Chronology of events relating to the salem witchcraft trials

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The Salem Witch House (1642), home of Jonathan Corwin

1629: Salem is settled.

1641: English law makes witchcraft a capital crime.

1684: England declares that the colonies may not self-govern.

1688: Following an argument with laundress Goody Glover, Martha Goodwin, 13, begins exhibiting bizarre behavior. Days later her younger brother and two sisters exhibit similar behavior. Glover is arrested and tried for bewitching the Goodwin children. Reverend Cotton Mather meets twice with Glover following her arrest in an attempt to persuade her to repent her witchcraft. Glover is hanged. Mather takes Martha Goodwin into his house. Her bizarre behavior continues and worsens.

1688: Mather publishes Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions

November, 1689: Samuel Parris is named the new minister of Salem. Parris moves to Salem from Boston, where Memorable Providence was published.

October 16, 1691: Villagers vow to drive Parris out of Salem and stop contributing to his salary.

January 20, 1692: Eleven-year old Abigail Williams and nine-year-old Elizabeth Parris begin behaving much as the Goodwin children acted four years earlier. Soon Ann Putnam Jr. and other Salem girls begin acting similarly.

Mid-February, 1692: Doctor Griggs, who attends to the "afflicted" girls, suggests that witchcraft may be the cause of their strange behavior.

February 25, 1692: Tituba, at the request of neighbor Mary Sibley, bakes a "witch cake" and feeds it to a dog. According to an English folk remedy, feeding a dog this kind of cake, which contained the urine of the afflicted, would counteract the spell put on Elizabeth and Abigail. The reason the cake is fed to a dog is because the dog is believed a "familiar" of the Devil.

Late-February, 1692: Pressured by ministers and townspeople to say who caused her odd behavior, Elizabeth identifies Tituba. The girls later accuse Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne of witchcraft.

February 29, 1692: Arrest warrants are issued for Tituba, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne.

March 1, 1692: Magistrates John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin examine Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborne for "witches’ teats." Tituba confesses to practicing witchcraft and confirms Good and Osborne are her co-conspirators.

March 11, 1692: Ann Putnam Jr. shows symptoms of affliction by witchcraft. Mercy Lewis, Mary Walcott, and Mary Warren later allege affliction as well.

March 12, 1692: Ann Putnam Jr. accuses Martha Cory of witchcraft.

March 19. 1692: Abigail Williams denounces Rebecca Nurse as a witch.

March 21, 1692: Magistrates Hathorne and Corwin examine Martha Cory.

March 23, 1692: Salem Marshal Deputy Samuel Brabrook arrests four-year-old Dorcas Good.

March 24, 1692: Corwin and Hathorne examine Rebecca Nurse.

March 26, 1692: Hathorne and Corwin interrogate Dorcas.

March 28, 1692: Elizabeth Proctor is accused of witchcraft.

April 3, 1692: Sarah Cloyce, after defending her sister, Rebecca Nurse, is accused of witchcraft.

April 11, 1692: Hathorne and Corwin examine Sarah Cloyce and Elizabeth Proctor. On the same day Elizabeth's husband, John, who protested the examination of his wife, becomes the first man accused of witchcraft and is incarcerated.

Early April, 1692: The Proctors' servant and accuser, Mary Warren, admits lying and accuses the other accusing girls of lying.

April 13, 1692: Ann Putnam Jr. accuses Giles Cory of witchcraft and alleges that a man who died at Cory's house also haunts her.

April 19, 1692: Abigail Hobbs, Bridget Bishop, Giles Cory and Mary Warren are examined. Deliverance Hobbs confesses to practicing witchcraft. Mary Warren reverses her statement made in early April and rejoins the accusers.

April 22, 1692: Mary Easty, another of Rebecca Nurse's sisters who defended her, is examined by Hathorne and Corwin. Hathorne and Corwin also examine Nehemiah Abbott, William and Deliverance Hobbs, Edward and Sarah Bishop, Mary Black, Sarah Wildes, and Mary English.

April 30, 1692: Several girls accuse former Salem minister George Burroughs of witchcraft.

May 2, 1692: Hathorne and Corwin examine Sarah Morey, Lyndia Dustin, Susannah Martin and Dorcas Hoar.

May 4, 1692: George Burroughs is arrested in Maine.

May 7, 1692: George Burroughs is returned to Salem and placed in jail.

May 9, 1692: Corwin and Hathorne examine Burroughs and Sarah Churchill. Burroughs is moved to a Boston jail.

May 10, 1692: Corwin and Hathorne examine George Jacobs, Sr. and his granddaughter Margaret Jacobs. Sarah Osborne dies in prison.

May 14, 1692: Increase Mather and Sir William Phipps, the newly elected governor of the colony, arrive in Boston. They bring with them a charter ending the 1684 prohibition of self-governance within the colony.

May 18, 1692: Mary Easty is released from prison. Following protest by her accusers, she is again arrested. Roger Toothaker is also arrested on charges of witchcraft.

May 27, 1692: Phipps issues a commission for a Court of Oyer and Terminer and appoints as judges John Hathorne, Nathaniel Saltonstall, Bartholomew Gedney, Peter Sergeant, Samuel Sewall, Wait Still Winthrop, and Lieutenant Governor William Stoughton.

May 31, 1692: Hathorne, Corwin and Gednew examine Martha Carrier, John Alden, Wilmott Redd, Elizabeth Howe and Phillip English. English and Alden later escape prison and do not return to Salem until after the trials end.

June 2, 1692: Bridget Bishop is the first to be tried and convicted of witchcraft. She is sentenced to die.

June 8, 1692: Eighteen year old Elizabeth Booth shows symptoms of affliction by witchcraft.

June 10, 1692: Bridget Bishop is hanged at Gallows Hill. Following the hanging Nathaniel Saltonstall resigns from the court and is replaced by Corwin.

June 15, 1692: Cotton Mather writes a letter requesting the court not use spectral evidence as a standard and urging that the trials be speedy. The Court of Oyer and Terminer pays more attention to the request for speed and less attention to the criticism of spectral evidence.

June 16, 1692: Roger Toothaker dies in prison.

June 29-30, 1692: Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Sarah Wildes, Sarah Good, and Elizabeth Howe are tried, pronounced guilty and sentenced to hang.

July 19, 1692: Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth Howe, Sarah Good and Sarah Wildes are hanged at Gallows Hill.

August 5, 1692: George Jacobs Sr., Martha Carrier, George Burroughs, John Willard and John and Elizabeth Proctor are pronounced guilty and sentenced to hang.

August 19, 1692: George Jacobs Sr., Martha Carrier, George Burroughs, John Willard and John Proctor are hanged on Gallows Hill. Elizabeth Proctor is not hanged because she is pregnant.

August 20, 1692: Margaret Jacobs recants the testimony that led to the execution of her grandfather George Jacobs Sr. and Burroughs.

September 9, 1692: Martha Corey, Mary Easty, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Dorcas Hoar and Mary Bradbury are pronounced guilty and sentenced to hang.

Mid-September, 1692: Giles Cory is indicted.

September 17, 1692: Margaret Scott, Wilmott Redd, Samuel Wardwell, Mary Parker, Abigail Faulkner, Rebecca Earnes, Mary Lacy, Ann Foster and Abigail Hobbs are tried and sentenced to hang.

September 19, 1692: Sheriffs administer Peine Forte Et Dure (pressing) to Giles Cory after he refuses to enter a plea to the charges of witchcraft against him. After two days under the weight, Cory dies.

