Friday, May 11, 2012

The History of Massachusetts blog has moved!

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Monday, April 16, 2012

John Hammond Jr Conducted Telepathic Experiments at Hammond Castle

John Hays Hammond Jr in 1922
John Hammond Jr. was a wealthy American inventor and owner of Hammond Castle in Gloucester. The castle housed not only his elaborate collection of ancient artifacts but also served as a laboratory where he and his team, which included scientist Andrija Puharich, conducted various telepathic experiments in the early 1950s.

From 1951 to 1952, Hammond, who had a fascination with the occult but was mostly known for his work with radio waves, conducted a series of experiments on a well-known psychic at the time, Eileen Garrett. During the experiments, Hammond placed Garrett in a Faraday cage, a cage designed to keep out electromagnetic waves, to determine whether ESP used electromagnetic frequencies as a carrier wave.

According to the book “Color Healing: Chromotherapy” these experiments were funded by the Parapsychology Foundation:

“Science was represented by a team of top-drawer electronics physicists, headed up by John Hays Hammond. Parapsychology’s representative was Eileen J. Garrett, president of the foundation. The scientists undertook to devise assemblies of electro-magnetic instruments under conditions that would rule out any possibility of ether-waved telepathic or emotionally-conveyed contact between Mrs. Garrett, as the clairvoyant, and the science team. She was placed in a series of three Faraday cages, one inside the other...A scientist was stationed inside the cages with her. A tape recorder was placed in the inner cage, another was set up outside. A quarter mile away, a random switch to turn on and off an electrical current was placed in a hidden location.”

The Great Hall in Hammond Castle
It is rumored that Hammond conducted these experiments in the castle's Great Hall and that the cage became so hot due to the electrical currents running through it, the prolonged exposure to heat caused the dark stone floor beneath the cage to fade. This faded spot can still be seen today.

According to the book “Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla,” Hammond, who was a colleague and friend of Nikola Tesla, determined that since Garrett could still communicate telepathically with the science team through a series of ESP tests while she was in the cage, it proved that ESP was not transmitted on electromagnetic frequencies.

The Parapsychology Foundation still exists today and continues to fund scientific investigations of psychic phenomena.


The Parapsychology Foundation

"Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla”; Marc J. Seifer; 1998

"Color Healing: Chromotherapy”; Health Research Staff; 1996

"Transcending the Speed of Light: Consciousness, Quantum Physics, and the Fifth Dimension” Marc Seifer, Stanley Krippner; 2008

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The History of Hammond Castle

Hammond castle
Hammond Castle
Hammond Castle is a Medieval-style castle located in the fishing village of Gloucester. The castle was built between 1926 and 1929 by an eccentric American inventor named John Hays Hammond Jr. 

Hammond, who was a protege of Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison, is known as the “Father of Radio Control” because of his groundbreaking work with radio waves. Hammond was the son of the wealthy mining engineer, John Hays Hammond Sr.

Hammond built the castle, which resides on the edge of a cliff overlooking Gloucester harbor, to house his large collection of Roman, Medieval and Renaissance artifacts as well as his laboratory where he conducted many experiments. One of his prized possessions still on display in the castle is a human skull rumored to be from one of Christopher Columbus' crew members.

John Hays Hammond Jr and Sr
John Hays Hammond Jr and Sr in 1922
Although the exterior of the castle is built from granite mined from the nearby hillsides, the windows, doorways and much of the interior of the structure are actual pieces of European castles, churches and buildings Hammond bought and shipped to the United States. The castle includes a drawbridge, several towers, a great hall, a library, laboratory and an inner and outer courtyard. Hammond also added some unique features to the structure such as an indoor pool that can be drained with a flip of a switch and filled with sea water, rooms with hidden doors, secret passageways, a library with a whispering ceiling and an inner courtyard that was once outfitted with special overhead pipes and wiring to simulate rain or twinkling stars. Another feature of the castle is Hammond's large pipe organ that his friend, famed organist Virgil Fox, used to play during visits. Fox held many recording sessions at the castle in the 40s and 50s.

From the grounds of the castle, Hammond used to maneuver radio-controlled boats through Gloucester harbor, terrorizing the local fishermen who thought the unmanned boats were ghost ships. It is also rumored that Hammond, who had a fascination with the occult, held many seances at the castle and filled his library with books about the occult.

Hammond Castle
The back of Hammond Castle
According to an article in the Gloucester Times, Hammond was an animal lover with a number of pet Siamese cats. Whenever one of his beloved cats passed away, he would place the cat in a jar of formaldehyde and drive from his castle all throughout Gloucester in a one-car funeral procession, tying up traffic along the way.

