters of presumption which yet may not be matters of conviction, so it
is necessary that all proceedings thereabout be managed with an
exceeding tenderness toward those that may be complained of, especially
if they have been persons formerly of an unblemished reputation.
"5. When the first inquiry is made into the circumstances of such as
may lie under the just suspicion of witchcrafts, we could wish that
there may be admitted as little as possible of such noise, company and
openness as may too hastily expose them that are examined, and that
there may be nothing used as a test for the trial of the suspected, the
lawfulness whereof may be doubted by the people of God, but that the
directions given by such judicious writers as Perkins and Barnard may be
"6. Presumptions whereupon persons may be committed, and much more,
convictions whereupon persons may be condemned as guilty of witchcrafts,
ought certainly to be more considerable than barely the accused persons
being represented by a spectre unto the afflicted, inasmuch as it is an
undoubted and notorious thing that a demon may by God's permission
appear even to ill purposes, in the shape of an innocent, yea, and a
virtuous man. Nor can we esteem alterations made in the sufferers, by a
look or touch of the accused, to be an infallible evidence of guilt, but
frequently liable to be abused by the devil's legerdemains.
"7. We know not whether some remarkable affronts given the devils, by
our disbelieving these testimonies whose whole force and strength is
from them alone, may not put a period unto the progress of the dreadful
calamity begun upon us, in the accusation of so many persons whereof
some, we hope, are yet clear from the great transgression laid to their
"8. Nevertheless, we cannot but humbly recommend unto the government,
the speedy and vigorous prosecutions of such as have rendered themselves
obnoxious, according to the directions given in the laws of God and the
wholesome statutes of the English nation for the detection of
[Footnote E: An illustration: The child Ann Putnam, in her testimony
against the Rev. Mr. Burroughs, said that one evening the apparition of
a minister came to her and asked her to write her name in the devil's
book. Then came the forms of two women in winding sheets, and looked
angrily upon the minister and scolded him until he was fain to vanish
away. Then the women told Ann that they were the ghosts of Mr.
Burroughs' first and second wives whom he had murdered.]
Did Longfellow, after a critical study of the original evidence and
records, truly interpret Mather's views, in his dialogue with Hathorne?
"Remember this, That as a sparrow falls not to the ground
Without the will of God, so not a Devil
Can come down from the air without his leave.
We must inquire."
"Dear sir, we have inquired;
Sifted the matter thoroughly through and through,
And then resifted it."
"If God permits
These evil spirits from the unseen regions
To visit us with surprising informations,
We must inquire what cause there is for this,
But not receive the testimony borne
By spectres as conclusive proof of guilt
In the accused."
"Upon such evidence
We do not rest our case. The ways are many
In which the guilty do betray themselves."
"Be careful, carry the knife with such exactness
That on one side no innocent blood be shed
By too excessive zeal, and on the other
No shelter given to any work of darkness."
_New England Tragedies_ (4, 725), LONGFELLOW.
Whatever Mather's caution to the court may have been, or his leadership
in learning, or his ambition and his clerical zeal, there is thus far no
evidence, in all his personal participation in the tragedies, that he
lifted his hand to stay the storm of terrorism once begun, or cried halt
to the magistrates in their relentless work. On the contrary, after six
victims had been executed, August 4, 1692, in _A Discourse on the
Wonders of the Invisible World_, Mather wrote this in deliberate, cool
"They--the judges--have used as judges have heretofore done, the
spectral evidences, to introduce their farther inquiries into the lives
of the persons accused; and they have thereupon, by the wonderful
Providence of God, been so strengthened with other evidences that some
of the witch-gang have been fairly executed."
And a year later, in the light of all his personal experience and
investigation, Mather solemnly declared:
"If in the midst of the many dissatisfactions among us, the publication
of these trials may promote such a pious thankfulness unto God for
justice being so far executed among us, I shall rejoice that God is
Wherever the responsibility at Salem may have rested, the truth is that
in the general fear and panic there was potent in the minds, both of the
clergy and the laity, the spirit of fanaticism and malevolence in some
instances, such as misled the pastor of the First Church to point to the
corpses of Giles Corey's devoted and saintly wife and others swinging to
and fro, and say "What a sad thing it is to see eight firebrands of hell
This conspectus of witchcraft, old and new, of its development from the
sorcery and magic of the ancients into the mediaeval theological dogma
of the power of Satan, of its gradual ripening into an epidemic
demonopathy, of its slow growth in the American colonies, of its
volcanic outburst in the close of the seventeenth century, is relevant
and appropriate to this account of the delusion in Connecticut, its rise
and suppression, its firm hold on the minds and consciences of the
colonial leaders for threescore years after the settlement of the towns,
a chapter in Connecticut history written in the presence of the actual
facts now made known and available, and with a purpose of historic
"It was not to be expected of the colonists of New England that they
should be the first to see through a delusion which befooled the whole
civilized world, and the gravest and most knowing persons in it. The
colonists in Connecticut and New Haven, as well as in Massachusetts,
like all other Christian people at that time--at least with extremely
rare individual exceptions--believed in the reality of a hideous crime
called witchcraft." PALFREY'S _New England_ (Vol. IV, pp. 96-127).
