Site icon Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast

Documenting the Exoneration of the Last Witch of Salem

Documenting the Exoneration of the Last Witch of Salem Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast

Presenting The Last Witch documentary filmmakers  Annika Hylmo and Cassandra Roberts Hasseltine. We discuss the exoneration effort of Elizabeth Johnson Junior, who was a Salem Witch Trials convicted witch from Andover, MA. She was overlooked during previous exonerations but has now been cleared after 330 years.  The Last Witch documents how the community came together for the effort, including  North Andover Middle School teacher Carrie LaPierre and her students,  historian Richard Hite, and MA State Senator Diana Dizoglio.  We look for answers to our advocacy questions: Why do we witch hunt? How do we witch hunt? How do we stop hunting witches?The Last Witch WebsiteThe Last Witch- A documentary 330 years in the makingKelly Clarkson covers Johnson's exonerationContact The Last WitchState Senator Diana DiZoglio Facebook PageGeorge Gerbner, Media ScholarMarilynne K. Roach, The Salem Witch Trials: A Day By Day Chronicle of a Community Under SiegeRichard Hite, In the Shadow of Salem: The Andover Witch Hunt of 1692University of VA, Salem Witch Trials Documents and TranscriptionsEnd Witch Hunt ProjectsPlease sign the petition to exonerate those accused of witchcraft in ConnecticutLeo Igwe, AfAWAdvocacy Against Witch Hunts, South AfricaSupport the showJoin us on Discord to share your ideas and feedback.WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagramLinkedInYouTubeTikTokDiscordBuzzsproutMailchimpSupport the show

Show Notes

Presenting The Last Witch documentary filmmakers  Annika Hylmo and Cassandra Roberts Hasseltine. We discuss the exoneration effort of Elizabeth Johnson Junior, who was a Salem Witch Trials convicted witch from Andover, MA. She was overlooked during previous exonerations but has now been cleared after 330 years.  The Last Witch documents how the community came together for the effort, including  North Andover Middle School teacher Carrie LaPierre and her students,  historian Richard Hite, and MA State Senator Diana Dizoglio.  We look for answers to our advocacy questions: Why do we hunt witches? How do we hunt witches? How do we stop hunting witches?
The Last Witch Website
The Last Witch- A documentary 330 years in the making
Kelly Clarkson covers Johnson’s exoneration
Contact The Last Witch
State Senator Diana DiZoglio Facebook Page
George Gerbner, Media Scholar
Marilynne K. Roach, The Salem Witch Trials: A Day By Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege
Richard Hite, In the Shadow of Salem: The Andover Witch Hunt of 1692
University of VA, Salem Witch Trials Documents and Transcriptions
End Witch Hunt Projects
Please sign the petition to exonerate those accused of witchcraft in Connecticut
Leo Igwe, AfAW
Advocacy Against Witch Hunts, South Africa
Support the show
Join us on Discord to share your ideas and feedback.












[00:00:00] Josh Hutchinson: "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Exodus 22:18
[00:00:05] Welcome to another episode of Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. I'm Josh Hutchinson.
[00:00:31] Sarah Jack: And I'm Sarah Jack.
[00:00:34] Josh Hutchinson: Today we're talking to Annika Hylmo and Cassandra Roberts Hesseltine. Their documentary, The Last Witch, covers the exoneration of Elizabeth Johnson Jr., the "Last Witch" of Salem to have her name cleared.
[00:00:49] Sarah Jack: Because you like the show, please share it with your friends, family, and followers. 
[00:00:54] Josh Hutchinson: I'm looking forward to today's episode. I think we'll have a deep, [00:01:00] powerful conversation with Annika and Cassandra, and looking forward to diving into how and why we hunt witches with them, what they've learned from doing their documentary.
[00:01:15] Sarah Jack: Yeah, I'm really excited to get to talk to them directly. I've really enjoyed their Facebook Live updates on their work, but we're gonna get so much more tonight. 
[00:01:27] Josh Hutchinson: We are, and speaking of getting more, Thanksgiving is next week.
[00:01:31] Sarah Jack: I have my turkey. It's not thawed yet, but I have it. 
[00:01:36] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, don't thaw a week ahead of time. I wouldn't wanna eat a week old Turkey.
[00:01:41] Sarah Jack: There's this movie that I watch every Thanksgiving if I can get it. It's Home for the Holidays with Holly Hunter and Dylan McDermott and Robert Downey Jr.
