Online Texts for Craig White's Literature Courses

Cotton Mather

selections from

The Wonders of

The Invisible World

1692

Scene in Longfellow's play "Giles Corey of Salem Farms"
showing Rev. Cotton Mather encountering Tituba in the woods,
 as Mather travels to Salem Village to investigate the witchcraft accusations.

 

Instructor's note: The Salem Witch Trials is all that most Americans know about the New England Puritans. The Witch Trials are regarded with a mixture of fascination and horror not only at the possibility of witches and witchcraft, but also at how easily mass hysteria and conspiracy theories can overtake an otherwise sober population.

Since the Salem Witch Trials, the metaphor "witch hunt" is applied to any conspiracy-based social or political purge motivated by mass hysteria. Examples:

The "Red Scare" or "Communist Witch Hunts" of the 1950s (a.k.a. "McCarthyism")

The Day-Care Sex-Abuse Hysteria of the 1980s and early 1990s

1990s political sex scandals (Clinton impeachment + resignations of Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston & others)

Interpreted in the history of its own time, the Salem Witch Trials were a small-scale American version of the religious wars and other social-religious conflicts in Europe following the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. The indefensible appeal to superstition and killing of innocent people made fervent religion lose prestige, leading to the tolerant or secular attitudes of the Enlightenment (though religion would revive with the Great Awakenings).

For the history of Critical Thinking, note how "hearsay" evidence is granted the same status as material evidenceóa legal standard the Enlightenment would change.

In contrast to the Puritans' anxiety over spiritual welfare, notice how much more willing we are to attend to the potential economic conflicts represented by the accusations--see [51].

from The Wonders of the Invisible World

[1] The New-Englanders are a people of God settled in those, which were once the Devil's territories [cf. Bradford, Rowlandson; contrast Romantic nature]; and it may easily be supposed that the Devil was exceedingly disturbed, when he perceived such a People here accomplishing the Promise of old made unto our Blessed Jesus, That he should have the Utmost parts of the Earth for His [Christís]  Possession. [Psalm 2:8: Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.]

[2] There was not a greater Uproar among the Ephesians, when the Gospel was first brought among them, than there was among The Powers of the Air (after whom those Ephesians walked) when first the Silver Trumpets of the Gospel here made the Joyful Sound. [Powers of the Air = devilish or demonic spirits; Ephesians 2:2: . . . in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience ]

[3] The Devil thus irritated, immediately tried all sorts of methods to overturn this poor Plantation [the Puritan settlements in New England]: and so much of the Church, as was Fled into this Wilderness [New England] immediately found, The Serpent cast out of his Mouth a Flood for the carrying of it away. I believe, that never were more Satanical Devices used for the unsettling of any People under the Sun, than what have been employed for the extirpation of the vine which God has here Planted, Casting out the Heathen, and preparing a Room for it, and causing it to take deep Root and fill the Land . . . .

[4] But All those Attempts of Hell, have hitherto been Abortive [unsuccessful, unfinished], . . .; and, Having obtained Help from God, we continue to this Day. Wherefore the Devil is now making one attempt more upon us; an attempt more difficult, more surprising, more snarled with unintelligible circumstances than any that we have hitherto Encountered; an attempt so critical, that if we get well through, we shall soon enjoy Halcyon [peaceful] Days with all the Vultures of hell Trodden under our Feet. He [the Devil] has wanted [commanded] his Incarnate Legions to Persecute us, as the People of God have in the other Hemisphere [reference to witch-persecutions in Europe] have been persecuted: he has therefore drawn forth his more spiritual ones [spirits less visible or naturally evident] to make an attack upon us.

[5] We have been advised by some credible Christians yet alive, that a malefactor [evil-doer], accused of witchcraft as well as murder, and executed in this place more than forty Years ago, did then give notice of A Horrible PLOT against the Country by WITCHCRAFT, and a Foundation [conspiracy theory] of WITCHCRAFT then laid, which if it were not seasonably discovered [exposed] would probably Blow up [expand, unfold], and pull down all the Churches in the Country. [cf. conspiracy theories and mass hysteria for communism, terrorism, child-care abuse, etc.]

[6] And we have now with Horror seen the discovery of such a Witchcraft! An Army of Devils is horribly broke in upon the place which is the Center, and after a sort, the First-born of our English Settlements [<rhetorical reference to origin story]; and the Houses of the Good People there are filled with the doleful shrieks of their children and servants, tormented by invisible hands, with tortures altogether preternatural [supernatural].

[7] After the mischiefs [malicious acts] there endeavored [attempted], and since in part conquered [beaten back], the terrible plague of Evil Angels hath made its progress into some other places, where other persons have been in like manner diabolically handled [manipulated by devils or demons]. These our poor afflicted neighbors, quickly after they become Infected and Infested with these Demons, arrive to a capacity of discerning those which they conceive the shapes of their troublers; and notwithstanding the great and just suspicion that the Demons might impose the shapes of innocent persons in their spectral exhibitions upon the sufferers (which may perhaps prove no small part of the Witch-plot [conspiracy theory] in the issue), yet many of the persons . . . being examined . . . have been convicted of a very damnable witchcraft: yea, more than one twenty have confessed that they have signed unto a book, which the Devil showed them, and engaged in his hellish design of bewitching, and ruining our land. [cf. conspiracy theories and mass hysteria for communism, terrorism, child-care abuse, etc.]

[8] We know not, at least I know not, how far the delusions of Satan may be interwoven into some circumstances of the confessions; but one would think, all the rules of understanding human affairs are at an end, if after so many most voluntary harmonious [agreeing] confessions, made by intelligent persons of all ages, in sundry towns, at several times, we must not believe the main strokes wherein those confessions all agree [cf. UFO stories]: especially when we have a thousand preternatural things every day before our eyes, wherein the confessors do acknowledge their concernment, and give demonstration of their being so concerned. If the Devils now can strike the minds of men with any poisons of so fine a composition and operation, that scores of Innocent People shall unite, in confessions of a crime, which we see actually committed, it is a thing prodigious [extraordinary, unnatural], beyond the wonders of the former ages, and it threatens no less than a sort of dissolution upon the world. [decline > apocalypse]

[9] Now, by these Confessions it is agreed that the Devil has made a dreadful knot of witches in the country [knot metaphor implies tightly-knit conspiracy], and by the help of Witches has dreadfully increased that knot: That these Witches have driven a trade [started a business] of commissioning their confederate spirits to do all sorts of mischiefs to the neighbors, whereupon there have ensued such mischievous consequences upon the bodies and estates [persons and properties] of the neighborhood [vicinity], as could not otherwise be accounted for: yea, that at prodigious witch-meetings, the wretches have proceeded so far as to concert [organize] and consult the methods of rooting out the Christian religion from this country, and setting up instead of it, perhaps a more gross diabolism, than ever the world saw before. And yet it will be a thing little short of miracle, if in so spread [widespread] a business as this, the Devil should not get in some of his juggles [tricks], to confound [frustrate] the discovery [exposure] of all the rest. [clear & complete truth will be frustrated by Satanís unknown but inevitable successes]

 

I. The Tryal of G. B. [Reverend George Burroughs] At a Court of Oyer and Terminer, Held in Salem, 1692. [Oyer and Terminer < Middle English ďto hear and determineĒ; a designation for a criminal court]

[Instructorís note: George Burroughs had been a minister in Salem but had moved to Maine, whence he was brought back, tried, and hanged.]

[10] Glad should I have been, if I had never known the name of this man; or never had this occasion to mention so much as the first letters of his name. But the government requiring some account of his trial to be inserted in this book, it becomes me with all obedience to submit unto the order.

