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WITCH TRIALS
Page 4

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ELIZABETH KNAPP, age 16 years
Part 1


born: 21 April 1655 at Watertown, Ma

Elizabeth Knapp and Sarah Elizabeth Rose
are 12 cousins, 12 time removed through their shared ancestor
Joan De Vere


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Back in 1671, the Reverend Mr. Samuel Willard was instrumental in preventing
prosecution on the charge of spectral evidence when sixteen-year-old
Elizabeth Knapp of his parish in Groton, Massachusetts became "bewitched"
and accused not only a "very sincere and holy woman" but reviled her own
pastor, Mr. Willard. The victim of this "possession" was Elizabeth Knapp,
the daughter of James and Elizabeth (Warren) Knapp, born at Watertown, MA
on April 21, 1655. She was the granddaughter of two prominent men and
original proprietors of Watertown, William Knopp/Knapp and John Warren,
both emigrant ancestors of their respective families. Elizabeth Knapp was
a servant in the Willard household when she first exhibited signs of
possession. In his detailed account of the episode, Willard described his
amazement when Knapp suddenly began to behave in "a strange and unwonted
manner," giving abrupt shrieks and then bursting into extravagant laughter
when asked what was wrong. As her symptoms intensified (she fell into
violent fits, complained of being strangled, and attempted to throw
herself into the fire), Willard wondered whether she was in genuine
distress or merely dissembling.

 

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According to Willard, in one of her early fits, "in which she was
violent in bodily motions...in roarings and screamings, representing a
dark resemblance of hellish torments," she frequently cried out, money,
money," sometimes "sin and misery" along with other, unrecorded words.
Cotton Mather, the recipient of Willard's detailed account of the case,
reported that, "...Her tongue would be for many hours together drawn like
a semi-circle up to the roof of her mouth, so that no fingers applied to
it could remove it. Six men were scarce able to hold her in some of her
fits, but she would skip about the house yelling and howling and looking
hideously...Her tongue being drawn out of her mouth to an extraordinary
length, a daemon began manifestly to speak to her; for many words were
distinctly uttered, wherein are the labial letters, without any motion of
her lips at all; words also were uttered from her throat, sometimes when
her mouth was wholly shut, and sometimes when her mouth was wide
open, but no organs of speech were used therein. The chief things that
the daemon spoke were horrid railings against the godly minister of the
town; but sometimes, likewise, she belched out most nefandous [sic]
blasphemies against the God of heaven."

 

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Within three weeks of the initial signs of distress, Elizabeth Knapp
indicated that the Devil had appeared to her and that either a
particular woman in the neighborhood or "the Devil in her likeness and
habit" had caused her first fit a few days before. Owing to the fact
the Willard did not believe the accused woman was a witch, she never
came to examination before the magistrates; instead he had brought
her to the Elizabeth Knapp herself, and allowed her to reason and
pray with her accuser. Under these circumstances the latter began
to contradict herself, and finally, coming out of her possession,
withdrew her accusations. It is unfortunate that the good people
of Salem Village and their minister were unaware of, or did not
take notice of this incident which preceeded their own involvement
with witchcraft. Many lives would've been spared had they focused on
dealing with the "possessed" rather than the accused in Salem.

 

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Knapp shortly "confessed that she believed Satan had deluded her"
and never again complained about the woman. When Knapp accused
another woman, Willard was similarly wary—even though by the
second week of Knapp's possession he felt sure that Satan was
responsible for her condition. Elizabeth was forced to work out
her conflicts with the Devil himself.

 

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Under pressure to reveal the "true and real occasion" of her fits,
she declared that the Devil had appeared to her many times over the
previous three years, that he offered to make her a witch, and that
he proffered to her "money, silks, fine clothes, ease from labor,
to show her the whole world, etc." She admitted that the Devil came
because of her discontent, and that he came more frequently once she
started to work as a servant in the Willard household—a household
much more prosperous than her own. She further confessed that she
was tempted to murder her own parents, her neighbors, the Willard
children, "especially the youngest," and herself
.

