Salem Witch Craft Trials
The following is taken in part from:
The "Cory Family Newsletter", Volume 7,
number 3, Sep 1992,
"The History of Salem", Volume III, pages 286-293,
"The Witchcraft Episode", pages 36-57,
"Salem In The Seventeenth Century", Chapter XXV,
"The Witches at Salem, 1692", by Dick Eastman on the Compuserve
"Witches and Wizards", by Robert Ellis Cahill former Essex County
(Mass.) Sheriff and Keeper of the Salem Jail.
"The Salem Witchcraft Papers: Verbatim Transcripts of the Legal
Documents of the Salem Witchcraft Outbreak of 169", Vols. I-III,
transcribed in 1938 by Works Progress Administration under supervision
of Archie N. Frost, Ed. by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Da Capo
Press, NY, 1977.
"Witchcraft at Salem", Chadwick Hansen, George Braziller, Inc., NY,
Salem Witch Trials
L. David Roper Web page entitled Giles Corey of Salem,
The opprobrious epithet of witch-city which
has tenaciously clung to Salem since 1692 is due to the fact that the
witch trials and executions took place in that town. The source of the
excitement which resulted in the death for alleged witchcraft of twenty
persons within a year, lay in the a neighboring settlement, now the town
of Danvers. At the time it was a parish of Salem Town, known as Salem
Difficulties and acrimonious disputes over
church affairs had long prevailed in this community, which reached a
climax when the Rev. Samuel Parris was finally chosen, in 1689, to take
charge of the parish affairs. Parris appears to have entered the ministry
somewhat late in life and had spent considerable time in the West Indies
in business pursuits. He brought with him to Salem Village two native
servants, or slaves of West Indian and African blood, known as Indian John
and Tituba his wife---the immediate instigators of the events which were
soon to follow.
Parris' difficulties began at once. He was
at odds with his parishioners over salary, his parsonage, church rates,
and in fact, over all matters pertaining to the conduct of his office.
This led to a degree of bitterness in the community unusual even in those
times of agitated public feeling. Apart from church affairs, there were
also many disputes as to land rights, and personal animosities were
widespread and rancorous. The setting was complete for an emotional
In the long and bitter winter of 1691-92,
some young women and girls at Salem Village had some meetings to learn
palmistry and fortune-telling from Tituba. She was skilled in necromancy
and various magic arts---perhaps African in origin, perhaps practiced by
Indians---and found apt pupils in the children, who soon acquired
proficiency in their use. Tituba claimed to know how to discover witches
and the children may have read about evidences of witchcraft, but at any
rate those impressionable young people soon began to act queerly and have
spasms and fits.
These sessions apparently fired the
imaginations of the girls, several of whom later started performing
nightmarish fits and telling tales of witchcraft and of being possessed of
evil spirits amongst them in Salem. On 20-Jan-1692, nine-year-old
Elizabeth Parris and eleven-year-old Abigail Willams began to exhibit
strange behavior, such as blasphemous screaming, convulsive seizures,
trance-line states and mysterious spells. Within a short time, several
other Salem Girls began to demonstrate similar behavior.
Doubtless at the outset, all this was
innocent enough, until it attracted the attention of the elders who were
at first mystified and then alarmed. Instead of keeping the children
quietly at home and breaking up the meetings, their parents called in the
local physician, Dr. Griggs. The doctor, who knew nothing about nerves and
believed in witchcraft, finally decided, as was usual when the diagnosis
was in doubt, that the actions of the girls in their fits and contortions
could only be explained on the basis of witchcraft.
This group, know as the afflicted children,
Elizabeth Parris, nine years old,
daughter of the Reverend Samuel Parris.
Abigail Williams, eleven years old, a
niece of Mr. Parris and member of the household.
Ann Putnam, twelve years old, daughter of
Sergeant Thomas Putnam, clerk of the parish.
Mercy Lewis, seventeen years old, who had
been in the family of the Reverend
George Burroughts while he was at the Village, but now was a servant in
Mary Wolcott, seventeen years old,
daughter of Captain Jonathan Wolcott, deacon
of the parish.
Elizabeth Hubbard, seventeen years old, a
niece of Mrs. Griggs, wife of the
Elizabeth Booth, eighteen years old.
Susannah Sheldon, eighteen years old.
Mary Warren, twenty years old, servant in
the family of John Proctor.
Sarah Churchill, twenty years old,
servant in the family of George Jacobs, Sr.
These ten, with the occasional help of
three married women, Mrs. Ann Putnam, mother of one of the girls, a Mrs.
Pope, and Goody Bibber from Wenham, provided all the initial testimony on
which nineteen persons were hanged, and well over a hundred more were cast
During the early spring of 1692 these
children continued to have fits and convulsions at their meetings and
attracted considerable attention to their antics and actions. They were
all attributed by the people to witchcraft, and presently the children
under this favorable notice began to extend their activities to the
meeting-house on Sundays, crying out that they saw yellow birds sitting on
the minister's hat, and other similar nonsense. It is not on record that
Mr. Parris tried to suppress his niece and her friends and some of the
parish grew annoyed and stayed at home.