[00:01:54] Have you seen it? 
[00:01:55] Josh Hutchinson: I think I've seen that. I don't remember it though. 
[00:01:58] Sarah Jack: Love that [00:02:00] movie. And it's all about frustrating family dynamics, and the sister brings a Neutra bird. 
[00:02:09] Josh Hutchinson: What is a Neutra bird?
[00:02:11] Sarah Jack: I I have no idea, but it was like a special health. They called it a Neutra bird or Neutry bird, and she ends up wearing it.
[00:02:18] Josh Hutchinson: Oh, like Joey and the turkey in Friends? 
[00:02:21] Sarah Jack: Oh yeah. See that's what we should talk about is Friends. 
[00:02:25] Josh Hutchinson: I wanna talk about Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. That's my favorite Thanksgiving movie.
[00:02:30] Sarah Jack: That is up there. That is up there. 
[00:02:34] Josh Hutchinson: That's the classic Thanksgiving movie. 
[00:02:38] Sarah Jack: Josh, let's hear some history about Elizabeth Johnson Jr. 
[00:02:42] Josh Hutchinson: Elizabeth Johnson, Jr. was an unfortunate victim of the Salem Witch Trials. Elizabeth Johnson Jr. was the granddaughter of Reverend Francis Dane of Andover, but, more importantly, she was the first cousin, once removed of Martha Carrier, who Cotton Mather described [00:03:00] as the Queen of Hell and whose family were basically all arrested during the Salem Witch Trials.
[00:03:09] Elizabeth Johnson, Jr. was 22 at the time of her arrest. Her father Steven Johnson had died in 1690, due to a smallpox outbreak that was blamed on Martha Carrier. Elizabeth Johnson, Jr. was arrested shortly before August 10th, 1692, along with her second cousins, Sarah and Thomas Carrier, children of Martha. 
[00:03:34] Elizabeth was examined by magistrate Dudley Bradstreet on August 10, and she did confess. She was alleged to have afflicted Sarah Phelps with the help of Sarah and Thomas Carrier. Sarah Phelps was the daughter of Samuel Phelps and the niece of recently deceased Elizabeth Phelps Ballard, the woman for [00:04:00] whom the Andover witch-hunt really started, when her husband invited afflicted girls from Salem Village to come up and detect witches. Elizabeth confessed to afflicting Sarah Phelps, Ann Putnam, Mary Walcott, Lawrence Lacey, Benjamin Abbott, a child of Ephraim Davis, two children of James Fry, the children of Abraham Foster, and Elizabeth Phelps Ballard, who died.
[00:04:28] Elizabeth stated that she had been a witch for four years. She became a witch at her cousin Martha Carrier's house, and in 1689 she was baptized by the devil by having her head dipped in Martha Carrier's well. She also scratched the devil's book with her finger to sign the covenant with him. She was present at a witch sacrament, where red bread and blood wine were served. All the witches there pledged to pull down the Kingdom of Christ and [00:05:00] set up the Devil's Kingdom. 
[00:05:02] While she confessed, she also accused Martha Carrier, George Burroughs, Martha Toothaker's two children, Richard Carrier, Sarah Carrier, Mary Lacey, Sr., Mary Lacey, Jr., John Floyd, and Daniel Eames. She confessed to using puppets and she showed a place on her knuckle, where her familiar suckled her and said that there were two more places that she couldn't reveal. So women searched her body, and they found one behind her arm, but didn't mention any other.
[00:05:36] And now after 330 years, her name has finally been cleared, the last of the convicted Salem witches to have that done. 
[00:05:48] Sarah Jack: Thank you for all of that information on Elizabeth Johnson, Jr.'s life and for making her experience something that we know about. 
[00:05:58] Josh Hutchinson: You're [00:06:00] welcome, and I forgot one detail. She sold her soul to the Devil for one shilling, which is just a bunch of pennies, 5 cents worth, a nickel. She sold herself to the devil. And she never got paid. The devil never paid up anybody who confessed to covenanting with him during the Salem witch trials. Never once did the guy actually do what he said he would do. 
[00:06:28] Sarah Jack: That sounds like him. 
[00:06:30] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, he's a rascal. 
[00:06:33] Sarah Jack: Yeah, he's a liar. 
[00:06:35] Josh Hutchinson: The Prince of Liars.
