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Demonic cases recorded in Magnalia Christi Americana

Cases recorded in Magnalia Christi Americana

In 1672, in Massachusetts the case of Elizabeth Knapp was documented by Puritan Minister Samuel Willard.  Willard sent letters to Cotton Mather (whose father Increase Mather was a minister and President of Harvard College (now University) in 1685. Cotton published an account of Elizabeth’s possession in Magnalia Christi Americana (or Ecclesiastical History of New England, 1702; it also covered a dozen other accounts and the Salem Witch Trials in which he criticized methods used but documented ‘afflicted’ people and some with twisted or ‘turned bodies’).  President John Adam’s preserved copy of Magnalia Christi Americana (Glorious Works of Christ in America) lists Samuel Willard having attended Harvard in 1659.  I substituted the letter ‘s’ for old English ‘f’ when meant as ‘s;’ in the ‘Book VI,’ Chapter VII ‘Relating the wonders of the invisible world in Preternatural Occurrences’ in New England:’

“… Molestations from Evil Spirits… wherein they commonly work upon the Minds of all Men… have abounded in this Countrey (Country), that I question whether any one Town has been free from sad Examples of them.  The Neighbours have not been careful enough to Record and Attest the prodigious Occurrences of this Importance, which have been among us.  Many True and Strange Occurrences from the invisible World, in these parts of the World, are faultily buried in Oblivion.  But some of those very stupendous Things have had their Memory preserv’d in written Memorials of Faithful Men… (with) Publick …Evidence, that no Resonable Man …ever did question them… but here my Pen always more in the Fear of God…’

Ann Cole (Matter continues…)

“The First Example.  Ann Cole, a Person of ferious Piety, living in the House of her Godly Father at Hartford, in the year 1662 (or 1667 unreadable), was taken with very strange Fits wherein her Tongue was improv’d by a Demon, to express this unknown to her self.  The general Purpose of the Discourse, which held sometimes for a considerable while, was, that such and such Persons named in the Discourse, were consulting how they might carry on mischievous Designs against her and several others, by afflicting their bodies or destroying their good Names… Demons were heard saying, ‘Let us confound her Language, that for may tell no more Tales…’  When Ministers began to read what they did, she was in such a Rage, that she could have torn them to pieces; and she was resolved upon the Denial of her Guilt.  But after they had read a while (from the Holy Scriptures), she was as if her Flesh were pull’d from her Bones, and she could no longer deny what they charged upon her… She said she had made a Formal Covenant with the Devil…  She declar’d that her Devil appear’d unto her first in the Shape of Deer, skipping about her, and at last proceeded so far as in that Shape to talk with her.  And that the Devil had frequently carnal Knowledge of her (sex – as in demons during the time of Noah).   Upon this Confession, with other concurrent Evidence, the Woman was Executed, and other Persons accused, made their Escape…”

Elizabeth Knap (Cotton continues)

“The Second Example.  In the Town of Groton, one Elizabeth Knap (Knapp) October 1671 was taken after a very strange manner, sometimes weeping, sometimes laughing, sometimes roaring, with violent Agitations, crying out ‘Money, Money!’  Her Tongue would be for many Hours together drawn like a Semicircle, up to the Roof of her mouth… Six Men were scarce able to hold her in some of her Fits; but she would skip about the House yelling and Fowling (cursing?), and looking hideously.  On Dec. 17, her Tongue being drawn out of her mouth to an extraordinary Length, a Demon (Dæmon) began manifestly to speak in her for many Words were differently uttered… without any motion of her Lips at all… sometimes when her mouth was wholly shut… The chief things that the Demons spoke, were horrid Railings against the Godly Ministers of the Town; but sometimes he likewise belch’d out most nefandous (wicked) Blasphemies against the God of Heaven.  And one thing about this young Woman was yet more particularly remarkable: See cry’d out in her Fits, that a certain Woman in the Neighborhood appear’d unto her, and was the only Cause of her Affliction.  The Woman that cry’d out upon, was doubtless and Holy, a Devout, a Virtuous Person and she, by the advice of her Friends, visited the Afflicted…  But this Innocent Woman was thus accused and abused by a malicious Devil, pray’d earnestly with and for this possess’d Creature: Whereupon coming to herself, she (Elizabeth) confessed, that she had been deluded by Satan, and compelled by him unreasonably to think and speak Evil of a good Neighbor without a Cause.  After this, there was no further Complaint of such an ones Apparition; but she said, some Devil in the Shape of divers, did very diversly (in different forms) and cruelly torment her, and then told her, it was not he but she but they that were her Tormentors.”

House of William Morse (Cotton continues)

“The Third Example.  In the year 1679, the House of William Morse at Newberry was infected with Demons after a most horrid manner, not altogether unlike the Demons of Tedworth.  It would fill many Pages to relate all the Infestations… Bricks, and Sticks, and Stones, were often by some invisible Hand, thrown at the House… A Cat was thrown at the Woman of the House, and a long Staff danc’d up and down in the Chimney… and same long Staff… swung to and fro; and when two persons laid it on the Fire to burn it, it was as much as they were able to do with their joint Strength to hold it there… a Chair flew about the Room… Keys of the Family were taken… loud Noises… While the Man was at prayer with his Household… he was struck on his Head behind… Frozen Clods of Cow dung were often thrown at the Man; and his Wife going to milk the Cows… the Cellar Trap-door …shut upon her an Invisible Hand… A little boy to the Family was a principal Sufferer in these Molestations; for he was flung about at such a rate, that they fear’d his Brains would have been beaten out… His Bed-cloathes would be pull’d from him, his Bed shaken… the Knives belonging to the House were one after another stuck into his Back, which Spectators pull’d out… For a long while the boy bark’d like a Dog… And another time a Drumming on the Boards was heard, which was follow’d with a Voice that sang, Revenge! Revenge!  Sweet is Revenge!  At this the People being terrify’d call’d upon God: Whereupon there follow’d a mournful Note, several times uttering these Expressions, Atlas! Atlas! We knock no more… And there was an End of all.”

Cotton cites a ‘Fourth Example’ of a House at Hartford in 1683 where ‘Cobs of Indian Corn, and other such things, from an Invisible Hand’ were through in and at various things.  The owner was ‘a Quaker, and suspected’ a certain ‘Woman… by Witchcraft.’  He cited a ‘Sixth Example’ in June 1682, Antonio and Mary Hortado seeing different apparitions and things thrown about their property by ‘an invisible hand.’

Philip Smith (Cotton continues)

“The seventh example.  Philip Smith, aged about 50 Years, a Son of eminently Virtuous Parents, a Deacon of the Church in Hadley… a Justice in the Countrey Court… a Lieutenant of the Troop… exceeding Exemplary… in the Winter of the Year 1684, murder’d with an hideous Witchcraft… by a Woman who had threatened him and made impressions with inchantments upon him… He became.. Delirious; upon which he had a Speech (afflictions) …in various Languages.  He cry’d out, not only of Pains, but also of Pins, tormenting him in several parts of his Body; and the Attendants found one of them… They beheld Fire sometimes on the Bed… Divers People actually felt something often stir in the Bed… as big as a Cat, but they could never grasp it… A very strong Man could not lift the sick Man to make him lie more easily… Mr. Smith dies: The Jury that view’d his Corpse found a Swelling on one Breast; his Privities wounded or burn’d, his Back full Bruises, and several Holes… After the Opinion of all had pronounc’d him dead, his Countenance continued as Lively as if he had been Alive…  Thus he remain’d from Saturday Morning till Sabbath-day in the Afternoon… him still warm… during a New-English Winter… but on Monday morning they found the Face extremely discolour’d… black and blue and fresh Blood running down his Cheek… Divers Noises were also heard in the Room where the Corpse lay… This was the End of so good a Man.  And I could with unquestionable Evidence relate the Tragical Deaths of several Good Men in this Land, attended with such preternatural Circumstances, which have loudly call’d upon us all to work out our own Salvation with Fear and Trembling.”  (quoting – Philippians 2:12)

Mary Johnson (Cotton continues)

