The final phase

On September 9, 1692, six more alleged witches were tried, convicted, and sentenced to hang. They were Martha Corey, Mary Easty, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Dorcas Hoar, and Mary Bradbury. Eight days later Margaret Scott, Wilmot Redd, Samuel Wardwell, and Mary Parker were also sent to Gallows Hill. Several accused witches—Abigail Falkner, Nurse Eames, Mary Lacy, Ann Foster, and Abigail Hobbes—were spared from execution when they finally confessed their guilt. On September 10, Giles Corey was brought to court, but he contested the charges against him and refused to stand trial. The court decided to force him to accept a trial. By law authorities had a right to pile stones on a prisoner's body until he or she acknowledged the court's jurisdiction. Historians suggest that Corey must have known his case was hopeless, and therefore decided to defend the truth by refusing a trial. According to court records, as stones were being piled on top of him he continued to ask for more weight. Corey was slowly crushed to death over the course of nine days; he was finally killed on September 19. The final hangings took place three days later, bringing the death toll to twenty people. Unfortunately, this did not put an end to the witch-hunts.

As the witch-hunts continued through October more and more people of high social status were being accused and jail cells were filling up throughout the area. Even the wives of Governor Phipps and Increase Mather found themselves accused of being witches. Then public opinion underwent a sudden shift, as people began saying that the accused should be seen as merely being "possessed" rather than bewitched. This was a significant distinction, since a possessed person was not aware of doing the work of the devil. As a result the girls were no longer considered expert witnesses in trials and a sense of caution overtook the courts. This shift was made official when Increase Mather delivered a speech titled "Cases of Conscience Concerning Evil Spirits Personating Men," in which he indirectly cast doubt on the use of spectral evidence and questioned the reliability of the girls' visions. On October 12 Phipps declared a full moratorium on (end to) witch trials. The Court of Oyer and Terminer was dissolved seventeen days later. By then the court had heard thirty-one cases and declared a death sentence for each defendant. Eleven people were still in jails awaiting execution. Eventually five received reprieves after confessing their guilt, while two died in jail before they were set free. One woman was pardoned because of pregnancy, and the rest escaped from jail. Tituba, the first person to be charged and jailed, was never hanged. Samuel Parris apparently sold her into slavery to recover the costs of her jailing and trials.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment