Scot, Reginald. The Discoverie of Witchcraft. 1886. Reprint. Yorkshire, England: E.P. Publishing, Ltd. 1973.
Summers, Montague. The Geography of Witchcraft. London:
Salem "Old Witch" Jail The jail that housed the accused SALEM WITCHES during the witch hysteria of 1692-93 was a cold, foul, rat-infested dungeon located near the North River. It was used to house Indians, pirates and criminals, most of whom were condemned to die; the conditions in which such persons spent their last days were of little concern. It also housed debtors: people jailed because they could not pay their debts and those who were unable to pay the fees levied for keep in the jail.
Construction of the dungeon was approved in 1683 by the town of Salem. It succeeded two earlier prisons, one built in 1663 on the seized lands of Quakers, and another built in 1669. The new jail, built in 1684, was constructed of large, hand-hewn oak timbers and siding, and measured 70 by 280 feet. There were no bars, for Puritan prisoners accepted their punishment. Those who did not and managed to escape were either caught or killed by Indians or wild animals.
The prisoners were fed salted foods and drink mixed with herring-pickle, for which they had to pay. This caused a constant, dreadful thirst, which made them more likely to confess in order to get relief.
Despite its grim conditions, the jail was a social gathering place. The jailkeeper sold grog to visitors who came in the evenings to play chess and other games. For a bond of one pound, a prisoner was released during the day to visit family and friends, and then returned at night.
During the witch hysteria of 1692, the jail housed four lots of accused victims. The jailers routinely stripped the women of their clothing to examine and prick them in search of witch is WITCH'S MARKS (see PRICKING). They— and members of their families—were tortured for confessions (see torture). One of the accused, Elizabeth Cary, was locked in leg irons and placed in a room with no bed. "The weight of the irons was about eight pounds," wrote her husband, Captain Nathaniel Cary. "These irons and her other afflictions, soon brought her into convulsion fits, so that I thought she would die that night." Cary bribed the jailer with his life's savings in order to get his wife freed.
Elizabeth Cary was not the only accused witch to suffer convulsions; many of the other victims suffered hysterical fits from the conditions and their treatment at the hands of the jailers. Two victims, Sarah Osborne and Ann Foster, died in jail. Foster's son was assessed a fee of two pounds, 16 shillings for permission to remove his mother's body for burial.
The salaries and expenses of the sheriff and his staff, the magistrates, the hangman and all persons concerned with the court were paid by the accused, who were each assessed one pound, 10 shillings. In addition, the prisoners were billed seven shillings and sixpence for their fetters, chains and cuffs, and an extra fee for being searched for witch's marks. The hangman's substantial fee was charged to the victims' estates or families. Those who had money fared the best. Captain John Alden, jailed on witchcraft charges, escaped by bribing the jailkeeper five pounds; he hid in New York until 1693, when the hysteria ended.
After victims were condemned, they were taken from the jail by oxcart out to GALLOWS HILL. Their corpses, swaying from the limbs of the locust trees, could be seen from the center of town.
In 1764 the jail was expanded with the addition of second and third stories. It was discontinued as a jail in 1813 and subsequently passed into private ownership and was used as a residence. In 1863 it was purchased by Abner Cheney Goodell, state historian; it was later acquired by his son, Abner Cheney Goodell, Jr.
The jail was given little historical attention until 1934, when Mrs. Goodell, Jr., found in an old sealed closet a jailer's bill for the keep of paupers, some of whom were victims in the Salem trials. In response to public inquiries about the dungeon, the Goodells opened the jail to the public in 1935. The original jail was closed sometime later and re-created in a museum, the Salem Witch Dungeon.
Goodell, Alfred P. "The Story of the Old Witch Jail." Undated manuscript, Essex Institute, Salem, Mass.
Salem Witches One of the last outbreaks of WITCHCRAFT hysteria, and certainly the largest in the New World, occurred in Salem, Massachusetts, from 1692 to 1693. During the course of the trials, 141 people were arrested as suspects, 19 were hanged and one was pressed to death. Those afflicted by the witches were mostly young girls, yet their "child's play" led not only to the deaths of innocent people but also to total upheaval in the colonial Puritan Church.