[11] I. This G. B. was indicted for Witchcrafts, and in the Prosecution of the Charge against him, he was accused by five or six of the bewitched, as the author of their miseries; he was accused by eight of the confessing witches, as being a head actor at some of their hellish rendezvousís [meetings], and one who had the promise of being a king in Satanís kingdom, now going to be erected: he was accused by nine persons for extraordinary lifting, and such feats of strength, as could not be done without a diabolical assistance. And for other such things he was accused, until about thirty testimonies were brought in against him; nor were these judged the half of what might have been considered for his Conviction: however, they were enough to fix the character of a witch upon him according to the Rules of Reasoning, by the judicious Gaule*, in that case directed. [*English Reverend John Gaule, whose Select Cases of Conscience touching Witches and Witchcrafts (London, 1646) Mather earlier summarized]

[12] II. . . . there were now heard the testimonies of several persons, who were most notoriously bewitched, and every day tortured by invisible hands, and these now all charged the spectres [apparitions, spiritual appearances] of G. B. to have a share in their torments. At the examination of this G. B. the bewitched people were grievously harassed with preternatural mischiefs, which could not possibly be dissembled; and they still ascribed it unto the endeavors of G. B. to kill them. And now upon his trial, one of the bewitched persons testified that in her agonies, a little black-haired man came to her, saying his name was B. and bidding her set her hand unto a book which he showed unto her; and bragging that he was a conjurer, above the ordinary rank of witches; that he often persecuted her with the offer of that Book, saying she should be well, and need fear nobody, if she would but sign it; but he inflicted cruel pains and hurts upon her because of her denying so to do [sign].

[13] The testimonies of the other sufferers concurred with these; and it was remarkable, that whereas biting was one of the ways which the witches used for the vexing of the sufferers, when they cried out of [about] G. B. biting them, the print of the teeth would be seen on the flesh of the complainers, and just such a set of teeth as G. B's would then appear upon them, which could be distinguished from those of some other menís. Others of them testified that in their torments, G. B. tempted them to go unto a sacrament, unto which they perceived him with a sound of trumpet summoning of other witches, who quickly after the sound would come from all quarters unto the rendezvous [meeting]. One of them falling into a kind of trance afterwards affirmed that G. B. had carried her into a very high mountain where he showed her mighty and glorious kingdoms and said he would give them all to her, if she would write in his Book; but she told him they were none of his to give; and refused the motions, enduring of much misery for that refusal.

[14] It cost the court a wonderful deal of trouble, to hear the testimonies of the sufferers; for when they were going to give in their depositions [testify], they would for a long time be taken with fits, that made them incapable of saying anything. The Chief Judge asked the prisoner who he thought hindered these witnesses from giving their testimonies? and he answered, He supposed it was the Devil. That Honorable person [chief judge] then replied, How comes the Devil so loathe to have any Testimony born against you? [Why is the devil protecting you?] Which cast him into very great confusion.

[15] III. It has been a frequent thing for the bewitched people to be entertained with [to perceive] apparitions of ghosts of murdered people, at the same time that the specters of the witches trouble them. These ghosts do always affright the beholders more than all the other spectral Representations; and when they exhibit themselves, they cry out, of being murdered by the witchcrafts or other violences of the persons who are then in specter present.

[16] It is further considerable, that once or twice, these apparitions have been seen by others at the very same time that they have shown themselves to the bewitched; and seldom have there been these apparitions but when something unusual and suspected had attended the death of the party thus appearing. Some that have been accused by these apparitions, accosting of the bewitched people, who had never heard a word of any such persons ever being in the world, have upon a fair examination freely and fully confessed the murders of those very persons, although these also did not know how the Apparitions had complained of them.

[17] Accordingly several of the bewitched had given in their testimony, that they had been troubled with the apparitions of two women, who said that they were G. B's two wives, and that he had been the death of them; and that the magistrates must be told of it, before whom if B. upon his trial denied it, they did not know but that they should appear again in the Court. Now, G. B. had been infamous for the barbarous usage [mistreatment] of his two successive wives, all the country over. Moreover, It was testified, the specter of G. B. threatening of the sufferers told them, he had killed (besides others) Mrs. Lawson and her Daughter Ann. And it was noted, That these were the virtuous wife and daughter of one at whom this G. B. might have a prejudice for his being serviceable at Salem-village, from whence himself had in Ill terms removed some years before: and that when they died, which was long since, there were some odd circumstances about them, which made some of the attendants there suspect something of witchcraft, though none Imagined from what quarter it should come.

