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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Touching the Supposed Witchcraft in New England

By Robert Calef (1648–1719)

[From More Wonders of the Invisible World. 1700.]

MR. PARRIS had been some years a minister in Salem Village, when this sad calamity, as a deluge, overflowed them, spreading itself far and near. He was a gentleman of liberal education; and, not meeting with any great encouragement, or advantage, in merchandising, to which for some time he applied himself, betook himself to the work of the ministry; this village being then vacant, he met with so much encouragement, as to settle in that capacity among them.

After he had been there about two years, he obtained a grant from a part of the town, that the house and land he occupied, and which had been allotted by the whole people to the ministry, should be and remain to him, etc., as his own estate in fee simple. This occasioned great divisions both between the inhabitants themselves, and between a considerable part of them and their said minister; which divisions were but as a beginning, or præludium, to what immediately followed.

It was the latter end of February, 1691, when divers young persons belonging to Mr. Parris’s family, and one or more of the neighbourhood, began to act after a strange and unusual manner, viz., as by getting into holes, and creeping under chairs and stools, and to use sundry odd postures and antick gestures, uttering foolish, ridiculous speeches, which neither they themselves nor any others could make sense of. The physicians that were called could assign no reason for this; but it seems one of them, having recourse to the old shift, told them he was afraid they were bewitched. Upon such suggestions, they that were concerned applied themselves to fasting and prayer, which was attended not only in their own private families, but with calling in the help of others. March the 11th, Mr. Parris invited several neighbouring ministers to join with him in keeping a solemn day of prayer at his own house. The time of the exercise, those persons were for the most part silent; but after any one prayer was ended, they would act and speak strangely and ridiculously; yet were such as had been well educated, and of good behaviour; the one, a girl of 11 or 12 years old, would sometimes seem to be in a convulsion fit, her limbs being twisted several ways, and very stiff, but presently her fit would be over….

Those ill affected or afflicted persons named several that they said they saw, when in their fits, afflicting them.

The first complained of was the said Indian woman, named Tituba: she confessed that the devil urged her to sign a book, which he presented to her, and also to work mischief to the children, etc. She was afterwards committed to prison, and lay there till sold for her fees. The account she since gives of it is, that her master did beat her, and otherways abuse her, to make her confess and accuse (such as he called) her sister-witches; and that whatsoever she said by way of confessing, or accusing others, was the effect of such usage: her master refused to pay her fees, unless she would stand to what she had said.

The children complained likewise of two other women, to be the authors of their hurt, viz., Sarah Good, who had long been counted a melancholy or distracted woman; and one Osborn, an old bed-ridden woman; which two were persons so ill thought of, that the accusation was the more readily believed; and, after examination before two Salem magistrates, were committed. March the 19th, Mr. Lawson (who had been formerly a preacher at the said village) came thither, and hath since set forth, in print, an account of what then passed; about which time, as he saith, they complained of goodwife Cory, and goodwife Nurse, members of churches at the Village and at Salem, many others being by that time accused.

March the 21st Goodwife Cory was examined before the magistrates of Salem, at the meeting house in the village, a throng of spectators being present to see the novelty. Mr. Noyes, one of the ministers of Salem, began with prayer; after which the prisoner being called, in order to answer to what should be alleged against her, she desired that she might go to prayer; and was answered by the magistrates, that they did not come to hear her pray, but to examine her.

The number of the afflicted were at that time about ten, viz., Mrs. Pope, Mrs. Putman, goodwife Bibber and goodwife Goodall, Mary Wolcott, Mercy Lewes (at Thomas Putman’s) and Dr. Grigg’s maid, and three girls, viz., Elizabeth Parris, daughter to the minister, Abigail Williams, his niece, and Ann Putman, which last three were not only the beginners, but were also the chief, in these accusations. These ten were most of them present at the examination, and did vehemently accuse her of afflicting them, by biting, pinching, strangling, etc., and they said they did in their fits see her likeness coming to them, and bringing a book for them to sign. Mr. Hathorn, a magistrate of Salem, asked her why she afflicted those children. She said, she did not afflict them. He asked her who did then. She said, “I do not know, how should I know?” She said, they were poor distracted creatures, and no heed to be given to what they said. Mr. Hathorn and Mr. Noyes replied that it was the judgment of all that were there present, that they were bewitched, and only she (the accused) said they were distracted. She was accused by them, that the black man whispered to her in her ear now (while she was upon examination) and that she had a yellow bird, that did use to suck between her fingers, and that the said bird did suck now in the assembly. Order being given to look in that place to see if there were any sign, the girl that pretended to see it said, that it was too late now, for she had removed a pin, and put it on her head; it was upon search found, that a pin was there sticking upright. When the accused had any motion of their body, hands or mouth, the accusers would cry out; as when she bit a lip, they would cry out of being bitten; if she grasped one hand with the other, they would cry out of being pinched by her, and would produce marks; so of the other motions of her body, as complaining of being pressed, when she leaned to the seat next to her; if she stirred her feet, they would stamp, and cry out of pain there. After the hearing, the said Cory was committed to Salem prison, and then their crying out of her abated….