In late February Mr. Parris sent for the
neighboring ministers to come to his house to conduct solemn services to
try to rescue the children from the clutches of the Evil One. Prayer
services and community fasting were conducted by Reverend Samuel Parris in
hopes of relieving the evil forces that plagued them. They corroborated
the opinion of Dr. Griggs that the children's actions were the work of
witches. In an effort to expose the "witches", Indian John baked a witch
cake made with rye meal and the afflicted girl's urine. This counter-magic
was meant to reveal the identities of the "witches" to the afflicted
Pressure was put on the children to tell
who afflicted them an they began to name various people: Goody Good, Goody
Osburn, and the old Indian woman Tituba, and warrants were obtained for
their arrest. They were arrested on February 28, 1692.
On March 1, 1692, John Hathorne and
Jonathan Corwin, the magistrates, proceeded in state to the Village to
hear the cases, escorted by the marshal of Essex and the constables, and
stopped at Nathaniel Ingersoll's tavern, but the gathering was so great
that they had to adjourn to the meeting-house.
Nathaniel Ingersoll's Ordinary (199 Hobart Street,
located at the intersection of Hobart and Centre Streets).
The three accused women were brought to
Salem Town and examined by Magistrates Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne.
Corwin's home, the "Witch House", still stands at the corner of North and
Essex Streets in Salem, providing guiding tours and tales of the first
Home of Witch Trials Judge Jonathan Corwin
Salem's only home with direct ties to the Witch Trials of 1692.
Before an excited crowd, all of whom
believed in the possible existence of witchcraft and in a personal devil,
Sarah Good, Sarah Osburn, and Tituba were brought in. In spite of the
"afflicted children" who charged them with hurting them, the first two
steadfastly maintained that they had made no compact with the Devil, had
not hurt the children, and were innocent; but the surprising thing is that
Tituba admitted that she did serve the Devil; that her fellow prisoners
were witches; also that they rode around on broomsticks accompanied by
familiar spirits and did all sorts of injury. Tibuba confessed to seeing
the devil who appeared to her "sometimes like a hog and sometimes like a
great dog". What's more, Tituba testified that there was a conspiracy of
witches at work in Salem. For five days the examination continued, and
then the magistrates committed all three of the women to the jail in
The girls, under the lead of the elder
girl, started to tell lies about different town folks which included
Over the next weeks, other townspeople came
forward and testified that they, too, had been harmed by or had seen
strange apparitions of some of the community members. As the witch hunt
continued, accusations were made against many different people.
Examination of a Witch, by T.H. Matteson 1853.
Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum
Frequently denounced were women whose
behavior or economic circumstances were somehow disturbing to the social
order and conventions of the time. Some of the accused had previous
records of criminal activity, including witchcraft, but others were
faithful churchgoers and people of high standing in the community.
Sarah Osborne and Sarah Dustin were both
convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to be hung. Both died in the Salem
Dungeon from exposure, ill treatment and lack of adequate food before the
sentences could be carried out. It is also said that Sarah Osborne died
two months later, May 10, in the Boston jail.
Sarah Osborne House
(272 Maple Street opposite Gorman Road)
Sarah Good was tried and convicted in June
and hanged on the nineteenth of July, while Tituba lay in jail over a year
and was finally sold as a slave for her board bill, as the Reverend Samuel
Parris, her master, refused to redeem her.
John Willard early assisted in arresting
the accused, but he had expressed sympathy with those under condemnation,
and said, "Hang them, they they are all witches." It was latter reported
that Mercy Lewis and Mary Walcott, while investigating an illness in the
Wilkins family, that they "saw the apparitions of Sarah Buckley and John
Willard upon the throat and breast of Henry Wilkins," and saw them press
and choke him until he died.
A warrant for the arrest of Willard was
issued May 10th on complaint of Thomas Fuller and others; but he could not
be located until the eighteenth, when he was produced in court, having
been found in Groton. He was given a preliminary examination at Beadle's
Tavern, in Salem, at which the deposition of Mrs. Ann Putnam was probably
put in evidence. The deposition concerned Willard, but finished with these
. . . Joseph Fuller's apparition also the
same day came to me and told me that Goody Corey had killed him.
Martha Corey was charged on 19 March 1692:
"There being Complaint this day made before us,
By Edward putnam and Henery Keney Yeoman both of Salem Village, Against
Martha Cory the wife of Giles Cory of Salem farmes for suspition of
haveing Comitted sundry acts of Witchcraft and thereby donne much hurt
and injury unto the Bodys of Ann Putnam the wife of Thomas Putnam of
Salem Village Yeoman And Anna Puttam the daugtter of s'd Thomas putnam
and Marcy Lewis Single woman Liveing in s'd Putnams famyly; also abigail
Williams one of mr parris his family and elizabeth Hubert Doctor Grigs
March 19th, a warrant was issued for the
arrest of Martha Cory, wife of Giles Cory, and she was immediately taken
into custody. She was examined before Justices Hathorne and Corwin. A
woman of superior judgment and discretion, from the beginning she
resolutely and persistently denounced the whole witchcraft proceedings.
