Everyone knows about the infamous Salem witch trials, but few people realize that Connecticut has an older and arguably more colorful history when it comes to accusations of—and executions for—witchcraft.
Actually, by 1692, when hysteria was just starting to sweep through Salem, nine (or eleven, reports aren’t exactly clear) unfortunate souls had already been executed for witchcraft in Connecticut, including Alse (or Alice) Young, who was the first woman hanged in New England—and possibly the New World—for purportedly having consorted with Satan. Before it was over, 35 people would stand accused of crimes involving witchcraft.
As hard as it is to conceive now, the idea of The Devil walking the Earth and taking an active role in everyday life was a genuine fear in Colonial Connecticut—it’s not a coincidence that there are over 30 places in the state with names that served as a warning to all that The Evil One might be lurking about, including Devil’s Den (five different places), Devil’s Backbone (four), Satan’s Kingdom (two), Devil’s Island, Hell’s Hollow, Tophet Ravine and even a Devil’s Dripping Pan. The early European settlers here were true believers.
The best-researched record of events is John M. Taylor’s The Witchcraft Delusion in Colonial Connecticut (1647-1697), in which he chronicles the known events as well as delves into the causes for the hysteria, including tracing the entire history of witchcraft.
During those times, what is now Connecticut was then divided into two colonies: Connecticut and New Haven. Witchcraft officially became a crime in Connecticut in 1642: “If any man or woman be a witch—that is, hath or consulteth with a familiar spirit—they shall be put to death.” New Haven enacted its witchcraft law in 1655: “If any person be a witch, he or she shall be put to death according to” Exodus xxii, 18; Leviticus xx, 27; Deuteronomy xviii, 10, 11.
In the book, Taylor also uncovers Connecticut’s official “Grounds for Examination of a Witch,” written in the 17th century. [Note: I’ve updated some spelling for easier reading.]
1. Notorious defamation by ye common report of the people a ground of suspicion.
2. Second ground for strict examination is if a fellow witch gave testimony on his examination or death yet such a person is a witch, but this is not sufficient for conviction or condemnation.
3. If after cursing, there follow death or at least mischief to ye party.
4. If after quarreling or threatening a present mischief doth follow for party’s devilishly disposed after cursing does use threatenings, and yet also is a great presumption against ye.
5. If ye party suspected to be ye son or daughter, the servant of familiar friend, near neighbors or old companion of a known or convicted witch this also is a presumption, for witchcraft is an art yet may be learned and conveyed from man to man and often it falleth out yet a witch dying leaveth some of ye aforced heirs of her witchcraft.
6. If ye party suspected have ye devil’s mark for this thought when ye devil maketh his convent with ye he always leaves his mark behind him to know ye for his own yet is, if not evident reason in can be given for such mark.
7. Lastly if ye party examined be unconstant and contrary to himself in his answers.
Thus much for examination which is usually by question and some times by torture upon strong and great presumption.
For conviction it must be grounded on just and sufficient proofs. The proofs for conviction of two sorts, one. Some be less sufficient, some more sufficient.
It then goes on to talk about how in earlier times, red-hot irons and scalding water were used for tests, as was binding the accused and throwing them into water to see if they sank or not. (If they did, they were proclaimed “innocent,” although there was also a good chance they drowned—not much of a “victory.”) Also discussed are other tell-tale signs of witchcraft, such as a familiar (in the form of a mouse or cat) hanging about, or Devil’s marks on the body.
When it came to means of execution, almost all of alleged witches were hanged—contrary to popular imagery, no witch was ever burned at the stake in Connecticut.
