Thursday, October 27, 2011

John Proctor: First Male Accused Witch

Depiction of the Salem Witch Trials
John Proctor was a successful farmer and the first male to be named a witch during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

When the hysteria first began in Salem village, Proctor believed the young girls accusing many of the villagers of witchcraft were frauds and liars. He spoke openly against the accusations and scoffed at the idea of witchcraft. When his own young servant, Mary Warren, began having fits and behaving strangely, Proctor beat the girl in an attempt to get her to behave.

It wasn't until Proctor's wife Elizabeth, who was pregnant at the time, was accused of witchcraft and questioned in April that his own witchcraft accusations came out. His accusers, Abigail Williams and Mary Walcott, stated that Proctor's spirit tormented them and pinched them. Mary Warren confirmed the accusations by stating that he beat her and forced her to touch the Devil's book. After Proctor and his wife were jailed, Mary Warren recanted her story and told the court the other girls were lying. When the girls turned on her and accused her of witchcraft, she changed her story again and said she was lying about lying.

Although Arthur Miller's play "The Crucible" depicts Abigail Williams and John Proctor as lovers, it is unlikely this occurred since Proctor was 60 years old and Williams was 11 at the time of the hysteria and there is no evidence that they even knew each other before the trial.

Written testimony of Abigail Williams against John Proctor
Knowing the danger he and his family were in, Proctor wrote a letter to the clergy of Boston pleading with them to appoint different judges or move the trials to Boston where he felt they would get a fair trial. In his letter, he described the torture used against the prisoners and declared that the accused were innocent victims:

The innocency of our Case with the Enmity of our Accusers and our Judges, and Jury, whom nothing but our Innocent Blood will serve their turn, having Condemned us already before our Tryals, being so much incensed and engaged against us by the Devil, makes us bold to Beg and Implore your Favourable Assistance of this our Humble Petition to his Excellency, That if it be possible our Innocent Blood may be spared, which undoubtedly otherwise will be shed, if the Lord doth not mercifully step in....If it cannot be granted that we can have our Trials at Boston, we humbly beg that you would endeavour to have these Magistrates changed, and others in their rooms, begging also and beseeching you would be pleased to be here, if not all, some of you at our Trials, hoping thereby you may be the means of saving the sheeding our Innocent Bloods, desiring your Prayers to the Lord in our behalf, we rest your Poor Afflicted Servants, JOHN PROCTER , etc.”

John Proctor's Salem Witch Trials Memorial marker
His letter did have an effect on the clergy and changes were made to the types of evidence that could be presented at the trial, but not in time to save Proctor's life. John Proctor and his wife were both convicted of witchcraft on August 5, 1692. The couple were sentenced to the gallows but Elizabeth's sentence was delayed until the birth of her child.

John Proctor was hanged at Gallows hill on August 19 along with George Burroughs, John Willard, George Jacobs Sr., Rebecca Nurse and Martha Corey, who was the wife of Giles Corey. Elizabeth was eventually released from jail after the hysteria died down in 1693.


The Crucible; Arthur Miller; 1952

University of Virginia: The Salem Witch Trials

University of Missouri-Kansas City: John Proctor

Discovery: John Proctor

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sarah Good: Accused Witch

Engraving of the Salem Witch Trials
Sarah Good was one of the first women to be accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. A homeless, and pregnant, beggar who would often wander door to door asking for handouts while her husband worked as a day laborer, Good was a prime target for the accusation of witchcraft in the small Puritan-run town where nonconformity was frowned upon.