September 22, 1692: Martha Cory, Margaret Scott, Mary Easty, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Willmott Redd, Samuel Wardwell, and Mary Parker are hanged. Hoar escapes execution by confessing.

October 3, 1692: The Reverend Increase Mather, President of Harvard College and father to Cotton Mather, denounces the use of spectral evidence.

October 8, 1692: Governor Phipps orders that spectral evidence no longer be admitted in witchcraft trials.

October 29, 1692: Phipps prohibits further arrests, releases many accused witches, and dissolves the Court of Oyer and Terminer.

November 25, 1692: The General Court establishes a Superior Court to try remaining witches.

January 3, 1693: Judge Stoughton orders execution of all suspected witches who were exempted by their pregnancy. Phipps denied enforcement of the order causing Stoughton to leave the bench.

January 1693: 49 of the 52 surviving people brought into court on witchcraft charges are released because their arrests were based on spectral evidence.

1693: Tituba is released from jail and sold to a new master.

May 1693: Phipps pardons those still in prison on witchcraft charges.

January 14, 1697: The General Court orders a day of fasting and soul-searching for the tragedy at Salem. Moved, Samuel Sewall publicly confesses error and guilt.

1697: Minister Samuel Parris is ousted as minister in Salem and replaced by Joseph Green.

1702: The General Court declares the 1692 trials unlawful.

1706: Ann Putnam Jr., one of the leading accusers, publicly apologizes for her actions in 1692.

1711: The colony passes a legislative bill restoring the rights and good names of those accused of witchcraft and grants 600 pounds in restitution to their heirs.

1752: Salem Village is renamed Danvers.

1957: Massachusetts formally apologizes for the events of 1692.

1992: On the 300th anniversary of the trials, a witchcraft memorial designed by James Cutler is dedicated in Salem.

Sir William Phips

William Phips was born on February 2, 1651 near Kennebec, Maine, the youngest of 26 children. His father was a gunsmith. Though Phips never attended school, he learned the ship-carpentry trade and, at an early age, set off on foot for Boston. Soon after arriving in Boston, Phips met ship captain Roger Spencer. The relationship with Spencer led Phips later to a job as captain of carried goods between New England and the West Indies. In 1687, an investor-backed expedition led by Phips recovered the treasure from sixteen Spanish ships that were lost at sea near the Bahamas in the early 1600's. He kept sixteen percent of his discovery, the majority of the treasure went to the investors, and the king received the remaining ten percent. As a result of his efforts, the king knighted Phips and appointed him the first Governor of Massachusetts.

     On May 14, 1692 Phips arrived in Boston. He brought with him a charter ending the 1684 English law banning colonies from self-government. Under this new charter, the legislature was to set up a judicial system until October. However, on May 27, deciding matters too serious to wait until October, Phips issued a commission for a Court of Oyer and Terminer (criminal jurisdiction) to hear witch trial evidence. Phips appointed William Stoughton as chief justice, though Stoughton had no legal education, and John Alden, John Hathorne, Nathaniel Saltonstall, Bartholomew Gedney, Peter Sergeant, Samuel Sewall and Wait Still Winthrop as judges.

    As accusations of witchcraft spiraled, even Phips' own wife, Lady Mary Phips, was named as a witch. Soon thereafter, in October of 1692, Phips ordered spectral evidence and testimony would no longer suffice to convict suspects in future trials. Three weeks later Phips prohibited further arrests of witches, released 49 of the 52 of the accused witches still in prison and dismissed the Court of Oyer and Terminer. In May of 1693, Phips pardoned the remaining suspected witches still in prison.

      Phips died on February 18, 1695.

Two Letters of Gov. William Phips (1692-1693)
Gov. William Phips

(Letter No. 1)

      When I first arrived I found this province miserably harrassed with a most Horrible witchcraft or Possession of Devills which had broke in upon severall Townes, some score of poor people were taken with preternaturall torments some scalded with brimstone some had pins stuck in their flesh others hurried into the fire and water and some dragged out of their houses and carried over the tops of trees and hills for many Miles together; it hath been represented to mee much like that of Sweden about thirty years agoe, and there were many committed to prision upon suspicion of Whichcraft before my arrivall. The loud cried and clamours of the friends of the afflicted people with the advice of the Deputy Governor and many others prevailed with mee to give a Commission of Oyer and Terminer for discovering what whichcraft might be at the bottome or whether it were not a possession. The chief Justice in the Commission was the Deputy Governour and the rest were persons of the best prudence and figure that could then be pitched upon. When the Court came to sitt at Salem in the county of Essex they convicted more than twenty persons of being guilty of witchcraft, some of the convicted were such as confessed their Guilt, the Court as I understand began their proceedings with the accusations of the afflicted and then went upon other humane evidences to strengthen that. I was almost the whole time of the proceeding abroad in the service of Their Majesties in the Eastern part of the Country and depending upon the Judgement of the Court as to the right method of proceeding in cases of Witchcraft but when I came home I found many persons in a strange ferment of dissatisfaction which was increased by some hott Spiritts that blew up the flame, but on enquiring into the matter I found that the name and shape of several persons who were doubtless innocent and to my certian knoweledge of good reputation for which cause I have now forbidden the committing of any more that shall be accused without unavoydable necessity, and those that have been committed I would shelter from any Proceedings against them wherein there may be the least suspition of any wrong to be done unto the Innocent. I would also wait for any particular directions or commands if their Majesties please to give mee any for the fuller ordering of this perplexing affair. I have also put a stop to the printing of any discourse one way or the other, that may increase the needless disputes of people upon this occasion, because I saw a likelyhood of kindling an inextinguishable flame if I should admitt any publique and open Contests and I have grieved to see that some who should have done their Majesties abd this Provence better service have so far taken Councill of Passion as to desire the percipitancy of these matters, these things have been improved by some to give me many interuptions in their Majesties service and in truth none of my vexations have been greater that this, than that their majesties service has been hereby unhappily clogged, and the Persons who have made soe ill improvement of these matters here are seeking to turne it all upon mee, but I hereby declare that as soon as I came from fighting against their Majesties Enemyes and understood what danger some of their innocent subjects might be exposed to, if the evidence of the afflicted perosns only did previle either to the committing or trying of any of them, I did before any application was made unto me about it put a stop to the proceedings of the court and they are now stopt till their Majesties pleasure be known. Sir I beg pardon for giving you all this trouble, the reason is because I know my enemies are seeking to turn it all upon me and I take this liberty because I depend upon your firendship, and desire you will please to give a true understanding of the matter if any thing of this kind be urged or mage to use of against mee. Because the justnesse of my proceeding herein will bee a sufficient defence. Sir

                                                     I am with all imanigable respect

                                                           Your most humble Servt.

                                                                     William Phips

Dated at Boston the 12'th of october 1692

(Letter No. 2)

                                                     Boston in New England Febry 21st, 1692/3.

May it please yor. Lordship.

