The first witchcraft charges against Bishop were brought in 1670 by her third husband, Thomas Oliver. Testimony from the trial has not survived but it is known that Bishop's clergyman, John Hale, convinced the community to let her go free in the hope that she would mend her ways. In 1687 she was again accused of being a witch and acquitted (found not guilty). These new charges came from several different people. One was a complaint that she had caused the death of a neighbor. Other neighbors agreed that after arguments with Bishop they had fallen ill or been tormented by her specter (spirit). Though she was not imprisoned on these charges they later resurfaced during the Salem trials.
On April 18, 1692, Bishop was summoned to be examined in a preliminary hearing at Salem Village. "Bewitched" teenage girls in the village had named her as a witch and held her responsible for their violent fits and spectral hauntings. During the first hearing the girls put on a great show, copying Bishop's every gesture as she sat on the witness stand. If she rolled her eyes, they would do the same. When she shifted her position they would shift too, but in a manner that attracted greater attention from the audience. Although Bishop denied practicing witchcraft, she stood hardly any chance of passing through this initial questioning phase and she was swiftly sent to prison to await trial.
Fabric dyer Samuel Shattuck testified against Bridget Bishop with his own peculiar evidence at the Salem trials. For years he had dyed lace and clothing for her and he spoke of mysteriously small pieces she frequently brought to him to be dyed: "sundry pieces of lace, some of which were so short that [he] could not judge them fit for any use," as quoted by Chadwick Hansen in Witchcraft at Salem. The implication was clear: Bishop had asked Shattuck to dye outfits too small to be worn by a human being, but suitably sized for a doll or replica of a person. This was interpreted as evidence that Bishop was a witch. Popular folklore held that a witch used dolls to cast spells on a person, and to make the spells work effectively the witch would clothe a doll in the same general colors and style worn by the victim.
Empowered by his confession, Shattuck went on to speak of an incident years earlier when his son had fallen into violent and strange fits. A stranger had suggested taking the presumably bewitched child to visit Bishop, as it was believed that blood from a witch's face was an effective way of breaking a spell. Shattuck agreed and paid the man to take his son to Bishop's tavern under the pretense of buying cider. Once inside the man was to scratch her face and draw some blood in order to stop the boy's illness. When they reached the tavern, however, Bishop refused to sell them any cider and instead scratched the boy's face before chasing the stranger off with a spade. The boy fell extremely ill after this episode and local doctors declared that he was indeed bewitched.
Shattuck's testimony, coupled with that of the men who had found the puppets in the walls of Bishop's house, made clear that Bishop was a practicing witch who had attempted to cause harm to her fellow townspeople. While other testimony was mainly circumstantial and likely caused by the fear her reputation provoked, the town dyer confirmed suspicions that Bishop's practices had been deliberate (on purpose) and malicious (with a desire to harm).
Evidence against Bishop came in many forms and from a wide variety of sources, thus indicating to modern historians that in all likelihood she was an actual practicing witch. This sets her apart from most of the other accused people who were innocent victims of local rivalries and fears. Bishop's case also fueled the public's imagination and made matters worse for others accused, as it presented tangible (able to be treated as fact) evidence of her guilt as a visible practicing witch. The most damaging evidence came from two men who had broken down a wall in her house while they were doing some repairs. As they were working the men discovered dolls with pins stuck in them, an apparently common form of witchcraft in which a person would inflict harm on others by making models of their bodies and harming them by injuring the puppet. Although nobody had seen Bishop put the dolls into the wall, the evidence was strongly against her and she herself was unable to summon a reasonable defense.
Was this article helpful?
Tap into your inner power today. Discover The Untold Secrets Used By Experts To Tap Into The Power Of Your Inner Personality Help You Unleash Your Full Potential. Finally You Can Fully Equip Yourself With These “Must Have” Personality Finding Tools For Creating Your Ideal Lifestyle.