Serving  North San Diego County

Serving
North San Diego County

The Paper - Escondido San Marcos North County 
Cover Story
Daily Chuckle
Local News
Social Butterfly
Special Feature
Letters to the Editor
Commentary
Professional Advice
 
Featured Merchant
.....Life Lessons-
..... Column
.....Reverse Mortgages
.....The Computer
.....Buzz
Pet of the Week
Advertisers/Classifieds
Where to find
The Paper
Archive
Marketing/Media Kit
Contact Us
Search the site

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover Story October 26th, 2006


 

  Untitled Document

The Witches of Salem

This time of year rolls around you expect to hear about witches, what with Halloween and all. But witches and their legends have been with us long before anyone ever thought of “halloween.” Probably our most famous focus on witches came out of Salem, Massachusetts. But witchcraft had followed the emigrants to America. Witchcraft was alive on the European continent, where it was generally looked upon as a heresy against the church, and heretics were burned. Contrary to popular opinion, no “witches” were ever burned in Salem. In England and New England, witchcraft was a civil felony, and felons were hanged. Generally, English witchcraft was a harder crime to prove; in all, perhaps 1,500 people in England and New England were put to death. On the Continent, there were massive witch-hunts which over three centuries resulted in deaths of tens, or even hundreds of thousands of people.

In England and on the Continent, a number of selfstyled“witch finders” would go about discovering witches for fees. One of these was Matthew Hopkins, the self-appointed“Witch Finder General.” During the English Civil War, from 1645-1646, Hopkins used devious means and torture to discover scores of witches, of whom more than 70 were executed. His payment varied depending upon the number of found witches. Hopkins is known to have used a trick knife with a blade that
retracted into the handle. Victims didn’t bleed because the skin wasn’t broken and therefore were considered possible witches.

What Was a Witch?

In the 17th century, witches were both male and female persons who had made a pact to serve the devil. In exchange, the devil passed along certain powers to the witches. According to confessed witch William Barker, the devil promised to pay all Barker’s debts and that he would live comfortably. The devil also told him that he wanted to set up his own kingdom where there would be neither punishment nor shame for sin. Here in America, from June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft; dozens languished
in jail for months without trials until the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts subsided.

Why did this travesty of justice occur? Why did it occur in Salem? How did it occur? As to the why . . . there may have been several reasons. Perhaps you didn’t go to church, or went to the wrong church, or sided with the wrong faction in recent congregational strife within the Salem Village Church. Perhaps you spoke French or were suspected with having aided the Wabanakis Tribe in the recent Indian wars. Or perhaps you expressed support for a recently accused witch or--worse yet--accused the accusers of lying. Whatever the reason, you're in big trouble now.

As to the how, it wasn’t all that difficult:

1. The afflicted person makes a complaint to the Magistrate about a suspected witch. The complaint is sometimes made through a third person.

2. The Magistrate issues a warrant for the arrest of the accused person.

3. The accused person is taken into custody and examined by two or more Magistrates. If, after listening to testimony, the Magistrate believes that the accused person is probably guilty, the accused is sent to jail for possible reexamination and to await trial.

4. The case is presented to the Grand Jury. Depositions relating to the guilt or innocence of the accused are entered into evidence.

5. If the accused is indicted by the Grand Jury, he or she is tried before the Court of Oyer and Terminer. A jury, instructed by the Court, decides the defendant's guilt.

6. The convicted defendant receives his or her sentence from the Court. In each case at Salem, the convicted defendant was sentenced to be hanged on a specified date.

7. The Sheriff and his deputies carry out the sentence of death on the specified date.

If you are accused, what would you do? Plead innocent and stand for trial? This is the approach that led to nineteen innocent persons being carted off to Gallows Hill during the summer of 1692. If you plead innocent, you'll have to face trial without a lawyer and without the ability to call witnesses on your own behalf, answer unanswerable questions ("If you're not a witch, how do you explain the fact that these afflicted girls fall into fits the minute you enter the room?")

In 1688, John Putnam, one of the most influential elders of Salem Village, invited Samuel Parris, formerly a marginally successful planter and merchant in Barbados, to preach in the Village church. He moved to Salem Village with his wife Elizabeth, his six-year-old daughter Betty, niece Abagail Williams, and his Indian slave Tituba, acquired by Parris in Barbados.