She endeavored to persuade her husband not to attend the hearings, nor to
countenance the prosecutions in any manner. It is said that once she took
the saddle off his horse to prevent him from going to an examination.
Martha Cory was generally disliked by her
neighbors, something that may have been a contributing factor to her being
accused. Years earlier she had given birth to an illegitimate child which
apparently had not been well-received by the Puritans of Salem. When the
girls first mentioned the name of Mrs. Cory, Edward Putnam and Ezekiel
Cheever went to see her about the matter, March 12th. They saw Ann Putnam
on the way, and asked her what clothes Mrs. Cory wore when her apparition
appeared to her as Ann had said. Ann said that she was so blinded she
could not see. Arriving at the Cory house, Mrs. Cory said to them, "I know
what you have come for. You are come to talk with me about being a witch,
but I am none. I cannot help people talking about me." She inquired
whether the afflicted had attempted to describe her clothes. This last
statement was deemed to be supernatural, and was used in her trial later
on. She told them that she did not think there were any witches.
Martha Cory, Giles third wife and Rebecca
Nurse were arrested March 19th. Probably the arrest of Rebecca Nurse was
instigated by the enmity of the Putnams, who, mother and daughter, were
among the chief accusers though the following months. Overwhelmed by the
accusations against two such respected persons as Goodwives Cory and Nurse
and inflamed by a sermon preached by Rev. Deodat Lawson, which was
interrupted by the antics of several of the prosecuted children, popular
feeling reached a degree of panic, which precluded any possible control of
the rising excitement.
On March 28 Elizabeth Proctor was denounced
as a witch and on April 3, Sarah Cloyce, Rebecca Nurse's sister, was
accused of witchcraft.
On April 11, the colony as a whole took
cognizance of the trouble, and the Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth and six
magistrates, James Russell, John Hathorne, Isaac Addington, Major Samuel
Appleton, Captain Samuel Sewall, and Jonathan Corwin appeared in Salem to
Elizabeth Proctor and Sarah Cloyce were
examined before Hathorne, Corwin, Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth, and
Captain Samuel Sewall. During this examination, John Proctor was also
accused and imprisoned.
In the examination of Martha Cory, the
following colloquies occurred:---
You are now in the hands of authority. Tell me, now why you hurt these
I do not.
Pray give me leave to go to prayer. (This request
was made at sundry times.)
We do not send for you to go to prayer, but tell me why hurt these.
I am an innocent person. I never had to do with witchcraft since I was
born. I am a gospel woman.
How could you tell, then, that the child was bid to observe what clothes
you wore when some one came to speak with you?
(Cheever interrupted her and bid her not
begin with a lie, and so Edward Putnam declared the matter.)
Who told you that?
He said the child said.
You speak falsely. (Then Edward Putnam read again.)
Why did you ask if the child asked what clothes you wore?
My husband told me the others told.
Goodman Cory, did you tell her? (The old man denied that he told her
Did you say your husband told you so?
Cory --- no answer.
You dare thus lie in all this assembly. You are now before authority. I
expect the truth. You promised it. Speak now and tell who told you what
Once the children cried, "A man is
whispering in her ear.
What did he say to you?
We must not believe all that these distracted children say.
In his report of this trial, Mr. Parris
said: When she bit her lip, several of the afflicted were bitten; when her
hands were at liberty, they were pinched; etc., etc.
Do you not see how these afflicted do charge you
We must not beleive distracted persons
Who do you improve to hurt them
I improved none
Did not you say our eyes were blinded you would open them
Yes to accuse the innocent"
?You charge these children with distraction: it is a note of
distraction when persons vary in a minute, but these fix upon you, this
is not the manner of distraction-
When all are against me w't can I help
Now tell me the truth will you, why did you say that the
Magistrates & Ministers eyes are blinded you would open them
She laught & denyed it.
What do you say to all these thing that are apparent
If you will all go hang me how can I
Were you to serve the Devil ten years tell how many
Mrs. Cory was badgered by Hathorne,
badgered by Corwin, badgered by Rev. Mr. Noyes, badgered by the Marshall
Her own husband testified against her:
"The evidence of Giles Choree testifieth & saith
that Last satturday in the Evening. sitting by the fire my wife asked me
to go to bed. I told I would go to prayr. & when I went to prayer I
could nott utter my desires w'th any sense, not open my mouth to speake
My wife did perceive itt & came towards. me & said she was coming to me.
After this in alittle space I did according to my measure attend the
duty. Sometime last weake I fetcht an ox well out the woods, about
noone, & he laying down in the yard I went to raise him to yoake him
butt he could not rise butt dragd his hinder parts as if he had been
hiptshott, butt after did rise.
