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Connecticut Witch Trials with Beth Caruso and Tony Griego of CT WITCH Memorial

Connecticut Witch Trial History with Beth Caruso and Tony Griego Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast

Joined by author Beth Caruso and activist Tony Griego, we discuss the history of witch trials in colonial Connecticut. We talk about the first person to be hanged for witchcraft in the American colonies, Gov. John Winthrop Jr, the link between illness and witchcraft accusations, how a Christmas party led to accusations, and more.Join our Discord to discuss the episode with us.Beth Caruso,  One of Windsor: The Untold Story of America's First Witch HangingBeth Caruso, The Salty Rose: Alchemists, Witches & A Tapper In New Amsterdam Annie Eliot Trumbull, "One Blank of Windsor", Literary Section, Hartford Courant, December 3, 1904 (requires subscription or free trial) John Putnam Demos, Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New EnglandPaul B. Moyer, Detestable and Wicked Arts: New England and Witchcraft in the Early Modern Atlantic WorldPetitionMary-Louise Bingham’s YouTube video about Connecticut victims  CT W.I.T.C.H. Memorial Witch-Hunt Witch Trials Hysteria History of the American Colonies Wyllys Papers Note on Numbers45+ total accused14 convicted11 executed15 acquittals and 14 convictions (includes Elizabeth Seager (acquitted twice and convicted once)). The other cases did not go to trial.Activism Timeline:2005: “ad hoc committee”2008/2009 attempted legislation2016 CT W.I.T.C.H. Memorial2022 Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration ProjectThou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast linksWebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagramLinkedInYouTubeSupport the show

Show Notes

Joined by author Beth Caruso and activist Tony Griego, we discuss the history of witch trials in colonial Connecticut. We talk about the first person to be hanged for witchcraft in the American colonies, Gov. John Winthrop Jr, the link between illness and witchcraft accusations, how a Christmas party led to accusations, and more.

Join us on Discord to discuss the episode, share your ideas, and give us your feedback.

Sign the petition to clear the names of those accused of witchcraft in Connecticut

Beth Caruso,  One of Windsor: The Untold Story of America’s First Witch Hanging

Beth Caruso, The Salty Rose: Alchemists, Witches & A Tapper In New Amsterdam

Annie Eliot Trumbull, “One Blank of Windsor”, Literary Section, Hartford Courant, December 3, 1904 (requires subscription or free trial) 

John Putnam Demos, Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England

Paul B. Moyer, Detestable and Wicked Arts: New England and Witchcraft in the Early Modern Atlantic World

Mary-Louise Bingham’s YouTube video about Connecticut victims

CT W.I.T.C.H. Memorial

Salem Witch-Hunt

The Witch Trials Hysteria History of the American Colonies

Samuel Wyllys Papers

A Note on Numbers

45+ total accused

14 convicted

11 executed

15 acquittals and 14 convictions (includes Elizabeth Seager (acquitted twice and convicted once)). The other cases did not go to trial.

Activism Timeline:

2005: “ad hoc committee”