Scores of studies have examined the causes of the Salem witchcraft trials: some dealing with the political and social problems of Salem Village (now Danvers, Massachusetts), others with repressed sexual, generational or racial hostility; revolt by the disenfranchised; repression of women; regional feuds brought over from England; or ergotism, a food poisoning in the bread flour that may have led to hallucinations. Some studies have concentrated solely on the overly zealous nature of the parishioners. Whatever the reasons, there is little doubt that all those who were involved believed totally that witchcraft posed a serious threat to the health and spiritual well-being of the colony.
Divisions in the town. The Puritans who left England and settled in Salem in 1626, under the leadership of Roger Conant, hoped they would find peace in the new land. The settlement originally was named Naumkeag, the Indian term for "land of three rivers." Sometime before July 24, 1629, the name was changed to Salem from the Hebrew term shalom, meaning "peace." By 1692, however, peace was far from the order of the day.
For years, the community of Salem Village had chafed under the administration of neighboring Salem Town, which held legal, church and taxing authority over the more rural village. Villagers were required to attend services in the town, although the distance for some residents was more than 10 miles. As early as 1666, village
residents petitioned the town and the colony's General Court for permission to build a meetinghouse and hire a minister, which they finally accomplished in 1672.
That permission alone did not make them a full-fledged community, however, but more a parish within the juris diction of Salem Town. The 17th-century Puritan "Church" was not the building, minister or attendees but an "elect"—those select few who had been filled with divine grace, given testimony to God's power and were allowed to receive communion. Church members attending services in Salem Village still had to travel to their real churches for communion. Continued discontent among Salem Villagers about their situation, coupled with disputes over who in the village had the power to select ministers, was described as a "restless frame of spirit" a—moral defect in the villagers' characters—in-stead of a legal issue. By the time Samuel Parris arrived to be the fourth minister in Salem Village in 1689, the community was irreparably split between those who wished to maintain ties with Salem Town and those who believed the village was best served by autonomy. Parris vocally supported the separatist interests. Eventually, the village divided between those who stood behind Parris and those who did not.
Beginning of the hysteria. In some ways, Rev. Parris caused the witch hysteria, however unknowingly. Before becoming a minister, Parris had worked as a merchant in Barbados; when he returned to Massachusetts, he brought back a slave couple, John and Tituba Indian (Indian was probably not the couple's surname but a description of their race). Tituba cared for Parris' nine-year-old daughter Elizabeth, called Betty, and his 11-year-old niece, Abigail Williams. Especially in winter, when bad weather kept the girls indoors, Tituba most likely regaled the girls with stories about her native Barbados, including tales of voodoo (see Vodun).
Fascinated with a subject that the Puritans found shocking, the girls soon became dabblers in the occult. Joined by other girls in the village who ranged from 12 to 20—Susannah Sheldon, Elizabeth Booth Elizabeth Hubbard, Mary Warren, Mary Walcott, Sarah Churchill, Mercy Lewis and Ann Putnam, Jr. (Ann Putnam Sr. was her mother)—they began telling each other's fortunes. Making a primitive crystal ball by floating an egg white in a glass of water, the girls tried to ascertain the trades of their future husbands. One reportedly saw the likeness of a coffin, representing death; what had begun as a fun game had now turned into dangerous magic.
The girls, beginning with Betty Parris in January 1692, began having fits, crawling into holes, making strange noises and contorting their bodies. It is impossible to know whether the girls feigned witchcraft to hide their involvement in Tituba's magic or whether they actually believed they were possessed (see possession). In any case, Rev. Parris consulted with the previous Salem Village minister, Rev. Deodat Lawson, and with Rev. John
Hale of nearby Beverly. In February he brought in Dr. William Griggs, the village physician and employer of the now-afflicted Elizabeth Hubbard. Griggs had no medical precedent for the girls' condition, so he diagnosed bewitchment.
