A Brief Summary of the Documents. Click on the title to access the text.
• In this document, Cotton Mather captured effectively the ways in which missionary
efforts by non-Puritans and unwelcome initiatives by imperial officials were viewed not
only as attacks on New England, but as part of a broader demonic assault.
• Hale, the minister at nearby Beverly, Massachusetts, attended many of the witch trials,
gave testimony against three of the accused women, and devoted many hours to praying
in prison with those awaiting trial or execution. He later wrote a book, published in 1702,
about the challenges of prosecuting invisible crimes in a court of law. Hale included in
that book a narrative of the events in early 1692.
• Sarah Good, one of the first three individuals to be accused, was hanged on July 19,
1692. Good’s first husband was a former indentured servant who died a few years after
they married and left Sarah nothing but his debts; her second husband, William Good,
was a laborer. William and Sarah ended up homeless, destitute, and reliant upon local
residents for food and shelter. As the depositions show, Good had a reputation for
speaking her mind, holding grudges, and muttering curses under her breath.
• Bridget Bishop was the first of the accused to be tried, on June 2. She was convicted and
hanged on June 10. Bishop was in several respects a likely witch. She was self-confident
and sometimes argumentative, qualities considered inappropriate in a woman. She also
had been accused of witchcraft before – in 1680, shortly after the death of her second
husband. The court clearly remembered. Plus, some of Bishops neighbors believed that
she been using image magic against her enemies, as in: using small dolls hidden in her
cellar with pins stuck in them.
• Thomas Brattle, a Boston merchant, was one of the strongest critics of the witch court.
He was openly hostile and sarcastic in his remarks about the judges and those who
supported their efforts. Among his many allegations, he claimed that the court had used
physical torture as well as psychological pressure to extract confessions. Brattle poured
scorn on the magistrates’ use of current scientific theories to validate the touch test and
their eagerness to find unusual marks or lumps on the bodies of the accused; according to
the magistrates, such marks might be teats from which demonic familiars fed on the
blood of the accused. He also noted a basic discrepancy between the wording of the
indictments and much of the evidence presented in court.