A child of Sarah Good’s was likewise apprehended, being between 4 and 5 years old. The accusers said this child bit them, and would shew such like marks, as those of a small set of teeth, upon their arms: as many of the afflicted as the child cast its eye upon, would complain they were in torment: which child they also committed….

March 31, 1692, was set apart as a day of solemn humiliation at Salem, upon the account of this business; on which day Abigail Williams said, “that she saw a great number of persons in the village at the administration of a mock sacrament, where they had bread as red as raw flesh, and red drink.”

April 1. Mercy Lewis affirmed, “that she saw a man in white, with whom she went into a glorious place,” viz., in her fits, “where was no light of the sun, much less of candles, yet was full of light and brightness, with a great multitude in white glittering robes, who sang the song in Rev. v. 9, and the cx. and cxlix. Psalms; and was given that she might tarry no longer in this place.” This white man is said to have appeared several times to others of them, and to have given them notice how long it should be before they should have another fit.

April 3. Being sacrament day at the Village, Sarah Cloyce, sister to goodwife Nurse, a member of one of the churches, was (though it seems with difficulty prevailed with to be) present; but being entered the place, and Mr. Parris naming his text, John vi. 70, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (for what cause may rest as a doubt, whether upon the account of her sister’s being committed, or because of the choice of that text) she rose up and went out; the wind shutting the door forcibly, gave occasion to some to suppose she went out in anger, and might occasion a suspicion of her; however, she was soon after complained of, examined and committed.

April 11. By this time the number of the accused and accusers being much increased, there was a publick examination at Salem, six of the magistrates with several ministers being present. There appeared several who complained against others with hideous clamours and screechings. Goodwife Proctor was brought thither, being accused or cried out against; her husband coming to attend and assist her, as there might be need, the accusers cried out of him also, and that with so much earnestness, that he was committed with his wife. About this time, besides the experiment of the afflicted falling at the sight, etc., they put the accused upon saying the Lord’s prayer, which one among them performed, except in that petition, “deliver us from evil,” she expressed it thus, “deliver us from all evil”: this was looked upon as if she prayed against what she was now justly under, and being put upon it again, and repeating those words, “hallowed be thy name” she expressed it, “hollowed be thy name:” this was counted a depraving the words, as signifying to make void, and so a curse rather than a prayer: upon the whole it was concluded that she also could not say it, etc. Proceeding in this work of examination and commitment, many were sent to prison….

Mrs. Cary, of Charlestown, was examined and committed. Her husband, Mr. Nathaniel Cary, has given account thereof, as also of her escape, to this effect:

“I having heard, some days, that my wife was accused of witchcraft being much disturbed at it, by advice we went to Salem Village, to see if the afflicted knew her; we arrived there 24th May; it happened to be a day appointed for examination; accordingly, soon after our arrival, Mr. Hathorn and Mr. Curwin, etc., went to the meeting-house, which was the place appointed for that work; the minister began with prayer; and having taken care to get a convenient place, I observed that the afflicted were two girls of about ten years old, and about two or three others, of about eighteen; one of the girls talked most, and could discern more than the rest. The prisoners were called in one by one, and as they came in were cried out of, etc. The prisoners were placed about seven or eight foot from the justices, and the accusers between the justices and them; the prisoners were ordered to stand right before the justices, with an officer appointed to hold each hand, lest they should therewith afflict them; and the prisoners’ eyes must be constantly on the justices; for if they looked on the afflicted, they would either fall into their fits, or cry out of being hurt by them. After examination of the prisoners, who it was afflicted these girls, etc., they were put upon saying the Lord’s prayer, as a trial of their guilt. After the afflicted seemed to be out of their fits, they would look steadfastly on some one person, and frequently not speak; and then the justices said they were struck dumb, and after a little time would speak again; then the justices said to the accusers, ‘Which of you will go and touch the prisoner at the bar?’ Then the most courageous would adventure, but before they had made three steps would ordinarily fall down as in a fit. The justices ordered that they should be taken up and carried to the prisoner, that she might touch them; and as soon as they were touched by the accused, the justices would say, ‘they are well,’ before I could discern any alteration; by which I observed that the justices understood the manner of it. Thus far I was only as a spectator; my wife also was there part of the time, but no notice taken of her by the afflicted, except once or twice they came to her and asked her name.

