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Title: An Essay on Demonology, Ghosts and Apparitions, and Popular Superstitions - Also, an Account of the Witchcraft Delusion at Salem, in 1692
Author: Thacher, James
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Essay on Demonology, Ghosts and Apparitions, and Popular Superstitions - Also, an Account of the Witchcraft Delusion at Salem, in 1692" ***

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                        AN ESSAY
                       AN ACCOUNT
                         OF THE
                        IN 1682.

            By JAMES THACHER, M. D., A. A. S.

  'With spells and charms I break the viper's jaw,
  Cleave solid rocks, oaks from their fissures draw,
  Whole woods remove, the airy mountains shake,
  Earth forced to groan, and ghosts from graves awake.'
                                     Ovid's Metamor.

  There are mysteries even in nature, which we cannot
  investigate, paradoxes which we can never resolve.

                   CARTER AND HENDEE.
                      M DCCC XXXI.

     ENTERED, according to Act of Congress, in the
     year 1831, by CARTER & HENDEE, in the Clerk's
     Office of the District Court of Massachusetts.

                  BOSTON CLASSIC PRESS.
                      I. R. BUTTS.


The following pages were in substance composed to be read before the
Plymouth Lyceum, in 1829. When it was understood that Rev. CHARLES W.
UPHAM was about to favor the public with a work on the same subject,
it was determined that this little performance should be suppressed.
The Rev. Author observed in a letter, 'that although we may traverse
the same field, it is highly probable that we pursue different tracks.
The subject is so various, ample and abundant in instruction, that
good rather than evil would result from the application of more than
one mind to its discussion.' Since therefore, in the deeply
interesting work referred to, the learned author has not particularly
discussed the subjects of Ghosts, Apparitions, Mental Illusions, &c,
there may be no impropriety in submitting the following imperfect
production to the public, with the hope that it will not be considered
as altogether superfluous.

                                                   J. T.
    Plymouth, Nov. 1831.


    Ghosts and Apparitions,            1

    Power of Imagination,             21

    Illusions,                        26

    Imagination and Fear,             47

    Superstition,                     63

    Witchcraft and Sorcery,           74

    Salem Witchcraft,                113

    Omens and Auguries,              204

    Medical Quackery,                225



Such is the constitution of the human mind, that it never attains to
perfection; it is constantly susceptible of erroneous impressions and
perverse propensities. The faculties of the soul are bound in thraldom
by superstition, and the intellect, under its influence, is scarcely
capable of reflecting on its divine origin, its nobleness and dignity.
The mind that is imbued with a superstitious temperament, is liable to
incessant torment, and is prepared to inflict the most atrocious evils
on mankind; even murder, suicide, and merciless persecution, have
proceeded from, and been sanctioned by a superstitious spirit. It is
this, in its most appalling aspect, which impels the heathen to a life
of mutilation and perpetual pain and torment of body, which degrades
the understanding below that of a brute. The superstitions practised
by the devotees to the Roman Catholic Church, if less horrible, are
equally preposterous and pernicious. The popular belief in
supernatural visitations in the form of apparitions and spectres, is
fostered and encouraged by the baneful influence of superstition and
prejudice. So universal has been the prevalence of the belief that
those conversant with history can resort to the era when every village
had its ghost or witch, as, in more ancient times, every family had
its household gods. Superstition, is a word of very extensive
signification, but for the purpose of this work, the word applies to
those who believe in witchcraft, magic, and apparitions, or that the
divine will is decided by omens or auguries; that the fortune of
individuals can be affected by things indifferent, by things deemed
lucky or unlucky, or that disease can be cured by words, charms, and
incantations. It means, in short, the belief of what is false and
contrary to reason. Superstition arises from, and is sustained by
ignorance and credulity in the understanding. The subject of
supernatural agency and the reality of witchcraft, has been the
occasion of unbounded speculation, and of much philosophical
disquisition, in almost all nations and ages. While some of the wisest
of men have assented to their actual existence and visible appearance,
others equally eminent have maintained the opinion that the supposed
apparitions are to be accounted for on the principle of feverish
dreams and disturbed imaginations. That our Creator has power to
employ celestial spirits as instruments and messengers, and to create
supernatural visions on the human mind, it would be impious to deny.
But we can conceive of no necessity, at the present day, for the
employment of disembodied spirits in our world; we can hold no
intercourse with them, nor realize the slightest advantage by their
agency. To believe in apparitions is to believe that God suspends the
law of nature for the most trivial purposes, and that he would
communicate the power of doing mischief, and of controling his laws to
beings, merely to gratify their own passions, which is inconsistent
with the goodness of God. We are sufficiently aware that the sacred
spirits of our fathers have ascended to regions prepared for
their reception, and there may they remain undisturbed till the mighty
secrets now concealed shall be revealed for our good. The soul or
spirit of man is immaterial, of course intangible and invisible. If it
is not recognisable by our senses, how can the dead appear to the
living? That disembodied spirits should communicate with surviving
objects on earth, that the ghosts of the murdered should appear to
disclose the murderer, or that the spirit of the wise and good should
return to proffer instructions to the vile and ignorant, must be
deemed unphilosophical.

It will now be attempted to demonstrate, that the generality of the
supposed apparitions, in modern times, will admit of explanation from
causes purely natural. For this purpose, it will be requisite first,
to describe the system of nerves, and their functions, which
constitute a part of our complicated frames. Nerves are to be
considered as a tissue of strings or cords, which have their origin in
the brain and spinal marrow, and are distributed in branches to all
parts of the body. They are the immediate organs of sensation and of
muscular action. Upon the integrity of the nerves, all the senses,
both external and internal, entirely depend. The nerves are the medium
of illusions; their influence pervades the whole body, and their
various impressions are transmitted to the brain. When the entire
brain is affected, delirium is the consequence; if the optic nerve
only, visions disturb the imagination; if the acoustic nerves receive
the impression, unreal sounds or voices are heard. If the optic nerves
are cut or rendered paralytic, the sense of vision is irrecoverably
destroyed. The nervous system is liable to be diseased and deranged
from various causes, from which, it is obvious, derangement of both
body and mind must ensue. The following is extracted from a lecture on
Moral Philosophy, by the learned and Reverend Samuel Stanhope Smith,
D. D., late President of the College of New Jersey.

'The nerves are easily excited into movement by an infinite variety of
external impulses, or internal agitations. By whatever impulse any
motion, vibration, or affection, in the nervous system is produced, a
correspondent sensation, or train of sensations, or ideas in the mind,
will naturally follow. When the body is in regular health, and the
operations of the mind are in a natural and healthful train, the
action of the nervous system, being affected only by the regular and
successive impressions made upon it by the objects of nature, as they
successively occur, will present to the mind just and true images of
the scenes that surround it. But by various species of infirmity and
disorder in the body, the nerves, sometimes in their entire system,
and sometimes only in those divisions of them which are attached to
particular organs of sense, may be subjected to very irregular motions
or vibrations. Hence unreal images may be raised in the mind. The
state of the nervous affections may be vitiated by intemperate
indulgence, or by infirmity resulting from sedentary and melancholy
habits. Superstitions, fancies, or enthusiastic emotions, do often
greatly disturb the regular action of the nervous system. Such elastic
and vibratory strings may be subject to an infinite variety of
irregular movements, sometimes in consequence of a disordered state of
health, and sometimes arising from peculiarity of constitutional
structure, which may present false and often fantastic images to the
mind. No cause, perhaps, produces a more anomalous oscitancy, or
vibration of the nervous system, or of some particular portions of it,
than habits of intemperate indulgence. And I have not unfrequently
become acquainted with men who had been addicted to such excesses, who
were troubled with apprehensions of supernatural apparitions. A
peculiar imbecility of constitution, however, created by study,
retirement, or other causes, may be productive of similar effects, and
sometimes these nervous anomalies are formed in men who are otherwise
of active and athletic constitutions. But where they possess
enlightened minds and vigorous understandings, such visionary
tendencies may be counteracted by their intellectual energies. Yet
have we sometimes known the strongest understandings overcome by the
vivacity of nervous impression, which frequently is scarcely inferior
to the most lively ideas of sense. This may, especially, be the case
in two opposite conditions; either when the body has fallen into a
gloomy temperament, and the mind is weakened by fears, in which case
it is oppressed by distressing apprehensions; or, on the other hand,
when the nerves, the primary organs, of sensation, are strained into
an unnatural tension, and the whole system is exalted by an
enthusiastic fervor to the pitch of delirious intoxication. When a man
is exalted to such a degree of nervous excitement and mental feeling,
his visions are commonly pleasing, often rapturous, and sometimes
fantastic; but generally rise above the control or correction of the
judgment. Lord Lyttleton, in the vision which he believed he saw of
his deceased mother's form, shortly before his own death, may be an
example of the former; and the Baron Von Swedenborg, in his supposed
visions, sometimes of angels and sometimes of reptiles, may be an
instance of the latter. Persons, whose fancies have been much
disturbed in early life, by the tales of nurses, and other follies of
an injudicious education, creating a timid and superstitious mind, are
more especially liable to have their fears alarmed and their
imagination excited by every object in the dark. Whence sounds will be
augmented to the ear, and images rendered more glaring to the eyes.'

In a note, the learned author presents the following examples,
tending to illustrate the principles just advanced.

'I knew, some years ago, a worthy lady who, anxiously watching by the
cradle of a sick infant, and momently expecting its death, felt, as
she believed, just before it expired, a violent stroke across the back
of both her arms. From a tincture of superstitious apprehension
infused in her early education, and unacquainted with any natural
cause of such a phenomenon, she construed it into a preternatural
signal of the death of her child. It was, probably, a sudden and
convulsive contraction of the muscles in that part of the system,
occasioned by the solicitude of her mind and the fatigue of watching,
which, aided by imagination in a very interesting moment, produced a
shock that had to her the feeling of a severe concussion. That a
convulsive contraction should take place in those particular muscles
need not appear strange to those who know how irregular and uncertain
is the whole train of nervous action, especially under the operation
of some disorders of the body; and frequently, under the influence of
strong affections and emotions of the mind.' 'A young lady, who was
peculiarly susceptible of the impressions of fear in the dark, or at
the sight of any of the accompaniments of death, attended the funeral
of one of her intimate companions, who had died of the small pox. On
the following night she lodged in company with a female friend of
great firmness of mind. Waking in the night, some time after the moon
had risen, and faintly enlightened her chamber, the first object that
struck her view was a white robe hanging on the tall back of a chair,
and a cap placed on the top. Her disturbed imagination instantly took
the alarm, and in her agitation and terror rousing her companion, she
exclaimed violently that her deceased friend was standing before her.
The lady, with great presence of mind, brought the articles of
clothing which had caused the alarm, and thus composed her fears.
After she had become tranquil and was able distinctly to recall her
sensations, she declared that the perfect image of the deceased, just
as she was dressed for her coffin seemed to be before her sight. She
contemplated it as long as her fears would permit her, before she
exclaimed. She was sure that she recognised every feature of her
friend, and even the pits of the small pox, of which she died, in her
face. And she affirmed that before any tribunal she would have been
willing to make oath to this fact.' 'I have introduced this anecdote,'
says Dr Smith, 'merely to illustrate the power of the imagination by
its reaction on the nervous system, to complete the pictures that any
sudden impulses of the senses, occasioned by surprise or by
superstitious or enthusiastic feeling, have begun to form. It is not a
solitary anecdote of the kind. But I have selected it, because I am
more perfectly possessed of the circumstances, than of many others
that are circulated through certain classes of society. Nor are these
classes always to be found among the most ignorant and credulous.'
Lord Lyttleton was a man of splendid abilities, but degraded himself
by a continued course of profligacy and the basest dissipation. He was
arrested in his career by a sudden and remarkable death, at the age of
thirtyfive in the year 1779. The various narrations that have been
published relative to this singular event concur in most of the
following particulars. Three days previous to his death, being in
perfect health, he was warned in a dream or vision of the event,
which, accordingly, took place without any previous illness. According
to his own account, he awoke from sleep, and saw the image of his
deceased mother, who opened the curtains of his bed and denounced to
him, that in three days he should die. On the sentence being
denounced, he started up in great terror, incoherently saying, 'what!
shall I not live three days?' The reply was, no, you will not live
more than three days, and the apparition instantly vanished. This
alarming vision his lordship related, at breakfast the next morning,
to several women who were his companions. They fell a crying; but he,
although secretly agitated, pretended to disregard the affair, laughed
at their credulous folly, and professed to have no sort of belief, or
apprehension about it. On the third day of the prediction, he invited
Admiral Woolsey and another friend to dine with him, at his country
seat. At dinner, his lordship, appeared more than usually loquacious
and desultory in his conversation, reciting the probable remarks that
would of course be made whenever the news of his death should be
announced. In the evening, perceiving his female companions in a
gloomy mood, he took one of them and danced a minuet with her, then
taking out his watch, said, 'Look you here, it is now nine o'clock,
according to the vision I have but three hours to live, but don't you
mind this, madam; never fear, we'll jocky the ghost, I warrant you.'
At eleven o'clock he retired to bed earlier than usual with him, but
his pretence was, that he had planned for the party to breakfast
early, and spend the day in riding into the country. Admiral Woolsey
and his friend resolved to sit in the parlor till the predicted hour
was past, and the clock was privately put a little forward, and as
soon as it struck twelve, his lordship said, 'you see I have cheated
the ghost;' but soon after a voice was heard from the staircase,
uttering these words. 'He's dead? Oh, my lord is dead!' Instantly
running up stairs, they found him in bed, fallen back, and struggling.
Admiral Woolsey took his hand, which was grasped with such violence
that it was painful to endure, but he spake no more. His eyes were
turned up and fixed. They opened the jugular vein, but no blood
issued, and he was entirely dead at midnight of the third day.
Admiral Woolsey gives the following remarkable particulars in
addition. At the distance of thirty miles from the place where this
melancholy scene happened there lived a gentlemen, one of the intimate
companions of Lord Lyttleton, M. P. Andrews, Esq.; and they had agreed
that whichever of them should die first, the survivor should receive
one thousand pounds from the estate of the deceased. On this very
night he awoke about one o'clock and rung his bell with great
violence. His servant ran to him with all speed, and inquired, 'what
is the matter?' The gentleman sitting up in bed, with a countenance
full of horror, cried out, 'Oh John! Lord Lyttleton is dead!' 'How can
that be?' he replied, 'we have heard nothing, but that he is alive and
well.' The master exclaimed with the greatest perturbation, 'no, no, I
awoke just now on hearing the curtains undrawn, and at the foot of the
bed stood Lord Lyttleton, as plain as ever I saw him in my life. He
looked ghastly, and said, "all is over with me, Andrews. You have won
the thousand pounds," and vanished.' After attending to the
particulars above detailed, it would seem to require a philosophical
firmness to resist the impression in favor of supernatural
visitations; but this latter instance will, I believe, bear a
different explanation. The gentleman was apprised of Lyttleton's
vision and predicted death, which, with the thousand pounds depending,
must have excited in his mind an exquisite degree of anxiety, and
roused a guilty conscience. He doubtless counted every hour, and
although he fell asleep, could not be calm, and probably had a
disturbed dream. Awaking suddenly, it is quite natural that he should
have the impression, that the prediction was fulfilled. Dr Smith, who
is quoted above, comments as follows on the death of Lord Lyttleton.
His lordship was a man who had worn down to a very feeble state, a
lively and elastic constitution, and impaired a brilliant wit, by
voluptuous, and intemperate excesses. A few days before his death, he
imagined that he saw before him the perfect resemblance of his
deceased mother, who denounced to him that on such a day, and at a
prescribed hour, he should die. Under a constrained vivacity, his
mind, during the interval, was evidently much agitated. And on the
predicted day, and at the prescribed time, he actually expired.

This fact has been regarded by many persons, and those by no means of
inferior understandings, as a decisive proof of the reality of
apparitions from the spiritual world; and by others has been attempted
to be resolved on a variety of different grounds. The principles
already suggested, may, perhaps, serve to explain it in conformity
with the known laws of human nature, if the theory of nervous
vibration be admitted to be true, without resorting to the solution of
supernatural agents. The irregular and convulsive motions in the
nervous system which frequently arise from long continued habits of
intemperate indulgence, might be especially expected in a constitution
so irritable and debilitated, as that of Lord Lyttleton. If, either
sleeping or waking, or, in that indefinite interval between sleeping
and waking, their disordered movements could present to the fancy or
excite in the visual nerves, the distinct image of a living person
apparently resuscitated from the dead, which has been shown to be a
possible case, the debilitated frame of his lordship, agitated as it
must have often been, by the conscious apprehension of his
approaching end, may naturally be supposed to have predisposed them to
such a vision. Conscience, notwithstanding his assumed gayety,
somewhat perturbed by the fears of death, and with a recollection of a
pious mother, whose anxious admonitions had often endeavored in vain
to recall him from his vices, and to fix his thoughts on his future
existence, might naturally retrace her features in this formidable
vision. It is not improbable, that the whole scene may have been a
kind of waking dream, or if it was wholly transacted in sleep, it
might have been with such a forcible and vivid vibration, or impulse
of the nerves concerned in the formation of such an image, as would
give it the distinctness and vivacity of waking sensation. In the
tumult of his spirits, and the fear-excited vibrations of his whole
system, it is not strange, that the image of that disappointed and
reproaching parent should be presented to him, with a solemn and
foreboding aspect. And it would be adding only one trait of terror to
the scene, already so well prepared to admit it, and one that is
perfectly conformable to our experience of the desultory images of
dreaming, as well as what we have learned of similar visionary
impressions--that a particular period should be denounced to him for
his death, the symptoms and presages of which, in all probability, he
frequently felt in the tremors and palpitation of a breaking
constitution. The principal difficulty in the minds of those who have
only carelessly attended to this history, is to account for the exact
correspondence of the event of his death to the time fixed by the
prediction, if it had no other foundation than nervous impression. The
imagined prediction itself was sufficient, in a debilitated and
exhausted constitution, like that of Lord Lyttleton, to produce its
own accomplishment. Seizing upon his fears, in spite of his reason and
philosophy, for a life of dissipation and sensual excess generally
very much weakens the powers both of the mind and of the body, it
would naturally throw his whole system into great commotion. These
perturbed and tumultuous agitations would increase as the destined
moment approached, till the strength of nature failing, may well be
supposed to break at the point of extreme convulsion; that is, at the
expected moment of death.

To a case analogous, in many respects, to that of his lordship, there
are many witnesses still living in the city of Philadelphia. The
contrast in the issue of the latter, serves to confirm the solution
which has just been given of the former. Mr Edwards, a clergyman of
the Baptist persuasion in that city, of a tendency somewhat addicted
to melancholy in his habit, but, otherwise of a vigorous constitution,
had, like Lord Lyttleton, a visual impression, so clear and distinctly
defined, that he mistook it for a supernatural messenger from the
spiritual world to announce to him that at the end of a certain
period, he should die. He was so persuaded of the reality of the
vision, and the verity of the prediction, that he took leave of his
particular friends, and of his congregation, before the appointed day.
On the evening of this day, I saw his house filled with spectators and
inquirers, awaiting with solicitude the catastrophe of this
extraordinary affair. The tumult of his whole system, his difficult
respiration, his quick and tremulous pulse, and its frequent
intermissions, led many to announce, at various times during that
evening, to the surrounding spectators, that he was just expiring.
And without doubt, if his frame had been as weak and delicate as his
nervous system, he could not have survived the agitations, and, I may
say, almost convulsions, into which he was thrown. And here would have
been another prediction, and another supernatural appearance, as
extraordinary as those of Lord Lyttleton. But his constitution
triumphed, and he remained a monument to prove the force of nervous
illusion, which, in this case, as doubtless it has proved in many
others, appears to have given birth to an image as clear and definite
as could have been produced by the actual presence of such an object
as was supposed to have created it. I would hardly have ventured to
relate such an anecdote, if there were not ample testimony to its
verity still existing. The good man was so ashamed of his delusion,
and it so much lessened his credit with his spiritual flock, that he
was obliged to leave the city, and the church where he had formerly
been highly esteemed, and retire to a remote position in the country.
Many anecdotes to confirm the reality of _nervous sensation_, if I may
apply that phrase to designate those _sensible perceptions_ which are
sometimes caused in the mind, without the presence or aid of external
objects, must have occurred to those who have had extensive
opportunities of practically observing human nature. With several
persons I have been acquainted, and those by no means of inferior
understanding, who have been firmly persuaded of the existence of the
spectres indicated by such nervous affections, and have, on such
occasions, held conversations with them, real on their part, imaginary
on the part of the supposed spectre. Such, perhaps, in general, are
the disciples of the Baron Von Swedenborg. But illusions of this
nature are not confined to this class of men alone.


Dr Van Cleve, of Princeton, was lately applied to as a physician on
behalf of a man who had reduced himself by intemperance, to a state of
very distressing nervous irregularity. He was continually disturbed by
visions, sometimes of the most fantastic kind. He often heard strange
voices, and would ask and answer questions, as if engaged in
conversation with some of his visionary personages. His disorder, the
doctor said, was evidently not of that species which is usually
denominated mania, but appeared to be wholly the effect of a habit of
nervous irregularity, delirium tremens, induced by previous
intemperance. But the Baron Von Swedenborg, in his most visionary
moments, was never surrounded by more extraordinary assemblages of
strange sights. A very striking example of the power of nervous
impression, occurred a few years ago in the Rev. James Wilson,
formerly assistant minister with Dr Rodgers, in the first Presbyterian
Church in New York. He was a native of Scotland, and was a man highly
esteemed for his good sense, and the soundness of his judgment;
although not distinguished for a warm and popular eloquence. Being
obliged for a time to relinquish the exercise of his ministry from a
hemorrhage in his breast, he employed himself for several years in
different occupations in Scotland and America, but chiefly in
presiding over an Academy in Alexandria, in the State of Virginia. The
expectoration of blood having ceased for a considerable time, his
conscience began to reproach him for indolence and self-indulgence, in
not renewing his ministerial functions. In this uneasy state of mind,
a vision, as he thought, of a man of very dignified aspect, stood at
the foot of his bed in the morning, after he was perfectly awake, and
surveying him steadily for some moments, commanded him to resume his
duties in the pulpit: but added, that as considerable error had crept
into the church, he should undertake to reform it according to the
model of the primitive age. Mr Wilson, conscious of his want of
eloquent talents, and reforming zeal, reasoned with the supposed
apparition, alleging his utter incompetency to the task imposed upon
him. The dialogue ended in a repetition of the command, and assurance
of ability and success. The good man, wholly unable to explain this
clear and palpable vision, on any principles of nature or philosophy
with which he was acquainted, was deeply distressed, yet perfectly
sensible of his insufficiency for such an undertaking, he neglected
attempting to fulfil it. After an interval of two or three years, the
vision was repeated, with nearly the same circumstances, except that
the aspect of the person who appeared to present himself, was more
severe, and expressive of displeasure at his past delinquency. Mr
Wilson repeated his former reasonings on his want of health, and want
of talents, with other topics. But the answer was still the same; a
repetition of the injunction, and assurance of the necessary ability,
and ultimate success. His distress was raised to the highest degree in
the conflict of his mind between what he thought a sensible
demonstration of a supernatural requisition, and an invincible
consciousness of his own incompetency, and his fear of doing an injury
to true religion by his failure. After consulting several of his
friends upon the subject, he at length addressed a letter to the
author, stating all the circumstances which have just been detailed.
He was answered with the general reasonings contained in this lecture,
to convince him that his vision was merely a consequence of nervous
affection, resulting from bodily disorder. Three letters passed
between Mr Wilson and the author, reasoned on the part of Mr Wilson
with great calmness and good sense, admitting all the objections to
such an apostolic undertaking as that to which he was urged, both from
scripture and from his own peculiar deficiency of power and talents,
but pleading the impulse of a sensation as clear and strong, and, to
his mind, as real as he had ever felt. But it was replied that there
were other considerations combined with the whole system and harmony
of nature, which ought to have greater authority with a rational mind
than any single and individual impression of sense, which evidently
violates its general order. The correspondence came to this issue at
last, that, as he agreed with the church as she now exists, in most of
her doctrines, and especially in the moral precepts of religion, he
should begin his course by inculcating only those principles in which
all were agreed, and if he found the promise of his vision verified in
his returning strength and successful eloquence, he would then have
sufficient encouragement to proceed further. He actually came to New
York with the intention to put this experiment into execution, but
died in that city shortly after his landing. He published one
discourse introductory to the design.


The following observations are from Dr Rush, found in his Treatise on
Diseases of the Mind. 'By this term, (Illusions) I mean that disease,
in which false perceptions take place in the ears and eyes in the
waking state, from a morbid affection of the brain, or of the sense
which is the seat of the illusion. It may be considered as a waking
dream. Persons affected with it fancy they hear voices, or see objects
that do not exist. These false perceptions are said, by superstitious
people, to be premonitions of death. They sometimes indicate either
the forming state, or the actual existence of disease, which being
seated most commonly in a highly vital part of the body, that is, in
the brain, now and then ends in death, and thus administers support to
superstition. They depend, like false perception in madness, upon
motion being excited in a part of the ear or the eye, which does not
vibrate with the impression made upon it, but communicates it to a
part upon which the impression of the noise heard, or of the person
seen, was formerly made, and hence the one becomes audible, and the
other visible.

'The deception, when made upon the ears, consists most commonly in
hearing our own names, and for this obvious reason; we are accustomed
to hear them pronounced more frequently than any other words, and
hence the part of the ear, which vibrates with the sound of our names,
moves more promptly, from habit, than any other part of it. For the
same reason the deception, when made upon the eyes, consists in seeing
our own persons, or the persons of our intimate friends, whether
living or dead, oftener than any other people. The part upon the
retina, from which those images are reflected, move more promptly,
from habit, than any other of that part of the organ of vision.

'The voice which is supposed to be heard, and the objects which are
supposed to be seen, are never heard nor seen by two persons, even
when they are close to each other. This proves them both to be the
effect of disease in the single person who hears, or sees, the
supposed voice or object.'

Dr Rush has recorded numerous instances of partial mental derangement
from hypochondriasis, chiefly from his own knowledge, such as the
following. A sea captain believed that he had a wolf in his liver;
others that they are converted into an animal of another species, such
as a goose, a dog, a cat, a hare, a cow, and the like. One imagined
that he was once a calf, and mentions the name of the butcher that
killed him, and the stall in the Philadelphia market, on which his
flesh was sold, previously to his animating his present body. One
believed that he had no soul. Another that he is transformed into a
plant, and insisted on being watered in common with all the plants
around him in the garden. Another that his body was transformed into
glass. The celebrated Cowper suffered much anguish from complaints of
a similar nature, arising from hypochondriac affection.

