March 31 (March 21, o.s.)

Massachusetts: Martha Corey, formally accused of witchcraft on March 19, comes before the Salem magistrates to be questioned. The examination, like those of the first three accused women on March 1, is held in public in the Salem Village meetinghouse, which is packed with spectators, including most of the afflicted girls. It begins at noon with a prayer by Nicholas Noyes, minister of Salem Town. Corey asks for permission to pray as well, but is rebuffed by magistrate John Hathorne, who tells her that she isn’t there for prayer.

Hathorne begins the questioning by telling Corey that she is “in the hands of Authority” and asking her why she is hurting the afflicted girls. Corey responds that she is a “gospel woman” and has nothing to do with any witchcraft. Asked about the complaints against her, she merely asks that God “open the eyes of the magistrates and ministers” and “show his power to discover the guilty.” Hathorne then asks her about the visit to her house by Ezekiel Cheever and Edward Putnam on March 12, in which she responded to their statement that Ann Putnam had accused her of witchcraft by asking if Ann knew what clothes she was wearing, which she didn’t. Hathorne wants to know why she said that. She initially says that Cheever brought up the subject, which he immediately denies, then she says that her husband Giles had told her that the afflicted girls were saying that they could identify witches by the clothes their apparitions wore, but he too immediately contradicts her story. Hathorne, angry at Corey’s baldfaced lies, browbeats her into admitting that she had heard about the identification of witches by clothing not from her husband but from general gossip in the village, though she doesn’t name any specific source. Still dissatisfied, Hathorne continues to press the issue, until interrupted by Abigail Williams, one of the afflicted girls, yelling that she sees a “black man” whispering in Corey’s ear.

Upon hearing Abigail’s interjection, Hathorne asks Corey what the man said to her. She says that she didn’t hear anything, and the afflicted girls are immediately stricken with fits. This is proof enough for Hathorne, who urges Corey to confess, but she refuses and insists that the girls’ testimony is unreliable. Several witnesses then testify to suspicious things that Corey has said, to which she can only lament so many attacking her. To Hathorne’s continued entreaties to confess, she says that she would if she were guilty, but she isn’t so she won’t.

Hathorne then moves on to the events of Corey’s visit to the Putnam house on March 14, when Ann Putnam claimed to see her roasting a man on a spit and suckling a yellow bird between her fingers. She denies all of this, but Hathorne and the crowd in the meetinghouse continue to press her and accuse her. She can only respond by protesting that everyone seems to be against her and laughing hysterically, which draws the ire of Hathorne and others, who consider her to be trivializing a very serious matter. The afflicted then begin to suffer pains in reaction to any movement Corey makes: when she bites her lip they seem to be bitten, and when she moves her hands they seem to be pinched.

Hathorne continues to ask questions and demand a confession, but the meetinghouse is descending into chaos. At one point Mrs. Bathshua Pope, one of the afflicted, hits Corey on the head with her shoe. The afflicted continue to suffer pain whenever Corey moves, and they also claim to hear a “drum beat” summoning “23 or 24” witches to congregate right outside the meetinghouse. Corey still refuses to confess, however, and eventually Hathorne, frustrated, abruptly halts the proceedings and orders her jailed in Salem Town. As soon as she is taken away, the sufferings of the afflicted girls stop.

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Published in: on March 31, 2008 at 12:00 am  Comments (2)  

2 Comments

  1. […] suspects to be accused back in March.  Most of the evidence relates to her initial examination on March 21, and the grand jury deems it sufficient to issue two indictments against her.  Her trial, however, […]

  2. […] the trial of Martha Corey, who was initially accused of witchcraft way back in March, questioned on March 21, and indicted on August 4.  In addition to the usual spectral evidence given by the afflicted […]


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