Here is a list of those accused of witchcraft in Connecticut. [Note: This is a work in progress, so there will be additions and modifications as we continue our research. The names with hyperlinks offer more info, and our plan is to eventually have them all. Thanks for understanding]
- Alse (Alice) Young – 1647
- Mary Johnson – 1648
- John & Joan Carrington – 1650
- Goody Bassett – 1651
- Goody Knapp – 1653
- Elizabeth Godman – 1653 & 1655
- Lydia Gilbert – 1654
- Nicholas & Goody Bayley – 1655
- William Meaker – 1657
- Elizabeth Garlick – 1658
- Nicholas & Margaret Jennings – 1661
- Judith Varlett – 1662
- Katherine Palmer – 1662
- Goody Ayres – 1662
- Rebecca & Nathaniel Greensmith – 1662
- Mary Sanford – 1662
- Andrew Sanford – 1662
- Mary Barnes – 1662
- Elizabeth & John Blackleach – 1662
- James Wakeley – 1662
- Ralph & Mary Hall – 1664
- Elizabeth Seager – 1666
- Hannah Griswold – 1667
- William Graves – 1667
- Katherine Harrison – 1669
- Goody Messenger – 1673
- Goody Burr – 1678
- Goody Bowden – 1689
- Mercy Disborough – 1692
- Elizabeth Clawson – 1692
- Mary Staples – 1692
- Mary Harvey – 1692
- Hannah Harvey – 1692
- Goody Miller – 1692
- Winifred Benham – 1692
- Hugh Croasia – 1692
- Winifred Benham, Jr. & Sr. – 1697
- Sarah Spencer – 1724
For the record, in December 2006, the State of Connecticut officially pardoned all those accused of witchcraft, forever clearing their names.
Great article. If you could pinpoint where they were all buried, that would be fantastic. Btw, they may already be on your list, but I do believe Manchester and Willimantic also had a witch hanged or burned.
I have created a one woman show that brings to life five of the women accused of witchcraft in 17th century Connecticut…more info at http://www.herstorytheater.com.
As of todays’ date, April 22, 2012 Connecticut has not cleared the names of any of those 11 people who were executed for Witchcraft. We have not been successful with the State Legislature so at present we have submitted a Governor’s Proclamation request to Governor Dannel Malloy’s office. It is our hope that the Governor will issue a Proclamation clearing the names of eleven named executed people for the colonial crime of Witchcraft I believe that this would be fitting in light of the fact that Connecticut has appealed the death penalty. Connecticut was the first state to execute but the last state to clear names for those executed for the crime of Witchcraft.
Tony, proclamation was requested? I think a full and complete Governor’s Pardon would be more appropriate. There’s precedent for posthumous pardons. I don’t know if any have granted in CT. Google Montana sedition pardon and you should get some information.
Also, are there any links to the proclamation? As a direct descent of Lydia Gilbert, I have a personal interest in this. Thanks.
We have been trying to clear the names since October 2005. The CT Governor has no authority to issue any pardon. Board of Pardons and Paroles has already told us they do not pardon dead people. They infact told us to contact the Queen of England which we did and they will not help because it is a clolonial problem.I have written to many State Legislators and was told the best bet now is a Governor’s Proclamation. The Governor’s office called and stated that they were reviewing my request but had not yet made a desicion. We welcome any help.
Tony, thanks for the background information. It’s unfortunate that the Governor doesn’t have any pardon powers as that would be the most expeditious means.
I’m surprised the Board of Pardons and Paroles tried to pass this off to England. A State of CT website lists the first Governor as John Haynes starting in 1639. Although operating under a different constitution, the State was, for the most part, established in 1639 and there’s been a continuous succession of Governors since then.
Not to take anything away from your, or the efforts of anyone else, in my opinion, a proclamation holds no merit when it comes to justice. As far as the Board’s position that they don’t pardon dead people, that seems to be passing the buck as well. Over 100 posthumous pardons have been granted in 15 states as well as a few Federal pardons. Absent of any law forbidding posthumous pardons, I think they responded in haste.
Was the absence of precedent in CT the only reason given by the Board? And if so, is there any process to appeal?
