10 June 2011

Bridget Bishop Hanged

On this day, June 10, in 1692, Bridget Bishop was executed. No, she wasn't burnt. Nobody was burnt in Salem. She was hanged.

Bishop's execution was the first. The witch-hunting fever would continue for months. A total of 19 people would be hanged, one would die of the pressing of stones, and several would die in prison.

The trial of Mrs Bishop included the following exchange:

Q: Bishop, what do you say? You stand here charged with sundry acts of witchcraft by you done or committed upon the bodies of Mercy Lewis and Ann Putman and others.

A: I am innocent, I know nothing of it, I have done no witchcraft .... I am as innocent as the child unborn. ....

Q: Goody Bishop, what contact have you made with the Devil?

A: I have made no contact with the Devil. I have never seen him before in my life.


I have to wonder whether the word "contact" in that exchange is a mistranscription of "contract," which is surely what the one party meant to ask about and the other meant to deny.


Henry said...

Savonarola is another person who is widely thought to have been burned at the stake but who was in fact hanged. Under his and two other friars' hanging bodies was a pile of firewood. "Angry spectators, it seems, in an unslaked desire to inflict pain, tried to ignite the firewood before the friars were dead, but were repulsed." The fire was started after they were dead, and the bodies were was soon enveloped. My source is Lauro Martines' Fire in the City: Savonarola and the Struggle for Renaissance Florence (2006), pp. 275-276.

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