“But I having an opportunity to discourse Mr. Hale (with whom I had formerly acquaintance) I took his advice what I had best to do, and desired of him that I might have an opportunity to speak with her that accused my wife; which he promised should be, I acquainting him that I reposed my trust in him. Accordingly he came to me after the examination was over, and told me I had now an opportunity to speak with the said accuser, viz., Abigail Williams, a girl of 11 or 12 years old; but that we could not be in private at Mr. Parris’s house, as he had promised me; we went therefore into the ale-house, where an Indian man attended us, who it seems was one of the afflicted: to him we gave some cider: he shewed several scars, that seemed as if they had been long there, and shewed them as done by witchcraft, and acquainted us that his wife, who also was a slave, was imprisoned for witchcraft. And now, instead of one accuser, they all came in, who began to tumble down like swine; and then three women were called in to attend them. We in the room were all at a stand, to see who they would cry out of; but in a short time they cried out, ‘Cary’; and immediately after a warrant was sent from the justices to bring my wife before them, who were sitting in a chamber near by, waiting for this.

“Being brought before the justices, her chief accusers were two girls. My wife declared to the justices, that she never had any knowledge of them before that day. She was forced to stand with her arms stretched out. I did request that I might hold one of her hands, but it was denied me; then she desired me to wipe the tears from her eyes, and the sweat from her face, which I did; then she desired she might lean herself on me, saying she should faint.

“Justice Hathorn replied, she had strength enough to torment those persons, and she should have strength enough to stand. I speaking something against their cruel proceedings, they commanded me to be silent, or else I should be turned out of the room. The Indian before mentioned was also brought in, to be one of her accusers: being come in he now (when before the justices) fell down and tumbled about like a hog, but said nothing. The justices asked the girls who afflicted the Indian; they answered, she (meaning my wife), and [that she] now lay upon him; the justices ordered her to touch him, in order to his cure, but her head must be turned another way, lest, instead of curing, she should make him worse, by her looking on him, her hand being guided to take hold of his; but the Indian took hold on her hand, and pulled her down on the floor, in a barbarous manner; then his hand was taken off, and her hand put on his, and the cure was quickly wrought. I, being extremely troubled at their inhuman dealings, uttered a hasty speech, ‘That God would take vengeance on them, and desired that God would deliver us out of the hands of unmerciful men.’ Then her mittimus was writ. I did with difficulty and charge obtain the liberty of a room, but no beds in it; if there had, could have taken but little rest that night. She was committed to Boston prison; but I obtained a habeas corpus to remove her to Cambridge prison, which is in our county of Middlesex. Having been there one night, next morning the jailer put irons on her legs (having received such a command); the weight of them was about eight pounds: these with her other afflictions soon brought her into convulsion fits, so that I thought she would have died that night. I sent to entreat that the irons might be taken off; but all entreaties were in vain, if it would have saved her life, so that in this condition she must continue. The trials at Salem coming on, I went thither, to see how things were managed; and finding that the spectre evidence was there received, together with idle, if not malicious stories, against people’s lives, I did easily see which way it would go; for the same evidence that served for one, would serve for all the rest. I acquainted her with her danger; and that if she were carried to Salem to be tried, I feared she would never return. I did my utmost that she might have her trial in our own county, I with several others petitioning the judge for it, and were put in hopes of it; but I soon saw so much, that I understood thereby it was not intended, which put me upon consulting the means of her escape; which through the goodness of God was effected, and she got to Rhode-Island, but soon found herself not safe when there, by reason of the pursuit after her; from thence she went to New York, along with some others that had escaped their cruel hands; where we found his excellency Benjamin Fletcher, Esq., governor, who was very courteous to us. After this, some of my goods were seized in a friend’s hands, with whom I had left them, and myself imprisoned by the sheriff, and kept in custody half a day, and then dismissed; but to speak of their usage of the prisoners, and their inhumanity shewn to them at the time of their execution, no sober Christian could bear. They had also trials of cruel mockings; which is the more, considering what a people for religion, I mean the profession of it, we have been; those that suffered being many of them church members, and most of them unspotted in their conversation, till their adversary the devil took up this method for accusing them.”…

The 30th of June, the court according to adjournment again sat; five more were tried, viz., Sarah Good and Rebecca Nurse, of Salem Village; Susanna Martin, of Amsbury; Elizabeth How, of Ipswich; and Sarah Wildes, of Topsfield: these were all condemned that sessions, and were all executed on the 19th of July.