I really don’t see any basis for ‘pardons’ of these convictions. They all predate the formation of the US and the bulk of them predate even the successor colonial governments. Any legal chain from the Salem colonials to any present-day entity would be so shaky as to have to be taken as much on faith as on legal standing.
I think proclamations are both as good as you’re going to get and would have just as much meaningful weight as any ‘legal’ redress you might squeeze out of somewhere.
And after all, as sad as these cases are, there were many other great human tragedies that completely eclipse them. Perhaps a sense of proportion is needed?
Simply put. my goal is to have the State acknowledge that these eleven executions were wrong. The death penalty has been appealed because there were so many cases where convictions were for the wrong person. The problem is that because the economy is so bad and people are out of work no politicians wants to be associated with clearing the names of dead Witches. Witches or not they were executed because of fear. This Proclamation is my last hope. I might consider the help of an attorney to clear these people but I’m not sure how to pay for the service.
My wife’s ancestor was Mathew Moulthrop. He was one of the eaders of the New Haven colony. I would like to know what part he had in this.
Mathew Moulthrop was a special constable in New Haven Colony being appointed in 1680. I don’t believe that he had anything to do with Witches. Elizabeth Godman was a convicted Witch in New Haven but was not executed. She died October 9, 1660, twenty years before Mathew was appointed. Ironically records indicate that she was buried on New Haven Green.
As of today, January 2, 2013 the Governor has not corresonded with me or anyone else working on a Proclamation. His legal advisor has said publically that the Governor has responed to our efforts. He personally has not and I will remember this point at voting time.
February 7, 2013 will be a full year since we started this process. We may again try to bring our process to the State Legislators. My post on The Witches Voice about the Connecticut Witchcraft postcard blitz has recieved over 6,000 reads but I have no way of knowing how many people sent postcards to the Governor. I plan to keep fighting for those who had no voice.
Just because there was a Governor in 1639 does not mean the office held by the current Governor was in existence. I hate to agree with Dan Malloy, but I think he is right in this matter. The current state of Connecticut has no legal standing to take action either way in a case heard in the former colony of Connecticut. The good news is that thhere is no authority to uphold the verdict either. I had one idea of how a new trial could be held, but after further research, my idea would not have worked at all, for similar reasons.
What I find most interesting is that all of you who want these pardons do not seem to be disputing the charges of witchcraft, you simply want a declaration that the verdicts were wrong. Im no lawyer but it seems to me that there would be no grounds for an appeal if nobody disputes that the crimes occured. Even under our current laws we have to apply the laws in effect at the time.
I guess there are a few different ways to look at the issue, but perhaps more important than a “pardon” is an acknowledgment of the lives lost due to the beliefs and prejudices of the time. I try to bring that to a front in “Panic in Connecticut; Accused Witches Have Their Say”, and we are honoring those lost in the witchcraft panics on January 25, 2013, the 350th anniversary of the last executions for witchcraft in Connecticut. Tony Griego, I know you are attending, but I want to throw it out there for anyone who might be interested. “The Farmington Witch Project; An Evening of Enlightenment” will be an evening of music, theater, food and wine, to celebrate the lives of all those souls, observe the 350th anniversary of the end of the executions, and affirm the hope of tolerance for all. It’s not a night for lobbying or politicking; it’s a night to come together in understanding. Info below and at https://www.facebook.com/events/440543029314365/461781880523813/?notif_t=plan_mall_activity:
The Farmington Witch Project; An Evening of Enlightenment
Friday, January 25, 2013
7pm – midnight (doors open 6:45)
(snow date Friday, February 1, 2013)
Amistad Hall at First Church 1652
75 Main Street, Farmington, CT
$35 in advance, $40 at the door
Tickets available online at Brownpapertickets.com, http://thefarmingtonwitchproject.bpt.me
in person at Stanley-Whitman House, 37 High Street, Farmington
For more information, call 860-677-9222
So I’ve heard that there was one woman hanged in Burlington, CT who was accused of witch craft at the old Tory prison. Does anyone know what her name was? Was it by chance a woman named Bronwen? (If spelled incorrectly, my apologies). I just really need to know.