I had a Catt somtimes last weeke strangly taken on the suddain & did
make me think she would have died presently, #[butt] my wife bid me
knock her in the head. butt I did not. & since she is well. Another time
going to duties I was interrupted for aspace, butt affterward I was
helpt according to my poore measure.
My wife hath ben wont to sitt up after I went to bed, & I have perceived
her to kneel down to the harth. as if she were at prayr, but heard
March: 24'th 1691/2"
During her examination, Mrs. Pope threw a
shoe at her and it struck on her head.
After the same absurd scenes and alleged
evidence, Sarah Cloyse and John Proctor and his wife Elizabeth, with
Rebecca Nurse, Martha Cory, and Dorcas Good, the little five-year-old
daughter of Sarah, who had been held in Salem, were sent to Boston Jail.
Rebecca Nurse was first granted a reprieve
by the jury in her witchcraft case. Judge John Hathorne refused to accept
the verdict and he convinced the jury to change their verdict. Judge
Hathorne is now known as Salem's "witch hanging judge" and also was the
great-great-grandfather of Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of the "House of
Seven Gables." John Hathorne is buried in the Charter Street "Old Burying
This examination was most unfortunate, as
it immediately gave the matter importance throughout the colony, whereas
it had been a local affair up to that time.
As if there was not excitement enough, the
Reverend Deodate Lawson was invited back to preach a powerful lecture-day
sermon on the text, "And the Lord said unto Satan, the Lord rebuke thee, O
Satan! even the Lord that has chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee; is not this a
brand plucked out of the fire?" As may be supposed, he handled the Devil
in a way to let no one doubt his reality, or the utter damnation that
would follow any association with him. This did not tend to allay the
The accusers were not satiated yet.
Warrants and commitments now followed in rapid secession. The next victim
was Giles Cory, eighty years of age (Really 71 years old.). He was
infatuated by the storm of witchcraft, and attended the hearings. At last
the girls did not think that he was as strong as he ought to be in some of
his evidence in a case, and cried out upon him, declaring that he
afflicted them with fits and pinches.
On 18 April 1692 Exekiell Chevers and John Putnam,
Jr. made a complaint against Giles Corey for witchcraft done on Ann
Putnam, Marcy Lewis, Abig'l Williams, Mary Walcot and Eliz. Hubert.
There being Complaint this day made (Before us)
by Ezekiell Chevers and John Putnam Jun'r both of Salem Village Yeomen:
in Behalfe of theire Majesties, for themselfes and also for theire
Neighbours Against Giles Cory, and Mary Waren both of Salem farmes And
Abrigail Hobbs the daughter of Wm hobs of the Towne of Topsfield and
Bridgett Bushop the wife of Edw'd Bishop of Salem Sawyerfor high
Suspition of Sundry acts of Witchcraft donne or Committed by them, upon
the Bodys of : Ann Putnam. Marcy Lewis, and Abig'l Williams and Mary
Walcot and Eliz. Hubert-of Salem village -whereby great hurt and damage
hath benne donne to the Bodys of Said persons above named.therefore
You are therefore in their Majest's names hereby
required to apprehend and bring before us Giles Cory & Mary Waren of
Salem farmes, and Abigail Hobs the daughter of Wm Hobs of the Towne of
Topsfeild and Bridget Bushop the wife of Edward Bushop of Salem To
Morrow about Eight of the Clock in the forenoone, at the house of Lt.
Nathaniell Ingersalls in the Salem Village in order to theire
Examination Relateing to the premises aboves'd and here of you are not
Dated Salem April 18'th 1692.
Another line of damning testimony was that Giles
Corey participated in "the sacriment" at a gathering of witches. John
DeRich testified that.
"gils Cory...told me that he wanted som platers
for he was gowen to afeast...he took the platers and cared them a way
being gown a bout half a oure with them...". A deposition by Elizabeth
Booth stated "there appeared to us a grate number of wicthes as neare as
we could tell about fifty thirteen of which we knew:who did Receive the
sacriment in our right amongst whicth we saw Giles Cory who brought to
us bread and wine urging us to pertake thereof: but because we Refused
he did most greviously afflect and torment us: and we beleve in our
hearts that Giles Cory is a wizzard..."
On April 18th, Giles Cory and Mary Warren
of the Village, Abigail Hobbs of Topsfield, and Bridget Bishop of Salem
were arrested. On April 19th, they were examined. Only Abigail Hobbs
Bridget Bishop House
(Plate 19; 238 Conant Street).
The court ordered Cory's hands to be tied,
and they asked him if it were not enough to "act witchcraft at other
times, but must you do it now in face of authority?" He replied, "I am a
poor creature and cannot help it." Again, a magistrate exclaimed, "Why do
you tell such wicked lies against witnesses?" One of his hands was loosed
and the girls were afflicted. He held his head on on side, and the heads
of the afflicted were held on one side. He drew in his cheeks, and the
cheeks of the afflicted were sucked in.
This was a preliminary examination. He was
never formally tried, as he would not plead. He was committed to jail.