[00:06:36] Sarah Jack: Welcome to Annika Hylmo and Cassandra Roberts Hesseltine of The Last Witch, a documentary about the work of a middle school teacher and her students to exonerate Elizabeth Johnson Jr., the last person convicted during the Salem Witch Trials to be cleared.
[00:06:53] We would like to start out by finding out who was the last witch.
[00:06:58] Annika Hylmo: The last witch, it depends on [00:07:00] how you see it, depends on what you consider to be a witch. But the last convicted witch from the Salem Witch Trials was Elizabeth Johnson Jr., who was just exonerated on July 28th, 2022, three hundred and twenty-nine years after she was convicted. So with that, I guess you could say that she was the last witch from the Salem Witch Trials, and that kind of ended the Salem Witch Trials.
[00:07:28] Sarah Jack: When I saw how you listed that on your social media, the end of them, I thought that's really a strong statement and thought, and that's a wrap. So that's really powerful. 
[00:07:41] Cassandra Roberts Hesseltine: Yeah, we felt that way too. I think Annika came up with it first, and she said that, and it was like, "wait, you're right."
[00:07:46] Oh my gosh. It's, it made history and it like closed a chapter in history. Not all the way, there's still more obviously other people that haven't been exonerated, like in Connecticut and other places around the world, but also and still the lasting effects of it. But [00:08:00] definitely that particular chapter felt like it had come to a close.
[00:08:04] Annika Hylmo: It's incredible when you start to think about it that it's been almost 330 years, right? And that for all this time that somebody could be considered to be a witch. And it raises, I think, a lot of questions about what we believe to be a witch, who is a witch, who isn't a witch, who's culpable, and how we treat people, as well as all the issues that you can trace back to the Salem Witch Trials. History and present are so intertwined, and we tend to forget that history is, it's happening now, and we're a part of all of this.
[00:08:42] So the fact that this took 330 years for simplicity to get taken care of makes me wonder sometimes what things we're dealing with now that it will take 330 years to clear and set things right. 
[00:08:58] Sarah Jack: None of us are gonna allow that. [00:09:00] Are we ? 
[00:09:00] Annika Hylmo: Let's hope not. 
[00:09:02] Sarah Jack: Can you tell us a little bit about where she lived, how old she was, how long she was in prison, a little bit about her experience?
[00:09:10] Annika Hylmo: We don't know an awful lot about her, to be honest. We have snippets of information about her. We know that she lived in what is today, North Andover, Massachusetts, which is outside of Salem. We know that she was about 22 at the time of the witch trials, and we know that she was not married. She did not have children.
[00:09:32] And we know that she may have been a little bit different. There was talk of her being simplish. She, there was talk of her being simple-minded, and that came up on a couple of occasions in some of the documents. We also know that she was the granddaughter of Reverend Dane, of Reverend Francis Dane, who was the elder clergyman in town at the time.
[00:09:56] But as far as any other specifics, we [00:10:00] know very little. We can assume things. We can assume that she probably lived with family, for example. We do know that she was examined, and that's another word of being like really threatened, because these were very threatening circumstances. In 1692, early fall of 1692, she was then in prison, we assume, but we don't know because some of them were let out temporarily, so we don't know the exact circumstances, but until January of 1693, when her grandfather wrote a letter where he stated that she was simplish at best, but about a week after that she was convicted and sentenced to hang. At the time, the governor of Massachusetts had already pardoned everybody, so she wasn't going to actually hang, but she was imprisoned, from what we understand, a little bit longer.
[00:10:59] We do [00:11:00] have a sense that she was supposed to hang early February. That did not happen because of the pardon, but it wasn't like people let go of this thing about witch hunts and witch trials and witchcraft. It was just that the governor had said no, and there's an end to it. From there, we don't know much about her.
[00:11:16] We know that she probably owned some property. She tried to get restitution for the time that she was in prison. Basically, people had to pay their own way, and she tried to get that money back at one point. We know that she sold some property at one point and that she probably died when she was, I think, in her seventies.
[00:11:35] But we know very little about her circumstances after the trials, before the trials. She was, in many ways, one of us. Most of us, you don't know exactly who we are, what we do, even with social media, That's our modern day version of gossip, but you don't really know that much about each one of us. And for many of us, once we are gone, we're gone, as much as we'd like to think otherwise. So [00:12:00] she's somebody that could be anyone of us at the time and now, and that's what makes her so compelling. One of many reasons. 