"The truth is that it [witchcraft] pervaded the whole Christian Church.
The law makers and the ministers of New England were under its
influences as--and no more than--were the law makers and ministers of
Old England." _Blue Laws--True and False_ (p. 23), TRUMBULL.
"One ---- of Windsor Arraigned and Executed at Hartford for a Witch."
WINTHROP'S _Journal_ (2: 374, Savage Ed., 1853).
Here beginneth the first chapter of the story of the delusion in
Connecticut. It is an entry made by John Winthrop, Governor of the
Massachusetts Bay Colony, in his famous journal, without specific date,
but probably in the spring of 1647.
It is of little consequence save as much has been made of it by some
writers as fixing the relative date of the earliest execution for
witchcraft in New England, and locating it in one of the three original
What matters it at this day whether Mary Johnson as tradition runs, or
Alse Youngs as truth has it, was put to death for witchcraft in Windsor,
Connecticut, in 1647, or Martha Jones of Charlestown, Massachusetts, was
hung for the same crime at Boston in 1648, as also set down in
"It may possibly be thought a great neglect, or matter of partiality,
that no account is given of witchcraft in Connecticut. The only reason
is, that after the most careful researches, no indictment of any person
for that crime, nor any process relative to that affair can be found."
(_History of Connecticut_, 1799, Preface, BENJAMIN TRUMBULL, D.D.)
"A few words should be said regarding the author's mention of the
subject of witchcraft in Connecticut.... It is, I believe, strictly
true, as he says 'that no indictment of any person for that crime nor
any process relative to that affair can be found.'
"It must be confessed, however, that a careful study of the official
colonial records of Connecticut and New Haven leaves no doubt that
Goodwife Bassett was convicted and hung at Stratford for witchcraft in
1651, and Goodwife Knapp at Fairfield in 1653. It is also recorded in
Winthrop's _Journal_ that 'One ---- of Windsor was arraigned and executed
at Hartford for a witch' in March, 1646-47, which if it actually
occurred, forms the first instance of an execution for witchcraft in New
England. The quotation here given is the only known authority for the
statement, and opens the question whether something probably recorded as
hearsay in a journal, may be taken as authoritative evidence of an
occurrence.... The fact however remains, that the official records are
as our author says, silent regarding the actual proceedings, and it is
only by inference that it may be found from these records that the
executions took place." (Introduction to Reprint of _Trumbull's History
of Connecticut_, 1898, JONATHAN TRUMBULL.)
The searcher for inerrant information about witchcraft in Connecticut
may easily be led into a maze of contradictions, and the statement last
above quoted is an apt illustration, with record evidence to the
contrary on every hand. Tradition, hearsay, rumor, misstatements,
errors, all colored by ignorance or half knowledge, or a local jealousy
or pride, have been woven into a woof of precedent and acceptance, and
As has been already stated, the general writers from Trumbull to
Johnston have nothing of value to say on the subject; the open official
records and the latest history--_Connecticut as a Colony and a
State_--cover only certain cases, and nowhere from the beginning to this
day has the story of witchcraft been fully told.
Connecticut can lose nothing in name or fame or honor, if, more than two
centuries after the last witch was executed within her borders, the
facts as to her share in the strange superstition be certified from the
current records of the events.
How may this story best be told? Clearly, so far as may be, in the very
words of the actors in those tragic scenes, in the words of the minister
and magistrate, the justice and the juryman, the accuser and the
accused, and the searcher. Into this court of inquiry come all these
personalities to witness the sorrowful march of the victims to the
scaffold or to exile, or to acquittal and deliverance with the after
life of suspicion and social ostracism.
The spectres of terror did not sit alone at the firesides of the poor
and lowly: they stalked in high places, and were known of men and women
of the first rank in education and the social virtues, and of greatest
influence in church and state.
Of this fact there is complete demonstration in a glance at the
dignitaries who presided at one of the earliest witchcraft trials--men
of notable ancestry, of learning, of achievements, leaders in colonial
affairs, whose memories are honored to this day.
These were the magistrates at a session entitled "A particular courte in
Hartford upon the tryall of John Carrington and his wife 20th Feb., 1662"
(See _Rec. P.C._, 2: 17): Edw. Hopkins Esqr., Gournor John Haynes Esqr.
Deputy, Mr. Wells, Mr. Woolcott, Mr. Webster, Mr. Cullick, Mr. Clarke.
This court had jurisdiction over misdemeanors, and was "aided by a
jury," as a close student of colonial history, the late Sherman W.