Two days later, April 22th, nine more,
Nehemiah Abbott, William and Deliverance Hobbs, Edward and Sarah Bishop,
Mary Easty, Mary Black, Sarah Wildes, and Mary English were examined
before Hathorne and Corwin. Only Nehemiah was cleared of charges.
May 2, Sarah Morey, Lydia Dustin, Susannah
Martin, and Dorcas Hoar were examined by Hathorne and Corwin.
Several other arrests followed.
Reverend George Burroughs had earlier been
pastor of the Salem Village church but had left for a parish in Wells,
Maine after arguments with Ann Putnam, the mother of the 12-year-old of
the same name. In 1692, daughter Ann Putnam testified that Rev. Burroughs
had appeared before her in an apparition one night asking her to sign the
Devil's books. Two women also appeared in this apparition, Ann Putnam
reported that they were the Rev. Burroughs' first and second wives. These
wives "told" Ann Putnam that Rev. Burroughs had murdered both of them.
Based upon this apparition, on May 4, Rev. George Burroughs was arrested
in Wells, Maine and brought back to Salem. Burroughs was examined by
Hathorne, Corwin, Sewall, and William Stoughton on May 9. One of the
afflicted girls, Sarah Churchill, was also examined.
William Stoughton, Judge
May 10th, George Jacobs, Sr. and his
granddaughter Margaret were examined before Hathorne and Corwin. Margaret
confessed and testified that her grandfather and George Burroughs were
Trial of George
Jacobs, 1692 by T.H. Matteson.
The original of this oil painting hangs in the Peabody Essex Museum.
It was painted in 1855 and is by no means historically accurate but is
On May 14th, several more warrants,
including one for Elizabeth Cory of Charlestown, were issued. This
continued through the first week of June.
Also on May 14th, Increase Mather returned
from England, bringing with him a new charter and the new governor, Sir
Now the trouble took a new turn. A woman in
Andover was sick of some fever not understood, so her husband posted down
to Salem Village to get a couple of the "afflicted children" to come up
and say who was bewitching her. They came and trouble spread like
wildfire. Dudley Bradstreet, son of the old Governor, was the magistrate,
and at first went along with the excitement, but, when some fifty persons
had been arrested, he declined to go further. He was, of course,
suspected, so he and his wife and brother fled and escaped. A dog supposed
to have been bewitched by the brother was executed!
May 18th, Mary Easty was released from
prison. Yet, due to the outcries and protests of her accusers, she was
arrested a second time.
May 27th, a new court of primarily Boston
men was appointed by the new Governor, Sir William Phips. The special
Court of Oyer and Terminer comprised of seven judges to try the witchcraft
cases. Appointed were Lieutenant Governor William Stoughon, Nathaniel
Saltonstall, Bartholomew Gedney, Peter Sergeant, Samuel Sewall, Wait Still
Winthrop, John Richards, John Hathorne, and Jonathan Corwin.
These magistrates based their judgments and
evaluations on various kinds of intangible evidence, including direct
confessions, supernatural attributes (such as "witchmarks", and reactions
of the afflicted girls. Spectral evidence, based on the asumption that the
Devil could assume the "specter" of an innocent person, was relied upon
despite its controversial nature.
Martha Carrier, John Alden, Wilmott Redd,
Elizabeth Howe, and Phillip English were examined before Hathorne, Corwin,
and Gedney on May 31.
John Alden, son of the couple John Alden
and Priscilla Mullins, was a resident of Boston when accused by the young
girls of Salem of witchcraft. Alden was arrested and brought to Salem to
face the girls. When Alden approached them in court, the girls who had
accused him all fell to the floor in a faint. Alden then turned to Judge
Hathorne and said, "What's the reason you don't fall when I look at you?"
Hathorne had no answer, but he imprisoned Alden anyway. Three months later
John Alden managed to escape from jail and he was never apprehended. On
June 2nd, the initial session of the Court of Oyer and Terminer was held.
The court held its meetings in the town-house and began its sessions the
first week in June. They tried and sentenced Bridget Bishop.
Soon after Bridget Bishop's trail,
Nathaniel Saltonstall resigned from the court, dissatisfied with its
The June 10, 1692 hanging of Bridget Bishop
Bridget Bishop was the first to be hung for
witchcraft. There is still debate today as to whether or not she should be
included in the list of Salem witches of 1692. Bridget Bishop had been
tried for witchcraft in 1679 and acquitted. She was a twice-widowed tavern
owner, owning "an ordinary" on the road between Salem and Beverly. She
served a new and powerful drink called "rum" to many of the sailors who
frequented her place. The sailors also played an evil new game called
"shuffleboard that upset many of the neighbors. Bridget wore bright
clothes, a major offense in the eyes of the Puritans of Salem. Bridget
apparently was condemned more for her lifestyle and for the veiled
accusations of prostitution that cannot be proven or disproved today.
Bridget Bishop was hanged June 10 in Salem, the first official execution
of the Salem witch trails.