      By the Capn. of the Samuell and Henry I gave an account that att my arrival here I found the Prisions full of people committied upon suspition of witchcraft and that continuall complaints were made to me that many persons were grevously tormented by witches and that they cryed out upon severall persons by name, as the cause of their torments. The number of these complainst increasing everyday, by advice of the Lieut Govr. and the Councill I gave Commission of Oyer and Terminer to try the suspected witches and at that time the generality of the people represented to me as reall witchcraft and gave very strange instances of the same. The first in Commission was the Lieut Govr. and the rest persons of the best prudence and figure that could then be pitched upon and I depended upon the Court for a right method of proceeding in cases of witchcraft. At that time I went to command the army at the Eastern part of the Province, for the Frence and Indians had made an attack upon some of our Fronteer towns. I continued there for some time but when I returned I found people much disatisfied at the proceedings of the Court, for about Twenty persons were condemed and executed of which number some were thought by many persons to be innocent. The Court still proceeding in the same method of trying them, which was by the evidence of the afflicted persons who when they were brought into the Court as soon as the suspected witches looked upon them instantly fell to the ground in strange agonies and grevious torments, but when touched by them upon the arme or some other part of their fless were immediately revived and came to themselves, upon [which] they made oath that the Prisioner at the Bar did afflict them and that they saw their shape or spectre come from their bodies which put them into such paines and torments: When I enquired into the matter I was enformed by the Judges that they begun with this, but had humane testimony against such as were condemed and undoubted proof of their being witches, but at length I found tht the Devill did take upon him the shape of Innocent persons and some were accused of whose innocency I was well assured and many considerable persons of unblamable life and conversation were cried out upon as witches and wizards. The Deputy Govr. notwithstanding persisted vigerously in the same method, to the great disatisfaction and disturbance of the people, until I put an end to the court and stopped the proceedings, which I did because I saw many innocent persons might otherwise perish and at that time I thought it my duty to give an account thereof that their Ma'ties pleasure might be signifyed, hoping that for the better ordering thereof the Judges learned in the law in England might give such rules and directions as have been practized in England for proceedings in so difficult and so nice a point; When I put an end to the Court there ware at least fifty persons in prision in great misery by reason of the extream cold and their poverty, most of them having only spectre evidence against them and their mittimusses being defective, I caused some of them to be lettout upon bayle and put the Judges upon consideration of a way to reliefe others and to prevent them from perishing in prision, upon which some of them were convinced and acknowledged that their former proceedings were too violent and not grounded upon a right foundation bu that if they might sit againe, they would proceed after another method, and whereas Mr. Increase Mathew and severall other Divines did give it as their Judgement that the Devill might afflict in the shape of an innocent person and that the look and touch of the suspected persons was not sufficient proofe against them, these things had not the same stress layd upon them as before, and upon this consideration I permitted a spetiall Superior Court to be held at Salem in the County of Essex on the third day of January, the Lieut Govr. being Chief Judge. Their method of proceeding being altered, all that were brought to tryall to the number of fifety two, were cleared saving three, ad I was informed by the Kings Attorny Generall that that some of the cleared and the condemed were under the same circumstances or that there was the same reason to clear the three condemed as the rest according to his Judgement. The Deputy Govr. signed a Warrant for their execution and also of five others who were condemed at the former Court of Oyer and terminer, but considering how the matter had been managed I sent a reprieve whereby the execution was stopped untill their Maj. pleasure be signified and declared. The Lieut. Gov. upon this occasion was inraged and filled with passionate anger and refused to sitt upon the bench in a Superior Court then held at Charles Towne, and indeed hath from the begining hurried on these matters with great precipitancy and by his warrant hath caused the estates, goods and chattles of the executed to be seized and disposed of without my knowledge or consent. The stop put to the first methodof proceedings hath dissipated the blak cloud that threatened this Province with destruccion; for whereas this disolusion of the Devill did spread and its dismall effects touched the lives and estates of many of their Ma'ties Subjects and the reputation of some of the principall persons here, and indeed unhappily clogged and interrupted their Ma'ties affairs which hath been a great vexation to me, I have no new complaints but peoples minds before divided and distracted by differig opinions concerning this matter are now well composed.

                                              I am

                                                  Yor. Lordships most faithfull

                                                                humble Servant

                                                                         William Phips

To the Rt. Honble
            The Earl of Nottingham
            att Whitehall

R [i.e., recieved] May 24, 93 abt. Witches

Cotton Mather

Cotton Mather, the minister of Boston's Old North church, was a true believer in witchcraft. In 1688, he had investigated the strange behavior of four children of a Boston mason named John Goodwin. The children had been complaining of sudden pains and crying out together in chorus. He concluded that witchcraft, specifically that practiced by an Irish washerwoman named Mary Glover, was responsible for the children's problems. He presented his findings and conclusions in one of the best known of his 382 works, "Memorable Providences." Mather's experience caused him to vow that to "never use but one grain of patience with any man that shall go to impose upon me a Denial of Devils, or of Witches."

As it happened, three of the five judges appointed to the Court of Oyer and Terminer that would hear the Salem witchcraft trials were friends of Mather and members of his church.  Mather wrote a letter to one of the three judges, John Richards, suggesting how they might approach evidentiary issues at the upcoming trials. In particular, Mather urged the judges to consider spectral evidence, giving it such weight as "it will bear," and to consider the confessions of witches the best evidence of all.  As the trials progressed, and growing numbers of person confessed to being witches, Mather became firmly convinced that "an Army of Devils is horribly broke in upon the place which is our center."   On August 4, 1692, Mather delivered a sermon warning that the Last Judgment was near at hand, and portraying himself, Chief Justice Stroughton, and Governor Phips as leading the final charge against the Devil's legions. On August 19, Mather was in Salem to witness the execution of ex-minister George Burroughs for witchcraft. When, on Gallows Hill, Burroughs was able to recite the Lord's Prayer perfectly (something that witches were thought incapable of doing) and some in the crowd called for the execution to be stopped, Mather intervened, reminding those gathered that Burroughs had been duly convicted by a jury. Mather was given the official records of the Salem trials for use in preparation of a book that the judges hoped would favorably describe their role in the affair. The book, "Wonders of the Invisible World," provides fascinating insights both into the trials and Mather's own mind.

When confessed witches began recanting their testimony, Mather may have begun to have doubts about at least some of the proceedings. He revised his own position on the use of spectral evidence and tried to minimize his own large role in its consideration in the Salem trials. Later in life, Mather turned away from the supernatural and may well have come to question whether it played the role it life he first suspected.      

Increase Mather

Increase Mather was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts on 12 June 1639. He was ordained in 1664, and by the time of the Salem witchcraft trials was a prominent Boston minister. He had previously been the first President of Harvard College, and had headed a commission sent to England to negotiate for a new charter for the colony. It was unprecedented for a clergyman to perform such an important civil function, and he was widely praised for his efforts.

Increase was the father of Cotton Mather, who was also a minister, although with a radical and oversexed theology compared to that of Increase. Both Mathers, however, developed doubts as to whether the witchcraft trials in Salem were achieving justice, and warned against the admission of spectral evidence. Much of the negative history surrounding the Mathers comes from Cotton's early writings on witchcraft which are widely seen as having inspired the initial diagnoses of witchcraft affliction in Salem. In addition, another writer of the period, Robert Calef, gleefully libeled and slandered both father and son (while acknowledging, on occasion, that much of what he wrote was not entirely true).

Although Increase was one of the few ministers to associate sexual activity with witchcraft, he flatly rejected such tests for accused witches as reciting the Lord's Prayer, swimming, or weeping (superstition was the witches lacked these abilities). In 1684, he published An Essay for the Recording of Illustrious Providence, a lengthy defense of the existence of apparitions, witches, diabolical possessions and "other remarkable judgements upon noted sinners." In it he reasserted puritan views of witchcraft and also asserted his belief that the sins of the population had brought on the Indian wars, the unusual thunderstorms, and other judgements of God upon New England. He warned his readers of the dangers of Satan and urged them to change their sinful ways.