At the trial of Sarah Good, one of the afflicted fell in a fit; and after coming out of it she cried out of the prisoner, for stabbing her in the breast with a knife, and that she had broken the knife in stabbing of her; accordingly a piece of the blade of a knife was found about her. Immediately information being given to the court, a young man was called, who produced a haft and part of the blade, which the court having viewed and compared, saw it to be the same; and upon inquiry the young man affirmed, that yesterday he happened to break that knife, and that he cast away the upper part, this afflicted person being then present. The young man was dismissed, and she was bidden by the court not to tell lies; and was improved after (as she had been before) to give evidence against the prisoners.

At execution, Mr. Noyes urged Sarah Good to confess, and told her she was a witch, and she knew she was a witch; to which she replied, “You are a liar; I am no more a witch than you are a wizard; and if you take away my life, God will give you blood to drink.”

At the trial of Rebecca Nurse, this was remarkable that the jury brought in their verdict not guilty; immediately all the accusers in the court, and suddenly after all the afflicted out of court, made an hideous outcry, to the amazement not only of the spectators, but the court also seemed strangely surprised: one of the judges expressed himself not satisfied: another of them, as he was going off the bench, said they would have her indicted anew. The chief judge said he would not impose upon the jury; but intimated as if they had not well considered one expression of the prisoner when she was upon trial, viz., that when one Hobbs, who had confessed herself to be a witch, was brought into the court to witness against her, the prisoner, turning her head to her, said, “What, do you bring her? she is one of us,” or to that effect; this, together with the clamours of the accusers, induced the jury to go out again, after their verdict, not guilty. But not agreeing, they came into the court; and she tieing then at the bar, her words were repeated to her, in order to have had her explanation of them; and she making no reply to them, they found the bill, and brought her in guilty; these words being the inducement to it, as the foreman has signified in writing….

When goodwife Nurse was informed what use was made of these words, she put in this following declaration into the court:

“These presents do humbly shew to the honoured court and jury, that I being informed that the jury brought me in guilty, upon my saying that goodwife Hobbs and her daughter were of our company; but I intended no otherways, than as they were prisoners with us, and therefore did then, and yet do, judge them not legal evidence against their fellow prisoners. And I being something hard of hearing, and full of grief, none informing me how the court took up my words, and therefore had no opportunity to declare what I intended, when I said they were of our company.


After her condemnation she was by one of the ministers of Salem excommunicated; yet the governor saw cause to grant a reprieve; which when known (and some say immediately upon granting) the accusers renewed their dismal outcries against her, insomuch that the governor was by some Salem gentlemen prevailed with to recall the reprieve, and she was executed with the rest.

The testimonials of her Christian behaviour, both in the course of her life and at her death, and her extraordinary care in educating her children, and setting them good examples, etc., under the hands of so many, are so numerous, that for brevity they are here omitted.

It was at the trial of these that one of the accusers cried out publicly of Mr. Willard, minister in Boston, as afflicting of her: she was sent out of the court, and it was told about she was mistaken in the person.

August 5. The court again sitting, six more were tried on the same account, viz., Mr. George Burroughs, sometime minister of Wells, John Proctor, and Elizabeth Proctor his wife, with John Willard, of Salem Village, George Jacobs, Sr., of Salem, and Martha Carrier, of Andover; these were all brought in guilty, and condemned; and were all executed, August 19, except Proctor’s wife, who pleaded pregnancy.

Mr. Burroughs was carried in a cart with the others, through the streets of Salem to execution. When he was upon the ladder, he made a speech for the clearing of his innocency, with such solemn and serious expressions, as were to the admiration of all present: his prayer (which he concluded by repeating the Lord’s prayer) was so well worded, and uttered with such composedness, and such (at least seeming) fervency of spirit, as was very affecting and drew tears from many, so that it seemed to some that the spectators would hinder the execution. The accusers said the black man stood and dictated to him. As soon as he was turned off, Mr. Cotton Mather, being mounted upon a horse, addressed himself to the people, partly to declare that he [Burroughs] was no ordained minister, and partly to possess the people of his guilt, saying that the devil has often been transformed into an angel of light; and this did somewhat appease the people and the executions went on. When he was cut down, he was dragged by the halter to a hole, or grave, between the rocks, about two foot deep, his shirt and breeches being pulled off, and an old pair of trowsers of one executed put on his lower parts; he was to put in, together with Willard and Carrier, that one of his hands and his chin, and a foot of one of them, were left uncovered.

John Willard had been employed to fetch in several that were accused; but taking dissatisfaction from his being sent to fetch up some that he had better thoughts of, he declined the service; and presently after he himself was accused of the same crime, and that with such vehemency, that they sent after him to apprehend him. He had made his escape as far as Nashawag, about forty miles from Salem; yet ’tis said those accusers did then presently tell the exact time, saying, “Now Willard is taken.”