check out sterling ct hells hollow gravity hill all kinds of stuff margarette henry road has a witch legend would love to know if it were true.. and to be honest i feel to much pain when i travel to far into sterling.. anger unfair emotions would like to know why
I am a descendant of Elizabeth Blanchard Garlick and I am trying to find out all I can about her and her family if anybody can tell me anything or anywhere else to look for imformation about where she is buried or her family please respond.I am related thru her fathers side Joseph Blanchard
There is a lot of information about Goody Garlic of East Hampton, L.I. which was then under Connecticut Colony. Two good books are “Entertaining Satan by John Putnam Demos 1982,” and “Witchcraft Prosecution: Chasing the Devil in Connecticut by R.G. Tomlinson 2012.”
Goody Garlic was tried in Hartford May 5, 1658 and it was found that there was not sufficient evidence for a conviction. The Garlic’s continued to live in East Hampton without incident for the rest of their lives. Because she was not convicted she may be buried in a cemetery in East Hampton however I have no information about the location. Very few stones from that period remain. The Internet is also a wealth of information about her.
Thank you Tony,for replying to my comment .I live in south Alabama and can’t travel to New York to do research but do try to work off the computer all I can. My family of Blanchards moved to Iowa and then to Washington state but I was raised in the south by grandparents. I want to learn more about Elizabeth Blanchard Garlick and what happened to her family. Even though she was not found guilty its still interesting just that time period and the events that happened.Thanks again.
I just found out yesterday through ancestry research that I am directly related to Alse Young. I couldn’t believe it! I had heard of the Salem Witch Trials, but was unfamiliar with the Connecticut Trials until I stated researching my heritage and stumbled upon the information.
Hi Tammy, Could you tell me more about how you made this connection to Alse Young? I know that Alse had a daughter who lived in Springfield, MA. As a descendant you would have much more standing in court.
Katherine Palmer is my 11th great-grandmother. Mary Bliss Parsons is my 10th great-grandmother. Mary Perkins Bradbury of the Salem Witchtrials is sister to my 10th great-grandmother Lydia Perkins. I also am related to Lady Janet Glamis that was burned at the stake for being accused of Witchcraft. What was done to these poor souls was truly horrendous. All in the name of religion and because they believed or acted differently than the norm. It was wrong in those days to be a woman and speak up during those times. I am proud to be related to these strong women! I love you Great-Grandmothers of mine!
I would like to have any additional information about Mary Barnes, a relative of ours. Thank you.
Very interesting information. My ancestors were colonists in New Haven in the mid to late 1600’s. They were quite the colorful family. Mercy Tuttle killed her son in 1667 with an axe to the head. Through out the court documents they talk of her being “distracted.” In today’s tm she was probably delusional. She was convicted of the crime and sentenced to death but never was executed. Her defense attorney reminded the jury that an asylum was provided for the “distracted.” My question is why we’re some people accused of being witches when there seemed to be at least some understanding of mental illness?
I have been searching for information regarding the Carrington trial as our founding ancestor was one of the jurists who found them guilty. Your brief blurb on them is not as informative as I had hoped but I am grateful to have the confirmation about the trial. I continue to look for court records. Thank you.
Hello…i am doing some personal research on these two women who were thought to be witches in CT. However, the document I am looking at has no date to ground me as to the time frame. I think it is possible that the surname was actually WAY and not WEE. Thought you might be interested in this info. If you do happen to find out anything about them please do send it to me! Thanks and good luck with your important work.
” The following letter from Mr. LORD to Mr. HULL will be of interest to the reader:
“Henry HULL, Esq.