The Salem that became the new home of Parris was in the midst of change: two clans (the Putnams and the Porters) were competing for control of the village and its pulpit, and a debate was raging over how independent Salem Village, tied more to the interior agricultural regions, should be from Salem, a center of sea trade.

Sometime during February of the exceptionally cold winter of 1692, young Betty Parris became strangely ill. She dashed about, dove under furniture, contorted in pain, and complained of fever. The cause of her symptoms may have been some combination of stress, asthma, guilt, child abuse, epilepsy, and delusional psychosis, but there were other theories. Cotton Mather, minister of the Old North Church in Boston, had recently published a popular book, "Memorable Providences," describing the suspected witchcraft of an Irish washerwoman in Boston, and Betty's behavior in some ways mirrored that of the afflicted person described in Mather's
widely read and discussed book. It was easy to believe in 1692 in Salem, with an Indian war raging less than seventy miles away (and many refugees from the war in the area) that the devil was close at hand. Sudden and violent death occupied minds. Talk of witchcraft increased when other playmates of Betty, including eleven-year-old Ann Putnam, seventeen-year-old Mercy Lewis, and Mary Walcott, began to exhibit similar unusual behavior. William Griggs, a doctor called to examine the girls, suggested that the girls' problems might have a supernatural origin. The widespread belief that witches targeted children made the doctor's diagnosis seem increasing likely.

Meanwhile, the number of girls afflicted continued to grow, rising to seven with the addition of Ann Putnam, Elizabeth Hubbard, Susannah Sheldon, and Mary Warren. According to historian Peter Hoffer, the girls"turned themselves from a circle of friends into a gang of juvenile delinquents." The girls contorted into grotesque poses, fell down into frozen postures, and complained of biting and pinching sensations. In a village where everyone believed that the devil was real, close at hand, and acted in the real world, the suspected affliction of the girls became an obsession.

Sometime after February 29 after arrest warrants were issued against Tituba and two other women, Betty Parris and Abigail Williams named their afflictors and the witchhunt began. The consistency of the two girls' accusations suggests strongly that the girls worked out their stories together. Soon Ann Putnam and Mercy Lewis
were also reporting seeing"witches flying through the winter mist." The prominent Putnam family supported the girls' accusations, putting considerable impetus behind the prosecutions.

The first three to be accused of witchcraft were Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborn. Tituba was an obvious choice, being an Indian from Barbados. Good was a beggar and social misfit who lived wherever someone would house her and Osborn was old, quarrelsome, and had not attended church for over a year. The Putnams
brought their complaint against the three women to county magistrates Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne, who scheduled examinations for the suspected witches for March 1, 1692 in Ingersoll's tavern. When hundreds showed up, the examinations were moved to the meeting house. At the examinations, the girls described attacks by the specters (agent/apparitions of living people as opposed to‘ghosts’ which were agents/apparitions of dead people) of the three women, and fell into their by then perfected pattern of contortions when in the presence of one of the suspects. Other villagers came forward to offer stories of cheese and butter mysteriously gone bad or animals born with deformities after visits by one of the suspects. The magistrates, in the common practice of the time, asked the same questions of each suspect over and over: “Were they witches? Had they seen Satan? How, if they are not witches, did they explain the contortions seemingly caused by their presence?” The style and form of the questions indicates that the magistrates thought the women guilty.

The matter might have ended with admonishments were it not for Tituba. After first adamantly denying any guilt, afraid perhaps of being made a scapegoat, Tituba claimed that she was approached by a tall man from Boston--obviously Satan--who would sometimes appear as a dog or a hog and who asked her to sign in his
book and to do his work. Yes, Tituba declared, she was a witch, and moreover she and four other witches, including Good and Osborn, had flown through the air on their poles. She had tried to run to Reverend Parris for counsel, she said, but the devil had blocked her path. Tituba's confession succeeded in transforming her from a possible scapegoat to a central figure in the expanding prosecutions. Her confession also served to silence most skeptics, and Parris and other local ministers began
witch hunting with zeal. Soon, according to their own reports, the spectral forms of other women began attacking the afflicted girls. Martha Corey, Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Cloyce, and Mary Easty were accused of witchcraft. During a March 20 church service, Ann Putnam suddenly accused “Goodwife Cloyce” of being a witch.
Soon Ann's mother, Ann Putnam, Sr., would join the accusers.