2008/2009 attempted legislation

2016 CT W.I.T.C.H. Memorial

2022 Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project

Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast links

Support the show


[00:00:00] Josh Hutchinson: "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Exodus 22:18.
[00:00:26] Josh Hutchinson: Hello, and welcome to the very first episode of Thou Shalt Not Suffer a podcast about which trials we hope you're as excited as we are. Before we begin, though, allow us to introduce ourselves. I'm Josh Hutchinson. I'm a writer and a descendant of a woman executed for witchcraft in Salem, Mary Esty. For the past eight years, I've been sharing information about Salem on social media. Look for me on Twitter @salemwitchhunt.
[00:00:53] Sarah Jack: I'm Sarah Jack, AKA @restingwitches on Twitter. I'm a descendant of multiple women, [00:01:00] tried for witchcraft in new England, and I run a Facebook group dedicated to sharing witch trial history, check the show notes for links to all our social media. In June, we came together with a group of others to form the Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project, an organization dedicated to clearing the names of those accused of witchcraft in colonial Connecticut.
[00:01:19] Stay tuned for future episodes, as we interview leading figures in the study of witch trial history, as well as activists working to stop witch hunts today and recognize the victims of yesterday, 
[00:01:30] Josh Hutchinson: We'll have exciting discussions and bring you lots of history.
[00:01:33] Sarah Jack: Before we get into today's episode, we want to share some exciting news from Massachusetts, where the state has recently exonerated the final person convicted of witchcraft during the Salem witch trials.
[00:01:44] Josh Hutchinson: At last, all convicted in that witch hunt have had their names restored. 
[00:01:49] Sarah Jack: Yes, governor Charlie baker signed the budget into law on July 28. The budget included a provision to add the name of Elizabeth Johnson Jr. To the list of those exonerated.[00:02:00] 
[00:02:00] Josh Hutchinson: This effort was spearheaded by an eighth grade civics class at north Andover Middle School. Just goes to show the power young people can have when they execute their duties as young citizens. 
[00:02:11] Sarah Jack: We plan to have much more on this in a future episode, when we can cover the story in depth 
[00:02:16] Josh Hutchinson: For now, we want to thank teacher Carrie LaPierre and her students for their efforts. 
[00:02:21] Sarah Jack: Thanks also to historian Richard Hite who first recognized that Elizabeth Johnson Jr. still needed to be exonerated. Now, before we talk to Beth and Tony let's review the history of witch trials in Connecticut. 
[00:02:33] Josh Hutchinson: Thank you, Sarah. I want to begin with a brief overview of the trials. Witch hunting in Connecticut occurred in three phases between 1647 and 1697. First, between 1647 and 1654, Connecticut tried and executed seven people for supposedly committing witchcraft against their neighbors.
[00:02:55] The seven executed in this period were Alice Young, [00:03:00] Mary Johnson. Joan Carrington, John Carrington, Goodwife Bassett, Goodwife Knapp, and Lydia Gilbert. 
[00:03:07] Sarah Jack: Wow. Seven for seven.
[00:03:09] Josh Hutchinson: Gruesome conviction rate, right?
[00:03:11] Sarah Jack: Deadly. What happened next?
[00:03:13] Josh Hutchinson: In the mid 1650s, witch hunting cooled down as moderates led by John Winthrop, Jr. came into power in Connecticut and strengthened rules of evidence required to convict people of witchcraft. 
[00:03:25] Sarah Jack: Sounds like a happy ending. 
[00:03:27] Josh Hutchinson: If that was the end of things, it would've been, but Connecticut had no colonial charter from England. 
[00:03:33] Sarah Jack: What does that mean? 
[00:03:34] Josh Hutchinson: Unlike the Massachusetts bay colony, Connecticut had no legal right to govern itself.
[00:03:39] Sarah Jack: What did they do?
[00:03:40] Josh Hutchinson: In 1661, John Wintrhrop Jr. Went to London to get a charter from the king, leaving Connecticut in the hands of assistant governor, John Mason. 
[00:03:49] Sarah Jack: And he didn't do a good job. Did he? 
[00:03:50] Josh Hutchinson: No, he did not. While Winthrop was away, an outbreak of witchcraft reportedly occurred in Hartford. The resulting panic led to the executions of [00:04:00] four more individuals in 1662 and 1663. They were Rebecca Greensmith, Nathaniel Greensmith, Mary Sanford, and Mary Barnes.
[00:04:10] Sarah Jack: All well, Winthrop was away?
[00:04:12] Josh Hutchinson: All while he was in London. When he returned, he quelled the panic, and no more colonists were executed for witchcraft in Connecticut, though accusations continued.
[00:04:21] Sarah Jack: That wasn't the end of things?
[00:04:23] Josh Hutchinson: No. A third period of witch hunting in Connecticut occurred in 1692. 
[00:04:28] Sarah Jack: Wait wasn't Salem also in 1690?
[00:04:30] Josh Hutchinson: Yes, and Salem may have influenced the witch trials in Connecticut during which five women were charged with witchcraft. 
[00:04:37] Sarah Jack: What happened to them?
[00:04:39] Josh Hutchinson: Two of the cases went to trial. One woman was acquitted and one was convicted.
[00:04:44] Sarah Jack: Was she executed? 
[00:04:45] Josh Hutchinson: No. Fortunately for her a commission. Overruled. The jury due to the lack of clear evidence 
[00:04:51] Sarah Jack: was that the last witch trial in Connecticut? 
[00:04:54] Josh Hutchinson: Not quite two other people were charged elsewhere in Connecticut in 1690. [00:05:00] And a mother and daughter Winifred, Benham, senior and junior were tried and acquitted in 1697.
[00:05:06] Sarah Jack: The Winifreds are my ancestors. 
[00:05:08] Josh Hutchinson: You're related to the last two women tried for witchcraft in new England?
[00:05:12] Sarah Jack: I am related to them. 
[00:05:14] Josh Hutchinson: Is that how you got interested in witch trials?
[00:05:16] Sarah Jack: It is, and I'm descended from both Rebecca nurse and Mary Esty of Salem as well. 
[00:05:21] Josh Hutchinson: I'm also descended from Mary Esty. She's my 10th great grandmother.
[00:05:25] Sarah Jack: That makes us podcasting cousins.
[00:05:27] Josh Hutchinson: It does. 
[00:05:28] Sarah Jack: And now for more history on the Connecticut witch trials, we turn to Tony Griego and Beth Caruso of Connecticut WITCH Memorial. 
[00:05:35] Beth. We've just heard a little bit about the Connecticut witch trials. Is there anything you'd like to add to that summary? 
[00:05:41] Beth Caruso: I just wanna say that Connecticut witch trials are often ignored or not even known about.