Despite doubts as to the trials, Increase would never denounce the judges, most likely because many of them were his personal friends. After receiving the petition of John Proctor, Increase and seven other ministers from Boston met at Cambridge on August 1, 1692. This meeting began the change in feelings towards the witch hunt. After the meeting, Increase attended the trial of George Burroughs at Salem, becoming convinced of his guilt. Increase visited many of the accused in prison, and several of them recanted their confessions to him. About the time rumors began that Increase's wife would be named a witch, he presented his "Case of Conscience," which represented a dramatic break from his former position on witchcraft. In it he publicly questioned the credibility of the possessed persons, confessed witches, and spectral evidence.

After the trials, Increase tried to resolve the dispute between Parris and his congregation. Increase recommended that Parris leave the parish, but he refused and kept the matter tied up in court for two more years.

Increase died on August 23, 1723.

Samuel Parris

Samuel Parris was the son of Englishman Thomas Parris, who bought land in Barbados in the 1650s. Samuel was sent to Massachusetts to study at Harvard, where he was in 1673 when his father died. At the age of 20, Parris inherited his father's land in Barbados. After graduating, Parris moved back to the island to intending to settle the old estate. He leased out the family sugar plantation and settled in town's main population center of Bridgetown, where he established himself as a credit agent for other sugar planters. Parris was unmarried at the time, maintaining two slaves, including a woman named Tituba.

In 1680, Parris left the island, taking with him his two slaves. He moved to Boston and during his first New England winter married Elizabeth Eldridge. Through his marriage Parris was connected to several distinguished families in Boston, including the Sewalls. A year after they were married, Parris had his first child, a son, Thomas. A year later a daughter Betty was born, and five years later Sushanna. Parris accumulated sufficient wealth in Barbados to support his business ventures in Boston.

Dissatisfied with the life of a merchant, Parris considered a change in vocation. In 1686, he began substituting for absent ministers and speaking at informal church gatherings. After the birth of their third child, Parris began formal negations with Salem Village to become the Village's new preacher. He and his family settled in the parsonage and Parris began his ministerial duties in July 1689. Dissatisfaction in the community with Parris as a minister began in 1691 and manifested itself in the sporadic payment of his salary. In October, a committee refused to impose a tax to support his salary and fire wood through the winter. In response, Parris's sermons began to focus on warnings against a conspiracy in the village against himself and the church, and he attributed the evil to the forces of Satan taking hold in Salem.

It was also in 1691 that Parris's daughter Betty and his niece, Abigail Williams (now also living in his household), most likely inspired by the tales of Tituba, began to dabble in fortune telling and other decidedly non-Puritan activities. Perhaps out of fear of the repercussions of participating in these forbidden games, Betty began to develop strange symptoms: pinching, prickling and choking sensations. Several physicians were unable to diagnose the problem, but Dr. William Griggs suggested that her malady must be the result of witchcraft. Parris organized prayer meetings and days of fasting in an attempt to alleviate Betty's symptoms. Parris did what he could to support Betty and other seemingly afflicted girls, including beating his servant, Tituba, into confessing, and fanning the flames of witchcraft suspicions from his pulpit. Once the witchcraft hysteria ran its course, dissatisfaction with Parris grew and intensified. Parris, however, was slow to recognize his mistakes. It was not until 1694 that he apologized to his congregation, but this was not enough. Opposition to Parris continued until 1697 when he left the village and was replaced by Joseph Green, who succeeded in smoothing over many of the divisions within the community and congregation.

After leaving Salem, Parris first moved to Stowe, and then on to other frontier towns. Parris died in 1720.


Tituba was an Indian woman, not (as commonly believed) a Negro slave. She was originally from an Arawak village in South America, where she was captured as a child, taken to Barbados as a captive, and sold into slavery. It was in Barbados that her life first became entangled with that of Reverend Samuel Parris. She was likely between the age of 12 and 17 when she came into the Parris household. She was most likely purchased by Parris from one of his business associates, or given to settle a debt. Parris, at the time, was an unmarried merchant, leading to speculation that Tituba may have served as his concubine.

Tituba helped maintain the Parris household on a day-to-day basis. When Parris moved to Boston in 1680, Tituba and another Indian slave named John accompanied him. Tituba and John were married in 1689 about the time the Parris family moved to Salem. It is believed that Tituba had only one child, a daughter named Violet, who would remain in Parris's household until his death.

Tituba made herself a likely target for witchcraft accusations when shortly after Parris's daughter, Betty, began having strange fits and symptoms, she participated in the preparation of a "witchcake" (a mixture of rye and Betty's urine, cooked and fed to a dog, in the belief that the dog would then reveal the identity of Betty's afflictor). Parris was enraged when he found out about the cake, and shortly thereafter the afflicted girls named Tituba as a witch. Parris beat her until she confessed.

Tituba was the first witch to confess in Salem, and she likely did it to avoid further punishment. In her confession she apologized for hurting Betty, claimed she never wanted to hurt Betty, and professed her love for the child. She also wove a lively tale of an active community of witches in Salem. She named Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne as witches. By confessing early on, Tituba avoided the ordeal of going to trial, joining with the afflicted girls in providing key evidence against accused witches. Her husband, John, would also fall into fits, and become afflicted.

When public sentiment towards the accusers and the trials began to change, Tituba recanted her confession. This further enraged Parris, who in retaliation, refused to pay the jailer's fee to get Tituba out a prison. As a result, she spent thirteen months in jail until an unknown person paid the seven pounds for her release and bought her. It is likely that the same person bought her husband, John, because Puritans were not inclined to split up married couples, even slaves. It is unknown what happened to her after she began her life with her new owner.

Bridget Bishop

Bridget Bishop, "a singular character, not easily described," was born sometime between 1632 and 1637. Bishop married three times.  Her third and final marriage, after the deaths of her first two husbands, was to Edward Bishop, who was employed as a "sawyer" (lumber worker).  She appears to have had no children in any of her marriages.

Although Bishop had been accused by more individuals of witchcraft than any other witchcraft defendant (many of the accusations were markedly vehement and vicious), it was not so much her "sundry acts of witchcraft" that caused her to be the first witch hanged in Salem, as it was her flamboyant life style and exotic manner of dress. Despite being a member of Mr. Hale's Church in Beverly (she remained a member in good standing until her death), Bishop often kept the gossip mill busy with stories of her publicly fighting with her various husbands, entertaining guests in home until late in the night, drinking and playing the forbidden game of shovel board, and being the mistress of two thriving taverns in town. Some even went so far as to say that Bishop's "dubious moral character" and shameful conduct caused, "discord [to] arise in other familes, and young people were in danger of corruption." Bishop's blatant disregard for the respected standards of puritan society made her a prime target for accusations of witchcraft.

In addition to her somewhat outrageous (by Puritan standards) lifestyle, the fact that Bishop "was in the habit of dressing more artistically than women of the village" also contributed in large part to her conviction and execution. She was described as wearing, "a black cap, and a black hat, and a red paragon bodice bordered and looped with different colors." This was a showy costume for the times. Aside from encouraging rumors and social disdain, this "showy costume" was used as evidence against her at her trial for witchcraft. In his deposition, Shattuck, the town dyer mentions, as corroborative proof of Bishop being a witch, that she used to bring to his dye house "sundry pieces of lace" of shapes and dimensions entirely outside his conceptions of what would be needed in the wardrobe of a plain and honest woman. Fashionable apparel was regarded by some as a "snare and sign of the devil."