Among the causes of nervous affection and diseased imagination, are
those of sedentary habits and a free use of strong tea. The following
instances were communicated by my friend the Rev. Mr K.

The late Rev. Mr F. of Ipswich, who was very sedentary; spent most of
his time in his study without exercise, and his health became
impaired. He imagined for some time before his death, that he was
actually dead. I saw him in this state of mind, walking his chamber in
extreme agitation. To the question, how he could suffer so much, if
actually dead, he answered, that his own spirit was departed, and that
another spirit had taken possession of his body.

A gentleman in Boston once told the first President Adams, that he had
become strangely timid, that he dared not keep the side walks, but
walked in the middle of the street, being constantly apprehensive that
the tile on the houses would fall on his head. The president asked him
if he made a free use of tea, and being answered in the affirmative,
he recommended to him to use it more sparingly and he would probably
be benefited by the change. By pursuing this advice, he was relieved,
and was soon able to return to the side walks without fear.

A gentleman of Salem, sailing from the south to Massachusetts, while
under the influence of nervous affection, imagined that he saw a man
in the water near the ship, who was drowning. Conceiving that he
might save his life, he was in the very act of leaping into the sea
for that purpose, but was happily prevented by those on deck. He
afterward recovered his health, and had a perfect recollection of his
feelings on that occasion. He had no idea of destroying himself, but
would have perished had he not been prevented. Instances of a similar
nature have probably occurred, in which lives have been lost in
consequence of such delusion.

It is said that Mr Murdock, the member of the Vermont Legislature, who
recently committed suicide, imagined himself to be Dr Cleaveland, who
was under sentence of death. Mr Murdock attempted to speak when
Cleaveland's case was before the legislature, but was so much agitated
that he could not speak, and was taken from the house by his friends.
Under this strong impression of his being Cleaveland, he killed
himself to avoid the doom of the law. This event would make a
thrilling chapter in Sir Walter Scott's history of Demonology and

It will aid our purpose to relate the following instance of Mr
Nicolai, an intelligent bookseller and member of the Academy of
Sciences of Berlin, who happily possessed philosophy enough to account
for the phantasms which, for some time agitated his own mind, upon
rational principles. 'In the year 1791, I was much affected in my mind
by several incidents of a very disagreeable nature; and on a certain
day a circumstance occurred, which irritated me extremely. At ten
o'clock in the forenoon, my wife and another person came to console
me. I was in a violent perturbation of mind, owing to a series of
incidents which had altogether wounded my moral feelings, and from
which I saw no possibility of relief; when suddenly I observed at the
distance of ten paces from me, a figure; the figure of a deceased
person. I pointed at it, and asked my wife if she did not see it. She
saw nothing; but being much alarmed, endeavored to compose me, and
sent for the physician. The figure remained seven or eight minutes,
and at length I became a little more calm; and as I was extremely
exhausted, I soon afterwards fell into a troubled kind of slumber,
which lasted for half an hour. The vision was ascribed to the great
agitation of mind in which I had been, and it was supposed I should
have nothing more to apprehend from that cause; but the violent
affection had put my nerves into some unnatural state; from this arose
further consequences which require a more detailed description. In the
afternoon a little after four o'clock, the figure which I had seen in
the morning again appeared. I was alone when this happened, a
circumstance, which, as may easily be conceived, could not be very
agreeable. I went therefore to the apartment of my wife, to whom I
related it. But thither also the figure pursued me. Sometimes it was
present, sometimes it vanished, but it was always the same standing
figure. A little after six o'clock, several stalking figures also
appeared, but they had no connexion with the standing figure. The
figure of the deceased person never appeared to me after the first
dreadful day; but several other figures showed themselves afterwards
very distinctly; sometimes such as I knew, mostly however, of persons
I did not know, and amongst those known to me, were the semblance of
both living and deceased persons, but mostly the former; and I made
the observation, that acquaintance with whom I daily conversed never
appeared to me as phantasms; it was always such as were at a distance.
These figures appeared to me at all times, and under the most
different circumstances, equally distinct and clear. Whether I was
alone or in company, by broad day light equally as in the night time,
in my own house as well as in my neighbor's; yet, when I was at
another person's house, they were less frequent, and when I walked the
public street, they very seldom appeared. When I shut my eyes,
sometimes the figures disappeared, sometimes they remained even after
I closed them. If they vanished in the former case, on opening my eyes
again, nearly the same figures appeared which I had seen before. For
the most part I saw human figures of both sexes; they commonly passed
to and fro, as if they had no connexion with each other, like people
at a fair, where all is bustle; sometimes they appeared to have
business with each other. Once or twice I saw amongst them persons on
horseback, and dogs and birds; these figures all appeared to me in
their natural size, as distinctly as if they had existed in real life,
with the several tints on the uncovered parts of the body, and with
all the different kinds and colors of clothes. On the whole, the
longer I continued in this state, the more did the phantasms increase,
and the apparitions became more frequent. About four weeks afterwards,
I began to hear them speak, sometimes the phantasms spoke with one
another; but for the most part they addressed themselves to me; these
speeches were in general short, and never contained anything
disagreeable. Intelligent and respected friends often appeared to me,
who endeavored to console me in my grief, which still left deep traces
on my mind. This speaking I heard most frequently when I was alone;
though I sometimes heard it in company, intermingled with the
conversation of real persons, frequently in single phrases only, but
sometimes even in connected discourse. Though at this time I enjoyed
rather a good state of health both in body and mind, and had become so
familiar with these phantasms, that at last they did not excite the
least disagreeable emotion, but on the contrary afforded me frequent
subjects for amusement and mirth; yet as the disorder sensibly
increased, and the figures appeared to me the whole day together, and
even during the night, if I happened to awake, I had recourse to
several medicines. Had I not been able to distinguish phantasms from
phenomena, I must have been insane. Had I been fanatic or
superstitious, I should have been terrified at my own phantasms, and
probably might have been seized with some alarming disorder. Had I
been attached to the marvellous, I should have sought to magnify my
own importance, by asserting that I had seen spirits; and who could
have disputed the facts with me? In this case, however, the advantage
of sound philosophy and deliberate observation may be seen. Both
prevented me from becoming either a lunatic or an enthusiast; for with
nerves so strongly excited, and blood so quick in circulation, either
misfortune might have easily befallen me. But I considered the
phantasms that hovered around me as what they really were, namely, the
effects of disease, and made them subservient to my observations,
because I consider observation and reflection as the basis of all
rational philosophy.' This gentleman had been accustomed to lose blood
twice a year, but it was omitted at this time, and having suffered so
much by the neglect, he again had recourse to blood letting and was
soon relieved of all his phantasms.

The following article is contained in the Edinburgh Journal of
Science, conducted by Dr Brewster, who says of the narrator of the
case, that, 'his station in society and as a man of science, would
authenticate the minutest particulars in his narrative, and satisfy
the most scrupulous reader that the case has been philosophically as
well as faithfully described.' The narrator is in fact the husband of
the lady who was the subject of the disease.

'On the twentysixth of December, 1829, about half past four o'clock in
the afternoon, Mrs B. was standing near the fire in the hall, and on
the point of going up stairs to dress, when she heard, as she
supposed, my voice calling her by name,--Come here, come to me! She
imagined that I was calling at the door to have it opened, went to it,
and was surprised on opening it to find no one. She returned toward
the fire, and again heard the same voice, calling very distinctly and
loud,--Come, come here. She then opened two other doors of the same
room, but seeing no one, she returned to the fire-place. After a few
minutes, she heard the same voice, still calling--'Come to me, come,
come away;' this time in a loud, plaintive, and somewhat impatient
tone. She answered as loudly--'Where are you? I don't know where you
are'--still imagining that I was somewhere in search of her; but
receiving no answer, she shortly went up stairs. On my return to the
house about half an hour afterwards, she inquired why I had called to
her so often, and where I was; and was of course surprised to hear I
had not been near the house at the time.

'On the 30th of the same month, at about four o'clock, P. M., Mrs B.
came down stairs into the drawing room, which she had quitted a few
minutes before, and on entering the room, saw me, as she supposed,
standing with my back to the fire. She addressed me, asking how it was
I had returned so soon. (I had left the house for a walk half an hour
before.) She said I looked fixedly at her with a serious and
thoughtful expression of countenance, but did not speak. She supposed
I was busied in thought, and sat down in an arm-chair near the fire,
and within a couple of feet at most of the figure she still saw
standing before her. As, however, the eyes still continued to be fixed
upon her, after a few moments she said--'Why don't you speak--?' The
figure upon this moved off towards the window at the farther end of
the room, the eyes still gazing on her, and passed so very close to
her in doing so, that she was struck by the circumstance of hearing no
step nor sound, nor feeling her clothes brushed against, nor even any
agitation of the air. The idea then arose for the first time into her
mind, that it was no reality, but a spectral illusion, (being a person
of sense and habituated to account rationally for most things, the
notion of anything supernatural was out of the question.) She
recollected, however, your having mentioned that there was a sort of
experimentum crucis, applicable to these cases, by which a genuine
ghost may be distinguished from one conjured up by merely natural
causes; namely, the pressing the eye in order to produce the effect of
seeing double, when, according to your assertion, a true Tartarean
ghost may be duplicated as well as everything else; while the morbid
idea being, I suppose, an impression on the retina, would or ought to
remain single. I am sorry, however, to say, that the opportunity for
verifying your theory was unfavorable. Before Mrs B. was able
distinctly to double her vision, my figure had retreated to the window
and disappeared there. The lady followed, shook the curtains, and
tried the windows, being still loth to believe it was not a reality,
so distinct and forcible was the impression. Finding, however, that
there was no natural means of egress, she became convinced of having
seen a spectral apparition, such as are recorded in Dr Hibbert's work,
and consequently felt no alarm or agitation. The appearance lasted
four or five minutes. It was bright daylight, and Mrs B. is confident
that the apparition was fully as vivid as the reality; and when
standing close to her, it concealed, of course, the real objects
behind it. Upon being told of this my visible appearance in the
spirit, having been only _audible_ a few days before, I was, as you
may imagine, more alarmed for the health of the lady than for my own
approaching death, or any other fatality the vision might be supposed
to forebode. Still both the stories were so very much _en regle_ as
ghost stories, the three calls of the plaintive voice, each one louder
than the preceding, the fixed eye and mournful expression of the
phantom, its noiseless step and spirit-like vanishing, were all so
characteristic of the wraith, that I might have been unable to shake
off some disagreeable fancies, such as a mind once deeply saturated
with the poison of nursery-tales cannot altogether banish, had it not
been for a third apparition, at whose visit I myself assisted, a few
days afterwards, and which I think is the key-stone of the case,
rendering it as complete as could be wished.

'On the 4th of this month, January, 1830, five days after the last
apparition, at about ten o'clock at night, I was sitting in the
drawing-room with Mrs B. and in the act of stirring the fire, when she
exclaimed, 'Why, there's the cat in the room!' I asked 'Where?' She
replied, 'There, close to you.' 'Where?' I repeated. 'Why, on the rug,
to be sure, between yourself and the coal-scuttle.' I had the poker in
my hand, and I pushed in the direction mentioned. 'Take care,' she
cried out, 'take care, you are hitting her with the poker.' I again
asked her to point out exactly where she saw the cat. She replied,
'Why, sitting up there close to your feet, on the rug:--she is looking
at me. It is Kitty, come here Kitty.' There are two cats in the house,
one of which went by this name. They are rarely, if ever in the
drawing-room. At this time Mrs B. had certainly no idea that the sight
of the cat was an illusion. I asked her to touch it. She got up for
the purpose, and seemed, too, as if she was pursuing something which
moved away. She followed a few steps, and then said,--'It has gone
under that chair.' I told her it was an illusion. She would not
believe it. I lifted up the chair; there was nothing there, nor did
Mrs B. see anything more of it. I searched the room all over, and
found nothing. There was a dog lying on the hearth, who would have
betrayed great uneasiness had a cat been in the room. He was perfectly
quiet. In order to be quite certain, I rung the bell and sent for the
cats. They were both found in the housekeeper's room. The most
superstitious person could now doubt no longer as to the real
character of all these illusory appearances, and the case is so
complete, that I hope there will be no renewal of them, symptomatic
as they of course are of a disordered state of the body. I am sorry to
say Mrs B. as well as myself, forgot to try in time the experimentum
crucis on the cat. Mrs B. has naturally a morbidly sensitive
imagination, so strongly affecting her corporeal impressions, that the
story of any person having severe pain by accident, or otherwise, will
occasionally produce acute twinges of pain in the correspondent part
in her own person. An account, for instance, of the amputation of an
arm, will produce an instantaneous and severe sense of pain in her own
arm; and so of other relations. She is subject to talk in her sleep,
with great fluency; to repeat poetry very much at length, particularly
when unwell, and even _cap verses_ for half an hour together, never
failing to quote lines beginning with the final letter of the
preceding till her memory is exhausted.

'She has, during the last six weeks, been considerably reduced and
weakened, by a tiresome cough, which has also added to her weakness by
preventing the taking a daily tonic, to which she had been for some
time accustomed. She had also confined herself from this cause to the
house for some weeks, which is not usual with her, being accustomed to
take a great deal of air and exercise. Her general health for some
time past has not been strong, and a long experience has proved beyond
a doubt, that her ill health is attributable to a disordered state of
the digestive organs. These details are necessary for a complete
understanding of this case, which strikes me as one of remarkable
interest, from combining the character of an ordinary ghost story with
those of an indubitable illusion, as well as from the circumstance
occurring to a person of strong mind, devoid of any superstitious
fancies, and to be implicitly relied on for the truth of the minutest
details of the appearances. Indeed, I do not recollect any well
authenticated and recent instances of auricular delusion like the
first of those I have related, though of course the warning voices and
sounds which have frightened too many weak persons into their graves,
must have been of this nature. Mrs B. tells me that about ten years
ago a similar circumstance happened to her when residing in Florence,
and in perfect health. While undressing after a ball, she heard a
voice call her repeatedly by name, and was at that time unable to
account for the fact.

'It was nearly a month after the last occurrence, that Mrs B. was
preparing for bed at about eleven o'clock at night, and after somewhat
a fatiguing day, and sitting before the dressing glass occupied in
arranging her hair. She describes her state of mind at the time as
listless and drowsy, but fully awake; indeed her fingers were in
active motion among the papillotes, when she was suddenly startled by
seeing in the mirror the figure of a near relative (at the time in
Scotland) over her left shoulder; her eyes meeting his in the glass.
The figure was enveloped in grave clothes, closely pinned as is usual
with corpses round the head and under the chin. Though the eyes were
open, the features were solemn and rigid. The dress was decidedly a
_shroud_, as Mrs B. remarked even the punctured pattern worked in a
peculiar manner round the edges of that garment. Mrs B. describes
herself as sensible of a feeling like fascination, compelling her for
a time to gaze on this melancholy apparition, which was as distinct
and vivid as any reflected reality could be; the light of the candles
on the dressing table appearing to shine fully upon it. After a few
minutes she turned round to look for the reality of the form over her
shoulder. It was not, however, visible; and had also disappeared from
the glass when she looked in that direction again. Coupled with the
previous illusions I related to you, this last apparition becomes more
interesting than it would be alone. In the first place, its melancholy
and indeed horrible character, distinguishes it from the others, but
brings it still nearer the ordinary stories of supernatural
visitation. At the same time the possible continuance of such spectral
appearances is highly disagreeable, however firm the lady's nerves,
and however sound her philosophy. 2d. The mind in this case seems not
to have had the remotest influence in raising or dissipating the
illusion. Mrs B. is convinced there was no train of thought previously
passing through her mind, likely to have the slightest association
with the idea of the relative, whose form she suddenly saw with all
the distinctness of reality. 3d. The former illusions might be
supposed ideas of sensation, sounds, or pictures reproduced, with
extraordinary vividness in the same shape and character, in which they
had been perceived by and stored up in the mind. But in this last case
there is a new combination of ideas which never entered the mind in

'The union of the well known features with the shroud, must have been
a pure effort of, or creation of the mind. There seems, therefore, no
reason why, under the same disposition of the nervous system, any
monstrous creation of the faculty we call imagination might not be
produced to the eyes and other senses; indeed, with all the qualities
that constitute reality, except their endurance, though this should
hardly be excepted, since there can be no reason why the appearances
may not endure, by a continuance of the conditions for days, or
months. I need hardly say that the relative, whose ghost was seen
after so dismal a fashion, was at the time in perfect health. Had it
been otherwise, and the apparition coincided with illness or death, as
has no doubt frequently happened in other instances, our philosophy
would have had to stand a severe trial.'


The influence of the imagination on the nervous system has on some
occasions produced effects bordering on a state of insanity. It
deprives the mind of all correct reasonings, perverts the
understanding with which we are endowed by our Creator to regulate our
belief, guide us in our pursuits, and enable us to trace effects to
their true causes. Instances are not wanting, in which the imagination
has been so highly excited as to produce fatal effects. We have on
record, among others, the story of a German student, who dreamed he
was to die at a certain hour the next day. He immediately made his
will, and prepared himself for the awful event. Every argument was
used to convince him that no dependence is to be put in dreams, but
without shaking his belief, and as the hour approached, he exhibited
the alarming signs of death. He watched the clock with the greatest
anxiety, till his attending physician contrived to place the hands of
the clock beyond the specified hour, when his mind was relieved from
the impression, and he was rejoiced to find that he might still
continue to live in despite of his dream. In another instance, a man
whose nervous system was impaired, and imagination excited, conceived
the extravagant idea, that his legs were made of glass, and would use
no exercise lest he should break them. He was prevailed on, however,
to ride, and the carriage was designedly overset, when he was soon
convinced that his legs were made of the substantial material intended
by nature. A few years since, Elijah Barns of Pennsylvania, killed a
rattlesnake in his field without any injury to himself, and
immediately after put on his son's waistcoat, mistaking it for his
own, both being of one color. He returned to his house, and on
attempting to button his waistcoat, he found to his astonishment that
it was much too small. His imagination was now wrought to a high
pitch, and he instantly conceived the idea that he had been bitten
imperceptibly by the snake, and was thus swollen from its poison. He
grew suddenly very ill, and took to his bed. The family in great alarm
and confusion summoned three physicians, and the usual remedies were
prescribed and administered. The patient, however, grew worse and
worse every minute, until at length his son came home with his
father's waistcoat dangling about him. The mystery was instantly
unfolded, and the patient being relieved from his imaginary
apprehensions, dismissed his physicians, and was restored to health.

The philosophy of mind is a study of peculiar interest, and after all
our powers of research are exhausted, numerous phenomena will remain
inexplicable. Indeed our mental faculties are continually overwhelmed
with things inexplicable. We too often embrace for substantial truths
mere phantoms, which vanish into air, and leave the mind to deplore
its own imbecility. While superstition weakens our moral virtues, and
the influence of imagination deludes our intellectual powers, the
passion of fear has a pernicious and even a hazardous tendency. It is
the passion, which most of all others, exerts its effects directly on
the heart; on some occasions, it produces instant death, and in
numerous instances, it lays a foundation for a chronic disease of that
vital organ, which, after a long duration of distressing complaints,
has a fatal termination. Not long since, an instance was published,
of a child having died of a disease of the heart, in consequence of a
fright received by being thrown upwards and caught in its fall for

Few persons are aware of the extreme danger of sudden fright on timid
minds. The most melancholy consequences have on some occasions
resulted from stratagems with effigies, representing apparitions for
innocent and momentary amusement. Instances are not wanting of a total
loss of intellect during life, from such inexcusable folly. Parents
and nurses should carefully avoid imbuing the minds of children with
idle stories of ghosts and apparitions. The following facts, selected
from numerous others, will illustrate the effects of terror on the
mind. In a poor-house in Haerlem, a girl was seized with a convulsive
disorder, which returned in regular paroxysms; not long after, another
was taken, and others in succession, till all the boys and girls in
the house were affected in a similar manner. The medical prescriptions
failed to perform a cure. At length the celebrated Dr Boerhaave,
ascribing the occurrences to the habit of imitation, ordered several
furnaces to be placed in the chamber. Over the burning coals a number
of crooked irons were laid, and the doctor ordered his attendants to
burn the arm of the first child, who should be seized in a fit, even
to the bone. This alarming remedy produced the desired effect; their
imagination was overpowered by the force of fear, and not a case of
the kind again occurred. In a family of six children, one of them was
afflicted with convulsive affections; all the others exhibited the
symptoms of the same disorder, by imitation. No remedy could remove
the extraordinary affection, till the father placed a block and an axe
in their view, and declared that he would decapitate the first one who
should exhibit any more gestures, except the first one taken. By this
expedient, all imitation and imaginary feelings were overcome, and the
five last were happily delivered from the nervous agitations. With
respect to the appearance of ghosts and apparitions, it cannot be
doubted, but many of the reports found on record, or repeated by
tradition, were mere illusions of imagination, or fictions, contrived
solely to amuse, or to answer some particular purpose; and too many
have been the dupes of implicit faith, without examining the affair
with that jealous attention which it required. It is not improbable,
that in many instances, hobgoblin stories may be explained by the
deceptive powers of ventriloquism. We have had auricular demonstration
of the extraordinary powers of ventriloquists; they can counterfeit
the voices of animals and all imaginable noises, at pleasure, and
conjure up a ghost or witch on any occasion. Although ventriloquism
was not practised, as an art, in ancient times, it was not unknown,
and individuals possessing that faculty might have put it in
operation, on particular occasions, without suspicion. In most cases
of supposed apparitions and spectres, the reports originated with
timorous and credulous persons, or those of questionable character.
The scene is always exhibited in the night, when the eye is prepared
to see frightful spectres, and the imagination is awaked to magnify
every object, whether real or unreal.

    'All things are full of horror and affright,
    And dreadful even the silence of the night.'

The darkness of the night, the gloom and horror produced by the
report of haunted houses, or some disastrous occurrence, as murder or
robbery in a particular situation, and a state of mind naturally
depressed and melancholy, have doubtless contributed to give a
currency to many of those legendary stories which have been
credulously received and disseminated by the vulgar. Those,
especially, who are trembling with a guilty conscience, are liable to
deception; even the most intrepid have been alarmed, when in the
night, posts, trees, and other objects, have been presented in a
distorted form. We are familiar with the story of the frightened
person, who, on passing a church-yard in the night, conceited that he
saw a ghost clothed in white; but on examination it proved to be no
other than a white horse. A few years ago, Dr Stearns was travelling
from Boston to Salem in the evening, having a considerable sum of
money about him. He suffered himself to be strongly impressed with the
apprehension of being robbed. While his mind was wrought up to the
highest pitch, he imagined that a robber approached him with a club
suspended over his head, and demanded his money. He instantly took
out his pocket book and threw it on the ground, and in great affright
drove off with all speed. Having procured assistance and lights, they
visited the spot in search of the robber, when to their surprise they
found a pump standing near the road, having its handle turned upwards,
and the doctor's pocket book instead of being in the hands of a
robber, was found lying beside the pump.

Were all the supposed apparitions and spectres to be met with the
intrepidity displayed in the following instance, ghost stories would
seldom be repeated. About the latter part of the last century, a Mr
Blake, of Hingham, Massachusetts, was passing the church-yard in the
night, when he saw an object in human form, clothed in white, sitting
near an open tomb. Resolving to satisfy himself, he walked toward it.
The form moved as he approached, and endeavored to elude his pursuit;
when he ran, the object ran before him, and after turning in different
directions, descended into the tomb. Mr Blake followed, and there
found a woman, who was in a deranged state of mind, who had covered
herself with a sheet, and was roaming among the silent tombs.

The passion of fear is implanted in our nature for wise purposes. It
prompts us to self defence and the avoidance of evil. It is excited
into action by various causes, depending on the condition of the
nerves in different constitutions, or in the same at different times.
But when extended to imaginary objects of terror, fear becomes
superstition, as by a sort of instinct, and has a direct tendency to
cherish ignorance and credulity. Dr Franklin had no faith in
apparitions and spectres, but he proposed to a friend, that the one
which should die first, should return in spirit and visit the
survivor; his friend died first, but his spirit never returned. The
strong mind of Dr Samuel Johnson was not altogether free from
agitation and embarrassment, when contemplating the question of the
appearance of incorporeal spirits in our world. This great man said to
Mr Boswell, his biographer, 'it is wonderful that 5000 years have now
elapsed since the creation of the world, and still it is undecided
whether or not there has ever been an instance, in modern times, of
the spirit of any person appearing after death. All argument is
against it, but all belief is for it.' Boswell suggested, as an
objection, that if spirits are in a state of happiness, it would be a
punishment to them to return to this world; and if they are in a state
of misery, it would be giving them a respite. Johnson replied, that
'as the happiness or misery of spirits depends not upon place, but is
intellectual, we cannot say, that they are less happy or less
miserable, by appearing upon earth.' Johnson observed, that he makes a
distinction between what a man may experience by the mere strength of
his imagination, and what imagination cannot possibly produce. Thus,
said he, 'suppose I should think that I saw a form, and heard a voice
say, Johnson, you are a very wicked fellow, and unless you repent, you
will certainly be punished; my own unworthiness is so deeply impressed
upon my mind, that I might _imagine_ I thus saw and heard, and
therefore I should not believe that an external communication had been
made to me. But, if a form should appear, and a voice should tell me,
that a particular man had died at a particular place, and a particular
hour, a fact which I had no apprehension of, nor any means of knowing,
and this fact, with all its circumstances, should afterwards be
unquestionably proved, I should in that case be persuaded, that I had
supernatural intelligence imparted to me.' Johnson related a story of
a ghost, said to have appeared to a young woman several times,
advising her to apply to an attorney for the recovery of an old house,
which was done, and at the same time saying the attorney would do
nothing, which proved to be the fact.