[00:05:48] So I'm quite grateful for you doing this podcast and giving them more life. People don't realize that Connecticut actually started the witch [00:06:00] trials in the greater American colonies. And with that, were an influence on really getting things going, which led to the big shebang that is Salem much later on 
[00:06:16] Sarah Jack: Tony, would you like to share anything on the history before we begin talking about the exoneration efforts? 
[00:06:22] Tony Griego: As Beth said Connecticut was the first colony in America to hang somebody for witchcraft on may 26th, 1647. And for a very long time, that was completely overlooked. Alice Young's name was not even mentioned in any known documents at the time until about 1880.
[00:06:48] John Winthrop, Sr. kept a journal, and in the spring of 1647, he made a notation in there that one of Windsor had been arraigned and executed [00:07:00] as a witch in Hartford. Now people are well aware of that statement in his journal, however, who the individual was completely left out.
[00:07:10] And that fact wasn't known until many years later, probably around 1880, when local historian in Connecticut viewed the diary of Matthew Grant, who was the second town clerk in Windsor. And he made a notation in there, four hangings on a page. And one of those statements was May 26th, 47. Alice Young was hanged. 
[00:07:35] Again, this information wasn't shared with the general public until the historian's daughter wrote an article for the Hartford Courant in December of 1904 and told a long story about Alice Young, a nd that's when the people of Connecticut and elsewhere f irst learned who the first person was hanged for witchcraft.
[00:07:59] Beth Caruso: [00:08:00] This historian his name is John Hammond Trumbull, and he found out about this early Windsor church record through the minister in Windsor.
[00:08:13] It came to his attention that this old book from the 1600s was in a pile of rubble of a house that was torn down and the house had belonged to the granddaughter of Matthew Grant. Hence the name, the Matthew Grant diary. Matthew Grant was the second recorder of information in Windsor, Connecticut in the 1600s.
[00:08:37] And so this book just got lost. It was basically the old Windsor church record. It had a lot of vital statistics, but it's mostly just church sermons. And on that inside cover, as Tony just said, was where it said Alice Young hanged May the 26th [00:09:00] 47. Now Trumbull really didn't tell the wider public about it at all.
[00:09:05] As Tony was saying, it wasn't until his daughter, Annie Elliot Trumbull, was the one who made this entry on the inside cover of the Matthew Grant diary or the old Windsor church record known to the public through this article in the Hartford Courant. And if you can, I would encourage anyone to read it.
[00:09:31] I really love this article that she wrote. It talks about her as a person, not just as a witch trial victim. 
[00:09:42] Josh Hutchinson: You've written two books about the Connecticut witch trials. How did you get onto that subject? 
[00:09:49] Beth Caruso: I was interested in this topic before I actually became an author. Thoughts had, come to my mind thinking maybe it would be fun to write something, but I never really [00:10:00] pursued it.
[00:10:01] But then I moved to Windsor, Connecticut, and a few years later, someone told me that the very first person to hang for witchcraft was from this town, Alice Young. I was blown away by that because I thought the only witch trials had been in Salem, Massachusetts. So with that, I was pretty upset, angry, disappointed that most people, even in my own town did not know about Alice Young or had just heard about her in passing, but really didn't know any details.
[00:10:34] And I can't really fully explain it to this day, but I was driven to research about her. Find out as much as I could. I came across a lot of brick walls, until one day the thought came to my mind that I should investigate the neighborhood where she lived and maybe I would find more [00:11:00] information, and from there I really did.
[00:11:02] And it was enough information for me to base a historical novel on. Of course, it's fiction, because as Tony said, there are few trial records, none for Alice Young. So I really had to fill in a lot of gaps. But in doing so I did find some real historical things going on. So with that book, One of Windsor, it led me to, bringing it to the mayor in the town of Windsor.
[00:11:33] And he was all excited about it and said, we really should do something for the two women from Windsor who were hanged. And then, later on I wrote another book, The Salty Rose, cuz I had so much evidence and historical information that I gathered from One of Windsor. And that book largely focuses on Winthrop's role in stopping the witch trials, his [00:12:00] assistant John Tinker, who I think also played a role, the role that alchemy played, as well as touching upon the Hartford Witch Panic.
[00:12:09] And some other witch trials from that era. 
[00:12:14] Josh Hutchinson: Beth, researching your books, you must have come across some fascinating information. What's something that surprised you?
[00:12:22] Beth Caruso: People had theorized that Alice Young's hanging had something to do with an epidemic, an influenza epidemic, as it came through town in 1647.
[00:12:36] And what amazed me and surprised me was that looking through the old Windsor church record or the Matthew Grant diary, all the vital statistics were really there to prove it. When you combined property records with those vital statistics, there was a cluster of [00:13:00] children living immediately next door to Alice Young who died in 1647.
[00:13:06] And her only daughter lived, and looking at it from that epidemiological standpoint, it really blew me away. And I thought, even though we don't have the exact written trial record, that's pretty powerful information from primary sources. What those primary sources also show is that children and spouses of extremely important people in the town died that year as well.
[00:13:37] Two children of the minister, one of the doctor. There was a child of someone who was in the legislature and the wife of someone in the legislature. And in that year, 1647, the death rate more than quadrupled. So with all those primary sources, I do [00:14:00] think we have enough to suggest that the reason she was hanged was at least partially because of the epidemic that came through town.
[00:14:08] Josh Hutchinson: So they would've believed that she caused the epidemic through witchcraft then? 
[00:14:14] Beth Caruso: Yes, because when people were accused of witchcraft in those days, it was for things that, as we see with John Winthrop Jr., who had more of a scientific mind, people could not really be responsible for a change in weather, knocking out a bridge or causing a pandemic or epidemic in town, natural events that we can explain with science now, but most people didn't have science backgrounds or access to as science was just developing during those times. 