On April 18, 1692, when a warrant was issued for Bishop's arrest for witchcraft, she was no stranger to the courthouse. In 1680 she had been charged (but cleared) of witchcraft, and on other occasions she had ended up in the courthouse for violent public quarreling with her husband. Bishop had never seen or met any of her accusers until her questioning. While several of the afflicted girls cried out and writhed in the supposed pain she was causing them, John Hathorn and Jonathan Corwin questioned her, although there was little doubt in either of their minds as to her guilt:

Q: Bishop, what do you say? You stand here charged with sundry acts of witchcraft by you done or committed upon the bodies of Mercy Lewis and Ann Putman and others.

A: I am innocent, I know nothing of it, I have done no witchcraft .... I am as innocent as the child unborn. ....

Q: Goody Bishop, what contact have you made with the Devil?

A: I have made no contact with the Devil. I have never seen him before in my life.

When asked by one of her jailers, Bishop claimed that she was not troubled to see the afflicted persons so tormented, and could not tell what to think of them and did not concern herself about them at all. But the afflicted girls were not Bishop's only accusers.  Her sister's husband claimed that "she sat up all night conversing with the Devil" and that "the Devil came bodily into her." With a whole town against her, Bishop was charged, tried, and executed within eight days. On June 10, as crowds gathered to watch, she was taken to Gallows Hill and executed by the sheriff, George Corwin. She displayed no remorse and professed her innocence at her execution.

Bishop's death did not go unnoticed in Salem. The court took a short recess, accusations slowed down for a time, more than a month passed before there were any more executions, and one of the judges, Nathaniel Saltonstall resigned, having become dissatisfied with the court's methods. Even Governor Phips had doubts about the methods of the court and went to Boston to consult the ministers there as to what should be done with the rest of the accused. Unfortunately for the eighteen others who would be hanged as witches (in addition to the one pressed to death and the several who died in prison), the ministers decidedly and earnestly recommended that the proceedings should be "vigorously carried on," and so they were. Less than a year after her death, Bishop's husband married Elizabeth Cash, and several of those who had testified against her, in deathbed confessions claimed that their accusations were "deluted by the Devil."

Giles Corey

Giles Corey was a prosperous farmer and full member of the church. He lived in the southwest corner of Salem village.  In April of 1692, he was accused by Ann Putnam, Jr., Mercy Lewis, and Abigail Williams of witchcraft. Ann Putnam claimed that on April 13 the specter of Giles Corey visited her and asked her to write in the Devil's book. Later, Putnam was to claim that a ghost appeared before her to announce that it had been murdered by Corey. Other girls were to describe Corey as "a dreadful wizard" and recount stories of assaults by his specter.

Why Corey was named as a witch (male witches were generally called "wizards" at the time) is a matter of speculation, but Corey and his wife Martha were closely associated with the Porter faction of the village church that had been opposing the Putnam faction. Corey, eighty years old, was also a hard, stubborn man who may have expressed criticism of the witchcraft proceedings.

Corey was examined by magistrates on April 18, then left to languish with his wife in prison for five months awaiting trial. When Corey's case finally went before the grand jury in September, nearly a dozen witnesses came forward with damning evidence such as testimony that Corey was seen serving bread and wine at a witches' sacrament. 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. It was a punishment never before seen 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 may well have played in building public opposition to the witchcraft trials.

Sarah Good

Sarah Good was the daughter of a prosperous Wenham innkeeper, John Solart. Solart took his own life in 1672 when Sarah was 17, leaving an estate of 500 pounds after debt. After testimony of an oral will, the estate was divided between his widow and her two eldest sons, with a portion to be paid to each of the seven daughters when they came of age. However, Mrs. Solart quickly remarried, her new husband came into possession of her share and the unpaid shares of the daughters, and as a result, most of the daughters never received a portion of the Solart estate.

Sarah married a former indentured servant, Daniel Poole. Poole died sometime after 1682, leaving Sarah only debts, which some sources credit her with creating for Poole. Regardless of the cause of the debt, Sarah and her second husband, William Good, were held responsible for paying it. A portion of their land was seized and sold to satisfy their creditors, and shortly thereafter they sold the rest of their land, apparently out of dire necessity. By the time of the trials, Sarah and her husband were homeless, destitute and she was reduced to begging for work, food, and shelter from her neighbors.

Good was one of the first three women to be brought in at Salem on the charge of witchcraft, after having been identified as a witch by Tituba. She fit the prevailing stereotype of the malefic witch quite well. Good's habit of scolding and cursing neighbors who were unresponsive to her requests for charity generated a wealth of testimony at her trials. At least seven people testified as to her angry muttering and general turbulence after the refusal of charity. Particularly damaging to her case, was her accusation by her daughter. Four- year-old Dorcas Good (Sarah's only child) was arrested on March 23, gave a confession, and in so doing implicated her mother as a witch. At the time of her trial, Good was described as "a forlorn, friendless, and forsaken creature, broken down by wretchedness of condition and ill-repute." She has been called "an object for compassion rather than punishment."

The proceedings against Good were described as "cruel, and shameful to the highest degree." This remark must have been due in part to the fact that some of the spectral evidence against Good was known to be false at the time of her examination. During the trial, one of the afflicted girls cried out that she was being stabbed with a knife by the apparition of Good. Upon examination, a broken knife was found on the girl. However, as soon as it was shown to the court, a young man came forward with the other part of the knife, stated that he had broken it yesterday and had discarded it in the presence of the afflicted girls. Although the girl was reprimanded and warned not to lie again, the known falsehood had no effect on Good's trial. She was presumed guilty from the start. It has been said that "there was no one in the country around against whom popular suspicion could have been more readily directed, or in whose favor and defense less interest could be awakened."

Good was executed on July 19. She failed to yield to judicial pressure to confess, and showed no remorse at her execution. In fact, in response to an attempt by Minister Nicholas Noyes to elicit a confession, Good called out from the scaffolding, "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." Her curse seems to have come true. Noyes died of internal hemorrhage, bleeding profusely at the mouth. Despite the seemingly effectiveness of her curse, it likely just further convinced the crowds of her guilt.

Although he clearly deserved nothing, since he was an adverse witness against his wife and did what he could to stir up the prosecution against her, William Good was given one of the larger sums of compensation from the government in 1711. He did not swear she was a witch, but what he did say tended to prejudice the magistrates and public against her. The reason for his large settlement was his connections with the Putnam family. Although Good's daughter was released from prison after the trials, William Good claimed she was permanently damaged from her stay in chains in the prison, and that she was never useful for anything.

Rebecca Nurse
"The Trial of Rebecca Nurse"

Rebecca Nurse was the daughter of William Towne, of Yarmouth, Norfolk County, England where she was baptized Feb. 21, 1621. Her sister Mary (also accused and put to death for witchcraft) married Isaac Easty. Another sister, Sarah Cloyce, was also accused of witchcraft. Nurse's husband was described as a "traymaker." The making of these articles and similar articles of domestic use was important employment in the remote countryside. He seems to have been highly respected by his neighbors, and more often than anyone else was called in to settle disputes. Nurse had four sons and four daughters.

Nurse was one of the first "unlikely" witches to be accused. At the time of her trial she was 71 years old, and had "acquired a reputation for exemplary piety that was virtually unchallenged in the community." It was written of Nurse: "This venerable lady, whose conversation and bearing were so truly saint-like, was an invalid of extremely delicate condition and appearance, the mother of a large family, embracing sons, daughters, grandchildren, and one or more great-grandchildren. She was a woman of piety, and simplicity of heart."