About the middle of the last century, there were reports of a ghost
visiting a house in Cocklane, in the city of London. The whole city
was, for many weeks, kept in a state of agitation and alarm, and the
magazines and newspapers teemed with strange accounts of the Cocklane
ghost. The story, at length, became so popular, and created such
excitement, as to require a thorough investigation. The purport of the
story was, that a spirit had frequently appeared, and announced to a
girl, that a murder had been committed near that place, by a certain
person, which ought to be detected. For a long time, unaccountable
noises, such as knocking, scratching on the walls of the house, &c,
were heard every night. The supposed spirit had publicly promised, by
an affirmative knock, that it would attend any person into the vault
under the church where the body was deposited, and would give a knock
on the coffin; it was, therefore, determined to make this trial of the
visitation and veracity of the supposed spirit. On this occasion, Dr
Johnson, with several clergymen and other gentlemen and ladies,
assembled about ten o'clock at night, in the house in which the girl
had, with proper caution, been put to bed by several ladies. More than
an hour passed, without hearing any noise, when at length the
gentlemen were summoned into the girl's chamber, by some ladies who
were near her bed, and had heard knocks and scratches. When the
gentlemen entered, the girl declared that she felt the spirit like a
mouse upon her back. She was required to hold her hands out of bed,
and from that time, though the spirit was very solemnly required to
manifest its existence by appearance, by impression on the hand or
body of any one present, by knocks, or scratches, or any other agency,
no evidence of any preternatural power was exhibited. The spirit was
then very seriously advertised, that the person to whom the promise
was made of striking on the coffin, was then about to visit the vault,
and that the performance of the promise was then claimed. The company
at 1 o'clock went into the church, and the gentleman to whom the
promise was made, went with another into the vault. The spirit was
solemnly required to perform its promise, but nothing more than
silence ensued. The person supposed to be accused by the spirit then
went down with several others, but no effect whatever was perceived.
Upon their return they examined the girl, but could draw no confession
from her, and the father of the girl, when interrogated, denied in the
strongest terms, any knowledge or belief of fraud. It was therefore
published by the whole assembly, that the girl had some art of making
or counterfeiting a particular noise, and that there was no agency of
any higher cause. Thus ended this singular affair, which had so long
been permitted to disturb the peace of the city and of the public. The
greatest surprise is, that an artful, mischievous girl, should be
suffered to set at defiance the closest scrutiny to detect her
imposition and deception.

The following anecdote may be found in some historical publication,
but is now related from memory without recollecting the authority.
After the execution of Charles the First, the Parliament resolved that
every vestige of royalty should be annihilated. For this purpose,
commissioners were appointed to carry into effect the decree in the
Palace of the late King. While executing their prescribed duties, the
commissioners were from day to day annoyed and disturbed by strange
and frightful noises, in various parts of the house. Logs of wood
rolling over the floor in the kitchen, various utensils clattering
together, dancing and stamping were heard in rooms whose doors were
closed, and to such alarming heights was the deception carried that
the commissioners were about to abandon the house, from the belief
that it was haunted by evil spirits. At length, on close
investigation, the fact was disclosed that the whole deception was the
contrivance of a man of singular art, called _funny Joe_, who was the
acting secretary of the commissioners.

In Southey's life of Wesley, we have another instance of supposed
preternatural noises in the parsonage house of Wesley's father, in the
year 1716. The mysterious noises were said to be as various as
unaccountable; such as knocking at the door, lifting up the latch, and
a groaning, like a person in distress; a clatter among a number of
bottles, as if all at once they had been dashed in pieces; footsteps
as of a man going up and down stairs, at all hours of the night;
sounds like that of dancing in a room, the door of which was locked;
but most frequently, a knocking about the beds at night, and in
different parts of the house. Mr Wesley was once awakened a little
after midnight, by nine loud and distinct knocks which seemed to be in
the next room, with a pause at every third stroke. He and his wife
rose, and went below; a noise was now heard, like that of a bag of
money poured on the floor at their feet. At one time, the servant
heard his hand-mill in rapid motion, without any visible hand to move
it. Mr Wesley made every exertion to ascertain the real cause of the
noises, without success. He at length became so impatient with the
unusual annoyances, that he prepared a pistol, which he was about to
discharge at the place where the noise was heard, but was dissuaded
from it by a neighboring clergyman, who had been called in to his
assistance. But he upbraided the goblin for disturbing the family, and
challenged it to appear to him while alone in his study, after which,
on entering his study, the door was pressed against him, but no object
was seen. At length, the family became so familiar with this invisible
spirit, that one of the daughters gave it the name of Old Jeffrey, and
they treated it as matter of curiosity and amusement. This
unaccountable affair excited much speculation throughout the country.
The celebrated Dr Priestley, and many others, undertook to investigate
the circumstances, but were unable to make any satisfactory discovery,
and it remains inexplicable.

A reviewer of Wesley's life observes, that few will regard the
circumstances as anything more than creatures of imagination, the
offspring of credulity and superstition; but I should strongly suspect
that some one of the family was the prime mover in the business, as
was funny Joe in the Royal Palace of King Charles the First.


Historical records furnish innumerable instances of superstition,
fraught with circumstances of inexpressible horror. It is an infirmity
inherent in our nature, and extremely difficult to eradicate; no
lesson on moral evil, or lecture on physical destiny, can sever the
spell or dissolve the dark enchantment. So peculiarly fascinating is
the love of the marvellous, that when ignorance and bigotry cooperate,
the pure fountain of truth is polluted, and the most preposterous
tales of antiquity are held in veneration by every fiery zealot. From
this cause, millions of innocent lives have been sacrificed. The
intellects of thousands have been shackled, and their energies
perverted by irrational fears, and by degrading conceptions of the
nature of Deity, and of the purposes and modes of religious worship
and obedience. It was in the darkest days of superstition, that the
rack was in exercise to chain down the understanding, to sink it into
the most abject and sordid condition, punishing imaginary crimes, and
repressing truth and philosophical research.

The science of medicine had to encounter the scourge of superstition
at an early period; the epithet of magician was applied to the
physician, who appeared to be endowed with superior genius and
knowledge. The inquisition was constantly prepared to take holy
cognizance of those who distinguished themselves by extraordinary
cures, and hundreds of miserable wretches were dragged to the stake
for this cause alone. Galileo, in the 17th century, was condemned by
the inquisition to a rigorous punishment, for his noble and useful
discoveries in astronomy and geometry; and about the same period, Dr
Bartolo suffered a similar fate at Rome, because he unexpectedly cured
a nobleman of the gout.

The University of Salamanca decreed that no physician should dare to
bleed his patient in a pleurisy in the arm of the affected side;
declaring that such practice was of no less pernicious consequences to
medicine, than Luther's heresy had been to religion. The inquisition
having adopted the irrational and foolish doctrine that diseases
should be ascribed to fascination, a physician who opposed that
doctrine was compelled to accede to it, and to declare that he had
seen a beautiful woman break a steel mirror to pieces, and blast trees
by a single glance of her fascinating eyes. Superstitious opinions
prevailed in regard to the cure of diseases, also. Some were supposed
to be cured by a song. Josephus asserted that he saw a certain Jew,
named _Eleazer_, draw the devil out of an old woman's nostrils, by the
application of Solomon's seal to her nose, in the presence of the
Emperor Vespasian. Numerous remedies were employed for expelling the
devil, among which was flagellation, purgatives, and antispasmodics.
Several bewitched persons being cured by a plaster of assafœtida, the
question arose, in what way this article excited so much efficacy.
Some supposed, that the devil considered so vile an application an
insult, and ran off in a passion; but others very sagely observed,
that as devils are supposed to have eyes and ears, it is possible that
they have noses also, and that it proved offensive to their olfactory
nerves. It may be observed that superstition is not confined to those
who are ignorant of the laws of the physical world; but through the
infirmity of human nature, it has prevailed to the perversion of the
profoundest understanding, and the purest intellect. It has arrested
the progress of literature and science, and shackled the mind with
vulgar fictions, errors, and prejudices. Even the sublime genius of
Lord Bacon was subjected to its influence; he believed in witchcraft,
and asserted that he was cured of warts by rubbing them with a piece
of lard with the skin on, and then exposing it to the sun. Dr More,
and the enlightened Cudworth, applied the epithet _Atheist_ to those
who opposed the belief of witchcraft. The celebrated Dr Hoffman, the
father of the modern theory and practice of medicine, in the large
edition of his work in 1742, says, that the devil can raise storms,
produce insects, and act upon the animal spirits and imagination; and,
in fine, that he is an excellent optician, and natural philosopher, on
account of his long experience.

But, blessed be the Almighty Ruler, the present is an era,
preeminently distinguished for improvement in physical and moral
philosophy; and forgetting the things that are behind, we are
pressing forward in the race with rapid strides to the melioration of
the condition of the physical and moral world. Had the stupendous
works performed, and those contemplated at the present day, been
predicted to our fathers in the 17th century, they would have trembled
with alarm, lest their posterity were destined to form a league with
the infernal powers. The paralyzing idea that the present state of
knowledge is as perfect as our nature will admit, should be utterly
reprobated; for knowledge is eternally progressive, and we can have no
claim to be estimated as the benefactors of posterity, unless by our
own efforts and toils we add to the achievements of our ancestors. We
may take a retrospect of the meritorious characters of our fathers
with exultation, and when disposed to animadvert on the frailties and
follies peculiar to their times, let us reflect that it is our happy
lot to live in an age in many respects the most glorious the world
ever knew. We have a moral interest in all that concerns the human
race, and, as philanthropists, we ought to sympathize in every
calamity with which our species may be afflicted. Being apprised with
what facility mankind deceive themselves, and with what tenacity the
mind clings to its darling delusion, sober reflection is awakened to a
lively sense of the evils resulting from our imperfections. As the
germs of plants may lie dormant in the earth for ages, and be
resuscitated, so may the troubles created by unhallowed superstition,
revive and be reiterated by means of some depraved spirits in our day.

_Ventriloquism_ is an art which may be made subservient to knavery and
deception. An ingenious work on this subject was published in 1772, by
M. de la Chapelle, who was of opinion that the responses of many of
the oracles were delivered by persons thus qualified to serve the
purposes of priestcraft and delusion. That ventriloquism may be made
thus subservient to the purposes of knavery, will clearly appear by
the following anecdotes.

Louis Brabant, valet de chambre to Francis the First, was a capital
ventriloquist, and a great cheat. He had fallen in love with a young,
handsome, and rich heiress; but was rejected by the parents as an
unsuitable match for their daughter. The young lady's father dying,
Brabant made a visit to the widow, who was totally ignorant of his
singular talent. Suddenly, on his first appearance, in open day, and
in presence of several persons who were with her, she heard herself
accosted, in a voice perfectly resembling that of her dead husband,
and which seemed to proceed from above, exclaiming, 'Give my daughter
in marriage to Louis Brabant. He is a man of great fortune, and of an
excellent character. I now endure the inexpressible torments of
purgatory for having refused her to him. If you obey this admonition,
I shall soon be delivered from this place of torment. You will at the
same time provide a worthy husband for your daughter, and procure
everlasting repose to the soul of your poor husband.' The widow could
not for a moment resist this dread summons, which had not the most
distant appearance of proceeding from Louis Brabant, whose countenance
exhibited no visible change, and whose lips were closed and
motionless, during the delivery of it. Accordingly, she consented
immediately to receive him for her son-in-law. Louis's finances,
however, were in a very low situation, and the formalities attending
the marriage contract, rendered it necessary for him to exhibit some
show of riches, and not to give the ghost the lie direct. He
accordingly went to work upon a fresh subject, one Cornu, an old and
rich banker at Lyons, who had accumulated immense wealth by usury and
extortion, and was known to be haunted by remorse of conscience on
account of the manner in which he had acquired it. Having contracted
an intimate acquaintance with this man, he one day, while they were
sitting together in the usurer's little back parlor, artfully turned
the conversation on religious subjects, on demons and spectres, the
pains of purgatory and the torments of hell. During an interval of
silence between them, a voice was heard, which to the astonished
banker seemed to be that of his deceased father, complaining, as in
the former case, of his dreadful situation in purgatory, and calling
upon him to deliver him instantly from thence, by putting into the
hands of Louis Brabant, a large sum for the redemption of Christians
then in slavery with the Turks; threatening him at the same time with
eternal damnation if he did not take this method to expiate likewise
his own sins. The reader will naturally suppose that Brabant affected
a due degree of astonishment on the occasion, and further promoted the
deception, by acknowledging his having devoted himself to the
prosecution of the charitable design imputed to him by the ghost. An
old usurer is naturally suspicious. Accordingly, the wary banker made
a second appointment with the ghost delegate for the next day; and to
render any design of imposing upon him utterly abortive, took him into
the open fields, where not a house, or a tree, or even a bush was in
sight, capable of screening any supposed confederate. This
extraordinary caution excited the ventriloquist to exert all the
powers of his art. Wherever the banker conducted him, at every step,
his ears were saluted on all sides with the complaints and groans not
only of his father, but of all his deceased relations, imploring him,
for the love of God, and in the name of every saint in the calendar,
to have mercy on his soul and their's, by effectually seconding with
his purse the intentions of his worthy companion. Cornu could no
longer resist the voice of heaven, and accordingly carried his guest
home with him, and paid him down 10,000 crowns, with which the honest
ventriloquist returned to Paris and married his mistress. The
catastrophe was fatal. The secret was afterwards blown, and reached
the usurer's ears, who was so much affected by the loss of his money,
and the mortifying railleries of his neighbors, that he took to his
bed and died.

Another French ventriloquist, named M. St Gile, was not less adroit in
his secret art. Entering a convent, and finding the whole community in
mourning, he inquired the cause, and was told that one of their body
had lately died, who was the delight and ornament of the whole
society, and they spoke feelingly of the scanty honors they had
bestowed on his memory. Suddenly a voice was heard, apparently
proceeding from that part of the church where the singing of the choir
is performed, lamenting the situation of the defunct in purgatory, and
reproaching the brotherhood with their lukewarmness, and want of zeal
on his account. The friars, as soon as their astonishment gave them
power to speak, consulted together, and agreed to acquaint the rest of
the community with this singular event, so interesting to the whole
society. M. St Gile, who wished to carry on the joke still farther,
dissuaded them from taking this step, telling them that they would be
treated by their absent brethren, as a set of fools and visionaries.
He recommended to them, however, the immediately calling of the whole
community into the church, where the ghost of their departed brother
might probably reiterate his complaints. Accordingly, all the friars,
novices, lay brothers, and even the domestics of the convent, were
immediately summoned and collected together. In a short time the voice
from the roof renewed its lamentation and reproaches, and the whole
convent fell on their faces, and vowed a solemn reparation. As a first
step, they chanted a _De profundis_ in a full choir; during the
intervals of which the ghost occasionally expressed the comfort he
received from their pious exercises, and ejaculations on his behalf.
When all was over, the friar entered into a serious conversation with
M. St Gile; and, on the strength of what had just passed, sagaciously
inveighed against the absurd incredulity of our modern sceptics and
pretended philosophers, on the article of ghosts or apparitions. M. St
Gile thought it now high time to disabuse the good fathers. This
purpose, however, he found it extremely difficult to effect, till he
had prevailed upon them to return with him into the church, and there
be witnesses of the manner in which he had conducted this ludicrous


A belief in the entity of witchcraft and sorcery may boast of a high
degree of antiquity. In both the Old and New Testament, we observe
numerous tragical events, bearing the semblance of diabolical agency.
A prominent instance is found in the witch of Endor, who is said to
have been deeply versed in the art of deception, and notorious in her
day for skill in practical astrology. It is the opinion of some
divines, that to beguile Saul, she raised a demon, counterfeiting
Samuel; but it seems difficult to decide in what precise manner she
effected her purpose of imposing upon her credulous employer. The
sorcery and witchcraft, prohibited under the Jewish dispensation, is
supposed by high authority to be a very different species of crime
from that which was so abhorrent in the days of our ancestors; the
former might have come under the description of idolatry, or of the
heathen mythology. 'The ancients believed that there were good and
evil demons, which had influence over the minds of men, and that these
beings carried on an intercourse between men and gods, conveying the
addresses of men to the gods, and divine benefits to men. Hence,
demons became the objects of worship. It was supposed, also, that
human spirits, after their departure from the body, became demons, and
that the souls of virtuous men, if highly purified, were exalted from
demons into gods.'

The various instances of demoniacs, lunatics, and possessed, recorded
in the sacred scriptures of the New Testament, have received different
interpretations according to the particular views among learned
expositors. By some of the enlightened German theologians, those
subjects are considered as mere prototypes of the maniacs and
epileptics of our own times; but most of the English divines have
imbibed different opinions. 'Demoniacs,' says Kenrick, 'were persons
disordered in their understandings, and supposed to be possessed by an
evil demon.' That real miracles were wrought by our Saviour and his
apostles, and that both good and evil spirits were subservient to his
will, no Christian believer can ever deny. But by all impartial
inquirers after truth, it will perhaps be conceded, that demoniacal
possession is a subject the least susceptible of a satisfactory
solution, of any in scripture. It has received the most critical
investigation of commentators and divines, for centuries, and still
remains involved in mystery. The subject in its nature, is too
intricate and mysterious to justify even a discussion on this
occasion, nor is it requisite for my purpose. It must, therefore, be
referred to philosophical commentators and learned biblical critics.

In a work entitled, Historical Essay concerning Witchcraft, by F.
Hutchinson, D. D., published in London in 1720, the author says, 'The
divine writings, as well as the soundest philosophy and soberest
reason, give confirmation that there are both good and bad spirits.
There are superior beings intermediate betwixt the divine nature and
ours. But both philosophers and Christians that have ventured to
define their natures or works, have been very various in their notions
respecting them, and the holy scriptures, though they give us many
instances of the employment of both the evil and the good spirits,
teach us none such as we commonly meet with in the modern relations of
witchcraft, and the conjoint powers of Satan. The holy scriptures tell
us of no such tales as these which confound the laws of nature, and
absolutely destroy the testimony of our senses.' *** 'The human mind
is sometimes so clouded and oppressed, that persons think themselves
dead. At another time they are elevated far above their natural pitch,
full of raptures, and high conceits, and think themselves kings and
queens; now if witch stories are in their heads, or witchcraft in
their imaginations, why may they not think themselves bewitched, or
fancy themselves witches or wizards, as well as kings and queens?'

A witch, in her personal character, was commonly an uncouth old woman,
or hag. Her countenance was repulsive, her air and gait disgusting,
and her general aspect and movements at variance with a proper
demeanor. She is supposed to have formed a compact with the devil,
giving herself up to him body and soul. This compact, it is believed,
cannot be transacted mentally, but the devil must appear in bodily
shape to the witch. In this interview, he delivers to her an imp, or
familiar spirit, by which she is enabled to transport herself in the
air, on a broomstick or a spit, to distant places in the night to
attend witch meetings, at which the devil always presides. She was
supposed to be attended by an old gray cat, as her confederate, or
imp; the cat and her mistress, it was believed, were often overheard
plotting their fairy tricks together. She was supposed to possess the
power of transforming herself into a cat, a squirrel, or other animal,
which she would send abroad to execute her commands. These animals
could not be killed but by a silver bullet, and should the animal
receive a wound the witch would have a wound in the same place. It was
imagined that the witch, by the aid of Satan, had power to inflict
death, and various diseases and evils, on families and individuals,
and also on cattle, by way of revenge for any offence, and could even
raise storms and tempests, and sink ships at sea.

Numerous legendary tales were formerly propagated of haunted houses,
where witches assembled and held their nightly orgies and diabolical
revels. These haunts were always objects of great terror to the
credulous vulgar, being considered as a pandemonium of all manner of
evils, miseries, and calamities. The idea was prevalent, also, that
witches could bridle men in the night, and ride them about at
pleasure. The woman who should exhibit the characteristics above
described, was at once stigmatized as being in league with the devil,
and was treated not only with ridicule and contempt, but subjected to
unmerciful persecution. Ranked among demons, instruments of the devil,
they were objects of no pity, but were viewed with scorn and horror.
Instances were not wanting of these wretched mortals, although
entirely innocent, becoming so hateful and terrible to all, and
befriended by none, that at length they abhorred themselves, and were
reconciled to be burnt or hung, that they might escape the rage of
cruel persecution.

The methods put in practice for the discovery of witches were various
and singular. One was, to weigh the suspected woman against the church
bible, which, if she was guilty, would preponderate. Another was to
require her to repeat the Lord's prayer; in attempting this, a witch
will always hesitate and blunder. If a witch should weep, she could
not shed more than three tears, and that out of the left eye. This
deficiency of tears was considered as a very substantial proof of
guilt. Excrescences on the body, from which the imps receive their
nourishment, were deemed infallible signs of a witch. She was bound
crosswise, the right thumb tied to the left toe, and the left thumb to
the right toe; in this condition she was cast into the water, if
guilty she could not sink, for having in her compact with the devil
renounced the water of baptism, the water in return refuses to receive
her. If she was found able to swim in that condition, she was taken
out and burnt or hung; but it is probable the bystanders were allowed
to save them from drowning or few could escape. The trial by the stool
was resorted to as another expedient; the suspected woman was placed
in the middle of the room on a stool cross-legged; if she refused, she
was bound with cords, and in this uneasy posture she was kept without
meat or sleep, for twentyfour hours, during which it was supposed that
her imps would return to her for nourishment. A small hole was left in
the door for the imps to enter, and persons were directed to be
constantly sweeping the floor, and to keep a strict watch for spiders,
flies, or other insects, and if they could not kill them, they
certainly were the witch's imps. Suspected witches were sometimes put
to cruel torture to force confession, and were afterwards executed.
From such kinds of proof, together with the most absurd and foolish
evidence of old women and children, thousands of innocent persons were
condemned for witchcraft, and burnt at the stake.

Bishop Jewel, in a sermon preached before Queen Elizabeth, in 1558,
tells her, 'It may please your Grace to understand that witches and
sorcerers, within these last four years, are marvellously increased
within your Grace's realm. Your subjects pine away even unto death;
their color fadeth, their speech is benumbed, their senses are
bereft; I pray God they never practise farther than upon the subject.'
John Bell, minister of the gospel at Glaidsmuir, says, 'Providentially
two tests appeared to discover the crime. If the witch cries out,
"Lord have mercy upon me!" when apprehended, and the inability of
shedding tears; because, as a witch could only shed three tears, and
those with her left eye, her stock was quickly exhausted; and that was
the more striking, as King James I. shrewdly observes, "since other
women in general are like the crocodile, ready to weep upon every
slight occasion."'

King James the First, indulged a ferocious antipathy against sorcery
and witchcraft, and in the first year of his reign, a new statute was
passed, embracing every possible mode and form in which imagination
could paint the mystical crime. James fully considered his own
personal safety greatly endangered, as attempts had been made to
poison him by some who practised the magic art. He composed a book on
demonology, in which he advised the water ordeal, by swimming, and
when a work was published in opposition to his opinion and desire, he
ordered it to be burnt by the common executioner.

That illustrious English lawyer, Sir William Blackstone, having, in
his commentaries on the laws of England, stated the evidence on both
sides of the question, concerning the reality of witchcraft, says, 'It
seems to be the most eligible way to conclude that, in general, there
has been such a thing as witchcraft, though one cannot give credit to
any particular modern instance of it.' According to our conceptions of
human actions, they are in general prompted and governed by reason,
and perhaps most frequently the dominant motives are those which
pertain to our own individual interest. Now it may be inquired in what
imaginable circumstances the interest of human beings can be linked
with the affairs of Satan, or their welfare promoted by his influence?
No one will pretend, that there can be honor attached to a seat in his
privy council, for it is well known that a witch is considered one of
the most odious and despicable wretches in existence. Nor will it be
contended that pecuniary advantages are derivable from that source;
wizards and witches are always poor, miserable, forlorn beings. They
are supposed to give themselves up to serve under the banners of a
cruel, tyrannical master, the implacable enemy and tempter of mankind,
whose very name excites horror and detestation in every virtuous mind.
It must, however, be confessed that a strong bias to scepticism
relative to things we cannot understand, is no less a mark of weakness
of intellect, than indiscriminate credulity. But I am aware, that the
real existence of the fraternity has received the credence of some of
the wisest and best of men. Divine providence has permitted the
delusion respecting this great scourge to prevail in the minds of
some, as he did the sin of idolatry among his chosen people while in
their pilgrimage to the land of promise.

Numerous instances of imposition and counterfeit have been detected in
times of alarm from supposed witchcraft. There are in all countries
those who cannot exist but in times of confusion and civil commotion.
They delight to be noticed as objects of great wonder and curiosity,
and when they cannot be distinguished for virtuous actions, resort to
deeds of the most infernal character, according to their own
interest, passion, or capricious humor. They learn to counterfeit
various kinds of fits; bark and snarl like a dog, goggle their eyes,
foam at the mouth, distort their bodies, and disjoint their limbs.
Such impostors have their confederates or partners who join with them,
and share in the profit, or in the humor.

Dr Francis Hutchinson, published a chronological detail of trials and
executions for supposed witchcraft, sorcerers, and conjurors, in
various countries in Europe. From this it will be seen, he observes,
that, in all ages of the world, superstitious credulity has produced
greater cruelties than are practised among Hottentots, or other
nations whose belief in a Deity is called in question. The number of
witches and their supposed dealings with Satan, he observes, will
increase or decrease according as such doings are accounted probable,
or impossible. Under the former supposition, charges and convictions
will be found augmented in a terrific degree. When the accusations are
disbelieved and dismissed as not worthy of attention, the crime
becomes unfrequent, ceases to occupy the public mind, and affords
little trouble to the judges. That where the times have not been so
violent and superstitious but that sensible men might venture to speak
freely, and the accused could have a fair trial, they have usually
discovered cheat and imposture. Fifteen famous detections of fraud
were made, many of them after judges and juries, and a multitude of
eye witnesses had been deceived. Had the rest undergone as strict
inquiry, most of them would probably have proved innocent.

In the year 1427, the famous heroine Joan of Arc, after her glorious
military exploit at the siege of Orleans, being taken prisoner by the
Earl of Bedford, was cruelly burnt as a witch. In 1488, a violent
tempest of thunder and lightning in Spain, having destroyed the corn
for some leagues around, the people accused two old women of being the
cause. They confessed and were burnt. Other instances, no less
preposterous, are recorded about that period. In 1515, five hundred
persons were executed at Geneva, in three months, as witches and
wizards, and at another place, fortyeight were burnt in five years.
Eighteen were condemned in England in 1596; an account of their trials
was published, with the names and colors of the spirits. A perusal of
that fantastic production must have excited wonder and amazement in
any age.

