July 10 (June 30, o.s.)

Connecticut: Mary Newman testifies in Stamford before Jonathan Selleck that about two years ago she had some “difference” with Elizabeth Clawson and “angry words passed between them,” and the next day three of her sheep mysteriously died and some of her neighbors speculated that they might have been bewitched.

Massachusetts: Evidence against Elizabeth Howe of Topsfield, an old woman long suspected of witchcraft and formally accused on May 28, is presented to the grand jury of the Court of Oyer and Terminer in Salem. Most of the evidence involves accounts of past behavior suggesting witchcraft, and while spectral evidence presented by the afflicted girls is also presented and mentioned in the indictments issued by the grand jury, it is not the main evidence that convinces the jury of the need to issue those indictments. After the indictments have been issued, the trial begins.

Along with the by now routine sequence of testimony by the afflicted girls, the confessed witches, and old neighbors and acquaintances with tales of suspicious behavior from years back (the latter forming the great majority of the testimony in this case), the trial also features the use of a touch test, a common feature by now of initial examinations of suspected witches but not generally used in trials. When the afflicted persons are in their fits, they are brought to Howe and she touches them, whereupon they instantly recover, while touches from other people have no similar effect. This is presented to the trial jury as powerful evidence of Howe’s guilt. More persuasive, however, are the stories of her past behavior, especially the persistent rumors that she bewitched the young daughter of Samuel and Ruth Perley to death back in the early 1680s. These rumors were so widespread that they prevented her from joining the church in Ipswich later.

In her defense, Howe presents several statements attesting to her good character, some of which say that she has forgiven those who accused her of witchcraft in the past. This is not enough to overcome the evidence against her, however, and she is found guilty.

After Howe’s trial, the grand jury hears evidence against John and Elizabeth Proctor, the husband and wife who have been among the most frequently accused suspects. The grand jury finds the extensive evidence presented convincing and issues indictments against both.  The grand jury also hears evidence against Sarah Wilds of Topsfield, and indicts her as well.

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Published in: on July 10, 2008 at 12:00 am  Comments (2)  

2 Comments

  1. […] convenes in Salem for the trial of Sarah Wilds of Topsfield, who was indicted by the grand jury on June 30.  Wilds has long been suspected of witchcraft, and her trial proceeds as is by now usual.  It […]

  2. […] is Thomas Penoyer, who gives some further details about the incident described by Mary Newman on June 30 in which her sheep died mysteriously after a quarrel with Elizabeth Clawson.  He says it took […]


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