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“Trial of Susannah Martin” (1692), by Cotton Mather
The Trial of Susannah Martin, at the Court of Oyer and Terminer, Held by Adjournment at Salem, June 29, 1692.
I. Susannah Martin, pleading Not Guilty to the Indictment of Witchcraft brought in against her, there were produced the evidences of many persons very sensibly and grievously Bewitched; who all complaned of the prisoner at the Bar, as the person whom they Believed the cause of their Miseries. And now, as well as in the other Trials, there was an extraordinary endeavour by Witchcrafts, with Cruel and Frequent Fits, to hinder the poor sufferers from giving in their complaints; which the Court was forced with much patience to obtain, by much waiting and watching for it.
II. There was now also an Account given, of what passed at her first examination before the Magistrates. The cast of her eye then striking the Afflicted People to the ground, whether they saw that Cast or no; there were these among other passages between the Magistrates and the Examinate. . . .It was then also noted in her, as in others like her, that if the Afflicted went to approach her, they were flung down to the Ground. And, when she was asked the Reason of it, she said, ” I cannot tell; it may be, the Devil bears me more Malice than another.”
III. The Court accounted themselves Alarum’d by these things, to Enquire further into the Conversation of the Prisoner; and see what there might occur, to render these Accusations further credible. Whereupon, John Allen, of Salisbury, testify’d, That he refusing, because of the weakness of his Oxen, to Cart some Staves, at the request of this Martin, she was displeased at it; and said, “It had been as good that he had; for his Oxen should never do him much more Service.” Whereupon this Deponent said, ” Dost thou threaten me, thou old Witch? I’ll throw thee into the Brook”: Which to avoid, she flew over the Bridge, and escaped. . . . He then put his Oxen, with many more, upon Salisbury Beach, where Cattle did use to get Flesh. In a few days, all the Oxen upon the Beach were found by their Tracks, to have run unto the mouth of Merrimack River, and not returned; but the next day they were found come ashore upon Plum Island. They that sought them used all imaginable gentleness, but they would still run away with a violence that seemed wholly Diabolical, till they came near the mouth of Merrimack River; when they ran right into the Sea, swimming as far as they could be seen. One of them then swam back again, with a swiftness amazing to the Beholders, who stood ready to receive him, and help up his Tired Carcass: But the Beast ran furiously up into the Island, and from thence, through the Marshes, up into Newbury Town, and so up into the Woods; and there after a while found near Amesbury. So that, of Fourteen good Oxen, there was only this saved: the rest were all cast up, some in one place, and some in another, Drowned.
IV. John Atkinson Testify’d, That he Exchanged a Cow with a Son of Susannah Martins, whereat she muttered, and was unwilling he should have it. Going to Receive this Cow, tho’ he Hamstring’d her, and Halter’d her, she of a Tame Creature grew so mad, that they could scarce get her along. She broke all the Ropes that were fastned unto her, and though she were Ty’d fast unto a Tree, yet she made her Escape, and gave them such further Trouble, as they could ascribe to no cause but Witchcraft.
V. Bernard Peache testify’d, That being in Bed on a Lords-day Night, he heard a scrabbling at the Window, whereat he then saw Susannah Martin come in, and jump down upon the Floor. She took hold of this Deponents Feet, and drawing his Body up into an Heap, she lay upon him near Two Hours; in all which time he could neither speak nor stirr. At length, when he could begin to move, he laid hold on her Hand, and pulling it up to his mouth, he bit three of her Fingers, as he judged, unto the Bone. Whereupon she went from the Chamber, down the Stairs, out at the Door. This Deponent thereupon called unto the people of the House, to advise them of what passed; and he himself did follow her. The people saw her not; but there being a Bucket at the Left-hand of the Door, there was a drop of Blood found on it; and several more drops of Blood upon the Snow newly fallen abroad. There was likewise the print of her two Feet just without the Threshold; but no more sign of any Footing further off. . . . The said Peache also testify’d the Bewitching of Cattle to Death, upon Martin’s Discontents.
VI. Robert Downer testifyed, That this Prisoner being some years ago prosecuted at Court for a Witch, he then said unto her, He believed she was a Witch. Whereat she being dissatisfied, said, That some Shee-Devil would Shortly fetch him away! Which words were heard by others, as well as himself. The Night following, as he lay in his Bed, there came in at the Window the likeness of a Cat, which Flew upon him, took fast hold of his Throat, lay on him a considerable while, and almost killed him. At length he remembred what Susanna Martin had threatned the Day before; and with much striving he cryed out, “Avoid, thou Shee-Devil! In the Name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Avoid! ” Whereupon it left him, leap’d on the Floor, and Flew out at the Window. . . .
VIII. William Brown testify’d, that Heaven having blessed him with a most Pious and prudent wife, this wife of his one day mett with Susannah Martin; but when she approch’d just unto her, Martin vanished out of sight, and left her extremely affrighted. After which time, the said Martin often appear’d unto her, giving her no little trouble; and when she did come, she was visited with Birds that sorely peck’t and Prick’d her; and sometimes a Bunch, like a pullets egg, would Rise in her throat, ready to Choak her, till she cry’d out, “Witch, you shan’t choak me!” While this good Woman was in this Extremity, the Church appointed a Day of Prayer, on her behalf; whereupon her Trouble ceas’d; she saw not Martin as formerly; and the Church, instead of their Past, gave Thanks for her Deliverance. But a considerable while after, she being Summoned to give in some Evidence at the Court, against this Martin, quickly thereupon this Martin came behind her, while she was milking her Cow, and said unto her, “For thy defaming me at Court, I’l make thee the miserablest Creature in the World.” Soon after which, she fell into a strange kind of Distemper, and became horribly Frantick, and uncapable of any Reasonable Action; the Physicians declaring, that her Distemper was preternatural, and that some Devil had certainly Bewitched her; and in that Condition she now remained. . . .
Note, This Woman was one of the most Impudent, Scurrilous, wicked creatures in the world; and she did now throughout her whole Trial discover herself to be such an one. Yet when she was asked, what she had to say for her self? her Cheef Plea was, That she had Led a most virtuous and Holy Life!