Jump to content

Bridget Bishop

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bridget Bishop
Bridget Bishop, as depicted in a lithograph
Bishop, as depicted in a lithograph
Bridget Magnus

c. 1632
Died10 June 1692 (aged c. 60)
Cause of deathExecution by hanging
Other namesWasselbe, Wasselby, Waselby, Wasselbee, Wesselbee, Magnus, Magnes, Hayfer; Goody Oliver, Goody Bishop, Bridget Playfer
Criminal charge(s)Witchcraft (overturned), conspiracy with the Devil (rehabilitated)
Criminal penaltyDeath
Criminal statusExecuted (10 June 1692)
Exonerated (31 October 2001)

Bridget Bishop (c. 1632 – 10 June 1692) was the first person executed for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials in 1692. Nineteen were hanged, and one, Giles Corey, was pressed to death. Altogether, about 200 people were tried.

Family life[edit]

Bridget's maiden name was Magnus. She, her sister Mercy, her father John, and her mother Rebecca adopted the last name Playfer, Bridget's paternal grandmother's maiden name. She was married three or possibly four times.[citation needed]

She married her first husband, Captain Samuel Wesselby on 13 April 1660, at St. Mary-in-the-Marsh, Norwich, Norfolk, England.[1] She had two sons and one daughter from her first marriage: John, Benjamin[2] and Mary.[3] Her first husband died in 1666.[4][page needed]

Her second marriage, on 26 July 1666,[5] was to Thomas Oliver, a widower and prominent businessman, listed in early records as a calendar. They had one child, a daughter, Chrestian Oliver (sometimes spelled Christian), born 8 May 1667.[6] She was earlier accused of bewitching Thomas Oliver to death, but was acquitted for lack of evidence.[citation needed]

Her third marriage c. 1687 was to Edward Bishop, a prosperous sawyer, whose family lived in Beverly.[7] Her third husband, Edward Bishop, is also one of the founders of the First Church of Beverly. He was 44 at the time of the trials.[8]

Bridget ran two taverns alongside Edward. Bridget Bishop was always seen by friends, family, and guests wearing exotic clothes and bright colors, both far from the standard clothes associated with the devil.[4][page needed]

Nature of allegations[edit]

Bridget Bishop was examined due to her accusation of suspicion of "sundry acts of witchcraft".[8][page needed] Bishop was accused of bewitching five young women, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam, Jr., Mercy Lewis, Mary Walcott, and Elizabeth Hubbard, on the date of her examination by the authorities, 19 April 1692.

Bishop's trial lasted eight days, officially starting the Salem Witchcraft Trials.[4][page needed] A record was given of her trial by Cotton Mather in "Wonders of the Invisible World." In his book, Mather recorded that several people testified against Bishop, stating that the shape of Bishop would pinch, choke or bite them. The shape also threatened to drown one victim if she did not write her name in a certain book. According to Mather, during the trial, any time Bishop would look upon one of her accusers, they would be immediately struck down and only her touch would revive them.

More allegations were made during the trial including that of a woman saying that the apparition of Bishop tore her coat, and upon further examination her coat was found to be torn in the exact spot. Mather mentions that the truth of these many accusations carried too much suspicion, however.[9]

Ezekiel Cheevers and John Putnam made the complaint against Bridget Bishop. Bishop was charged for committing witchcraft upon five women, Ann Putnam, Mercy Lewis, Abigail Williams, Mary Walcot, and Elis Hubert. These women claimed Bridget Bishop to be the witch who hurt them.[10][page needed] Ann Putnam stated that Bishop called the devil her God, while other people such as Richard Coman accused Bishop of taking hold of their throats and ripping Coman and his wife out of bed.[11][page needed] Other girls accused her of harming them with just a quick glance. Even Bishop's own husband claimed she praised the devil.

William Stacy, a middle aged man in Salem Town, testified that Bishop had previously made statements to him that other people in the town considered her to be a witch. He confronted her with the allegation that she was using witchcraft to torment him, which she denied. Another local man, Samuel Shattuck, accused Bishop of bewitching his child and also of striking his son with a spade.

He also testified that Bishop asked him to dye lace, which apparently was too small to be used on anything but a poppet, a doll used in spell-casting. John and William Bly, father and son, testified about finding poppets in Bishop's house and also about their cat that appeared to be bewitched, or poisoned, after a dispute with Bishop. Other victims of Bishop, as recorded by Mather, include Deliverance Hobbs, John Cook, Samuel Gray, and John Louder.[12][page needed]

During her sentencing, a jury of women found a third nipple upon Bishop (then considered a sure sign of witchcraft), yet upon a second examination the nipple was not found. In the end Mather states that the greatest thing that condemned Bishop was the gross amount of lying she committed in court. According to Mather, "there was little occasion to prove the witchcraft, it being evident and notorious to all beholders."[9]

Bishop was sentenced to death and hanged.[13][page needed][14] She was recorded to be the first woman to die from hanging in the colony.