The ‘Eighth Example’ is “Mary Johnson …she said her first Familiarity with the Devil came through Discontent and wishing the Devil to take this and that and to do… A devil accordingly did for her many Services.  Her master blamed her for not carrying out the ashes; and a devil afterwards would clear the Hearth of Ashes for her… a Devil would make her laugh (when) he seized the Hogs… She confessed that she had murdered a Child, and committed Uncleanness both with Men and with Devils.  In the time of her imprisonment, the famous Mr. Stone was at great pains to promote her Conversion form the Devil to God… before her Execution… she went out of the World with comfortable Hopes of Mercy from God through the merit of our Saviour.  Being asked what she built her Hopes upon, she answered, Upon the Words; Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you Rest; and There is a Fountain open for Sin and Uncleanness.  And she dy’d in a Frame extremely to the Satisfaction of them that were Spectators of it.”

John Goodwin’s Children (Cotton continues)

“The Ninth Example.  Four Children of John Goodwin in Boston… Children indeed of an exemplary temper…  These were in the year 1688, arrested by a very stupendous Witchcraft.  The Eldest… 13 …very bad Language… taken with odd Fits, that carried in them something Diabolical.  It was not long before one of her sisters, with two of her brothers, were horribly taken with the like Fits, which the most Experience’d Physicians pronounced Extraordinary and preternatural and one thing that the more confirmed them in this Opinion was, that all the Children were tormented still just the same part of their Bodies, at the same time, though their Pains flew like swift Lightning from one part unto another, and they were kept so far asunder, that they neither saw nor heard one another’s Complaints… Sometimes they were Deaf, sometimes Dumb, sometimes Blind, and often all this at once.  Their Tongues …to a prodigious Length; their mouths were forced open… that their Jaws were out of Joint… and the like would happen to their Shoulder-blades and the elbows and Hand wrists… They made piteous Out-cries, they were cut with Knives and struck with Blows… They Necks would be broken… their Heads would be twisted almost round: And if the main Force of their Friends at any time obstructed a dangerous Motion which they seem’d upon, they would roar exceedingly:  And when Devotions were performed with them, their Hearing was utterly taken from them.  The Ministers of Boston and Charlestown, keeping a Day of Prayer with Fasting, on this occasion, at the troubl’d House, the youngest of the Four Children was immediately, happily, and finally deliver’d from all its Trouble.   But the Magistrates being awakened by the Noise of these Grievous and Horrid Occurrences, examined the Person (called Glover) who was under the suspicion of having employed these Troublesome Demons and she gave such a Wretched Account of her self, that she was committed unto the Jailor’s Custody…’

‘(At)… her Trial …she answered only in Irish, although she understood English very well… When she pleaded to her indictment, it was with owning and Bragging, rather than Denial of her Guilt…  The Interpreters (discovered) …that a Spell had been laid by another Witch to prevent her telling Tales (speaking English)… The Woman’s House being searched, revealed Images or Puppets or Babies, made of Raggs, and stuffed with Goats Hair… she confessed to Tormenting the Objects of her Malice by wetting her Finger with her Spittle and stroking the little images… One of the images brought unto her, she oddly and swiftly started up, and snatch’d it into her Hand… and one of the Children fell into Fits before the whole Assembly.  The Judges had their just Apprehensions… of the Witch, but repented the Experiment… They ask’d her whether she had any to stand by her? (testify on her behalf) She reply’d, She had: And looking very pertly into the Air, she added, No, he’s gone!  She acknowledg’d that she had one, who was her Prince… she was heard expostulating with a Devil for his thus deserting her, telling him, that because he had served her so basely and falsely, she had confessed all.’

