Abigail Williams (Salem witch trials)

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Abigail Williams
Born (1680-07-12)July 12, 1680
Died Presumably in late 1692.[1]
Occupation Unknown; may have died before the trials ended [2]
Known for First accuser in the Salem witch trials
Home town Salem, Massachusetts Bay Colony

Abigail Williams (July 12, 1680 – c. late 1692) was one of the initial accusers in the Salem witch trials of 1692, which led to the arrest and imprisonment of more than 150 accused witches.[3]

Salem Witch Trials[edit]

Abigail and her cousin, Betty Parris, were the first two accusers in the Salem Witch trials of 1692. Williams was eleven years old at the time and she was living with her uncle Samuel Parris in Salem after a raid by Native Americans resulted in the killing of her parents. According to Rev Deodat Lawson, an eyewitness, she and Elizabeth began to have fits in which they ran around rooms flailing their arms, ducking under chairs and trying to climb up the chimney. It is claimed that her body contorted into apparently impossible positions.[citation needed]

This troubled many of the villagers of Salem. Rev. Samuel Parris, the local minister, decided to call in a doctor to determine whether or not these afflictions were medical. The physician, William Griggs, had difficulties understanding the actions of the two young girls. Griggs believed it was not a medical issue, rather, he suggested it must be witchcraft. One of Parris’ slaves, Tituba, was then asked to bake a witch cake — rye mixed with the afflicted girls' urine— and feed the mixture to a dog. The theory was that if Abigail and Elizabeth were bewitched, the dog would exhibit similar symptoms and prove that witchcraft was indeed present and being practiced.[4]

Due to Abigail and Elizabeth's claims to be possessed, false accusations would soon be made, resulting in 20 deaths. On February 29, 1692, three women were arrested for suspicion of witchcraft: Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne and Tituba herself.[5] They were all found guilty, but the only one to confess was Tituba. Since the other two women did not confess, Good was hanged, and Osborne died in prison. Tituba was released from jail a year later, when an unknown person paid her fees for release.[6] Abigail and Elizabeth's accusations rapidly spread throughout Salem and nearby villages (especially Andover), leading to the imprisonment of many people and the deaths of 19 during that period (1692–93) alone.[7]

In 1976, Linnda R. Caporael[8] put forward the theory that these strange symptoms may have been caused by ergotism, the ingestion of fungus-infected rye. This explanation has not been widely accepted.[9]


Nicole Ehinger portraying Abigail Williams in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice"

Abigail Williams is a major character in the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller, but she is portrayed as 17 years old, roughly five years older than her true age. It is gradually revealed that she has been dancing in the woods with the girls of Salem and performing voodoo rituals with her uncle's slave, Tituba. When rumors begin to circulate that there is witchcraft in the town, Abigail and Elizabeth Parris start to name people as witches in order to divert suspicion from themselves. In the stage play, The Crucible, Abigail has previously worked as a maid at the Proctor household and had an affair with John Proctor. Hoping to marry John, Abigail accuses John's wife Elizabeth of witchcraft in the hopes that Elizabeth will be executed. But she is frustrated when she sees that her cousin Elizabeth Parris is trying to protect John's wife Elizabeth. In the 1957 and 1996 film adaptations of the play, Abigail was portrayed by Mylène Demongeot and Winona Ryder, respectively.

A "sequel" to The Crucible, Abigail/1702, by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa debuted in 2013.[10] The play fictionally depicts Williams' life a decade after the events of The Crucible.

Williams featured in the 2010 film The Sorcerer's Apprentice as a minor antagonist. Horvath, the film's antagonist, releases her from a magical prison called "The Grimhold" and uses her to kidnap the love interest of the protagonist, Dave. After the kidnapping is complete, Horvath absorbs Abigail's powers and steals her pentagram amulet which channels her power. By doing so, Horvath becomes more powerful and is finally able to free his master, Morgana.[citation needed]

The American black metal band Abigail Williams is named after her.[11]

The metalcore band Motionless In White wrote a song called "Abigail", inspired by The Crucible and written from the perspective of John Proctor.[citation needed]

A Spanish punk rock group named Abigail's Cross depicts Abigail on both of their album covers.[12]

The 2014 video game "Murdered: Soul Suspect" portrays Abigail Williams as the hidden antagonist, although her origin differs from her real-life counterpart, as the motivation behind her accusations during the witch trials was because she was forced and manipulated by her abusive father into accusing his personal enemies of being witches, before being caught and then hanged by the people of Salem.

The television show Hannibal had a character named Abigail Hobbs. Through events in the show, it becomes clear this was a reference to the Abigail Williams from the Salem Witch trials.


  1. ^ Roach, Marilynne (July 22, 2004). The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege (1 ed.). Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing. p. 700, 752. ISBN 1589791320. Retrieved October 23, 2015. 
  2. ^ Brooks, Rebecca. "Abigail Williams: The Mysterious Afflicted Girl". History of Massachusetts. Rebecca Brooks. Retrieved 2015-10-23. 
  3. ^ Yost, Melissa (2002). "Abigail Williams". Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project. Charlottesville, Virginia: University of Virginia. Retrieved March 16, 2014. 
  4. ^ Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974 (pp. 2-3)
  5. ^ Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974 (p. 3).
  6. ^ Games, Alison. Witchcraft in Early North America. Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2010 (p. 176)
  7. ^ Hall, David. Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth-Century New England. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1999 (pp. 280-81)
  8. ^ Ergotism: The Satan Loosed in Salem? - Science, vol. 192, April 1976
  9. ^ "Were the witches of Salem a result of poisoning with ergot fungus?". Retrieved June 18, 2015. 
  10. ^ "1702, Exploring Aftermath of The Crucible, Will Play Cincinnati". 
  11. ^ Bowar, Chad (November 19, 2008). "Abigail Williams Interview: A Conversation with Thomas G. Plaguehammer and Ken Sorceron". About.com: Heavy Metal. About.com. Retrieved February 6, 2010. 
  12. ^ "iTunes - Music - Abigail's Cross". apple.com. Retrieved May 22, 2015.