John Proctor and his wife being in prison, the sheriff came to his house and seized all the goods, provisions and cattle that he could come at, and sold some of the cattle at half price, and killed others, and put them up for the West-Indies; threw out the beer out of a barrel, and carried away the barrel; emptied a pot of broth, and took away the pot, and left nothing in the house for the support of the children. No part of the said goods are known to be returned. Proctor earnestly requested Mr. Noyes to pray with and for him; but it was wholly denied, because he would not own himself to be a witch…. He pleaded very hard at execution for a little respite of time, saying that he was not fit to die; but it was not granted.

Old Jacobs being condemned, the sheriff and officers came and seized all he had; his wife had her wedding ring taken from her, but with great difficulty obtained it again. She was forced to buy provisions of the sheriff, such as he had taken, towards her own support, which not being sufficient, the neighbours in charity relieved her.

Margaret Jacobs being one that had confessed her own guilt, and testified against her grandfather Jacobs, Mr. Burroughs and John Willard, she the day before executions came to Mr. Burroughs, acknowledging that she had belied them, and begged Mr. Burroughs’s forgiveness; who not only forgave her, but also prayed with and for her….

Giles Cory pleaded not guilty to his indictment, but would not put himself on trial by the jury (they having cleared none upon trial) and knowing there would be the same witnesses against him, rather chose to undergo what death they would put him to. In pressing, his tongue being pressed out of his mouth, the sheriff with his cane forced it in again when he was dying. He was the first in New-England that was ever pressed to death.

The cart, going to the hill with these eight to execution, was for some time at a set; the afflicted and others said that the devil hindered it, etc.

Martha Cory, wife to Giles Cory, protesting her innocency, concluded her life with an eminent prayer upon the ladder.

Wardwell, having formerly confessed himself guilty, and after denied it, was soon brought upon his trial; his former confession and spectre testimony was all that appeared against him. At execution, while he was speaking to the people, protesting his innocency, the executioner being at the same time smoking tobacco, the smoke coming in his face interrupted his discourse; those accusers said the devil hindered him with smoke.

Mary Easty, sister also to Rebecca Nurse, when she took her last farewell of her husband, children and friends, was, as is reported by them present, as serious, religious, distinct and affectionate as could well be expressed, drawing tears from the eyes of almost all present….

Before her death she put up the following petition:

“To the honourable judge and bench now sitting in judicature in Salem, and the reverend ministers, humbly sheweth, That whereas your humble poor petitioner, being condemned to die, doth humbly beg of you to take it into your judicious and pious consideration, that your poor and humble petitioner, knowing my own innocency (blessed be the Lord for it) and seeing plainly the wiles and subtilty of my accusers, by myself, cannot but judge charitably of others, that are going the same way with myself, if the Lord step not mightly in. I was confined a whole month on the same account that I am now condemned, and then cleared by the afflicted persons, as some of your honours know; and in two days’ time I was cried out upon by them, and have been confined, and now am condemned to die. The Lord above knows my innocency then, and likewise doth now, as at the great day will be known to men and angels. I petition to your honours not for my own life, for I know I must die, and my appointed time is set; but the Lord he knows if it be possible that no more innocent blood be shed, which undoubtedly cannot be avoided in the way and course you go in. I question not, but your honours do the utmost of your powers, in the discovery and detecting of witchcraft and witches, and would not be guilty of innocent blood for the world; but by my own innocency I know you are in the wrong way. The Lord in his infinite mercy direct you in this great work, if it be his blessed will, that innocent blood be not shed. I would humbly beg of you that your honours would be pleased to examine some of those confessing witches, I being confident there are several of them have belied themselves and others, as will appear, if not in this world, I am sure in the world to come, whither I am going; and I question not but yourselves will see an alteration in these things. They say, myself and others have made a league with the devil; we cannot confess; I know and the Lord he knows (as will shortly appear) they belie me, and so I question not but they do others; the Lord alone, who is the searcher of all hearts, knows, as I shall answer it at the tribunal seat, that I know not the least thing of witchcraft, therefore I cannot, I durst not, belie my own soul. I beg your honours not to deny this my humble petition, from a poor, dying, innocent person, and I question not but the Lord will give a blessing to your endeavours.


After execution, Mr. Noyes, turning him to the bodies, said, “What a sad thing it is to see eight firebrands of hell hanging there!”

In October, 1692, one of Wenham complained of Mrs. Hale, whose husband, the minister of Beverly, had been very forward in these prosecutions; but being fully satisfied of his wife’s sincere Christianity caused him to alter his judgment; for it was come to a stated controversy, among the New-England divines, whether the devil could afflict in a good man’s shape; it seems nothing else could convince him, yet when it came so near to himself he was soon convinced, that the devil might so afflict. Which same reason did afterwards prevail with many others, and much influenced to the succeeding change at trials….