Hammond died in 1965 and left the castle to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. The enormous maintenance costs of the building proved to be too much for the church who decided to sell it in 1975 to Virgil Fox for the price of $68,000. Fox held annual concerts at the castle to pay for the maintenance of the building but eventually sold it when the concerts failed to generate enough money.

Several live-in caretakers of the property have claimed that the building is haunted, possibly by Hammond and his wife Irene, who died in 1959. Hammond was buried on the property, with three of his Siamese cats still preserved in jars, in a mausoleum on a nearby section of land but his body was removed in 2008 and reburied in the outdoor courtyard of the castle after several vandals broke into the mausoleum in the 1980s and stole the cats. The section of land where the mausoleum was located was later sold to raise money for castle's maintenance costs.

The castle is now a museum that is open to the public from spring until autumn. The museum also hosts annual Halloween events as well as private weddings and functions.

The back of Hammond Castle
The Great Hall of Hammond Castle
The inner courtyard and swimming pool

The skull believed to belong to one of Columbus' crew members
The dining room located off of the Great Hall

Schenectady Gazette; Medieval Hammond Castle Offers Change of Pace, Many Surprises; Jim Cassin; Sept 23 1988:,6260704

Gloucester Times; 'Father of Radio Control' Reintered; Gail McCarthy; November 24; 2008:

NPR: When a Man's Home is Really His Castle:

Organ Arts: The Hammond Castle Recordings:

New York Times; Castle is Inventor's Vision of the Past; Annie Driscoll; October 1988:

North Shore Life Magazine; A Mona's Home is His Castle; Volume 1, No. 1; Bonnie Hurd Smith:

Gloucester Times; Essex County Chronicles: Region Boasts Some of the Strangest, As Well As Oldest,; Jim McAllister; August 20 2007:

Hammond Castle:

"Weird Massachusetts: Your Travel Guide to Massachusetts's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets”; Jeff Belanger, Mark Moran, Mark Sceurman; 2008

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The French King Who Lived Above the Union Oyster House

Portrait of Louise Philippe I
Louis Philippe I was the King of France from 1830 to 1845, but spent over 20 years as an exiled prince after the outbreak of the French Revolution. In the fall of 1797, he briefly lived above what would later become the Union Oyster House restaurant in Boston.

Philippe's exile began during the Reign of Terror in 1793, a time of chaotic violence during which many aristocrats were guillotined. Prince Philippe, who was serving as a colonel in the French army at the time, fled France in April of that year and traveled around the world extensively looking for work. His desertion and connection to General Charles Francois Dumouriez, who was suspected of treason, led to the arrest of the prince's father, Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orleans, and his two brothers. While working as a teacher at a boarding school in Germany in November of that year, Philippe learned that his father had been guillotined. The prince's brothers remained in prison but were later exiled to Philadelphia in the United States in 1796.

Philippe continued to travel around Europe, living in countries such as Switzerland and Finland before traveling to the United States in 1797 to join his brothers in Philadelphia. From Philadelphia they traveled to New York before making their way to Boston. The arrival of the princes in New England was announced in the Boston-based newspaper, The Columbian Centinel, on October 21st, 1797. On the day of the announcement, the princes attended the second launch of the U.S.S. Constitution and visited the future site of the Bunker Hill Monument to view a monument dedicated to to Dr. Joseph Warren, the patriot leader killed during the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775.

The Union Oyster House, circa 1920s
Since they were supporters of the French revolution and the execution of their father was widely published in Boston, the princes were welcomed into Boston's high society with open arms. During their time in Boston, Prince Philippe lived in a room above Capen's Silks and Dry Goods Store, which is now the Union Oyster House restaurant, and taught French to the young ladies of Boston's high society. It is not clear if his brothers lived with him or if they stayed elsewhere. The room is now called the Louis-Philippe room. During their stay, the princes also spent many evenings visiting notable members of Boston society such as H.G. Otis, General Henry Knox and Colonel Pickering.

During their time in Boston, they also traveled to Maine. En route to Maine, traveling by covered wagon, the princes spent a few days in Newburyport and then journeyed on to Haverhill, traveling alongside the Merrimack river which Philippe praised as beautiful and declared “Earth has not anything to show more fair.” While on their trip to Maine, the princes stayed for a week at the Martin Farm, near Portsmouth, NH.