That her reputation was virtually unblemished was evidenced by the fact that several of the most active accusers were more hesitant in their accusations of Nurse, and many who had kept silent during the proceedings against others, came forward and spoke out on behalf of Nurse, despite the dangers of doing so. Thirty-nine of the most prominent members of the community signed a petition on Nurse's behalf, and several others wrote individual petitions vouching for her innocence. One of the signers of the petition, Jonathan Putnam, had originally sworn out the complaint against Nurse, but apparently had later changed his mind on the matter of her guilt.

Unlike many of the other accused, during the questioning of Nurse, the magistrate showed signs of doubting her guilt, because of her age, character, appearance, and professions of innocence. However, each time he would begin to waiver on the issue, someone else in the crowd would either heatedly accuse her or one of the afflicted girls would break into fits and claim Nurse was tormenting her. Upon realizing that the magistrate and the audience had sided with the afflicted girls Nurse could only reply, " I have got nobody to look to but God." She then tried to raise her hands, but the afflicted girls fell into dreadful fits at the motion.

At Nurse's trial on June 30, the jury came back with a verdict of "Not Guilty." When this was announced there was a large and hideous outcry from both the afflicted girls and the spectators. The magistrates urged reconsideration. Chief Justice Stoughton asked the jury if they had considered the implications of something Nurse had said. When Hobbs had accused Nurse, Nurse had said "What do you bring her? She is one of us." Nurse had only meant that Hobbs was a fellow prisoner.  Nurse, however, was old, partially hard of hearing, and exhausted from the day in court. When Nurse was asked to explain her words "she is one of us," she did not hear the question.  The jury took her silence as an indication of guilt. The jury deliberated a second time and came back with a verdict of guilty. Shocking as it seems today, it was not uncommon in the seventeenth century for a magistrate to ask the jury to reconsider its verdict. Her family immediately did what they could to rectify the mistake that had caused her to be condemned, but it was no use. Nurse was granted a reprieve by Governor Phips, however no sooner had it been issued, than the accusers began having renewed fits. The community saw these fits as conclusive proof of Nurse's guilt.

On July 3, this pious, God fearing woman was excommunicated from her church in Salem Town, without a single dissenting vote, because of her conviction of witchcraft. Nurse was sentenced to death on June 30.  She was executed on July 19. Public outrage at her conviction and execution have been credited with generating the first vocal opposition to the trials. On the gallows Nurse was "a model of Christian behavior," which must have been a sharp contrast to Sarah Good, another convicted witch with whom Nurse was executed, who used the gallows as a platform from which to call down curses on those who would heckle her in her final hour. It was not until 1699 that members of the Nurse family were welcomed back to communion in the church, and it was fifteen years later before the excommunication of Nurse was revoked. In 1711, Nurse's family was compensated by the government for her wrongful death.



(Petition for Rebecca Nurse)

We whose nams Are hearunto subscribed being desired by goodman Nurse to declare what we knewe concerning his wives conversation for time past: we cane testfie to all whom it may concerne that we have knowne her for: many years and According to our observation her: Life and conversation was According to her profession and we never had Any: cause or grounds to suspect her of any such thing as she is now Acused of

Israel Porter, Daniell Andrew, Elizibeth porter, Sara andrew, Edward beshep sen, Jonathan Putnam, hana beshep, Iydia putnam, Joshua Rea, Walter Phillipps senior, Sara Rea, Nathaniel Felton Sen, Sarah leach, margaret Philips, john putnam sen., Taitha phillipps, Rabeckh putnam, Joseph houlton Junior, Joseph hucheson sen, Sam'll Endecott, leda hucheson, Elizabeth buxston, Joseph holten sen, Samuel aborn senr, Sarah holten, Isaack Cooke, benjaman putnam, Elisabeth Cooke, Sarah putnam, William Osborne, Job Swinerton, hanah osborne, Ester Swinerton, Daniell Rea, Joseph herrick sen, Sarah putnam, Samuell Sibley, Joseph putman, hephzibah Rea

(Nathaniel Putnam, Sr. for Rebecca Nurse)

Nathaniell putnem Senior being desired [TORN] by francis nurse sen'or to give & informa[TORN] of what i could say concerning his wifeS [TORN] and conversation: if the above sayd [TORN] known this sayd above sayd woman fou [TORN] years & what i have observed of her human [TORN] frailtye excepted: her life and conversation hath [TORN] been acording to her profession:& she hath [TORN] brought up a great family of children & educated [TORN] well soe that there is in some of them apparent s' [TORN] of godliness: i have known her differ with her neig [TORN] but i never knew nor heard of any that did accus [TORN] of what she is now charged with

(Israel Porter, Elizabeth Porter, Daniel Andrew and Peter Cloyce for Rebecca Nurse)

We whos nams Are under written being desiered to goe to goodman nurs his house to speeke with his wife and to tell her that several of the Aflicted persons mentioned her: and Accordingly we went and we found her in A weak and Lowe condition in body as shee told us and had been sicke allmost A weak and we asked how it was otherwis with her and shee said shee blest god for it shee had more of his presents in this sickness then sometime shee have had but not soe much as shee desiered: but shee would with the Apostle pres forward to the mark: and many other places of scriptur to the Like purpos: and then of her owne Acord shee began to speek of the Affliction that was Amongst them and in perticuler of Mr Parris his family and how shee was greved for them though shee had not been to see them: by Reason of fits that shee formerly use to have for people said it was Awfull to:behold: but shee pittied them with: all her harte: and went to god for them: but shee said shee heard that there was persons spoke of that wear as Innocent as shee was shee believed and After much to this purpos: we told her we heard that shee was spoken of allsoe: well she said if it be soe the will of the Lord be done: she sate still awhille being as it wear Amazed: and then shee said well as to this thing I am as innocent as the child unborne but seurly shee said what sine hath god found out in me unrepented of that he should Lay such an Affliction upon me In my old Age: and Acording to our best observation we could not decern that shee knewe what we came for before we tould her

Israel porter, Elizabeth porter

To the substance of what is Above we if caled there too: are ready to testifie on: oath Daniell Andrew Peter Cloys

(John Putnam, Sr. and Rebecca Putnam for Rebecca Nurse)

the testimony of John putnam: sen and rebecke his wife saith that our son in law John Fuller: and our daughter rebecke Shepard did both of them by #[a most] (a most violent death and did acting vere strangly at the time of ther death) farder saith that wee did Judg then that thay both diead of a malignant fever and has no suspiction of wichcraft of aney nether Can wee acues the prisner at the bar of any such thing


(Sarah Holton v. Rebecca Nurse)

The Deposition of [Sara Holton] Reluque of Benjamine Holton Deceased who testifieth and saith that about this time three years my deare and loveing usband Benjamine Holton Deceased: was as well as ever I knew him in my life: tell one saterday morning Rebekah Nurs who now stands charged for wicthcraft. came to our house and fell a railing at him because our piggs gott into hir field: tho our piggs were sufficiently yoaked and their fence was down in severall places: yett all we could say to hir could no ways passifie hir: but she continewed Railing and scolding agrat while together calling to hir son Benj. Nurs to goe and git a gun and kill our piggs and lett non of them goe out of the field: tho my poor Husband gave hir never amissbeholding word: and within ashort time affter this my poor Husband goeing out very early in the morning: as he was a coming. in againe he was taken with a strainge fitt in the entery being struck blind and stricken down two or three times so that when he came to himself he tould me he thought he should never have com into the house any more: and all summer affter he continewed in a languishing condition being much pained at his stomack and often struck blind: but about a fortnight before he dyed he was taken with strange and violent fitts acting much like out poor bewicthed parsons when we thought they would have dyed and the Doctor. that was with him could not find what his distemper was: and the day before he dyed he was very chearly but about midnight he was againe most violently sezed upon with violent fitts tell the next night about midnight he departed this life by a cruel death Jurat in Curia (Reverse) Sarah Holton