But before this, the said Bishop’s eldest son having married into that family of the Putmans, who were chief prosecutors in this business, he holding a cow to be branded lest it should be seized, and having a push or boil upon his thigh, with his straining it broke; this is that that was pretended to be burnt with the said brand, and is one of the bones thrown to the dogmatical to pick, in “Wonders of the Invisible “World,” p. 143. The other, of a corner of a sheet, pretended to be taken from a spectre; it is known that it was provided the day before by that afflicted person; and the third bone of a spindle is almost as easily provided, as the piece of the knife; so that Apollo needs not herein be consulted, etc.

Mr. Philip English, and his wife, having made their escape out of prison, Mr. Corwin, the sheriff, seized his estate, to the value of about fifteen hundred pound, which was wholly lost to him, except about three hundred pound value (which was afterwards restored.)

After goodwife Hoar was condemned, her estate was seized, and was also bought again for eight pound.

George Jacobs, son to old Jacobs, being accused, he fled; then the officers came to his house; his wife was a woman crazy in her senses, and had been so several years. She it seems had been also accused. There were in the house with her only four small children, and one of them sucked her eldest daughter, being in prison: the officer persuaded her out of the house, to go along with him, telling her she should speedily return; the children ran a great way after her, crying.

When she came where the afflicted were, being asked, they said they did not know her; at length one said, “Don’t you know Jacobs, the old witch?” and then they cried out of her, and fell down in their fits. She was sent to prison, and lay there ten months; the neighbours of pity took care of the children to preserve them from perishing.

About this time a new scene was begun; one Joseph Ballard, of Andover, whose wife was ill (and after died of a fever), sent to Salem for some of those accusers, to tell him who afflicted his wife; others did the like: horse and man were sent from several places to fetch those accusers who had the spectral sight, that they might thereby tell who afflicted those that were any ways ill.

When these came into any place where such were, usually they fell into a fit: after which, being asked who it was that afflicted the person, they would, for the most part, name one whom they said sat on the head, and another that sat on the lower parts, of the afflicted. Soon after Ballard’s sending (as above) more than fifty of the people of Andover were complained of, for afflicting their neighbours. Here it was that many accused themselves of riding upon poles through the air; many parents believing their children to be witches, and many husbands their wives, etc. When these accusers came to the house of any upon such account, it was ordinary for other young people to be taken in fits, and to have the same spectral sight.

Mr. Dudley Bradstreet, a justice of peace in Andover, having granted out warrants against and committed thirty or forty to prison, for the supposed witchcrafts, at length saw cause to forbear granting out any more warrants. Soon after which, he and his wife were cried out of; himself was (by them) said to have killed nine persons by witchcraft, and found it his safest course to make his escape….

A worthy gentleman of Boston being about this time accused by those at Andover, he sent by some particular friends a writ to arrest those accusers in a thousand pound action for defamation, with instructions to them to inform themselves of the certainty of the proof, in doing which their business was perceived, and from thenceforward the accusations at Andover generally ceased.

In October some of these accusers were sent for to Gloucester, and occasioned four women to be sent to prison; but Salem prison being so full it could receive no more, two were sent to Ipswich prison. In November they were sent for again by Lieutenant Stephens, who was told that a sister of his was bewitched; in their way, passing over Ipswich-bridge, they met with an old woman, and instantly fell into their fits. But by this time the validity of such accusations being much questioned, they found not that encouragement they had done elsewhere, and soon withdrew.

These accusers swore that they saw three persons sitting upon Lieutenant Stephens’s sister till she died; yet bond was accepted for those three.

And now nineteen persons having been hanged, and one pressed to death, and eight more condemned, in all twenty and eight, of which above a third part were members of some of the churches in New-England, and more than half of them of a good conversation in general, and not one cleared; about fifty having confessed themselves to be witches, of which not one executed; above an hundred and fifty in prison, and above two hundred more accused; the special commission of oyer and terminer comes to a period, which has no other foundation than the govennor’s commission; and had proceeded in the manner of swearing witnesses, viz., by holding up the hand (and by receiving evidences in writing), according to the ancient usage of this country; as also having their indictments in English. In the trials, when any were indicted for afflicting, pining and wasting the bodies of particular persons by witchcraft, it was usual to hear evidence of matter foreign, and of perhaps twenty or thirty years standing, about oversetting carts, the death of cattle, unkindness to relations, or unexpected accidents befalling after some quarrel. Whether this was admitted by the law of England, or by what other law, wants to be determined; the executions seemed mixed, in pressing to death for not pleading, which most agrees with the laws of England, and sentencing women to be hanged for witchcraft, according to the former practice of this country, and not by burning, as is said to have been the law of England. And though the confessing witches were many, yet not one of them that confessed their own guilt, and abode by their confession, was put to death.

