May 2 (April 22, o.s.)

Massachusetts: The nine people accused of witchcraft the previous day are brought to the Salem Village meetinghouse to be questioned.  So many spectators attend that the afflicted persons have trouble getting a clear view of the accused to determine if they are indeed the witches afflicting them.

The first to be examined is Deliverance Hobbs, whose stepdaughter Abigail Hobbs confessed to witchcraft on April 19.  The magistrates, John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin, decide beforehand that she is to be examined first and do not announce her name when she is brought in.  They then ask the afflicted persons if they know her.  Mercy Lewis, the first to be asked, is conveniently struck dumb, but Ann Putnam correctly identifies her as Deliverance Hobbs and says that she has “hurt her much.”  John Indian and Mary Walcott then accuse her of hurting them as well.  Hathorne begins to question Hobbs in his usual leading manner, but she is steadfast in her denials of any wrongdoing.  Frustrated, he asks instead about her affliction and accusation of Sarah Wilds on April 17.  She responds that she saw the apparitions of “a great many birds, cats and dogs” as well as “the shapes of several persons.”  The only specific people she names in response to further questioning are Sarah Wilds and Mercy Lewis, one of the afflicted girls from Salem Village whom she knew when they both lived in Maine several years before.

Hathorne continues his questioning by asking Hobbs if she signed the Devil’s book, and if not, how she could account for her change from afflicted to afflicter.  The afflicted persons begin to have severe fits and some shout that they see her specter on the beam of the meetinghouse.  Hobbs is initially struck dumb, but upon repeated questioning admits to signing, but only very recently.  Pressed further, she says it was the night before last.  The fits of the afflicted persons stop.

Hobbs begins to supply more details in response to persistent questioning.  She says that Wilds brought the book to her to sign, and that she and Sarah Osborne supplied her with “images” of people to afflict.  She can’t name any specific victims without extensive prompting, however.  When Hathorne asks if Wilds and Osborne were accompanied by a man she says yes, “a tall black man, with a high-crowned hat.”  After Hathorne is done with his questioning a group of women searches Hobbs’s body for evidence of the strike that Benjamin Hutchinson allegedly gave her specter at Nathaniel Ingersoll’s tavern the day before.  She admits that there is a sore place on her right side, which the women confirm.  There is also an injury to her left eye, which agrees with the testimony of the afflicted girls that Hutchinson also struck her there.  She is then sent off to jail.

The next to be questioned is Sarah Wilds, just accused by Deliverance Hobbs in the course of her own confession.  The afflicted have their customary fits, Hathorne states that her guilt seems clear to him in the light of Hobbs’s testimony, and some Topsfield residents accuse her of bewitching another woman many years before.  Unsurprisingly, she is quickly ordered to jail.

With Nehemiah Abbott, a weaver from Topsfield, the magistrates conduct a test like the one they used earlier for Hobbs, and once again it is Ann Putnam who makes the correct identification.  Ann also cries out that she sees his specter on the beam of the meetinghouse, and Hathorne notes that a similar apparition of Hobbs came just before her confession, so he admonishes Abbott to confess too.  He refuses, however, and maintains his innocence so steadfastly that Hathorne turns to the afflicted persons and reminds them to make sure they are absolutely certain he is the man they see afflicting them.  This causes some dissension among the afflicted, with some maintaining that it is him while others begin to be more cautious.  Ann Putnam is among the first group, but Mary Walcott backs down to saying that it is someone like him, but she can’t be sure it is him, while Mercy Lewis declares that it isn’t him at all.  Even Ann then become more tentative, and the magistrates order Abbott sent away while they conduct examinations of the others.

Mary Easty, the sister of already accused witches Rebecca Nurse and Sarah Cloyce, is among those interrogated in Abbott’s absence.  Several of the afflicted fall into fits and mimic her movements, but she maintains her innocence.  When Hathorne asks what is afflicting them if not her, she says it’s an evil spirit, clearly, but she doesn’t know if it’s witchcraft.  Hathorne is incredulous and points out that several people have already confessed to bewitching them before ordering her sent to jail with her sisters.

Sarah Bishop of Salem Village, stepdaughter of Sarah Wilds, and her husband Edward, who has expressed considerable skepticism of the afflicted persons, are also interrogated and sent to jail, as is Mrs. Mary English, wife of the prominent merchant Philip English of Salem Town.  Abbott is then brought back in and the afflicted talk calmly and peacefully with him, eventually determining unanimously that he is not the man they have seen, who has a wen that Abbott doesn’t have.  The magistrates therefore dismiss Abbott and he goes home a free man.

After concluding the public proceedings, the magistrates go to Salem jail to further question Deliverance Hobbs.  She gives a much more detailed confession than the one she gave in the meetinghouse, and says that the previous day Sarah Wilds invited her to a gathering of witches in the pasture by the house of Salem Village minister Samuel Parris.  The Proctors, the Coreys, Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Bridget Bishop were all there.  George Burroughs, the former minister of Salem Village whose specter Ann Putnam reported seeing on April 20, presided over the sacrament, and Wilds and Nurse distributed red wine and red bread.  Burroughs, accompanied by “a man in a long-crowned white hat,” exhorted them to bewitch everyone in Salem Village, gradually rather than all at once, and assured them that they would succeed.  Hobbs herself didn’t participate in the sacrament, for which the other witches threatened her.  She saw Abigail Williams come out to talk to the witches, but was then struck blind and didn’t see to whom she spoke.  (Abigail Williams and Mercy Lewis earlier described a similar gathering on March 31.)  As Deliverance Hobbs finished her confession, her stepdaughter Abigail was brought in and suffered a grievous fit, which Deliverance explained was the result of Giles Corey and “the gentlewoman of Boston” trying to break her neck.  The magistrates are quite impressed with the detail of this confession and how well it aligns with the testimony of both the afflicted persons and the previous confessors.

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Published in: on May 2, 2008 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on May 2 (April 22, o.s.)  
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