“The Court appointed five or six Physicians to examine her very strictly, whether she were no way crazed in her Intellectuals.  Divers Hours did they spend with her… When they ask’d her, what she thought would become of her Soul, she reply’d, ‘You ask me a very solemn Question, and I cannot tell what to say to it.’  She profess her self a Roman Catholick, and could recite her Pater-noster (Our Father / Lord’s Prayer) in Latin… but there was one Clause or two …she said, she ‘could not repeat it, if she might have all the World.’ …She was sentenced to Death… (Before this) one of the Hughes Children …at Night… was tortur’d …(where an invisible) Hand in the Bed try to pull out his bowels.  The Mother of the Boy went… and asked her, Why she tortured her poor Lad at such a rate? And Glover then desiring to see the Boy, wished him well; upon which he had no more of his Indispositions… (she told) that she did use to be at Meetings, where her Prince with Four more were present.  She told me who the Four were, and plainly said, that her Prince was the Devil.  When I told her that and how her prince had cheated her, she reply’d, ‘If it be so, I am sorry for that’ and said she ‘would give me a full answer, but her Spirits would not give her leave.’   She… (asked) that ‘I should pray for her.’   At her Execution, she said, the afflicted Children should not be relieved by her Death, for others besides she, had a hand in their Affliction.  Accordingly the Three Children continued int their Furnace as before; and it grew rather seven times hotter… one of the Children was able to discern their Shapes and utter their Names… (Cotton goes on for paragraphs listing their torments) …Sometimes they would be very mad… climb over high Fences… be carry’d with an incredible Swiftness through the Air… and their Arms wav’d like Wings of a Bird.  They were often very near Drowning or Burning themselves; and they often strangled themselves with their Neck clothes… If there were any Discourse of God, or Christ, or any of the Things which are not seen, and are Eternal, they would be cast into intolerable Anguishes.  All praying to God and reading of His Word, would occasion them a very terrible Vexation… If any one in the Room took up a Bible, to look into it, tho’ the Children could see nothing of it, as being in a Crowd of Spectators, or having their Faces another way, yet would they be in Torments, till the Bible was laid aside…  If I said, Child, cry to the Lord Jesus Christ! Their teeth would set… and their eyes were instantly pull’d so far into their Heads, that we fear’d they could never have us’d them any more.’

“It was the Eldest of their Children that fell chiefly under my own Observation: for I took her home to my own Family, partly out of compassion to her Parents, but chiefly, that I might be a critical Eye Witness of things that would enable me to confute the Sadducism (the Jewish Sadducees did not believe in the Resurrection) of this Debauched Age.  Here she continued well for some Days… But Nov. 20, 1688, she cry’d out, Ah, they have found me out! And immediately she fell into her Fits; wherein we often observed, that she would cough up a Ball as big as a small Egg… into her Wind pipe… When I pray’d in the Room, first her Hands …(cover) her Ears… she cry’d out, They make such a Noise, I cannot hear a Word!  She complained that Glover’s Chain was upon her Leg; and after saying so, her Gate was exactly such as the chain’d Witch had before she dy’d.  …She told us, that she must go down to the bottom of our Well, for they said there was Plate there, and they would bring her up safely again… We had newly bought the House, and were ignorant of it, but the former Owner… told us There had been Plate for many Years left at the Bottom of the Well… An invisible Chain would be clapt about her and she in much pain and Fear, cry out when they began to put it on… she was pulled towards the Fire… and choked by the neck… If the Name of God and Christ… or a Bible was opened… she would be cast into hideous Convulsions, and be toss about the House like a Foot ball… Quaker books they would not allow her to read… Popish (Catholic) Books they would not hinder her from reading, but …Books against the Popery.  A Book which attended to prove That there are no Witches, was easily read by her; only the Name Devils and Witches might not be utter’d.  A Book which proves That there are Witches… she might not read it.  And that Expression in the Story of Ann Cole, about running to the Rock (Chirst), always threw her into sore Confusions… (Cotton after many paragraphs tells how she would be) carried from her Chair, out of the Room… The Demons would pull her out of Peoples Hands, and make her heavier than perhaps Three of her self…  She would be faint as first, and say, she felt something go out of her!’

