For 360 Years, It's Been Trouble For Mrs. Cole
By Donna Boetig, Staff Writer
The Portsmouth Herald
October 31, 1982
"Are you lost," he asked, bringing his cruiser to a dead stop.
"I've walked here for centuries," an old haunting voice replied.
Intrigued by the word "centuries," the young officer flashed his cruiser's bright lights on the figure.
It was gone.
All that remained was a 300-year-old bonnet at the foot of the stone.
Today that bonnet is the property of the [Hampton] Historical Society in the Tuck Memorial Museum, according to Harold Fernald, the social studies department head at Winnacunnet High School and all-around witch expert.
Among other qualifiers, Hampton has the dubious distinction of being the state's sole town to have a woman tried for witchcraft in 1656, found guilty and sent to jail.
[Eunice] Goody Cole was her name, and some say her spirit still frequents her burial ground. Originally from Exeter, she came to Hampton in 1640, and she and her husband built a home on Winnacunnet Road near the present Baptist Church. When in her late 60's, Minister Wheelwright, a dictatorial-type preacher from Exeter, declared a witch's Sabbath and pronounced Eunice Goody Cole a bona fide witch. It took her 300 years to have her citizenship reinstated.
Three accusers spoke against Cole at her trial.
An ox herder, Timothy Philbrick, said his oxen wandered on her land and began nibbling from her garden before he could round them up. The furious Cole declared "a pox on you and them." Within weeks, several of his cows disappeared and remaining ones went dry.
A fowler was the second to point a finger at Cole. He said he had purchased an overripe bird from her, and she refused to return his money. When he complained, Cole put a pox on him too, robbing him of his shooting eye. The third stone was cast by a thatcher who said that Cole had put a spell on him that prevented him from ever building a secure roof again after hers had leaked water.
Believing that Cole had "signed the devils book," Minister Wheelwright went to her home to chase off the evil spirits.
Either unsuccessful or simply incompetent at the art of exorcism, the minister had Cole arrested. She was tried and found guilty by her peers in a court in Salisbury, Mass, and was taken in shackles to jail where she remained for 16 years.
Now, almost 90, she was released from bars and turned over to the taunts of children. One swore he witnessed an imp sitting on her kitchen table as she mixed herbs, Suddenly, the imp turned into an eagle and took to flight.
Given a more heady accusation, Cole was branded with stealing the soul of the young Preston baby who died of strangulation in his trundle bed, Too old to be jailed, however, townsmen allowed her to die a natural death soon after. When pronounced dead, they drove a stake through her heart and capped it with a silver horseshoe to prevent her spirit from escaping. She was buried in a grave at the bottom of Rand's Hill, 100 yards from the Meeting House.
The burial site, ironically, separates the minister's home from his church, so Wheelwright would have to step on her grave each Sunday on his way to conduct services.
In 1938, celebration of the town's 300th anniversary, Cole was restored her citizenship and declared not to be a witch.
Soil from her burial site, her home site and ashes from her citizenship proclamation was put in a can, sealed and intended for burial.
But, for a strange twist of events, every attempt to bury the can near Cole's stone has been aborted. During a 1963 attempt, there was a hurricane and the town was without lights for three day's.
Today the can remains in the [Hampton] Historical Society's Tuck Memorial Museum.
During the winter, snow prints are frequently seen around Cole's stone, but none leading to or from the road 20 feet away.
"Could a 380-year-old woman jump 20 feet?" Fernald asks.
He says that six years ago on Halloween he was scheduled to speak about Cole to a gathering at the Goodie Cole room at Lamie's Tavern. That morning, the spot at which Fernald traditionally stands and sets his projector, mysteriously caught fire, producing a white ring of smoke and leaving a hole In the floor.
"Is Cole angry because the can is not buried yet? Is she unable to rest because her reputation is not clear?" he asks.
He tells of another spirit whose work is unfinished. Twenty-five years ago, a retired policeman working as a janitor, swept the old courthouse after each session. The firemen living downstairs were accustomed to the routine sweeping sound. Suddenly there was a loud thud. The janitor suffered a heart attack and died.
A few years later, the firemen again heard the sweeping sound. This went on occasionally for three years. As the time drew near for the old firehouse to be closed, the sweeping became more rapid and regular. One evening when the sound was almost unbearable, the men rushed upstairs. Lying on the floor was nothing but an old worn broom.
And how can you keep a witch away?
"Take an old boot, put a coin in its toe and stick it up a chimney." Fernald advises. "But." he adds, "you might like to keep one or two of the friendly type around. They tend to bring more return on an old New England home."