Stuck in jail with the damning testimony of the afflicted girls widely accepted, suspects began to see confession as a way to avoid the gallows. Deliverance Hobbs became the second witch to confess, admitting to pinching three of the girls at the Devil's command and flying on a pole to attend a witches' Sabbath in an open field. Jails approached capacity and the colony "teetered on the brink of chaos" when Governor William Phips returned from England. Fast action, he decided, was required.

Phips created a new court, the"court of oyer and terminer," (the Anglo-French name, meaning to hear and determine) to hear the witchcraft cases. Five judges, including three close friends of Cotton Mather, were appointed to the court. Chief Justice, and most influential member of the court, was a gung-ho witch hunter named William Stoughton. Mather urged Stoughton and the other judges to credit confessions and admit"spectral evidence" (testimony by afflicted persons that they had been visited by a suspect's specter). Ministers were looked to for guidance by the Judges, who were generally without legal training, on matters pertaining to witchcraft. Mather's advice was heeded. the judges also decided to allow the socalled"touching test" (defendants were asked to touch afflicted persons to see if their touch, as was generally assumed of the touch of witches, would stop their contortions) and examination of the bodies of accused for evidence of "witches' marks" (moles or the like upon which a witch might suck). Evidence that would be excluded from modern courtrooms-- hearsay, gossip, stories, unsupported assertions, surmises-- was also generally admitted. Many protections that modern defendants take for granted were lacking in Salem: accused witches had no legal counsel, could
not have witnesses testify under oath on their behalf, and had no formal avenues of appeal. Defendants could, however, speak for themselves, produce evidence, and cross-examine their accusers. The degree to which defendants in Salem were able to take advantage of their modest protections varied considerably, depending on their own acuteness and their influence in the community.

he first accused witch to be brought to trial was Bridget Bishop. Almost sixty years old, owner of a tavern where patrons could drink cider ale and play shuffleboard (even on the Sabbath), critical of her neighbors, and reluctant to pay her bills, Bishop was a likely candidate for an accusation of witchcraft. At Bishop's trial on June 2, 1692, a field hand testified that he saw Bishop's image stealing eggs and then saw her transform herself into a cat. Deliverance Hobbs, by then probably insane, and Mary Warren, both confessed witches, testified that Bishop was one of them. Bishop’s jury returned a verdict of guilty. Chief Justice Stoughton signed Bishop's death warrant, and on June 10, 1692, Bishop was carted to Gallows Hill and hanged. (Note: The trial was June 2nd, the execution was June 10th. Eight days later. Quite a difference from today’s death sentences).

As the summer of 1692 warmed, the pace of trials picked up. Not all defendants were as disreputable as Bridget Bishop. Rebecca Nurse was a pious, respected woman whose specter, according to Ann Putnam, Jr. and Abagail Williams, attacked them in mid March of 1692. Her family had a long standing quarrel with the
Putnam family. The Nurse jury returned a verdict of not guilty, much to the displeasure of Chief Justice Stoughton, who told the jury to go back and consider again a statement of Nurse's that might be considered an admission of guilt. The jury reconvened, this time coming back with a verdict of guilty. On July 19, 1692, Nurse rode
with four other convicted witches to Gallows Hill. One man who was openly critical of the trials paid for his skepticism with his life. John Proctor was an opinionated
tavern owner who openly denounced the witchhunt. Testifying against Proctor were Ann Putnam, Abagail Williams, Indian John (a slave of Samuel Parris who worked in a competing tavern), and eighteen-year old Elizabeth Booth, who testified that ghosts had come to her and accused Proctor of serial murder. Proctor fought back, accusing confessed witches of lying, complaining of torture, and demanding that his trial be moved to Boston. The efforts proved futile. Proctor was hanged. His wife Elizabeth, who was also convicted of witchcraft, was spared execution because of her pregnancy.

