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History Collection 1

Salem Witch Trials
By Joan Rash Pappa

Mary Esty, 7th Great-Grandmother of Joan Pappa from maternal side of family.

Sometime during the 1630s, William and Joanna Blessing Towne, along with the six children they had at that time, joined many of their countrymen in an arduous journey across the Atlantic to Salem, Essex County, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The people were “Puritans” although they wouldn’t have called themselves that. They referred to themselves as “The People of God”. The term “Puritan”, like “Quaker”, was originally one of reproach not accepted until nearly the close of the seventeenth century by the people to whom it was applied.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded by non-conformists who claimed they were not “separatists” like the Pilgrims who had settled in Plymouth ten years earlier. They were, nevertheless, dissatisfied with the state of religion, politics and morals in their native land. This was particularly true of the clergymen who had been deprived of their livings because of their non-conformity. They were trying an experiment in Christian living and attempting to establish a City of God in the wilderness.

It’s impossible for us who, if we are religious-minded at all, tend to confine our religion to a system of ethics and morals, and go to church on Sundays, to realize what religion meant to the men and women of the seventeenth century. Under the statutes of Elizabeth everyone was forced to go to church; they could think what they wanted to but must conform in public worship. By the time of Charles I (1625-1649), men and women all over England found themselves hauled before the justices for not attending church and fined a shilling for each time they had missed. This was something that everyone could understand.

It’s a mistake to think of the mass exodus of English families to America during the 1630s in purely religious terms. People of the more humble status, like the Townes, were probably not deeply interested in theological hair-splitting. As a result of the ever-increasing demand on the forests of England and the depletion of the woodlands, some of the poor were unable even to afford firewood for heating and cooking and were forced to survive on a diet of bread and cheese. The prospect of owning good freehold property, to men who would never have been able to own land in England, was a tremendous lure. Those who contributed to the general stock of the Massachusetts Bay Company were to receive land at the rate of 200 acres for each fifty pounds invested. Those who came over at their own expense were allotted fifty acres for each member of the family, including servants. They were participating in a land grab of global scale.

The mass migration of the 1630s came to an abrupt end in 1640 when the political situation changed in England with the beginning of their civil war and the Puritan party saw that reform was possible at home. Many New England settlers returned to England at this time. With the mass migration of the 1630s reduced to a mere trickle, the New Englanders suffered from hard times. They had depended on the constant influx of new settlers to bring many items with them that they were unable to manufacture themselves. In exchange for these items, they could sell local products gleaned from husbandry and fishing and wood manufacture. When the local merchants could no longer depend on immigrating Englishmen to buy their products, they were forced to go farther afield in search of markets.

Mary Towne, like all young girls of her time, was taught the arts pertaining to her calling, that of the housewife. These were multiple, of the utmost importance to the survival of the family, and all were made doubly hard by the pioneer conditions. One aspect of her early training is worthy of discussion.

The question of literacy was closely tied in with the changing status of women. Of all the Towne brothers and sisters, only Jacob could write. Reading, however, was another matter. In 1641, Massachusetts passed an act that put the responsibility for elementary education on the heads of families. Parents and masters of indentured servants were required to teach their children and servants “to read and understand the principles of religion and the capital laws of the country.” They wanted to be sure their children didn’t grow up ignorant and idle. Wasting time was a deadly sin.

In another act of 1647, every town of fifty families or more was ordered to appoint a common schoolmaster to teach all children to read and write. His wages were to be paid by the parents in that town. However, most parents needed their children to help with the chores and therefore did not insist that they attend school.

While William Towne and his sons were clearing land, building their houses and helping to build the meetinghouse where all the communal doings of the town took place, Mary and her mother and younger sister, Sarah, were involved in getting settled in the frontier town.

Mary Towne married Isaac Esty about 1655. It was the custom for a newly married couple to set up housekeeping on their own and Mary and Isaac had their own place by 1661. They probably started housekeeping in what was known as a “one-room” house. This was a one-bay, story-and-a-half structure, the frames put together of heavy oak, with the walls of clapboards. The very earliest houses had roofs of thatch, but as this proved to be a fire hazard and there was no shortage of timber, thatch was soon replaced by shingles or boards. The windows were few and small in size in order to conserve heat, and by the 1660s almost certainly contained glass in small leaded panes. Earlier they would have been composed of oiled paper.