After staying in Boston for just a few months, the princes eventually returned to New York and continued to travel around the United States. They did not return to France until the abdication of Napoleon in 1815. Prince Philippe eventually became King of France in 1830 after King Charles X was overthrown. According to the book, "The Rise and Fall of Louis Philippe," shortly after Philippe assumed the throne, flowers were sent to the Tuileries Palace in Paris from the garden at Martin Farm, which Prince Philippe replied to with an autographed letter.


The Lonely Planet: Travel Book Author Finds France in Boston:

"The Rise and Fall of Louis Philippe” Benjamin Perley Poore; 1848

Boston Guide: French Culture in Boston

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Faneuil Hall Weather Vane Stolen in 1974

The Faneuil Hall weather vane
The copper weather vane that has topped the cupola of Faneuil Hall since 1742 was once stolen in 1974.

When the theft was discovered in January of 1974, it made national headlines. Police first speculated that the criminal may have used a helicopter to steal the weather vane and believed the thief intended to sell it on the black market.

According to an article in The Telegraph newspaper, the police detective in charge of the case, Paul Revere Carroll, a direct descendant of Paul Revere, got a phone call a few days after the theft from Robert Fandel, chief attorney for Plymouth county, who said he could provide Carroll with a piece of the weather vane:

Illustration of firemen washing the weather vane, circa 1895
“Carroll met Fandel and other officials that afternoon in Boston's Park Square. Fandel was carrying a paper bag, containing the weather vane's spire...He then led police to the rest of the weather vane hidden by rags in the corner of the [Faneuil] tower.”

It was later discovered that the weather vane was stolen by a man who had been arrested shortly after in Abington on a drug charge. Police learned that the man was a former steeplejack who had previously worked on Faneuil Hall in 1967. Although they didn't know his exact motives, they speculated that he stole and hid the weather vane to possibly ransom it off. He confessed his crime in an attempt to get plea bargain in his drug case.

The weather vane had been damaged during the theft but it was finally repaired and regilded before it was returned to its perch on top of Faneuil Hall in July of 1974.
 Workers placed a locking device on the weather vane to prevent future thefts.

Strangely, this was not the first time the weather vane left its perch. It was briefly knocked down during an earthquake in 1755, then knocked down again in 1889 during a flag lowering on Evacuation Day. It has also been removed several times for cleaning and repairs. The most recent repair was between the years 1990 and 1992, when the public got a rare up-close look at the weather vane in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts while it was being regilded.

The weather vane, inspired by the grasshopper weather vane on top of the London Royal Exchange, was designed by Shem Downe, an apprentice of Paul Revere, and weighs 38 pounds, measures 52 inches long, has glass eyes, a copper interior and gilded exterior.
Modern day Faneuil Hall and its weather vane

Faneuil Hall in 1987
Faneuil Hall in 1920
Faneuil Hall in 1903
Illustration of Faneuil Hall in Arthur's Magazine, circa 1845
Engraving of Faneuil Hall, circa 1789


New York Times; Grasshopper Weather Vane on Faneuil Hall is Stolen; January 6 1974:

New York Times: Stolen Weather Vane Found at Faneuil Hall; January 11 1974:

The Telegraph; Mystery Covers Recovery of Historic Weathervane; Jan 11 1974,1345819

The Telegraph, Grasshopper Weathervane Returns; July 24, 1974:,3755080

"Boston Sites & Insights”; Susan Wilson; 2003

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rare Salem Witch Trial Document Sold for $26,000

Margaret Scott's Marker at the Witch Trials Memorial
A rare document from the Salem Witch Trials sold for $26,000 last week at a New York auction house. The document was a court indictment for Margaret Scott, an elderly Rowley woman who was one of the last victims hanged in the Salem Witch hysteria of 1692.

The document was a part of the Eric C. Caren Collection and was purchased by an undisclosed buyer. According to an article in the Salem news, this was the first Salem Witch Trial document to be sold in almost 30 years.

Margaret Scott was accused of witchcraft in July or August of 1692 by a local teenager named Mary Daniel. She was found guilty on September 17 and hanged on September 22 along with Martha Corey, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Mary Easty, Samuel Wardwell, Wilmott Redd and Mary Parker. These were the last hangings in the Salem Witch Trials.

A month after the September 22 hangings took place, Governor Phips forbade any further arrests and many of the remaining accused were released from jail.

Born in England in 1615, Margaret Scott's maiden name was Stevenson. She married Benjamin Scott in 1642 and had seven children, although only three of them lived to adulthood. Her husband Benjamin died in 1671, leaving Margaret a poor widow. Due to her lack of finances, Margaret often begged for money and food. All of these factors made her an easy target for a witchcraft accusation. According to court documents, Margaret Scott's neighbors suspected her of being a witch for many years prior to the Salem Witch Trials but never officially accused her until the hysteria of 1692.