[18] Well, G. B. being now upon his trial, one of the bewitched persons was cast into horror at the ghosts of B's two deceased wives then appearing before him, and crying for vengeance against him. Hereupon several of the bewitched persons were successively called in, who all not knowing what the former had seen and said, concurred in their horror of the apparition, which they affirmed that he had before him. But he, though much appalled, utterly denied that he discerned [saw] anything of it; nor was it any part of his conviction.

[19] IV. Judicious [careful, reasonable] writers have assigned it a great place in the conviction of witches, when persons are Impeached by other notorious witches, to be as Ill as themselves; especially, if the persons have been much noted for neglecting the worship of God. Now, as there might have been testimonies enough of G. B's antipathy [aversion] to prayer and the other ordinances of God, though by his profession singularly obliged thereunto; so, there now came in against the prisoner the testimonies of several persons, who confessed their own having been horrible witches, and ever since their confessions had been themselves terribly tortured by the Devils and other witches, even like the other sufferers; and therein undergone the pains of many deaths for their confessions.

[20] These [bewitched persons] now testified that G. B. had been at witch-meetings with them; and that he was the person who had seduced and compelled them into the snares of witchcraft: that he promised them fine clothes for doing it; that he brought poppets* to them, and thorns to stick into those poppets, for the afflicting of other people; And that he exhorted them, with the rest of the crew, to bewitch all Salem-Village, but be sure to do it gradually, if they would prevail in what they did. [poppets = effigies, like voodoo dolls]

[21] When the Lancashire Witches [the Pendle Witches; 11 executions in Lancashire, England 1612] were condemned, I don't remember that there was any considerable further evidence, than that of the bewitched, and then that of some that confessed. We see so much already against G. B. But this being indeed not enough, there were other things to render what had already been produced credible.

[22] V. A famous Divine recites this among the convictions of a witch; the testimony of the party bewitched, whether pining [sickening] or dying; together with the joint oaths [testimonies] of sufficient persons that have seen certain prodigious [wondrous] pranks or feats wrought by the party accused. Now God had been pleased so to leave this G. B. that he had ensnared himself by several Instances, which he had formerly given of a preternatural strength, and which were now produced against him. He was a very puny man; yet he had often done things beyond the strength of a giant. A gun of about seven-foot barrel, and so heavy that strong men could not steadily hold it out with both hands; there were several testimonies, given in by persons of credit and honor, that he made nothing of taking up such a gun behind the lock [firelock above trigger] with but one hand and holding it out like a pistol at armís-end.

[23] G. B. in his vindication was so foolish as to say that an Indian was there, and held it out at the same time: Whereas, none of the Spectators ever saw any such Indian; but they supposed the Black man (as the Witches call the Devil; and they generally say he resembles an Indian) [gothic; self-other] might give him that assistance. There was evidence likewise brought in, that he made nothing of taking up [picking up] whole barrels filled with molasses or cider, in very disadvantageous postures, and carrying of them through the difficultest places out of a canoe to the shore.

[24] Yea, there were two testimonies that G. B. with only putting the forefinger of his right hand into the muzzle of a heavy gun, a fowling-piece of about six or seven foot barrel, did lift up the gun, and hold it out at armís end . . . .

[25] VI. There came in several testimonies relating to the domestic affairs of G. B. which had a very hard aspect upon him; and not only proved him a very ill man; but also confirmed the belief of the character, which had been already fastened on him.

[26] It was testified that keeping his two successive wives in a strange kind of slavery, he would when he came home from abroad pretend to tell the talk which any had with them; that he has brought them to the point of death, by his harsh dealings with his wives, and then made the people about him to promise that in case death should happen, they would say nothing of it; That he used all means to make his wives write, sign, seal, and swear a covenant, never to reveal any of his secrets; that his wives had privately complained unto the neighbors about frightful apparitions of evil spirits, with which their house was sometimes infested; and that many such things have been whispered among the neighborhood. There were also some other testimonies, relating to the death of people, whereby the consciences of an impartial jury were convinced that G. B. had bewitched the persons mentioned in the complaints. But I am forced to omit several passages, in this, as well as in all the succeeding trials because the scribes [court secretaries] who took notice of them, have not supplied me.