[00:12:09] Josh Hutchinson: That reputation sticks with the person through the rest of their life and well beyond.
[00:12:15] Annika Hylmo: And the interesting thing about that is that the whole connection to the witch trials is profound. When you look at people that have some kind of connection and who you are related to, there's a big difference when you talk to people who consider themselves to be related to somebody who was a witch compared to somebody who was an accuser compared to somebody who was a judge. That still is part of modern day community, and that has not let go.
[00:12:45] Cassandra Roberts Hesseltine: And, unfortunately, I'm related to all three , so I'm confused with my feelings. But yeah, it is true. When we met descendants who were descendants or relatives of people that were accused or witches that were actually executed, [00:13:00] the pain is still pretty strongly, especially with ones that grew up on the east coast, knew about their heritage their whole life.
[00:13:06] And then you have the accusers. I'm a direct descendant actually of an accuser, joseph Ballard, who actually, because of him and his wife, who was ill at the time, is why the Salem girls were brought over to Andover and why people were then accused in Andover's from my grandfather.
[00:13:21] And I'm actually a cousin through marriage of Elizabeth, as well. So I'm related, and then I'm related to a few that were executed, and I'm related to Judge John Hathorne, which he wasn't the nicest of people. And it can be confusing and also feel, wow, what a timeframe of what went through with all these people.
[00:13:39] I can't imagine being a direct descendant of someone who accused and caused more people to be accused than in Salem itself. There is a guilt that came on when I first learned about it, but I wasn't raised with this. I had to learn about it about ten years ago. Until then, it was a story that happened to someone else.
[00:13:56] But yeah, as Annika says it's interesting when we've talked to other descendants, [00:14:00] relatives of what that has carried on for them.
[00:14:03] Josh Hutchinson: Sarah and I are both descendants. Sarah's a descendant of Rebecca Nurse and her sister Mary Esty. I'm a descendant of Mary Esty and found family connections to several dozen people involved. So I have that thing of being related to judges and jury and accusers and everyone, and it brings up conflicting feelings.
[00:14:30] You try to understand what each of those people was thinking and what their experience was, and that fear of witches was so real back then that kind of understand where they were coming from, but it still doesn't make it better. 
[00:14:47] Cassandra Roberts Hesseltine: Josh, when we first started our project, it was actually a narrative feature film that we were working on, a story of about Andover and what happened there. A lot of people have done stories on Salem, so we were wanting to make a movie [00:15:00] about a different version or portion of what happened. And Annika had actually brought that up, and I thought that was really lovely of seeing the humanity, cuz I had the guilt of, oh no, my grandfather, did this horrible thing.
[00:15:11] And she's, " but he was in love with his wife and she knew, and they had real fears and this was their religion and their beliefs". And that really actually helped me. So thank you, Annika. With that portion. At the time as well, when we started, I didn't realize actually I was related to so many other people at the time. I only thought it was related to the accuser. But as Annika says, they all, they all had to marry each other and everything. It was such a small town. And and so you end up, if you're related to one, you're probably related to a few.
[00:15:35] Josh Hutchinson: Does the film explain why she was overlooked? 
[00:15:40] Annika Hylmo: That's one of the big questions why she was overlooked, and there's really no good answer, except that it makes for really good drama, because once we discovered this story, it came about because there was an article about school teacher Carrie LaPierre and her middle school students who were [00:16:00] working to study the case of Elizabeth Johnson Junior and to exonerate her from the witch trials and working together with Senator Dizoglio to get that.
[00:16:08] So in digging into this story and asking people who were in some way connected to Salem, in some way connected to the witch trials and go, "so why do you think that she was not cleared?" Because there were others who have been exonerated various phases as we know. The last group before her was in 2001.
[00:16:31] And so the question is, why was she left out and why is there only one? Why is she the last one? And the response that inevitably came up was that they just forgot about her, and it became an echo. They just forgot about her. They just forgot about her. They just forgot about her. And it got to be a little bit eerie.
[00:16:50] Almost there's a conspiracy theory around this, which opens up a number of questions, right? So why would you forget somebody who was a [00:17:00] member of your family? Why would you forget somebody who was convicted of witchcraft during such an important time and that's been studied so much. And there are probably a number of reasons why she was forgotten, overlooked, and ultimately considered to be unimportant, which is a critical part of this when we're gonna be going into some of this, during the story, during the documentary, and obviously dig deeper.