[00:14:51] Josh Hutchinson: And how did stigma affect the future generations? 
[00:14:55] Beth Caruso: Other generations were often viewed with suspicion.[00:15:00] It's interesting. In the case of Alice Young, almost everyone who surrounded her on Backer Row, where she lived, fled town right after the hanging. At least within a year or two, all of them were gone, with the exception of one neighbor, Rhoda Tinker, who stayed for marriage purposes and then left sometime around 1654. And they were a larger family, the Tinker family, and I think they realized they were marked, and anytime there was suspicion or strange things that couldn't be accounted for, they knew they were being looked at, and we have that evidenced in the fact that Alice Young's daughter, Alice Young Jr.
[00:15:50] She was here in Windsor, Connecticut. The man who's called her father, John Young. He moved to Stratford shortly [00:16:00] after this happened, but we know Alice Young Jr. Stayed here. One of the few people that stayed here. Her marriage record in 1654, is that she is living in Windsor. She marries someone from Springfield, Simon Beamon, but interestingly enough, the marriage occurs after the conviction of Lydia Gilbert. Within about two weeks, she's left town with her new husband, and later on, she gets slandered as a witch as does her son. So the reputation would follow someone. And we find this in other cases, people who were neighbors, who were friends with, who were family members of an accused witch later on could be accused themselves or be accused at the same time.
[00:16:55] In the case of the Benhams, it's mother and daughter, both who [00:17:00] were accused at the same time. In the case of the Carringtons it's both husband and wife who were accused at the same time. Unfortunately, we don't know the exact details of what happened with the Carringtons. The soiled reputation certainly lived on.
[00:17:18] Josh Hutchinson: What would be involved in a night of merriment for witches?
[00:17:21] Tony Griego: Several people got together during the Christmas season, which was banned by the Puritans. They danced on the green. They enjoyed some alcoholic beverages and word got out.
[00:17:32] It led to the Greensmiths, Rebecca confessed. And it's just one of those strange events that took place that there's really no recognition of it. You won't read , anything in the history of Hartford about the Merryman unless you're reading witchcraft books. 
[00:17:50] Josh Hutchinson: So it sounds like it was basically a Christmas party, and people twisted that into somehow being about witchcraft.
[00:17:58] Beth Caruso: That's right. There were [00:18:00] very few holidays that the Puritans were allowed to celebrate, including Christmas. They were not allowed. They thought it was frivolous. But there were people from England who had always celebrated and they were gonna do it.
[00:18:16] So they got together near the river in. And this event of merriment of having a Christmas party was basically used to name witches during the Hartford Witch Panic. Anne Cole was a young woman, a tween, a tweenager or teenager who started having fits during the Hartford Witch Panic. And. Reverend stone and some other ministers interviewed her and wanted her to name names.
[00:18:52] So that's when she reported the Christmas party. And drinking sock, which is a [00:19:00] sweetened white wine. And at that time there were many native Americans that came through. So the dark figures she reported in the night could have been just local natives that some of the people were friends with who were, celebrating with them, who knows? We don't have the exact real story. But in any case, Anne Cole used it as an excuse to name names. And that's what really got the Hartford Witch Panic going after Elizabeth Kelly, a young girl of eight died of a mysterious illness and named the first , Goody Ayers, who she thought to be a witch before she died. Other people that were named were Judith Varlett the Greensmiths, the Ayers.
[00:19:53] And Mary Sanford, she hanged for witchcraft. Of course, the Greensmiths [00:20:00] hanged. And Mary Barnes of Farmington. She was hanged. But there were a lot of other ones who were accused and fled. The Ayers fled. There were a lot of people accused because of that Christmas party. 
[00:20:15] Josh Hutchinson: It sounds like either you escaped or you were hung. 
[00:20:17] Beth Caruso: Because in Connecticut, it wasn't a speckled history of, sometimes you're innocent. Sometimes you're not. At that point, the first seven people who were accused and then indicted were also convicted and hanged. So your chances weren't very good in Connecticut. And if you got accused, you were pretty wary of what was gonna happen next. And a lot of people did flee. no, they felt like they had to flee to save their lives and they had no issue leaving their property. In some cases, their children to escape the [00:21:00] hangman's noose.
[00:21:01] Sarah Jack: And I was wondering someone like Anne Cole, she was, you were saying a very young woman or teenager. Would that generation in that town have had a night of merriment before, or do you think it was like a new experience for them? 
[00:21:20] Beth Caruso: Yeah, that's a really good point. We're talking about 1660s and Anne Cole being a teenager or a tween.
[00:21:28] She, of course would've been in the colonies, and she would've lived only under strict Puritan rule. The people who were taking part in the party, they were from another culture like Judith Varlett was, she was Dutch. Or you had memories of having fun over a Christmas party in England. And so it might not carry the same gravity for the people who[00:22:00] participated.
[00:22:01] Also. We don't know exactly what happened with the case of the epidemic for Alice Young there, I think. It's possible that some of these fits and things started because in that situation, there were kids who were gravely ill with influenza. As a nurse, I can tell you when kids are gravely ill like that, they might have high fevers.
[00:22:32] They might suffer confusion from those high fevers hallucinations. Another thing that can happen are pediatric seizures. So that history went back about 15 years or so. And after that event, the witch trials really kick off. And as the stories are spreading and being shared, what are [00:23:00] things that people are remembering?