Seventeenth-century Puritans believed in witchcraft as a cause of illness and death. They further believed the accepted wisdom of the day that witches derived their power from the DEVIL. So the next step was to find the witch or witches responsible, exterminate them and cure the girls. After much prayer and exhortation, the frightened girls, unable or unwilling to admit their own complicity, began to name names.
Right before this, Mary Walcott's aunt, Mary Sibley, tried to use magic to find the witches. She requested that Tituba make a witch cake out of rye meal mixed with the urine of the afflicted girls. The cake, taken from a traditional English recipe, was then fed to the dog. If the girls were bewitched, one of two things were supposed to happen: either the dog would suffer torments too, or as her FAMILIAR, he would identify his witch. Rev. Parris furiously accused Mary Sibley of "going to the Devil for help against the Devil," lectured her on her sins and publicly humiliated her in church. But the damage had been done: "the Devil hath been raised among us, and his rage is vehement and terrible," said Parris, "and when he shall be silenced, the Lord only knows."
Crying out against the witches. The first accused, or "cried out against," were Tituba herself, SARAH Good and Sarah Osborne. Goodwife (usually shortened to Goody; Mistress or Mrs. was reserved for women of higher rank) Good's husband William did not provide for his family, and she defiantly begged and looked out for them herself. Goody Osborne, old and bedridden, had earlier caused a scandal by allowing her servant to live in her house before she married him. Tituba was a natural suspect. Suspicious neighbors were not surprised that any or all three were witches, and none was a member of the church.
Warrants for their arrest were issued, and all three appeared in the ordinary, or public house, of Nathaniel Ingersoll before Salem Town magistrates John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin on March 1. The girls, present at all of the interrogations, fell into fits and convulsions as each woman stood up for questioning, claiming that the woman's specter was roaming the room, biting them, pinching them and often appearing as a bird or other animal someplace in the room, usually on a particular beam of the ceiling. Hathorne and Corwin angrily demanded why the women were tormenting the girls, but both Sarahs denied any wrongdoing.
Tituba, however, beaten since the witch cake episode by Rev. Parris and afraid to reveal the winter story sessions and conjurings, confessed to being a witch. She said that a black dog had threatened her and ordered her to hurt the girls, and that two large CATS, one black and one RED, had made her serve them. She claimed that she had
ridden through the air on a pole to "witch meetings" with Goody Good and Goody Osborne, accompanied by the other women's familiars: a yellow bird for Good, a winged creature with a woman's head and another hairy one with a long nose for Osborne. Tituba cried that Good and Osborne had forced her to attack Ann Putnam Jr. with a knife just the night before, and Ann corroborated her statement by claiming that the witches had come at her with a knife and tried to cut off her head.
Most damningly for Salem, Tituba revealed that the witchcraft was not limited to herself and the two Sarahs: that there was a COVEN of witches in Massachusetts, about six in number, led by a tall, white-haired man dressed all in black, and that she had seen him. During the next day's questioning, Tituba claimed that the tall man had come to her many times, forcing her to sign his Devil's book in BLOOD, and that she had seen nine names already there (see DEVIL'S PACT).
Such a story, frighteningly real to the Puritans because of rumors that had circulated a few years earlier that a conspiracy of witches would destroy Salem Village, beginning with the household of the minister. Hathorne, Corwin and Rev. Parris were pushed to begin an all-out hunt for the perpetrators of such crimes. All three women were taken to prison in Boston, where Good and Osborne were put in heavy iron chains to keep their specters from traveling about and tormenting the girls. Osborne, already frail, died there.
The politics of witchcraft. Complicating the legal process of arrest and trial was the loss of Massachusetts Bay's colonial charter. Massachusetts Bay was established as a Puritan colony in 1629 and was enjoying self rule when the English courts revoked its charter in 1684-85, restricting the colony's independence. The high-handed Sir Edmund Andros, the first royal governor, was overthrown in 1688 when William and Mary of Orange took away the English throne from James II in the Glorious Revolution. Since that time, Massachusetts Bay had had no authority to try capital cases, and for the first six months of the witch hunt, suspects merely languished in prison, usually in irons (see SALEM "OLD WITCH" JAIL).