In 1711, the Massachusetts legislature passed a resolution clearing the names of the convicted witches and offered financial restitution to their descendents. Margaret Scott's family did not wish to be named in the law and did not seek restitution. In 1957, the Massachusetts legislature formally apologized to the victims of the Salem Witch Trials but did not specifically mention any of the victims by name. Finally, in 2001, the Massachusetts legislature passed a resolution officially exonerating five of the victims not mentioned in the previous resolutions: Susannah Martin, Bridget Bishop, Alice Parker, Wilmot Redd and Margaret Scott.


Salem News; Rare Witch Document Expected to Sell For Thousands; Tom Dalton; March 14 2012; Salem Witch Trials Document Sells for $26,000; March 16 2012

University of Virginia; The Salem Witchcraft Papers; Margaret Scott

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Faneuil Hall Was Built with Slave Money

Engraving of Faneuil Hall, circa 1789
It's a little known fact that Faneuil Hall, which has been dubbed the “Cradle of Liberty” since the American Revolution, was financed with money from Peter Faneuil's slave trading business.

Peter Faneuil was a wealthy slave trader and Boston merchant who, in 1738, inherited a large fortune from his uncle Andrew Faneuil, also a local slave trader who owned a warehouse on Boston's Merchant Row where he sold his slaves.

As slave traders, Peter and Andrew Faneuil were prominent in the Triangle Trade. This was a triangular shaped shipping route where merchants shipped fish and lumber from New England to Africa and then shipped slaves from Africa to the West Indies. After selling the slaves in the West Indies, the merchants would then purchase molasses, sugar cane and rum from the local sugar plantations to bring back to the American colonies.

In July of 1740, Peter Faneuil offered to build a public marketplace for the city of Boston using his own money he and his family made off of this triangle trade. At the time, there was no marketplace for peddlers to sell their goods and they often clogged up the lanes and roads with their pushcarts.

After commissioning local artist John Symbert to draw up plans for the building, Faneuil then offered the proposed marketplace as a gift to the city of Boston. Over 700 Boston town meeting members debated whether to accept the gift before finally voting in favor it.

Faneuil Hall today
Construction on Faneuil hall began in 1740 and took nearly two years to complete. The plan for the building included an open ground floor for a meat and produce market and a large assembly room on the second floor. The steeple of the building was topped with a 38 pound gold-gilded grasshopper weather vane that was based on a similar grasshopper weather vane on top of the London Royal Exchange.

Peter Faneuil died of dropsy just six months after the building was completed in 1742 and the city decided to name the building “Faneuil Hall” in his honor.

In 1761, a fire gutted the interior of the building but it was quickly rebuilt. The building was enlarged in 1806 by Boston architect Charles Bullfinch, who doubled its width and added a third floor.

During the American Revolution, the large second-floor assembly room became a hotspot for patriotic speeches and meetings, leading patriot James Otis to dub it the “Cradle of Liberty.”


The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers”; Brion McClanahan, Brion T. McClanahan; 2009 

History of the Huguenot Emigration to America”, Volume 2; Charles Washington Baird; 1885 

Boston Miscellany: An Essential History of the Hub”; William P. Marchione; 2008

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

John Alden's Account of His Witch Trial Examination

John Alden Jr. accused by a child
John Alden Jr. was the son of Mayflower pilgrim John Alden and a merchant from Boston who suddenly found himself caught up in the Salem Witch Trials when he was accused of witchcraft by a local child during a business trip to Salem in May of 1692.

After he was accused, police officials brought Alden to the Salem court for questioning. Alden wrote his own account of this examination and the events of the courtroom that day, during which he suggested the afflicted girls at the center of the hysteria, whom he referred to as “wenches,” were merely pretending to be bewitched and also said they were being prompted by a man standing behind them to name Alden as a witch:

"Those Wenches being present, who plaid their jugling tricks,
falling down, crying out, and staring in Peoples Faces; the Magi-
strates demanded of them several times, who it was of all the People
in the Room that hurt them? one of these Accusers pointed several
times at one Captain Hill , there present, but spake nothing; the
same Accuser had a Man standing at her back to hold her up; he
stooped down to her Ear, then she cried out, Aldin , Aldin afflicted
her; one of the Magistrates asked her if she had ever seen Aldin,
she answered no, he asked her how she knew it was Aldin ? She
said, the Man told her so."