[00:23:02] Were there kids that had fits? Were there kids that were talking about a witch bothering them? So what were the origins of all these type of stories? Because there seemed to be things in common, and that's the young girls having the fits, having the seizures, being bewitched, talking about witches visiting them and pinching them or hurting them in some way in the middle of the night. And you see this in Salem, you see this in the Hartford Witch Panic . You see it with Ann Cole, you see it with Elizabeth Kelly before she died. So how much of this was a manifestation that took place because of hearing these stories over and over again. And how many times [00:24:00] were they repeated?
[00:24:01] Incessantly on the pulpits in these first churches in the new world for the Puritans. So how much of that fed into the psyche as well? This is a, another aspect of what was Anne Cole doing or did she really have seizures? Would she have gotten a diagnosis of a seizure disorder?
[00:24:25] Plenty of kids have that too. We just don't know. It's really fascinating. It would be so cool to go back with modern medical science and find out what was really happening. 
[00:24:38] Tony Griego: I wanna throw something out and I want, I wanna get your opinion on this. I'm gonna throw this right in your lap.
[00:24:45] When the Puritans came from England to America, they came here with a charter from the king, which allowed them to govern themselves. Shortly after that, when people started moving away from the [00:25:00] Boston bay colony, the folks that moved to Connecticut used what they call the Warwick Patent, w hich was basically a document that allowed them to sell property.
[00:25:12] When Hartford started their government, it started, governing themselves. They had no charter from the king. It wasn't until 1661 that Winthrop first, went back to England, to meet with Charles II to get an official charter for Connecticut. My gut feeling is the trials that were taking place here in Connecticut may very well have been illegal.
[00:25:41] They had no charter official charter from the king. Just a theory I have. 
[00:25:46] Sarah Jack: I do think that would be significant especially because the legislation seems so, they're so sticky about, there's no path for this right now. There should not have been a path for witch trials then.
[00:25:58] Tony Griego: I think [00:26:00] unfortunately, because there's so many documents that are missing, an attorney today might have difficulty proving that point, but I just always think it's odd that the witch trials here in Connecticut stopped because John Winthrop went to England and got a charter.
[00:26:18] Beth Caruso: Winthrop junior might being agreeing with you right now if he were able to be with us, because the reason why he went to England was he was so concerned about Connecticut residents being considered squatters by the crown. So certainly anything that happened in Connecticut. Without the proper colonial authority could not be condoned because if they weren't allowed to be here in the first place.
[00:26:53] So I think that's a very interesting point, a very good point. But again, I'm not a legal scholar. 
[00:26:59] Sarah Jack: [00:27:00] It's such a good point because when, what I do know of the timeline with the Salem witch hunt, convening the Court of Oyer and Terminer was significant.
[00:27:10] Josh Hutchinson: Both the 1662 Hartford Witch Panic and the Salem Witch Trials have that in common that there was a charter question.
[00:27:20] Both of them had a absentee governor in the beginning, who was across the sea getting a charter. So you've got that strong parallel there where there's this question that Tony raised about was there really a legitimate government in the first place? Was the court legal? Was it just a kangaroo court?
[00:27:42] Sarah Jack: And then I think about how Tony has experienced over the decades, the governments that he's reached out to not sure if they take responsibility, finding a way to say it, isn't our responsibility. Tony showing that it, there was nobody overseeing that legally [00:28:00] probably.
[00:28:01] Beth Caruso: And it's also interesting that the Lieutenant governor or the assistant governor was here and monitoring all of this and just letting things fly while Winthrop Jr. was away. He was captain John Mason, who was the Connecticut leader for the Pequot war. And he admitting to setting fire to a native Fort that killed, we don't know exactly how many, approximately 700 people. But he, even though he was assistant governor, it's not like nowadays where, oh, okay, if you're in Connecticut, you have Lamont and then his lieutenant governor, Bysiewicz, Susan Bysiewicz they're of the same political party. It wasn't the same back then, because John [00:29:00] Mason, Captain John Mason and John Winthrop, Jr. ,the alchemist were very different from each other and had drastically different political views. So that's another very interesting point about all of this. 
[00:29:19] Josh Hutchinson: We've talked about John Winthrop Jr. A fair amount. Beth you've written a book about him. Can you tell us just a little bit to summarize who John Winthrop Jr. was? 
[00:29:30] Beth Caruso: Sure he was the son of the leader of Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, but he was pretty different from his father early on. He got interested in alchemy, which were ancient beliefs that were thought to be brought from Egypt on down through different cultures. And he was fascinated by them. He became a [00:30:00] alchemical physician and in becoming an alchemical physician, he became a caretaker in a way for about two thirds of Connecticut colony. He didn't actually see everyone in person. A lot of families wrote him letters or leaders of different towns would write him letters saying this person is afflicted and these are the symptoms, and he would write back and say, give them this, and then he made his own, special alchemical powders and that send that on too, but his records are in Yale today and Massachusetts historical society is where his records are also just two places and they are not online. So I look forward to them being online one day, because I think they're gonna be loaded with more information, but in any case, Winthrop Jr. got involved with the witch [00:31:00] trials because he was asked during some trials in the 1650s to come and assess whether the person being accused of witchcraft was truly a witch, or if they were affected by something medically. Now being a young scientist, we think of alchemy as nonsense now, but basically, it was the beginnings of early science, such as chemistry.
[00:31:31] And so he did have a scientific mind and he did do a lot of experiments in nature. And he did not believe that the people who were accused of witchcraft in Connecticut could possibly do the thing that they were accused of. He was a very diplomatic as well, and so when he gave his opinion that someone was not a witch, which not once, did he call [00:32:00] someone a witch.