[00:17:29] But for our purposes today, and remembering the contemporary side of this is that she did not have kids. She was a single woman who was a little bit different in some way. We don't wanna go back and give her a diagnosis because that's not fair to her. It's not fair to history. And back in the day, people did not have psychiatrists and other people to help them out, but she was different in some way.
[00:17:58] And you take all of [00:18:00] those elements, plus the fact that this was a big, dark shadow that was cast over the communities. Nobody really wanted to talk about it. Nobody really wanted to talk about the Salem witch trials. People tried to figure out how to move on through marriage, in some cases by moving away, in some cases by running away. We have a lot of people that disappeared after the witch trials. 
[00:18:24] And for Elizabeth, she probably lived with her family afterwards for a while, but she didn't have descendants. And when you don't have descendants, you're much easier to forget. It's like society is saying that you don't matter if you don't have descendants. So that's a really big and important thing for us to look at is when do you stop mattering? And if you don't have kids, do single people matter less than people who are married or people who have kids? We know that women then and now are still more likely to be struggling financially, economically, for [00:19:00] example.
[00:19:00] So some of those issues that she would've been dealing with then that would make her less important to people around her are probably the reasons for why she kept being forgotten. All the people that have been exonerated since have had family members that have been speaking for them. We know Rebecca, Nurse's family, for example, have been integral in making sure that she was never forgotten.
[00:19:26] Some of the other families tried to move on and just forget, but Elizabeth didn't have anybody speaking up for her, and to me that is one really important question and lesson to be taken away from this is who are we as individuals today when we are overlooking people, where we're not paying attention to that one person who's alone by themselves, when we walk by somebody who is not connected, who doesn't have a family, the same way, somebody who doesn't have kids, who [00:20:00] might need a little bit of support, and how often do we do that without stopping to think about it? Because that's probably what happened to Elizabeth back then.
[00:20:09] Sarah Jack: Yeah, that is very powerful. I just think about how unfortunate for her experience that the exoneration didn't happen for her and during her lifetime or even in a quick amount of time, but it's really giving us a lot of power today to do something with it for these people that are getting looked over. And also, when I saw the exoneration news popping up, it was right before the anniversary of Alice Young's hanging. And I like anything you guys put out, I pushed out and talked about Alice, and I feel like it really was important during the very beginning of the exoneration for the Connecticut witch trials, when that group was forming this [00:21:00] spring, what you guys were doing, about sharing what was happening with Elizabeth with the legislator. That's like another powerful thing. This is one of those things that it was, a grave oversight, but it's also something very powerful today. 
[00:21:15] Annika Hylmo: Yeah, it's very much something that's holding up a mirror to us. And for me, that's why it's important to tell this story, because it's asking us to take a look at a lot of the same questions that were happening back then that are happening again today. Historically, we know that Massachusetts didn't have a charter at the time. We know that people were coming out of war. There was a lot of war going on at the same time. They just had a smallpox. This was a community that was settling, and so economically, there was a lot of instability and it was a community that had a lot of young people and not so many elder people, older people. So it was like a pyramid if you look at it that way, in terms of the numbers of people. [00:22:00] And again, a very unstable time when people were trying to figure things out. People were trying to build a new community, and people were trying to recover from famine, from misfortune when it came to crops and trying to find a way to create a new society. And in some ways did, and in some ways they failed. 
[00:22:25] And if we look at what's going on around us right now, we're very much at that precipice again, that we can either do what people have done over and over in time, right? Which is to look around and blame somebody else, and point a finger at somebody else, and continue with this black and white thinking where whatever is wrong in the world is somebody else's fault, while we watch and we look around and we see war, we see climate change, we see all sorts of destruction going on around us, we see families being torn apart, we see death [00:23:00] and dying and pandemics taking over regardless of what you think may or may not be. We are seeing a lot of lot similar changes as we're taking place back then.
[00:23:12] And the question for us is really what can we learn from what happened in 1692 so that we don't push ourselves toward the same kind of apocalypse that happened for them at that time? And so that we can really think about what kind of world do we want to live in and create that world, as opposed to jumping on the bandwagon of the latest rumors and misfortune and catastrophe. So what do we wanna do as individuals and as our society? And I think that's a big lesson to think about, because otherwise we're gonna land in the same kind of apocalyptic underworld that they felt like they were in at the time. 