Adams, quaintly says in one of his historical papers. These were the
Mr. Phelps John White John More
Mr. Tailecoat Will Leawis Edw. Griswold
Mr. Hollister Sam. Smith Steph. Harte
Daniel Milton John Pratt Theo. Judd
Before this tribunal--representative of the others doing like service
later--made up of the foremost citizens, and of men in the ordinary
walks of life, endowed with hard common sense and presumably inspired
with a spirit of justice and fair play, came John Carrington and his
wife Joan of Wethersfield, against whom the jury brought in a verdict of
It must be clearly borne in mind that all these men, in this as in all
the other witchcraft trials in Connecticut, illustrious or
commonplace--as are many of their descendants whose names are written on
the rolls of the patriotic societies in these days of ancestral
discovery and exploitation--were absolute believers in the powers of
Satan and his machinations through witchcraft and the evidence then
adduced to prove them, and trained to such credulity by their education
and experience, by their theological doctrines, and by the law of the
land in Old England, but still clothed upon with that righteousness
which as it proved in the end made them skeptical as to certain alleged
evidences of guilt, and swift to respond to the calls of reason and of
mercy when the appeals were made to their calm judgment and second
thought as to the sins of their fellowmen.
In no way can the truth be so clearly set forth, the real character of
the evidence be so justly appreciated upon which the convictions were
had, as from the depositions and the oral testimony of the witnesses
themselves. They are lasting memorials to the credulity and
superstition, and the religious insanity which clouded the senses of the
wisest men for a time, and to the malevolence and satanic ingenuity of
the people who, possessed of the devil accused their friends and
neighbors of a crime punishable by death.
Nor is this dark chapter in colonial history without its flashes of
humor and ridiculousness, as one follows the absurd and unbridled
testimonies which have been chosen as completely illustrative of the
whole series in the years of the witchcraft nightmare. They are in part
cited here, for the sake of authenticity and exactness, as written out
in the various court records and depositions, published and unpublished,
in the ancient style of spelling, and are worthy the closest study for
It will, however, clear the way to a better understanding of the unique
testimonies of the witch witnesses, if there be first presented the
authoritative reasons for the examination of a witch, coupled with a
summary of the lawful tests of innocence or guilt. They are in the
handwriting of William Jones, a Deputy Governor of Connecticut and a
member of the court at some of the trials.
GROUNDS FOR EXAMINATION OF A WITCH
"1. Notorious defamacon by ye common report of the people a ground of
"2. Second ground for strict examinacon is if a fellow witch gave
testimony on his examinacon or death yt such a pson is a witch, but this
is not sufficient for conviccon or condemnacon.
"3. If after cursing, there follow death or at least mischiefe to ye
"4. If after quarrelling or threatening a prsent mischiefe doth follow
for ptye's devilishly disposed after cursing doe use threatnings, & yt
alsoe is a grt prsumcon agt y.
"5. If ye pty suspected be ye son or daughter, the serv't or familiar
friend, neer neighbors or old companion of a knowne or convicted witch
this alsoe is a prsumcon, for witchcraft is an art yt may be larned &
covayd from man to man & oft it falleth out yt a witch dying leaveth som
of ye aforesd heires of her witchcraft.
"6. If ye pty suspected have ye devills mark for t'is thought wn ye
devill maketh his covent with y he alwayess leaves his mark behind him
to know y for his owne yt is, if noe evident reason in can be given
for such mark.
"7. Lastly if ye pty examined be unconstant & contrary to himselfe in
"Thus much for examinacon wch usually is by Q. & some tymes by torture
upon strong & grt presumcon.
"For conviccon it must be grounded on just and sufficient proofes. The
proofes for conviccon of 2 sorts, 1, Some be less sufficient, some more
"Less sufficient used in formr ages by red hot iron and scalding water.
ye pty to put in his hand in one or take up ye othr, if not hurt ye pty
cleered, if hurt convicted for a witch, but this was utterly condemned.
In som countryes anothr proofe justified by some of ye learned by
casting ye pty bound into water, if she sanck counted inocent, if she
sunk not yn guilty, but all those tryalls the author counts supstitious
and unwarrantable and worse. Although casting into ye water is by some
justified for ye witch having made a ct wth ye devill she hath renounced
her baptm & hence ye antipathy between her & water, but this he makes
nothing off. Anothr insufficient testimoy of a witch is ye testimony of
a wizard, who prtends to show ye face of ye witch to ye party afflicted
in a glass, but this he counts diabolicall & dangerous, ye devill may
reprsent a pson inocent. Nay if after curses & threats mischiefe follow
or if a sick pson like to dy take it on his death such a one has
bewitched him, there are strong grounds of suspicon for strict examinacon
but not sufficient for conviccon.
"But ye truer proofes sufficient for conviccon are ye voluntary
confession of ye pty suspected adjudged sufficient proofe by both
divines & lawyers. Or 2 the testimony of 2 witnesses of good and honest
report avouching things in theire knowledge before ye magistrat 1 wither
yt ye party accused hath made a league wth ye devill or 2d or hath ben
some knowne practices of witchcraft. Argumts to prove either must be as 1
if they can pve ye pty hath invocated ye devill for his help this pt
of yt ye devill binds withes to.
"Or 2 if ye pty hath entertained a familiar spt in any forme mouse cat
or othr visible creature.