[00:32:01] He couched it in terms that the community could accept, because of course they were targeting a person who they might not have liked in the community, they may have been suspicious of. And he didn't want them to discredit his opinion altogether, so he would s ay things like, okay, yes. I understand, this person may have acted in a malicious way and the community's right to be upset with them, but that doesn't mean they're a witch.
[00:32:33] So he was very diplomatic in a way that people really had to listen to him and to his concerns. He basically stopped the witch trials after Lydia Gilbert because of his due diligence in this way. And he became governor of Connecticut colony and the witch trials pretty much stopped as far as death by [00:33:00] hanging.
[00:33:00] There were people who were still accused and there were still trials, but nobody died for it. And then when he went away and the Hartford Witch Panic happened, things went crazy again. So you can imagine upon his return, seeing that four people hanged and witchcraft accusations were ripe again, he and a minister, Buckley, who was a friend of his and also an alchemist. They thought what can we do to stop these hangings once and for all? And they did a lot of work in introducing the two person rule where there had to be two people as witnesses. Before you'd have Anne Cole saying, oh, someone visited me in the middle of the night and pinched me or Elizabeth Kelly.
[00:33:52] And that would be one person. And that would be enough sometimes to get somebody hanged for witchcraft. So with the two person witness [00:34:00] rule, that really stopped that. So again, there were witch trials that continued in Connecticut, but none were deadly. There was one conviction later on. But he as governor, he just blatantly refused to carry out the sentence.
[00:34:17] So he really was influential in stopping the witch trials and at least slowing them down and making them less deadly than in Massachusetts. 
[00:34:29] Josh Hutchinson: Sounds like we really could have used John Winthrop, Jr. in Salem because they had a way to get around the two person rule.
[00:34:38] What they ended up indicting everybody on was the alleged afflictions that happened during the court proceedings using basically everybody, you would witness somebody writhing around on the floor saying that they're getting pinched and multiple people would witness that. And that would [00:35:00] count even though those people didn't see the spectors, only the afflicted person saw the spector.
[00:35:06] But seeing the afflicted person writhing around was enough to hang somebody. 
[00:35:12] Beth Caruso: I just wanna say what an honor it is to be in your inaugural episode of Thou Shalt Not Suffer.
[00:35:23] I think this podcast will reach people far and wide and educate them about which trials from many times in many locations. And I think it will fill in a real need and interest in that way. So best of luck to both of you. 
[00:35:45] Josh Hutchinson: Thank you. We're rather excited about having this podcast start and it's been quite a pleasure to have both of you as our guests in our first episode been quite a wonderful discussion.
[00:35:59] Sarah Jack: [00:36:00] Yes, it's so exciting. And, but Tony, all of the information you gave is so important, valuable. It's a historical perspective none of us have. Beth, your research, your gift of writing, what you've given, we highly value it. And I, and I'm sure Josh is too, but I feel so privileged to have had this time with you on this interview.
[00:36:25] And so thank you very much. 
[00:36:27] Tony Griego: I just wanna say that I'm very excited that finally. I believe sincerely that we're moving forward and it's all because of folks like you, descendants who are gonna make this happen. 
[00:36:41] Sarah Jack: I agree. When you talked about the key piece of the descendants for the future of what happens in Connecticut with this history, it is gonna be key.
[00:36:52] And you guys have gathered so many descendants with your CT WITCH Memorial and the [00:37:00] conversation between them and what's happening with the exoneration is growing. And I think it is going to be a powerful force.
[00:37:09] Josh Hutchinson: It's always great to talk to Beth and Tony. Now let's hear from Sarah with another witch trial headline.
[00:37:15] Sarah Jack: Witch Hunt Happenings in Your World. Let's take a moment and consider the use of the words witch hunt. The phrase witch hunt is most used today to identify the pursuit of a marked individual or group. We see the phrase used in this way daily and broadly in situations that have a claim for unjust dealings. Witch hunt behaviors are known in these small and large situations that have persons or groups marked as canceled, other, or just trouble.
[00:37:45] You are possibly thinking about the political witch hunts we are bombarded with. Maybe your mind went back to a place called the Salem Witch Hunts, or maybe the image of a bad woman on a pyre comes to mind. Yes, we think of [00:38:00] these first, witch hunts politics, witch hunts Salem, witch hunts, witch burning. 
[00:38:05] What am I gonna say next? I'm gonna say witch hunts human rights, witch hunts Leo Igwe, witch hunts Advocacy for Alleged Witches, witch hunts fear, witch hunts ongoing. Yes. Ongoing fear of witches in this world is actually driving murder while you're sleeping, making your coffee and enjoying your favorite pet. Innocent humans are suffering now as accused witches in countries in Africa, witch hunts human rights, witch hunts Leo Igwe, witch hunts.
[00:38:38] Innocent humans are suffering now as accused witches in countries in Africa, witch hunts human rights, witch hunts, Leo Igwe, witch hunts, the Advocacy for Alleged Witches. This advocacy is a Nigerian campaign against superstition. It exists to use compassion, reason, and science to [00:39:00] save lives of those affected by superstition and community murder. It is not a historic issue. 
[00:39:05] Thank you for letting me share an expanded view of the phrase witch hunt. When you tune into the latest episode of Thou Shalt Not Suffer Podcast, we will break to bring you a snippet of the latest witch hunt happenings in your world. Those witch hunts will be about real people, targeted, abused, and sometimes murdered due to witchcraft superstition. 
[00:39:25] Josh Hutchinson: Thank you for that important update, Sarah. 
[00:39:28] Sarah Jack: You bet. It's very important to keep a finger on the pulse of what is happening right now with witch hunts in our world. 
[00:39:37] Josh Hutchinson: It's still sadly an everyday reality. 
[00:39:40] Sarah Jack: Unfortunately, there is a lot of suffering in the world right now, due to witch hunts. And I'm gonna bring that news to you in our episodes.
[00:39:49] We have a special segment for you now. 