[27] VII. One Mr. Ruck, brother-in-law to this G. B., testified, that G. B. and he himself, and his sister, who was G. B's wife, going out for two or three Miles to gather strawberries, Ruck with his Sister the wife of G. B. rode home very softly, with G. B. on foot in their company. G. B. stepped aside a little into the bushes; whereupon they halted and halloo'd for him. He not answering, they went away homewards, with a quickened pace, without any expectation of seeing him in a considerable while; and yet when they were got near home, to their astonishment they found him on foot with them, having a basket of strawberries. G. B. immediately then fell to chiding his wife, on the account of what she had been speaking to her brother, of him on the road: which when they wondered at, he said he knew their thoughts.

[28] Ruck being startled at that, made some reply, intimating that the Devil himself did not know so far; but G. B. answered, My God makes known your thoughts unto me. The prisoner now at the bar [in court] had nothing to answer, unto what was thus witnessed against him, that was worth considering. Only he said, Ruck and his wife left a man with him, when they left him. Which Ruck now affirmed to be false; and when the Court asked G. B. What the man's name was? his countenance was much altered; nor could he say, who it was. But the court began to think, that he then stepped aside, only that by the assistance of the Black Man [gothic color-code], he might put on his Invisibility, and in that Fascinating Mist, gratify his own jealous humor, to hear what they said of him. Which trick of rendering themselves Invisible, our witches do in their confessions pretend that they sometimes are masters of; and it is the more credible, because there is demonstration that they often render many other things utterly invisible.

[29] VIII. Faltering, faulty, inconstant, and contrary answers upon judicial and deliberate examination, are counted some unlucky symptoms of guilt, in all crimes, especially in witchcrafts. Now there never was a prisoner more eminent for them, than G. B. both at his examination and on his trial. His tergiversations [equivocations, shiftings], contradictions, and falsehoods were very sensible [obvious]: he had little to say, but that he had heard some things that he could not prove, reflecting upon the reputation of some of the witnesses.

[30] Only he gave in a paper to the jury; wherein, although he had many times before granted, not only that there are witches, but also that the present sufferings of the country are the effect of horrible witchcrafts, yet he now goes to evince [show] it, that there neither are, nor ever were witches, that having made a compact with the Devil, can send a Devil to torment other people at a distance. This paper was transcribed out of Ady [Thomas Ady, a skeptic against witch-trials], which the court presently knew, as soon as they heard it. But he said, he had taken none of it out of any book; for which, his evasion afterwards was, that a gentleman gave him the discourse in a manuscript, from whence he transcribed it.

[31] The jury brought him in guilty: But when he came to die, he utterly denied the fact, whereof he had been thus convicted.

 

The Trial of Elizabeth Howe, at the Court of Oyer and Terminer, Held by Adjournment at Salem, June 30, 1692.

[32] I. Elizabeth Howe pleading Not Guilty to the indictment of Witchcrafts then charged upon her, the Court, according to the usual proceeding of the Courts in England in such cases, began with hearing the depositions of several afflicted people, who were grievously tortured by sensible and evident witchcrafts, and all complained of the prisoner, as the cause of their trouble. It was also found that the sufferers were not able to bear her look, as likewise, that in their greatest swoons, they distinguished her touch from other peopleís, being thereby raised out of them [their swoons].

[33] And there was other testimony of people to whom the shape [apparition] of this Howe gave trouble nine or ten years ago.

[34] II. It has been a most usual thing for the bewitched persons, at the same time that the specters representing the witches troubled them, to be visited with apparitions of ghosts, pretending to have been murdered by the witches then represented. And sometimes the confessions of the witches afterwards acknowledged those very murders, which these apparitions charged upon them; although they had never heard what informations had been given by the sufferers.

[35] There were such apparitions of ghosts testified by some of the present sufferers, and the ghosts affirmed that this Howe had murdered them: which things were feared but not proved.