"Or 3 if they affirm upon oath ye pty hath done any accon or work wch
inferreth a ct wth ye devill, as to shew ye face of a man in a glass, or
used inchantmts or such feates, divineing of things to come, raising
tempests, or causing ye forme of a dead man to appeare or ye like it
sufficiently pves a witch.
"But altho those are difficult things to prove yet yr are wayes to come
to ye knowledg of y, for tis usuall wth Satan to pmise anything till ye
league be ratified, & then he nothing ye discovery of y, for wtever
witches intend the devill intends nothing but theire utter confusion,
therefore in ye just judgmt of God it soe oft falls out yt some witches
shall by confession discour ys, or by true testimonies be convicted.
"And ye reasons why ye devill would discover y is 1 his malice towards
all men 2 his insatiable desire to have ye witches not sure enough of y
"And ye authors warne jurors, &c not to condemne suspected psons on bare
prsumtions wthout good & sufficient proofes.
"But if convicted of yt horrid crime to be put to death, for God hath
said thou shalt not suffer a witch to live."
The accuser and the prosecutor were aided in their work in a peculiar
way. It was the theory and belief that every witch was marked--very
privately marked--by the Devil, and the marks could only be discovered
by a personal examination. And thus there came into the service of the
courts a servant known as a "searcher," usually a woman, as most of the
unfortunates who were accused were women.
The location and identification of the witch marks involved revolting
details, some of the reports being unprintable. It is, however,
indispensable to a right understanding of the delusion and the popular
opinions which made it possible, that these incidents, abhorrent and
nauseating as they are, be given within proper limitations to meet
inquiry--not curiosity--and because they may be noted in various
A standard authority in legal procedure in England, recognized in
witchcraft prosecutions in the New England colonies, was _Dalton's
Country Justice_, first published in 1619 in England, and in its last
edition in 1746.
In its chapter on Witchcraft are these directions as to the witch marks:
"These witches have ordinarily a familiar, or spirit which appeareth to
them, sometimes in one shape and sometimes in another; as in the shape
of a man, woman, boy, dog, cat, foal, hare, rat, toad, etc. And to these
their spirits, they give names, and they meet together to christen them
(as they speak).... And besides their sucking the Devil leaveth other
marks upon their body, sometimes like a blue or red spot, like a
flea-biting, sometimes the flesh sunk in and hollow. And these Devil's
marks be insensible, and being pricked will not bleed, and be often in
their secretest parts, and therefore require diligent and careful
search. These first two are main points to discover and convict those
These methods were adopted in the proceedings against witches in
Connecticut, and it will suffice to cite one of the reports of a
committee--Sarah Burr, Abigail Burr, Abigail Howard, Sarah Wakeman, and
Hannah Wilson,--"apointed (by the court) to make sarch upon ye bodis of
Marcy Disbrough and Goodwif Clauson," at Fairfield, in September and
October 1692, sworn to before Jonathan Bell, Commissioner, and John
"Wee Sarah bur and abigall bur and Abigail howard and Sarah wakman all
of fayrfeild with hanna wilson being by order of authority apointed to
make sarch upon ye bodis of marcy disbrough and goodwif Clauson to see
what they Could find on ye bodies of ether & both of them; and wee retor
as followeth and doe testify as to goodwif Clauson forementioned wee
found on her secret parts Just within ye lips of ye same growing within
sid sumewhat as broad and reach without ye lips of ye same about on Inch
and half long lik in shape to a dogs eare which wee apprehend to be
vnvsuall to women.
"and as to marcy wee find on marcy foresayd on her secret parts growing
within ye lep of ye same a los pees of skin and when puld it is near an
Inch long somewhat in form of ye fingar of a glove flatted
"that lose skin wee Judge more than common to women."
"Octob. 29 1692 The above sworn by the above-named as attests
"JOHN ALLYN Secry"
"Remembering all this, it is not surprising that witches were tried,
convicted and put to death in New England; and the manner in which the
waning superstition was dealt with by Connecticut lawyers and ministers
is the more significant of that robust common sense, rejection of
superstition, political and religious, and fearless acceptance of the
ethical mandates of the great Law-giver, which influenced the growth of
their jurisprudence and stamped it with an unmistakable individuality."
_Connecticut; Origin of her Courts and Laws_ (N.E. States, 1: 487-488),
"They made witch-hunting a branch of their social police, and desire for
social solidarity. That this was wrong and mischievous is granted; but
it is ordinary human conduct now as then. It was a most illogical,
capricious, and dangerous form of enforcing punishment, abating
nuisances, and shutting out disagreeable truths; fertile in injustice,
oppression, the shedding of innocent blood, and the extinguishing of
light. No one can justify it, or plead beneficial results from it which
could not have been secured with far less evil in other ways. But it was
natural that, believing the crime to exist, they should use the belief
to strike down offenders or annoyances out of reach of any other _legal_
means. They did not invent the crime for the purpose, nor did they
invent the death penalty for this crime." _Connecticut as a Colony_
(1: 206), MORGAN.
