Sunday, June 1, 2014

June 2nd, 1692: A Guilty Verdict for Bridget Bishop

On June 2nd, 1692, the Court of Oyer and Terminer (From French, meaning to "hear and determine") convened in Salem to decide the fates of those who were suspected of witchcraft. Bridget Bishop was the first to receive a guilty verdict. Bishop was seen as less Puritanical than the rest of those in the community, as she was outspoken and frequently quarreled with her husband. 12 years before, she had been tried and acquitted of witchcraft. This made her an easy, obvious target for the "afflicted" to accuse her of tormenting them. As she was questioned in front of the court, the girls who accused her squirmed and screamed, claiming to be tormented by her spectre. Spectral evidence, or proof that the spirit left the body to seek out new victims to torment by various means, so they would become conscripts to Satan, was taken seriously by the court until very late in the trials. As more and more were executed or left to languish in prison, officials began to consider that Satan was using the form of Godly people to do his work, without them being in line with the Satan (It is important to note that those presiding over the trial did not cease to believe that spectres existed; they simply came to the conclusion that Satan could be creating the spectres in the form of those they knew and trusted, without their knowledge, in order to delude the community and drive them away from God). A confession was never given by Bishop, who maintained her innocence until the moment she died. After she was found guilty, she was hanged on June 10th, 1692. 

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