Following her death, accusations of
witchcraft escalated, but the trials were not unopposed. Several
townspeople signed petitions on behalf of accused people they believed to
During this time, two dogs were also hung
by the neck at Gallows Hill because one of the girls said they had
appeared to her as the Devil's disciples and gave her the evil eye. On
June 29-30, they tried and sentenced five more, Rebecca Nurse, Susannah
Martin, Sarah Wildes, Sarah Good, and Elizabeth Howe.
The following dialogue is based on the
examination of Sarah Good by Judges Hathorne and Corwim, from "The Salem
Witchcraft Papers", Book II, page 355.
What evil spirit have you familiarity
Have you made no contract with the devil?
Why do you hurt these children?
I do not hurt them. I
Who do you imploy then to do it?
I imploy no body.
What creature do you imploy then?
No creature. I am falsely
In mid-July an effort to expose witches
afflicting his life, Joseph Ballard of nearby Andover enlisted the aid of
the accusing girls of Salem. This action marked the beginning of the
Andover witch hunt.
July 19, Rebecca Nurse (age 70), Susannah
Martin, Elizabeth Howe, Sarah Good, and Sarah Wildes were executed.
August 2-6, the court condemned six more,
George Jacobs, Sr., Martha Carrier, George Burroughs, John and Elizabeth
Proctor, and John Willard.
All were executed on the nineteenth except
Elizabeth Proctor by hanging on Gallows Hill.
The September sitting of the court began
the sixth and ended on the seventeenth. The trial of Mrs. Cory occurred
September 10th, and she was convicted and sentenced on the same day. Mary
Easty, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Dorcas Hoar, and Mary Bradbury were
also tried and condemned.
Mary Bradbury of Salisbury was found guilty
of witchcraft, but managed to escape the jail before execution. She
apparently had assistance in this from her friends and relatives, she was
never re-captured. By Sep 17, Margaret Scott, Wilmott Redd, Samuel
Wardwell, Mary Parker, Abigail Faulkner, Rebecca Eames, Mary Lacy and her
mother Ann Foster, and Abigail Hobbs were tried and condemned.
Mary Lacy of Andover was accused of
witchcraft and admitted to it. She said "me and Martha Carrier did both
ride on a stick or pole when we went to witch meetings at Salem Village."
Ironically, those who confessed to being witches were not executed, but
many of those who denied witchcraft were hung. Mary Lacy was allowed to go
free after her "confession" but she had damned Martha Carrier in the
process. Martha was hung a few weeks later. Mary Lacy's mother, Ann
Foster, died in a Salem Dungeon due to ill treatment from Sheriff George
At the September sitting of the court,
Giles was arraigned. The following deposition is by one of the girls who
accused Giles of witchcraft. The document is from the records of the Court
of Oyer and Terminer, September 9, 1692, property of the Supreme Judicial
Court, Division of Archives and Records Preservation, on deposit at the
Essex Institute, Salem, Essex Co, MA.
Mercy Lewis v. Giles Cory
The Deposition of Mercy lewes agged about
19 years woh testifieth and saith that on the 14th April 1692 I saw the
Apperishtion of Giles Cory com and aflect me urging me to writ in his
book and so he contineued most dreadfullly to hurt me by times beating
me & almost braking my back tell the day of his examination being the
19th April and then allso during the time of his examination he did
affect and tortor me most greviously: and also several times sence
urging me vehemently to writ in his book and I veryly believe in my
heart that Giles Cory is a dreadfull wizzard for sence he had ben in
prison he or his apperance has com and most greviously tormented me.
Mercy Lewis affirmed to the jury of
Inquest. that the above written evidence: is the truth upon the oath: she
has formerly taken in court of Oyer & Terminer: Septr 9: 1692
Similar depositions were given by Mercy Lewis, Sarah
Bibber, Mary Warren, Elizabeth Woodwell, Mary Walcott, Elizabeth Hubbard
and Benjamin Gould. Susannah Sheldon's testified that
"the Spectre of Giles Corey Murdered his first
wife & would have murdered this to if she had not been a Witch..."
Thomas Putnam wrote a letter to Judge Samuel Sewall
in which he brought up an old case against Giles Corey:
"...my daughter Ann...there appeared unto her
(she said) a man in a Winding Sheet; who told her that Giles Cory had
Murdered him, by Pressing him to Death with his Feet; but that the Devil
there appeared unto him, and Covenented with him, and promised him, He
should not be Hanged....For all people now Remember very well, (and the
Records of the Court also mention it,) That about Seventeen Years ago,
Giles Cory kept a man in his House, that was almost a Natural Fool:
which Man Dy'd suddenly. A Jury was Impannel'd upon him, among whom was
Dr. Zorobbabel Endicot; who found the man bruised to Death, and having
clodders of Blood about his Heart. The Jury, whereof several are yet
alive, brought in the man Murdered; but as if some Enchantment had
hindred the Prosecution of the Matter, the Court Proceeded not against
Giles Cory, tho' it cost him a great deal of Money to get off."
