Elicited gasps of horror echoed through the packed assembly hall, the intention of pubescent young women claiming the presence of stealthy apparitions. One fainted into the arms of another, quickening nearby adults to her aid.
“Hahahahaha!” Unlike the disturbed congregate, the defendant laughed.
The hard pound of wood on wood stomped out her merriment, a ritualistic demand for order. “What say you, Goody Martin?” the magistrate asked. “Explain your mirth over the ill fortune of children.”
“You expect a cry over such a farcical exhibition? You caged me on their claim of my league with evil spirits, and nothing more. If they truly see daemons lurking, perhaps the close proximity owes to their prevarication and susceptibility to corruptive imaginings, and not the daily deeds of those innocent.
“You disrobed my bod and prodded me in unnatural ways, in search of a third teat or some abnormal interstice. You found none. You detained me for months in fetid squalor and deprived me of my deserved freedom, holding as true the conjured claims of juvenile fantasy.
“Would you not laugh in the face of such absurdity? What would you have me do?”
“I remind you only attesting to your wilful complicity in devilish conspiracy will spare your life, Goody Martin. Do you wish us the truth?”
“My truth you heard, Magistrate; you credit it not.”
“We live as neighbours, we wish you no demise. Witchcraft permeates our community and threatens a God fearing people with the tempting decadence of the duplicitous devil, until we stand powerless and abandoned, enslaved by evil.
“My patience grows short. Defend or be done.”
“I too follow the teachings of God, but I fear none, not He, nor children, nor you. I will confess no act not committed.”
“Then you shall hang the nineteenth next, until dead.”
While this version stands as fiction, the historical Court of Oyer and Terminer convicted Susannah North Martin of witchcraft. They hung her on 19 July, 1692 in Salem Massachusetts, one of the 19 sentenced to death in the Salem Witch Trials.
The witch trials, and especially Susannah, connect to my life. She is my great grandmother, eight generations removed. Five others charged (out of 150) are my ancestors. One died in prison awaiting trial.
In Devil In the Shape of A Woman, Carol Karlsen claims they hung Susannah for three main reasons: for owning property – a woman after all, how horrid. Second, she talked back to men – in other words, she was candid. And lastly, she happened to like sleeping with women. I like to tease I owe my lgbtq genes to her.
She did laugh at her trial.