No execution caused more unease in Salem than that of the village's ex-minister, George Burroughs. Among the thirty accusers of Burroughs was nineteen-year-old Mercy Lewis, a refugee of the frontier wars who told the court that Burroughs flew her to the top of a mountain and, pointing toward the surrounding land, promised her all the kingdoms if only she would sign in his book (a story very similar to that found in Matthew 4:8). Lewis said, "I would not writ if he had throwed me down on one hundred pitchforks." At an execution, a defendant in the Puritan colonies was expected to confess, and thus to save his soul. When Burroughs on Gallows Hill continued to insist on his innocence and then recited the Lord's Prayer perfectly (something witches were thought incapable of doing), the crowd reportedly was "greatly moved."

One victim of the Salem witchhunt was not hanged, but rather pressed under heavy stones until his death. Giles Corey was a prosperous, uneducated, eighty-year-old farmer and full member of the church. He and his wife Martha lived on a farm in the southwest corner of Salem village. His wife, Martha, was accused of being a witch. Corey knew his wife was not a witch and announced it publicly, defending her. That simply wouldn't do. Surely he, too, was a witch. He was arrested, examined, and ordered to trial. Corey knew he faced conviction and execution, so he chose to refuse to stand for trial. By avoiding conviction, it became more likely that his farm, which Corey recently deeded to his two sons-in-law, would not become property of the state upon his death. The penalty for refusing to stand for trial was death by pressing under heavy stones (peine et fort). It was a punishment never before seen--or ever again inflicted--in the colony of Massachusetts. On Monday,
September 19, Corey was stripped naked, a board placed upon his chest, and then--while his neighbors watched--heavy stones and rocks were piled on the board. Corey pleaded to have more weight added, so that his death might come quickly.

Samuel Sewall reported Corey's death: "About noon, at Salem, Giles Corey was press'd to death for standing mute." Robert Calef, in his report of the event, added a
gruesome detail: Giles's "tongue being prest out of his mouth, the Sheriff with his cane forced it in again, when he was dying." Judge Jonathan Corwin ordered Corey
buried in an unmarked grave on Gallows Hill. Corey is often seen as a martyr who "gave back fortitude and courage rather than spite and bewilderment." His very public death played a role in building public opposition to the witchcraft trials. Three days after Corey's death, on September 22, 1692, eight more convicted witches, including Giles' wife Martha, were hanged. They were the last victims of the witchhunt.

The Dead

Nineteen accused witches were hanged on Gallows Hill in 1692:
June 10
Bridget Bishop
July 19
Rebecca Nurse
Sarah Good
Susannah Martin
Elizabeth Howe
Sarah Wildes

August 19
George Burroughs
Martha Carrier
John Willard
George Jacobs, Sr.
John Proctor

September 19
Giles Corey (Pressed to death)
September 22
Martha Corey
Mary Eastey
Ann Pudeator
Alice Parker
Mary Parker
Wilmott Redd
Margaret Scott
Samuel Wardwell

Other accused witches died in
prison:
Sarah Osborn
Roger Toothaker
Lyndia Dustin
Ann Foster


An example of a death warrant: (Death Warrant for Sarah Good, Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth Howe, and Sarah Wilds)

To George: Corwine Gent'n High Sheriff of the county of Essex

Whereas Sarah Good Wife of William Good of Salem Village Rebecka Nurse wife of Francis Nurse of Salem Village Susanna Martin of Amesbury Widow Elizabeth How wife of James How of Ipswich Sarah Wild wife of John Wild of Topsfield all of the County of Essex in thier Maj'ts Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New
England Att A Court of Oyer & Terminer held by Adjournment for Our Severaign Lord & Lady Kind Wiliam & Queen Mary for the said County of Essex at Salem in the s'd County onf the 29th day of June [torn] were Severaly arrigned on Several Indictments for the horrible Crime of Witchcraft by them practised& Committed On Severall persons and pleading not guilty did for thier Tryall put themselves on God& Thier Countrey whereupon they were Each of them found & brought in Guilty by the Jury that passed On them according to their respective Indictments and Sentence of death did then pass upon them as the Law directs Execution whereof yet
remains to be done: Those are Therefore in thier Maj'ties name William & Mary now King & Queen over England &ca: to will & Command you that upon Tuesday
next being the 19th day for [torn] Instant July between the houres of Eight & [torn] in [torn] forenoon the same day you Safely conduct the s'd Sarah Good Rebecka Nurse Susann Martin Elizabeth Howe & Sarah Wild From thier Maj'ties goal in Salem afores'd to the place of Execution & there Cause them & Every of them to be hanged by the Neck untill they be dead and of the doings herein make return to the Clerke of the said Court & this precept and hereof you are not to fail at your perill and this Shall be your sufficient Warrant given under my hand& seale at Boston th 12't day of July in the fourth year of Reign of our Soveraigne Lord & Layd Wm &
Mary King and Queen &ca:

*Wm Stoughton
Annoq Dom. 1692
(Reverse side of warrant)

Salem July 19th 1692

I caused the within mentioned persons to be Executed according to the Tenour of the with[in] warrant
*George Corwin Sherif By early autumn of 1692,

Salem's lust for blood was ebbing. Doubts were developing as to how so many respectable people could be guilty. Reverend John Hale said,"It cannot be imagined that in a place of so much knowledge, so many in so small compass of land should abominably leap into the Devil's lap at once." The educated elite of the colony began efforts to end the witch-hunting hysteria that had enveloped Salem. In May of 1693, Governor Phips released from prison all remaining accused or convicted witches.

A period of atonement began in the colony. Samuel Sewall, one of the judges, issued a public confession of guilt and an apology. Several jurors came forward to say that they were"sadly deluded and mistaken" in their judgments. Reverend Samuel Parris conceded errors of judgment, but mostly shifted blame to others. Governor
Phips blamed the entire affair on William Stoughton. Stoughton, clearly more to blame than anyone for the tragic episode, refused to apologize or explain himself. He criticized Phips for interfering just when he was about to "clear the land" of witches. Stoughton became the next governor of Massachusetts.

That Puritan inquisition that took 25 lives, filled prisons with innocent people, and frayed the soul of a Massachusetts community called Salem. Salem Village (Danvers) was ground zero for the witchcraft events of 1692, with virtually the entire 500-person population involved. Salem Village in 1692 was comprised of the
present town of Danvers as well as most of the town of Middleton and the city of Peabody. In 1692 the population of the village was approximately 550 people living in 90 houses scattered over an approximate 20-square-mile area. Today the population of those three communities is approximately 70,000, is suburban and highly developed, so little remains of what was there 300 years ago. Salem Town (now Salem) which had an area of approximately eight-squaremiles, had a population of 1,400 persons in 1692. Today, the population is approximately 38,000. Salem Town had several accused witches and the formal trials were held there, but the town escaped the social and religious maelstrom that followed.

When witch times were over, Salem Village didn’t want to be reminded of those dark days. When the Village became independent in 1752, it was given the new name of “Danvers” and their association with the witchcraft was happily obscured. By the late 19th century, Salem became a tourist destination, and the witchcraft
events took on a caricature of a non-threatening witch riding a broomstick and wearing a conical hat and thus we have this year’s traditional Halloween witches costumes.

The time to heal fell under the gentle hand of the Reverend Joseph Green, who in 1697 succeeded Samuel Parris as minister in Salem Village. Green reshuffled his congregation's traditional seating plan, placing foes beside one another. As he had hoped, proximity bred charity. At Green's urging, Ann Putnam, one of the leading
accusers, offered a public apology in 1706.

Massachusetts as a whole repented the Salem witch-hunt in stages. The colony observed a day of atonement in 1697. It prompted one of the judges to seek public forgiveness for his role in the trials. In 1711 the legislature passed a bill restoring the rights and good names of some of the victims of "those dark and severe Prosecutions," awarding restitution to their heirs. Massachusetts apologized again in 1957, and the city of Salem and the town of Danvers (originally Salem Village) dedicated memorials to the slain"witches" in 1992. The “real” witches disappeared, but witchhunting in America did not. Each generation must learn the lessons of history or risk repeating its mistakes. Salem should warn us to think hard about how to best safeguard and improve our system of justice.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Witch
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Witchcraft
Salem Massachusetts, The Witch Trials Photographs of the town, homes and a history of the witch trials
http://www.salemweb.com/gui de/witches.shtml
http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/ projects/ftrials/salem/SA LEM.HTM
http://www3.nationalgeographic. com/salem/

 

 

 

 

New Page 4