Although the girls had never met Alden before and had never seen him, his name was not unfamiliar to them thanks to several rumors around town that Alden was secretly supplying the French military and Wabanaki Indians with ammunition and supplies during the French and Indian Wars. As some of the afflicted girls lost their parents in this war, many historians speculate that since the girls believed Alden may have profited off of a war that killed their parents, it made him a potential target. This theory is supported by the fact that during the examination, one of the girls outright accuses Alden of selling supplies to the Indians as well as fathering illegitimate children with Indian women:

“Then all were ordered to go down into the Street, where a Ring
was made; and the same Accuser cried out, “there stands Aldin , a
bold fellow with his Hat on before the Judges, he sells Powder and
Shot to the Indians and French, and lies with the Indian Squaes,
and has Indian Papooses.”

Realizing the danger he was in, Alden held no hope for a fair trial and sought other means of escaping his fate. After being held in a Boston jail for over four months, Alden managed to escape the jail in September with the help of some of his friends and fled immediately for New York where several other accused witches were hiding out.

It wasn't until the witch trial hysteria began to die down that winter that Alden declared "the public had reclaimed the use of its reason” and decided to go back to Salem and post bail. He finally appeared in court on April 25, after the hangings had stopped, and his case was dismissed.


University of Virginia; Important Person in the Salem Court Records

University of Virginia; Salem Witch Trial; John Alden

"The Salem Witch Trials”; Lori Lee Wilson; 1997

Monday, February 27, 2012

Who Brought the Bed Bugs?

Bed Bugs
Bed bugs, the little parasites that feed on the blood of people and animals, are not native to North America and were actually first brought to the continent either by explorers or the pilgrims.

Some sources indicate that the bed bugs, which have plagued Europe, Asia and Africa for thousands of years, first came to North America with Christopher Columbus and his crew, while other sources, such as the book “Studies in Insect Life and other Essays,” suggest the parasites emigrated on the Mayflower:

Cimex [the Latin word for bed bugs] is particularly common in ships, especially emigrant ships, and although unknown to the aboriginal Indians of North America, it probably entered that continent with the 'best families' in the 'Mayflower.'”

In fact, the pilgrims and early settlers of North America have been accused of not only introducing bed bugs to the continent but other non-native insects as well, such as cockroaches and lice. According to the book “Insect Biodiversity,” thirteen different types of insects and parasites that were common in England but unknown to North America were introduced to the continent before the year 1800.

Ever since bed bugs made their debut in North America, people have been trying to find ways to control or eradicate them. These attempts were mostly unsuccessful until the introduction of pesticides such as DDT in the 1940s. Although the pesticide was highly effective and nearly wiped out the parasites completely, it was also very toxic and harmful to the environment. The U.S. government officially banned DDT in 1973 and since then bed bugs have been on the rise again, reaching epidemic proportions in just the past few years.


"Insect Biodiversity: Science and Society”; Robert G. Foottit, Peter Holdridge Adler; 2009

"Studies in Insect Life and Other Essays”; Sir Arthur Everett Shipley; 1916 

"Historical Lights and Shadows of the Ohio State Penitentiary”; Chapter: The Great American Bed-Bug; Daniel J. Morgan; 1918

Monday, February 20, 2012

Animals in the Salem Witch Trials

Illustration of a witch with her cat familiar
Animals played an important role in the Salem Witch Trials. Since it was believed at the time that witches had animal familiars, or helpers, that they used to do their bidding, many villagers were often on the look out for these possessed animals, which were thought to take the form of almost any creature, from cats and dogs to birds, oxes, cows or pigs.

Animals were also accused of witchcraft themselves and executed. The list of accused witches during the Salem Witch Trials includes not only women, men and children but also two dogs.

In October of 1692, an afflicted girl in Andover accused a neighbor's dog of trying to bewitch her. The villagers shot the dog immediately. Only after its death did the minister, Cotton Mather, declare the animal innocent. Mather reasoned that if the dog really was the devil in disguise, it would not be possible to kill it. Since the dog did die, Mather determined it was not bewitched and was therefore innocent.

Around the same time, after a dog in Salem Village began behaving strangely, the afflicted girls of the village accused John Bradstreet of Andover of riding and tormenting the dog with his spirit. Although it was considered a victim, the people of Salem village killed the dog and Bradstreet fled Andover for the Piscataqua colony.