In France, in 1594, the crime of witchcraft had become so common, that
the jails were not sufficient to contain the prisoners, nor had they
judges enough to try them. In 1595, a woman was hanged in England, for
sending an evil spirit into Thomas Darling; and E. Hartley was
executed for bewitching seven persons. In the trial, spectral evidence
was made use of against him, and the experiment of saying the Lord's
prayer, which it was believed a witch is unable to repeat. But that
which touched his life, was a deposition that he had made the magic
circle for conjuration. In 1612, twelve women were executed at
Lancaster. Mary Smith believed herself to be a witch, and died very
pious. A learned and eminent clergyman in France, named Grandier, was,
in 1634, put to cruel torment on suspicion of an evil spirit, and was
adjured to clear himself by shedding tears if innocent. He was
tortured till he swooned on the rack, and then inhumanly burnt. From
1634 to 1661, history records accounts of several hundreds executed
in England, of both sexes, husband and wife, mother and daughter
together, some confessing, others declaring themselves innocent. In
Germany, whole counties were depopulated, that no witch might escape.
But it was in Scotland that Satan was set at liberty to execute his
vengeance. There the floodgates of malice, revenge, and bloodshed,
were thrown open, and multitudes were swept away by the dreadful
torrent. No less, it is said in history, than 4000 victims were
cruelly sacrificed within a short period, for the dubious crime which
never has and never can be proved. In 1664, two women were tried
before the celebrated Lord Chief Justice Sir Matthew Hale, and were
convicted. The evidence against the accused was so trivial, that his
Lordship was greatly embarrassed on the occasion, and his scruples
were such, that he declined the duty of summing up the evidence. Being
willing, however, that the law should have its course, he pronounced
sentence, and they were executed. The evidence against them was,
partly spells and partly spectral, and one evidence was that a cart
run against the cottage of one of the women, by which she was
offended, and shortly after the same cart stuck fast in a gate where
its wheels touched neither of the posts, and yet was moved easily
forward on one of the posts being cut down. A girl, supposed to be
bewitched, went into a fit on being touched by one of the accused. But
much weight was given to the evidence of Sir Thomas Browne, 'that the
fits were natural, but heightened by the power of the devil,
cooperating with the malice of witches.' (Sir Walter Scott, page 225.)
About this period, seventy persons were condemned in Sweden, and most
of them executed. Fifteen children were also executed, thirtysix ran
the gauntlet, and twenty were whipped for the same reputed crime. In
1678, six were executed in Scotland for bewitching Sir George Maxwell.
The principal evidence in these cases was a deaf and dumb girl, who
made signs that there was a picture of wax in one of their houses as
an instrument of enchantment, but it was proved afterwards that it was
placed there by herself, and she was whipped through the streets of
the city and banished. In 1682, three women were hung at Exeter,
confessing themselves witches, but died with pious prayers in their
mouths. These were the last executed in England for the crime of
witchcraft. Some of the accused persons were in their indictments
charged with keeping imps, one was said to be like a pole-cat. On one
trial several witnesses deposed that the grandmother and aunt of the
prisoner were hanged for witches, and that her grandmother had said
that she had eight or nine imps, and that she had given two or three
to each of her children. In 1697, about twentyeight were accused in
Scotland, by a girl eleven years old. Two boys and a girl, and two
other persons, saved themselves by confessing, and upon their
testimony seven were executed, all denying their guilt.

A notorious witch-finder, says Dr Increase Mather, undertook by a pin
to make an infallible discovery of suspected persons. If, when the pin
was pushed an inch or two into the flesh, no blood appeared, nor any
sense of pain, then he declared them to be witches. No less than three
hundred persons, says that respectable author, were thus condemned in
that kingdom. This miscreant was Matthew Hopkins, who styled himself
witch-finder general, and travelled from town to town with a train of
assistants, for the professed purpose of detecting witches, charging
twenty shillings for each town. He affected to have uncommon skill in
his profession, but treated his subjects with great cruelty, keeping
them from sleep, wearying them to distress by constant walking to
force confession. He also adopted the mode of swimming them while
cross-bound. But the cruel wretch finally met his just deserts; he was
treated as he had treated hundreds of others, being thrown into the
water cross-bound; but, although able to swim as a witch, he was
suffered to escape from the country. It is greatly to be lamented,
that a considerable number of Calvinistic divines should take zealous
concern in the prosecution of reputed witches. Among those pious
divines, we find the venerable names of Baxter and Calamy, in England,
and the two Mathers in America. That they were conscientious, and
influenced by the purest motives, no one will doubt; but that they
were imbued with a large share of the credulity of the times, will
appear most evident. The following are Mr Baxter's own words as quoted
by Sir Walter Scott. 'The hanging of a great number of witches in
1645 and 1646, is famously known. Mr Calamy went along with the judges
on the circuit, to hear their confessions, and see there was no fraud
or wrong done them. I spoke with many understanding, pious, learned,
and credible persons, that lived in the counties, and some that went
to them in the prisons, and heard their sad confessions. Among the
rest an old _reading parson_, named Lewis, was one that was hanged,
who confessed that he had two imps, and that one of them was always
putting him upon doing mischief; and he being near the sea, as he saw
a ship under sail, it moved him to send it to sink the ship; and he
consented, and saw the ship sink before them.' The Rev. Mr Lewis was
condemned on his own simple confession, that he sent his imp to sink a
ship, but it was not known that any ship was lost, and it was supposed
that the man was deranged in his intellect. Mr Baxter relates another
story of a mother, who gave her child an imp like a mole, and told her
to keep it in a can near the fire, and she would never be in want.

The Catholic priests were remarkable for their zealous pretensions to
peculiar powers in dispossessing demons, by fasting and prayer, and
they were detected in numerous frauds. It was probably from their
reports that the story originated which Dr Mather cites in his cases
of conscience, that at the time when Martin Luther died, all the
possessed people in the Netherlands became quiet and at ease. The
devils in them said the reason was, that Luther had been a great
friend of theirs, and they owed him so much respect as to go as far as
Germany to attend his funeral, and on the mention of some ministers of
the reformed religion, the devils in the possessed laughed and said,
that they and the Calvinists were very good friends. There were among
the Protestants some clergymen base enough to become rivals with
papists in their pretended exorcisms. The following is an instance of
unprecedented turpitude. In 1689, Richard Dugdale, of Lancaster, was
reported by a clergyman as having been dispossessed of devils, by
fasting and prayer. He had for several months exhibited, at intervals,
apparent sufferings, both surprising and unaccountable. He would
counterfeit the demoniac, epileptic, and a train of nervous fits, and
unnatural afflictions, which were attributed to demons. His singular
condition excited the curiosity and wonder which he and his vile
minister desired, and his supposed sufferings called forth the
sympathy, and his indigent circumstances the charity of his numerous
deluded visitors. By these means he was encouraged to persevere in his
deception, living at ease on the delusion which he and his minister
had artfully created about a year. When at length complaint was made
to the Bishop of London, who brought Dugdale to confess that he had
acted the part of an impostor, and that he had, from time to time,
received private lessons of instruction from the clergyman, to carry
on the imposition, that he might have the credit of dispossessing the
devil, by his fastings and prayers.

In the trials for witchcraft, says Dr Hutchinson, an unpardonable
partiality was manifested, owing to the vulgar prejudices among the
people. The English statute against witchcraft and sorcery interdicts
all acts of sorcery whatever, and all charms for employing spirits;
yet, for discovering a reputed witch, the accusers were allowed to
use charms which must have their force, if any at all, from the same
diabolical power. This is unprecedented partiality, and directly
contrary to the statute. Whether such compacts are real or imaginary,
they ought to be punished equally on both sides. The number of
witches, and the supposed dealings of spirits, have been found to
increase and decrease according to the laws and principles subsisting
at the time and place. Since philosophy and learning have prevailed,
we have had but little trouble about witches and sorcerers, except
that created by the superstitious imagination of men. We may have as
many devils in our day as they had in other ages, for we have as many
murders, robberies, false accusations, and lies, and other crimes
which are the devil's works. Some are of opinion that the devil cannot
really control the laws of nature, while others aver, that the laws of
nature are a mere jest with him. It has been denied that he possesses
power to transform a man or woman into a cat, but Dr Henry More
believed he could, and describes the manner in which he transforms
them. It is difficult to conceive how Dr More acquired such
knowledge; but we shall never believe that Satan is the ruler of our
world. We have no reason to imagine that God has endowed him with
miraculous powers; he cannot, therefore, impart such powers to others;
consequently, there can be no such creature as a witch. All illusive
fancies of witchcraft may be clearly explained on the principles of
mental philosophy and sound and enlightened reason. The confessions of
witches have so often been extorted, so often the effects of
distraction, and so often been found contrary to plain truth and sober
reason, that no dependence should be placed on them. Dr Hutchinson
asserts, that it may be plainly proved, from scripture and reason,
that there never was a witch, such as we mean, who can send devils,
diseases, and destruction, among the people. The spectral evidence
made use of in courts, is far from being legal proof, it is of no sort
of weight, nor should it be regarded as anything more than dreams. The
confessions of ignorant old women, ought to have been entirely
rejected; some were extorted, many were impossible, and all ridiculous
and incredible.

The Rev. Dr Holmes, in his American Annals, observes, that our
fathers, before the world was enlightened by learning and philosophy,
loved to astonish themselves with the apprehensions of witches and
prodigies, charms and enchantment. There was not a village in England,
he observes, that had not a ghost in it; the church-yards were all
haunted, every large common had a circle of fairies belonging to it,
and there was scarce a shepherd to be met with who had not seen a

The dreadful contagion was at length permitted to afflict the puritans
of New England, and our revered ancestors were involved in a series of
tragical events, and overwhelmed with the most appalling
apprehensions. A retrospect to that sorrowful period creates painful
impressions; but however revolting the transactions in those days of
melancholy delusion, we are not without the consoling hope, that our
pious fathers were guided by a conscientious spirit in their
proceedings and condemnations. The people of New England were
naturally of a grave and serious cast, and remarkably prone to the
most rigid and sacred construction on all the events of Providence,
and too often their sentiments were biassed by enthusiasm and
superstition. The books containing narratives of trials of witches and
sorcerers in England, had been received here, and could not fail of
making a deep impression on the public mind. Hence it is not strange
that there should be a close coincidence between the English witches
and those reputed such in New England, and that they should suffer a
similar fate. So violent was the popular prejudice against every
appearance of witchcraft, that it was deemed meritorious to denounce
all that gave the least reason for suspicion. Every child and gossip
were prepared to recognise a witch, and no one could be certain of
personal safety. As the infatuation increased, many of the most
reputable females, and several males also, were apprehended and
committed to prison. There is good reason to believe, that, in some
instances, the vicious and abandoned, availed themselves of
opportunities of gratifying their corrupt passions of envy, malice,
and revenge. The English judge, Sir Matthew Hale, so eminently
distinguished for his knowledge in the law, and his exemplary piety,
was most highly estimated here, and knowing that he had condemned
some persons in England, his opinion had great influence with both
judges and juries.

In a publication in 1767, by the Rev. John Hale, of Beverly, it
appears that the first person who suffered in New England for
witchcraft was a woman in Charlestown; and in the collection of the
Massachusetts Historical Society, (Vol. V. second series) it is
recorded, that 'in June 1648, one Margaret Jones of Charlestown, was
executed for a witch. She was proved to have such a malignant touch,
that whomsoever she touched with any affection of displeasure, were
taken presently after with deafness, vomiting, or other violent
sickness. Soon after she was executed, a ship riding over against
Charlestown, of three hundred tons, having in her hold an hundred and
twenty tons of ballast, and eighty horses aboard her for the
Barbadoes, was on a sudden observed to roll as if she would have
turned over. The husband of that witch lately executed had desired
passage in that ship to Barbadoes, which not obtaining, that accident
was observed to follow. Notice being given of this to the
magistrates, then sitting in court at Boston, a warrant was sent to
apprehend him, and as the officer was passing therewith over the
ferry, one asked if he could not tame the vessel, seeing he could
sometimes tame men; he answered, I have that here, which, it may be,
will tame her and make her quiet, showing his warrant, and at the same
instant, the ship began to stop her motion, and swim upright, which
had continued rolling, after a strange manner about twelve hours, and
after Jones was in prison she never moved in that kind any more.'

Another, executed not long after, was a Dorchester woman; she also
positively denied being guilty. The next was a woman of Cambridge,
against whom a principal evidence was a nurse, who testified that the
accused did bewitch a child to death; for the woman made much of the
child, being perfectly well, but quickly changed its color, and it
died in a few hours after. The woman denied her guilt to the last
moment. In 1655, Mrs Hibbens, widow of an assistant, or counsellor,
was executed at Boston. This gave great dissatisfaction to several
principal persons, and it was believed that her death saved the lives
of many other inferior persons. About the same time, two or three at
Springfield, and one at Hartford, were executed, two of whom confessed
themselves guilty. The next that suffered was in 1662, a woman named
Greensmith, and her husband with her; who confessed, but he denied
guilt. Two other were put to the water ordeal, but being found to
float on the water like cork, were permitted to fly from New England.
This ridiculous experiment appears to have been soon after abandoned.
In 1663, Mary Johnson was tried and hanged. She said the devil
appeared to her, and cleaned her hearth of ashes, and hunted the hogs
out of the corn. In 1688, a female named Glover, an Irish papist, was
hung for bewitching four children of one John Goodwin, of Boston. This
affair was attended by such extraordinary circumstances as to arrest a
general interest and sympathy. Goodwin was a man of unexceptionable
moral character, and his children were religiously educated, and
discovered mild and amiable tempers. 'These children,' says the
celebrated Dr Cotton Mather, 'were arrested by a stupendous
witchcraft. The eldest, a daughter thirteen years old, was first
seized with odd fits, in appearance diabolical; it was not long before
one of her sisters, and two brothers, were similarly affected.' They
were at times deaf, dumb, and blind. Their tongues would be drawn down
their throats, and then pulled out upon their chins. Their mouths were
thrown open with great violence, and then the jaws clapped together
again with a force like that of a spring lock, and all their limbs and
joints were strangely distorted. They made piteous outcries that they
were cut with knives, and struck with blows. The ministers of Boston
and Charlestown, had recourse to fasting and prayer, and during the
devotions, the children it is said were deprived of hearing; but the
youngest child was entirely relieved. The poor ignorant woman, above
mentioned, was suspected of employing demons to afflict these
children; she was arrested, and committed to jail in chains. On her
trial she rather bragged than denied her guilt, but she would converse
only in Irish, though she understood the English language very well.
Her house being searched, several images and puppets, or babies made
of rags and stuffed with goat's hair, were found, and she confessed
that her way to torment the objects of her malice, was by wetting her
finger with spittle and stroking those little images. The afflicted
children were present in court, and the woman appeared to be greatly
agitated. One of the images being presented to her, she oddly and
quickly snatched it into her hand, and instantly one of the children
fell into a fit. The judges ordered a repetition of the experiment,
with the same result. Being asked if she had any one to stand by her
as a friend, she replied that she had, and looking round in the air,
she added, no, he is gone. The night after, she was heard
expostulating with the devil for his deserting her, telling him that
because he had served her so basely and falsely, she had confessed
all. The court appointed several physicians to examine whether she was
in any degree crazed in her intellect; but they pronounced her sane,
and the court passed sentence of death upon her, and she was executed.
After the condemnation of the woman, Dr Mather made her many visits;
she declined answering his questions, or attending to his prayers,
pretending that her spirits would not consent to it. At her execution
she said the afflicted children should not be relieved by her death,
as others were concerned in it; accordingly the three children
continued to be tormented. They frequently discerned spectres around
them, and when a blow was aimed at the place where they saw the
spectre, the boy always felt the blow in the part of his body
answering to that stricken at, and it was very credibly affirmed that
a dangerous woman or two in the town, received blows thus given to
their spectres. At length, the children would bark at each other like
dogs, and pur like so many cats. They would complain that they were in
a hot oven, or roasting on an invisible spit, and that knives were
cutting them. They would complain of blows from a great cudgel, and
though we could see no cudgels, we could see the marks of the blows in
red streaks upon their skin. They would complain that their heads were
nailed to the floor, and it required more than ordinary strength to
pull them from thence. They would be so limber sometimes, that it was
judged every bone might be bent, and anon so stiff, that a joint could
not be moved. Sometimes they would fly like geese, with incredible
swiftness, through the air, their arms waving, like the wings of
birds, and the feet scarcely touching the ground once in twenty feet.
The sight of the Bible, and all religious discourse, would throw them
into distressing fits. Dr Mather took the eldest of these children
into his own family, that he might have opportunity to observe the
doings of Satan more critically; but unhappily his own imagination was
so continually haunted by ideas of wicked demons and witches, that he
was unconscious of the imposition he was suffering. When he prayed,
her hands with a strong force would be clapped upon her ears, and if
pulled away by force she would cry out. She complained that she had
Glover's chain round her leg, and would imitate her in her gait. An
invisible chain would be clapped about her, and she would, in much
pain and fear, cry out when they put it on. Sometimes we could with
our hands knock it off as it began to be fastened. But when it was on
she would be pulled out of her seat, with such violence that it was
difficult to keep her out of the fire. I may add, says the learned,
but credulous doctor, that the demons put an unseen rope with a cruel
noose about her neck, by which she was choked till she was black in
the face, and though it was got off before it killed her, yet there
were the red marks of it, and of a finger and thumb, remaining for
some time. She once said, if she could steal or get drunk, she would
be well. At one time an invisible horse was brought to her, and she
would put herself in the posture of a riding woman. She would in her
chair throw herself into a riding posture, sometimes ambling,
sometimes trotting, and sometimes galloping very furiously, and
attempting to ride up stairs. Dr Mather observes, that the girl having
learned that he was about to prepare a sermon on the occasion of the
witchcraft, became very turbulent and insolent, constantly endeavoring
to interrupt his studying the sermon. In prayer time, the demons would
throw her on the floor, where she would whistle and sing to drown the
voice, and attempt to kick and strike the speaker. But to conclude
this tedious story. At Christmas, says the doctor, this girl and her
sister in another house, were by the demons made very drunk, though
the people in the house were well satisfied that it was without strong
drink. They imitated, with wonderful exactness, the actions of one
drunk in speaking, and reeling, and vomiting, and anon sleeping, till
they recovered. These children were all restored to their natural
health, and lived to adult age. Governor Hutchinson, in his History of
Massachusetts, says he was acquainted with the eldest daughter; she
sustained an unblemished character; but he believes she never made any
confession of fraud or imposition in this transaction.

Hutchinson was truly an excellent historical writer, whatever may have
been his political principles and conduct as chief magistrate. From
the history and from the collections of the Historical Society, I copy
the following narrative, with the view of evincing to what extent
artful children may impose on credulous persons.

In the year 1720, there was at Littleton, in the county of Middlesex,
a family who were supposed to be bewitched. One J. B. had three
daughters, eleven, nine, and five years old. The eldest was a forward
and capable girl, and having read and heard many strange stories,
would surprise the company by her manner of relating them. Pleased
with the applause, she went from some she had heard to some of her own
framing, and so on to dreams and visions, and attained the art of
swooning, and of being, to all appearance, breathless. Upon her
revival she would relate strange things she had met with in this and
other worlds. When she met with the word God, and other solemn words
in the Bible, she would drop down as if dead. Strange and
unaccountable noises were often heard in, and upon the house, stones
came down the chimney and did considerable mischief. She complained of
the spectre of Mrs D--y, a woman in the town, and once she desired her
mother to strike at a place where she said there was a yellow bird,
and she said to her mother, you have hit the side of its head, and it
appeared that Mrs D--y's head was hurt about the same time. Another
time the mother struck at the place where the spectre was, and the
girl said, you have struck her on the bowels, and on inquiry it was
found, that Mrs D--y complained of a hurt on her bowels about the same
time. It was common to find her in ponds of water, crying out she
should be drowned; sometimes upon the top of the house, and again
upon the tops of trees, pretending she had flown there, and some
fancied they had seen her in the air. There were often the marks of
blows and pinches upon her, which were supposed to come from an
invisible hand. The second daughter, after her sister had practised
the art for some months, and had succeeded so well, imitated her in
complaints of Mrs D--y, and outdid her in feats of climbing the barn
and trees, ascending where she could not descend without assistance
with a ladder. What was most surprising, the youngest, of five years
old only, attempted the same feats and in some instances went beyond
her sisters. The neighbors agreed they were under an evil hand, and it
was pronounced witchcraft, as certain as there ever had been at Salem.
Physicians had been at first employed, but to no purpose, and
afterwards ministers and elders were called to pray over them, but
without success. The children had numerous visitors, and the more they
were pitied, the more loud and constant were their moans and
distractions; few spectators suspected that they were acting the part
of perverse and wicked impostors. The afflicted parents treated them
with all possible care and tenderness, believing that they were
objects of pity and compassion. At length Mrs D--y, not long after the
supposed blows from the mother, sickened and died, and the two oldest
girls ceased complaining; the youngest held out longer, but all
persisted in it that there had been no fraud. But their consciences,
that inward monitor, finally severely lashed and tortured them. The
eldest, for some years, wore a gloominess upon her mind, and when
questioned by her parents and others on the subject, she would
artfully turn the discourse. Not having been baptised, she applied to
a minister for baptism, who examined her closely relative to the
affair, telling her she was suspected of falsehood and fraud; but this
she denied and asserted her innocence. In 1728, having removed to
Medford, she applied to Rev. Mr Turell, to be admitted into his
church. She gave him a very good account of the state of her soul, and
discoursed sensibly and religiously respecting her past temper and
conversation in life. Mr Turell knew nothing of her having been an
actor in the fraud above detailed, and propounded her for full
communion. The next Sabbath, without any reference to her, he happened
to preach from this text, 'He that telleth lies shall not escape.' The
day before she was to be admitted into the church she visited Mr
Turell in great distress and anguish of mind, inquiring of him what
dreadful things he had heard about her, that made him preach so
awfully against the practice of lying and liars. Mr Turell being much
surprised, replied that no one had made any complaint against her and
that he had no particular reference to her. With great grief she
frankly confessed that she had been a great sinner, but was now
awakened and convinced by the word preached, and that she was resolved
no longer to conceal the truth, but confess it before God and man. She
then proceeded to acknowledge herself guilty of the wicked deception
which she had practised, bewailing and weeping bitterly for her
egregious folly and wicked conduct. She then desired Mr Turell to draw
up a suitable confession to be read before the congregation, and she
would publicly own and acknowledge the same; which was accordingly
done, and she was admitted to full communion, and ever after
conducted in a manner becoming the Christian profession. She
acknowledged to Mr Turell as follows: that the motives which excited
her and her sisters to act the part of impostors, were from folly and
pride. Finding that she pleased others or caused admiration, she was
over pleased with, and admired herself, grew conceited and high
minded. She thought to be able to deceive her parents and neighbors,
was a fine accomplishment. She never dreamed of witchcraft in her
case. The wounds, pinches, and bruises on their bodies, were from
their own hands, and the noises and stones falling down the chimney,
were the effects of their contrivance. She was often sorry she ever
began the deception, but could not humble herself to desist, and was
obliged to tell one lie to hide another. Her two sisters, she said,
seeing her pitied had become actors also, with her, without being
moved to it by her; but when she saw them follow her, they all joined
in the secret and acted in concert, and thus during eight months their
parents were kept in constant painful anxiety, and they were
considered as objects of pity and compassion. They had no particular
spite against Mrs D--y, but it was necessary to accuse some person,
and the eldest having pitched upon her, the others followed. The
woman's complaints about the same time the girl pretended she was
struck, proceeded from other causes which were not then properly
inquired into. Once, at least, they were in great danger of being
detected in their tricks; but the grounds of suspicion were overlooked
through the indulgence and credulity of their parents.


I shall now detail an impartial history of the memorable trials and
executions for supposed witchcraft at Salem, in 1692. A controversy
respecting the settlement of a minister had subsisted in Salem for
some time prior to this melancholy catastrophe. They had also recently
been deprived by death of several of their most distinguished and
influential characters, who had been considered as the fathers and
governors of the town for half a century. Unfortunately, two or three
ministers in the town, and several in the vicinity, were, with a large
proportion of the inhabitants, bigoted and superstitious believers in
the doctrine of witchcraft, and they aggravated the general prejudice
and fanaticism. From preconceived opinions and strong prejudices, it
was scarcely possible that the trials should be impartially conducted.
It seemed not to be recollected, that in the trials of witches no
other evidence should be received than in the trials of murderers and
other criminals; and that no convictions should be made, but through
the most substantial human testimony, rejecting all diabolical or
witch evidence, which can, on no principle, be deemed legal in any
case. In the language of the late Dr Bentley, in his History of Salem,
'The spark fell upon inflammable matter, and behold, how great a
matter a little fire kindleth.' But it would be unjust not to make due
allowance for the times in which they lived, and the melancholy
delusions which prevailed from the war of prejudice, and the slavish
effects of the most imbecile apprehensions. These errors, like those
of a thousand years ago, are equally opposed to the progress of
knowledge, and to a pious confidence in the wisdom and goodness of an
Almighty Providence. The authorities from which the following history
is derived, are, Hutchinson's History of Massachusetts, Dr Cotton
Mather's Magnalia, Wonders of the Invisible World, by the same author,
Historical Collections, and More Wonders of the Invisible World, by R.
Calef, of Boston, published in 1700.

In a letter of Thomas Brattle, F. R. S., dated October 8, 1692,
published in the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society,
we have the following account.

'As to the method which the Salem justices do take in their
examinations, it is truly this; a warrant being issued out to
apprehend the persons that are charged and complained of by the
afflicted children as they are called, said persons are brought before
the justices, the afflicted being present. The justices ask the
apprehended why they afflict those poor children, to which the
apprehended answer, they do not afflict them. The justices order the
apprehended to look upon the said children, which, accordingly, they
do; and at the time of that look (I dare not say by that look, as the
Salem gentlemen do) the afflicted are cast into a fit. The apprehended
are then blinded and ordered to touch the afflicted; and at that
touch, though not by that touch (as above) the afflicted do ordinarily
come out of their fits. The afflicted persons then declare and affirm,
that the apprehended have afflicted them; upon which the apprehended
persons, though of never so good repute, are forthwith committed to
prison on suspicion for witchcraft.'--'Such was the excess of their
stupidity, that to the most dubious crime in the world, they joined
the most uncertain proofs.'--'A person ought to have been a magician
to be able to clear himself from the imputation of magic.'