Good was accused of the crime in February of 1692 when two girls, Abigail Williams and Betty Parris, began behaving strangely and having fits. When questioned by adults about who was causing these fits, the girls accused Sarah Good along with Tituba and Sarah Osburn, according to the book "Salem Witchcraft”:

It must be borne in mind, that it was then an established doctrine in theology, philosophy, and law, that the Devil could not operate upon mortals, or mortal affairs, except through the intermediate instrumentality of human beings in confederacy with him, that is, witches or wizards. The question, of course, in all minds and on all tongues, was, "Who are the agents of the Devil in afflicting these girls? There must be some among us thus acting, and who are they?" For some time the girls held back from mentioning names; or, if they did, it was prevented from being divulged to the public. In the mean time, the excitement spread and deepened. At length the people had become so thoroughly prepared for the work, that it was concluded to begin operations in earnest. The continued pressure upon the "afflicted children," the earnest and importunate inquiry, on all sides, "Who is it that bewitches you?" opened their lips in response, and[ii.11] they began to select and bring forward their victims. One after another, they cried out "Good," "Osburn," "Tituba." On the 29th of February, 1692, warrants were duly issued against those persons. It is observable, that the complainants who procured the warrants in these cases were Joseph Hutchinson, Edward Putnam, Thomas Putnam, and Thomas Preston. This fact shows how nearly unanimous, at this time, was the conviction that the sufferings of the girls were the result of witchcraft.”

Illustration of Tituba, circa 1902
The three women were examined in March and denied any wrongdoings with the devil until Tituba, a slave owned by Reverend Parris, admitted that they had all met with the devil and agreed to do his bidding. It is not known why Tituba confessed to the crime but it is believed that since she was not a Puritan and already held a low status in the village, she was more concerned with escaping the gallows than with the consequences of confessing to witchcraft, something Puritans believed would damn one's soul to an eternity in hell and result in being cast out of the community.

Later that month, Ann Putnam accused Good's five-year-old daughter, Dorcas, of witchcraft as well. Confused and scared, young Dorcas also admitted to being a witch and explained that a red spot on her finger was a bite from a snake her mother had given her.

Written testimony of Ann Putnam
Sarah Good wasn't tried until June of 1692. No actual evidence of the crime was ever presented during the trial and one of the young accusers was even caught in a lie when she claimed Good's spirit stabbed her with a knife. Courtroom officials momentarily believed the young girl after she was examined and a broken knife was found in her clothes but a witness promptly came forward with the other half of the knife and explained he had broken and discarded it the day before in the presence of the girl. The girl was warned not to lie in the courtroom and the case continued. Good never confessed to being a witch but she did break down during Judge John Hathorne's questioning and accused Sarah Osburn of witchcraft, possibly to divert attention from herself. Good was ultimately convicted but her execution was pushed back until the birth of her child.

Good's infant died in prison shortly after its birth and local officials brought Good to Gallows hill on July 19th along with Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth Howe, and Sarah Wildes.

As Sarah Good stood on the platform with the other women, Reverend Nicolas Noyes called Good a witch and urged her to confess. Good replied:

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!”

The five women were hanged and the bodies were temporarily buried near the execution site. It is not known where Good's body is currently buried since convicted witches were not allowed to be buried in consecrated ground.

Twenty-five years later, in 1717, Reverend Noyes suffered an internal hemorrhage and died choking on his own blood.

Sarah Good's marker at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial

The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-By-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege; Marilynne K. Roach

Life; October 1949

Salem Witchcraft; Charles W. Upham; 1876

Discovery: Salem Witch Trials

University of Virginia: Sarah Good

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Curse of Giles Corey

Giles Corey was a successful farmer from Salem village when he was suddenly accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. The 80-year-old farmer was never convicted because he died a slow, agonizing death while being tortured by Sheriff Corwin. During the torture, Giles shouted ”Damn you! I curse you and Salem” at the sheriff before dying.

Illustration of The Trial of Giles Corey from 1878
Corey was tortured because he refused to enter a plea for his trial. He had taken advantage of a widely used legal tactic known as “standing mute” and refused to enter a plea so his case could not continue. Knowing he would probably die anyway, if not in jail than on the gallows, Corey was determined to avoid a convicted before his death so his estate would pass down to his grown children instead of being claimed by the crown.

English law at the time ordered any prisoner who stood mute to be tortured in an attempt to force a plea out of the prisoner. The exact torture procedure consisted of stripping the prisoner naked, laying him on the ground and placing a board with heavy stones on top of him. The weight was slowly increased over the course of several days until the prisoner yielded.