[00:23:54] Sarah Jack: Were you surprised at the impact your work is [00:24:00] having, even in the stage, like your research stage and now in a new stage of the film? Has the power of your work been a surprise? Was it your hope to get things rolling in people's minds now at this point of your project? 
[00:24:15] Annika Hylmo: That's part of the fun, isn't it? To shake people up a little bit and to get people to think a little bit, and obviously this story is about a story that was already in motion.
[00:24:25] Carrie LaPierre was already working on this based on the work of Richard Hite, who was the one who discovered that Elizabeth was still not exonerated and the wonderful Diana Dizoglio state senator, who pushed this through the Massachusetts Senate. And as you start to look at the story, obviously there's a reason for why we picked doing this.
[00:24:49] It's like this, there's curiosity behind this. This is crazy. There's this, how could this be? And how could this be that there is somebody that's still convicted as a witch from [00:25:00] 1692? And that became the impetus. But as you start to pull at it and things happening in real time, then you start to realize how much there is to this story.
[00:25:13] So then it becomes, how can we have fun with this and challenge people to be a part of it? Because that's, it's fun to challenge people to be a part of it and to listen to people and hear their stories. It's a lot of fun to do that. But as we went on, this, the bill, the initial bill went through this Massachusetts State Senate and then it stalled.
[00:25:37] So there are these moments that you come up against where you go, "this is crazy. Why would they not just sign up on this?" So when other people are starting to step up and saying, "yeah, we also think this is crazy, this is nuts," then you start to feel that community, and when you start having that community that's doing something good or starting to realize that there's something good about this, then [00:26:00] you go, "okay, this is fun."
[00:26:02] And filming the kids, and even seeing the kids in the classroom go from, "yeah, this sucks. We gotta do the school project," which we expected because they're eighth graders. If they weren't like that, then I'd be really worried. But they went from that to go, "yeah, I guess this kind of maybe important."
[00:26:19] And then you realize that they go, "yeah, we're doing something that adults aren't doing. This is cool." So it shifts along the way, and seeing them and seeing everybody else take on and let it grow, I think has been affirming more than anything else. This is something that matters. It's, beyond just the surface level of the story, which is great, like teacher kids exonerating, but the impact, seeing all those accounts start to pop up.
[00:26:55] This was especially in July, when we were doing a ton of social [00:27:00] media outreach, and I know you were both part of that and then responding and answering and everything like that. We did a ton of social media outreach in July, and seeing more and more accounts pop up and more and literally around the world and say, "yeah, we too." So it went from me too to we too when it came to the witches. Was incredible power, incredibly powerful, seeing the story spread, not just here in the US but literally spread around the world, which the original story had as well, when Carrie first started with the project, or when the first articles came out about it that also went around the world, but nothing like this. 
[00:27:42] But it's also, I think, giving us hope that we can come together as a community and do the right thing when it comes to many of the people who were convicted back in the day, but also to move forward and really ask [00:28:00] those profound questions about what does this tell us about who we are, about what we need to do? Because we can't stop. If we stop here, we will have more tragedy. And that's what the witch trials, I think, can teach us and tell us.
[00:28:16] Josh Hutchinson: You've touched basically on the central premise of why we're doing this show and our questions that we're looking to have answered as we do this, which are how do we witch-hunt?
[00:28:31] Why do we hunt witches? And how can we possibly stop this behavior because it does continue today. So I thank you for getting into so much detail on that. That was wonder. 
[00:28:44] Cassandra Roberts Hesseltine: And I think, in a way you just want everyone to look at your movie and support it, right? We wanted to be able to make the movie. We loved it. We loved the topic. We were already working on a project prior to it. When Annika had discovered what was going on, I said, "oh my gosh, let's work on this."
[00:28:56] So we absolutely were honored when people started [00:29:00] paying attention and when you, yourself, when both of you started paying attention to our project and then it connected us to other witch trials, that was such an honor. I think that's how I look at it now. And as Annika said, the community of building everybody and coming together.
[00:29:13] And I think also one more part that I wanted to mention from earlier, your question earlier was just that, and Annika's mentioned this as well. She, as the director, she points out a lot of these things, and so that's why I keep referring to her, which is great. I'm so honored to have her be able to be so intelligent about it.
