University of Virginia Library

Chapter III.

Nextly I will insert the Confession of a man about Forty years of Age, W. B.,[405] which he wrote himself in Prison, and sent to the Magistrates, to confirm his former Confession to them, viz.

God having called me to Confess my sin and Apostasy in that fall in giving the Devil advantage over me appearing to me like a Black, in the evening to set my hand to his Book, as I have owned to my shame. He told me that I should not want so doing. At Salem Village, there being a little off the Meeting-House, about an hundred five Blades,[406] some with Rapiers by their side, which was called and might be more for ought I know by B and Bu.[407] and the


Trumpet sounded, and Bread and Wine which they called the Sacrament, but I had none; being carried over all on a Stick, never being at any other Meeting. I being at Cart a Saturday last, all the day, of Hay and English Corn, the Devil brought my Shape to Salem, and did afflict M. S.[408] and R. F.[409] by clitching my Hand; and a Sabbath day my Shape afflicted A. M.[410] and at night afflicted M. S. and A. M. E. I.[411] and A. F.[412] have been my Enticers to this great abomination, as one have owned and charged her to her Sister with the same. And the design was to Destroy Salem Village, and to begin at the Ministers House, and to destroy the Church of God, and to set up Satans Kingdom, and then all will be well. And now I hope God in some measure has made me something sensible of my sin and apostasy, begging pardon of God, and of the Honourable Magistrates and all Gods people, hoping and promising by the help of God, to set to my heart and hand to do what in me lyeth to destroy such wicked worship, humbly begging the prayers of all Gods People for me, I may walk humbly under this great affliction and that I may procure to my self, the sure mercies of David, and the blessing of Abraham.

Concerning this Confession. (1) Note it was his own free act in Prison. (2) He saith the Devil like a Black. This he had before explained to be like a Black man. (3) That on a certain day was heard in the Air the sound of a Trumpet at Salem Village nigh the Meeting-House, and upon all enquiry it could not be found that any mortal man did sound it. (4) The three persons he saith the Devil in his Shape afflicted, had been as to the times and manner afflicted as he confesseth. (5) That E. I. confessed as much as W. B. chargeth her with. (6) Many others confessed a Witch Meeting, or Witch meetings at the Village as well as he.

Note also that these Confessors did not only witness against themselves, but against one another; and against many if not all those that Suffered for that Crime. As for example, when


G. B.[413] was Tryed, seven or eight of these Confessors severally called, said, they knew the said B. and saw him at a Witch-Meeting at the Village, and heard him exhort the Company to pull down the Kingdom of God, and set up the Kingdom of the Devil. He denied all, yet said he justified the Judges and Jury in Condemning of him; because there were so many positive witnesses against him: But said he dyed by false Witnesses. I seriously spake to one that witnessed (of his Exhorting at the Witch Meeting at the Village) saying to her; You are one that bring this man to Death, if you have charged any thing upon him that is not true, recal it before it be too late, while he is alive. She answered me, she had nothing to charge her self with, upon that account.

M. C.[414] had to witness against her, two or three of her own Children, and several of her Neighbours that said they were in confederacy with her in their Witchcraft.

A. F.[415] Had three of her Children, and some of the Neighbours, her own Sister, and a Servant, who confessed themselves Witches, and said, she was in confederacy with them: But alas, I am weary with relating particulars; those that would see more of this kind, let them have recourse to the Records.

By these things you see how this matter was carried on, viz. chiefly by the complaints and accusations of the Afflicted, Bewitched ones, as it was supposed, and then by the Confessions of the Accused, condemning themselves, and others. Yet experience shewed that the more there were apprehended, the more were still Afflicted by Satan, and the number of Confessors increasing, did but increase the number of the Accused, and the Executing some, made way for the apprehending of others; for still the Afflicted complained of being tormented by new objects as the former were removed. So that those that were concerned, grew amazed at the numbers and quality of the persons accused and feared that Satan by his wiles had inwrapped innocent persons under the imputation of that Crime.


And at last it was evidently seen that there must be a stop put, or the Generation of the Children of God would fall under that condemnation.

Henceforth therefore the Juries generally acquitted such as were Tried, fearing they had gone too far before. And Sir William Phips, Governour, Reprieved all that were Condemned, even the Confessors, as well as others. And the Confessors generally fell off from their Confessions; some saying, they remembred nothing of what they said; others said they had belied themselves and others. Some brake Prison and ran away, and were not strictly searched after, some acquitted, some dismissed and one way or other all that had been accused were set or left at liberty.

And although had the times been calm, the condition of the Confessors might have called for a melius inquirendum,[416] yet considering the combustion[417] and confusion this matter had brought us unto; it was thought safer to under do than over do, especially in matters Capital, where what is once compleated cannot be retrieved: but what is left at one time, may be corrected at another, upon a review and clearer discovery of the state of the Case. Thus this matter issued somewhat abruptly.



William Barker, of Andover.




Bishop and Burroughs?


Martha Sprague.


Rose Foster.


Abigail Martin.


Elizabeth Johnson. Her daughter, of the same name, was also accused and confessed (see p. 382, note 4, above).


Abigail Falkner. She and her sister Elizabeth Johnson were daughters of the Rev. Francis Dane (or Deane), senior pastor at Andover, who seems from the first to have stood against the panic and who was largely instrumental in ending it. All those here accused were Andover folk, neighbors of Barker. See as to them Mrs. Bailey's chapter on “Witchcraft at Andover” (in her Historical Sketches of Andover).


George Burroughs.


Martha Carrier.


Abigail Falkner (see pp. 366, 420). “She was urged,” says the record, “to confes the truth for the creddit of hir Town,” but “she refused to do it, saying God would not require her to confess that that she was not guilty of” (Records of Witchcraft, II. 128-135, where may also be found the evidence against her). She was condemned, but not executed.


“Better investigation” — i.e., a writ for a fresh inquiry.