Woodcut of a witch riding a cat
Dogs were also used to identify witches. An example of this is when Tituba made a “witch cake” out of rye meal and the urine of the afflicted Salem Village girls and fed it to a dog in an attempt to find the person responsible for bewitching the girls. This was a traditional type of English counter magic that was supposed to cause the witch pain, therefore identifying the witch.

Animals that suddenly became sick, injured or died without any apparent cause were thought be victims of witchcraft. Villagers believed that witches kidnapped animals and rode them around to their witch meetings at night, resulting in weakness, injury, strange behavior and the eventual death of the animal. If an animal suddenly appeared tired or sick one morning, it was suspected of being “hag-ridden” the night before.

In the modern world, the villager's actions against these animals would be illegal. Instead of being cared for and looked after by their owners, these animals were abused and mistreated. Whether they were considered victims or villains, animals were unwilling participants in the Salem Witch Trials and, much like their human counterparts, suffered because of it.


The Salem Witch Trials: a Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege”; Marilynne K. Roach; 2002

The Salem Witch Trials Reader”; Frances Hill; 1974

Witch Hunts in Europe and America: an Encyclopedia”; William E. Burns; 2003

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Susannah Martin: Accused Witch from Salisbury

Susannah North Martin was one of a handful of accused witches during the Salem Witch Trials who did not actually live in Salem. Born in Buckinghamshire, England to Richard and Joan North, Susannah relocated with her father and stepmother to the Merrimack plantation in Salisbury, Massachusetts in 1639.

Martin's marker at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial
The North family were some of the first settlers of Salisbury, which is located 40 miles north of Boston and was originally called Colchester before being renamed Salisbury in 1640. The family lived with the other settlers on plots along the “circular road,” now known as the triangle formation of Elm street, School street and Bridge road in Salisbury square. At the time, the area was inhabited by Penacook Native Americans, wolves and wild animals. After Susannah grew up, she married a blacksmith from Salisbury named George Martin in 1646 and eventually gave birth to eight children. In 1654, George and Susannah moved to nearby Amesbury.

Much like the other accused witches, Susannah was also viewed by others as a troublemaker and her name appears numerous times in court records prior to the Salem Witch Trials. Like Bridget Bishop, Susannah had also been accused of witchcraft twice before 1692. During her first witchcraft case, she was accused by William Browne of tormenting his wife Elizabeth with her spirit.  After her arrest, Susannah was released on bail and the charges were eventually dropped. She was accused again in 1669, this time by William Sargent Jr, who also said he witnessed Susannah give birth to and kill an illegitimate baby. Susannah posted bail, promising to return to court for her trial but, again, the charges were dropped. Her husband, George, later sued Sargent for slander. The court held Sargent libel for slander in accusing Susannah of fornication and infanticide but the court sided with Sargent on the witchcraft accusations.

After several failed court battles to inherit the bulk of her father's estate in 1671 and with the death of her husband in 1686, Susannah was left a poor, defenseless widow. When she was accused of witchcraft for the final time in 1692, she had no one to come to her rescue. According to Susannah's arrest warrant, she was accused by the afflicted Salem village girls: Mary Walcott, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam and Mary Lewis. Since they lived in different villages, it is not known how these girls knew Susannah, but it is possible they heard about her bad reputation from others and made the decision to accuse her.

After her arrest in Amesbury on May 2, Susannah was brought to Salem where she was questioned by Judge Hathorne and Judge Corwin and twice underwent a humiliating physical examination in an effort to find a witch's teet that prosecutors believed witches used to feed their familiars. No such mark was found but the examiner did make a note that "in the morning her nipples were found to be full as if the milk would come," but later in the day "her breasts were slack, as if milk had already been given to someone or something."

Although most of the court records from her trial were lost, Cotton Mather, a well known minister at the time, personally documented her trial:

“Magistrate (to the afflicted girls): Do you know this Woman?
Abigail Williams: It is Goody Martin she hath hurt me often.
Others by fits were hindered from speaking. Eliz: Hubbard said she hath not been hurt by her. John Indian said he hath not seen her Mercy Lewes pointed to her & fell into a little fit. Ann Putman threw her Glove in a fit at her. The examinant laught.
Magistrate (To Martin): What do you laugh at it?
Martin: Well I may at such folly.
Magistrate: Is this folly? The hurt of these persons.
Martin: I never hurt man woman or child.
Mercy Lewes: She hath hurt me a great many times, & pulls me down
Then Martin laught againe
Mary Walcott: This woman hath hurt me a great many times.
Susan Sheldon also accused her of afflicting her.
Magistrate (To Martin): What do you say to this?
Martin: I have no hand in Witchcraft.
Magistrate: What did you do? Did not you give your consent?
Martin: No, never in my life.
Death warrant for Susannah Martin
Magistrate: What ails this people?
Martin: I do not know.
Magistrate: But w't do you think?
Martin: I do not desire to spend my judgm't upon it.
Magistrate: Do not you think they are Bewitcht?
Martin: No. I do not think they are
Magistrate: Tell me your thoughts about them.
Martin:Why my thoughts are my own, when they are in, but when they are out they are anothers.”