(Ann Putnam, Sr. v. Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Cloyce, Bridget Bisho, and Elizabeth Cary)

The Deposition of Ann putnam the wife of Thomas putnam who testifieth and saith that on the first day of June 1692. the Apperishtion of Rebekah Nurs did again fall upon me and almost choak me and she toald me that now she was come out of prision she had power to afflet me and that now she could for she tould me she had kiled benjamine Holton and John fuller and Rebekah Shepard: and she also toald me that she and her sister Cloyes and Ed: Bhishop wife of of Salem village had kiled young Jno putnams Child because yong Jno putnam had said that it was no wonder they were witches for their mother was so before them and because they could not aveng themselves on him they did kill his child: and immediatly they did appere to me: six children in winding sheets which caled me aunt: which did most greviously affright me: and they tould me that they ware my sisters Bakers children of Boston and that gooddy Nurs and Mistris Cary of Charletown and an old deaft woman att Boston had murthered them: and charged me to go and tell these things to the magestrats or elce they would tare me to peaces for their own blood did crie for vengance also their Appeared to me my own sister Bayley and three of hir children in winding sheets and tould me that gooddy Nurs had urthered them


(Rebecca Nurse Petition to the Court)

To the Honour'd Court of Oyer and Terminer now sitting In Salem this 28 of June An'o 1692 The humble petission of Rebecca Nurse of Salem Village humbley Sheweth That whareas sum Women did sarch your Petissioner At salem, as I did then conceive for Sum Supernaturall Marke, and then one of the s'd women which is known to be, the Moaste Ancient Skillfull prudent person of them all as to Any such Concerned: Did Express hirselfe to be: of A contrary opinion from the Rest And Did them Declare, that shee saw nothing In or Aboute yo'r Honors poare pettissioner but what Might Arise fron A naturall Cause: And I then Rendered the said persons asuficient knowne Reason as to My selfe of the Moveing Cause thereof: which was by Exceeding weakness: decending partly from an overture of Nature and difficult Exigences that hath befallen me In the times of my Travells: And therefore Yo'r pettissioner Humbley prays That you Honours would be pleased to Admitt of sum other women to Enquire Into this Great: Concerne, those that are Moast Grand wise and Skillful: Namely Ms: Higginson sen'r Ms Buckstone: Ms: Woodbery two of them being Midwives: Ms: Porter together with such others, as may be choasen, on that Account: Before I am Brought to my triall: All which I hoape yo'r Honours: will take Into yo'r prudent Consideration, And findit requisute soe to doe: for my Lyfe Lyes Now In yo'r Hands under God: And being Conscious of My owne Innocency - I Humbley Begg that I may have Liberty to Manifest it to the wourld partly by the Meanes Abovesaid. And yo'r Poare pettissioner shall Evermore pray as In duty Bound &c//

Rebecca Nurse

hir marke


(Declaration by Thomas Fisk, Juryman)

July 4, 1692. I Thomas Fisk, the Subscriber hereof, being one of them that were of the Jury the last week at Salem-Court, upon the Tryal of Rebecka Nurse, etc., being desired by some of the Relations why the Jury brought her in Guilty, after her Verdict not Guilty; I do hereby give my reasons to be as follows, viz. When the Verdict not Guilty was, the honoured Court was pleased to object against it, saying to them, that they think they let slip the words, which the Prisioner at the Bar spake against her self which were spoken in reply to Goodwife Hobbs and her Daughter, who had been faulty in setting their hands to the Devils Book, as they have confessed formerly; the words were "what, do these persons give in Evidence against me now, they used to come against us." After the honoured Court had manifested their dissatisfaction of the Verdict, several of the Jury declared themselves desirous to go out again, and thereupon the hounored Court gave leave; but when we came to consider the Case, I could not tell how to take her words, as evidence against her, till she had a further opportunity to put her Sense upon them, if she would take it; and then going into Court, I mentioned the aforesaid, which by one of the Court were affirmed to have been spoken by her, she being then at the Bar, but ade no reply, nor interpretation of them; whereupon these words were to me principal Evidence against her.

Thomas Fisk.

John Proctor

Proctor was originally from Ipswich, where he and his father before him had a farm of considerable value. In 1666 he moved to Salem, where he worked on a farm, part of which he later bought. Proctor seems to have been an enormous man, very large framed, with great force and energy. Although an upright man, he seems to have been rash in speech, judgment, and action. It was his unguarded tongue that would eventually lead to his death. From the start of the outbreak of witchcraft hysteria in Salem, Proctor had denounced the whole proceedings and the afflicted girls as a scam. When his wife was accused and questioned, he stood with her throughout the proceedings and staunchly defended her innocence. It was during her questioning that he, too, was named a witch. Proctor was the first male to be named as a witch in Salem. In addition, all of his children were accused. His wife Elizabeth, and Elizabeth's sister and sister-in-law, also were accused witches.  Although tried and condemned, Elizabeth avoided execution because she was pregnant.

Mary Warren, the twenty-year-old maid servant in the Proctor house--who herself would later be named as a witch--accused Proctor of practicing witchcraft. It is believed by some sources that when Mary first had fits Proctor, believing them to be fake, would beat her out of them. Even if it didn't actually beat her, he certainly threatened beatings and worse if she didn't stop the fits. It was this type of outspoken criticism of the afflicted that caused Proctor to be accused.

Proctor was tried on August 5 and hanged on the 19th. While in prison on July 23, Proctor wrote a letter to the clergy of Boston, who were known to be uneasy with the witchcraft proceedings. In his letter he asked them to intervene to either have the trials moved to Boston or have new judges appointed. After the trial and execution of Rebecca Nurse, the prospects of those still in prison waiting trial were grim. If a person with a reputation as untarnished as hers could be executed, there was little hope for any of the other accused, which is why Proctor made his request. With the present judges, who were already convinced of guilt, the trial would just be a formality. In response to Proctor's letter, in which he describes certain torture that was used to elicit confessions, eight ministers, including Increase Mather, met at Cambridge on August 1. Little is known about this meeting, except that when they had emerged, they had drastically changed their position on spectral evidence. The ministers decided in the meeting that the Devil could take on the form of innocent people. Unfortunately for Proctor, their decision would not have widespread impact until after his execution.

Proctor pleaded at his execution for a little respite of time. He claimed he was not fit to die. His plea was, of course, unsuccessful. In seventeenth-century society, it would not have been uncommon for a man so violently tempered as Proctor to feel that he had not yet made peace with his fellow man or his God. In addition, it is thought that he died inadequately reconciled to his wife, since he left her out of the will that he drew up in prison. Proctor's family was given 150 pounds in 1711 for his execution and his wife's imprisonment.

Ann Putnam Jr.