[00:39:53] Josh Hutchinson: Ballet Des Moines has created a ballet based on the Salem Witch trials. The ballet, titled Salem, [00:40:00] Premieres October 20th.
[00:40:02] Sarah Jack: And now we speak with Ballet Des Moines, artistic director Tom Mattingly and creative director Jami Milne. 
[00:40:09] Josh Hutchinson: We appreciate you taking this time to talk to us. 
[00:40:13] Tom Mattingly: Of course. I appreciate the invite. 
[00:40:15] Josh Hutchinson: When and where is the ballet being performed, and how can people purchase tickets? 
[00:40:21] Tom Mattingly: Salem will be performed at the Stoner Studio Theater in downtown Des Moines, October 20th through the 29th.
[00:40:28] Tickets can be purchased at
[00:40:30] Josh Hutchinson: Thank you.
[00:40:33] Sarah Jack: Tell us about how you were inspired and how you gained your understanding of the Salem Witch Trials. 
[00:40:39] Tom Mattingly: I think that the Salem Witch Trials has always been a captivating subject. When you learn about it in school, you get a very condensed version that doesn't really go into detail. And during the pandemic, I found an incredible podcast that went deep into detail. It was probably, [00:41:00] 12 or 14 episodes long. So many things that I had no idea really transpired. As a kid, I always thought that the witches were burned at the stake. And so it was interesting to hear that didn't really happen in the U. S.. I didn't know that there had been men that had been accused and executed for practicing witchcraft or being possessed by a demon.
[00:41:23] I have always loved ballet as a vehicle for storytelling, and I think that there can be so much left to interpretation with the subject of witchcraft and that interpretation lends itself really well to ballet. So what I've done with Salem is I've taken inspiration from the historical events to create a fictional story, one that could have happened during the time, but isn't necessary a recreation of actual events.
[00:41:55] Sarah Jack: And what is it that you're saying through the fiction story that[00:42:00] you're telling? 
[00:42:01] Tom Mattingly: Fear itself is very powerful. And when we are led by fear rather than reason, there are horrific consequences.
[00:42:11] Sarah Jack: One of your quotes in the article that I read said that different doesn't mean dangerous. People need to be reminded not to judge a book by its cover. And it sounds like you are capturing that with this story. Is there anything else you want to expound on? 
[00:42:28] Tom Mattingly: With this story, there is one particular woman in the cast who is accused, and she and her husband have relocated to Salem from another colony that had been attacked by the native tribes.
[00:42:42] So they were essentially a poor family seeking refuge, and because they dressed slightly differently than the townspeople in Salem, because they were lower on the social and economic ladder, they became [00:43:00] targets for accusation and violence.
[00:43:03] Sarah Jack: One of the characters that I read about was fear personified. What kind of hint can you give us or insight into the fear personified? 
[00:43:13] Tom Mattingly: The character of fear is very important to this ballet. Fear is played by one of the male dancers in our company, and he is not a townsperson of Salem, but he is a constant presence and influence on the entire cast, so he really interacts a lot with the girl. The girl is the one who is making the accusations of witchcraft. She feels fearful from the pressures of the people around her, and especially her father, the preacher, to continue accusing and testifying against the people of Salem.
[00:43:45] Josh Hutchinson: Why choose to make this particular ballet?
[00:43:50] Tom Mattingly: One of the main reasons I chose the witch trials for a ballet is because I knew it was something that would capture people's attention. [00:44:00] Anytime that I have mentioned this ballet to people, they get really excited. Their posture straightens up, and they become very focused on what it is that I'm saying.
[00:44:08] I knew that the subject had great potential to reach audiences, and that's really what we're doing right now with Ballet Des Moines. We're very much a young company in its audience building phase, and having something like this that has such appeal, I think is really helpful to us as an organization, and it's perfect for an October performance date.
[00:44:32] It gives you that richy spooky vibes without being a Dracula. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm so tired of vampires. I would much rather see something about witches.
[00:44:42] Sarah Jack: One of the things that I love about this historical topic and then having the art to express it is you are, as you said, able to fictionalize a little bit, interpret pieces of that history, you're also engaging [00:45:00] people in a creative way, and they're gonna walk out of the theater, changed a little, thinking a little different, pondering, maybe they don't even know what they think.
[00:45:10] What do you think will be next for people? Or what kind of positive reactions or. Energy do you think this could do? So it's great timing, I think for the history, for the season, for the direction your company is growing with its audience.
[00:45:28] Tom Mattingly: I'm super excited for them to see it. And what I hope they take away from these performances is just a spark of inspiration. I hope that people are moved by what they see and think about how they view others, if they're viewing others with kindness, with the benefit of the doubt, if they're giving a chance to these people that they don't know. I hope that they are inspired to learn more about the Salem Witch Trials themselves.
[00:45:57] And I, I think that if they [00:46:00] do, they will see where these points of inspiration came from in the ballet, because it is a fictional story that I'm creating, but every element is based on historical fact. A lot of it is different people from the past kind of combined into become one character.
[00:46:16] Like the Mathers with our preacher. There is one character who attempts to defend his wife, who has been accused, and he himself gets accused of witchcraft and demonic possession, even down to the costuming. It's going to be a modern reinterpretation but based on the strict puritan dress codes of the time with the muted colors, being covered up, those natural fibers, no lace, no ribbons, very much bare bones, utilitarian in a lot of ways.
[00:46:47] Same thing with the set design, too, of these furniture pieces that can be used in many different configurations so that our meeting house can serve as a place of worship. It can serve as the [00:47:00] home for the trials themselves in the courthouse. Our set even has a different modular design to become the gallows when one of the characters is hanged.