“…When we went unto prayer, the Demons would throw her on the Floor at the Feet of him that pray’d, where she would… yell to drown the Voice of the Prayer, and she would fetch Blows, with her Fist, and Kicks with her Foot, at the Man that pray’d: but still her fist and foot would always recoil, when they came within an Inch or two of him, as if rebounding against a Wall; and then she would beg other people to strike him… (the) she would cry, He has wounded me in the Head.  But before the Prayer was over, she would be laid for dead… with her Belly swell’d like a Drum; and sometimes with croaking Noised in her… (at times) two days laid out for dead.  Once lying thus, as he that was praying, was alluding to the Words of the Canaanite (Matthew 15:22), and saying, Lord, have mercy on a Daughter vex’d with a Devil, there came a big, but low Voice from her, in which the Spectators did not see her Mouth to move, There’s two or three of us…. When Christmas arrived, both she at my House, and her Sister at home, were by the Demon made very drunk, tho’ they had no Strong Drink… At last the Demons put her upon saying that she was dying… she argu’d concerning Death… she concluded, that tho’ she was to die… the Indians would quickly shed much Blood in the Countrey… Thus the Vexations of the Children ended.  But after a while, they began again; and then one particular Minister taking a particular Compassion on the Family, set himself to serve them in the Methods prescribed by our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 17:21; I personally have only fasted about 3 times for about 72 hours – no food or drink – and saw mighty works of God).  According, the Lord being sought thrice in Three Days of Prayer, with Fasting on this occasion, the Family then saw their Deliverance perfected, and the Children afterwards… not only approv’d themselves Devout Christians; but unto the Praise of God reckoned these their Afflictions among the special Incentives of their Christianity.  The Ministers of Boston and Charlestown… printed these things with their Attestation to the Truth of it.  And it was reprinted at London…”

Winlock Curtis (Cotton continues)

“The Tenth Example.  William Davies with Nine Sailors, whereof one was a Negro, and one Boy… 1695 in the Ship called The Margaret… bound for Barbadoes… one of the Sailors, named Winlock Curtis, being at the Helm… called unto the Captain, telling him, that he could steer no longer… the Captain ask’d him the Reason… he said that ‘he had but a little time to tarry here’ …a Spirit appeared… accusing him of killing a Woman; which he said, that he had left alive… The Sailor declared …he would never hearken to the Devil, and requested …a Bible… the next day he was seized and …thrown down upon the Deck in a great Agony… he was strangled with a Great Lump in his neck… a few days he came a little to himself… talking of the visions which he saw in the Air, and of a Spirit coming for him… the crew bound him… then under a Gale… Jan. 17, in the North Lat. 19… increase winds came upon the Ship… the Hatches flying out, she was immediately so full of Water, that it was impossible to recover her… the Boy sleeping in the Cabin drown… About a Fortnight (2 weeks) after this, John Jones an …Winlock Curtis were carry’d away… And about a Fortnight further, the Negro not in his right Mind, and another Sailor, were in the Night carry’d away… (floating on boards the survivors) came to Barbados, and there they made Oath to the Truth of this Narrative.”

Cotton continues:

“The Eleventh Example.  Reader, into this Chapter… I published in a Book about the Causes and Cure of a wounded Spirit.  ‘There are very cruel Self Murders whereto the Wounds on Peoples Consciences have driven them.  Such a Consternation (feeling of anxiety) is upon them, that they can’t pitch upon any other Project for their own Repose, than that of Hanging, Drowning, Stabbing, Poisoning or some such Foaming piece of Madness.  But, in God’s Name, think again, before you do so vile a thing!  Think, by whose Impulse tis that you are dragg’d into this curs’d Action.  Truly tis a more than ordinary Impulse of the Devil, whereof I have seen most prodigious Evidences.  One that came to me with a wounded Soul, after all that I could plead with him, left me with these Words, Well, the Devil will have me after all!  …The sensible assistance which the Devil has frequently among us, given to these unnatural Executions, does manifestly show, that They who dogg’d the Swine into the Deep of old, are the same that compel Persons to be so much worse than Swine, as to kill themselves…’

“Moreover, the strange obstructions that are given to Mens coming into a Probability of Deliverance from their Hurries, do further manifest, that the Armies of Hell are herein beleaguering of them.  How often have People been at a Minister’s door (remember this is 300+ years ago) to have spoken with him; but having no power to knock, they have gone away and laid violent hands upon themselves.  People at the Threshold of this very Meeting-House, have had a forcible and furious kind of whisper made into their Minds that they must be gone to some other Congregation… It seems the bloody Demons had unto their Vexation, some way learnt what I was to preach about.  The Result of all is thus much, since tis the Devil which puts you upon thus wronging of yourselves, don’t resign your selves unto the Conduct of that hellish Murderer.  Are the Devil’s Hands so desirable that you will throw yourselves into them, while the Hands of the Saviour are yet open to receive you, to relieve you!  Oh, do thyself no harm!”

