|Born||July 12, 1680|
|Died||unknown, possibly 1697 (aged 17)|
|Known for||First accuser in the Salem witch trials|
|Home town||Salem, Massachusetts|
Abigail Williams (July 12, 1680 – c. October 1697) was one of the initial accusers in the Salem witch trials, which led to the arrest and imprisonment of more than 150 innocent people suspected of witchcraft.
Salem Witch Trials
Abigail and her cousin Betty Parris were the first two accusers in the Salem Witch trials of 1692 and 1693. Williams was twelve years old at the time, and she was living with her uncle Samuel Parris in Salem after Native Americans murdered her parents during a raid. According to eyewitness Rev. Deodat Lawson, she and Betty 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.
This alarmed many of the villagers of Salem. Local minister Rev. Samuel Parris decided to call in a doctor to determine whether or not these afflictions were medical. Dr. William Griggs had difficulty understanding the actions of the two young girls. He believed that it was not a medical issue and suggested that it must be witchcraft. One of Parris’ slaves named 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 the dog would exhibit similar symptoms if Abigail and Betty were bewitched, and it would prove that witchcraft was indeed being practiced.
Further accusations were soon made because of Abigail and Betty's claims to be possessed, resulting in 20 deaths. Three women were arrested for suspicion of witchcraft on February 29, 1692: Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba herself. They were all found guilty, but the only one to confess was Tituba. Sarah Good was hanged and Sarah Osborne died in prison. Tituba was released from jail a year later, when Rev. Samuel Parris paid her fees for release. Abigail and Betty's accusations rapidly spread throughout Salem and nearby villages (especially Andover), leading to the imprisonment of many people and the deaths of 19 during 1692–93. After 1692 Abigail Williams disappears from written records, making it impossible for historians to know about her life after the trials.
In 1976, Linnda R. Caporael put forward the hypothesis that these strange symptoms may have been caused by ergotism, the ingestion of fungus-infected rye. This explanation has not been widely accepted.
Abigail Williams accused a great many people of witchcraft, but only took part in eight of the trials, vanished about half-way through, and there are no solid records indicating what happened to her after the witch-trials ended. Some have rumored that Mercy Lewis (another girl involved in the trials) and Abigail Williams left Salem on a ship and years later, found Abigail as a prostitute in Boston, Massachusetts.
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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 Betty Parris start to name people as witches in order to divert suspicion from themselves. And though Williams' fate after the trials is unknown, in an epilogue of the play titled 'Echoes down the corridor' Miller states that according to the legend, Abigail sailed to Boston where she then became a prostitute. 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. In the 1957 and 1996 film adaptations of the play, Abigail was portrayed by Mylène Demongeot and Winona Ryder, respectively.
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.
The garage rock band Kiriae Crucible wrote a song called "The Salem Witch Trial" in 1968. It was released by Cuca Records.
The Crucible version of Abigail Williams appears in the comic adaptation of the 2013 Telltale Game The Wolf Among Us.
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, eventually being hanged for these false accusations by her father to divert suspicions from himself and appease the folk of Salem..
She appears in the mobile game Fate/Grand Order as a Foreigner-class servant, debuting in the story as a character in the final chapter of the game's Epic of Remnant arc, which is called "Eternal Salem".
- Marilynne Roach, The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege (Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing, 2004), 700, 752; Mary Beth Norton, In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 (New York: Vintage, 2003), 311.
- Yost, Melissa (2002). "Abigail Williams". Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project. Charlottesville, Virginia: University of Virginia. Retrieved March 16, 2014.
- Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974 (pp. 2-3)
- Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974 (p. 3).
- Games, Alison. Witchcraft in Early North America. Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2010 (p. 176)
- Hall, David. Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth-Century New England. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1999 (pp. 280-81)
- Emerson W. Baker, A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 234.
- Ergotism: The Satan Loosed in Salem?[permanent dead link] - Science, vol. 192, April 1976
- "Were the witches of Salem a result of poisoning with ergot fungus?". Retrieved June 18, 2015.
- "1702, Exploring Aftermath of The Crucible, Will Play Cincinnati". Archived from the original on 2013-01-10.
- 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.
- "iTunes - Music - Abigail's Cross". apple.com. Retrieved May 22, 2015.