[36] III. This Howe had made some attempts of joining to the Church at Ipswich several years ago; but she was denied an admission into that Holy Society, partly through a suspicion of witchcraft, then urged against her. And there now came in testimony of preternatural mischiefs presently befalling some that had been Instrumental to debar her from the Communion, whereupon she was intruding.

[37] IV. There was a particular deposition of Joseph Safford, that his wife had conceived an extreme aversion to this Howe, on the reports of her witchcrafts: but Howe one day, taking her by the hand and saying, "I believe you are not Ignorant of the great scandal that I lie under, by an evil report raised upon me," she immediately, unreasonably, and unpersuadably, even like one enchanted, began to take this womanís part. [<Mrs. Safford defended Mrs. Howe]  

[38] How being soon after propounded, as desiring an admission to the table of the Lord, some of the pious brethren were unsatisfied about her. The Elders appointed a meeting to hear matters objected against her; and no arguments in the world could hinder this Goodwife Safford from going to the lecture [meeting]. She did indeed promise, with much ado, that she would not go to the Church-Meeting, yet she could not refrain going thither also. Howe's affairs there were so canvassed [examined], that she came off rather guilty than cleared; nevertheless Goodwife Safford could not forbear taking her by the hand, and saying, "Though you are condemned before men, you are justified before God."

[39] She was quickly taken in a very strange manner, frantic, raving, raging and crying out, "Goody Howe must come into the Church; she is a precious Saint; and though she be condemned before men, she is justified before God." So she continued for the space of two or three hours; and then fell into a trance. But coming to herself, she cried out, "Ha! I was mistaken"; and afterwards again repeated, "Ha! I was mistaken!" Being asked by a stander-by, "Wherein?" She replied, "I thought Goody Howe had been a Precious Saint of God, but now I see she is a Witch. She has bewitched me, and my child, and we shall never be well, till there be testimony for her, that she may be taken into the Church." And Howe said afterwards, that she was very sorry to see Safford at the Church-Meeting mentioned. Safford after this declared herself to be afflicted by the shape of Howe; and from that shape she endured many miseries.

[40] V. John Howe, brother to the husband of the prisoner testified, that he refusing to accompany the prisoner unto her Examination, as was by her desired, immediately some of his cattle were bewitched to death, leaping three or four foot high, turning about, squeaking, falling, and dying, at once; and going to cut off an ear, for a use that might as well perhaps have been omitted, the hand wherein he held his knife was taken very numb, and so it remained, and full of pain, for several days; being not well at this very time. And he suspected this prisoner for the author of it.

[41] VI. Nehemiah Abbot testified, that unusual and mischievous accidents would befall his cattle, whenever he had any difference with this prisoner. Once, particularly, she wished his ox choked; and within a little while that ox was choked with a turnip in his throat. At another time, refusing to lend his horse, at the request of her daughter, the horse was in a preternatural manner abused. And several other odd things of that kind were testified.

[42] VII. There came in testimony, that one goodwife Sherwin, upon some difference with Howe, was bewitched, and that she died, charging this Howe of having a hand in her death. And that other people had their barrels of drink unaccountably mischieved, spoilt, and spilt, upon their displeasing of her.

[43] The things in themselves were trivial; but there being such a course of them, it made them the more to be considered. Among others, Martha Wood gave her testimony, that a little after her father had been employed in gathering an account of Howeís conversation, they once and again lost great quantities of drink out of their vessels, in such a manner, as they could ascribe to nothing but witchcraft. As also, that Howe giving her some apples, when she had eaten of them she was taken with a very strange kind of a maze [confusion, as in ďamazedĒ], insomuch that she knew not what she said or did.

[44] VIII. There was likewise a cluster of depositions, that one Isaac Cummings refusing to lend his mare unto the husband of this Howe, the mare was within a day or two taken in a strange condition. The beast seemed much abused; being bruised, as if she had been running over the rocks, and marked where the bridle went, as if burnt with a red hot bridle. Moreover, one using a pipe of tobacco for the cure of the beast, a blue flame issued out of her, took hold of her hair, and not only spread and burnt on her, but it also flew upwards towards the roof of the barn, and had like to have set the barn on fire. And the mare died very suddenly.