The dimensions of this single bay were probably in the neighborhood of 16 X 21 feet. Part of one end of this space may have been portioned off to form what was called the “inner” or “borning” room. The main body of the house was called the “hall”, and there, in this cramped, dark space, most of the activities of the family took place. The most important feature of the house was the chimney with its cavernous hearth used for both heating and cooking. The shortage of iron in the early years meant that the long lintel of the fireplace had to be made of wood that sometimes caught fire. When that happened, the whole house might catch fire, or the collapse of the lintel might result in the over-flowing of the boiling contents of pots and kettles.

Due to the restricted space of the hall, most of the furnishings had to be collapsible. Boards or trestles that formed the dining table and benches could be stored against the walls. There may have been one chair for the master of the house. As time went on, a leanto was usually built against the back of the house and this provided more space for storage and for additional sleeping quarters. Sometimes there would be a bed in the hall itself. The loft above was often called the “chamber”.

One thing is certain. There was little room for privacy in these early houses, and as a result it was of the utmost importance that quarrelling within the household be kept to a minimum.

Unfortunately, there are no portraits of the common people of the period, those that we do have are of people of higher social status. From the inventories of the time we can gather what their clothes were like. Let’s forget the notion that these people were dressed mainly in black or gray and white. The ministers did, of course, wear black, and black was perhaps worn on the Sabbath, but for daily wear there was a broad spectrum of colors with russet being the most common. Articles of clothing were often left to heirs, some items descending for two to three generations. This indicated the value put on them. Just think of the amount of labor going into making garments of homespun cloth, the rarity of imported cloth, and the need for such precious items to endure.

The women’s dresses consisted of a skirt, often open at the front to reveal an underskirt, a bodice, and a pair of sleeves tied into the armholes and covered by shoulder pieces. As the century progressed, clothing became more elaborate. The woman invariably wore a cap to cover her hair, it being considered immodest to go about bareheaded.

The work of the women of the common class was usually restricted to caring for their own households. Any further industry such as managing an inn or tavern, or keeping a shop, could be carried on within the home. Servants were not hired to give the housewife relief from her duties, but simply because there was too much for her to do.

Mary’s position in relation to her husband was definitely one of subservience. No women were allowed to take part in public life. Women were to be modest and temperate, particularly toward her husband, showing no signs of rage, passion or violence. The subservience of woman to her master, her husband, was considered of prime importance in maintaining authority.

Women were never closer to death than when they were giving birth. And yet, in the seventeenth century, women were expected to be constantly pregnant until menopause made it impossible. When Mary was twenty-two years old, she had her first child. She continued to bear ten children, giving birth to the last when she was forty-four. All of these children, with the exception of one that died in infancy, lived to maturity.

For many years there had been a battle over the Topsfield-Salem boundary line. Mary and Isaac had moved south of the river and they came into conflict with the Putnams of Salem Village who were large landholders. Land boundaries were uncertain and these families were constantly quarreling over where these boundaries lay. Finally, in 1687, having failed to settle their differences, Isaac Esty and the sons of the late Edmund Towne, brought suit against the Putnams. The court decided in favor of the Townes and Estys, thus making the Putnam faction even more bitter.

The Putnams played a leading role as accusers of Rebecca Nurse, the first of the Towne sisters to be accused of witchcraft.

Rebecca was the eldest of the six Towne children born in England, and brought to this country by Joanna and William Towne. Mary, the youngest, was but a small child at the time. Rebecca, who was born in 1621, was old enough, when she crossed the Atlantic in the 1630s, to remember her old home well. She must have experienced the extreme hardship of the ocean crossing and that of settling in wilderness conditions. Many of the first settlers lived in sod houses or “English wigwams”, mere huts and hovels designed to keep the rain out, before men were able to build proper wood dwellings in the English style.

Rebecca Nurse was, perhaps, the best known of the victims of the 1692 witchcraft hangings. Her husband, Francis Nurse, appeared on the scene in Salem in 1640 when he was described as a “youth” (presumably an indentured servant). He was taken to court for stealing food and suspicion of breaking into a house. In the years that followed, he was involved in lawsuits over defamation, trespass and impounding cows, and slander. He appears to have been a lively fellow!

