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Rozsa 1 George Gregory Rozsa AMST 438 February 6, 2012 The Arrest and Trial of Sarah Proctor Following

the arrest of her mother, Elizabeth Proctor, on April 8, 1692, and her father John Proctor, on April 11, Sarah Proctor was arrested on May 21, 1692, and charged with Sundry acts of witchcraft committed on the bodies of Mary Walcott, Abigail Williams, Marcy Lewis, Ann Putnam, and others whereby great hurt and injury had been done against them (Trial Transcripts, hereafter referred to as TT). Sarah Proctors fate was all but sealed when her mother, Elizabeth, was arrested for witchcraft the month before. Although (w)itchcraft was not considered hereditary, Carol Karlsen explains that it was thought that witches passed their craft on to the people closest to them Husbands and daughters of witches were the most likely suspects, especially daughters (Karlsen, p.3). Court documents reveal that a number of witnesses came forward and testified against Sarah Proctor; however, they fail to mention any testimony Sarah might have given in her defense. Moreover, they fail to note either Sarahs guilt or innocence. No trial outcome is recorded in these documents. Nevertheless, the majority of these witnesses accused Sarah of maleficium, of supernaturally causing them harm for not signing the devils book. Karlsen notes that the notion of maleficium and the satanic covenant converged in New England (Karlsen, p.10), and they converged in the trial of Sarah Proctor. Elizabeth Booth testified that Sarah Proctor appeared unto her and brought her the Devils book to sign, but when she said that she would not sign it, she was grievously afflicted with pricks and pinches (TT). Mary Walcott gave a similar testimony. She saw the apparition of Sarah Proctor

Rozsa 2 approach her, choke her, and pinch her while grievously urging her to sign her book. When Mary refused, the apparition tormented (her) dreadfully (TT). Susannah Sheldon also testified that Sarah Proctor afflicted her for not signing her book, claiming that Sarah had made her deaf and dumb and blind until the following day (TT). Witchcraft was a capital crime under Puritan law, which meant that two eyewitnesses were necessary for a conviction; however, this law had been modified to read that any two witnesses were sufficient even if they were testifying about different events (Wayward Puritans, p.150). Underlying the majority of the testimony against Sarah Proctor was the Puritan belief that Satan could not take the appearance of an innocent without his or her approval. This would be crucial in the case against Sarah Proctor as she did not confess, nor was she tried by test of the Lords Prayer, nor did she possess any of the physical marks of the Devil. Neighbors did testify against her as to the harm she had caused them, however, these were witnessed in relation to her apparition and for refusing to sign her Devils book. Therefore, the sole case against Sarah Proctor rested on this form of spectral evidence. David Furneax and John Walcott, Jr., both testified that they had overheard Mary Walcott, in the state of one of her fits, say she saw the apparition of Sarah Proctor approach her, choke her, pinch her, and urge her to sign her book. Mary testified to these happenings as well. She appears to be a credible witness with no ulterior motives. Mary probably saw what she thought she had seen; however, the testimony of David Furneax and John Walcott, Jr., make clear this spectral vision took place in a state of one of

Rozsa 3 her fits. It would not be unreasonable to believe that these fits may have caused hallucinations and/or other dream-states in which Sarah Proctor did appear. The testimony of Elizabeth Booth, however, is a bit more problematic On two separate occasions Elizabeth Booth saw the apparition of Sarah Proctor visit upon her. On the first, Sarah had afflicted Elizabeth with pinches and pins for not signing her book. I believe that Elizabeth felt that she actually was being pinched and poked; however, I wonder if such symptoms could have been psychosomatic, and possibly from being poked and prodded into giving testimony against witches within their midst. On the other occasion, Sarah appeared to Elizabeth and told her that it was good that she did not go into the village that day. Perhaps Elizabeth did not want to go into the village and her subconscious acting out through the apparition of Sarah Proctor was validating her own unconscious feelings.