June 12 (June 2, o.s.)

Connecticut: Mercy Disborough is examined by a special court in Fairfield and asked why she had insisted on being ducked on May 30, to which she replies that it was to establish her innocence. She is also asked if she said at some point afterward that if she were hanged she would not be hanged alone, to which she replied that she did say that to one Benjamin Dunning, a local teenager. Dunning is called to testify and confirms that she said that the day before in response to being asked to give the names of other witches.

Jamaica: The Council meets in Port Royal and orders HMS Swan to be manned and prepared for duty immediately and for the President, as Commander-in-Chief, to exert his powers under martial law.

Massachusetts: The Court of Oyer and Terminer convened to try the rapidly multiplying witchcraft cases in Essex County begins its first session in the Salem Town courthouse. Chief Justice William Stoughton, the lieutenant governor of the colony, calls the court into session, then administers the oath of office to the district attorney, Thomas Newton, and the court clerk, Stephen Sewall. The proceedings begin with the grand jury hearing evidence against the accused to decide which of the accusations merit indictments.

The first of the accused to have their cases brought before the grand jury are Bridget Bishop, Rebecca Nurse, John Willard, Alice Parker, Susannah Martin, Sarah Good, and John and Elizabeth Proctor. These are all among the earliest suspects to be charged and examined by the Salem magistrates. A group of men is appointed to search the bodies of the two men for marks indicating witchcraft, and a group of women is appointed to likewise search the women. While they are conducting the physical examinations, the grand jury hears testimony from witnesses against Bridget Bishop, whose case Newton is giving special priority because of her extensive history of suspicious behavior suggesting witchcraft. Many witnesses give testimony of past experiences of apparent witchcraft by Bishop, generally involving loss of property such as livestock following disputes with her (a category of witchcraft technically known as maleficium). The afflicted persons of Salem Village also testify about her spectral attacks on them, however, particularly during her examination on April 19, as do the adult men closely associated with them, including Thomas Putnam and Samuel Parris.

The group of men tasked with examining John Willard and John Proctor for witch marks reports that the search has been unsuccessful. The group of women examining the female suspects has had more luck. While they found nothing unusual on the bodies of Parker, Martin or Good, they did find on the bodies of Bishop, Nurse and Proctor strange protuberances of flesh resembling breasts “between the pudendum and anus” that they declare “not usual in women.”

After more evidence is presented, against Rebecca Nurse and John Willard as well as Bridget Bishop, the women are physically examined again. This time the result is that the alleged protuberances found on Bishop, Nurse and Proctor are no longer there, perhaps because their animal familiars have come to them and suckled in the interim. Additionally, Martin’s bosom, which seemed to be “very full” during the first examination, now looks “all lank and pendant,” also a sign of having suckled a familiar.

The grand jury is convinced by the evidence presented against Bridget Bishop and issues indictments against her for afflicting the girls who have testified about her actions toward them during her initial examination. A trial jury is therefore convened to try her without delay. The trial begins with the afflicted girls testifying about Bishop’s spectral attacks on them and claiming that her apparition has admitted to various crimes. Other witnesses also testify about the happenings at Bishop’s examination and other occasions when she is said to have attacked the girls. The confessed witch Deliverance Hobbs also testifies that Bishop whipped her (spectrally) with iron rods to try to get her to take back her confession and attended a gathering of witches in a field in Salem Village where a “diabolical sacrament in bread and wine” was conducted. The witnesses to Bishop’s past maleficium then testify about it again, and the women who examined her testify about the odd protuberance of flesh near her genitalia that they found during the first examination but that then disappeared before the second.

Once all the evidence has been presented, Stoughton issues his instructions to the jury, which leaves to deliberate. When it returns the verdict is guilty, and Bishop is sentenced to be hanged on June 10. She is then taken away to jail.

After Bishop’s trial, Ann Carr Putnam testifies before the grand jury that she has recently seen visions of people accusing John Willard, Martha Corey and William Hobbs of killing them. She also says the specter of Willard himself came to her to admit to killing thirteen people.

Mexico: Pedro Manuel de Torres, captain of the palace guards, is convicted of dereliction of duty for being unprepared, undersupplied, and ineffective in dealing with the rioting on June 8. He is sentenced to be exiled to the fortress of San Juan de Ulúa in Veracruz.

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Published in: on June 12, 2008 at 12:00 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] Bridget Bishop, convicted of witchcraft at the first session of the Court of Oyer and Terminer on June 2 and sentenced to death, is hanged on Gallows Hill in Salem.  Maintaining her innocence to the […]


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