He and Rebecca Towne were married in 1644, when he was described as a traymaker. What he really did was make wooden plates and dishes, bowls and other containers. He combined these activities with farming. He and Rebecca were equally poor. They lived in Salem for forty years and brought up their eight children there. He was frequently mentioned as a juryman, an umpire to settle disputes, or as being on a committee to determine boundaries. He was not a highly educated person in the terms of the time, but his peculiar mark appears on document after document, and he was able to write out his signature in a good round hand. He was also able to read fluently. He was not a member of the church in Salem, but Rebecca was. This was not at all unusual. Women were often accepted into the church whereas their husbands were not.

When the Nurses moved to Salem Village in 1678, Rebecca did not ask to be dismissed from her original parish in the Town and installed as a member in the newly forming parish of the Village. Although still a member of Salem Town church, she regularly attended services at the meetinghouse in the Village. She perhaps made her worst mistake there, and could be described as having fallen between too stools. As for Francis, although only a householder and not a member, he was, nevertheless, active in church matters.

In January of 1692, spirits of the invisible world filled the people of Salem Village with fears of an attack. It has often been assumed that the fear of the evil eye started in Salem Village in the home of the Reverend Samuel Parris. Yet it appears that not only was his household attacked by supernatural visitations, but also that another household probably suffered the same fate – maybe even simultaneously. This was the home of his closest supporter, Thomas Putnam and his wife Ann.

In the beginning, only three little girls were affected. In Samuel Parris’s household were his nine-year old daughter, Betty, and his niece, Abigail Williams; and in the Putnam household there was twelve-year old Ann. Shortly afterwards a seventeen-year-old girl was affected. Her name was Elizabeth Hubbard and she was living in the home of the local physician, Dr. Griggs, and was his wife’s niece.

Many explanations have been proposed for the origins of the “afflictions”. Marion Starkey, in her book The Devil in Massachusetts has suggested that Tituba, the Carib from Barbados, may have talked voodoo lore to the two young Parris children and to other neighborhood girls. Tituba and her husband, John Indian, were servants that the Rev. Parris had brought with him when he arrived from Barbados. Others have suggested the same thing. However, it seems unlikely that there was a circle of young girls meeting together in the Parris kitchen, since the distances that they would have had to travel to get there were too great, especially in winter weather.

Whatever the cause may have been, Samuel Parris took steps in the usual way when he saw the two girls in his family acting in a bizarre fashion. He held several private fasts and prayer sessions, and he called for help from more than one physician. One of these was Dr. Griggs, whose niece, Betty Hubbard, was one of the first afflicted.

Griggs was unable to diagnose the cause of the girls’ behavior. They just did not respond to his treatments. The strength of the “fits”, coupled with the fact that in the interim between such fits, the girls seemed normal and remembered little of what they had gone through, seemed to him to rule out epilepsy or some other “natural” cause. Dr. Griggs fell back on the usual recourse of medical men of his time when faced with mental illness. He said that he suspected that the “evil hand” was upon them – in other words, witchcraft. If this were so, the problem was not medical at all but legal, since witchcraft was a crime. Moreover, it was a crime punishable by death.

Some of the girls set up such a spectacle in public meetings on Sunday that the divine service became a travesty of itself. Faced with such an impossible situation, the ministers decided to force them to name their tormentors. The witches must be brought to justice. They came, perhaps reluctantly, to this decision, for by now a truly alarming thing was happening: the malady was spreading.

In response to some serious adult questioning, three suspects were finally named: Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba. The troubled village finally resorted to law. On February 29, 1692, some yeomen of Salem Village in the County of Essex personally appeared before the local magistrates, John Hathorne and Jonathon Corwin to file formal complaints against the three accused.

These local magistrates conducted a majority of the pre-trial examinations, many of them held in Salem Village. John Hathorne was the chief interrogator. In accordance with English custom, if the evidence proved sufficiently convincing to them, the words “billa vera”, or true bill, were written on the documents that would later be passed on to the court in Boston, when it was finally established in June. If the testimony proved inadequate to their minds, “ignoramus”, literally “we do not know” was written on the bill. Only the final court was qualified to pass judgement on those suspected of witchcraft. Until this court was established, there was no body legally qualified to try capital cases. For this reason, as more and more persons were charged with witchcraft, the jails became increasingly overcrowded.

Hathorne and Corwin entered the village escorted by the marshal, constables and their aides. The magistrates took seats in front of the pulpit, facing the assembly, seated behind a long table. The crowd was large, filling the meetinghouse to over-flowing. They were filled with both fear and curiosity.