The first instance of reputed witchcraft in the town of Salem, took
place in the family of Mr Parris, minister of Salem, and very soon
after, one or two in the neighborhood were afflicted in a similar
manner, and a day of prayer was kept on the occasion. The persons who
complained of being afflicted, were a daughter and a niece of Mr
Parris, girls of ten or eleven years of age; and these were soon
followed by two other girls. They made similar complaints, and
exhibited antic gestures and tricks, similar to those of Goodwin's
children, two or three years before. The physician, unable to account
for the complaint, pronounced them bewitched. They named several women
whose spectres they saw in their fits, tormenting them, and in
particular Tituba, an Indian woman belonging to Mr Parris's family.
She had been trying some experiments, which she pretended to be used
in her own country, in order to find out the witch; upon this, the
children cried out against the poor Indian as appearing to them,
pinching, pricking, and tormenting them, and they fell into fits.
Tituba acknowledged that she had learned how to find out a witch, but
denied that she was one herself. Several private fasts were kept at
the minister's house, and several more public by the whole village,
and then a general fast through the colony. This probably had a
tendency to bring the afflicted into notice; which, with the pity and
compassion of those who visited them, encouraged and confirmed them in
their designs, and increased their numbers. Tituba, as she said, being
beat and threatened by her master to make her confess, and to accuse
her sister witches, as he termed them, did confess that the devil
urged her to sign a book, which he presented, and also to work
mischief with the children, and she was sent to jail. The children
complained, likewise, of Sarah Good, who had long been counted a
melancholy or distracted woman, and also Sarah Osborn, an old
bedridden woman, both of whom being examined by two Salem magistrates,
were committed to jail for trial. About three weeks after, two other
women of good character, and church members, Corey and Nurse, were
complained of and brought to their examination, when these children
fell into fits, and the mother of one of them joined with the children
and complained of Nurse as tormenting her, and made most terrible
shrieks, to the amazement of all the neighborhood. The old women
denied everything charged against them, but were sent to prison; and
such was the infatuation, that a child of Sarah Good, about four or
five years old, was committed also, charged with being a witch and of
biting some of the afflicted, who showed the print of small teeth on
their arms; and all that the child looked upon, it is said, fell down
in fits, complaining that they were in torment. Elizabeth Proctor,
being accused and brought to examination, her husband, as every kind
husband would have done, accompanied her to her examination; but it
cost the poor man his life. Some of the afflicted cried out against
him, also, and they both were committed to prison. Instead, says
Governor Hutchinson, of suspecting and sifting the witnesses, and
suffering them to be cross-examined, the authorities, to say no more,
were imprudent in making use of leading questions, and thereby putting
words into their mouths, or suffering others to do it. Mr Parris was
over-officious; most of the examinations, although in the presence of
one or more of the magistrates, were taken by him. They allowed of
such as the following trivial replies to their examining questions.
John the Indian. 'She hurt me, she choked me, and brought the book a
great many times. She took hold of my throat, to stop my breath. She
pinched and bit me till the blood came. I saw the witches eat and
drink at such a place, and they said it was their sacrament; they said
it was our blood, and they had it twice that day.' Upon such kind of
evidence, persons of blameless character were committed to prison;
and, such was the dreadful infatuation, that the life of no person was
secure. The most effectual way to prevent an accusation was to become
the accuser; and accordingly the number of the afflicted increased
every day, and the number of the accused in proportion; who, in
general perished in their innocence. More than a hundred women, many
of them of fair characters and of the most reputable families, in the
towns of Salem, Beverly, Andover, Billerica, &c, were apprehended,
examined, and generally committed to prison. Goodwife[A] Corey, as she
was called, was examined before the magistrates, in the meeting-house
in the village; the novelty of the case produced a throng of
spectators. Mr Noyes, one of the ministers of Salem, began by prayer.
Several children and women were present, that pretended to be
bewitched by her, and the most of them accused her of biting,
pinching, and strangling, and said that they did, in their fits, see
her likeness coming to them, and bringing a book for them to sign. She
was accused by them, that the black man, meaning the devil, whispered
to her now while she was on her examination. The unfortunate woman
could only deny all that was laid to her charge, and she was committed
to jail. A miserable negro slave was accused by some of the girls, but
on examination she extricated herself by her native cunning. Question
to Candy. 'Are you a witch?' Answer. 'Candy no witch in her country.
Candy's mother no witch. Candy no witch, Barbadoes. This country,
mistress give Candy witch.' 'Did your mistress make you a witch in
this country?' 'Yes, in this country mistress give Candy witch.' 'What
did your mistress do to make you a witch?' 'Mistress bring book, and
pen, and ink, make Candy write in it.' From this testimony, Mrs
Haskins, the mistress, had no other way to save her life but to make

    [A] Goodwife, Goody, and Goodman, were vulgar terms applied to
    heads of families by the lower class.

In April, 1692, there was a public hearing and examination before six
magistrates and several ministers. The afflicted complained against
many with hideous clamors and screechings. On their examinations,
besides the experiment of the afflicted falling down at the sight of
the accused, they were required to repeat the Lord's Prayer, which it
was supposed a real witch could not do. When Sir William Phipps
entered upon the office of Governor, in May, 1692, he ordered the
witches to be put in chains; upon that it was said the afflicted
persons were free from their torments. In May, Mrs Carey, of
Charlestown, was examined and committed. Her husband published the
following facts.

'Having for some days heard that my wife was accused of witchcraft,
and being much disturbed at it, we went to Salem by advice to see if
the afflicted knew her. The prisoners were called in before the
justices, singly, and as they entered were cried out against by the
afflicted girls. The prisoners were placed about seven or eight feet
from the justices, and the accusers between the justices and the
prisoners. The prisoners were ordered to stand directly before the
justices with an officer appointed to hold each hand lest they should
therewith afflict the girls; and the prisoners' eyes must be
constantly fixed on the justices; for if they looked on the
afflicted, they would either fall into these fits, or cry out of
being hurt by them; after examination of the prisoners, who it was
that afflicted these girls, &c, they put them upon saying the Lord's
Prayer as a trial of their guilt. When the afflicted seemed to be out
of their fits, they would look stedfastly on some one person, and not
speak, and then the justices said they were struck dumb, and after a
little time they would speak again; then the justices said to the
accusers, which of you will go and touch the prisoner at the bar?
Then the most courageous would venture, but before they made three
steps would fall on the floor as if in a fit. The justices then
ordered that they should be taken up and carried to the prisoner,
that she might touch them, and as soon as this was done the justices
would say they are all well, before I could discern any alteration,
but the justices seemed to understand the manner of the strange
juggle. Two of the accusers who pretended to be bewitched, were
Abigail Williams, niece of Mr Parris, aged eleven or twelve years,
and Indian John, the husband of Tituba, who was now in jail. This
fellow had himself been accused of witchcraft, but had now become an
accuser for his own safety. He showed several old scars which he said
were the effects of witchcraft, but more likely of the lash. On
inquiry who they would accuse as the cause of their sufferings, they
cried out _Carey_, and immediately a warrant was sent by the justices
to bring my wife before them. Her chief accusers were two girls; my
wife declared to the justices that she never had any knowledge of
them before that day. She was obliged to stand with her arms
extended. I requested that I might hold one of her hands, but it was
denied me. She then desired that I would wipe the tears and the sweat
from her face and that she might lean herself on me as she was faint;
but justice Hathorn said she had strength enough to torment those
persons, and she should have strength enough to stand. I remonstrated
against such cruel treatment, but was commanded to be silent, or I
should be turned out of the room. Indian John was now called in to be
one of the accusers; he fell down and tumbled about like a brute, but
said nothing. The justices asked the girls who afflicted the Indian;
they answered she, (meaning my wife); the justices ordered her to
touch him in order to his cure; but her head must be turned another
way, lest instead of curing, she should make him worse by looking on
him; her hand was guided to take hold of his, but the Indian seized
hold of her hand, and pulled her down on the floor, in a violent
manner; then his hand was taken off, and her hand put on his, and the
cure was quickly wrought. My wife, after being thus cruelly treated,
was put into prison, and the jailor was ordered to put irons on her
legs which weighed about eight pounds. These chains, with her other
afflictions, soon produced convulsion fits, so that I was
apprehensive she would have died that night. I intreated that the
irons might be removed, but in vain. I now attended the trials at
Salem, and finding that spectre evidence, together with idle or
malicious stories, was received against the lives of innocent people,
I trembled for the fate of my wife; as the same evidence that would
serve for one would serve for all. In this awful situation, I thought
myself justifiable in devising some means of escape; and this,
through the goodness of God, was effected. We were pursued as far as
Rhode Island, but we reached New York in safety, where we were
kindly received by Governor Fletcher. To speak of the treatment of
the prisoners and the inhumanity shown them at their executions, is
more than any sober Christian can endure. Those that suffered, being
many of them church members, and most of them of blameless
conversation.--Jonathan Carey.'

Captain John Alden, of Boston, mariner, was sent for by the
magistrates of Salem, upon the accusation of several poor, distracted,
or possessed creatures, or witches. On his examination, these wretches
began their juggling tricks, falling down, crying out, and staring in
the faces of people; the magistrates demanded of them several times
who it was of all the people in the room, that hurt them; one of the
accusers pointed several times to one Captain Hill, but said nothing,
till a man standing behind her to hold her up, stooped down to her
ear, when she immediately cried out, Alden, Alden afflicted her. Being
asked if she had ever seen Alden, she answered no, but she said the
man told her so. Alden was then committed to custody, and his sword
taken from him, for they said he afflicted them with his sword. He
was next sent for to the meeting-house, by the magistrates, and was
ordered to stand on a chair to the open view of all the assembly. The
accusers cried out that Alden pinched them when he stood on the chair;
and one of the magistrates bid the marshal hold open his hands, that
he might not pinch those creatures. Mr Gidney, one of the justices,
bid Captain Alden confess, and give glory to God. He replied, he hoped
he should always give glory to God, but never would gratify the devil.
He asked them why they should think that he should come to that
village to afflict persons that he had never seen before; and appealed
to all present and challenged any one to produce a charge against his
character. Mr Gidney said he had known him many years, and had been to
sea with him, and always believed him to be an honest man; but now he
saw cause to alter his opinion. Alden asked Gidney what reason could
be given why his looking upon him did not strike him down as well as
the miserable accusers; but no reason could be given. He assured
Gidney that a lying spirit was in his accusers, and that there was not
a word of truth in all they said of him. Alden, however, was
committed to jail where he continued fifteen weeks, when he made his
escape. At the examinations, and at other times, it was usual for the
accusers to tell of the black man, or of a spectre, as being then on
the table; the people present would strike with swords or sticks at
those places. One justice broke his cane at this exercise; and
sometimes the accusers would say they struck the spectre; and it was
even reported that several of the accused women were hurt and wounded
thereby, though at home at the same time.

In June and July, the court of Oyer and Terminer proceeded on trials
and condemnations, and six miserable creatures were executed,
protesting their innocence.

At the trial of Sarah Good, one of the afflicted girls fell into a
fit, and after coming out of it, she cried out against the prisoner
for stabbing her in the breast while in court, and actually produced a
piece of the blade of the knife which she said was used and broken in
doing it. Upon this, a young man was called to prove the imposition.
He produced a haft and part of the blade, which the court, having
viewed and compared, found to be the same; and the young man affirmed,
that yesterday he happened to break that knife, and that he cast away
the upper part in the presence of the person who now produced it. The
girl was cautioned by the court not to tell any more lies, but was
still employed to give evidence against the prisoners whose lives were
in her hands.

Mr Noyes, the minister, urged Sarah Good to confess, saying he knew
she was a witch, and she knew she was a witch; to which she replied,
'You are a liar. I am no more a witch than you are a wizard.' At the
trial of Rebecca Nurse it was remarkable that the jury brought her in
not guilty; immediately all the accusers in the court, and soon after
all the afflicted out of court, made a hideous outcry, to the
amazement of the court and spectators. The court having expressed some
dissatisfaction, the jury were induced to go out again to consider
better one expression of hers when before the court. They now brought
her in guilty, and she was condemned. After her condemnation, she was
by Mr Noyes of Salem, excommunicated and given to the devil. The
governor, however, saw cause to grant a reprieve, upon which, when
known, the accusers renewed their dismal outcries against her,
insomuch that the governor was by some Salem gentlemen prevailed with
to recall the reprieve, and she was executed with the rest. The
testimonials of her Christian behaviour, both in the course of her
life, and at her death, are numerous and highly satisfactory. Mary
Easty, her sister, was also condemned. She was of a serious and
religious character, and before her execution she presented a petition
to the court and the reverend ministers at Salem, protesting her
innocence before God. She petitioned, not for her own life, for she
knew she must die; but most earnestly prayed, that if possible, no
more innocent blood might be shed. By her own innocence she said she
knew the court was in the wrong way, and humbly begged that their
honors would examine the confessing witches, being confident that many
of them had belied themselves and others. They had accused her and
others, she said, of having made a league with the devil, which she
and they most positively denied. 'The Lord alone, who is the searcher
of all hearts, knows that as I shall answer it at the tribunal seat,
that I know nothing of witchcraft, therefore I cannot, I dare not,
belie my own soul by confessing.' She intreats their honors not to
deny the humble petition of a poor, dying, innocent person, and prays
that the Lord will give a blessing to their endeavors that no more
innocent blood be shed. These two women were among the eight who were
executed together, when the Rev. Mr Noyes, turning towards the bodies,
said, what a sad thing it is to see eight firebrands of hell hanging

John Proctor, while confined in prison, complained that two young men
were compelled to a confession by being tied neck and heels till the
blood was ready to burst out of their noses. They then confessed that
one had been a wizard a month, and the other five weeks, and that
their mother had made them so when she had been confined in jail
without seeing them for nine weeks. He adds, 'My son, William Proctor,
when he was examined, because he would not confess that he was guilty,
they tied him up neck and heels till the blood gushed out of his

At a court held in Salem, April, 1692, by the honorable Thomas
Danforth, deputy governor, Elizabeth Proctor was tried for witchcraft.
The witnesses were Indian John, husband to Tituba, and three or four
girls who pretended to be afflicted by the said Proctor. The questions
by the court, and the answers of the witnesses, were exceedingly
futile and whimsical; but they exhibited their antic gestures and
fits, which they pretended were caused by the presence of the prisoner
at the bar. The court then put the question thus--'Elizabeth Proctor,
you understand whereof you are charged, viz. to be guilty of sundry
acts of witchcraft: what say you to it?' 'Speak the truth as you will
answer it before God another day. What do you say, Goody Proctor, to
these things?' 'I take God in heaven to be my witness, that I know
nothing of it, no more than a child.' Proctor, the husband, being
present in court, the afflicted girls cried out against him, saying he
was a wizard, and again exhibited their tricks and fits. The question
was put by the court, 'Who hurts you?' Answer. 'Goodman Proctor, and
his wife too.' By the court. 'What do you say, Goodman Proctor, to
these things?' 'I know not, I am entirely innocent.' It is no less
painful than astonishing to add that by such miserable evidence,
Proctor and his wife were both condemned and executed. Proctor
earnestly entreated that he might be allowed a few days to prepare
himself for death, and at his execution he desired in the most
affecting manner that Mr Noyes would pray with, and for him; but his
request was cruelly denied him, because he would not confess himself
to be a wizard.

August 19th, 1692, five persons were executed, all protesting their
innocence in the firmest manner. One of this number was Mr George
Burroughs, who had been a preacher several years before at Salem
village, where there had been some misunderstanding between him and
the people; afterwards he became a preacher at Wells. It was alleged
against Mr Burroughs, that he had been seen to perform feats of
strength exceeding the natural powers of man. He had lifted a barrel
of molasses or cider from a canoe, and carried it to the shore. He
would, with one hand, extend a heavy musket of six or seven feet
barrel, at arm's length. In addition to these charges, it was urged
by the writers of that day, as a principal part of the evidence, that
seven or eight of the confessing witches witnessed against him. But it
will appear from the examinations by the court, that their evidence
was drawn from them. For example. Question to Mary Lacey. 'Was there
not a man among you at your meetings?' 'None but the devil.' 'Your
mother and grandmother say there was a minister there; did you not see
men there?' 'There was a minister there, and I think he is now in
prison.' 'Was there not one Mr Burroughs there?' 'Yes.'--Question to
another witness. 'Were there not two ministers there?' 'I heard Sarah
Good talk of a minister or two, one of them is he that has been to the
eastward; his name is Burroughs.' Margaret Jacobs had been brought to
accuse herself of being a witch, and then to charge Burroughs the
minister, and her own grandfather, but afterwards being struck with
horror, she chose to lose her own life rather than persist in her
confession. She begged forgiveness of Burroughs before his execution,
who is said to have freely forgiven her; and to have prayed with, and
for her. She also recanted all she had said against her grandfather,
but all in vain as to his life. Some of the accusers asserted that
Burroughs often attended the witch or devil's sacrament. Some
testified, that, in their torments, Burroughs tempted them to go to a
sacrament; and he would, with the sound of a trumpet, summon other
witches; who, quickly after the sound, would come from all quarters
unto the rendezvous. Numerous other charges, equally frivolous, were
brought against this unfortunate minister, as stated by Dr Cotton
Mather; among others, his venomous bites, leaving the prints of his
teeth upon the flesh, which would compare precisely with his set of
teeth. It is seldom that a man, 80 years of age, can boast a good set
of teeth, and some said that he had not one in his head, and could be
no other than imaginary teeth, but these could answer their purpose.
Burroughs had been twice married, and it was reported of him, perhaps
truly, that he had treated his wives unkindly.

'Several of the bewitched,' adds Dr Cotton Mather, 'gave in their
testimony that they had been troubled with the apparitions of two
women, who said they were Burroughs' two wives, and that he had been
the death of them, and that the magistrates must be told of it, before
whom, if Burroughs upon his trial denied it, they did not know but
they should appear against him in court. Burroughs being now on trial,
one of the bewitched persons was cast into horror at the ghosts of the
two deceased wives, then appearing before him, and crying for
vengeance against him. But he, though much appalled, utterly denied
that he discerned anything of it: nor was this,' adds Dr Mather, 'any
part of his conviction.'[B] It was testified by some of the
witnesses, that the prisoner had been at witch meetings with them; and
that he was the person who had seduced them into the snares of
witchcraft; that he promised them fine clothes for doing it; that he
brought puppets to them, and thorns to stick into those puppets, for
the afflicting of other people; and that he exhorted them with the
rest of the crew to bewitch all Salem village, but be sure to do it
gradually, if they would prevail in what they did. It was testified of
one Ruck, brother-in-law to the prisoner, that himself and sister,
with Burroughs, going out two or three miles to gather strawberries,
Ruck, with his sister, rode home very moderately with Burroughs on
foot in company. Burroughs stepped aside into the bushes, whereupon
they halted and holloed for him. He not answering, they proceeded
homewards with a quickened pace, and yet, when they were got near
home, to their astonishment they found him on foot with them, having a
basket of strawberries. Burroughs then fell to chiding his wife for
speaking to her brother of him on the road; which, when they wondered
at, he said he knew their thoughts. Ruck being startled at that,
intimated that the devil himself, did not know so far. Burroughs
answered, 'My God makes known your thoughts unto me.' The prisoner at
the bar had nothing to answer unto what was thus witnessed against
him, that was worth considering. 'But the court began to think,' says
Dr Mather, 'that he then stepped aside only that by the assistance of
the black man he might put on his invisibility, and in that
fascinating mist, gratify his own jealous humor to hear what they said
of him.' This is paying no great compliment to the philosophical
character of the court. Burroughs was, however, condemned, and was
carried in rags in a cart through the streets of Salem, to his
execution; and his body was dragged by the rope over the ground, and
buried among some rocks, one hand and part of the face left uncovered.
When on the ladder, he repeated the Lord's Prayer; probably because it
was the popular opinion, that a wizard is deprived of the power of
doing it, and he also protested against the injustice of his
sufferings with such awful solemnity, as to affect the spectators to
tears, and it was by some apprehended that the populace would have
prevented the execution. He suffered this ignominious death at the age
of about 80 years, with fervent prayers that the dreadful delusion
might cease. As soon as he was turned off, Dr Cotton Mather, being
mounted, addressed himself to the people, declaring that Burroughs was
not an ordained minister, and that there was the fullest proof of his
guilt. Dr Increase Mather, equally credulous in these things with his
son, in his "Cases of Conscience," affirms, that he was present at the
trial of Burroughs, and had he been one of his judges, he could not
have acquitted him. 'For several persons did on oath testify, that
they saw him do such things as no man that has not a devil to be his
familiar, could perform.'

    [B] In an English court, a witness was about to relate an
    account of a murder as he received it from the ghost of the
    murdered person. 'Hold, sir,' said the judge; 'The ghost is an
    excellent witness, and his evidence the best possible, but he
    cannot be heard by proxy in this court; summon him hither, and
    I'll hear him in person; but your communication is mere hearsay,
    which my office compels me to reject.' If a court or magistrate
    will listen to ghost evidence to convict a reputed criminal, why
    not admit the same evidence on the contrary, in proof of
    innocence. And if a judge or magistrate countenance or abet such
    kind of juggling with diabolical influence, do they not come
    under the penalty of the statute of King James, which interdicts
    all acts of sorcery whatever, and all charms for employing

John Willard was another who suffered about the same time. He had been
employed in looking up witches, but at last refusing to fetch in more,
as he deemed it unjust, he was accused. He at first made his escape to
a distance of forty miles, but was overtaken and condemned. Giles
Corey, aged about 80 years, was brought to trial, but refused to
plead, being unwilling to be tried by a jury that cleared no one; he
was therefore pressed to death. When in the agonies of death, the
victim thrust out his tongue, and the officer pushed it into his mouth
with his cane. This was the first, and I believe the only one, who was
pressed to death in New England, though there had been examples of it
in Old England. Corey's wife suffered at the gallows, where she made
an eminent prayer.

September 22d, eight were executed, the horse carrying them together
in a cart to the gallows, failed for a short time, and the accusers
said the devil hindered it; but it may be asked, if he had power to
arrest the cart for a moment, why not stop it altogether, and prevent
the executions? But they shew no signs of confidence or hope in his
power to save them. One Wardwell, having formerly confessed himself
guilty and afterwards denied it, was brought upon his trial. His
former confession and spectre evidence were adduced against him; but
his own wife and daughter accused him and saved themselves. 'There
are,' says Hutchinson, 'many instances of children accusing their
parents, and some, of parents accusing their children. This is the
only instance of a wife or husband accusing one the other, and surely
this instance ought not to have been suffered. I shudder while I
relate it.' Besides these irregularities, there were others in the
course of these trials. At the execution of Wardwell, while he was
speaking to the people, protesting his innocence, the executioner
being at the same time smoking his pipe, the smoke coming in his face
interrupted his discourse, the accusers said the devil hindered him
with smoke.

Mrs English was a woman of superior mind, and an excellent education;
but was thought not to be very condescending or charitable to the
poor; and by some of them she was accused of witchcraft. The officer
read to her the warrant in the evening, and guards were placed round
her house. In the morning, after attending the devotions of the
family, she kissed her children with great composure, proposed her
plan of education, and took leave of them, and told the officer she
was ready to die, being confident that would be her fate. After being
examined, she was by indulgence committed to custody in a public
house, where her husband frequently visited her, and this occasioned
an accusation against him. Being a man of large property, a merchant
in Salem, and having considerable influence, he fortunately obtained
permission to be confined with his wife in a prison in Boston, till
the time of trial. Here their friends found means to effect their
escape, and they fled to New York, where they were received with
friendly attention by Governor Fletcher. In the winter following, Mr
English sent generous supplies to the suffering poor at Salem; but on
his return after the storm had subsided, he found his house plundered,
and his property so reduced, that from an estate valued at £1500, he
realized only about £300.

In July, one Goody Foster was examined before four justices. She had
confessed many things of herself, but her daughter now confessed
others in which she was concerned. She was told that her daughter was
with her when she rode on the stick, and was with her at the witch
meetings, and was asked how long her daughter had been engaged with
her. She replied that she had no knowledge of it at all. She was then
told that one of the afflicted persons said, that Goody Carryer's
shape told her that Goody Foster had made her daughter a witch about
thirteen years ago. She replied that she knew no more about her
daughter's being a witch, than what day she should die. If I knew
anything more I would speak it to the utmost. The daughter being
called in, and asked whether she had any discourse with her mother
while riding on the stick, replied, I think not a word. Next comes the
important question by the magistrate, 'Who rid foremost on that stick
to the village?' 'I suppose my mother.' The mother replied, 'no, Goody
Carryer was foremost.' It might be supposed that it was time for the
magistrates to stop; but they proceed to question the daughter. 'How
many years since they were baptized, who baptized them, and how?'
'Three or four years I suppose; the old serpent dipped their heads in
the water, saying they were his, and that he had power over them
forever and ever.' 'How many were baptized that day, and who were
they?' 'I think there were six, some of the chiefs, they were of the
higher powers.' The old woman's grandaughter, M. Lacey, was now called
in, and instantly M. Warren fell into a violent fit, but was soon
restored when Lacey laid her hand on her arm. Question by the
justices. 'How dare you come in here and bring the devil with you to
afflict these poor creatures; which way do you do it?' 'I cannot tell.
If my mother made me a witch I did not know it.' She was now directed
to look on M. Warren in a friendly way, without injuring her; but in
doing so she struck her down with her eyes. Being asked if she would
now acknowledge herself to be a witch, she said yes. Being asked how
long, she said she had not been a witch above a week. The devil
appeared to her in the shape of a horse, bidding her worship him, and
fear nothing, and he would not bring her out, but he has proved a liar
from the beginning. The questions being still put to her, she again
said, she had been a witch but a little more than a week; but at
another time she replied, that the devil appeared to her a little more
than a year ago for the first time.

Among other persons accused of witchcraft, was Mrs Hale, whose
husband, the minister of Beverly, had been very active in these
prosecutions; this was a stroke which the good man was not prepared
to receive. Being fully satisfied of his wife's innocence, the
question was now suggested and controverted, whether the devil could
afflict in a good person's shape, taking it for granted, that the
minister's wife was a good person. The accusation of Mrs Hale, and
some others of respectable character, brought them to believe that the
devil could so manage matters as that the afflicted person should
think he did. This affair effected a considerable alteration in the
sentiments and conduct of Mr Hale. He became much more moderate and
rational in his views of witchcraft. In the midst of their distress
and confusion, the clergymen of the town and vicinity held a
consultation by request of the governor and council, upon the state of
things as they stood; particularly, to consider the question, whether
Satan may not appear in the shape of an innocent and pious, as well as
of a nocent and wicked person, to afflict such as suffer by diabolical
molestation? They reported, among other things, as their opinion,
'That presumptions, whereupon persons may be committed, and much more,
convictions, as being guilty of witchcraft, ought certainly to be
more considerable than barely the accused person's being represented
by a spectre unto the afflicted; inasmuch as it is an undoubted and
notorious thing, that a demon may by God's permission appear even to
ill purposes, in the shape of an innocent, yea, of a virtuous man. Nor
can we esteem alterations made in the sufferers by a look or touch of
the accused, to be an infallible evidence of guilt, but frequently
liable to be abused by the devil's legerdemain.'