[00:47:09] So all of these things really came from actuality, and we get to reimagine them in a new direction and create something that is itself, I think, very unique and hopefully enjoyable. , 
[00:47:24] Jami Milne: I was gonna add one thing that really excites me about Tom's work and his interpretation of all of this, and I think it goes along with your question in terms of what do you want people to feel or how do you think they will be changed? But I, as Tom and I were talking just this last week, and he said, "everyone knows the end of the story here. There's not a surprise, because we all know the Salem Witch Trials and what happened." And so I think for audiences who oftentimes this time of year, anytime perhaps, they're witnessing this type of art form, there's [00:48:00] the assumption of the happy ending, and you leave feeling resolved and you go get a drink and that's the end of a great night out.
[00:48:06] But I don't want anyone to forget the power of a somber ending and this idea that great change can come, feeling so emotionally disrupted that you have no choice but to think differently upon leaving. And I think that will really be the power of audiences walking in the doors and then leaving with very different emotional state.
[00:48:29] And I just think I'm really excited for the power that can result in. 
[00:48:33] Sarah Jack: Yeah, I think it's remarkable what you have created. I think that you are gonna have a remarkable outcome, and it's really relevant, and people are gonna realize it's not just relevant in non witch trial situations. It brings awareness that witch hunting mentality has been here and it's still [00:49:00] here, but change can happen, and art,, your work here, your ballet, all of the facets of what you've put into this are very powerful.
[00:49:10] And I do know that it's gonna be a beautiful production, and it's going to create positive change. 
[00:49:18] Tom Mattingly: I really hope so. And our goal, One of our goals with Ballet Des Moines is to create a really inclusive environment, both as a dancer, a creator, all the people who work for us behind the scenes, our administrative staff, and for our audiences as well.
[00:49:37] And one of the things that we're doing in this ballet is actually incorporating American Sign Language into the ballet. There's a absolutely wonderful ASL interpreter here in Des Moines who has done a workshop with the dancers, has taught me a number of signs and phrases to incorporate in the ballet, including a translation of the Lord's Prayer [00:50:00] into ASL that the dancers will be able to perform on stage.
[00:50:04] Other key phrases like sometimes Fear itself is powerful, is another one that'll be used during the show. You can see like she is a witch. All of these different things that really create or I should say, I often talk about ballet as being a movement vocabulary, and my choreography is a certain movement vocabulary.
[00:50:26] So incorporating something like ASL, which is literally a movement vocabulary, really seemed like it would be a great fit, and I'm so happy that it's worked out the way that it has. I think that it adds a richness to the ballet that otherwise would not have existed, and I think it also is reaching out to a community that maybe doesn't get that kind of representation as much as they could or should.
[00:50:53] And I hope that people in the deaf and hard of hearing community feel like they also have [00:51:00] a space with Ballet Des Moines. 
[00:51:02] Sarah Jack: That is really excellent. Is there anything else that either one of you would like an opportunity to share or tell us?
[00:51:11] Tom Mattingly: The music for Salem will primarily be Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.
[00:51:17] Rite of Spring is typically the story of ritual sacrifice, and in a way, I feel like that's what happened with the Salem Witch Trials. It became this ritual of accusations, trials, and hangings that just continued over and over until it was finally put to an end. And it's an amazing score. It's difficult as a dancer, because it's difficult to count and the melodies are so surprising, but the overall effect, I think, is incredible, and it takes this kind of animalistic quality. And the dancers are really able to embody it, especially in these group scenes at the church or at the gallows. It's really moving. 
[00:51:57] Sarah Jack: That's such a inspired [00:52:00] way to make the selection. The executions and finding out, searching out and finding the witch really was an act of purification, looking for purification for what was wrong in their community. 
[00:52:12] Jami Milne: I was so impressed when Tom was sharing with me even just the characters themselves within the ballet because there were names like The Girl, which to me signaled innocence, but that is not how this necessarily twists and turns and things like fear, which to me had softness a scaredness to it. But what happens when fear takes over and it goes from being this passive thing to this very negative acting verb. And then even something like The Skeptic, which in my mind is a negative, pessimistic type thing, but in this case, The Skeptic is the one who's actually trying to prove everyone wrong, because they are. And so I think even that interplay of just the thoughtfulness that Tom had [00:53:00] in naming is just one more layer for audiences to try and think they know what's going on, and then be, persuaded or just disrupted as they're watching it unfold.
[00:53:09] Sarah Jack: I hope you do get to take this far. I hope it evolves into something that's a message for the world. So congratulations on that. 
[00:53:20] Tom Mattingly: Salem will be performed at the Stoner Studio Theater in downtown Des Moines, October 20th through the 29th.
[00:53:27] Tickets can be purchased at
[00:53:30] Josh Hutchinson: Thank you, Tom and Jami for taking the time to speak with.
[00:53:35] And this has been Thou Shalt Not Suffer.
[00:53:38] Sarah Jack: Join us next week when our guests are Tony Griego, Beth Caruso and Mary-Louise Bingham of the Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project. 
[00:53:47] Josh Hutchinson: Visit for show notes, transcripts, and links to our social media. 
[00:53:53] Sarah Jack: Message us with feedback and episode ideas .
[00:53:56] Josh Hutchinson: And learn how you can support us.
[00:53:58] Sarah Jack: You can also find [00:54:00] links to the Connecticut WITCH Memorial and to Beth's books, One of Windsor and The Salty Rose. 
[00:54:06] Josh Hutchinson: I highly recommend that you run out now and pick up copies of both.
[00:54:10] Sarah Jack: And then enjoy reading them and talking to your friends about what you're reading.
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