He was asked to plead, that is, to appeal
to his country, to a jury trial, which at that time all persons charged
with crime must do before a jury could try them. He "stood mute," and
would not plead. The old English Law of "Peine forte et dure" furnished
but one remedy for this situation. The prisoner should:
be remanded to the prison from whence he
came and put into a low dark chamber, and there be laid on his back on
the bare floor, naked, unless when decency forbids; that there be placed
upon his body as great a weight as he could bear, and more, that he hath
no sustenance, save only on the first day, three morsels of the worst
bread, and the second day three droughts of standing water, that should
be alternately his daily diet till he died, or, till he answered.
Giles Cory suffered this rather than to
appeal to his countrymen, as he was fully convinced that he must die
anyway, and he was obstinate enough to cheat the gallows. So to avoid
giving the prosecution any advantage, he would answer nothing, whereupon
he was sentenced to be pressed to death. Hence, refusing to put himself on
trial (no trial actually took place). Giles reportedly was a stubborn,
fiery man who realized that he would not get a fair trial. By not pleading
one way or the other, English law dictated that a person could not be
tried, but the penalty for standing mute was "slow crushing under weights"
until a plea was forthcoming or the person died. His death was the result
of his obstinacy and firmness with scarcely a parallel---certainly not in
On September 17, the Sheriff led Giles to a
pit in the open field beside the jail and before the Court and witnesses
in accordance with an English procedure of the "Peine forte et dure". They
striped Giles of his clothing, laid him on the ground in the pit, placed
boards on his chest, six men lifted heavy stones, placing them one by one,
on his stomach and chest. Giles Corey did not cry out, which perplexed
Sheriff Corwin whose duty it was to squeeze a confession from the old man.
After two days, Giles was asked three times
to plead innocent or guilty to witchcraft, to which he would say more
weight. "Do you confess?" the Sheriff cried over and over. More and more
rocks were piled onto him, and the Sheriff, from time to time, would stand
on the boulders staring down at Corey's bulging eyes. Robert Calef, who
was a witness along with other townsfolk, later said, "In the pressing,
Giles Corey's tongue was pressed out of his mouth; the Sheriff, with his
cane, forced it in again."
Three mouthfuls of bread and water were fed
to the old man during his many hours of pain. Finally, Giles Corey cried
out at Sheriff Corwin, "Damn you. I curse you and Salem!" Giles Corey died
a few seconds later.
Samuel Sewall, trial judge
Sewell's diary states, under date of
Monday, September 19, 1692:
About noon at Salem, Giles Cory was
pressed to death for standing mute; much pains was used with him two
days, one after another, by the court and Captain Gardner of Nantucket
who had been of his acquaintance, but all in vain.
In the whole history of English law very
few people had had the fortitude to "stand mute" and endure a penalty
expressly designed to discourage such obstinacy. This is the only instance
in the history of New England where this law was applied. The execution of
Giles Cory by this process had nothing to do with witchcraft. If he had
refused to plead to a charge of burglary, the penalty would have been the
Except in the cases of treason, conviction
could not be obtained on a prisoner who stood mute. With out conviction
his property could not be confiscated by the crown or provincial
government. Many of Corey's friends believed he remained silent in court
because his conviction for the came would have meant the forfeiture of his
estate. Otherwise, the Sheriff would confiscate it. But the fact is that
he had executed a deed before this to his sons-in-law. Civil and criminal
charges had followed him most of his life.
The day following Cory's death, Thomas
Putnam sent to Judge Sewall the following communication:
Last night my daughter Ann was grievously
tormented by witches, threatening that she should be pressed to death
before Giles Corey, but through the goodness of a gracious God, she had,
at last, a little respite. Whereupon there appeared unto her (she said)
a man in a winding sheet who told her that Giles Corey had murdered by
pressing him to death with his feet; but that the devil then appeared
unto him and covenanted with him and promised him that he should not be
hanged. The apparition said, God hardened his heart that he should not
hearken to the advice of the court, and so die an easy death; because,
as it said, it must be done to him as he had done to me. The apparition
also said that Giles Corey was carried to the court for this and that
the jury had found the murder; and that her father knew the man and the
thing was done before she was born.
On Sep 21, Dorcas Hoar was the first of
those pleading innocent to confess. Her execution was delayed.
For the forth and last time, the procession
left Salem jail for the place of execution of those persons condemned for
witchcraft, on Thursday, September 22d. There were eight victims this
time. Samuel Wardwell of Andover was the only man to thus suffer, the
women were Mrs. Martha Cory, wife of Giles Cory, Alice Parker, wife of
John Parker, and Ann Pudeator, widow of Jacob Pudeator, all of Salem, Mary
(Towne) Easty, sister of Rebecca Nurse and wife of Isaac Easty of
Topsfield, Margaret Scott, widow of Benjamin Scott of Rowley, aged about
seventy-five, Wilmot Reed ("Mammy Red"), wife of Samuel Reed, of
Marblehead, and widow Mary Parker of Andover. Upon the ladder, Mrs. Cory,
protesting her innocence, concluded her life with an earnest prayer. After
the sheriff had done his part in the affair, Rev. Nicholas Noyes, of
Salem, turned toward the suspended bodies of the victims, and said: "What
a sad thing it is to see eight firebrands of hell hanging there."