The villagers, for a time, forgot their differences. They were temporarily united by a common threat, something they all shared and hated - an attack by the devil and his assistants, the witches.

In all of the examinations of suspected witches it was assumed that they had made contact with the devil. Particularly after Tituba’s confession about “the tall man of Boston” who had a book that she was to sign, since great emphasis was put upon the witches’ book. Each witch was supposed to have her own book with which she tempted other mortals to sign. Once having signed, a person became a “covenanting witch” – one who had made a covenant with the devil.

The first three examinations took place over the space of several days. In his own handwriting, John Hathorne wrote that Tituba charged Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne with witchcraft on March 1st, and that all three were examined separately on that day, again on March 3rd and March 5th. Hathorne also stated that, on March 1st that in order to examine the three women further they were sent to the county of Essex. This meant that day-by-day these women were put in a cart and taken to and from the Essex County jails, one of which was in Ipswich, at least ten miles from Salem. It is obvious that the transporting of these women back and forth was a terrible hardship for them. On March 7th, all three were sent to their Majesty’s jail keeper in Boston. There, Sarah Osborne soon died, the victim of an unheated jail cell, bad food and bad air. After a while, Sarah Good was delivered of a child who also died.

With the first batch of witches jailed, the Village breathed more easily, but only for a short time. The magistrates had done their duty, and the culprits were sixteen miles away. Final judgement could not be executed until a properly constituted court was set up in Boston. The villagers confidently expressed the opinion that the witchcraft had been nipped in the bud. However, no one could have foreseen the escalation that was about the take place. The fragile unity among the villagers would also be fractured with accusations directed against the next two suspects.

Tituba had told stories, not only of the “tall man of Boston” but stories of other witches who lived there. The devil had also told Tituba that not all of these other witches lived in Boston but that there were some in Salem Village. She mentioned that there were two more in company with the devil in the immediate vicinity. She would not reveal their names as she claimed she was blinded. So, the hunt was on for the two witches in or around Salem Village.

The villagers did not have to hunt for long because the names of both came from the same source. That source was the household of Thomas and Ann Putnam, parents of young Ann Putnam. Their names were Martha Corey and Rebecca Towne Nurse.

With almost everyone convinced of the existence of a diabolic cult, events took on a nightmare quality. People were allowed by law, and even encouraged, to testify against their nearest and dearest: husband against wife, children against parents and so on. Also the witnesses were required by law to appear at the examinations whether they wished to or not.

Rebecca was a respectable grandmother, seventy-one years old in 1692. She had brought up eight children. She appeared to have no dark secrets to her past, no suspected fornication before marriage. She was on good terms with her husband. He had not led a scandalous life, unless it was some of his sharp dealings in acquiring his property. Unlike the husbands of the previous suspects, all of whom had, in one way or another, failed to defend their wives, Rebecca’s husband was faithful and loyal throughout. He and his sons and sons-in-law had all been active in parish activities ever since settling in Salem Village some fourteen years before. Rebecca herself had only one thing in common with those already accused. She was a woman. By the end of March, no man had yet been accused, although people were on the lookout for a man, for Tituba had described such a person.

On March 23rd a warrant was issued for the arrest of Rebecca Nurse on the complaint of Edward and Jonathon Putnam. This stated that she had committed “sundry acts of witchcraft and having thereby done much hurt and injury to the bodies of Ann Putnam, wife of Thomas Putnam of Salem Village, Anna Putnam, the daughter of said Thomas Putnam, and Abigail Williams.”

On the following day, March 24th, Rebecca was brought before the magistrates. Mr. Hathorne was, as before, the examiner. Mary Walcott, Mercy Lewis, Ann Putnam, young Ann Putnam, Abigail Williams and Elizabeth Hubbard all accused Rebecca to her face of having hurt them.

When asked, Rebecca denied that she hurt the children or anyone else, ever. Rebecca’s remark that she was innocent because she had not been able to get out for eight or nine days seems strongly to indicate that she knew nothing of witchcraft. If she had, she would have known that a witch could perform her evil deeds at a distance. As she had been ill, and confined to bed, she had not been present at the earlier examinations.

 

On April 21st, Mary Esty, Rebecca’s sister, was arrested along with seven other people. The complainants were Thomas Putnam and John Buxton of Salem Village, and the charge was for “high suspicion of sundry acts of witchcraft…committed by them lately upon the bodies of Ann Putnam and Mercy Lewis and Mary Walcott.

