Accusations of witchcraft, 1692 and 1706
These two documents explore the hysteria and death that captured Salem, Massachusetts at the end of the seventeenth century. In the first document, Sarah Carrier testifies that her mother forced her to engage in witchcraft. Her mother, Martha Carrier, was hung one week later. In the second document, Ann Putnam recants her own deadly accusations twenty years after the witchcraft trials.
The examination of Sarah Carrier, 1692
It was asked Sarah Carrier by the Magistrates or Justices John Hawthorne Esq; and others: How long hast thou been a witch?
A. Ever since I was six years old.
Q. How old are you now?
A. Near eight years old, brother Richard says, I shall be eight years old in November next.
Q. Who made you a witch?
A. My mother, she made me set my hand to a book.
Q. How did you set your hand to it?
A. I touched it with my fingers and the book was red, the paper of it was white. She said she never had seen the black man; the place where she did it was in Andrew Foster’s pasture and Elizabeth Johnson junior was there.
Being asked who was there beside, she answered her Aunt Toothaker and her cousin. Being asked when it was, she said, when she was baptized.
Q. What did they promise to give you?
A. A black dog.
Q. Did the dog ever come to you?
Q. But you said you saw a cat once. What did that say to you?
A. 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, and her mother said when she baptized her, thou are mine for ever and ever and amen.
Q. How did you afflict folks?
A. I pinched them, and she said she had no puppets, but she went to them that she afflicted. Being asked whether she went in her body or her spirit, she said in her spirit. She said her mother carried her thither to afflict.
Q. How did your mother carry you when she was in prison?
A. She came like a black cat.
Q. How did you know that it was your mother?
A. The cat told me so that she was my mother. She said she afflicted Phelp’s child last saturday, and Elizabeth Johnson joined with her to do it. She had a wooden spear, about as long as her finger, of Elizabeth Johnson, and she had it of the devil. She would not own that she had ever been at the witch meeting at the village. This is the substance.
“Examination of Sarah Carrier [Legal Document],” in Children and Youth in History, Item #282. Annotated by Tom Rushford.
Available through the Center for History and New Media, George Mason University.
The confession of Ann Putnam, 1706
I desire to be humbled before God for that sad and humbling providence that befell my father’s family in the year about ’92; that I, then being in my childhood, should, by such a providence of God, be made an instrument for the accusing of several persons of a grievous crime, whereby their lives were taken away from them, whom now I have just grounds and good reason to believe they were innocent persons; and that it was a great delusion of Satan that deceived me in that sad time, whereby I justly fear I have been instrumental, with others, though ignorantly and unwittingly, to bring upon myself and this land the guilt of innocent blood; though what was said or done by me against any person I can truly and uprightly say, before God and man, I did it not out of any anger, malice, or ill-will to any person, for I had no such thing against one of them; but what I did was ignorantly, being deluded by Satan. And particularly, as I was a chief instrument of accusing of Goodwife Nurse and her two sisters, I desire to lie in the dust, and to be humbled for it, in that I was a cause, with others, of so sad a calamity to them and their families; for which cause I desire to lie in the dust, and earnestly beg forgiveness of God, and from all those unto whom I have given just cause of sorrow and offence, whose relations were taken away or accused.
The Edinburgh Review, Or Critical Journal, Volume 128 (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1868), 39.