American History Told by Contemporaries

Author: Deodat Lawson  | Date: 1704

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U.S. History

Salem Witches (1692)


IT pleased God in the Year of our Lord 1692. to visit the People at a place called Salem Village in NEW-ENGLAND, with a very Sore and Grievous Affliction, in which they had reason to believe, that the Soveraign and Holy GOD was pleased to permit Satan and his Instruments, to Affright and Afflict, those poor Mortals in such an Astonishing and Unusual manner.

Now, I having for some time before, attended the work of the Ministry in that Village, the Report of those Great Afflictions, came quickly to my notice; and the more readily, because the first Person Afflicted, was in the Minister’s Family, who succeeded me, after I was removed from them; in pitty therefore to my Christian Friends, and former Acquaintance there, I was much concerned about them, frequently consulted with them, and fervently (by Divine Assistance) prayed for them; but especially my Concern was augmented, when it was Reported, at an Examination of a Person suspected for Witchcraft, that my Wife and Daughter, who Dyed Three Years before, were sent out of the World under the Malicious Operations of the Infernal Powers; as is more fully represented in the following Remarks. I did then Desire, and was also Desired, by some concerned in the Court, to be there present, that I

might hear what was alledged in that respect; observing therefore, when I was amongst them, that the Case of the Afflicted was very amazing, and deplorable; and the Charges brought against the Accused, such as were Ground of Suspicions yet very intricate, and difficult to draw up right Conclusions about them. . . .

1. One or two of the first that were Afflicted, Complaining of unusual Illness, their Relations used Physick for their Cure, but it was altogether in vain.

2. They were oftentimes, very stupid in their Fits, and could neither hear nor understand, in the apprehension of the Standers by, so that when Prayer hath been made, with some of them, in such a manner as might be audible in a great Congregation; yet when their Fit was off, they declared they did not hear so much as one Word thereof.

3. It was several times Observed, that when they were discoursed with, about GOD or CHRIST, or the Things of Salvation, they were presently afflicted at a dreadful Rate, and hence were oftentimes Out-ragious, if they were permitted to be in the Congregation, in the Time of the Publick Worship. . . .

5. They affirm’d, That they saw the Ghosts of several departed Persons, who at their appearing, did instigate them, to discover such as (they said) were Instruments to hasten their Deaths; threatning sorely to afflict them, if they did not make it known to the Magistrates; they did affirm at the Examination, and again at the Tryal of an accused Person, that they saw the Ghosts of his two Wives (to whom he had carryed very ill in their Lives, as was proved by several Testimonies) and also that they saw the Ghosts of My Wife and Daughter, (who dyed above three Years before) and they did affirm, that when the very Ghosts looked on the Prisoner at the Bar, they looked red, as if the Blood would fly out of their Faces, with Indignation at him: The Manner of it was thus; Several Afflicted being before the Prisoner at the Bar, on a sudden they fixed all their Eyes together, on a certain Place of the Floor before the Prisoner; neither moving their Eyes nor Bodies for some few Minutes, nor answering to any Question which was asked them; so soon as that Trance was over, some being removed out of Sight and Hearing, they were all one after another asked what they saw, and they did all agree, that they saw those Ghosts above mentioned; I was present, and heard and saw the whole of what passed upon that Account, during the Tryal of that Person who was accused to be the Instrument of Satan’s Malice therein.

6. In this (worse than Gallick) Persecution by the Dragoons of Hell, the Persons afflicted were harrassed at such a dreadful rate, to write their Names in a Devil-Book, presented by a Spectre unto them; and One in my hearing said, I will not, I will not Write, it is none of God’s Book, it is none of God’s Book; it is the Devil’s Book for ought I know: And when they stedfastly refused to sign, they were told if they would but touch or take hold of the Book it should do: And Lastly, The Diabolical Propositions were so low and easy, that if they would but let their Clothes, or any thing about them, touch the Book, they should be at ease from their Torments, it being their Consent that is aimed at by the Devil in those Representations and Operations.

7. One who had been long afflicted at a stupendious rate, by two or three Spectres, when they were (to speak after the manner of Men) tyred out with tormenting of her, to Forcc or Fright her to sign a Covenant with the Prince of Darkness, they said to her, as in a Diabolical and Accursed Passion, Go your ways and the Devil go with you, for we will be no more pestred and plagued about you. And ever after that she was well, and no more afflicted that ever I heard of.

8. Sundry Pins have been taken out of the Wrists and Arms of the Afflicted; and one in time of Examination of a suspected Person, had a Pin run through both her Vpper and her Lower Lip, when she was called to speak; yet no apparent festering followed thereupon, after it was taken out.

9. Some of the Afflicted, as they were striving in their Fits, in open Court, have (by invisible means) had their Wrists bound fast together with a real Cord, so as it could hardly be taken off without cutting. Some Afflicted have been found with their Arms tyed, and hanged upon an Hook, from whence others have been forced to take them down that they might not expire in that Posture.

10. Some Afflicted have been drawn under Tables and Beds, by undiscerned Force, so as they could hardly be pull[ed] out: And one was drawn half way over the Side of a Well, and was with much difficulty recovered back again.