Mary Esty was almost certain to be accused as both her sisters were already in jail, and her mother was gossiped about as being a witch. Witchcraft supposedly ran in families. Mary’s examination date was April 22nd. As with the other accused, the young girls were all present and Hathorne was the interrogator as usual. Hathorne seemed uncertain about the girls’ identification of Mary. He asked them twice whether they were certain that she was the woman. In both cases it was young Ann Putnam who identified her. It had been Ann’s mother who had testified so strongly against Mary’s sister, Rebecca.

We should also take note of the mimicry of the supposed witch by the “tormented”. Mary could not clench her hands together or bow her head without their acting out this mimicry in chorus. There was an implication behind this, which occurred throughout the examinations from the very beginning. The implication was that the witch had no need of puppets or dolls; that she was using her own body as a puppet, and acting her dreadful witchcraft there in front of the whole court.

It is unlikely that any of the younger accusers knew Mary Esty. But, they had probably heard their parents discussing the Estys in relation to the boundary disputes. Mary came from a different town and went regularly to a different church. The meetinghouse was the likeliest place for women and girls to see each other.

Mary was released from prison on May 18th, a lovely time in New England when all danger of winter storms is passed. Perhaps Mary felt secure that her release would be permanent. Mary breathed easily but not for long. Although there is no direct evidence concerning the reason for Mary’s release, perhaps the magistrates felt that they were not “certain that this was the woman” who had been said to torment the children. Only two days later Mary was again arrested. The evidence is clear that her re-arrest was due to the “evidence” of one girl, Mercy Lewis, who had been a servant at Thomas and Ann Putnam’s house.

Several people testified they had seen Mercy Lewis in a very dreadful and solemn condition on May 20th. Elizabeth Hubbard was brought in to see if she could discover what was afflicting Mercy. These two girls fell into fits, by turn, one being well while the other was ill. Each of them complained that Mary Esty tortured them. She supposedly threatened Mercy with a winding sheet and afterwards with a coffin if Mercy would not sign her book. Young Ann Putnam said under oath that on May 23rd Mary Esty had also tormented her, choking and pinching her.

Mary Esty was once again taken away “in irons”. For some reason the tormented did not feel safe against the supposed malice of the witches unless they were manacled, arms and legs, even though it was the witch’s apparition that was doing the damage. Mary was sent to Boston in May to join her sisters, Rebecca Nurse and Sarah Cloyce. She remained there for three weeks during which time her husband, Isaac, took her food and supplies from Topsfield. She was later taken to prison in Salem and from there to prison in Ipswich.

By August, the court that had been set up with the express purpose of clearing the already over-crowded jails of malefactors accused of witchcraft, did not seem to be fulfilling its purpose. Seventeenth century prisons were not set up as our prisons are. Not only were the conditions extremely bad, but also individuals must pay for their imprisonment. This meant extreme financial hardship for the poor.

In September of 1692, the court in Boston condemned fourteen persons. Of these, nine were executed.

The court had started out in a cautious way. In June it had executed one person; in July five more; in August condemned six and executed five; in September the numbers condemned had doubled since the first hanging. Undoubtedly the increasing number of confessors and the consequent increase in those afflicted helped to step up the court’s activities.

Then, too, the court was impressed by the specificity of some of the confessors’ statements. For example, two women, both confessors, said that there were three hundred and five witches in the country. A male confessor mentioned the number three hundred and seven. This sort of internal corroboration amongst the confessors was undoubtedly very convincing to a court sure that it was uncovering a vast witch plot.

The court may have also been aware of currents operating against its methods. For that reason the court may have felt a special urgency to deal with those original malefactors. The executions of September seem to indicate that this objective had never been lost sight of and that it was nearing its fruition.

We may also speculate that the Court was becoming exhausted. It met almost every day during the last of August and through September until the final hangings on the 22nd. John Hathorne, in particular, must have been one of the most exhausted. He had started his examinations of the accused back on March 1st. Although his name is not mentioned specifically as the interrogator in the later examinations, he probably filled that function, as he was present at so many of them. It is hard to believe that he, an honest, upright merchant and public servant, could have devoted so many months of his life to the cause of discovering witches unless he were thoroughly convinced of their built. As for his bullying tactics, however harsh they may appear to us, we must remember that “cross and swift questions” were one of the means specifically recommended to bring the witches “into confusion and likely to bring them into confession too”.