Traditional historical interpretation[edit]

"'Goodwife Bishop her Neighb'r wife of Edw: Bishop Jun'r might not be permitted to receive the Lords Supper in our church till she had given her the said Trask satisfaction for some offences that were against her .viz because the said Bishop did entertaine people in her house at unseasonable hours in the night to keep drinking and playing at shovel-board whereby discord did arise in other families & young people were in danger to bee corrupted & that the s'd Trask these things & had once gon into the house & fynding some at shovel-board had taken the of peices [sic] thay played with & thrown them into the fyre & had reprooved the said Bishop for promoting such disorders, But received no satisfaction from her about it"

— John Hawthorn and Jonath Corwin, Bridget Bishop Executed, June 10, 1692: The Examination of Bridget Byshop at Salem Village 19. Apr. 1692 [15]

Recent historical interpretation[edit]

One interpretation of the historical record suggests that she was a resident of Salem Town and thus not the tavern owner. Perhaps she did not know her accusers. This would be supported in her deposition in Salem Village before the authorities stating, "I never saw these persons before, nor I never was in this place before."[16] The indictments against her clearly note that she was from "Salem"[17] which meant Salem Town, as other indictments against residents of Salem Village specified their locations as such.[18] She was often confused with Sarah Bishop, one of the other accused during the Salem trial.[19] While men were still being accused of witchcraft, it was mostly women being indicted during this time period. They were often quickly accused and sentenced to death within days. Bridget Bishop had already been accused and deemed innocent a whole decade following up to the witchcraft hysteria.[4][page needed]


  1. ^ Anderson, Robert Charles. "Bridget (Mangus) (Playfer) (Wasselbe) (Oliver) Bishop", The American Genealogist (October 1989), 64: 207. The American Genealogist
  2. ^ "England Deaths and Burials, 1538–1991" (Benjamin Waselby), Middlesex, England; Burial Date: 26 Sep 1664.
  3. ^ "Massachusetts Births and Christenings, 1639–1915", Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts; 10 January 1665.
  4. ^ a b c d Stevenson, Keira (2017). Bridget Bishop. [Place of publication not identified]. ISBN 1-4298-0535-8. OCLC 994473310.[page needed]
  5. ^ Vital Records of the Town of Salem. Salem, MA: Essex Institute. 1924.
  6. ^ Vital Records of the Town of Salem, Volume 1, Births, Salem, MA: Essex Institute. 1916.[page needed]
  7. ^ Rosenthal, Bernard (29 September 1995). Salem Story: Reading the Witch Trials of 1692. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-55820-4.[page needed]
  8. ^ a b Woodward, Elliot (1969). Records of Salem witchcraft : copied from the original documents. New York: Da capo Press.[page needed]
  9. ^ a b Mather, Cotton (1862). The Wonders of the Invisible World: Being an Account of the Tryals of Several Witches Lately Executed in New-England. John Russell Smith. pp. 129–130. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  10. ^ Boyer, Paul (1993). Salem-village witchcraft : a documentary record of local conflict in colonial New England. Boston: Northeastern University Press.[page needed]
  11. ^ Woods, William Howards (1974). A casebook of witchcraft : reports, depositions, confessions, trials, and executions for witchcraft during a period of three hundred years. New York: Putnam.[page needed]
  12. ^ Hall, David D. (4 February 2005). Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth-Century New England: A Documentary History 1638–1693, Second Edition. Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-3613-8.[page needed]
  13. ^ Findling, John E.; Thackeray, Frank W. (1 January 2000). Events that Changed America Through the Seventeenth Century. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-29083-1.[page needed]
  14. ^ Warnke, Mike (1972). The Satan Seller. Logos International. pp. 91. ISBN 0-912106-79-4. A witch with a long family tree. An ancestor of hers by the same name was hanged there June 10, 1692, but don't sweat it, Mike, they don't do that anymore.
  15. ^ "The story of the battle of New Orleans". New Orleans, La., Louisiana historical society. 26 December 1915 – via Internet Archive.
  16. ^ "The Salem witchcraft papers, Volume 1 : verbatim transcripts of the legal documents of the Salem witchcraft outbreak of 1692/edited by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum". Etext.virginia.edu. Archived from the original on 22 December 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  17. ^ "The Salem witchcraft papers, Volume 1 : verbatim transcripts of the legal documents of the Salem witchcraft outbreak of 1692/edited by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum". Etext.virginia.edu. Archived from the original on 12 July 2012. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  18. ^ See the indictment against Sarah Good, a resident of Salem Village[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ "June 10, 1692". Salem Story. Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture. Cambridge University Press. 1993. pp. 67–85. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511519352.005. ISBN 978-0-521-44061-5.

Further reading[edit]

  • Boyer, Paul S.; Nissenbaum, Stephen (1999). Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft. US & UK: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-78526-7.
  • Cooke, William H. (2009). Justice at Salem. Undertaker Press.
  • Goss, K. David (2007). The Salem Witch Trials: A Reference Guide. Greenwood. ISBN 978-0-313-32095-8.
  • Hearn, Daniel Allen (1976). Legal Executions in New England: A Comprehensive Reference, 1623–1960. Boston: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-3248-6.
  • Hill, Francis (2000). The Salem Witch Trials Reader. Da Capo Press.
  • Karlsen, Carol F. (1998). The Devil in the Shape of a Woman. WW Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-31759-6.
  • Rosenthal, Bernard (1993). Salem Story: reading the witch trials of 1692. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-55820-4.
  • Savage, James (1860). A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England. Boston, MA: Little Brown & Co.
  • Upham, Charles (1980). Salem Witchcraft: Volume I. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. pp. 143, 191–197.
  • Upham, Charles (1980). Salem Witchcraft: Volume II. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. pp. 114, 125–128, 253, 256–257, 463.
  • Wilson, Jennifer M. (2005). Witch. AuthorHouse. ISBN 1-4208-2109-1.
  • Vital Records of the Town of Salem. Salem, MA: Essex Institute. 1924.
  • The Wonders of the Invisible World. London: John Russell Smith. 1862.
  • The Salem Witchcraft Papers on Bridget Bishop

External links[edit]

Media related to Bridget Bishop at Wikimedia Commons