The following accounts of my Grandfather, and the witches are entirely traditional. Capt. Aaron KELSEY was in the French War, when we were under England. He was in some engagements, but where I do not know. He was also in the Revolutionary War, and was wounded in the battle of Stillwater, by a buck-shot which struck him a little below the knee. There being a deficiency of officers he was obliged to take command of the left wing of the regiment.
“Colonel SHIPMAN, of Chester, commanded the right wing. Captain KELSEY was taken to a hospital, and while he was there he lost four children in three days of the camp disorder, or modern dysentery. He has two sons in the Revolutionary war-John and Eli. John was 17 and Eli 16 when they entered the service. Eli was in several engagements. He was at one time in a company of forty engaged with a regiment of British cavalry. The company held their ground until a company of foot soldiers came in sight, when they were obliged to run for their lives. Twenty escaped to a swamp and twenty were killed by the horsemen. He afterward went to Yale College, and died in his senior year. He intended to have fitted for the ministry. He never recovered from the injury he received while running from those horsemen. John KELSEY was probably in several battles, as I have understood that he and Eli were together in the war, but I have never heard so much said of him as of Eli.
“I have the portrait of Mr. COAN, also the likenesses of both his wives.
“In regard to the witches, I know nothing about them, only what I have heard, and perhaps that is as much as any one ever knew. I cannot give the name of the one that lived in Lane District.
“It has been reported, over and over again, about witches living in Chatfield Hollow.
“The old woman’s mane was Goody WEE, and her daughter’s name was Betty WEE.
“There is a cut between the hills a little northeast of the Leander WATROUS place, which has nor nearly or quite a century been called “Goody WEE’s Crotch.” Undoubtedly, it was named after the supposed witch.
“It was formerly reported, the above named witches made their neighbors considerable trouble. For instance, they would enter the cream so it could not be worked into butter, and perform, according to the legends, other equally strange feats. It was said a person could not reach the top of Cedar Swamp Hill with a load of rails, as they would all side out of the cart, by the agency of witches. Those things were imagined before Webster’s Spelling Book and Beckwith’s Almanac were published. The witches aforesaid are declared to have been seen riding through the air on broom sticks. I have never learned how they sat on them.
“I do not think of anything more in particular to write.
“Yours Most Respectfully,
FOUND AT THIS SITE; http://dunhamwilcox.net/town_hist/killingworth_hist.htm
I also found this today while looking for something else entirely…wanted to share it.
Ackley, Ackly, Acle.
” Elizabeth, ast Haddam, slander.
Stum. oned to answer for charging Sarah Sencer with
witchcraft & so injuring her
in earnlng her llvlng. County
court judge plaintiff shall
recover 5 & costs. Appealed.
Defendant pleads insanity , April
1724 ! l 98
Ackley , El izabe th,
da, Jo.() minister,
Adams, Addames, Addams.
East Haddam, slander.
TestimOny that James Acley threatened Mrs.
Spencer, Mar. 10,1724/ 5 – II: 399
Certificate of Mrs. Spencer’s good character, Mar.
l0,1724/ 5 I1: 400
Verdict against Ackleys If: 401
James, East Haddam, charged with threatening
Sarah Spencer I I 399
” ” ” summoned with wife — II 398
” ” ” verdict against Ackleys”
FOUND THIS ON FOLLOWING SITE : http://cslib.cdmhost.com/cdm/singleitem/collection/p128501coll3/id/101/rec/3
am trying to find information
am trying to find information on a descendant of mine who was said to have been tried as a witch two times and was acquitted both times. her name was Elizabeth Periment married to Stephen(Clayson) Nov 11 1654 in Stamford Connecticut.
any info would be very appreciated!!
Re. Mary Barnes
My aunt has been doing the genealogy of our family and has discovered an ancestry link to Mary Barnes. Any other relatives please feel free to contact me. Any additional information would be appreciated. Thank you.
My Great Grandmother’s name is ANNA WOLCOTT GRISWOLD… NOT Hannah Griswold. I’d appreciate it if you corrected the error please.
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