[45] IX. Timothy Perley and his wife testified, not only that unaccountable Mischiefs befell their cattle, upon their having of differences with this prisoner: but also, that they had a daughter destroyed by witchcrafts; which daughter still charged Howe as the cause of her affliction; and it was noted, that she would be struck down, whenever Howe were spoken of. She was often endeavored to be thrown into the fire, and into the water, in her strange fits: though her father had corrected her for charging Howe with bewitching her, yet (as was testified by others also) she said, she was sure of it, and must die standing to it. Accordingly she charged Howe to the very death; and said, Though Howe could afflict and torment her body, yet she could not hurt her soul: and, that the truth of this matter would appear, when she should be dead and gone.

[46] X. Francis Lane testified, that being hired by the husband of this Howe to get him a parcel of posts and rails, this Lane hired John Pearly to assist him. This prisoner then told Lane, that she believed the posts and rails would not do, because John Perley helped him; but that if he had got them alone, without John Pearlies help, they might have done well enough. When James Howe came to receive his posts and rails of Lane, Howe taking them up by the ends, they, though good and sound, yet unaccountably broke off, so that Lane was forced to get thirty or forty more. And this prisoner being informed of it, she said, she told him so before; because Pearly helped about them.

[47] XI. Afterwards there came in the Confessions of several other (penitent) witches, which affirmed this Howe to be one of those, who with them had been baptized by the Devil in the river at Newbery-Falls: before which, he made them there kneel down by the brink of the river and worship him.

V. The Trial of Martha Carrier, at the Court of Oyer and Terminer, Held by Adjournment at Salem, August 2, 1692.

[48] I. Martha Carrier was indicted for the bewitching of certain Persons, according to the form usual in such cases. Pleading Not Guilty to her Indictment, there were first brought in a considerable number of the bewitched persons; who not only made the court sensible of an horrid witchcraft committed upon them, but also deposed that it was Martha Carrier, or her Shape, that grievously tormented them, by biting, pricking, pinching, and choking of them.

[49] It was further deposed, that while this Carrier was on her examination before the Magistrates, the poor people were so tortured that every one expected their death upon the very spot; but that upon the binding of Carrier they were eased. Moreover the look of Carrier then laid the afflicted people for dead; and her touch, if her eye at the same time were off them, raised them again. Which things were also now seen upon her trial. And it was testified that upon the mention of some having their necks twisted almost round by the Shape of this Carrier, she replied, "Itís no matter, though their necks had been twisted quite off."

[50] II. Before the Trial of this prisoner, several of her own children had frankly and fully confessed, not only that they were witches themselves, but that this their mother had made them so. This confession they made with great shows of repentance, and with much demonstration of truth. They related place, time, occasion; they gave an account of journeys, meetings, and mischiefs by them performed; and were very credible in what they said. Nevertheless, this evidence was not produced against the prisoner at the Bar, inasmuch as there was other evidence enough to proceed upon.

[51] III. Benjamin Abbot gave in his testimony, that last March was a twelve-month, this Carrier was very angry with him, upon laying out [<surveying] some land, near her husbandís: Her expressions in this anger were that she would stick as close to Abbot as the bark stuck to the tree, and that he should repent of it afore seven years came to an end, so as Doctor Prescot should never cure him. These words were heard by others, besides Abbot himself; who also heard her say, She would hold his nose as close to the grindstone, as ever it was held since his name was Abbot.

[52] Presently after this, he was taken with a swelling in his foot, and then with a pain in his side, and exceedingly tormented. It bred into a sore, which was lanced by Doctor Prescot, and several gallons of corruption [fluid] ran out of it. For six weeks it continued very bad; and then another sore bred in his groin, which was also lanced by Doctor Prescot. Another sore then bred in his groin, which was likewise cut, and put him to very great misery. He was brought unto deaths door, and so remained until Carrier was taken, and carried away by the Constable; from which very day, he began to mend, and so grew better every day, and is well ever since.