 

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She vehemently denied, at least at first, having signed a covenant
with Satan. As the weeks went by, Knapp's fits became more intense
and her sense of what was happening more confused. She alternated
between violent convulsive states and trance-like stupors, between
denying that she had given in to the Devil's temptations to become
a witch and admitting that she had. She believed at times that her
great discontent made her a witch: "It is too late for me," she
murmured plaintively at one point; at another, with little effort,
she revealed that the Devil told her what she had long feared, that
"she had done it already…" that "she was his sure enough."Other
times, she struggled against this particular Puritan truth: she
condemned herself as a sinner, admitted that she was tempted to sign
the Devil's book, but "utterly disclaimed" having done so.

 

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In the second month of her possession, she called Willard to her. In
tears, she admitted "that she had belied the Devil in saying she had
given him of her blood, etc. [and] professed that most of the
apparitions she had spoken of [during this confession] were but
fancies, as images represented in a dream, [and] earnestly entreated
[Willard] to believe her." He did not believe her. When he pushed her
again to tell the truth, she returned, in greater detail, to the next
closest thing to the trust that she knew—her original story: "She
declared that the Devil had sometimes appeared to her; that the
occasion of it was her discontent; that her condition displeased her,
her labor was burdensome to her, [and] she was neither content to be
at home nor abroad; and [that she] had oftentimes strong persuasions
to practice in witchcraft, had often wished the Devil would come to
her at such and such times, and [had] resolved that if he would she
would give herself up to him soul and body. But though he had oft
times appeared to her, yet at such times he had not discovered
himself, and therefore she had been preserved from such a thing."

 

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But for Knapp to say that she was simply possessed was not enough for
Willard, who, as her minister was expected to do more—chiefly, to get
her to rest contented with the condition that so displeased her. His
response to her at this time was equivocal: he told her "that she had
used preposterous course, and therefore it was no marvel that she had
been led into such contradictions," but he "tendered her all the help
[he] could, if she would make use of [him] and more privately relate
any weighty and serious case of conscience to [him]." This response
precipitated a crisis. At first she just told him that she knew
nothing more than she had related to him, but afterwards her fits
became more extreme and her emotions more volatile. She tried to kill
herself and began to lash out at others, "striking" those who tried
to hold her, "spitting in their faces," and then laughing.

 

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Continued on Elizabeth Knapp Part 2

 

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Thank you Sam Behling, for sharing the data for several of these women with us.
Sam's website is at: http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~sam/knapp/elizabeth.html

this information is taken from:
number 3 in the second volume of the "Mather Papers" now at the Boston Public Library.
It is written in a very small, cramped hand, and contained in four pages of manuscript,
which is extremely difficult to read. It has been printed in the Collections of the
Massachusetts Historical Society, volume viii., fourth series, pages 555-570


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PAGE 1
WITCHTRIALS
MARY
(PERKINS)
BRADBURY
PAGE 2
WITCHTRIALS
MARY
BRADBURY
Part 2
PAGE 3
WITCHTRIALS
ELIZABETH
KNAPP
PAGE 5
WITCHTRIALS
ELIZABETH
KNAPP
Part 2
PAGE 6
WITCHTRIALS
SUSANNAH
(NORTH)
MARTIN
PAGE 7
WITCHTRIALS
REBECCA
(TOWNE)
NURSE
PAGE 8
WITCHTRIALS
MARY
(BLISS)
PARSONS
Part1
PAGE 9
WITCHTRIALS
MARY
PARSONS
Part 2
PAGE 10
WITCHTRIALS
SARAH
WILSON
SR. & JR.
Part 1
PAGE 11
WITCHTRIALS
SARAH
WILSON
Part 2
PAGE 12
WITCHTRIALS
MARY
(TOWNE)
ESTEY
PAGE 13
WITCHTRIALS
INFANT DAUGHTER
DEWOLF
PAGE 14
WITCHTRIALS
SARAH
(TOWNE)
CLOYCE
Part 1
PAGE 15
WITCHTRIALS
SARAH
CLOYCE
Part 2
PAGE 16
WITCHTRIALS
ELIZABETH
(HUTCHINS)
HART
PAGE 17
WITCHTRIALS
ANNE
PUTNAM
PAGE 18
WITCHTRIALS
EARLY
CT
LAWS



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