[00:29:26] But the middle school news often nowadays is a school shooting. And how amazing is it that this is not that, that this is success, that this is them standing up for someone's rights? This is changing history. Even if they were bored and didn't understand it at times, they did get it at times, and especially, when the senator came to visit them and getting when they were able to do it. And one of the young girls even actually ran into the governor before he even signed off and was like, "you should do this." So it was pretty amazing, to have them fight for something like this. 
[00:29:59] Sarah Jack: [00:30:00] It's definitely planting very important seeds. 
[00:30:04] Annika Hylmo: And that's how you stop it. 
[00:30:05] Cassandra Roberts Hesseltine: Josh is saying, "how do you stop some of this?" And it's I think we do have to start young with this. And inspiring others. Annika's talked about, that the movie being an inspiration to get you to see how can you help, how can you be part of changing history or the story or what story do we wanna write, because if it happened then, and it's echoing now and paralleling, then where are we going? Are we going to a second apocalypse? Are we going to have a situation where people are gonna be collected and told they're witches and hanged? That's seems so unimaginable, but it must have been very odd then too. 
[00:30:40] Annika Hylmo: Stop to think about it a little bit, though, this whole thing about witches and witchcraft, which there's a whole question of who is a witch and who isn't a witch. And I think witches are something. We've always had witches around us in some way, whatever, because we designate, we put a label on people, and they happen to be the witches of the time. Even the Bible has [00:31:00] stories about witches, and those, the Bible is based on oral traditions. I think it's something that we've always had with us. And it's something that's morphed at that community. It's a community that's morphed in different ways, and we can go into whole conversation around the connection to theology and spirituality and religion.
[00:31:20] But it is a very interesting phenomenon to look at. Back in the day, in the 1600s, they were superstitious, just like we are superstitious today. So I think that's one place to start really considering how close are we to this? They were very superstitious. They used an almanac, which is basically astrology, and anybody that's ever read their astrological horoscope or something like that, that could have been you.
[00:31:47] They would do little rituals, they will do things and they would have sayings just like we have now. There were some stories of people dying very suddenly and nobody understanding why, and so people came up with an [00:32:00] explanation. So there's a whole range of what that might be. There were, they would sell little booklets about palmistry, about how to read somebody's hand to tell their fortune, that kind of thing.
[00:32:10] During the pandemic, I saw some statistics about Tarot cards, and apparently the sale of Tarot cards went way up during the pandemic. So I would say that anyone who's listening to this, who's got a deck of Tarot cards at home, if we consider that to be your local poppet or your local whatever it might have been back in 1692, this is how close it is. Little things that we say and do, little superstitions that we all have in different ways, like throwing salt over your shoulder for one thing what, whatever it might be, everyone's got something that we do. That could potentially mark us as a witch. Somebody that's really intuitive could be marked as a witch.
[00:32:59] It [00:33:00] happens easier than we think, so that's when it comes to the whole idea of witches, and of course people go into see a psychic, which Salem is these days, very famous for that. It's become a safe haven for people who are psychics and who are spiritually minded, and it's wonderful that it is a safe space in many ways, but it's also telling us how easily this could be potentially be repeated, if we look just at spirituality and women's spirituality in some way.
[00:33:30] And we take the same thing, and we can look at any other community that's different in some way, and how easy it is to say that's you, not me. And then we start to build those walls, and the same challenge comes up. We just had it during this entire pandemic where we had people say, "I believe there's a pandemic. I believe there's a virus." And we had people who said, "no way there is a virus, absolutely not." People are saying that, "of course I'm gonna get [00:34:00] vaccinated and it's the right thing to do." And then people are saying, "no. It's almost like it's the devil's work, right?" It's closer to us than we think, and we can take that image and place it on so many different social issues, so many different circumstances that are very close to us.
[00:34:18] So the whole idea about witch hunts, it's here. That's the thing that, witch hunts are here. Look at politics. Every single time there's an election, somebody's gonna say something and be called a witch or being called a witch hunter, or something along those lines. There's a witch-hunt on this, there's a witch-hunt on that. It happens consistently, and we're all a part of it. The question is, what are we gonna do about it? And then I think another question is, are we doomed ? For want of a better word, are we doomed to constantly repeat this? Because if we've done this for thousands and thousands of years, is this something that's just by [00:35:00] nature, a part of humanity?
[00:35:01] And that I don't know the answer to, and I don't know that I want to know the answer to it either, to be honest.