11. When they were most grievously afflicted, if they were brought to the Accused, and the suspected Persons Hand but laid upon them, they were immediately relieved out of their Tortures; but if the Accused did but look on them, they were instantly struck down again. Wherefore, they use to cover the Face of the Accused, while they laid their Hands on the Afflicted, and then it obtained the desired Issue; for it hath been experienced (both in Examinations and Tryals) that so soon as the Afflicted, came in sight of the Accused, they were immediately cast into their Fits; yea, though the Accused were among the Crowd of People unknow to the Sufferers, yet on the first view were they struck down; which was observed in a Child of four or five Years of Age, when it was apprehended, that so many as she could look upon, either directly or by turning her Head, were immediately struck into their Fits.

12. An iron Spindle of a woollen Wheel, being taken very strangely out of an House at Salem Village, was used by a Spectre, as an Instrument of Torture to a Sufferer, not being discernable to the Standers by; until it was by the said Sufferer snatched out of the Spectres Hand, and then it did immediately appear to the Persons present to be really the same iron Spindle.

13. Sometimes in their Fits, they have had their Tongues drawn out of their Mouths to a fearful length, their Heads turned very much over their Shoulders; and while they have been so strained in their Fits, and had their Arms and Legs, &c. wrested, as if they were quite dislocated, the Blood hath gushed plentifully out of their Mouths, for a considerable time together; which some, that they might be satisfied that it was real Blood, took upon their Finger and rubbed on their other Hand. I saw several together thus violently strained and bleeding in their Fits, to my very great astonishment, that my fellow-Mortals should be so grievously distressed by the invisible Powers of Darkness. For certainly, all considerate Persons, who beheld these things, must needs be convinced, that their Motions in their Fits were Præternatural and Involuntary, both as to the Manner which was so strange, as a well Person could not (at least without great Pain) screw their Bodies into; and as to the violence also, they were Præternatural Motions, being much beyond the ordinary Force of the same Persons when they were in their right Minds. So that being such grievous Sufferers, it would seem very hard and unjust to censure them of consenting To, or holding any voluntary Converse or Familiarity with the Debíl.

14. Their Eyes were for the most part fast closed in their Trance-Fits, and when they were asked a Question, they could give no Answer; and I do verily believe, they did not hear at that time, yet did they discourse with the Spectres as with real Persons; asserting Things, and receiving Answers, affirmative or negative, as the Matter was. For Instance, One in my hearing thus argued with, and railed at a Spectre, Goodn—be gone! be gone! be gone! Are you not ashamed, a

Woman of your Profession, to afflict a poor Creature so? What hurt did I ever do you in my Life? You have but two Years to live, and then the Deíl will torment your Soul for this: Your Name is blotted out of God’s Book, and it shall never be put into God’s Book again. Be gone for shame, are you not afraid of what is coming upon you? I know, I know, what will make you afraid, the Wrath of an angry God: I am sure that will make you afraid. Be gone, do not torment me; I know what you would have, (we judged she meant her Soul:) but it is out of your reach, it is clothed with the white Robes of Christ’s Righteousness. This Sufferer I was well acquainted with, and knew her to be a very sober and pious Woman, so far as I could judge; and it appears that she had not in that Fit, voluntary Converse with the Debíl; for then she might have been helped to a better Guess about that Woman above-said, as to her living but two Years, for she lived not many Months after that time. . . .

16. Some of them were asked how it came to pass that they were not affrighted when they saw the Black-man, they said they were at first, but not so much afterwards.

17, Some of them affirmed, they saw the Black-man sit on the Gallows, and that he whispered in the Ears of some of the Condemned Persons when they were just ready to be turn’d off; even while they were making their last Speech. . . .

19. Some of them, have sundry times seen a White-man appearing amongst the Spectres, and as soon as he appeared, the Black-Witches vanished: They said: This White-man had often foretold them, what respite they should have from their Fits; as sometimes a day or two, or more, which fell out accordingly. One of the Afflicted said she saw him in her Fit, and was with him in a Glorious Place, which had no Candle nor Sun, yet was full of Light and Brightness; where there was a multitude in white Glittering Robes, and they sang the Song in Rev. 5. 9. Psal. 110. Psal. 149. she was loth to leave that Place, and said how long shall I stay here, let me be along with you? She was grieved, she could stay no longer in that Place and Company.

20. A young Woman that was afflicted at a fearful rate, had a Spectre appeared to her, with a white Sheet wrapped about it, not visible to the Standers by, until this Sufferer (violently striving in her Fit) snatch’d at, took hold, and tore off a Corner of that Sheet; her Father being by her, endeavoured to lay hold upon it with her, that she might retain what she had gotten; but at the passing away of the Spectre, he had such a violent

Twitch of his Hand, as if it would have been torn off; immediately thereupon appeared in the Sufferers hand, the Corner of a Sheet, a real cloth, visible to the Spectators, which (as iris said) remains still to be seen.

Deodat Lawson, Christ’s Fidelity the only Shield against Satan’s Malignity (Boston, 1704), Appendix, 93–109 passim.


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Chicago: Deodat Lawson, "Salem Witches (1692)," American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Deodat Lawson in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1902), 35–40. Original Sources, accessed July 17, 2024,

MLA: Lawson, Deodat. "Salem Witches (1692)." American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Deodat Lawson, in American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, Vol. 3, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1902, pp. 35–40. Original Sources. 17 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Lawson, D, 'Salem Witches (1692)' in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. . cited in 1902, American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. , The Macmillan Company, New York, pp.35–40. Original Sources, retrieved 17 July 2024, from