Although the procedure had never been used in the colonies before, according to Charles Wentworth Upham's book “Salem Witchcraft” published in 1867, Sheriff Corwin used this method to torture Giles Corey in an empty field somewhere between the Howard Street Burying Ground and Brown street for three days in September of 1692:

Depiction of Sheriff Corwin Torturing Giles Corey
It is said that Corey urged the executioners to increase the weight which was crushing him, that he told them it was of no use to expect him to yield, that there could be but one way of ending the matter, and that they might as well pile on the rocks. Calef says, that, as his body yielded to the pressure, his tongue protruded from his mouth, and an official forced it back with his cane. Some persons now living remember a popular superstition, lingering in the minds of some of the more ignorant class, that Corey's ghost haunted the grounds where his barbarous deed was done; and that boys, as they sported in the vicinity, were in the habit of singing a ditty beginning thus: “More weight! More weight! Giles Corey cried!”

Locals believe Corey's ghost still haunts the area around the Howard street cemetery, as it is now known, and that his ghost is often seen before and after a terrible event happens in the town. One such occasion happened shortly before the Great Salem Fire of 1914 when witnesses saw a ghostly figure of an old man floating through the cemetery. The fire actually started near Gallows hill where Corey's wife and 18 other people were hanged for witchcraft before it spread and destroyed much of the town.

Howard Street Cemetery
Four years after Corey's death, Sheriff Corwin died suddenly of a heart attack at just 30 years old. The legend suggests that Corey not only cursed Corwin but every Salem sheriff since 1692. In the 1970s, after Salem Sheriff Robert E. Cahill was forced to retire early due to a stroke, heart attack and rare blood condition, he looked into the history of the sheriff's office, as described in the book “Cursed in New England”:

About 300 year later, in 1978, Robert Cahill – while in office – suffered a rare blood disease, a heart attack and a stroke. Doctors could not find the cause of his afflictions. He was forced to retire as sheriff of Essex County and as Master and Keeper of the jail. Today he lives in Florida.
Mr. Cahill notes that the sheriff before him also contracted a serious blood ailment while in office; it forced him to retire. He, in turn, had inherited the post from his father after the elder man died of a heart attack...while serving as sheriff.
The previous sheriff had suffered heart problems as well. 'So have all the others, as far back as I could trace,” he says. “And the two men who have followed me have had an awful lot of [legal] trouble.'”

Cahill believes that when the sheriff's office was moved from Salem to the new prison in Middleton in 1991, it broke the curse and spared the future sheriffs. Since the move, no sheriffs have been diagnosed with any heart conditions or blood ailments.

Giles Corey's Marker at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial


"Historical Sketch of Salem, 1626-1879”; Charles Stuart Osgood; Henry Morrill Batchelder; 1879

"Haunted Salem”; Rosemary Ellen Guiley; 2011

"Salem Witchcraft"; Charles Wentworth Upham; 1876

"Cursed in New England; Stories of Damned Yankees”; Joseph A. Citro; Jeff White; 2004; The Legend of the Old Salem Jail; Tony Bertuca

Mass.Gov; Essex County Sheriff's Department; History

Mysterious Journeys; Salem Witch Trials; Kwin Mosby

Monday, October 10, 2011

Bridget Bishop: Witch or Easy Target?

The hanging of Bridget Bishop on June 10, 1692
Bridget Bishop, one of the first victims of the Salem Witch Trials, had been accused of witchcraft by more people than any other victim. Since Bishop had a bad reputation around town, wore a flashy red bodice instead of modest puritan clothing, ran a tavern and quarreled often with her previous husband and neighbors, it came as no surprise to the townspeople of Salem when she was accused of being a witch...again.

Bishop was accused of witchcraft twice before the Salem witch hysteria began in 1692. The first time was in the winter of 1679-1680 when her stepchildren from her marriage to Thomas Oliver, accused her of witching Oliver to death. A lack of circumstantial evidence prevented the case from going to trial and it was speculated that the children's accusation were an attempt to get their hands on the property she inherited from their father.