[53] Sarah Abbot also, his wife, testified that her husband was not only all this while afflicted in his body, but also that strange, extraordinary and unaccountable calamities befell his cattle; their death being such as they could guess at no natural reason for.

[54] IV. Allin Toothaker testified that Richard, the son of Martha Carrier, having some difference with him, pulled him down by the hair of the head. When he rose again, he was going to strike at Richard Carrier; but fell down flat on his back to the ground, and had not power to stir hand or foot, until he told Carrier he yielded; and then he saw the Shape of Martha Carrier go off his breast.

[55] This Toothaker had received a wound in the Wars; and he now testified that Martha Carrier told him he should never be cured. Just afore the apprehending of Carrier, he could thrust a knitting needle into his wound, four Inches deep; but presently after her being seized, he was thoroughly healed.

[56] He further testified that when Carrier and he sometimes were at variance, she would clap her hands at him, and say, He should get nothing by it; Whereupon he several times lost his cattle, by strange deaths, whereof no natural causes could be given.

[57] V. John Rogger also testified that upon the threatening words of this malicious Carrier, his cattle would be strangely bewitched; as was more particularly then described.

[58] VI. Samuel Preston testified, that about two years ago, having some difference with Martha Carrier, he lost a cow in a strange preternatural unusual manner; and about a month after this, the said Carrier, having again some difference with him, she told him, he had lately lost a cow, and it should not be long before he lost another! which accordingly came to pass; for he had a thriving and well-kept cow, which without any known cause quickly fell down and died.

[59] VII. Phebe Chandler testified that about a fortnight [= 14 nights or 2 weeks] before the apprehension of Martha Carrier, on a Lordís-Day, while the Psalm was singing in the Church, this Carrier then took her by the shoulder and shaking her, asked her where she lived? She made her no answer, although as Carrier, who lived next door to her father's House, could not in reason but know who she was. Quickly after this, as she was at several times crossing the fields, she heard a voice, that she took to be Martha Carrierís, and it seemed as if it was over her head. The voice told her she should within two or three days be poisoned.

[60] Accordingly, within such a little time, one half of her right hand became greatly swollen, and very painful; as also part of her face; whereof she can give no account how it came. It continued very bad for some days; and several times since, she has had a great pain in her breast; and been so seized on her legs, that she has hardly been able to go. She added that lately, going well to the House of God, Richard, the Son of Martha Carrier, looked very earnestly upon her, and immediately her hand, which had formerly been poisoned, as is abovesaid, began to pain her greatly, and she had a strange burning at her stomach; but was then struck deaf, so that she could not hear any of the prayer, or singing, till the two or three last words of the Psalm.

[61] VIII. One Foster, who confessed her own share in the witchcraft for which the prisoner stood indicted, affirmed that she had seen the prisoner at some of their witch-meetings, and that it was this Carrier, who persuaded her to be a witch. She confessed that the Devil carried them on a pole to a witch-meeting; but the pole broke, and she hanging about Carrierís neck, they both fell down, and she then received an hurt by the fall, whereof she was not at this very time recovered.

[62] IX. One Lacy, who likewise confessed her share in this witchcraft, now testified that she and the prisoner were once bodily present at a witch-meeting in Salem-Village; and that she knew the prisoner to be a witch, and to have been at a diabolical sacrament, and that the prisoner was the undoing of her and her children, by enticing them into the snare of the devil.

[63] X. Another Lacy, who also confessed her share in this witchcraft, now testified that the prisoner was at the witch-meeting in Salem Village, where they had Bread and Wine administered unto them. [an inversion or parody of Communion]

[64] XI. In the time of this prisoner's trial, one Susanna Shelden in open court had her hands unaccountably tied together with a wheel-band, so fast that without cutting it could not be loosed: It was done by a Specter; and the sufferer affirmed, it was the prisonerís.

[65] Memorandum. This Rampant Hag, Martha Carrier, was the person, of whom the confessions of the witches, and of her own children among the rest, agreed, That the Devil had promised her, she should be Queen of Hell.

 

 

Two Nineteenth-Century Pictures of the Salem Witch Trials

(note Romanticization)