Among the confessing witches were D. Falkner, a child of ten years, A.
Falkner, of eight, and S. Carryer, between seven and eight. Sarah
Carryer's confession. It was asked by the magistrates. 'How long hast
thou been a witch?' 'Ever since I was six years old.' 'How old are you
now?' 'Near eight years old; brother Richard says I shall be eight
years old next November.' 'Who made you a witch?' 'My mother. She made
me set my hand to a book. I touched it with my fingers, and the book
was red, the paper was white.' Being questioned she said she never had
seen the black man, the place where she did it was in a pasture, and
her aunt T. and her cousins were there. They promised to give her a
black dog, but the dog never came to her. 'But you said you saw a cat
once, what did that say to you?' 'It said it would tear me in pieces
if I would not set my hand to the book.' She said her mother baptized
her, and the devil or black man was not there as she saw. She said she
afflicted people by pinching them, she had no puppets, her mother
carried her to afflict. 'How did your mother carry you when she was in
prison?' 'She came like a black cat.' 'How did you know it was your
mother?' 'The cat told me she was my mother.' This poor child's mother
was then under sentence of death, and the mother of the other two
children was in prison also, and was soon after tried and condemned.

The following is among the affecting instances of confessors
retracting their confessions.

The humble declaration of Margaret Jacobs unto the honored court now
sitting at Salem, showeth, 'That whereas your poor and humble
declarant, being closely confined in Salem jail, for the crime of
witchcraft, which crime, thanks be to the Lord, I am altogether
ignorant of, as will appear at the great day of judgment. May it
please the honored court, I was cried out upon by some of the
possessed persons, as afflicting them; whereupon I was brought to my
examination, which persons at the sight of me fell down, which did
very much startle and affright me. The Lord above knows I knew nothing
in the least degree who afflicted them; they told me without doubt I
did, or they would not fall down at seeing me; they told me if I would
not confess, I should be put down into the dungeon, and would be
hanged; but if I would confess I should have my life spared; the which
did so affright me, that to save my life, I did make the confession,
which confession, may it please the honored court, is altogether false
and untrue. The very first night after, I was in such horror of
conscience that I could not sleep, for fear the devil would carry me
away for telling such horrid lies. I was, may it please the honored
court, sworn to my confession, as I understand since, but at that time
I was ignorant of it, not knowing what an oath did mean. The Lord, I
hope, in whom I trust, out of the abundance of his mercy, will forgive
me my false forswearing myself. What I said was altogether false
against my grandfather and Mr Burroughs, which I did to save my life
and to have my liberty; but the Lord charging it to my conscience,
made me in so much horror, that I could not contain myself before I
had denied my confession; choosing rather death with a quiet
conscience, than to live in such horror. And now, may it please your
honors, I leave it to your pious and judicious discretion, to take
pity and compassion on my young and tender years, to act and to do
with me as the Lord and your honors shall see good; having no friend
but the Lord to plead my cause, not being guilty in the least measure
of the crime of witchcraft, nor any other sin that deserves death from
the hands of man.'

The horrid scourge of witchcraft was, by means of the imprudence, or
rather the folly, of an individual, extended to the town of Andover.
One Joseph Ballard, of that town, sent to Salem for some of the
accusers who pretended to have the spectral sight to tell him who
afflicted his wife, who was then sick of a fever. Soon after this,
fifty persons at Andover were accused of witchcraft, many of whom
were among the most reputable families. Here the nonsensical stories
of riding on poles through the air, were circulated. Many parents
believed their children to be witches, and many husbands their wives,

The following is the grand jury's bill against Mary Osgood.

'The jurors for our sovereign Lord and Lady the King and Queen
present, that Mary Osgood, wife of Captain Joseph Osgood, of Andover,
in the county of Essex, about eleven years ago, wickedly, maliciously,
and feloniously, a covenant with the devil did make, and signed the
devil's book, and took the devil to be her God, and consented to serve
and worship him, and was baptized by the devil, and renounced her
former christian baptism, and promised to be the devil's, both body
and soul, forever, and to serve him; by which diabolical covenant by
her made with the devil, she, the said Mary Osgood, is become a
detestable witch, against the peace of our sovereign Lord and Lady the
King and Queen, their crown and dignity, and the laws in that case
made and provided.'

The foregoing bill was grounded principally on her own confession,
the purport of which is as follows.--That about eleven years ago, when
she was in a melancholy state, upon a certain time while walking in
her orchard, she saw the appearance of a cat at the end of her house,
which she supposed was a real cat, about this time she made a covenant
with the devil, &c. She said further, that about two years agone, she
was carried through the air in company with three others, whom she
named, to five mile pond, where she was baptized by the devil, and was
transported back again through the air in the same manner in which she
went, and believes they were carried on a pole. She confesses that she
had afflicted three persons, and that she did it by pinching her bed
clothes, and giving consent the devil should do it in her shape, and
that the devil could not do it without her consent. When in court, she
afflicted several persons, as they pretended, and they were as usual
restored by her touching their hands. It was not long after, that the
said Mary Osgood, with five other women, who had, when in danger,
confessed themselves guilty, retraced their confessions, stating that
'they were blind-folded, and their hands were laid on the afflicted
persons who fell into fits; others when they felt our hands, said they
were well, and that we were guilty of afflicting them, whereupon we
were committed to prison. By reason of that sudden surprisal, knowing
ourselves perfectly innocent, we were exceedingly astonished and
amazed, consternated and afflicted out of our reason. Our nearest and
dearest friends and relations, seeing our awful situation, entreated
us to make confession, as the only way to save our lives. They, out of
tender love and pity, persuaded us to make such confession, telling us
we were witches, they knew it, and we knew it, and they knew that we
knew it, which made us think it was really so. Our understanding and
reasoning faculties almost gone, we were incapable of judging of our
condition. Some time after, when we had been better composed, they
telling us what we had confessed, we did profess we were innocent, of
such things.' The testimonials to these persons' characters, says
Governor Hutchinson, by the principal inhabitants of Andover, will
outweigh the credulity of the justices who committed, or of the grand
jury which found bills against them. Fiftythree reputable inhabitants
of Andover, addressed the court, held at Salem, stating that 'they are
women of whom we can truly give this character and commendation, that
they have not only lived among us so inoffensively as not to give the
least occasion to suspect them of witchcraft, but by their sober,
godly, and exemplary lives and conversation, have obtained a good
report in the place, where they have been well esteemed and approved
in the church, of which they are members.'

One Dudley Bradstreet, a justice of peace in Andover, having himself
committed thirty or forty persons to prison for supposed witchcraft,
himself and wife were both accused, and they were obliged to flee for
their lives. The accusers reported, that Mr Bradstreet had killed nine
persons, for they saw the ghosts of murdered persons hover over those
that had killed them. A dog being afflicted at Salem, those that had
the spectral sight said, that J. Bradstreet, brother of the justice,
afflicted the dog and then rode upon him. He also was glad to make his
escape, and the dog was killed. Another dog was said to afflict
others, and they fell into fits when the dog looked on them, and he
was killed. At length a worthy gentleman of Boston, being accused by
some of those at Andover, sent a writ to arrest the accusers in a
thousand pound action, for defamation. From that time the accusations
at Andover generally ceased, to the unspeakable joy of the

This tremendous storm continued sixteen months in Salem, in which was
displayed a great want of sober wisdom in some, and of moral honesty
in others, while a spirit of superstitious persecution, almost without
a parallel, generally prevailed. Nineteen innocent persons were
hanged, one pressed to death, and eight more condemned; and about
fifty confessed themselves witches, of which not one was executed.
Above one hundred and fifty were in prison, and above two hundred
more, being accused, it was thought proper to put a stop to further
prosecutions. The persons in the prisons were set at liberty, and
those who had fled returned home in peace. Experience showed that the
more were apprehended, the more were afflicted by Satan, and the
number of confessors increasing, increased the number of the accused;
and the executing of some made way for the apprehension of others,
till the numbers became actually alarming to the public, and it was
feared that Salem had involved _some innocent persons_, as all the
nineteen denied the crime to their death.

The late Dr Bentley of Salem, in his History of that town, published
in the Historical Society's Collections, observes, that 'the scene was
like a torrent, sudden, irresistible, and momentary. They who thought
they saw the delusion, did not expose it, and they who were deluded
were terrified into distraction. For a time no life was safe. On the
trials, children below twelve years of age obtained a hearing before
magistrates. Indians came and related their own knowledge of invisible
beings. Tender females told every fright, but not one man of
reputation ventured to offer a single report, or to oppose openly the
overwhelming torrent. Nothing could be more ridiculous than a mere
narrative of the evidence. It would be an affront to the sober world.
The terror was so great, that at the hazard of life, they who were
charged with guilt confessed it, and the confessions blinded the
judges. The public clamors urged them on, and the novelty of the
calamity deprived them of all ability to investigate its true causes,
till nineteen innocent persons were made victims to the public
credulity.' 'From March to August, 1692,' says Dr Bentley, 'was the
most distressing time Salem ever knew; business was interrupted, the
town deserted, terror was in every countenance, and distress in every
heart. Every place was the subject of some direful tale, fear haunted
every street, melancholy dwelt in silence in every place after the sun
retired. The population was diminished, business could not, for some
time, recover its former channels, and the innocent suffered with the
guilty. But as soon as the judges ceased to condemn, the people ceased
to accuse. Terror at the violence and the guilt of the proceedings,
succeeded instantly to the conviction of blind zeal, and what every
man had encouraged, all now professed to abhor. Every expression of
sorrow was found in Salem. The church erased all the ignominy they had
attached to the dead, by recording a most humble acknowledgment of
their error. But a diminished population, the injury done to
religion, and the distress of the aggrieved, were seen and felt with
the greatest sorrow.'

I quote the following from Judge Story's Centennial Discourse.

'The whole of these proceedings exhibit melancholy proofs of the
effects of superstition in darkening the mind, and steeling the heart
against the dictates of humanity. Indeed nothing has ever been found
more vindictive and cruel than fanaticism, acting under the influence
of preternatural terror, and assuming to punish offences created by
its own gloomy reveries. Under such circumstances it becomes itself
the very demon whose agency it seeks to destroy. It loses sight of all
the common principles of reason and evidence. It sees nothing around
it but victims for sacrifice. It hears nothing but the voice of its
own vengeance. It believes nothing but what is monstrous and
incredible. It conjures up every phantom of superstition, and shapes
it to the living form of its own passions and frenzies. In short,
insanity could hardly devise more refinements in barbarity, or
profligacy execute them with more malignant coolness. In the wretched
butcheries of these times, (for so they in fact were,) in which law
and reason were equally set at defiance, we have shocking instances of
unnatural conduct. We find parents accusing their children, children
their parents, and wives their husbands, of a crime, which must bring
them to the scaffold. We find innocent persons, misled by the hope of
pardon, or wrought up to frenzy by the pretended sufferings of others,
freely accusing themselves of the same crime. We find gross perjury
practised to procure condemnations, sometimes for self protection, and
sometimes from utter recklessness of consequences. We find even
religion itself made an instrument of vengeance. We find ministers of
the gospel and judges of the land, stimulating the work of
persecution, until at last in its progress its desolations reached
their own firesides.'

There are not wanting, Hutchinson observes, those who are willing to
suppose the accusers to have been under bodily disorders, which
affected their imaginations. This is kind and charitable, but seems to
be winking the truth out of sight. A little attention must force
conviction, that the whole was a scene of fraud and imposture,
commenced by young girls, who at first, perhaps, thought of nothing
more than exciting an interest in their sufferings, and continued by
adult persons, who were afraid of being accused themselves. Rather
than confess their fraud, they permitted the lives of so many innocent
persons to be sacrificed. None of the pretended afflicted were ever
brought upon trial for their fraud; some of them proved profligate
persons, abandoned to all vice, others passed their days in obscurity
and contempt.

In December, 1696, there was a proclamation for a fast, in which there
was this clause, 'That God would shew us what we know not, and help us
wherein we have done amiss, referring to the late tragedy raised among
them by Satan and his instruments, through the awful judgment of God.'
On the day of the fast, at the South meeting-house in Boston, Judge
Sewall, who had sat on the bench at the trials, delivered in a paper
to be read publicly, and he stood up while it was reading. It
expressed in a very humble manner, that he was apprehensive he might
have fallen into some error in the trials at Salem, and praying that
the guilt of such miscarriages may not be imputed either to the
country in general, or to him or his family in particular, and asking
forgiveness of God and man. The Chief Justice, Mr Stoughton, being
informed of this action of one of his brethren, observed for himself,
that when he sat in judgment, he had the fear of God before his eyes,
and gave his opinion according to the best of his understanding; and
although it might appear afterwards that he had been in an error, yet
he saw no necessity of a public acknowledgment of it.

Twelve men who had served as jurors in court at Salem, in 1692,
published a recantation of their sentiments, and an apology for their
doings on the trials; stating that they were incapable of
understanding, nor able to withstand the mysterious delusions of the
powers of darkness, and the prince of the air, but for want of
knowledge and information from others, took up such evidence against
the accused as, on further consideration and better information, they
justly fear they have been instrumental with others, though
ignorantly and unwittingly, to bring upon themselves the guilt of
innocent blood, &c. They express a deep sense of sorrow for their
errors in acting on such evidence to the condemnation of persons,
declaring with deep humility that they were deluded and mistaken, for
which they are much distressed and disquieted in mind. They humbly beg
forgiveness of God, and praying that they may be considered candidly
and aright by the surviving sufferers, acknowledging themselves under
the power of strong and general delusion. They again ask forgiveness
of all whom they may have offended, declaring they would not do such
things again for the whole world.

As this great calamity began in the house of Mr Parris, and he had
been a witness and very zealous prosecutor of the supposed offenders,
many of his church withdrew from his communion, and in April, 1693,
they drew up articles against him. 'They charge the said Parris of
teaching such dangerous errors, and preaching such scandalous
immoralities as ought to discharge any man, though ever so gifted
otherwise, from the work of the ministry. Particularly, in his oath
against the lives of several, wherein he swears, that the prisoners
with their looks knock down those pretended sufferers. We humbly
conceive, that he who swears to more than he is certain of, is equally
guilty of perjury with him that swears to what is false.'

They were so settled in their aversion, that they continued their
persecutions for three or four years; and in July, 1697, they
presented a remonstrance to arbitration, in which they accuse him of
'believing the devil's accusations, and readily departing from all
charity to persons, though of blameless and godly lives, upon such
suggestions against them; his promoting such accusations, as also his
partiality in stifling the accusations of some, and vigilantly
promoting others. His applying to those who have a familiar spirit to
know who afflicted the people; which we consider as an implicit
denying the providence of God, which alone we believe can send
afflictions, or cause devils to afflict the people. By these practices
and principles, Mr Parris hath been the beginner and procurer of the
sorest afflictions, not to this village only, but this whole country,
that did ever befall them.' Mr Parris did at length acknowledge his
errors, but the people would not be satisfied till he was entirely

At the period when the prosecutions for witchcraft were conducted at
Salem, Sir William Phipps was governor of the Colony. He was a native
of New England, of obscure origin, and very illiterate. His title and
his affluence were acquired by fortuitous circumstances, not from any
meritorious or honorable achievements. Mr Phipps had, by some means,
obtained information that a Spanish ship loaded with gold and silver,
had been wrecked on the coast of La Plata, many years before, and he
resolved on a bold effort to possess himself of the booty. For the
purpose of procuring assistance in the enterprise, he performed a
voyage to England, where he obtained partners and associates, and from
thence he proceeded to La Plata, in 1687. He was so fortunate as to
discover the hulk, from which he recovered gold and silver to the
amount of £300,000, his own share being £16,000. Having returned to
England, and being introduced to men of rank and influence, he
received from King James the Second, the honor of knighthood, and was
commissioned as Governor of his native Colony. But, though a man of
piety and integrity, he was not qualified to support the dignity of
the office to which he had the honor of being promoted.

Sir William was a firm believer in witchcraft, and among the first
acts of his authority, was an order for chaining the witches; stupidly
believing that if the body was chained, the wicked spirit within could
exert no power. But before the close of the tragedies, in which his
excellency was so zealous an actor, his own wife, was by some of the
complainants, accused of being a witch; but through favor to the
governor's lady, she escaped without chains or halter.

It appears that Dr Cotton Mather was one of the leading champions in
the persecution of witches. In October, 1692, at the desire of the
governor, he published an account of the trials of seven of those who
had been condemned and executed, in which he states that the court
grounded their proceedings chiefly on the laws of England, and
precedents found in books from thence. In his preface he has this
passage. 'If in the midst of the many dissatisfactions among us, the
publication of these trials may promote a pious thankfulness unto God
for justice being so far executed among us, I shall rejoice that God
is glorified; and pray that no wrong steps of ours may ever sully any
of his glorious works.' But it should be remembered that no
condemnation can receive the sanction of justice nor the countenance
of Christians, unless the party is fairly convicted by full and
substantial human evidence. It is a most extraordinary circumstance
that the rulers and judges, and the eminent divines of that day,
should overlook the reasonable maxim in the Jewish constitution, that
_every word_ or thing admitted for evidence in the decision _shall be
established_ by the concurrence of what cometh from the mouth of two
or three credible witnesses. 'So you will not pollute with blood the
land in which you dwell.'--'And if a false witness rise up against a
man, and accuse him of any crime, the two men before whom is the
controversy, shall stand before the Lord, and before the priests, and
before the judges, who may be in those days. And when the judges have
made a strict examination, if the false witness hath testified
falsehoods, and risen up against his brother; you shall do to him as
he wickedly thought to do to his brother.'[C] It is melancholy to
reflect that no instance can be found on record of a false witness
against the innocent victims at Salem having been brought to merited

    [C] Numbers, xxxv. 30. Deut. xvii. 6, and xix. 15.

Dr Mather, in his work entitled 'Wonders of the Invisible World,'
produced an abridgment of the trials of the two women condemned by
Lord Hale, 1664, and also an abridgment of the rules and signs by
which witches are to be discovered, of which he says there are above
thirty. His production received the approbation of two of the judges
of the court, one of whom was the chief justice and lieutenant
governor. The author's father, Dr Increase Mather, also expressed his
coincidence in the same sentiments. The work is, nevertheless, a
singular and curious production; it evinces, most clearly, that the
reverend author, in the fervency of zeal, suffered his mind to be
deeply imbued with bigotry and depressing superstition. Dr Mather was
eminent for extensive knowledge and Christian piety; but foibles and
infirmities were his lot, and while his mind was enriched with
knowledge, his heart must have sickened for lack of wisdom. He
published 382 books and tracts on various subjects. In these he
displays wit and fancy, and advocates with zeal the cause of religion;
and although his style is singular and verbose, his works contain rich
and important matter for the historian and antiquary. It would be
unjust not to acknowledge the debt of gratitude due to Dr Mather for
the immeasurable benefits which our country and the world have enjoyed
from his efforts to introduce smallpox inoculation, in 1721. But the
work now in question affords a striking example of the imbecility of
mind in the absence of its glorious attributes. Sobriety of judgment
is seduced by folly, and moral dignity is degraded by the intrusion of
fictions of imagination, and the man becomes a dupe to his own
credulity. He adopted, in the fullest extent, the doctrine of demons,
and of supernatural compacts between Satan and witches, and was
fatally blinded against the most palpable impositions practised on
himself. But this distinguished divine was not singular in his
proneness to bigoted and dogmatical principles and doctrines; they
were in perfect coincidence with the habits of thinking in the times
in which he lived. His cotemporaries, who administered the affairs of
government, and those who were called to decide in their judicial
proceedings, had evidently imbibed the same gross absurdities; and
there is in our nature an unaccountable reluctance to discard errors,
however preposterous. His publication teems with romantic and
ludicrous stories, which he unwisely adduces for substantial facts. A
shrewd reply was made to it by R. Calef, a merchant of Boston, which
led to a controversy between the two authors, on the subject of their

The following is an abridged narrative of the trials of B. Bishop, S.
Martin, E. How, and M. Carryer, from Dr Mather's 'Wonders of the
Invisible World.'

'The court appeared to rely for evidence chiefly on the testimony of
the accusers, and the incidents exhibited by the experiment with the
parties in their presence on the trials. In all instances the presence
of the accused would produce wonderful effects on the persons of the
accusers. At a look, or cast of the eye, the accusers would instantly
fall down as if in a fit or swoon, and would throw themselves into
unnatural and painful postures, and by the application of the witches'
hand they were immediately restored.[D] Some complained that the shape
or spectre of B. Bishop, the prisoner on trial, pinched, choked, and
bit them. One testified, that the shape of the prisoner, one day, took
her from her wheel and carried her to the river side, threatening to
drown her if she would not sign the devil's book, and said she had
been the death of several persons whom she named. Another testified,
that there were apparitions or ghosts seen with the spectre of the
prisoner, crying out "You murdered us." There was testimony, likewise,
that a man striking once at a place where a bewitched person said the
shape of this Bishop stood, the bewitched cried out that he had torn
her gown, and the woman's gown was found afterwards to be torn in the
very place mentioned.

    [D] Why not bewitch the magistrates as well as others, and save
    the victims from death? If the witches, assisted by Satan, have
    power over the laws of nature and the actions of men, how is it
    that their enemies escape with impunity? If they possess the
    power of raising storms and sinking ships at sea, why not
    overwhelm both judge and jury in the ruins of falling houses and
    make a mock of the chains and ropes employed for their

'One D. Hobbs having confessed herself to be a witch was now tormented
by the spectres for her confession, and this Bishop tempted her to
sign the book again, and to deny what she had confessed, and it was
the shape of this prisoner which whipped her with iron rods to compel
her thereto. To render it further unquestionable, that the prisoner at
the bar was the person truly charged in this witchcraft, there were
produced many evidences of other witchcrafts by her perpetrated. J.
Cook testified that, about five or six years ago, he was in his
chamber assaulted by the shape of this prisoner, which looked on him,
grinned at him, and very much hurt him with a blow on the side of his
head; and on the same day about noon, the same shape walked into his
room, and an apple strangely flew out of his hand into the lap of his
mother, six or eight feet from him. S. Gray testified, that about
fourteen years ago, he waked on a night and saw the room where he lay
full of light, and saw plainly a woman between the cradle and the
bed, which looked upon him. He rose, and it vanished, though the doors
were all fast. He went to bed, and the same woman again assaulted him.
The child in the cradle gave a great screech, and the woman
disappeared. It was long before the child could be quieted; though it
were a very likely, thriving child, yet from this time it pined away,
and after divers months died in a sad condition. He was satisfied that
it was the apparition of this Bishop which had thus troubled him. B.
Coman testified, that eight years ago, as he lay awake in his bed with
a light burning, he was annoyed with the apparition of this Bishop,
and of two more, who came and oppressed him, that he could neither
stir himself nor wake any one else; the said Bishop took him by the
throat and pulled him almost out of bed. The next night his kinsman
lodged with him, and as they were discoursing together, they were
visited by the same guests, and the kinsman was struck speechless and
unable to move hand or foot. He had laid his sword by him, which the
spectres did strive much to wrest from him, but he held it too fast
for them. S. Shattuck testified, that in the year 1680, this Bishop
often came to his house on frivolous and foolish errands. Presently,
whereupon, his eldest child began to droop exceedingly, and the
oftener she came to his house the worse grew the child. He would be
thrown and bruised against the stones by an invisible hand, and his
face knocked against the sides of the house in a miserable manner, and
the child's money, purse and all, would be unaccountably conveyed out
of a locked box, and never seen more. The child was taken with
terrible fits, and did nothing but cry and sleep for several months
together, and at length his understanding was utterly taken away.
Among other symptoms of enchantment upon him, one was, that there was
a board in the garden whereon he would walk, and all the invitations
in the world could never fetch him off. About seventeen or eighteen
years after, there came a stranger to Shattuck's house, who, seeing
the child, said this poor child is bewitched, and you have a neighbor
who is a witch. J. Louder testified, that having some little
controversy with Bishop about her fowls, he awaked in the night by
moonlight, and clearly saw the likeness of this woman grievously
oppressing him; she held him, unable to help himself, till near day.
He told her of this, but she utterly denied it, and threatened him
very much. Soon after this, being at home on a Lord's day, with the
doors shut, he saw a black pig approach him, but it soon vanished
away. Soon after he saw a black creature jump in at the window, and it
came and stood before him. The body was like that of a monkey, the
feet like a fowl's, but the face much like a man's. He was so
extremely affrighted, that he could not speak; he endeavored to clap
his hand upon it, but could feel no substance, and it jumped out of
the window again. He struck at it, but missed his blow, and broke his
stick; and the arm with which he struck was soon disabled. This same
creature appeared again, and was going to fly at him, whereat he cried
out, and it sprang back and flew over the apple tree, shaking many
apples off the tree in flying over. At its leap it flung dirt with its
feet against the stomach of the man, whereon he was then struck dumb,
and so continued for three days. William Stacy testified, that having
received some money of this Bishop for work done by him, he had gone
but about three rods from her, when looking for his money it was
unaccountably gone from him; and being about six rods from her, with a
small load in his cart, suddenly the off wheel sunk down into a hole
upon plain ground, so that he was forced to get help for the recovery
of the wheel; but in searching for the hole in the ground, which might
give him this disaster, there was none at all to be found. Soon after
this, as he was in a dark night going to his barn, he was very
suddenly lifted up from the ground and thrown against a stone wall;
and after that he was again hoisted up and thrown down a bank. At
another time this deponent passing by the said Bishop, his horse with
a small load, striving to draw, all his gears flew to pieces, and the
cart fell down, and the deponent going then to lift a bag of corn of
about two bushels, could not lift it with all his might. Many other
pranks of the prisoner this deponent was ready to testify. He verily
believed that the said Bishop was the instrument of his daughter
Priscilla's death. To crown all, says the Dr, J. Bly, and W. Bly,
testified, that being employed by said Bishop to take down the cellar
wall of the old house, wherein she formerly lived, they did, in holes
of the said wall, find several puppets made up of rags and hogs'
bristles, with headless pins in them, the points being outwards.
Whereof she could now give no account unto the court, that was
reasonable or tolerable. There might have been many more strange
things brought against this woman, but there was no need of them. But
there was one very strange thing more with which the court was
entertained. As this woman was under guard, passing by the great and
spacious meeting-house of Salem, she gave a look towards the house,
and immediately a demon, invisibly entering the meeting-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.'

It will doubtless be conceded, that if Bridget Bishop was actually
guilty of all the disasters above detailed, she was a proper subject
for the gallows.


_Magistrate._ 'Pray what ails these people?'

_Martin._ 'I don't know.'

_Magistrate._ 'But what do you think ails them?'

_Martin._ 'I do not desire to spend my judgment upon it.'

_Magistrate._ 'Don't you think they are bewitched?'

_Martin._ 'No, I do not think they are.'

_Magistrate._ 'Tell me your thoughts about them, then?'

_Martin._ 'No: my thoughts are my own, when they are in, but when they
are out, then another's their master.'

_Magistrate._ 'Their master! who do you think is their master?'