Bridget and her late husband had a stormy relationship. On a number of occasions Bridget was seen with a bloody, bruised face. The couple were even brought to court for fighting in 1670. They were fined and ordered to be whipped if they did not pay their fine on time. In 1678, Bridget Bishop was brought to court for using foul language against her husband, as described in the book “Salem-Village Witchcraft”:

Bridget Bishop's name on the Salem witchcraft memorial
Bridget, wife of Thomas Oliver, presented for calling her husband many opprobrious names, as old rogue and old devil, on Lord's day, was ordered to stand with her husband, back to back, on a lecture day in the public market place, both gagged, for about an hour, with a paper fastened to each others foreheads upon which their offense should be fairly written.”

After Oliver's death, Bridget married Edward Bishop, a well-respected sawyer (woodcutter). Bridget was accused of witchcraft again in 1687 after a neighbor fell into a fit of insanity during which she accused Bishop of bewitching her. When the woman recovered she recanted her accusation. Shortly after, her fits returned and she killed herself. Charges were brought up against Bridget and the case went to court. Bridget was eventually acquitted of all charges.

Written testimony of Mary Warren against Bishop in 1692
With her bad reputation and unpuritan-like behavior, it was just a matter of time before the charges would be brought up against her again. Bridget was not the first victim accused during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, but officials chose to hear her case first because they believed, given her prior history and reputation, it would be an easy win. They were right and a string of other convictions and executions followed hers before the hysteria came to an end in 1693.


Salem-Village Witchcraft”; Paul S. Boyer; Stephen Niseenabaum; 1972

"Salem Witchcraft";  Charles W. Upham; 1867

Witchcraft and Society in England and America, 1550-1750”; Marion Gibson; 2003

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Historic Lyceum Restaurant, Former Site of Bridget Bishop's Apple Orchard, Recently Renovated

The newly renovated Lyceum restaurant
The historic Lyceum restaurant, built on top of the former site of Bridget Bishop's apple orchard, has recently been renovated and renamed 43 Church (after it's location at 43 Church street). The building is reportedly haunted by the ghost of Bridget Bishop, the first victim of the Salem Witch Trials, and the restaurant has been featured on many paranormal shows such as Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters.

Although the Lyceum has long been known as the site of Bishop's orchard and the smell of apples is said to waft through the building (despite the fact that no apple-related recipes are featured on the menu), the same thing has been mistakenly said about another location in Salem. A rumor began circulating recently claiming that the Hawthorne Hotel in Washington Square was also built on top of Bishop's orchard and that the scent of apples is present on that site as well. Managers of the hotel refute the claim and are unaware of how the rumor started, although it is speculated the mix up came from one of the paranormal shows.
Hawthorne Hotel

A closer look at the history of the town sheds some light on the actual location of the orchard. Charles Wentworth Upham's book “Salem Witchcraft”, published in 1867, provides key details of the location of Bishop's orchard and the neighbor, John Louder, a servant of the Gedney family, who accused Bishop of witchcraft:

The 'Ship Tavern' was on the ground the front of which is occupied, at present, by 'West's Block,' nearly opposite of the head of Central Street. It had long been owned and kept by John Gedney, Sr....John died in 1685. His widow moved into the family of her father-in-law; and, after his death in 1688, continued to keep house...The tavern, in 1692, was known as 'Widow Gedney's.' The estate had an extensive orchard in the rear, contiguous, along its northern boundary, to the orchard of Bridget Bishop, which occupied ground now covered by the Lyceum building, and one or two others to the east of it.”

Not only does the book confirm the Lyceum building is built on top of Bishop's orchard, an old 1919 map of Salem's business district shows that Church street, the location of the Lyceum, is in fact, just north of the area where Gedney's tavern once stood “nearly opposite of the head of Central Street.” Washington square, the location of the Hawthorne hotel is much farther away.

