The Salem Witch Trials Reader
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Against the backdrop of a Puritan theocracy threatened by change, in a population terrified not only of eternal damnation but of the earthly dangers of Indian massacres and recurrent smallpox epidemics, a small group of girls denounces a black slave and others as worshipers of Satan. Within two years, twenty men and women are hanged or pressed to death and over a hundred others imprisoned and impoverished. In The Salem Witch Trials Reader, Frances Hill provides and astutely comments upon the actual documents from the trial--examinations of suspected witches, eyewitness accounts of "Satanic influence," as well as the testimony of those who retained their reason and defied the madness. Always drawing on firsthand documents, she illustrates the historical background to the witchhunt and shows how the trials have been represented, and sometimes distorted, by historians--and how they have fired the imaginations of poets, playwrights, and novelists. For those fascinated by the Salem witch trials, this is compelling reading and the sourcebook.
the barn. Then the said Andrews did use the pipe as he said before he would, and the pipe of tobacco did blaze and burn blue. [Gaseous nitrogenous waste does burn with a blue color.] Then I said to my brother Andrews, “You shall try no more; it is not lawful.” He said, “I will try again once more,” which he did. And then there arose a blaze from the pipe of tobacco which seemed to me to cover the buttocks of the said mare. The blaze went upward towards the roof of the barn and in the roof of the
heart of stone to have seen their agonies. Skilful physicians were consulted for their help, and particularly our worthy and prudent friend Dr. Thomas Oakes, who found himself so affronted [nonplussed] by the distempers of the children, that he concluded nothing but an hellish witchcraft could be the original [origin] of these maladies. And that which yet more confirmed such apprehension was, that for one good while, the children were tormented just in the same part of their bodies all at the
the general cry, to purge the land from witchcraft; nor did it fail to be whispered, that there was an invidious acrimony in the zeal with which he had sought the condemnation of Matthew Maule. It was well known that the victim had recognized the bitterness of personal enmity in his persecutor’s conduct towards him, and that he declared himself hunted to death for his spoil. At the moment of execution—with the halter about his neck, and while Colonel Pyncheon sat on horseback, grimly gazing at
strokes with the greatest strength and advantage he could, to cut their flesh, and to put them to suffering; the cruelty of which was so great, that a woman seeing it, fell down as dead: Yet it did not end there, for that night, and three days after, your jailor kept them without food or water (lying on the boards, without bed or straw, after so cruel execution) and so close, that none might come to speak with them, so they might have perished, but the Lord preserved them under your merciless
the chambers in said house. I told him it did not belong to me, and I was not willing to meddle or make with it. Then said King said, are you not a Christian, if you are a Christian go see him and discourse with him, but I told him I did believe it did not belong to such as I was to discourse him, he being a learned man. Then said King said, I believe he is a child of God, a choice child of God, and that God would clear up his innocency; so I told him my opinion or fear was, that he was, the