"As to what you mention, concerning that poor creature in your town that
is afflicted and mentioned my name to yourself and son, I return you
hearty thanks for your intimation about it, and for your charity therein
mentioned; and I have great cause to bless God, who, of his mercy
hitherto, hath not left me to fall into such an horrid evil." Extract of
a Letter from Sec. Allyn to Increase Mather, Hartford, Mar. 18, 1692-93.
An accusation of witchcraft was a serious matter, one of life or death,
and often it was safer to become an accuser than one of the accused.
Made in terror, malice, mischief, revenge, or religious dementia, or of
some other ingredients in the Devil's brew, it passed through the
stages of suspicion, espionage, watchings, and searchings, to the formal
complaints and indictments which followed the testimony of the
witnesses, in their madness and delusion hot-foot to tell the story of
their undoing, their grotesque imaginings, their spectral visions, their
sufferings at the hands of Satan and his tools, and all aimed at people,
their neighbors and acquaintances, often wholly innocent, but having
marked personal peculiarities, or of irregular lives by the Puritan
standard, or unpopular in their communities, who were made the victim of
one base passion or another and brought to trial for a capital offense
against person and property.
Taking into account the actual number of accusations, trials, and
convictions or acquittals, the number of witnesses called and
depositions given was very great. And the later generations owe their
opportunity to judge aright in the matter, to the foresight of the men
of chief note in the communities who saw the vital necessity of record
evidence, and so early as 1666, in the General Court of Connecticut, it
was ordered that
"Whatever testimonies are improved in any court of justice in this
corporation in any action or case to be tried, shall be presented in
writing, and so kept by the secretary or clerk of the said court on
This preliminary analysis brings the searcher for the truth face to face
with the very witnesses who have left behind them, in the attested
records, the ludicrous or solemn, the pitiable or laughable memorials of
their own folly, delusion, or deviltry, which marked them then and now
as Satan's chosen servitors.
Among the many witnesses and their statements on oath now made
available, the chief difficulty is one of selection and elimination; and
there will be presented here with the context some of the chief
depositions[F] and statements in the most notable witchcraft trials in
some of the Connecticut towns, that are typical of all of them, and show
upon what travesties of evidence the juries found their verdicts and the
courts imposed their sentences.
[Footnote F: The selected testimonies herein given are from the
Connecticut and New Haven colonial records; from the original
depositions in some of the witchcraft cases, in manuscript, a part of
the _Wyllys Papers_, so called, now in the Connecticut State Library;
and from the notes and papers on witchcraft of the late Charles J.
Hoadley, LL.D., compiler of the colonial and state records, and for
nearly a half century the state librarian.]
KATHERINE (KATERAN) HARRISON
At a Court of Assistants held at Hartford May 11, 1669, presided over by
Maj. John Mason--the conqueror of the Pequots--then Deputy Governor,
Katherine Harrison, after an examination by the court on a charge of
suspicion of witchcraft, was committed to the common jail, to be kept in
durance until she came to trial and deliverance by the law.
At an adjourned session of the court at Hartford, May 25, 1669, presided
over by John Winthrop, Governor, with William Leete, Deputy Governor,
Major Mason and others as assistants, an indictment was found against
the prisoner in these words:
"Kateran Harrison thou standest here indicted by ye name of Kateran
Harrison (of Wethersfield) as being guilty of witchcraft for that thou
not haueing the fear of God before thine eyes hast had familiaritie with
Sathan the grand enemie of god and mankind and by his help hast acted
things beyond and beside the ordinary course of nature and hast thereby
hurt the bodyes of divers of the subjects of or souraigne Lord the King
of which by the law of god and of this corporation thou oughtest to
Katherine plead not guilty and "refered herself to a tryall by the jury
present," to whom this solemn oath was administered:
"You doe sware by the great and dreadful name of the everliuing god that
you will well and truely try just verdict give and true deliverance make
between or Souraigne Lord the King and such prisoner or prisoners at the
barr as shall be given you in charge according to the Evidence given in
Court and the lawes so help you god in or lord Jesus."
A partial trial was had at the May session of the court, but the jury
could not agree upon a verdict, and adjournment was had until the
October session, when a verdict was to be given in, and the prisoner was
remanded to remain in prison in the meantime.
It seems incredible that men like Winthrop and Mason, Treat and Leete,
and others of the foremost rank in those days, could have served as
judges in such trials, and in all earnestness and sincerity listened to
and given credence to the drivel, the travesties of common sense, the
mockeries of truth, which fell from the lips of the witnesses in their
testimonies. Some of the absurd charges against Katherine Harrison
invite particular attention and need no comment. They speak for
THOMAS BRACY (probably Tracy)--_Misfit jacket and breeches--Vision of
the red calf's head--Murderous counsel--"Afflictinge"_
"Thomas Bracy aged about 31 years testifieth as follows that formerly
James Wakeley would haue borrowed a saddle of the saide Thomas Bracy,
which Thomas Bracy denyed to lend to him, he threatened Thomas and
saide, it had bene better he had lent it to him. Allsoe Thomas Bracy
beinge at worke the same day making a jacket & a paire of breeches, he
labored to his best understanding to set on the sleeues aright on the
jacket and seauen tymes he placed the sleues wronge, setting the elbow
on the wronge side and was faine to rip them of and new set them on
againe, and allsoe the breeches goeing to cut out the breeches, haueing
two peices of cloth of different collors, he was soe bemoydered in the
matter, that he cut the breeches one of one collor the other off another
collor, in such a manner he was bemoydered in his understandinge or
actinge yet neuertheless the same daie and tyme he was well in his
understandinge and health in other matters and soe was forced to leaue
workinge that daie.