Despite the lack of evidence against her, Susannah was found guilty of witchcraft and hanged at Gallows Hill on July 19 along with Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Good, Elizabeth Howe, and Sarah Wildes. She was buried in a shallow grave on Gallows hill with the other victims but since many family members of the victims dug up and secretly reburied their loved ones, it is not known where her body currently lies.

In 1857, the poet John Greenleaf Whittier, who was a direct descendent of Susannah Martin, honored Susannah in a poem titled The Witch's Daughter:

"Let Goody Martin rest in peace, I never knew her harm a fly,
And witch or not - God knows - not I?
I know who swore her life away;
And as God lives, I'd not condemn
An Indian dog on word of them."

Residents of the town of Amesbury later placed a stone marker near Susannah and George Martin's home that read:

"Here stood the house of Susannah Martin. An honest, hardworking Christian woman accused of being a witch and executed at Salem, July 19, 1692. She will be missed! A Martyr of Superstition. T.I.A. 1894"

In 1711, the Massachusetts legislature passed a resolution clearing the names of the convicted witches and offered financial restitution to their descendents. Susannah Martin's family did not wish to be named in the law and did not seek restitution. In 1957, the Massachusetts legislature formally apologized to the victims of the Salem Witch Trials but did not specifically mention any of the victims by name. Finally, in 2001, the Massachusetts legislature passed a resolution officially exonerating five of the victims not mentioned in the previous resolutions: Susannah Martin, Bridget Bishop, Alice Parker, Wilmot Redd and Margaret Scott.


New York Times; Massachusetts Clears 5 from Salem Witch Trials; November 2, 2001:

University of Virginia: Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County; Volume IV:

University of Virginia; Salem Witch Trials; Susannah Martin:

Welcome to Salem, Massachusetts: Salem Witch Trials: Chronology of Events:

"The Salem Witch Trials: a Reference Guide”; K. David Goss; 2008

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Accused Witches of Gloucester

A lithograph of Gloucester, circa 1836
Not all of the accused witches of the Salem Witch Trials actually lived in Salem. A number of the accused also came from nearby towns such as Salisbury, Ipswich, Andover, Topsfield and Gloucester.

Andover and Gloucester had more accused witches than any other towns outside of Salem. A total of nine Gloucester women were accused of witchcraft during the hysteria of 1692: Esther Elwell, Margaret Prince, Elizabeth Dicer, Joan Penney, Phoebe Day, Mary Rowe, Rachel Vinson, Abigail Rowe and Rebecca Dike. 

Not much is known about these cases since many of the records have been lost. What we do know is that the accusations began in September of 1692, when Gloucester resident Ebenezer Babson asked some of the afflicted Salem village girls to visit his mother, Eleanor, who was complaining of spectral visions of Indians and French soldiers. Upon visiting Eleanor, the girls accused Margaret Prince and Elizabeth Dicer of bewitching her. Around the same time, four more women were accused: Mary Rowe, Phoebe Day and Rachel Vinson, although it is not known who accused them, and Joan Penney, who was accused by Zebulon Hill, a former Gloucester resident who had recently moved to Salem town.

Shortly after, in October or November, James Stevens, a deacon of the local church and lieutenant in the militia, sent for the afflicted girls of Salem village to name the witch he believed was bewitching his sister Mary Fitch, wife of John Fitch. The girls named Rebecca Dike, Esther Elwell and Abigail Rowe.

It's interesting to note that, much like the accused of Salem, the accused women of Gloucester were also either prominent, wealthy citizens or trouble-makers or relatives of other accused witches.

The Accused:

Esther Elwell (Elwell's witchcraft case was featured on an episode of the popular NBC genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are? after actress Sarah Jessica Parker discovered she is descended from Elwell); her maiden name was Dutch and she was from a prominent family that lived at the Harbor in an area known as Dutch's Slough. She later married a wealthy man named Samuel Elwell. Her mother, Ruth Dutch, had also once been accused of witchcraft, although it is not known when.