Here followeth what account some of those miserable creatures give of their confession under their own hands:

“We, whose names are under written, inhabitants of Andover, when as that horrible and tremendous judgment beginning at Salem Village, in the year 1692, (by some called witchcraft) first breaking forth at Mr. Parris’s house, several young persons being seemingly afflicted, did accuse several persons for afflicting them, and many there believing it so to be; we being informed that if a person were sick, the afflicted persons could tell what or who was the cause of that sickness: Joseph Ballard, of Andover (his wife being sick at the same time) he either from himself, or by the advice of others, fetched two of the persons, called the afflicted persons, from Salem Village to Andover: which was the beginning of that dreadful calamity that befell us in Andover. And the authority in Andover, believing the said accusations to be true, sent for the said persons to come together to the meeting-house in Andover (the afflicted persons being there.) After Mr. Barnard had been at prayer, we were blindfolded, and our hands were laid upon the afflicted persons, they being in their fits, and falling into their fits at our coming into their presence (as they said) and some led us and laid our hands upon them, and then they said they were well, and that we were guilty of afflicting of them; whereupon we were all seized as prisoners, by a warrant from a justice of the peace, and forthwith carried to Salem. And by reason of that sudden surprisal, we knowing ourselves altogether innocent of that crime, we were all exceedingly astonished and amazed, and affrighted even out of our reason; and our nearest and dearest relations, seeing us in that dreadful condition, and knowing our great danger, apprehending that there was no other way to save our lives, as the case was then circumstanced, but by our confessing ourselves to be such and such persons, as the afflicted represented us to be, they out of tender love and pity persuaded us to confess what we did confess. And indeed that confession, that it is said we made, was no other than what was suggested to us by some gentlemen; they telling us, that we were witches, and they knew it, and we knew it, and they knew that we knew it, which made us think that it was so; and our understanding, our reason and our faculties almost gone, we were not capable of judging our condition; as also the hard measures they used with us rendered us uncapable of making our defence; but said any thing and every thing which they desired; and most of what we said was but in effect a consenting to what they said. Sometime after, when we were better composed, they telling of us what we had confessed, we did profess that we were innocent, and ignorant of such things. And we hearing that Samuel Wardwell had renounced his confession, and quickly after was condemned and executed, some of us were told that we were going after Wardwell.


It may here be further added, concerning those that did confess, that besides that powerful argument, of life (and freedom from hardships, not only promised, but also performed to all that owned their guilt) there are numerous instances, too many to be here inserted, of the tedious examinations before private persons, many hours together; they all that time urging them to confess (and taking turns to persuade them) till the accused were wearied out by being forced to stand so long, or for want of sleep, etc., and so brought to give an assent to what they said; they then asking them, “Were you at such a witch-meeting?” or “Have you signed the devil’s book?” etc., upon their replying, “Yes,” the whole was drawn into form, as their confession.

But that which did mightily further such confessions was, their nearest and dearest relations urging them to it. These, seeing no other way of escape for them, thought it the best advice that could be given; hence it was that the husbands of some, by counsel often urging, and utmost earnestness, and children upon their knees intreating, have at length prevailed with them to say they were guilty….

April 25, 1693. The first superior court was held at Boston, for the county of Suffolk; the judges were the lieutenant Governor, Mr. Danforth, Mr. Richards, and Mr. Sewall, esquires; where (besides the acquitting Mr. John Aldin by proclamation) the most remarkable was, what related to Mary Watkins, who had been a servant, and lived about seven miles from Boston, having formerly accused her mistress of witchcraft, and was supposed to be distracted; she was threatened, if she persisted in such accusations, to be punished. This, with the necessary care to recover her health, had that good effect, that she not only had her health restored, but also wholly acquitted her mistress of any such crimes, and continued in health till the return of the year, and then again falling into melancholy humours, she was found strangling herself: her life being hereby prolonged, she immediately accused herself of being a witch; was carried before a magistrate, and committed. At this court a bill of indictment was brought to the grand jury against her, and her confession upon her examination given in as evidence; but these, not wholly satisfied herewith, sent for her, who gave such account of herself, that they (after they had returned into the court to ask some questions) twelve of them agreed to find ignoramus, but the court was pleased to send them out again, who again at coming in returned it as before. She was continued for some time in prison, etc., and at length was sold to Virginia. About this time the prisoners in all the prisons were released.

