Bridget Bishop – The First to Die in Salem Witch Trials

Bridget Bishop – The First to Die in Salem Witch Trials

 

Bridget Bishop was one of nineteen people executed for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. Born some time in the 1630s, Bishop had was on her third marriage by the time the witch craze began. Bridget had one daughter, Christian Oliver, by her second husband in 1667, and married Edward Bishop, a lumber worker, in 1685.

Bridget was well-known in her neighborhood. She publicly fought with all of her husbands, dressed flamboyantly (although for Puritans, that just meant she liked to wear big hats and a red bodice with her black dress), and was the mistress not one but two taverns.

She developed a reputation for entertaining into the wee hours of the night, playing forbidden games such as shuffle board, and generally being the target of much speculation and gossip. In other words, Bridget Bishop didn’t seem to care what society thought of her – and because of that, she became a likely target when the accusations began. She was, in personality and reputation, the polar opposite of the pious Rebecca Nurse, although they both ended up on a scaffold.

In April, 1692, a warrant was issued for Bishop’s arrest on charges of performing witchcraft and consorting with the devil himself. When she entered the courthouse, a number of the “afflicted” girls, including Mercy Lewis and Ann Putnam, howled that she was causing them pain. Bishop denied any wrongdoing, swearing that she was “innocent as the child unborn,” according to Mary Norton’s In the Devil’s Snare.

Bishop’s wild ways were used as evidence against her. Certainly the town dyer’s claim that she brought him yards of lace to color was proof that she was up to something; after all, no sensible or respectable woman could need that much colored lace.

In addition to this damning testimony, and the accusations of the teenage girls, Bishop’s own brother-in-law swore he’d seen her “conversing with the Devil” who “came bodily into her.” She was executed on June 10.

After Bishop’s hanging, eighteen others were executed for the crime of witchcraft, and one man was pressed to death. Several others died in prison. Within months of Bridget Bishop’s death, her husband remarried.

Bridget’s descendants through Christian Oliver still live in New England today, and her tavern, the Bishop House, still stands.

 

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Points of Interests – Salem Witch Museum

Salem (MA) Witch Museum

Photo by Ron Cogswell

Words such as these struck terror into the hearts of Salem townspeople in the early spring of 1692 as hysterical young girls called out names.

By summer, 180 people had been accused and imprisoned – defenseless against accusations of witchcraft in a society driven by superstition and fear. The court, formed to try the victims, acted quickly. Bridget Bishop was tried on June 2 and hanged on June 10 thereby setting the precedent for a summer of executions.

The Salem Witch Museum brings you there, back to Salem 1692. Visitors are given a dramatic history lesson using stage sets with life-size figures, lighting and a narration – an overview of the Witch Trials of 1692.

Our new exhibit, Witches: Evolving Perceptions, examines the stereotypical witch, aspects of witchcraft in the 17th century, modern witchcraft and the phenomenon of witch hunts.

Question: Would you visit this Museum?