According to Upham's book, Bishop's orchard was the scene of her alleged witchcraft crime. John Louder testified during the witch trials that he suspected Bridget Bishop of witchcraft after he chased off a deformed monster in his room and followed it out the back of the building only to find Bridget Bishop fleeing through her orchard towards her house.

Stories of ghostly apparitions continue to surround the old Lyceum building since it opened as a restaurant in 1989. Numerous people have reported seeing a woman in a long white gown floating above the Lyceum building's main staircase and her image has been seen in windows and mirrors throughout the building.

The location not only has a strong connection to the Salem Witch Trial era but the Victorian era as well. Although it is now a restaurant, it was once the site of a public hall for the Salem Lyceum Society during the 1800s. Lyceum societies were groups dedicated to educating the public with lectures and speeches. Many famous writers and public officials of the time spoke at the hall such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass, John Quincy Adams and Henry David Thoreau. Alexander Graham Bell also conducted the first public demonstration of the telephone at the hall in 1877. There are no known stories of visitors having ghostly encounters on the site while it was still a lecture hall.


CNBC: 10 Most Haunted Cities in America

Salem Web: The Salem Lyceum Society

"Salem Witchcraft"; Charles W. Upham; 1867

North Shore Dish: Salem's 43 Church Opens in Grand Style

Salem News; Steakhouse Opens in Former Lyceum; Tom Dalton; September 2011

The Distracted Wanderer: The Historic, Hospitable, and Haunted (??) Hawthorne Hotel

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Participants of the Boston Tea Party

Although considered heroic and brave by many, the names of participants in the Boston Tea Party remained a secret for years in order to protect them from persecution by the British government. Destroying the tea was an act of treason punishable by death. Some of the men were also from distinguished families who did not want to be associated with such illegal activity. Theses rebellious colonists were mostly members of the Sons of Liberty, but some were random citizens who had joined the group en route to the harbor. To protect their identities, tea party participants disguised themselves as Native Americans complete with ragged clothes, makeup and mohawks and refrained from acknowledging each other during the act.

Through oral tradition, old family stories and some documentation, an incomplete list of 175 names was pieced together and published in a book titled, Tea Leaves, by Francis Drake in 1884 as well as in the 1973 Boston Globe 200th Anniversary Boston Tea Party Special Section:

    Nathaniel Barber / Francis Akeley (Eckley) 
    Samuel Barnard / Henry Bass
    Joseph Bassett / Edward Bates
    Adam Beals Jr. / Thomas Bolter
    David Bradlee / Josiah Bradlee
    Nathaniel Bradlee / Thomas Bradlee
    James Brewer / John Brown
    Seth Ingersoll Browne / Stephen Bruce
    Benjamin Burton / Nicholas Campbell
    George Carleton / Thomas Chase
    Nathaniel Child / Benjamin Clark
    Jonathan Clark / John Cochran
    Gilbert Colesworthy / Gersham Collier
    Adam Collson / James Foster Condy
    Daniel Coolidge / Joseph Coolidge
    Samuel Coolidge / Samuel Cooper
    William Cox / Thomas Crafts
    John Crane / Obadiah Curtis
    Thomas Dana, Jr. / Amasa Davis
    Robert Davis / John DeCarteret
    David Decker / John Dickman
    Edward Dolbeare / Samuel Dolbeare
    John Dyar, Jr. / Joseph Eaton
    Joseph Eayres / Francis Eckley (or Akeley) 
    Benjamin Edes / William Etheridge
    Samuel Fenno / Samuel Foster
    Thomas Fracker / Nathaniel Frothingham, Jr.
    John Fulton / John Gammell
    Eleazer Gay / Thomas Gerrish
    Samuel Gore / Moses Grant
    Nathaniel Greene / Timothy Guy
    Samuel Hammond / Peter Harrington
    William Haskins / William Hendley
    George Robert Twelves Hewes / John Hicks
    Samuel Hobbs / John Hooton
    Elisha Horton / Elijah Houghton
    Samuel Howard / Edward Compton Howe
    Jonathan Hunnewell / Richard Hunnewell
    Richard Hunnewell, Jr. / Thomas Hunstable
    Abraham Hunt / Daniel Ingersoll
    Daniel Ingoldson / Charles Jameson 
    Robert Jameson / Jared Joy
    Robert Lash / Amariah Learned
    Joseph Lee / Nathaniel Lee
    Amos Lincoln / John Locke
    Matthew Loring / Joseph Lovering
    Joseph Ludden / David Lyon
    Thomas Machin / Ebenezer MacIntosh
    Peter McIntosh / Archibald MacNeil 
    John Marston / Martin, probably Wm.
    Thompson Maxwell / John May
    Mead, probably John / Henry Mellius
    Thomas Melville / Aaron John Miller
    James Mills / William Molineaux
    Francis Moore / Thomas Moore
    Anthony Morse / Joseph Mountfort
    Eliphalet Newell / Joseph Nicholls
    Samuel Nowell / Joseph Pearse Palmer
    Jonathan Parker / Joseph Payson
    Samuel Peck / John Peters
    William Pierce / Isaac Pitman
    Lendall Pitts / Samuel Pitts
    Thomas Porter / Henry Prentiss
    Nathaniel Prentiss / Rev. John Prince
    Edward Procter / Henry Purkitt
    Seth Putnam / John Randall
    Joseph Reed / Paul Revere
    Benjamin Rice / Jonathan Dorby Robins
    Joseph Roby / John Russell
    William Russell / John Sawtelle
    George Sayward / Edmund Sears
    Robert Sessions / Joseph Shed
    Benjamin Simpson / Peter Slater, Jr.
    Samuel Sloper / Ephriam Smith
    Josiah Snelling / Thomas Spear
    Samuel Sprague / John Spurr
    James Starr / Phineas Stearns
    Ebeneezer Stevens / James Stoddard
    Elisha Story / James Swan 
    Abraham Tower / Bartholomew Trow
    John Truman / Benjamin Tucker Jr.
    Thomas Urann / James Watson
    Henry Wells / Thomas Wells
    Josiah Wheeler / John Whitehead
    David Williams / Isaac Williams
    Jeremiah Williams / Thomas Williams
    Nathaniel Willis / Joshua Wyeth
    Thomas Young
Other people have also been suspected of taking part in the Boston Tea Party but have never been officially listed, such as my ancestor Captain Edward Burbeck. Numerous documents list Burbeck as a possible participant of the event and suggest that he had to flee Boston to avoid persecution from the British government who had placed a price on his head. The author of the “History of Plymouth, New Hampshire” states:

Edward Burbeck, son of Col. William and Abigail (Tuttle) Burbeck...He was a wood carver in Boston, a captain of artillery, 1775, and, by tradition, one of the 'Boston Tea Party.”

A book written by the Sons of the American Revolution in 1896 also states Edward Burbeck was:

suspected of being a member of the Boston tea party. When Boston was in the hands of the British, Edward managed to send his family from the city and then escaped himself, disguised as a fisherman. He was reunited to his family at Newburyport.”

Historians are not sure why the tea participants chose Native American disguises, especially considering they used different disguises on other occasions, such as during Burbeck's escape from Boston, but they speculate that “playing Indian” has been a popular tradition in America for centuries.

Due to the secrecy, most of the tea party participants escaped punishment, except for Francis Akeley who was the only person imprisoned for his role in the tea party.
Paul Revere took part in the Boston Tea Party

Year Book of the Wisconsin Society of the Sons of the American Revolution”; Sons of the American Revolution; Wisconsin Society; 1896

History of Plymouth, New Hampshire: Vol. I. Narrative--vol. II ..., Volume 2”; Ezra Scollay Stearns; Moses Thurston Runnels, Plymouth (N.H.). Town History Committee; 1906

Old South Meetinghouse: FAQ About the Boston Tea Party

Wells 1: Boston's Copp's Hill Burying Ground Guide

The Boston Tea Party: Only One Man Was Imprisoned for Destruction of Tea

The Boston Tea Party: The Complete List of Participants