Witchcraft in New Hampshire
From the book "New Hampshire Folk Tales"
Collected by Mrs. Moody P. Gore & Mrs. Guy E. Speare
Compiled and published by Mrs. Guy E. Speare
Plymouth, New Hampshire - 1932
All New Hampshire people may take pride in the fact that during the early generations after the first settlements were made, and when people of all European countries were so much controlled by the superstitions of the time, no executions of witches ever took place in our state. This seems the more remarkable, for the reason that during that time persons accused of witchcraft were executed by hundreds in England and Scotland.
Witches had power to cause disease, to cause severe storms. It was firmly believed in all civilized countries that witches could ride through the air, wherever they pleased, on a broomstick, with incredible speed, and possessed the ability to pass through bolted doors, even through solid walls. They also had the advantage of being able to assume the appearance of any one whom they chose to impersonate, or take the form of any animal, the car being the favorite. In 1636 a woman at Little Harbor, Piscataqua, was accused of being a witch. A neighbor charged that the witch caused her to suffer severe illness because she refused to lend her a pound of cotton; and testified that the accused vanished toward the waterside in the shape of a cat. Another testified that a little after sunset she saw a yellowish cat, and she followed by a cat wherever she went. When her husband saw the cat in the garden, he took down his gun to shoot it, but the cat ran up a tree and "the gun would not take fire" Afterward she saw three cats, but she could not tell which way they went.
Hampton was a spirit-haunted town. Ghosts and witches and even the Evil one himself often appeared to its terrified inhabitants. One could not lie down in his bed at night with the peaceful certainty that no alarming specter would stalk through his room to trouble his slumbers. Nor could one jog quietly along the country lanes without the disturbing possibility that some broomstick rider might be hard upon his track. The good people of Hampton were perhaps no more superstitious than other men and women in colonial days, especially those whose homes were near the sea; but it is certain that they peopled the quiet streets of their village with personages our modern eyes do not see.
However, witches were tangible enough and the Hampton authorities made short shrift with them. The delusion found its chief victim at Hampton in the person of Eunice Cole "Goody" Cole, as she called. The usual evil powers were ascribed to her by the people of the town. Two young men were drowned in Hampton River and their boat was believed to have been overturned through her agency. The village children who indulged in the fearful pleasure of peeping in at her window reported the Evil One in the shape of a little black dwarf with a red cap on his head sat at her table and that she frequently cuffed his ears to keep him in order. Goody Cole was tried before the county court of Norfolk in 1656. At the trial Thomas Philbrick testified that she had said if any of his calves should eat her grass she wished it might poison them or choke them.
Immediately one of the calves disappeared and the other came home and died about a week after. Goodwife Sobriety Moulton and Goodwife Sleeper testified that while they were talking about Goodwife Cole and Goodwife Marstons child they on a sudden heard something scrape against the boards of the window, which after the had been out and looked about and could see nothing and had gone into the house again and begun to talk, the same noise as before was repeated and so loud that if a dog or cat had done it, they should have seen the marks in the boards. Such evidence was of course conclusive and the poor woman was sentenced to be whipped and then imprisoned for life. She remained in prison fifteen years she was released and the town ordered to contribute to her support.
Shortly after she was again arrested on a new charge of witchcraft, but after a few months confinement she was discharged, the court rendering this remarkable decision: "In ye case of Unisia Cole now prisoner at ye Bar not legally guilty according to Inditement, but just ground of vehement suspisyion of her having had familyarryty with ye devil, "She went back to Hampton to die soon after, unattended, in bitter poverty and distress. The malignant hatred of her persecutors followed her to the grave. The tradition still lingers among the older people of the town that the witch was denied Christian burial; that her body impaled upon a stake to drive out the evil spirit, was thrown into a hastily dug trench in the ditch by the roadside. This unfortunate woman with her quarter of a century of persecution and suffering, was surely as much a martyr as those to whom death came quickly on the scaffold of Witches' Hill.
In 1860, the superstition broke out again. The whole town was thrown into a state of alarm. A man affirmed that he had seen a company of witches on the marsh, seated about a cake of ice and comfortably taking tea. Eight men and two women "were cried out against" and the two women were arrested, but they were dismissed when the excitement died out the next year.