"The said Thomas beinge at Sargant Hugh Wells his house ouer against
John Harrison's house, in Weathersfield, he saw a cart cominge towards
John Harrisons house loaden wth hay, on the top of the hay he saw
perfectly a red calfes head, the eares standing peart up, and keeping
his sight on the cart tell the cart came to the barne, the calfe
vanised, and Harrison stoode on the carte wch appared not to Thomas
before, nor could Thomas find or see any calfe theire at all though he
sought to see the calfe.
"After this Thomas Bracy giuing out some words, that he suspected
Katherin Gooddy Harrison of witchcraft, Katherin Harrison mett Thomas
Bracy and threatned Thomas telling him that shee would be euen with him.
After that Thomas Bracy aforesaide, being well in his sences & health
and perfectly awake, his brothers in bed with him, Thomas aforesaid saw
the saide James Wakely and the saide Katherin Harrison stand by his bed
side, consultinge to kill him the said Thomas, James Wakely said he
would cut his throate, but Katherin counselled to strangle him,
presently the said Katherin seised on Thomas striuinge to strangle him,
and pulled or pinched him so as if his flesh had been pulled from his
bones, theirefore Thomas groaned. At length his father Marten heard and
spake, then Thomas left groninge and lay quiet a little, and then
Katherin fell againe to afflictinge and pinching, Thomas againe groninge
Mr. Marten heard and arose and came to Thomas whoe could not speake till
Mr. Marten laid his hands on Thomas, then James and Katherin aforesaid
went to the beds feete, his father Marten and his mother stayed
watchinge by Thomas all that night after, and the next day Mr. Marten
and his wife saw the mark of the saide afflictinge and pinchinge."
"Dated 13th of August one thousand six hundred sixtie and eight.
"Hadley. Taken upon oath before us.
JOSEPH DICKINSON--_Voice calling Hoccanum! Hoccanum! Hoccanum!--A far
cry--Cows running "taile on end"_
"The deposition of Joseph Dickenson of Northampton, aged about 32 years,
testifieth that he and Philip Smith of Hadley went down early in the
morninge to the greate dry swampe, and theire we heard a voice call
Hoccanum, Hoccanum, Come Hoccanum, and coming further into the swampe
wee see that it was Katherin Harrison that caled as before. We saw
Katherin goe from thence homewards. The said Philip parted from Joseph,
and a small tyme after Joseph met Philip againe, and then the said
Philip affirmed that he had seene Katherin's cows neare a mile from the
place where Katherin called them. The saide Joseph went homewards, and
goeing homeward met Samuell Bellden ridinge into or downe the meadow.
Samuel Belden asked Joseph wheather he had seene the saide Katherin
Harrison & the saide Samuel told Joseph aforesaide that he saw her neare
the meadow gate, going homeward, and allso more told him that he saw
Katherin Harrison her cows runninge with greate violence, taile on end,
homewards, and said he thought the cattell would be at home soe soon as
Katherin aforesaid if they could get out at the meadow gate, and further
this deponent saieth not" Northampton, 13, 6, 1668, taken upon oth
before us, William Clarke David Wilton. Exhibited in court Oct. 29,
1668. Attests John Allyn, Secry.
RICHARD MOUNTAGUE--_Over the great river to Nabuck--The mystery of the
"Richard Mountague, aged 52 years, testifieth as followeth, that meeting
with Goodwife Harrison in Weathersfield the saide Katherin Harrison
saide that a swarm of her beese flew away over her neighbour Boreman's
lott and into the great meadow, and thence over the greate river to
Nabuck side, but the said Katherin saide that shee had fetched them
againe; this seemed very strange to the saide Richard, because this was
acted in a little tyme and he did believe the said Katherin neither went
nor used any lawful meanes to fetch the said beese as aforesaid." Dated
the 13 of August, 1668. Hadley, taken upon oath before us, Henry Clarke,
Samuel Smith. Exhibited in Court, October 29: 68, as attests John Allyn
JOHN GRAVES--_Bucolic reflections--The trespass on his neighbor's
"rowing"--The cartrope adventure--The runaway oxen_
"John Graves aged about 39 years testifieth that formerly going to reap
in the meadow at Wethersfield, his land he was to work on lay near to
John Harrison's land. It came into the thoughts of the said John Graves
that the said John Harrison and Katherine his wife being rumored to be
suspicious of witchcraft, therefore he would graze his cattle on the
rowing of the land of goodman Harrison, thinking that if the said
Harrisons were witches then something would disturb the quiet feeding of
the cattle. He thereupon adventured and tied his oxen to his cart rope,
one to one end and the other to the other end, making the oxen surely
fast as he could, tieing 3 or 4 fast knots at each end, and tying his
yoke to the cartrope about the middle of the rope between the oxen; and
himself went about 10 or 12 pole distant, to see if the cattle would
quietly feed as in other places. The cattle stood staring and fed not,
and looking stedfastly on them he saw the cartrope of its own accord
untie and fall to the ground; thereupon he went and tied the rope more
fast and more knots in it and stood apart as before to see the issue.