_Martin._ 'If they be dealing in the black art you may know as well as

_Magistrate._ 'Well, what have you done towards this?'

_Martin._ 'Nothing at all.'

_Magistrate._ 'Why, it is you or your appearance.'

_Martin._ 'I can't help it.'

_Magistrate._ 'Is it not your master? How comes your appearance to
hurt these?'

_Martin._ 'How do I know? He that appeared in the shape of Samuel, a
glorified saint, may appear in any one's shape.'

It was then also noted, that if the afflicted went to approach her,
they were flung down to the ground. The court counted themselves
alarmed by these things, to inquire farther into the conversation of
the prisoner, and see what might occur to render these accusations
further credible. John Allen testified, that he refused, because of
the weakness of his oxen, to cart some stones, at the request of this
Martin. She was displeased, and said it had been as good that he had,
for his oxen should never do him any more service. Whereupon, as he
was going home, one of his oxen tired, so that he was forced to unyoke
him that he might get him home. He put his oxen, with many others, on
Salisbury beach; they all ran into Merrimack river, and the next day
were found on Plum Island. They next ran, with a violence that seemed
wholly diabolical, right into the sea, swimming as far as they could
be seen; and out of fourteen good oxen all were drowned, save one.
John Atkinson testified, that he exchanged a cow with the son of said
Martin, whereat she muttered and was unwilling he should have it.
Going to receive his cow, though he hamstringed her, and haltered her,
she, of a tame creature, grew so mad they could scarce get her along.
She broke all the ropes that were fastened unto her, and, though she
was tied fast to a tree, yet she made her escape, and gave them such
further trouble, as they could ascribe it to no cause but witchcraft.
J. Kemball testified, that the said Martin, upon a causeless disgust,
threatened him that a certain cow should never do him any more
service, and it came to pass accordingly, for soon after the cow was
found stark dead on the ground, without any distemper to be discerned
upon her; and this was followed with the death of several more of his
cattle. 'But,' says the reverend author, 'the said J. Kemball had a
further testimony against the prisoner, which was truly admirable. He
applied himself to buy a dog of this Martin; but she, not letting him
have his choice, he said he would supply himself at one Blazdel's,
and marked a puppy there which he liked. G. Martin, the husband of the
prisoner, asked him if he would not have one of his wife's puppies,
and he answered, no. Whereupon the prisoner replied, "As I live I will
give him puppies enough." Within a few days after, Kemball coming out
of the woods, there arose a little black cloud in the N. W. and
Kemball immediately felt a force upon him, which made him not able to
avoid running upon the stumps of trees, although he had a broad,
plain, cart way before him; but though he had his axe on his shoulder
to endanger him in his falling, he could not forbear going out of his
way to tumble over them. When he came below the meeting-house, there
appeared to him a little creature like a puppy, of a darkish color,
and it shot backwards and forwards between his legs. He had the
courage to use all possible endeavors to cut it with his axe, but he
could not hit it, the puppy gave a jump from him, and went, as to him
it seemed, into the ground. On going a little further, there appeared
unto him a black puppy, bigger than the first, but as black as a Coal.
Its motions were quicker than those of his axe. It flew at him and at
his throat over his shoulders one way, and then over his shoulders
another way; his heart now began to fail him, and he thought the dog
would have tore his throat out. But he recovered himself and called on
God in his distress, and it vanished away at once.'--'This S. Martin
once walked from Amesbury to Newbury in an extraordinary season, when
it was not fit for any one to travel. She bragged and showed how dry
she was; it could not be perceived that so much as the soles of her
shoes were wet. Being told that another person would have been wet up
to the knees, she replied, "_she scorned to be drabbed_." It was noted
that this testimony upon her trial, cast her into a very singular
confusion. John Pressy testified, that being one evening bewildered
near the field of Martin, as under enchantment, he saw a marvellous
light, about the bigness of a half bushel, near two rods out of the
way. He struck at it with a stick and laid it on with all his might.
He gave it near forty blows and felt it a palpable substance. But
going from it, his heels were struck up, and he was laid with his back
on the ground, sliding, as he thought, into a pit, from whence he
recovered by taking hold on the bush, although afterwards he could
find no pit in the place. Having gone five or six rods he saw S.
Martin standing on his left hand, as the light had done before, but
they changed no words with one another. At length he got home
extremely affrighted. The next day it was upon inquiry understood,
that Martin was in a miserable condition by pains and hurts that were
upon her.' (Forty stout blows would have killed any one but a witch.)
'The deponent further testified, that having affronted the prisoner,
many years ago, she said he should never prosper; more particularly,
that he should never have more than two cows; that though he were ever
so likely to have more than two cows, yet he should never have them.
From that very day to this, namely, for twenty years together, he
could never exceed that number, but some strange thing or other still
prevented his having more.'


'The most remarkable things ascribed to E. How, were, that the
sufferers complained of her as the cause of their distresses, and
they would fall down when she looked on them and were raised again on
the touch of her hand. There was testimony, also, that the shape of
her gave trouble to people nine or ten years ago. There were
apparitions or ghosts testified by some of the present sufferers,
which ghosts affirmed that this How had murdered them. J. How, brother
to the husband of the prisoner, testified, that having refused to
accompany her to her examination, as she desired, immediately some of
his cattle were bewitched to death, leaping three or four feet high,
squeaking, falling, and dying at once; and going to cut off an ear,
the hand wherein the knife was held, was taken very numb and painful,
and so remained for several days, and he suspected the prisoner as the
cause of it. N. Abbot testified, that unusual and mischievous
accidents would befall his cattle whenever he had any difference with
her. Once in particular, she wished his ox choked, and within a little
while that ox was choked with a turnip in his throat. A woman, on some
difference with How, was bewitched, and she died charging her of
having a hand in her death. Many people had their barrels of beer
unaccountably mischiefed, spoiled, and spilt, upon displeasing her.
One testified, that they once and again lost great quantities of drink
out of their vessels, in such a manner as they could ascribe it to
nothing but witchcraft. And also that How once gave her some apples,
and when she had eaten them, she was taken with a very strange kind of
maze, so that she knew not what she said or did. There was likewise a
cluster of depositions that one J. Cummings refused to lend his mare
to the husband of the said How; the mare was within a day or two taken
in a strange condition. She seemed abused and bruised as if she had
been running over the rocks, and was marked where the bridle went, as
if burnt with a red hot bridle. On using a pipe of tobacco for the
cure of the beast, a blue flame issued out of her which took hold of
her hair and not only spread and burnt on her, but it also flew
upwards towards the roof of the barn and like to have set the barn on
fire, and the mare died very suddenly. F. Lane being hired by the
husband of How to get him a parcel of posts and rails, Lane hired J.
Pearly to assist him. The prisoner told Lane that the posts and rails
would not do because Pearly helped him, but if he had gotten them
alone they might have done well enough. When How came to receive his
posts and rails, on taking them up by the ends, they, though good and
sound, yet unaccountably broke off, so that Lane had to get twenty or
thirty more. And this prisoner being informed of it, said she told him
so before, because Pearly helped about them.'


A considerable number of bewitched persons deposed that it was Martha
Carryer or her shape, that grievously tormented them by biting,
pricking, pinching, and choking them; the poor people were so
tortured, that every one expected their death upon the very spot, but
that on the binding of the prisoner they were eased. Moreover, the
looks of Carryer then laid the afflicted people for dead; and her
touch, if her eyes at the same time were off them, raised them again.
It was testified, that on the mention of some having their necks
twisted almost round by the shape of this Carryer, she replied, it's
no matter though their necks had been twisted quite off. B. Abbot
testified, that the prisoner was very angry with him upon laying out
some land near her husband's. She was heard to say she would hold
Abbot's nose as close to the grindstone as ever it was held since his
name was Abbot. Presently after this, he was taken with a swelling in
his foot, and then with a pain in his side, and exceedingly tormented.
It bred a sore which was lanced by Dr Prescott. For six weeks it
continued very bad, and then another sore bred, and finally a third,
all which put him to very great misery. He was brought to death's
door, and so remained till Carryer was taken and carried away by the
constable. From which very day he began to mend and so grew better
every day. Abbot was not only afflicted in his body but suffered
greatly in the loss of his cattle in a strange and unaccountable
manner. One A. Toothaker testified, that Richard, the son of M.
Carryer, having some difference with him, pulled him down by the hair
of his head; when he rose again he was going to strike at Richard, but
fell down flat on his back to the ground, and had not power to stir
hand or foot until he told Carryer he yielded, and then he saw the
shape of his mother, the prisoner, go off his breast. One Foster, who
had confessed herself a witch, testified, that she had seen the
prisoner at some of their witch meetings, and that the devil carried
them on a pole, but the pole broke and she hanging about Carryer's
neck, they both fell down and she received a hurt by the fall. Many
other evidences of her mischievous conduct were produced, which I
omit; the last was this. In the time of the prisoner's trial, one S.
Sheldon, in open court, had her hands unaccountably tied together with
a wheel band, so fast, that without cutting, it could not be loosened.
It was done, says Dr Mather, by a spectre, and the sufferer affirmed
it was the prisoner's.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is something in the foregoing proceedings during the memorable
events at Salem, that seems to surpass all our conceptions of
impartial justice, christian charity, or humanity. It is humiliating
to our nature to reflect, that a class of the most profligate wretches
were brought together on the stage, and their base intrigues tolerated
and encouraged, fanciful experiments witnessed, and little else than
fictitious evidence of accusation received to condemnation; while all
pleadings for mercy, on the score of innocence, were of no avail. Not
a solitary instance is found on record of the voice of pity and
compassion being raised in behalf of the friendless, ignorant victims
of suspicion. They were subjected to barbarous tricks and senseless
experiments, calculated to encourage fraud and imposition, and then
consigned to the gallows for the consequences. Better that ten guilty
persons escape, than one innocent should suffer. Unfortunately, no
lawyers were at that time employed in criminal cases. Had our present
court and our state prison been then in existence, the good people of
Salem would not long have been molested by witches and bewitched
girls, with their invisible ropes and chains.

But while we contemplate the melancholy errors of judgment in our
predecessors, we ought in charity to cherish the belief that had not
their minds been clouded in superstitious darkness, their posterity
would not have been called to mourn over imbecilities so lamentably
exemplified. But we would attribute to our venerated fathers no moral
corruption, no perverseness of temper, no desire to swerve from the
dictates of stern justice. Their task was most arduous, their path of
duty obscured by novel occurrences, and their decisions unavoidably
swayed by popular clamor and vulgar prejudice. If, unhappily, their
intellects were tinctured with superstition, it was the effect of
early education, fostered and confirmed by concurrent sentiment and
opinion, propagated in books of the heathen and papist.

Much importance was attached by the magistrates to the effects of the
witches' eyes upon the sufferers; but no explanation is given why the
same eyes could produce no mischievous effects on any other person.
Great stress was laid on the circumstance, that in the trials the
sufferers were revived from their fits by the touch of the hand of the
reputed witch, but not by the hand of any other person; but instances
of the contrary can be adduced; the experiment was ordered to be made
in a court in England; the afflicted girl's eyes being blindfolded,
and she being touched by the hand of another woman, recovered as
speedily as if touched by the accused witch.

The Rev. Dr Increase Mather, then President of Harvard College, may
be considered as among the best authorities for the prevalent
doctrines on the subject of witchcraft. On the 19th of October, 1692,
he went to Salem and conferred with eight of the confessing witches,
all of whom freely and relentingly recanted their former confessions,
declaring that in making them they had violated the truth, being
compelled to it by pressing threats and urgings, by which they were so
affrighted as to agree to anything that would rescue them from their
awful situation. But they confessed with anguish of soul that they had
committed a great wickedness for which they implored forgiveness. In
his 'Cases of Conscience,' published in 1693, Dr Mather has particular
reference to the trials at Salem. In this work he observes, that 'the
gift of healing the sick and possessed, was a special grace and favor
of God for the confirmation of the truth of the gospel, but that such
a gift should be annexed to the touch of wicked witches, as an
infallible sign of their guilt is not easy to be believed.' If it be
as supposed, by virtue of some compact with the devil, that witches
have power to do such things, those who encourage them in the
practice, whether courts or individuals, must be guilty of sacrilege.
The accusers pretended to suffer much by bites, and the prints on the
skin would compare precisely with the set of teeth of the accused, but
those who had not such bewitched eyes, have seen the accusers bite
themselves and then complain of the accused. It was true, also, that
some who complained of being pricked by pins sticking in their flesh,
were their own tormentors, for the purpose of effecting their wicked
designs. The pins thus employed are still preserved at Salem. Dr
Mather, in the work just quoted, judiciously affirms, that the
evidence in the crime of witchcraft ought to be as clear as in any
other crimes of a capital nature. He is decidedly opposed to the
employment of spectral evidence as being alone sufficient to justify
conviction. But he considers a free and voluntary confession as a
sufficient ground of conviction; yet the reverend author himself cites
one remarkable instance of false confession for the avowed purpose of
effecting her own death in consequence of the cruel persecution which
she suffered from suspicion only, and she was burnt at the stake. In
most of the instances at Salem, the confessions proved false and
deceptive, those who made them being totally ignorant of the nature of
witchcraft. Our learned author further observes, that if two credible
persons shall affirm on oath that they have seen the person accused,
_doing things which none but such as have familiarity with the devil
ever did or can do, that is a sufficient ground of conviction_. It was
on this ground that he justified the condemnation and execution of
George Burroughs, the minister; it being testified before the court,
that he had been seen to lift a barrel of molasses or cider, and to
extend with one hand a heavy musket at arms' length. Nothing could be
more sophistical than evidence of this description, for there are
persons who can lift a solid body of six or seven hundred pounds, and
can extend a king's arm at arms' length, when held at the smallest end
with one hand, and no jury in our day would condemn such to the
gallows as wizards.

It is among the most unaccountable facts, that those who, to save
their lives, belied their consciences, and confessed themselves guilty
of having formed a league with the devil, and of committing horrid
crimes, should be spared and suffered to live in society, while
others, relying on their innocence, honestly despised those tempting
conditions, should be consigned to the gallows. In fact, false
confessions, fraud, and counterfeit, were so palpable, that the halter
might with more justice have been applied to the accusers than to
those who actually suffered.

But such, at that time, was the state of the public mind, that the
more extravagant the tale, the more implicitly was it regarded. The
hostility to witchcraft was so prevalent as to give a general bias
unfriendly to the fair development of truth, or to the impartial
examination of facts and circumstances. The unhappy victims were
without defence, and their total ignorance subjected them to the most
cruel treatment and sufferings. In one instance on record, there
appears to us to be a profanation of the Lord's Prayer. The woman
being required to repeat it before the court, instead of 'deliver us
from evil,' expressed it 'deliver us from _all_ evil;' this was
considered as referring to her own condition, and she was ordered to
repeat it again. On the second trial, instead of 'hallowed be thy
name,' she expressed '_hollowed_ be thy name.' Thus by her using the
_o_, in place of _a_, it was concluded that she could not say the
Lord's Prayer, and she was committed to jail as a witch.

In Dr Mather's 'Magnalia,' we have the following instance of

In the year 1679, the house of William Morse, at Newbury, was infested
with demons. 'Bricks, and sticks, and stones, were often by some
invisible hand, thrown at the house, and so were many pieces of wood;
a cat was thrown at the woman of the house, and a long staff was
danced up and down in the chimney, and afterwards the same long staff
was hanged by a line, and swung to and fro, and when two persons laid
it on the fire to burn, it was as much as they were able to do with
their joint strength to hold it there. An iron crook was violently, by
an invisible hand, hurled about, and a chair flew about the room until
at last it lit upon the table, where the food stood ready to be eaten,
and would have spoiled all, if the people had not with much ado saved
a little. A chest, was by an invisible hand, carried from one place to
another, and the doors barricaded; and the keys of the family taken
some of them from the bunch where they were tied, and the rest flying
about with a loud noise. For a while the people of the house could not
sup quietly; ashes would be thrown into their suppers and on their
heads. The man's shoes being left below, one of them would be filled
with ashes and coals and thrown up after him. When in bed a stone,
weighing about three pounds, was divers times thrown upon them. A box
and a board were likewise thrown upon them, and a bag of hops being
taken out of a chest, they were by the invisible hand, beaten
therewith, till some of the hops were scattered on the floor, where
the bag was then laid and left. The man was often struck by that hand,
with several instruments, and the same hand cast their good things
into the fire; yea, while the man was at prayer, a broom gave him a
blow on his head behind and fell down before his face. While the man
was writing, his ink-stand was by the invisible hand snatched from
him, and being able nowhere to find it, he saw it at length drop out
of the air down by the fire. A shoe was laid on his shoulder, and when
he would have catched it, it was snatched from him and was then
clapped on his head, and there held so fast, that the unseen fury
pulled him with it backward on the floor. He had his cap torn off his
head, and in the night he was pulled by the hair and pinched, and
scratched; and the invisible hand pricked him with some of his awls,
and with needles, and bodkins, and blows that fetched blood were
sometimes given him. His wife going down into the cellar, the trap
door was immediately by an invisible hand shut upon her, and a table
brought and laid upon the door. When he was writing another time, a
dish went and leaped into a pail and cast water upon the man and
spoiled what he was about. His cap jumped off his head and on again,
and the pot lid went off the pot into the kettle, then over the fire
together. A little boy belonging to the family was a principal
sufferer, for he was flung about at such a rate, that it was feared
his brains would be beaten out. His bed-clothes would be pulled from
him, his bed shaken, leaping forward and backward. The man took him to
hold in a chair, but the chair fell a dancing, and both of them were
very near being thrown into the fire. These, and a thousand such
vexations, befalling the boy at home, they carried him to live at a
doctor's. There he was quiet, but returning home he suddenly cried out
he was pricked on the back, where was found strangely sticking a three
tined fork belonging to the doctor, and had been seen at his house
after the boy's departure. Afterwards his troublers found him out at
the doctor's also, when crying out again he was pinched on the back,
they found an iron spindle stuck into him; and on the like outcry
again, they found pins in a paper stuck into him, and a long iron, a
bowl of a spoon stuck upon him. He was taken out of his bed and thrown
under it, and all the knives in the house were one after another stuck
into his back; which the spectators pulled out, only one of them
seemed to the spectators to come out of his mouth. The spectre would
make all his meat, when he was going to eat, fly out of his mouth, and
instead thereof make him fall to eating ashes, sticks, and yarn.'

The foregoing has all the air of an exaggerated narrative, and it is
probable that Dr Mather, in his love for the marvellous and wonderful,
recorded the circumstances without due examination, but merely from
the uncertain rumor among the credulous neighbors. The same story is
found on the records of the court at Salem, but with the following
explanatory circumstances as I have received them. It so happened,
that one Caleb Powell, an intelligent seaman, suspected that a boy,
the grandson of Morse, who lived in the family, was the cause of all
the mischief, and watched for an opportunity of detecting him. Going
one morning to Morse's house, he saw through the window, the said boy
throw a shoe slyly at the old man's head. Upon this, Powell told Morse
that if he would let his boy come and live with him a short time, he
_guessed_ that with a little astrology and a little astronomy, he
could unravel the mystery. Morse reluctantly consented, and his house
was not molested during the boy's absence. This, Morse acknowledged,
but yet, unwilling to suspect the boy, he and his neighbors concluded
that Powell had studied the black art, and had by that means been the
cause of all the mischief about Morse's house. Powell was accordingly
apprehended and tried at Salem. The testimony against him was
singular. One testified, that he had heard him say that by a little
astrology and a little astronomy, he guessed he could find out the
cause of Morse's trouble. Another testified, that he heard it said
that Powell had studied the black art with one Norwood, a famous
magician beyond sea. The result of the trial was, that although they
could find no positive evidence of his guilt, yet he had given so much
ground for suspicion, that he deserved to bear his own shame and the
costs of court. Morse's wife was at another time tried for witchcraft,
and condemned to be hung, but was afterwards reprieved, and died a
pious woman.

The following is an amusing story, well told, but it is from newspaper
authority, the Galaxy. About the year 1760, the fury of the
inhabitants of New England had declined towards suspected old women,
but their believing fear was not altogether quelled. At this time, a
case of witchcraft occurred in Billerica, under the ministry of the
Rev. Dr Cummings, who related the story with much satisfaction, as the
last which came within his precincts.

An old woman, of very peaceable character, lived pretty much alone in
a shell of a house near the meeting-house and the clergyman's
dwelling. She was suspected of witchcraft by a family who lived at two
miles' distance, in the west part of the town, and they brought
accusation immediately to the parson; who in those early times,
exercised not only the spiritual, but the temporal power of the
parish; he was often counsel for both parties, and was judge and jury,
without subjection to appeal. He was, moreover, a peace-maker. Mr C.
accused Mrs D. of witchcraft. 'How do you know she is a witch?'
'Because she has bewitched my mare.' 'How do you know that your mare
is bewitched?' 'Because she won't stand still to be saddled, and the
minute I get on, she kicks up and throws me off.' 'But what makes you
think that Mrs D. has bewitched her?' No answer. 'Have you had a
quarrel with her?' 'Oh no! I have had no quarrel.' 'But what is the
matter? surely she would not bewitch her for nothing.' 'Why I carried
her some corn on the mare about a week ago, and I didn't know but I
might have made a mistake in the measure so that it fell short, and
so'--'And because your corn fell short, you suspect that she found it
out, and is so angry as to bewitch your mare.' 'Yes, that's it, and I
want you to go and lay the devil.' 'Why, if you have raised the devil
by cheating in the corn, you had better lay him yourself.' 'Yes, but I
don't know how.' 'Go then, directly, and carry the balance of the
corn, and take good care never to commit such an act again: the devil
is always busy with people who do not perform all their duties
honestly.' The man slunk away home at this unexpected rebuke, and
failed not to carry corn enough to make full measure; which, however,
he feared to carry into the house to the old woman, but emptied it
down upon the door-stone. But the mare ceased to kick as usual;
whereupon Mr C. came to the minister, told him what he had done, and
begged for holy assistance. 'Go home,' said the parson, with all that
energy for which he was so remarkable, 'go home,--you need not trouble
yourself about witches; I'll not allow them to do any mischief, I
assure you--do your duty, so as to escape a guilty conscience, and if
your mare is refractory, whip her, as I do mine--go, and let me hear
no more about witches.' Mr C. obeyed, but he was far from convinced
that Mrs D. was not a witch, and he determined to put it to the
proof. For this purpose he boiled a large potato, which he put
directly from the boiling water, under the bewitched mare's saddle.
The caperings and kickings of the poor beast were excusable this time,
at least, for when after some hours the saddle was got off, it was
found that a severe mark was left behind it. The proof of the matter
was to be this; if the old woman had bewitched the mare, she would
have the same mark of a burn on her back. Two old women were prevailed
on to be of the examining committee. Dr Cummings was requested to be
of the party, with his Bible at hand, to prevent any fatal explosion
from Satan's nostrils. This office he prudently declined. His place
was supplied by another old woman, and Saturday night was appointed
for this examination. This time was chosen, because the good people
thought that Satan would not visit in holy hours. In the meantime, the
good woman got an inkling of what was going on; and as they entered a
long dark entry, they were saluted with a stupendous flash of powder
and tow, and a glorious clatter of tin pans. The committee was
scattered of course--and before church the next day, everybody in the
town knew, that the devil came, all covered with blue brimstone, to
save his disciple, the wicked Mrs D. This would have made a new era in
witchcraft in the town, but for the pertinent remarks of the parson
touching the matter; for he was enabled to dispense a word in season.

It is but a few years since, a farmer at Kennebunk, observing his
cattle to be affected with some fatal disease, conceived the idea that
they were bewitched, and fixed his suspicion on a poor widow who had
become insane in consequence of the death of her husband at sea. He
was so confident of her guilt, that he went to her lonely cottage, and
with his ox goad, beat and abused her in a cruel manner. It is not
under our salutary laws that a crime so atrocious can pass with
impunity. The culprit was prosecuted and received the merited

The family of M'Farlain, of Pembroke, were remarkable for peculiarity
of character and manners. About the year 1789, Seth M'Farlain
attracted the notice of the neighborhood by being supposed to be under
the influence of witchcraft. He became an object of wonder and
commiseration to some, and of curiosity and ridicule to others.
Hundreds of people thronged round his house from time to time, gazing
with astonishment at his supposed personal sufferings; inflicted, as
he pretended, by a certain old hag in the neighborhood. He was desired
to visit the woman at her house, but before he could reach the door,
his limbs would fail him, and he would fall to the ground. His body
was occasionally distorted and convulsed, he would utter the bitterest
complaints of pain and distress, which he ascribed to the presence of
the hag, although she was invisible to all but himself. He consulted
Judge T--r, to know whether he would be culpable in law if he should
kill a witch. The Judge observing Seth on the bed with a club,
swinging his arms to and fro, to keep off the witch, was willing to
humor the whim, and procured a gun, and loading it with some pieces of
silver, enjoined on Seth to take a sure aim when the witch again made
her appearance. Accordingly, Seth pointed the gun to the door where
she usually entered, and hung up her bonnet, and at the proper time
he discharged his piece. The discharge shattered the door in pieces,
but the cunning witch dodged her head at the moment he pulled the


In ancient times, especially among the Greeks and Romans, omens and
auguries were considered as of great importance in the common concerns
of life; but having their origin in ignorance and superstition, they
vanished before the light of philosophy and wisdom. But so late as the
first part of the last century, the belief in fairies, hobgoblins,
witches, and omens, prevailed almost universally among the
superstitious part of the community; and even some of superior rank
and condition in life, were under the influence of these chimerical

The following were among the lucky and unlucky omens.

The flight of singing birds, or the manner of feeding of birds and
chickens, portended good or evil, according to particular
circumstances. The act of sneezing was ominous of good or evil,
according to the number at the time, or the place. If, when a servant
is making a bed, she happens to sneeze, no person can sleep in it
undisturbed, unless a part of the straw or feathers be taken out and
burnt. Nothing could insure success to a person going on important
business, more effectually than to throw an old shoe after him on
leaving the house. If there be in company thirteen persons, the
devil's dozen, some misfortune will befall one of them. To spill salt,
at table, is very ominous, and the ticking of the small insect called
a death-watch, foretels death, and the screech-owl at midnight, some
terrible misfortune. These, and many other silly fancies, have been
keenly satirized by Addison, in the Spectator. To find a horse-shoe
was deemed lucky, more especially, if it be preserved and nailed on
the door, as this prevents the annoyance of witches. This, probably,
was the origin of the practice continued in our times, of nailing
horse shoes on the masts of vessels, against the enchantment of
witches. The omens are extended to particular days in the week.
Friday, for instance, is considered an inauspicious day for the
commencement of any undertaking. It is seldom that a seaman can be
prevailed on to commence a voyage on that day. An account has been
published of some person, who, desirous of eradicating this prejudice,
ordered the timber of his vessel to be cut on Friday; her foundation
laid, her launching, and the engaging her crew, on Friday, and finally
he ordered her to sail on Friday. But it was remarkable and
unfortunate, that neither the vessel nor crew were ever heard from
afterwards. This, however, is no proof that Friday is more likely to
produce disasters than any other day in the seven. We know that all
events are under the control of Divine Providence, and it is
inconsistent with reason to imagine, that fatality will attend
undertakings because they were commenced on any one particular day.