Ann Putnam Jr. was the eldest child of Thomas and Ann Putnam. She was born in 1680. Ann was intelligent, well educated, and had a quick wit.  At the time of the outbreak of witchcraft accusations, Ann was 12 years old. She was a close friend of several of the other afflicted girls. Mercy Lewis, 17, was a servant in the Putnam house, and Mary Walcott, 17, who was also afflicted, was perhaps Ann's best friend. Ann, Mary, and Mercy were among the first villagers outside of the Parris household to be afflicted.

Ann and six other young girls had listened as Tituba, Parris's Indian servant woman, told tales of voodoo and other supernatural events in her native Barbados. The girls also engaged in fortune telling--concerning, for example, matters such as what trade their sweethearts might have. During one fortune telling episode, Ann reported seeing a specter in the likeness of a coffin. After this incident, Ann, Betty Parris, and Abigail Williams (the niece and home resident of Parris) began to display strange symptoms. They complained of pain, would speak in gibberish, became contorted into strange positions, and would crawl under chairs and tables.

After Betty Parris was sent away, Ann and Abigail became the most active--as well as the youngest--of the accusers. Ann claimed to have been afflicted by sixty-two people. She testified against several in court and offered many affidavits. Her father, Thomas Putnam, was the chief filer of complaints in the village, and maintained complete control over the actions of the two afflicted girls living in his house. Most of the afflicted and the accusers were in some way related to the Putnam family. Ann Putnam Sr., Ann's mother, would also become afflicted at times, and was in court almost as much as her daughter and servant. The mother and daughter Ann were a particularly formidable pair of actors. People from miles around trooped into the courtroom to watch their performances.

In 1706, Ann offered a public apology for her participation in the witch trials at Salem. She stood in church while her apology was read: "I desire to be humbled before God. It was a great delusion of Satan that deceived me in that sad time. I did not do it out of anger, malice, or ill-will." Ann was the only one of the afflicted girls to make such an apology. There is some speculation that Ann was as much a victim as those she accused. She may have been manipulated by her parents and elders to achieve their ends.

In 1699, both of Ann's parents died within two weeks of each other. Ann, 19, was left to raise her nine orphaned brothers and sisters, ranging in age from 7 months to 18 years. Ann never married. She devoted her life to raising her siblings. She died in 1716 at the age of 37.

John Hathorne

John Hathorne was born on August 5 1641 in Salem to William Hathorne and Anne Smith. Hathorne, the son of a successful farmer, became a noted Salem merchant and a politician. Hathorne's political skills won him a position as justice of the peace and county judge. A very religious man, Hathorne served on a committee to find a replacement for Salem minister George Burroughs in 1686. He later sentenced Burroughs to death in the 1692 witch trials. Hathorne believed the devil could use witches to undermine the purpose of the church and do harm to people. Because of this belief, Hathorne and another justice of the peace, Jonathan Corwin, took very seriously complaints about suspected witches. Both immediately issued warrants for Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba when witchcraft accusations were made against them. As justices of the peace, Hathorne and Corwin conducted initial examinations of the suspected witches. Hathorne often appeared to act more as a prosecutor than an impartial inquisitioner. Consider this exchange during the Bridget Bishop examination:

Hathorne: How do you know that you are not a witch?

Bishop: I do not know what you say . . . I know nothing of it.

Hathorne: Why look you, you are taken now in a flat lye.

Hathorne died on May 10, 1717 in Salem. Many years later, Hathorne's great-great grandson, author Nathaniel Hawthorne, added a "w" in his name, most likely to distance himself from Hathorne because of the role he played in the Salem trials.

Samuel Sewall

Samuel Sewall was born at Bishop Stoke, Hampshire, England on March 28, 1652. In 1661, Sewall came with his family to settle in Newbury, Mass. Ten years later he graduated from Harvard. Sewall married Hannah Hull, the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in the colony, in 1676 and began a career as a merchant. In 1681, Sewall was appointed by the General Council to run the printing press. Sewall used his position to publish articles of his own and achieve greater notoriety. From 1691 to 1725 Sewall served on the Governor's Council.

Governor Phips appointed Sewall to the Court of Oyer and Terminer on May 27, 1692. Sewell's diary entries provide important information about the Salem witch trials. The diary entries reveal little personal reservations or remorse concerning his own role in the conduct of the trials. In December 1696, however, Sewall wrote a proclamation for a day of fast and penance and reparation by the government for the sins of the witchcraft trials. Sewall publicly apologized for his role in the trials.  Each year after 1697 Sewall set aside a day in which he fasted and prayed for forgiveness for his sins in the Salem trials.

Though his role in the Salem trials brought Sewall infamy, he continued to receive notoriety for his 1700 publication of The Selling of Joseph. Considered the first anti-slavery piece published in the colonies, The Selling of Joseph presents religious arguments against slavery. Countering the prevailing social theory of the time, Sewall argues all men are created equal, using examples to prove his argument. Never one to adhere to prevailing social norms, Sewall adamantly opposed wearing then-fashionable white powder wigs and never conceded this position.

Sewall died on January 1, 1730 at his Boston home.


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.

THE CRUCIBLE by Arthur Miller (1952)

In 1953, Arthur Miller's play "The Crucible" ran on Broadway at the Martin Beck. Despite being a box office success and acclaimed by critics and audiences alike, it was considered second-best to his prior "Death of a Salesman." As Brook Atkinson for the New York Times reported the day after the opening, "[T]he theme does not develop with the simple eloquence of 'Death of a Salesman.'"

Although the events of the play are based on the events that took place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, Miller was liberal in his fictionalization of those events. For example, many of the accusations of witchcraft in the play are driven by the affair between farmer, husband, and father John Proctor (Arthur Kennedy), and the Minister's teenage niece Abigail Williams (Madeleine Sherwood); however, in real life Williams was probably about eleven at the time of the accusations and Proctor was over sixty, which makes it most unlikely that there was ever any such relationship. Miller himself said, "The play is not reportage of any kind .... [n]obody can start to write a tragedy and hope to make it reportage .... what I was doing was writing a fictional story about an important theme."

The "important theme" that Miller was writing about was clear to many observers in 1953 at the play's opening. It was written in response to Senator McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee's crusade against supposed communist sympathizers. Despite the obvious political criticisms contained within the play, most critics felt that "The Crucible" was "a self contained play about a terrible period in American history."

The Crucible (The Movie)

Over twenty years after the opening of the play, the eighty-one-year-old Miller wrote the screenplay for the production of a movie version of "The Crucible." As was the play, the movie is a fictionalized version of the events of Salem in 1692. Additionally, the movie was been changed from the play in some minor respects. For example, the movie opens with a scene of the town girls sneaking into the woods and participating is a ritualistic dance with the slave woman Tituba--until they are all caught by the minister. In the play this scene was referred to, but not performed. Another change is that the Slave woman Tituba is portrayed as black, when she was actually an Indian.

Although hailed by some, the movie was not as well received as was the play. One critic stated, "This filmic redux of Miller's theatrical parable is somewhat out of place on the modern landscape. What was no doubt a powerful and emotive effort in the 1950s, when it was written as a scathing critique of Senator McCarthy's crusade against supposed communist sympathizers, falls flat in the '90s." Even the star-studded cast was not enough to save the film for some. "Winona Ryder and Daniel Day-Lewis star in this two-hour yelling match between good and evil. Not recommended for those with a low tolerance for '50s-style misogyny and moralistic posturing." Not all were so harsh. Another reviewer stated, "With a head on its shoulders and the rawest emotions in its craw, Miller's stage hit "The Crucible" has become a cinematic grabber for grown-ups (**** out of four)."

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