In a little time the oxen as affrighted fell to running, and ran with
such violence that he judgeth that the force and speed of their running
made the yoke so tied fly above six foot high to his best discerning.
The cattle were used ordinarily before to be so tied and fed--in other
places, & presently after being so tied on other men's ground they
fed--peaceably as at other times." Dated August, 1668. Hadley; taken
upon oath before us Henry Clarke, Samuel Smith. Exhibited in court Oct.
29th, 1668, attests John Allyn, Sec.
JOANE FRANCIS--_The sick child--The spectre_
Joane Francis her testimony. "About 4 years ago, about the beginning of
November, in the night just before my child was struck ill, goodwife
Harrison or her shape appeared, and I said, the Lord bless me and my
child, here is goody Harrison. And the child lying on the outside I took
it and laid it between me and my husband. The child continued strangely
ill about three weeks, wanting a day, and then died, had fits. We felt a
thing run along the sides or side like a whetstone. Robert Francis saith
he remembers his wife said that night the child was taken ill, the Lord
bless me and my child, here is goody Harrison."
JACOB JOHNSON'S WIFE--_The box on the head--Diet, drink, and
"The relation of the wife of Jacob Johnson. She saith that her former
husband was employed by goodman Harrison to go to Windsor with a canoe
for meal, and he told me as he lay in his bed at Windsor in the night he
had a great box on the head, and after when he came home he was ill,
and goodwife Harrison did help him with diet drink and plasters, but
after a while we sent to Capt. Atwood to help my husband in his
distress, but the same day that he came at night I came in at the door,
& to the best of my apprehension I saw the likeness of goodwife Harrison
with her face towards my husband, and I turned about to lock the door &
she vanist away. Then my husband's nose fell a bleeding in an
extraordinary manner, & so continued (if it were meddled with) to his
dying day. Sworn in court Oct. 29, 1668, attests John Allyn, Secy."
MARY HALE--Noises and blows--The canine apparition--The voice in the
night--The Devil a liar
"That about the latter end of November, being the 29th day, 1668, the
said Mary Hale lying in her bed, a good fire giving such light that one
might see all over that room where the said Mary then was, the said Mary
heard a noise, & presently something fell on her legs with such violence
that she feared it would have broken her legs, and then it came upon her
stomach and oppressed her so as if it would have pressed the breath out
of her body. Then appeared an ugly shaped thing like a dog, having a
head such that I clearly and distinctly knew to be the head of Katherine
Harrison, who was lately imprisoned upon suspicion of witchcraft. Mary
saw it walk to & fro in the chamber and went to her father's bedside
then came back and disappeared. That day seven night next after, lying
in her bed something came upon her in like manner as is formerly
related, first on her legs & feet & then on her stomach, crushing &
oppressing her very sore. She put forth her hand to feel (because there
was no light in the room so as clearly to discern). Mary aforesaid felt
a face, which she judged to be a woman's face, presently then she had a
great blow on her fingers which pained her 2 days after, which she
complained of to her father & mother, & made her fingers black and blue.
During the former passages Mary called to her father & mother but could
not wake them till it was gone. After this, the day of December in the
night, (the night being very windy) something came again and spoke thus
to her, saying to Mary aforesaid, You said that I would not come again,
but are you not afraid of me. Mary said, No. The voice replied I will
make you afraid before I have done with you; and then presently Mary was
crushed & oppressed very much. Then Mary called often to her father and
mother, they lying very near. Then the voice said, Though you do call
they shall not hear till I am gone. Then the voice said, You said that I
preserved my cart to carry me to the gallows, but I will make it a dear
cart to you (which said words Mary remembered she had only spoke in
private to her sister a little before & to no other.) Mary replied she
feared her not, because God had kept her & would keep her still. The
voice said she had a commission to kill her. Mary asked, Who gave you
the commission? The voice replied God gave me the commission. Mary
replied, The Devil is a liar from the beginning for God will not give
commission to murder, therefore it must be from the devil. Then Mary was
again pressed very much. Then the voice said, You will make known these
things abroad when I am gone, but if you will promise me to keep these
aforesaid matters secret I will come no more to afflict you. Mary
replied I will tell it abroad. Whereas the said Mary mentions divers
times in this former writing that she heard a voice, this said Mary
affirmeth that she did & doth know that it was the voice of Katherine
Harrison aforesaid; and Mary aforesaid affirmeth that the substance of
the whole relation is truth." Sworn in Court May 25, 1669. Attest John
Elizabeth Smith--_Neighborly criticism--Fortune telling--Spinning yarn_
"Elizabeth the wife of Simon Smith of Thirty Mile Island testified that
Catherine was noted by her and the rest of the family to be a great or
notorious liar, a sabbath breaker, and one that told fortunes, and told
the said Elizabeth her fortune, that her husband's name should be Simon;
& also told the said Elizabeth some other matters that did come to pass;
and also would oft speak and boast of her great familiarity with Mr.