After 20 people had been executed in the
Salem witch hunt, Thomas Brattle wrote a letter on October 8th,
criticizing the witchcraft trials. This letter had great impact on
Governor Philps, who ordered that reliance on spectral and intangible
evidence no longer be allowed in trials.
Sir Willaim Phips, Governor
On Oct 29, Governor Philps dissolved the
Court of Oyer and Terminer.
The General Court of the colony created the
Superior Court on Nov 25 to try the remaining witchcraft cases which took
place in May 1693. This time no one was convicted.
In the spring of 1693, Sir William Phips,
Governor of Massachusetts, liberated 168 people in Salem's Witch Dungeon
who awaiting the hangman's noose. Several of these people died shortly
thereafter from their neglect and abuse while in the dungeon. By 1710, the
General Court had begun to "reverse some of the convictions, judgments and
attainders and declare them null and void," and in the next year or two
some compensation, if inadequate, had been paid to the families of some of
the sufferers. The First Church in Salem erased from their records and
blotted out the excommunication of Rebecca Nurse and Giles Cory.
The Reverend Samuel Parris, after a long
acrimonious struggle with the men whose wives, mothers, and friends he had
helped to drag to the gallows, was driven from the Village in 1697, and,
after unimportant service in the frontier towns, died in Sudbury in 1720.
His wife died and was buried in Danvers before he left that parish.
One of the young girls, Ann Putnam
confessed her fraud 14 years later at the age of 26. She had her minister
read the confession at Sunday service "It was a great delusion of Satan
that deceived me in that sad time whereby I justly fear I have been
instrumental to bring upon myself and this land the guilt of innocent
blood." The following is a list of those hanged at Gallows Hill, Salem,
Massachusetts for witchcraft:
||Village or Town
||Salem Village (Danvers)
|Rebecca Nurse (or Nourse)
||Salem Village (Danvers)
||Salem Village (Danvers)
|Reverend George Burroughs
||Salem Village (Peabody)
||Salem Village (Danvers)
||Salem Village (Peabody)
Accused of Witchcraft, died in jail:
Sarah Osburn, May 10, 1692
Roger Toothaker, June 16, 1692
unnamed infant of Sarah Good, prior to July 19,
Ann Foster, Dec. 3, 1692
Lydia Dastin, March 10,1693
While the term "Salem Witches" is common
nowadays, it ignores the fact that most of the accused were not from
Salem. The jail and site of executions were in Salem, but the accused were
mostly from other towns and villages in the area. Only 10 the 134 who were
accused and were held in Salem's Jail were from Salem Towne. The complete
1 Great Island
1 Romney Marsh (today called Revere)
30 Salem Village (today this is part of Danvers and of Peabody)
7 Topsfield & Ipswich
1 Wells, Maine
In addition to the 134 above, another 34
were accused and in various jails awaiting trial when Governor Phips
released all the prisoners.
The only person who seemed to profit from
the witchcraft hysteria was Sheriff George Corwin who confiscated property
and pocketed fees collected from the accused and their relatives.
Giles Corey's son-in-law, John Moulton, husband of
Elizabeth Corey, presented a document to the General Court on 13 September
"...in the yere 1692 some time in march our
honerd father and mother Giles Corey & Martha his wife ware acused for
soposed wich Craft and imprisoned and ware Removed from on prison to
another as from Salem to ipswich & from ipswitch to boston and from
boston to Salem againe and soe remained in Close imprisonment about four
months...our father was put to soe Cruell and painfull a death as being
prest to death our mother was put to death also though in another way."
It is remarkable that the original 552
documents recording court testimony during the witchcraft trial have been
preserved and are still stored by the Peabody Essex Museum.
There is a popular theory today that moldy
rye was the real cause of the Salem hysteria. An article in "Science
Magazine," April 2, 1976, by Linda, Caporael, a University of California
graduate student, reveals that the physical afflictions of the accusing
girls might have been caused by "Convulsive Ergotism", a disorder
resulting from the ingestion of contaminated rye grain. "Rye, which grows
in low, wet ground, yields ergot," wrote Miss Caporael. Rye was known to
be a staple in the diets of the Salem Puritans. Rye was a common
ingredient of bread and was eaten as a cereal. Judge Sewall's diary for
the summer of 1692 states that the rye harvest was during a time that was
"rainy and warm, hot and stormy." Ergot (claviceps purpura) is spread by a
fungus that causes symptoms of hallucination, violent fits, choking,
pinching, itching, a crawling sensation in the skin and muscular
contractions. Linda Caporael adds that "females and children are more
likely to get ergot poisoning than the males."