Proctor appeals for help

On April 11, 1693, the Proctors were taken to jail to await trial. Prior to their arrest a sheriff came to their home and, as stated in The Devil in Massachusetts, "seized all the goods, provision and cattle that he could come at, and sold some of the cattle at half price and killed others and put them up for [sale in] the West Indies; threw out the beer out of the barrel and carried away the barrel, emptied a pot of broth and took away the pot and left nothing for the support of the

Mary Warren Admits to Faking Fits

A possible reason that Salem villagers turned against the Proctors was John Proctor's treatment of their maidservant Mary Warren, one of the original accusers in the trials. He had beaten her and publicly chastised (scolded) her for targeting innocent people as witches. Although Warren initially hurled accusations with the same zeal and fervor as the other young girls, she eventually calmed down and went so far as to admit she had lied. Indeed, according to The Devil in Massachusetts, after one of her fits she confessed that "It was for sport." At this point Warren's fellow accusers turned on her, claiming she was working in league with the devil. When the Proctors were arrested as suspected witches, Warren did not dare to speak out against Proctor or his wife Elizabeth; she was known to be particularly fond of John, even though he had beaten her. For these reasons she found herself accused on April 19, 1693, shortly after her employers were arraigned for questioning. During Warren's interrogation, chief magistrate John Hathorne asked her why she had switched from accuser to accused. She replied, "I look up to God and I take it to be a great mercy of God." Hathorne immediately seized on her statement as a confession. Knowing she was trapped, Warren fell into fits and cried out, "I will Speak! . . . Oh I am sorry for it! I am sorry for it! Oh Good Lord save me! I will tell! I will tell!" She apparently lapsed into such a severe state that her jaws locked and she was unable to move or speak. Her affliction was interpreted as bewitchment by one of the accusing girls, who told the court that Elizabeth Proctor's specter had come to torture Warren.

Warren was taken to jail, where she was subjected to frequent questioning, always to the point of confession. In her confessions she condemned the Proctors as witches, but witnesses also took note of her calm and lucid (clear) state at other times, when she defended John in particular. On May 12, 1693, Warren stopped trying to defend John and told her jailers that she felt his shape hovering above her. She went into another severe fit, and this time her legs could not be uncrossed unless they were broken. Warren was allowed to go free and returned to the group of girls in the courtroom, but she never fully regained her sanity.

[Proctors'] children." On July 23, four days after the execution of Rebecca Nurse, Proctor asked his fellow prisoners to sign an appeal for help to Increase Mather (see Chapters 2 and 3 and primary source entry), Cotton Mather (see Chapters 2 and 3

The courts were overrun by accused witches, supposedly afflicted victims, and witnesses trying to save their friends and loved ones. Reproduced by permission of the Peabody Essex Museum.

and biography and primary sources entries), and three other members of the Boston clergy. In the petition Proctor revealed two factors in the trials that he felt the ministers would find troubling. First, he wrote that his own son William had been tortured into accusing his parents of being witches. Village officials had tied William's neck to his heels until his nose bled and he finally confessed. Although this was strictly against New England law, which, according to Witchcraft at Salem, declared such actions "barbarous and inhumane," the practice was apparently becoming quite common. Physical torture was especially popular in the few cases where there was no free confession. Second, Proctor reported the extensive use of spectral evidence (that one's spirit had committed an evil deed), which the ministers had wanted to keep to a minimum in the trials because it could not be substantiated (proven) with concrete facts. Upon receiving the petition, they held a conference and finally decided not to pay attention to the plea. In a weak response to the charge about spectral evidence, the clergymen issued a statement in which they claimed it was occasionally possible for the devil to enter into people and make them do his work. The ministers also took no action to investigate the charges of torture, essentially turning their backs on Proctor. Increase Mather did write back, saying he would try to be at Proctor's trial, but he did not attend.

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