Rebecca Dike: her maiden name was Dolliver and she married a man named Richard Dike who held a large amount of land in Gloucester. Rebecca was neighbors with the in-laws of the Stevens family, the Eveleths, and had many problems with them.

Abigail Rowe was the 15-year-old daughter of Hugh and Mary Prince Rowe of Little Good Harbor. The family had a large amount of land in the Little Good Harbor area. Abigail's mother and her grandmother, Margaret Prince, were also accused. 

Petition from the accused held in Ipswich
Mary Prince Rowe was the mother of Abigail Rowe and daughter of Margaret Prince. She was held at a jail in Ipswich, along with Elizabeth Dicer and Joan Penney. Their names appear on an undated petition asking to be released on bail until their trial.

Margaret Prince was the grandmother of Abigail Rowe and mother of Mary Prince Rowe. She was known for being troublesome and having a sharp tongue.

Rachel Vinson was the widow of William Vinson who's first wife had also been accused of witchcraft along with Ruth Dutch.

Phoebe Day's maiden name was Wildes and she was related to Sarah Wildes, of Topsfield, who was hanged for witchcraft on July 19, 1692 in Salem.

Elizabeth Dicer had been fined thirteen times in the past for calling Mary English's mother a “black-mouthed witch and a thief.”
Joan Penney had numerous squabbles with neighbors over land and had also been brought to court a number of times for such crimes as wearing a silk scarf and “breach of sabbath” after she carried bushels of corn on her way to church.

Fortunately for the accused, it appears that these cases never went to trial because the use of spectral evidence was banned in October of 1692, giving prosecutors little evidence to go on, and the special court set up to hear the Salem Witchcraft cases was disbanded. In November, public officials set up the Superior Court of Judicature to hear the remaining witchcraft cases but between January and May of 1693, most of the accused were released due to a lack of evidence or tried and found not guilty.


"The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England"; Carol F. Karlsen; 1998

"The Salem Witch Trials: a Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege”; Marilynne K. Roach; 2004

"The Geography and Genealogy of Gloucester Witchcraft"; Jedediah Drolet:


University of Virginia; Salem Witch Trials; Massachusetts Archives: Superior Court of Judicature Witchcraft Trials (January - May 1693), Cases Heard:


Wicked Local: Sarah Jessica Parker Traces Her Roots Back to Gloucester, Salem Witch Trials:

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Toothaker Family: Witches or Witch Killers?

Illustration of the Salem Witch Trials
Roger Toothaker was a farmer and folk-healer from Billerica who specialized in detecting and punishing witches. For several years before the Salem Witch Trials began in 1692, Toothaker had bragged to locals that he had taught his daughter, Martha Emerson, wife of Joseph Emerson, his trade and that she had killed a witch. According to the book “The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-By-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege,” the victim is believed to possibly be Mathias Button of Haverhill, Mass.

Toothaker, his wife Mary and their daughters were eventually arrested of witchcraft themselves when they were accused by Mary Warren and Mary Lacey Jr. Roger Toothaker died shortly after in prison but not before telling the court about his skills practicing counter magic against witches and confirming his daughter had killed a witch by boiling the witch's urine in a pot overnight.

After Roger died, his wife Mary confessed to being a witch and confirmed that her husband had once spoken to her daughter about killing a witch named Button. Martha Emerson, upon hearing of her parent's testimony during her trial, confessed that she kept a woman's urine in a glass jar but did not identify the woman, according to the court documents:

Emerson was told: that her father: had s'd: he had tought his Daughter Martha so that she had killed a witch: and: that was to take the afflicted persons water & put in in a glass or bottle: & sett it into an oven: Emerson owned she had [kept] a womans urin: in a glass.”

Emerson then confessed to being a witch and practicing magic against others. After spending several days in jail, she tried to recant her confession but the court kept her imprisoned. Her case was eventually thrown out of court due to a lack of evidence.

It is not known if Mathias Button or anyone in his family was a suspected witch or the victim of the Toothaker counter magic. Button was never accused of being a witch in his lifetime, although he served as a witness in a witchcraft case against his neighbor John Godfrey in 1665. Mathias Button later sued Godfrey in 1669 for allegedly setting a fire in his house that killed his wife, Ann Teagle Button. Mathias Button later remarried, to a woman named Elizabeth Wheeler, before dying of natural causes in August of 1672 at the age of 67.


New Perspectives on Witchcraft, Magic, and Demonology”; Brian P. Levack; 2001

The Salem Witch Trials: a Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege”; Marilynne K. Roach; 2002

Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth-Century New England”; David D. Hall; 1991