Read CHAPTER IX of Dulcibel A Tale of Old Salem , free online book, by Henry Peterson, on

One Hundred and Fifty More Alleged Witches.

Ah this was bad enough, but it was but the beginning of trouble. Tituba had spoken of two other women, but had given no names. The “afflicted children” were still afflicted, and growing worse, instead of better. The Rev. Master Noyes of Salem town, the Rev. Master Parris of Salem village, Sergeant Thomas Putnam, and his wife, which last also was becoming bewitched, and had many old enmities and many other influential people and church members, were growing more excited, and vindictive against the troubles of their peace, with every passing day.

“Who are they that still torment you in this horrible manner?” was the question asked of the children and young women, and they had their answers ready.

There had been an old quarrel between the Endicotts and the Nurses, a family which owned the Bishop Farm, about the eastern boundary of said farm. There had been the quarrel about who should be minister, in which the Nurses had sided with the determined opponents of Mistress Ann Putnam’s reverend brother-in-law. The Nurses and other families were staunch opposers of Master Parris’s claim to ownership of the Parsonage and its grounds. And it was not to be wondered at, that the accusations should be made against opponents rather than against friends.

Besides, there were those who had very little faith in the children themselves, and had taken a kind of stand against them; and these too, were in a dangerous position.

“Who torments you now?” The answer was ready: Martha Corey, and Rebecca Nurse, and Bridget Bishop, and so on; the charges being made now against the members, often the heads, of the most reputable families in Salem town and village and the surrounding neighborhoods. Before the coming of the winter snows probably one hundred and fifty persons were in prison at Salem and Ipswich and Boston and Cambridge. Two-thirds of these were women; many of them were aged and venerable men and women of the highest reputation for behavior and piety. Yet, they were bound with chains, and exposed to all the hardships that attended incarceration in small and badly constructed prisons.

A special court composed of the leading judges in the province being appointed by the Governor for the trial of these accused persons, a mass of what would be now styled “utter nonsense” was brought against them. No wonder that the official record of this co-called court of justice is now nowhere to be found. The partial accounts that have come down to us are sufficient to brand its proceeding with everlasting infamy. Let us recur to the charges against some of these persons:

The Rev. Cotton Mather, speaking of the trial of Bridget Bishop, says: “There was one strange thing with which the Court was newly entertained. As this woman was passing by the meeting-house, she gave a look towards the house; and immediately a demon, invisibly entering the house, tore down a part of it; so that, though there was no person to be seen there, yet the people, at the noise, running in, found a board, which was strongly fastened with several nails, transported into another quarter of the house.”

A court of very ignorant men would be “entertained” now with such a story, in a very different sense from that in which the Rev. Cotton Mather used the word. The Court of 1692, doubtless swallowed the story whole, for it was no more absurd than the bulk of the evidence upon which they condemned the reputed witches.

One of the charges against the Rev. Master Burroughs, who had himself been a minister for a short time in the village, was, that though a small, slender man, he was a giant in strength. Several persons witnessed that “he had held out a gun of seven foot barrel with one hand; and had carried a barrel full of cider from a canoe to the shore.” Burroughs said that an Indian present at the time did the same, but the answer was ready. “That was the black man, or the Devil, who looks like an Indian.”

Another charge against Master Burroughs was, that he went on a certain occasion between two places in a shorter time than was possible, if the Devil had not assisted him. Both Increase Mather, the father, and his son Cotton, two of the most prominent and influential of the Boston ministers, said that the testimony as to Mr. Burroughs’ giant strength was alone sufficient rightfully to convict him. It is not improbable that the real animus of the feeling against Master Burroughs was the belief that he was not sound in the faith; for Master Cotton Mather, after his execution, declared to the people that he was “no ordained minister,” and called their attention to the fact that Satan often appeared as an angel of light.