Those suspected of being witches were stuck with a sharp instrument, forced
underwater, scalded with lime baths and stretched on racks to force them into
admitting that they had practiced witchcraft.
A. Ordeal by water or “ducking”: A suspected witch was tied hand and foot and
immersed in deep water. If the accused sunk and drowned, they were deemed to be a witch.
B. Pricking: the accused witch was stuck with a sharp tool to see if she had
sensitive spots where the Devil had marked her. These could be invisible or
C. Scalding: the accused witch would be scalded with lime baths to induce a
confession to practicing witchcraft.
D. Racks: the accused witch would be stretched on a rack until their arms and
legs were pulled from their sockets until they confessed to practicing
William Perkins, a Cambridge minister developed a kinder method to detect
if someone had been practicing witchcraft. Puritan minister Increase Mather
called him "Our Perkins," and promoted this more gentle method to detect
witches. He said "It were better that Ten Suspected Witches should escape,
than that one Innocent Person should be Condemned." Of course, he was hated
by the witch
I. There are Presumptions, which do at least probably and conjecturally note
one to be a Witch. These give occasion to Examine, yet they are no sufficient
Causes of Conviction.
II. If any Man or Woman be notoriously defamed for a Witch, this yields a
strong Suspition. Yet the Judge ought carefully to look, that the Report be
made by Men of Honesty and Credit.
III. If a Fellow-Witch, or Magician, give Testimony of any Person to be a
Witch; this indeed is not sufficient for Condemnation; but it is fit
Presumption to cause a strait Examination.
IV. If after Cursing there follow Death, or at least some mischief: for Witches
are want to practise their mischievous Facts, by Cursing and Banning: This
also is a sufficient matter of Examination, tho' not of Conviction.
V. If after Enmity, Quarrelling, or Threatning, a present mischief does
follow; that also is a great Presumption.
VI. If the Party suspected be the Son or Daughter, the man-servant or
maid-servant, the Familiar Friend, near Neighbor, or old Companion, of a
known and convinced Witch; this may be likewise a Presumption; for
Witchcraft is an Art that may be learned, and conveyed from man to man.
VII. Some add this for a Presumption: If the Party suspected be found to have
the Devil's mark; for it is commonly thought, when the Devil makes his
Covenant with them, he alwaies leaves his mark behind them, whereby he
knows them for his own:--a mark whereof no evident Reason in Nature can
VIII. Lastly, If the party examined be Unconstant, or contrary to himself, in
his deliberate Answers, it argueth a Guilty Conscience, which stops the
freedom of Utterance. And yet there are causes of Astonishment, which may
befal the Good, as well as the Bad.
IX. But then there is a Conviction, discovering the Witch, which must
proceed from just and sufficient proofs, and not from bare presumptions.
X. Scratching of the suspected party, and Recovery thereupon, with several
other such weak Proof; as also, the fleeting of the suspected Party, thrown
upon the Water; these Proofs are so far from being sufficient, that some of
them are, after a sort, practices of Witchcraft.
XI. The Testimony of some Wizzard, tho' offering to shew the Witches Face
in a Glass: This, I grant, may be a good Presumption, to cause a strait
Examinations; but a sufficient Proof of Conviction it cannot be. If the Devil
tell the Grand Jury, that the person in question is a Witch, and offers withal
to confirm the same by Oath, should the Inquest receive his Oath or
Accusation to condemn the man? Assuredly no. And yet, that is as much as
the Testimony of another Wizzard, who only by the Devil's help reveals the
XII. If a man, being dangerously sick, and like to dye, upon Suspicion, will
take it on his Death, that such a one hath bewitched him, it is an Allegation of
the same nature, which may move the Judge to examine the Party, but it is of
no moment for Conviction.
XIII. Among the sufficient means of Conviction, the first is, the free and
voluntary Confession of the Crime, made by the party suspected and accused,
after Examination. I say not, that a bare confession is sufficient, but a
Confession after due Examination, taken upon pregnant presumption. What
needs now more witness or further Enquiry?
XIV. There is a second sufficient Conviction, by the Testimony of two
Witnesses, of good and honest Report, avouching before the Magistrate, upon
their own Knowledge, these two things: either that the party accused hath
made a League with the Devil, or hath done some known practice of
witchcraft. And, all Arguments that do necessarily prove either of these,
being brought by two sufficient Witnesses, are of force fully to convince the
XV. If it can be proved, that the party suspected hath called upon the Devil,
or desired his Help, this is a pregnant proof of a League formerly made
XVI. If it can be proved, that the party hath entertained a Familiar Spirit, and
had Conference with if, in the likeness of some visible Creatures; here is
Evidence of witchcraft.
XVII. If the witnesses affirm upon Oath, that the suspected person hath done
any action or work which necessarily infers a Covenant made, as, that he
hath used Enchantments, divined things before they come to pass, and that
peremptorily, raised Tempests, caused the Form of a dead man to appear; it
proveth sufficiently, that he or she is a Witch.
METHODS PERSECUTORS USED FOR THE DETECTION OF WITCHES IN 17th CENTURY AMERICA