But more than the legal ramifications, the loss of Massachusetts' charter represented to the Puritans a punishment from God: the colony had been established in covenant with God, and prayer and fasting and good lives would keep up Massachusetts' end of the covenant and protect the colony from harm. Increasingly, the petty transgressions and factionalism of the colonists were viewed as sins against the covenant, and an outbreak of witchcraft seemed the ultimate retribution for the colony's evil ways. Published sermons by COTTON MATHER
and his father, INCREASE MATHER, and the long-winded railings against witchcraft from Rev. Parris' pulpit every Sunday, convinced the villagers that evil walked among them and must be rooted out at all cost.
More witches are named. Relying on the spectral visions of the afflicted girls, the magistrates and ministers pressed them to name more witches if they could, and Ann Putnam Jr., with the help of her vengeful mother, cried out against MARTHA CoREY, a member of the Salem Village congregation and wife of local landowner GILES CoREY. Before arresting her, Ann's uncle Edward Putnam and Ezekiel Cheever rode to the Corey home to speak with Martha. The men pressed Ann to reveal what clothes Martha was wearing, hoping to prove that such a godly churchwoman was innocent. Ann claimed she could not, as Martha had temporarily removed her spectral sight.
When the men arrived, Martha calmly said she knew why they had come and even taunted them by asking, "Does shee tell you what clothes I have on?" They were shocked to think Martha had preternatural knowledge of the earlier conversation. And when Martha visited the Thomas Putnam home to see young Ann, the girl fell into terrible fits, claiming she saw Martha's specter roasting a man over a fire. Mercy Lewis said other witches joined Martha's specter, urging her to sign the Devil's book. Martha steadfastly maintained her innocence later before the magistrates, but the girls' torments and anguish in court convinced the judges she was a witch. Every time she said something or made a gesture, the girls mimicked her. If she bit her lip, the girls shrieked in pain, showing teeth marks on their arms and hands. Even her husband, Giles, testified against her and asked her to confess to witchcraft.
The next woman named as a witch was REBECCA Nurse, one of the most outstanding people of her community and a church member. If the girls had named Rebecca Nurse or Martha Corey as witches first, instead of Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne, their accusations probably would have been dismissed as folly. But by now, the magistrates were willing to believe anything the girls claimed. Even close family members of the accused believed in the women's guilt, refusing to believe that the magistrates or girls would accuse anyone who was not a witch.
Rebecca's accuser was Ann Putnam, Sr., who had joined the ranks of "the afflicted," as the accusing girls were known, by claiming that the specters of Corey and Nurse had come to her and tortured her hellishly, urging her to sign the Devil's book. Abigail Williams, Mary Wal-cott and Elizabeth Hubbard agreed that Nurse had come to them, too, wanting them to sign. Rebecca was old and ill, but she was forced to stand before the magistrates and the girls. Ann Putnam, Jr. claimed Nurse's specter had beaten her, and Ann Sr. cried out that Nurse had brought the "black man" with her. Rebecca defended herself as best she could, but she too was sent to prison.
Joining Rebecca in prison was four-year-old Dorcas Good, whom the afflicted girls had claimed was a witch, learning her evil trade from her mother Sarah. Dorcas was chained like all the others.
The next victims of witch hysteria were JoHN AND Elizabeth procter, tavern-keepers and vocal opponents of the proceedings. Mary Warren, one of the original afflicted girls and Procter's maid, earlier had been "cured" of her fits when Procter threatened to beat her if she persisted. Knowing of the Procters' opposition, the girls were eager to eliminate any who would dispute them.
But before the Procters were arrested, Sarah Cloyce, the sister of Rebecca Nurse, stormed out of church in disgust when Rev. Parris' sermon implied the guilt of her sister and all the other accused witches. Such a display of anger made her a convenient target, and the girls cried out against Cloyce and Elizabeth Procter together. John Procter accompanied his wife to support her before the magistrates, who had moved the proceedings to the Salem Town meetinghouse and were joined by Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth and Captain Samuel Sewell. Tituba's husband John had joined the afflicted, and he,
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