Betty Parris

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Elizabeth "Betty" Parris
Born (1682-11-28)November 28, 1682
Salem, Massachusetts
Died March 21, 1760(1760-03-21) (aged 77)
Sudbury, Massachusetts
Known for One of the first accusers in the Salem witch trials

Elizabeth "Betty" Parris (November 28, 1682 – March 21, 1760) was one of the chief accusers in the Salem witch trials of 1692. Although she was aged only nine at the beginning of the trials, the accusations made by Betty and her cousin Abigail caused the direct death of 20 Salem residents: 19 people were hanged and one person was pressed to death.

Early life[edit]

Betty was born in Boston on November 28, 1682, to the Reverend Samuel Parris and his wife Elizabeth Parris. Betty's older brother Thomas was born in 1681, and her younger sister Susannah was born in 1687. Elizabeth was often referred to as "Betty" to avoid being confused with her mother, with whom she shared her first name.

The Salem witch trials[edit]

In winter 1691, Elizabeth "Betty" Parris and her cousin Abigail Williams undertook experiments in fortune telling, using a device known as a "venus glass" (a type of mirror). The girls mainly focused on their future social status, and specifically on the trade in which their husbands would be employed. These fortune-telling secrets were shared with other young women in the area. On one occasion, the glass revealed the horrendous specter of a coffin that, as the Rev. John Hale reported in A Modest Inquiry into the Nature of Witchcraft (1702), led to "diabolical molestation.".

Betty Parris' reported 'afflictions' began in January 1692. She began to forget errands, was unable to concentrate, and was said to have seemed wrapped in some secret preoccupation. She was reported to be unable to concentrate at prayer time and barked like a dog when her father would rebuke her. She screamed wildly when she heard the Lord's prayer and was once said to have hurled a Bible across the room. After these episodes, she sobbed distractedly and spoke of being damned. She seemed to see damnation as inevitable, perhaps because of her practicing fortune telling. Initially, Rev. Parris believed that prayer could cure her odd behavior, but his efforts were ineffective.

The 'affliction' manifested itself as odd postures, foolish and ridiculous speech, distempers, and fits. John Hale described the children as looking like they "were bitten and pinched by invisible agents; their arms, necks, and backs turned this way and that way, and returned again, so as it was impossible for them to do of themselves, and beyond the power of Epileptick fits, or natural disease to effect. Sometimes they were taken dumb, their mouths stopped, their throats choked, their limbs wracked and tormented so as might move a heart of stone to sympathize with them." The local physician, William Griggs, diagnosed Betty Parris as being afflicted by the "Evil Hand," commonly known as witchcraft, considered a crime in Salem at this time.

On February 29, 1692, Betty Parris and Abigail Williams named Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba as witches after intense questioning. Betty Parris testified she was tormented by spectral visions of these women. During their trials, Betty would cry out when the accused moved her arms, legs, or head. Betty Parris was also involved in the conviction of Martha Corey. At Martha Corey's trial, those who had accused Corey of witchcraft sat together and proceeded to imitate Martha's every action.

At the end of March 1692, Betty was sent to live with Rev. Samuel Parris' distant cousin, Stephen Sewall. On March 25, Betty related that 'the Great Black Man came to her, and told her, if she would be ruled by him, she should have whatsoever she desired, and go to a Golden City.' Stephen Sewall's wife told Betty that it had been the Devil who approached her and to dismiss him.

Life after the Salem Witch Trials[edit]

In 1710, Elizabeth "Betty" Parris, 28, married Benjamin Baron, a yeoman, trader, cordwainer, and shoemaker. She bore Benjamin four children: Thomas, Elizabeth, Catherine, and Susanna. Betty survived her husband by six years, passing away on March 21, 1760.[1]

Appearances in fiction and films[edit]

Betty Parris appears as Samuel Parris' daughter in John Neal's historical novel, Rachel Dyer (1828). [2][better source needed]

Betty Parris is a supporting character in Arthur Miller's play The Crucible.

In the book Gallows Hill by Lois Duncan, the main character, Sarah Zoltanne, realizes that she was Betty Parris in a former life after having dreams and visions from Betty's perspective.[3][better source needed]


  1. ^ Roach, Marilynne K., "That Child, Betty Parris," Essex Institute Historical Collections Vol. 124, No. 1 1988: 1-27.
  2. ^ Neal, John (1828). Rachel Dyer: a North American Story. Shirley and Hyde. 
  3. ^ "Image of headstone for Elizabeth Parris". Retrieved 21 October 2011.