The most spectacular death of those executed in September of 1692 was that of Giles Corey. Giles was about eighty years old at the time and was put to death by officers of the law who tied him to the ground in a prone position and then placed heavy stones on his body, adding them until he was dead. This was in strict accord with an ancient British law that was the punishment for refusing to plead to an indictment.

Various reasons have been given for Giles’ having to undergo this particularly horrible death. One is that he may have wished to save his considerable land holdings that would have been forfeited to the King had he stood his trial. He executed a deed in Ipswich jail conveying his property to his sons-in-law who had stood by him during his troubles. Certainly the impact of his standing resolutely silent was one of defiance to the Court and its methods.

From the very outset of the witch-hunt, the magistrates were on the tract of a widespread conspiracy of witches. The magistrates sitting on the final court, empowered to pronounce the death sentence, continued this search.

Near relatives, including the husbands and children of suspects were liable to be suspected. And since there was assumed to be a diabolic organization, the judges were on the lookout for “higher-ups” in the organization.

Although the crime of witchcraft was considered a heinous one, it was difficult, almost impossible, to detect. Therefore the magistrates were searching for easily demonstrable facts about the suspects. Signs of unusual strength, claims of ability to read others’ thought, and unusual swiftness in getting from one place to another, as for example, on poles, have shown to be suspect activities on the part of the accused. Another sign would be that of an animal or bird given to the suspect by the devil at the time of that suspect’s conversion to evil deeds; also the puppets or effigies that represented the victims of the witch’s malice.

Repeatedly the judges sought to show that the alleged witch was very angry, and had often been seen to quarrel with the victim. The victim would be threatened, following which some accident would happen to the victim’s animals, or to members of his or her household.

Very much in evidence at the trials was the “curing of the afflicted, which was affected by their touching the alleged witch. When the hand of the accused was brought into contact with the victim, the diabolic spirit, which had entered and “possessed” the body of the afflicted supposedly left and re-entered the body of the witch and the victim was temporarily cured.

Confession in witchcraft trials here, as in England, was one of the few absolute proofs of guilt. If a person confessed, she became a powerful witness against others. Public confession was a stipulated part of the punishment. It did not mean that the suspect would necessarily be saved from execution, but by confessing and repenting of her sins, the witch would be saved from the eternal torments of hell fire. Although torture was not officially condoned either in England or New England, various methods were used to extort confessions. The threat of imprisonment and death, sharp and swift questioning and the keeping of the suspects awake for several nights were all proved to be highly successful techniques.

Actually, there was no real need for the accused to admit guilt. Some of the “proofs” which were accepted as evidence of guilt were: relationship to a proven witch; accusation by another witch; and the testimony of two witnesses who claimed to have seen the accused make a pact with the devil. The strongest presumption of guilt was the opinion of neighbors who drew a link between the witch’s supposed malice and an observed illness. Personal tensions were closely interwoven with accusations or presumptions of guilt.

The most important evidence, as is immediately evident from reading the documents, was based on specters – shapes or apparitions of the accused witch – performing her (and sometimes his) deeds. These specters were highly visible to the afflicted and to their companions in affliction. The suffering of the afflicted from Salem Village, due to these specters, was at the very heart of the horrible witchcraft scare.

Mary Esty had been is prison ever since May 20th and had been repeatedly on the stand since that date. Her final trial was in September and she was condemned on September 9th.

The Court continued to sit and try more cases and Mary had time to prepare herself for death and accept her fate. It was during this time that she wrote her famous petition. She addressed the Court and told them, again, that she was innocent. She told them that they were going about the trials in the wrong way and asked that they let the Lord guide them in the right way. She knew that many had confessed only in an effort to save their lives and pleaded that there be no more executions of innocent people.

The hanging itself was a fearful form of slow strangulation. The victim had the rope put around her neck while standing on a cart under the gallows; the cart then drove off leaving the victim dangling; there was no drop; and the victim’s friends would pull at her feet to hasten the death.

Perhaps the Lord did answer Mary’s prayer that no more innocent blood be shed. For she was the last of the little band of eight who climbed up the ladder to their death on September 22, 1692, on Gallows Hill in Salem. There were no more executions for witchcraft in New England after her death.

 

 

 

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