Abigail Williams

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Abigail Williams
Abigail Rogers

circa 1681
Known forFirst accuser in the Salem witch trials
Home townSalem, Massachusetts

Abigail Williams (born circa 1681)[1] was an 11 or 12-year-old girl who, along with her nine-year-old cousin Betty Parris, was among the first of the children who accused her neighbor John Proctor of witchcraft; her accusations eventually led to the Salem witch trials.

Salem trials[edit]

In early 1692, Abigail Williams and Betty Parris were both living in the household of Betty's father, the village pastor Samuel Parris, along with his two slaves Tituba and John Indian. This group would play an outsize role in the accusations to come.

Tituba was part of a group of three women — with Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne — who were the very first to be arrested, on February 29, 1692, under the accusation that their specters (ghosts) were afflicting the young girls in Parris' household. The three women were questioned separately but were aware of each other and, in a classic prisoner's dilemma, they were turned against each other. Sarah Good was the first interrogated and held to her innocence. Judge John Hathorne directed all "the children... to look upon her and see if this were the person that hurt them... and they all did look upon her" and claimed her specter tormented them. "Sarah Good... why do you thus torment these poor children?" Hathorne asked. "What do I know, you bring others here and now you charge me with it," Sarah Good responded. Next Hathorne interrogated Sarah Osbourne, who claimed not to know Sarah Good or even her full name. But Hathorne said to her, "Sarah Good saith that it was you that hurt the children." According to the transcript, this is a distortion of what Sarah Good had said, as she had only vaguely referred to the others without naming them, in a way that was only intended to deflect blame from herself.[2] Tituba was interrogated last and was the only of the three women to offer a full and elaborate confession against herself and pointing the finger of blame at the other two women: "Sarah Good and Osbourne would have me hurt the children."[3][4] According to an investigation by Robert Calef that began soon after the trials, Tituba later recanted her confession as forced and claimed abuse from the slaveowner Parris:

"The account she [Tituba] since gives of it is that her master [Parris] did beat her and otherwise abuse her, to make her confess and accuse, such as he [Parris] called her 'sister-witches' and that whatever she said by way of confessing or accusing others, was the effect of such usage."[5]

Further accusations against many others emerged from the Parris household (and others) and eventually lead to the imprisonment of hundreds and the deaths of more than 20 in 1692. Sarah Osborne died in prison in May and Sarah Good was executed on July 19 along with four other women. Members of Parris household all managed to survive the entire episode including Tituba, who was released from jail a year later, when the slaveowner Parris paid her prison fees and sold her.[6]


Williams was living with her uncle Parris after having been orphaned when Native Americans killed her parents during a raid.[citation needed] Her parents' names were Joseph and Abigail Rogers. Abigail Rogers later became Abigail Parris Williams.[citation needed]

Later life[edit]

After 1692, Abigail Williams seems to disappear from all written records.[7]

The Crucible[edit]

In Arthur Miller's 1953 play, The Crucible, a fictionalized story of the Salem witch trials, Abigail Williams is the name of a character whose age in the play is raised a full five or six years, to age 17, and she is motivated by a desire to be in a relationship with John Proctor, a married farmer with whom she had previously had an affair. In the historical record, there's no evidence of John Proctor and Abigail Williams ever meeting before the trials. She was portrayed by Winona Ryder in the 1996 film adaptation of the play.

Popular culture[edit]

Abigail Williams is an American black metal band formed in 2004.

Abigail appears in 2010 film The Sorcerer's Apprentice as a minor antagonist. In the film, she was confirmed to be a witch who had both framed others and setup others to take the fall for her witchcraft to divert attention from herself, which resulted in the Salem Witch Trials. Her actions and crimes against humanity, coupled with her conspiracy with Horvath to release Morgana, catch the attention of Balthazar Blake, who seals her into the Grimhold so she can do no more harm. She is later released by Horvath to kidnap the main protagonist Dave's love interest, Becky Barnes, only for the former Merlinean fatally drains her of her magic once she completes the deed.

Abigail is revealed as the antagonist of the 2014 video game Murdered: Soul Suspect. In the story, flashbacks reveal that she was hanged for her part in the witch trials. Over the centuries, she has existed as a ghost, using her supernatural powers to kill those she believes are witches. In the game's climax, she is seized by demons and dragged to Hell.

Fate/Grand Order, a 2015 online free-to-play role-playing mobile game, has a character under the "Foreigner" class based on both Abigail Williams and Yog-Sothoth.

Bread mold theory[edit]

In 1976, Linnda R. Caporael[8] put forward the hypothesis that these strange symptoms may have been caused by ergotism, the ingestion of fungus-infected rye. This theory has been widely rejected.[9]


  1. ^ Rosenthal et. al.Records of the Salem Witch-hunt(2014) p.963. The contemporary narrative attributed to Deodat Lawson identifies her as Parris "kins-woman" and "about 12 years" old. (GL Burr, Narratives of the Witchcraft Cases (1914), p. 153. Mary Beth Norton writes, "Despite enormous efforts by many people... it has proved impossible to identify Abigail Williams or her precise relationship to Samuel Parris." (In the Devil's Snare (2002) p.333 fn 11.)
  2. ^ Rosenthal Records p. 127.
  3. ^ Rosenthal Records p. 128.
  4. ^ Yost, Melissa (2002). "Abigail Williams". Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project. Charlottesville, Virginia: University of Virginia. Retrieved March 16, 2014.
  5. ^ Robert Calef, More Wonders of the Invisible World (1700) p. 91. Also reprinted in GL Burr p. 343.
  6. ^ Games, Alison (2010). Witchcraft in Early North America. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 176. ISBN 978-1442203570.
  7. ^ Baker, Emerson W. (2015). A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 234. ISBN 978-0190627805.
  8. ^ Ergotism: The Satan Loosed in Salem?[permanent dead link] - Science, vol. 192, April 1976
  9. ^ "Were the witches of Salem a result of poisoning with ergot fungus?". January 14, 2005. Retrieved June 18, 2015.