Cotton continues

“The Twelfth Example… A Physician who sojourned within a Furlong of my own House.  This Physician for three Nights …(had) dreams of his being drown’d… into extreme Sweats… Two Friends asked him to go with them by boat… He (told the) Friends… why should I mind my Dreams, or mistrust the Devine Providence?  He went with them, and before Night, a Thunderstorm suddenly came and they all drown’d.”

(Note: It was reported by many sources and witnesses that May 27, 1987 a 40 year old attorney, Graves Thomas of Shreveport, LA; who stood in a boat during a thunderstorm, raised his hands and proclaimed towards the heavens, ‘Here I am;’ and immediately afterwards, he was struck dead by a lightning bolt.  Three people were in the boat with him, and a young woman in the water preparing to ski.  At the time, the former state prosecutor, Thomas was representing R. Richie accused of recklessness in a boating accident that killed 3 people.)

Cotton continues

“The Thirteenth Example.  In this present Evil World, it is no Wonder that the Operations of the Evil Angels are more sensible than of the Good ones…  The Fourteenth Example.  To conclude our Wonders of the Invisible World, there will doubtless be expected an Account of the Wonders that afflicted New-England in the Year 1692.  Now having in my Hands a most unexceptionable Account… In the latter end of the Year 1691.  Mr. Paris, Pastor of the Church in Salem-Village had a Daughter of Nine, and a Niece of about eleven… sadly afflicted of they knew not what Distempers; and tho’ he made his Application to Physicians yet still they grew worse.  At length one Physician gave his Opinion that they were under an Evil Hand.  This the Neighbors took up, and concluded, they were bewitched.  He had also an Indian Man-servant and his Wife, who afterwards confessed that without the Knowledge of their master and mistress, they had taken some of the afflicted Persons Urine, and mixing it with Meal (corn), had made a Cake, and bak’d it, to find out the Witch, as they said.  After this, the afflicted Persons cry’d out of the Indian Woman nam’d Tituba, that she did pinch, prick and grievously torment them; and that they saw her… where nobody else could… with Humane Sight.  These Children were bitten and pinch’d by invisible Agents… and put into Epiletick (Epileptic) Fits, or natural Diseases to effect.   Sometimes they were taken dumb, their Mouths stopped, their Throats choak’d, their Limbs rack’d and tormented… (See) Mr. Mather’s Book of Memorable Providences… how persons suffered by the hand of Satan… Some neighbor minsters consulted together… and concluded they were preternatural, and feared the hand of Satan was in them…  They examined Tituba, who confessed the making a Cake… and said, her Mistress in her own Countrey was a Witch, and had taught her some means to be used for the Discovery of a Witch, and for prevention of being bewitched; but said, that she herself was not a Witch… (they) advised during these Molestations… to seek the Lord, that He would rebuke Satan and be a Light unto His People… The Magistrates at Salem… accused …Tituba and said she confessed she was a Witch… and did bewitch the (certain people) …and had Witch-meetings… they sent Tituba and O. and G. to Prison upon suspicion of acting Witchcraft… Tituba … was tormented by her Fellow-Witches… and found to have upon her Body the Marks of Devil’s wounding her.”

Cotton goes on to speak about the Salem Witch Trials where it was stated, ‘the number of the afflicted daily increased until about 50 persons were vex’d by the Devil.  This gave just ground to suspect some Mistake, which gave advantage to the Accuser of the Brethren (Satan, from Job) to make a Breach upon us… Nineteen were executed, all denied the Crime to the death and some of them were knowing Persons and had before this been accounted blameless Livers.  And, it is not to be imagined, but that if all had been guilty, some would have had so much Tenderness, as to seek Mercy for their Souls, in the way of Confession and Sorrow for such a sin… (nevertheless, after the Trials) and for five years since (Cotton stated) we have no such molestation by them… (he continues a bit and concludes speaking about another Author)  the Author spends whole Chapters to prove that there yet is a Witch: and he gives this Definition of one; a Person, that having the free use of Reason, does knowingly and willingly seek and obtain of the Devil or of any other god, besides the true God Jehovah, an ability to do or know strange things, or things which he (she) cannot by his own Humane Abilities arrive unto.  This Person is a Witch…”

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