That singular genius, Lord Byron, was among those who indulged the
superstitious notion, that Friday is an unlucky day. In Moore's Life
of Byron, may be found the following.

'Among the superstitions in which he chose to indulge, the supposed
unluckiness of Friday, as a day for the commencement of any work, was
one by which he almost always allowed himself to be influenced. Soon
after his arrival at Pisa, a lady of his acquaintance happening to
meet him on the road from her house, as she was herself returning
thither, and supposing that he had been to make her a visit, requested
that he would go back with her. "I have not been to your house," he
answered; "for just before I got to the door I remembered that it was
Friday; and not liking to make my first visit on a Friday, I turned
back." It is even related of him, that he once sent away a Genoese
tailor, who brought him home a new coat on the same ominous day. With
all this, strange to say, he set sail for Greece on a Friday; and,
though by those who have any leaning to this superstitious fancy, the
result may be thought but too sadly confirmatory of the omen, it is
plain, that either the influence of superstition over his own mind was
slight, or, in the excitement of self devotion under which he now
acted, was forgotten.'

In Lord Byron, we have an example of the fatal consequences which
sometimes ensue from prejudices against any particular purpose or
object, being instilled into the youthful mind. Of all his prejudices,
he declared the strongest was that against bleeding. His mother had on
her death bed obtained from him a promise never to consent to being
bled. When on his own death bed, therefore, he pertinaciously opposed
the operation, contrary to the united and earnest entreaties of his
physicians, and it was delayed till too late to afford him the desired

History furnishes one signal instance of a successful enterprise
commenced on Friday. It was on that day that Christopher Columbus
sailed from the port of Palos on his first voyage of discovery; and it
was on Friday that he landed on an island never before seen by
European eyes. Of all events recorded in modern history, this is
incomparably the most important.

A curious and melancholy instance of aberration of intellect, occurred
on board the ship President, on her outward bound passage to
Charleston. She encountered very heavy weather, and one of the sailors
stated to his shipmates that he was convinced the storm had arisen
entirely in consequence of his wicked course of life, and that the
offended majesty of heaven could only be appeased by his immediately
precipitating himself into the sea. In vain was every argument urged,
and every endeavor made, on the part of the captain and his officers,
to induce him to relinquish his purpose. One evening he ascended the
main rigging, and putting off a part of his attire, threw himself
headlong into the deep. When the ship was returning to this city, a
storm of considerable violence arose, which called forth all the
superstition of the mariners, and a cry became universal that she
would go down unless 'Sam's' chest was thrown overboard. A Scotchman
was among the most bigoted portion of the crew, and having more dread
of the elements than the captain, he, by some means or other, procured
the chest of poor 'Sam,' and entombed it in the grave of its owner.
The storm almost immediately abated; calmness reigned upon the face of
the waters, and a fine breeze wafted them to the mouth of the harbor.
Here, however, the wind became unpropitious, and a squall from the
land drove them off. Discontent again manifested its influence, and a
general search took place to ascertain whether anything belonging to
the suicide remained. After the forecastle had been duly searched, an
old shoe was discovered, and hastily yielded up as a sacrifice to
Eolus. The wind again subsided, and a fair breeze brought them into
port; the whole scene without doubt, confirming their minds in the
superstition they had cherished.--_N. Y. J. of Commerce._

On board of a ship, Capt V. master, it became necessary in the night,
to reef the topsails; the sails were lowered, and the reef tackle
hauled out, when the sailors ascended the mast; but to the surprise of
the captain, they soon came down in great terror, crying out that the
devil was in the top, they knew him by his horns, flashing eyes, and
grisly beard. No commands or threats from the captain could avail, to
induce them to make another attempt. All other orders they were
willing to obey, but to encounter the devil on the topmast was too
much. The affair began to grow serious, for the topsail was quivering
and shivering in the wind. The captain and officers resolved with
courage to ascend, but they, too, were driven in terror to the deck.
It was now agreed, be their fate what it may, to wait till the
morning; when by daylight it was discovered, that an old goat was
seated on the top, with its glaring eyes staring the seamen in the
face. It appeared that the goat was sleeping on the halliards while
coiled in a tub, and was by that means hoisted up to the top without
the knowledge of any one.

The Roman Catholics have been educated in the full persuasion that the
devil appears in bodily form, and often in the high style of some
great personage. I have more than once listened to an honest Irish
Catholic while gravely relating the manner in which Satan appeared on
horseback with a splendid retinue, and took possession of a
gentleman's palace in Ireland, after the massacre of the Romish
priests. His majesty having taken possession of the palace, a
Protestant minister was sent to drive him to his own abode, but he was
received with a laugh and sneer, as possessing no power. But at length
a Catholic priest, who had been secreted in a cavern during the
massacre, was sent, and he no sooner entered than the devil in a
fright, flew up the chimney, carrying an iron pot from over the fire,
and in passing out carrying off the top of the chimney. The Irishman
entertained not the least doubt of the reality of the transaction; and
added that the chimney still remains in the same state, no one daring
to mend it.

Some old seamen admire to be considered as being on familiar terms
with the devil. The following story has often been related by sailors
in the full belief of its truth.

A sailor sold himself to the devil, on condition that he should enjoy
all the good things and pleasures of this life for fifty years, when
he would give himself up; but the devil was to perform any one thing
which the sailor might desire before he surrendered. At the expiration
of fifty years, Satan came for his man. The sailor acknowledged that
the time had expired, but one thing was to be done. Satan was required
to pump the sea dry, but the cunning son of Neptune had so placed the
pump that the water from it flowed directly into the sea again. The
devil was so enraged at this cunning artifice, that he gave him a
tremendous blow with his tail and vanished in a cloud of smoke and

The Reformation of the 16th century, although it in a great measure
broke the shackles which bound the human intellect, and taught men to
think, did not altogether eradicate heathen and popish absurdities,
even from the reformers themselves. What, but a spirit of bigotry,
could influence the great mind of Martin Luther gravely to declare
that he experienced several personal encounters with the devil, in
consequence of his being engaged in reforming the abuses of the
Catholic Church, and particularly that his 'Satanic majesty entered
his bolted chamber one night, stole his hazel nuts, and cracked them
on his bed-post, to his no small annoyance?'

The Rev. Mr Whitman, in his ingenious lecture on Popular Superstition,
relates, that 'Not many years ago, a man was suddenly missing from a
certain town in this commonwealth. The church immediately sent one of
her members to consult the far-famed fortune-teller, Molly Pitcher.
After making the necessary inquiries, she intimated that the absent
person had been murdered by a family of negroes, and his body sunk in
the deep waters behind their dwelling. Upon this evidence, the
accused were forthwith imprisoned, and the pond raked in vain from
shore to shore. A few days previous to the trial, the murdered man
returned to his friends safe and sound.' The church would have done
themselves more credit, had they taken the legal means for the
punishment of the fortune-teller in the penitentiary for defamation.

I cannot omit to communicate the following excellent remarks in the
language of my amiable and learned friend and correspondent, Thomas
Miner, M. D. of Middletown, Conn.

'That demons could ever work miracles, seems to be incredible; but
mind as well as matter was evidently subject to different laws
anciently, from what they are at present. This principle may perhaps
help to a satisfactory solution of many things otherwise involved in
inextricable perplexity in the Scriptures. God never _violated_, and
can never violate, known laws, but he can change them at pleasure.
Every geologist knows he has changed them since the creation, for by
no law now existing, can we account for the organic remains of
tropical animals, and plants in arctic and temperate regions. There
have, therefore, been miracles, or variations, or suspensions, or
additions, to the common laws of nature, as respects the physical
world. Science teaches this, particularly geology, and this cuts, or
rather unties, the gordian knot in the material world. The analogy is
complete in the world of mind; at least, revelation informs us that
the ordinary laws of mind, and of matter too, have been occasionally
varied, suspended, or have had supplementary additions, as is the fact
in all the miracles recorded in Scripture. If Hume had only been a
modern geologist, he would have seen the futility of his reasoning
against the possibility of miracles, for he would have had facts
staring him in the face, demonstrating that matter had at times been
governed by laws very different in kind or in degree, or in both, from
any that are now known to exist. Analogy shows that this may have been
the case with mind; Scripture says it has been.

'I must confess, I am very cautious in explaining away a single
miraculous event recorded in the Scriptures, since if I begin I know
not where to stop; but if I only admit this principle, that though the
general laws of matter and mind have always been the same, yet the
Creator has frequently, for great and wise purposes, deviated from
them himself, and permitted, or authorized, or empowered others,
sometimes, on important occasions, to deviate from them, (as we know
has been the fact in the material world) nearly every difficulty in
the interpretation of the marvellous part of revelation, at once
becomes of easy solution. Perhaps it may be objected that this does
not solve the difficulty concerning the miraculous agency of bad men
or other depraved beings. But revelation does mention cases of bad men
prophesying, working miracles, and performing other wonders, whom the
Saviour _never_ knew. True science, wherever it is properly applied,
must destroy superstition and fanaticism, but as is the case with
geology, showing that miracles or changes of the laws of nature have
existed, it serves to support real religion, and demonstrates the
immoveable basis on which it is founded. Philosophy shows that
miracles have existed, revelation records the time, place, and
occasion. After all, I would speak with great caution concerning the
ancient demoniacs, whatever side of the question we take, much
remains that is mysterious and perhaps incomprehensible by our present
imperfect faculties.

'In most points of view, we live in the best age the world ever saw;
but we live in an age of excitement. Every, almost every project, is
begun and pursued with enthusiasm. The difficulty is to keep from
running into complete fanaticism. Mere duty or expediency, however, is
a cold thing, and never alone does much, unless it is attended with
some zeal, some ardor, some earnestness of feeling. These latter
emotions should resemble the steady, but gentle breeze; but passion,
especially, when protracted into fanaticism, is like the hurricane and
tornado. I know of no way to insure the golden mean with any prospect
of success, except by giving the rising generation a stable education,
founded upon the sure basis of the morality and religion of the
gospel. The sermon on the mount contains the best rules of duty, and
the thirteenth chapter of the first Corinthians, the best exposition
of them, anywhere to be found. The great law of love, enforcing a
disposition to do to others as we would wish them to do to us, is
practically exemplified in the charity which is so much insisted on
by Paul.'

It is incumbent upon us as patriots and philanthropists, as far as in
our power, to guard the rising generation against every species of
superstition, by a strong bulwark laid deep and early in the minds of
our children. It is our children that are to be entrusted with our
character, our acquirements, and our sentiments; whether fraught with
pure wisdom, or tinctured with brain-sick infirmities, future
generations will know how to appreciate their worth. If we wish
posterity to enjoy true and permanent happiness, let them be taught to
cultivate their intellectual powers, and fortify their minds against
deceptive illusions and imaginary evils. Spectral illusions may be
experienced while the intellectual faculties remain entire, as is
exemplified in the cases of Nicolai and the Scottish lady, related in
a former part of this work. The celebrated Dr Samuel Johnson, was
prone to superstition, and occasionally afflicted with paroxysms of
hypochondriacal illusions. He relates, that as he was one day at
Oxford, turning the key of his chamber, he heard his mother (who was
at Litchfield) distinctly calling 'Sam.' From which he had wrought up
his mind to expect the most woful tidings of his beloved parent, but
was entirely and happily disappointed.

Let our youth be taught that the whole phalanx of ghosts, apparitions,
witches and wizards, charms and enchantments, second sight, omens and
auguries, astrology and fortune telling, vulgar miracles, and vulgar
prophecies, should be classed with other vulgarisms, the legitimate
offspring of perverted imaginations, and ought to be reprobated as
degrading to the human understanding. Those who disdain to believe in
their existence, will never be molested by them. 'Resist the devil and
he will flee from you.' Firmly resist a belief in witchcraft, and you
may bid defiance to all the witches that ever traversed the air or
haunted a dwelling.

Strongly impress on the minds of our youth, that superstition and
bigotry are derogatory to the cause of genuine religion, giving
countenance to inadequate conceptions of the deity, illiberality, and
uncharitableness, religious frenzy, tumultuous excitements, fanatical
disquietudes, unreal or doubtful conversions, melancholy, gloom, and
despair. These evil results are diametrically opposed to that
honorable and happy character which the christian religion is so
admirably calculated to form and sustain.

We may confer great benefit on our youth, by directing them to a
proper course of reading. In a library, without advice, they are in
the condition of a stranger in a city without a guide. The world is
almost inundated with books; a choice may be made to answer every
requirement and to suit every genius and taste.

Popular education has now become almost universally a darling pursuit.
Seminaries of learning and improved school institutions, are extending
more and more, and will soon be diffused throughout the land, and
their benefits equally enjoyed by all classes of our youth. Numerous
Lyceums have, within these last few years, been established in New
England, and the public voice bespeaks an abundant increase in their
numbers; they abound in the best means to excite emulation and diffuse
general knowledge. It is auspicious to the public welfare when our
citizens are wise, and sober minded, patriotic, chaste, and virtuous,
appreciating the free institutions of our fathers, as rich boons from
heaven, and the freedom of mind as of inestimable value. The avenues
which lead to the fountains of honor and intelligence are as wide and
easy of access as those which overwhelm in vice and misery, and those
who prefer the former need not pass through life unacquainted with the
mighty wonders which the world contains.

It is with regret, that, in 'A Dictionary of important names, objects,
and terms found in the holy Scriptures, intended principally for
youth,' recently published by Howard Malcolm, A. M., the following
definition is found.

'_Witch_ is a woman and _Wizard_ is a man that is supposed to have
dealings with Satan, if not actually entered into formal compact with
him. That such persons are among men is abundantly plain from
Scripture; and that they ought to be put to death.'

It can scarcely be believed that this can be intended as an item in
the code of instruction for the rising generation in the 19th century.
Our children, it is presumed, have, in these enlightened times, been
taught lessons better calculated to instil into their tender minds
the principles of moral wisdom and philanthropy. The author has not
favored the public with the rules and signs by which witches and
wizards are to be designated, and the evidence by which they are to be
convicted. Had he lived in witch-hanging times, he might have
witnessed with what sang-froid ghosts and spectres could consign
witches and wizards to the gallows. Has the author been so fortunate
as to ascertain whether the sin of witchcraft, as understood in modern
times, is actually denounced as punishable in the holy Scriptures?

In all countries, improvements in literature and the arts and
sciences, have been impeded, not only by superstition and bigotry
among the ignorant, but by the absurd edicts of sovereigns and
legislators, as if to bid defiance to all the energies of progressive
knowledge. In the 16th century, the Emperor Charles V. of Spain,
although himself addicted to crimes of the blackest stain, ordered an
assembly of divines to deliberate, whether it were lawful in point of
conscience to dissect a dead body. During the prevalence of a
malignant fever in Barcelona, the court of Madrid wrote the
prescription to be used, and by command of his Catholic Majesty, the
physicians were ordered to adhere to it in all cases, and forbidden to
prescribe any other remedy.

In the days of bitter intolerance, Servetus, a learned Spanish
physician, discovered the course of the blood through the lungs,
called the lesser circulation; and was afterwards cruelly burnt at the
stake, with his books, in consequence of a religious controversy with
John Calvin.

The immortal Harvey, who, in 1628, was the author of the most
important discovery recorded in medical history, the circulation of
the blood, was subjected to base calumny and detraction, while
bestowing blessings on the world, by his noble efforts and pious
example. 'It was, I believe,' says Lady Morgan, 'late in the last
century, that Baron de Luch was executed at Turin, for having
published that the earth moves round the sun.' The Chevalier La Barre,
a minor, was executed in France for an imputed insult offered to the

But, God be praised, the rack of torture and the lighted fagot never
have disgraced our native country; nor are these horrid engines any
longer in requisition to punish imaginary crimes and to repress truth
and philosophical research.

A pious friend and patron of the present writer, dying in the year
1787, without heirs, bequeathed by will his whole estate, except some
legacies, to thirteen Congregational Societies in the county in which
he lived; the interest of which was to be appropriated, annually, for
one hundred years, to the purchase of certain specified religious
books, to be distributed among the said Societies. After the
expiration of one hundred years, other religious books might be
selected by the existing ministers, except, that one year in every
four, the books first mentioned only should be purchased. In less than
twenty years, the specified books becoming obsolete, new editions were
required to be printed for that particular purpose only, which
occasioned great expense. The Societies interested became dissatisfied
with their restriction to books which were constantly superseded by
more recent publications, keeping pace with progressive improvement.
They all united in a petition to the legislature that the will might
be abolished, which was granted, and the estate sold and the proceeds
divided among the several Societies concerned.

Change and decay are stamped in indelible characters upon the proudest
productions of man; all bequests on illiberal conditions and human
creeds to which men may cling as infallible, can be considered as
commensurate only with all earthly objects based on no permanent


There may be no impropriety in adding a few pages on the subject of
Medical Quackery and empiricism, since, for more than half a century,
the writer has occasionally witnessed melancholy scenes and disasters
among his fellow-men in consequence of their nefarious practice. It is
a matter of congratulation, that from the liberal and excellent
provisions made by our legislatures, and the most ample means of
education which our institutions afford, every candidate for medical
fame may become completely qualified for its attainment. And every
town or parish may be supplied with scientific physicians, meriting
the confidence of the people; and no other should ever be employed or
encouraged, as they have peculiar claim to public patronage.

Notwithstanding that in all the medical institutions in the United
States, the most judicious and energetic measures have been adopted to
prevent the evils of quackery, there are ignorant and unprincipled
impostors, who set at defiance all learning and theoretical knowledge,
and practise the vilest acts and deceptions, sporting with the health
and lives of their fellow-men without remorse. Such miscreants are too
frequently encouraged by the heedless multitude, who, delighting in
marvellous and magical airs, readily yield themselves dupes to the
grossest absurdities. From one of this character we have the following

An old acquaintance who knew well the character of a celebrated
empiric, said to him, while standing at the door, 'Prithee, doctor,
how is it that you, whose origin I so well know, should have been able
to obtain more practice than almost all the regular bred physicians.'
'Pray,' says the quack, 'how many persons have passed us while you
put the question?' 'About twenty.' 'And pray how many of them do you
suppose possess a competent share of common sense?' 'Perhaps one out
of the twenty.' 'Just so,' says the doctor, 'and that one applies to
the regular physician, while I and my brethren pick up the other

And how often have we seen the contemptible ignoramus raised by the
voice of popularity above the level of the learned and accomplished
physician, and boasting of nineteen twentieths of the practice? It is
not unfrequent that our attention is arrested by the pretensions of
prophets and mystical fanatics, who announce their pretended heavenly
mission, and treat their credulous patients with bubbles and magical
spells. The stranger, called the rainwater doctor, after gulling
hundreds of people of weak minds a few years since, disappeared,
leaving both his origin and his exit involved in mystery. But the most
audacious impostor that was ever suffered to delude even the vulgar,
was one Austin, of Vermont, who, a few years since, proclaimed himself
a prophet, and pretended to cure all diseases by prayer to heaven,
requiring no other information relative to the patient, than a few
lines requesting his prayers. Such was the credulity and such the
faith of the multitude, that letters and messengers were despatched to
him from the sick, the blind, and the crippled, from the distance of
several hundred miles, until thousands had accumulated on his hands. A
certain poor man whom I knew, became so infatuated with the prophet's
proclamation, that, after collecting letters from a number of
invalids, of all descriptions, among whom was one totally blind, and
having received contributions in money, actually performed a journey
of about two hundred miles to receive the benefit of the prophet's
prayers. But he soon returned as he went, and gained for his credulous
employers and himself no other benefit than a conviction of their
folly, and the vile imposition of modern prophets. The two jugglers
above mentioned, it is presumed, jeoparded no lives by the use of
poisonous materials, as they depended on the operation of the
imagination; but there are bolder champions of the craft who can pop
you off the stage in a moment. The country is annoyed by a train of
unprincipled ignoramuses, without reputation, who are prowling about,
brandishing the sure weapons of death, reckless of consequences. But
their punishment is reserved to the day of retributive justice. I well
recollect the following moral lesson of a pious physician. 'If a
patient die through your wilful ignorance, rashness, or careless
neglect, his blood will be required at your hands.' How much greater,
then, must be the accountability in those who administer the most
active and even poisonous materials, without the smallest acquaintance
with the human constitution or the nature of the medicine. It is
characteristic of these people, to undertake to cure incurables,
magnifying a wart to a rose cancer, a simple ulcer to a spreading
mortification, and to set bones where there is neither joint nor
fracture. Although palpable instances of death from their practice are
frequent, should a single cure happen, it is proclaimed as almost
miraculous, and the lawless miscreants are still suffered to seek
their prey with impunity, and no one tells of their thousand victims
concealed in the silent grave!

It is from a similar empirical source, that the public is annoyed by a
disgusting display of quack and _patent medicines_; which, through
the medium of newspapers, are impudently palmed upon public attention.
It would seem as though a host of ignorant impostors have leagued in
hostility against the profession of medicine, wishing to despoil it of
its dignity and usefulness, and prostrate its character in the dust.
The world is inundated with nostrums, usurping the power, not only to
remedy all the diseases of our nature, but actually to fortify the
human constitution, and render it invulnerable. In their ostentatious
display, they extol a single nostrum as adequate to the prevention and
cure of a whole catalogue of diseases, however opposite or discordant
in their nature. They are suited to all constitutions, as the
shoe-black's composition is applicable to _every one's boots or
shoes_. Thus are we kindly invited, at the expense of a few dollars,
to purchase of those self 'dubbed doctors,' that health and longevity
which even the judicious hand of science is unable to bestow. The
inventors and venders of these pretended specifics, in most instances,
have no knowledge of the diseases which they pretend to cure; they
depend, as it were, on a random shot, and whatever may be the issue,
they are sure of their enormous gains, from two to four hundred per
cent; articles sold for a dollar might be afforded for ten cents.

By such fraud and imposition, a noted Charlatan in London accumulated
such an immense fortune as to parade the streets in a splendid
equipage, the effects of public credulity. But the public may be
assured, that since the great improvements in chemical science, a
large proportion of patent medicines have been analyzed, and are found
to consist of old articles which physicians have expunged from their
materia medica, to give place to more valuable and efficacious
remedies. Here, then, is a boundless source of knavery and fraud,--but
I desire to have it understood, that these observations are not to
extend to all patentees of medical compositions, without exception,
for all are not equally censurable. Few, indeed, there are, which
scientific physicians are willing to concede may be of public utility.
But that indiscriminate application in all cases and circumstances,
should be most pointedly reprobated. Were the annual amount of money
expended for useless nostrums made public, it would excite
astonishment, and were the innumerable disappointments in their
creative powers promulgated, public indignation and contempt would be
the portion of the inventors and venders of patented nostrums.

There is not a more provoking absurdity, as applied to the economy of
health, than the idea of _spring medicines_, _family medicines_, _&c_,
and it should be distinctly understood by every individual, that such
medicine administered to persons in health, as preventive of disease,
as well as those administered without a skilful reference to the
present condition of the system, are absolutely dangerous to health
and life. And the same observation will apply to the practice of
blood-letting in the spring season.

Those who maintain the ridiculous idea that individuals are endowed
with supernatural gifts and knowledge, and become skilful physicians
without education or study, betray a pitiful credulity, equalled only
by the conceits of those who believe in ghosts and spectres, haunting
the dwellings of the dead. We now witness with the deepest interest,
the rapid strides in the march of intellect, keeping pace with the
advance of light and truth, looking for that political and moral
millenium, when knowledge will be more sought for than wealth, and the
charms of virtue more prized than those of vice; when prejudice,
superstition, and licentiousness, will be discountenanced among all
classes of mankind, and righteousness shall exalt our nation.

Truly 'the lines have fallen to us in pleasant places, and we have a
goodly heritage.' But it were unjust to look back to antiquity and
compare the beauties of the present day with the deformities of
ancient times; to attribute exclusive perfection to ourselves and
deprive our ancestors of their real worth and merit; for we know not
the period among them when wisdom and virtue were lightly esteemed.
Let us reflect, with religious gratitude, on the momentous privileges
and benefits bequeathed to us by our fathers. In all their actions we
trace a zealous solicitude to transmit to posterity a glorious
inheritance. Like angels of light, they would illuminate the minds of
their children, with the high importance of religious institutions,
seminaries, and free schools. If, in any form, they would enchain our
minds, it would be in the principles of civil and religious freedom,
of patriotism, philanthropy, moral rectitude, and public virtue. But
'our fathers, where are they?' Let us with laborious fidelity follow
them in every good word and work, that our children may, in the spirit
of gratitude and love, reiterate the exclamation 'our fathers, where
are they?' It is our glorious privilege to live in an age when the
elements of our terrestrial abode are rendered subservient to the most
stupendous operations. The works of men's hands appear as if endowed
with intelligence; the heated steam subverts the power of the fleetest
steed, and the facilities of traversing the earth and seas, are like
the airy flights of the feathered tribe. But oh! humbling
consideration, death triumphs over the frail nature of man; our life
is but a continued miracle, capable of being sustained only by the
hand of that omnipotent being whom we adore as the 'former of our
bodies, and the father of our spirits.' All must bow to the awful
summons, and quit this earthly tabernacle; the last remains of
mortality are consigned to the silent tomb to mingle with the parent

Transcriber's Note

Variant spelling is preserved as printed.

Minor punctuation errors have been repaired.

The following amendments have been made:

    Page 4--repeated 'for' deleted--... our fathers have ascended to
    regions prepared for their reception, ...

    Page 37--were amended to where--... she enquired why I had called
    to her so often, and where I was; ...

    Page 76--Demonaics amended to Demoniacs--'Demoniacs,' says Kenrick,
    'were persons disordered ...'

    Page 179--be amended to he--... to endanger him in his falling,
    he could not forbear going out of his way ...

    Page 184--unacountably amended to unaccountably--... yet
    unaccountably broke off, ...

    Page 201--women amended to woman--His place was supplied by
    another old woman, ...

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Essay on Demonology, Ghosts and Apparitions, and Popular Superstitions - Also, an Account of the Witchcraft Delusion at Salem, in 1692" ***

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