Lilley, one that told fortunes and foretold many matters that in furture
times were to be accomplished. And also the said Katherine did often
spin so great a quantity of fine linen yarn as the said Elizabeth did
never know nor hear of any other woman that could spin so much. And
further, the said Elizabeth said that Capt. Cullick observing the evil
conversation in word and deed of the said Katherine turned her out of
his service, one reason was because the said Katherine told fortunes."
Taken upon oath Sept. 23, 1668 before John Allyn, Assistant.
On such evidence, October 12, 1669, the jury being called to give in
their verdict upon the indictment of Katherine Harrison, returned that
they find the prisoner guilty of the indictment.
But meanwhile important things in the history of the case had come to
pass. Serious doubts arose in the minds of the magistrates as to
accepting the verdict, and in their dilemma they took counsel not only
of the law but of the gospel, and presented a series of questions to
certain ministers--the same expedient adopted by the court at Salem
twenty-three years later.
The answer of the ministers is in the handwriting of Rev. Gershom
Bulkeley of Wethersfield, the author of the unique treatise _Will and
Doom_. It was a remarkable paper as to preternatural apparitions, the
character of evidence for conviction, and its cautions as to its
acceptance. It was this:
"The answer of some ministers to the questions pr-pounded to them by
the Honored Magistrates, Octobr 20, 1669. To ye 1st Quest whether a
plurality of witnesses be necessary, legally to evidence one and ye same
individual fact? Wee answer."
"That if the proofe of the fact do depend wholly upon testimony, there
is then a necessity of a plurality of witnesses, to testify to one & ye
same individual fact; & without such a plurality, there can be no legall
evidence of it. Jno 8, 17. The testimony of two men is true; that is
legally true, or the truth of order. & this Cht alledges to vindicate ye
sufficiency of the testimony given to prove that individual facte, that
he himselfe was ye Messias or Light of the World. Mat. 26, 59, 60."
"To the 2nd quest. Whether the preternatural apparitions of a person
legally proved, be a demonstration of familiarity with ye devill? Wee
anser, that it is not the pleasure of ye Most High, to suffer the wicked
one to make an undistinguishable representation of any innocent person
in a way of doing mischiefe, before a plurality of witnesses. The reason
is because, this would utterly evacuate all human testimony; no man
could testify, that he saw this pson do this or that thing, for it might
be said, that it was ye devill in his shape."
"To the 3d & 4th quests together: Whether a vitious pson foretelling
some future event, or revealing of a secret, be a demonstration of
familiarity with the devill? Wee say thus much."
"That those things, whither past, present or to come, which are indeed
secret, that is, cannot be knowne by human skill in arts, or strength of
reason arguing from ye corse of nature, nor are made knowne by divine
revelation either mediate or immediate, nor by information from man,
must needes be knowne (if at all) by information from ye devill: & hence
the comunication of such things, in way of divination (the pson
prtending the certaine knowledge of them) seemes to us, to argue
familiarity with ye devill, in as much as such a pson doth thereby
declare his receiving the devills testimony, & yeeld up himselfe as ye
devills instrument to comunicate the same to others."
And meanwhile Katherine herself had not been idle even in durance. With
a dignity becoming such a communication, and in a desperate hope that
justice and mercy might be meted out to her, she addressed a petition to
the court setting forth with unconscious pathos some of the wrongs and
sufferings she had endured in person and estate; and one may well
understand why under such great provocation she told Michael Griswold
that he would hang her though he damned a thousand souls, and as for his
own soul it was damned long ago. Vigorous and emphatic words, for which
perhaps Katherine was punished enough, as she was adjudged to pay
Michael in two actions for slander, L25 and costs in one and L15 and
costs in the other.
This was Katherine's appeal:
Filed: Wid. Harrisons greuances presented to the court 6th of Octobr
"A complaint of severall greiuances of the widow Harrisons which she
desires the honored court to take cognizance of and as far as maybe to
give her reliefe in."
"May it please this honored court, to have patience with mee a little:
having none to complain to but the Fathers of the Commonweale; and yet
meetting with many injurys, which necessitate mee to look out for some
releeife. I am told to present you with these few lines, as a relation
of the wrongs that I suffer, humbly crauing your serious consideration
of my state a widdow; of my wrongs, (wch I conceive are great) and that
as far as the rules of justice and equitie will allow, I may have right
and a due recompence."
"That that I would present to you in the first place is we had a yoke of