To omit here the mentioning of several wenches in Boston, etc., who pretended to be afflicted, and accused several, the ministers often visiting them, and praying with them, concerning whose affliction narratives are in being, in manuscript; not only these, but the generality of those accusers, may have since convinced the ministers, by their vicious courses, that they might err in extending too much charity to them.

The conclusion of the whole in the Massachusetts colony was, Sir William Phips, governor, being called home, before he went he pardoned such as had been condemned, for which they gave about thirty shillings each to the King’s attorney….

Before this, the government issued forth the following proclamation:

By the honourable the lieutenant governor, council and assembly of his majesty’s province of the Massachusetts-bay, in general court assembled.
Whereas, the anger of God is not yet turned away, but his hand is still stretched out against his people in manifold judgments, particularly in drawing out to such a length the troubles of Europe, by a perplexing war; and more especially respecting ourselves in this province, in that God is pleased still to go on in diminishing our substance, cutting short our harvest, blasting our most promising undertakings more ways than one, unsettling of us, and by his more immediate hand snatching away many out of our embraces by sudden and violent deaths, even at this time when the sword is devouring so many both at home and abroad, and that after many days of public and solemn addressing of him: and although, considering the many sins prevailing in the midst of us, we cannot but wonder at the patience and mercy moderating these rebukes, yet we cannot but also fear that there is something still wanting to accompany our supplications; and doubtless there are some particular sins, which God is angry with our Israel for, that have not been duly seen and resented by us, about which God expects to be sought, if ever He turn again our captivity:

Wherefore it is commanded and appointed, that Thursday, the fourteenth of January next, be observed as a day of prayer, with fasting, throughout this province; strictly forbidding all servile labour thereon; that so all God’s people may offer up fervent supplications unto him, for the preservation and prosperity of his majesty’s royal person and government, and success to attend his affairs both at home and abroad; that all iniquity may be put away, which hath stirred God’s holy jealousy against this land; that He would shew us what we know not, and help us wherein we have done amiss to do so no more; and especially that whatever mistakes on either hand have been fallen into, either by the body of this people, or any orders of men, referring to the late tragedy, raised among us by Satan and his instruments, through the awful judgment of God, he would humble us therefore, and pardon all the errors of his servants and people, that desire to love his name; that he would remove the rod of the wicked from off the lot of the righteous; that he would bring in the American heathen, and cause them to hear and obey his voice.

Given at Boston, December 17, 1696, in the eighth year of his Majesty’s reign.


Upon the day of the fast, in the full assembly at the south meeting-house in Boston, one of the honourable judges, who had sat in judicature in Salem, delivered in a paper, and while it was in reading, stood up; but the copy being not to be obtained at present, it can only be reported by memory to this effect, viz., It was to desire the prayers of God’s people for him and his; and that God having visited his family, etc., he was apprehensive that he might have fallen into some errors in the matters at Salem, and pray that the guilt of such miscarriages may not be imputed either to the country in general, or to him or his family in particular.

Some, that had been of several juries, have given forth a paper, signed with their own hands, in these words:

“We whose names are under written, being in the year 1692 called to serve as jurors in court at Salem on trial of many, who were by some suspected guilty of doing acts of witchcraft upon the bodies of sundry persons:

“We confess that we ourselves were not capable to understand, nor able to withstand, the mysterious delusions of the powers of darkness, and prince of the air; but were, for want of knowledge in ourselves, and better information from others, prevailed with to take up with such evidence against the accused, as, on further consideration and better information, we justly fear was insufficient for the touching the lives of any (Duet, xvii. 6), whereby we fear we have been instrumental, with others, though ignorantly and unwittingly, to bring upon ourselves and this people of the Lord the guilt of innocent blood; which sin the Lord saith, in Scripture, he would not pardon (II. Kings, xxiv. 4), that is, we suppose, in regard of his temporal judgments. We do therefore hereby signify to all in general (and to the surviving sufferers in especial) our deep sense of, and sorrow for, our errors, in acting on such evidence to the condemning of any person; and do hereby declare, that we justly fear that we were sadly deluded and mistaken; for which we are much disquieted and distressed in our minds; and do therefore humbly beg forgiveness, first of God for Christ’s sake, for this our error; and pray that God would not impute the guilt of it to ourselves, nor others; and we also pray that we may be considered candidly, and aright, by the living sufferers, as being then under the power of a strong and general delusion, utterly unacquainted with, and not experienced in, matters of that nature.

“We do heartily ask forgiveness of you all, whom we have justly offended; and do declare, according to our present minds, we would none of us do such things again on such grounds for the whole world; praying you to accept of this in way of satisfaction for our offence, and that you would bless the inheritance of the Lord, that he may be entreated for the land.