[00:35:09] Sarah Jack: We've been looking more and more at the modern witch killings that are happening in other parts of the world, and there is a very strong religious superstition tied to it. And so not every community in the world is in the same place as far as the understanding or the tools they have to start changing that next generation. So I just really hope that these powerful words that you're saying today, the power of your documentary the historical part of the documentary is so important. It's interesting cuz you brought up the safe, the safeness of Salem today for those that are practicing, and [00:36:00] it's so how does this all come together without the fear? I just, I want the fear to be. dissipated and yeah, I just really thinking, I've just been really thinking.
[00:36:13] Josh Hutchinson: We haven't in many ways changed very much, but we're hoping that somehow a way to intervene can be found, and these witch hunting behaviors can be stopped.
[00:36:27] They have been going on since basically the beginning of humanity in various forms. Labeling the other, the one you want to scapegoat for all your problems. We saw that with World War II. We've seen that so many times in our own lifetimes. I wanted to thank you for bringing that up.
[00:36:51] Annika Hylmo: It's very real. Yeah. I think we all have superstitions and I think it's it's a big part of psychology and our [00:37:00] superstitions and our fears. They're there for a reason as well. They're there to protect us, so it's not like we want to get rid of it altogether, but to learn to question it and to learn to take action. Too often do we look at something further away, as opposed to looking at what's really close at hand and even how we're talking to each other, how we're expressing things. I've been called a witch. I've been called witchy, and there's probably some truth to that. Do I identify myself as a witch? Not particularly, but depending on what the other person sees in me, then I may well be a witch.
[00:37:39] I think the question though, of how it's expressed and how we're talking to each other, how we're talking about one another, not just when we're in the room, but also when we're not in the room with one another. How do we express respect for somebody else? How do we talk about, [00:38:00] again, going back to that person who's alone, but talk about that person in a respectful way to a point where it feels like, "oh my gosh, that's somebody that I want to invite into my world," as opposed to, "poor so and so that are by themselves." So instead talking about something amazing that they're doing or great sense of humor or whatever it is that person has.
[00:38:25] It's often those little things that where it starts. And that's a personal responsibility that we have, I think each one of us. And probably should find something that really matters to us and stand for that and stand up for it, not be afraid to express an opinion. But would that also take the responsibility of learning about it? So it's not just because somebody said or because you picked it up on the news or social media or something, but really take the time to discover different sides to it. Be curious about [00:39:00] that issue, and then stand up and speak for it, and find somebody that you're going to protect when you're doing it, somebody who might not be as good at speaking about it as you are, but bring them into your fold. So it's certainly, I think, a lot about personal responsibility in this that needs to come out. What can we do as individuals? How can we talk about questions in ways that we might not feel comfortable talking about?
[00:39:26] Cassandra Roberts Hesseltine: And to speak to that, Dr. Samuel Oliner, who I was very fortunate to get to meet. He taught here locally at the university. He really helped foster and coin the phrase of altruism. And he was a teenage boy and during World War II and had to pretend to be German on a, at a ranch that he stumbled upon after his whole family was killed in a mass grave.
[00:39:48] And he, the woman he found out later had always known he really actually was Jewish and saved him and didn't turn him in. And so he studied. Instead of studying the negative [00:40:00] side, which we've been talking about, that energy of that happening, he studied the opposite, which is the answer, some of the answers, I won't say it's the answer, but what Annika was saying of us taking responsibility and caring about someone else. So he studied altruism, and he created a whole facility. He wrote a plethora of books on it. And what he found was that it was a lot of times somebody who, people had more empathy and were more altruistic the more that they were able to see outside their little world.
[00:40:29] So if they traveled, they were the person that was gonna come to a bridge. If they saw a car go over the bridge, they would be the person who would jump into the water to go save someone, versus the spectators who stood and watch. And what made that difference? How do we get more of those people who jump in the water, or who write the letter and say, "no, this is ridiculous? We're not gonna hang or burn people for playing with Tarot cards, things like that." And it basically came down to just be more worldly and be more experienced so that you would have more empathy and realize there's people that do things [00:41:00] different than you. And that's okay.
[00:41:02] They can still exist and we can still coexist and not have to feel so threatened and blame them for the things that we are confused about or don't understand. But how do you teach that to everybody? And some people don't have that, they're not in the space, the mindset, I think, as Annika said, psychology, they're going through a tough time.
[00:41:19] Annika Hylmo: It brings to mind somebody that I met when I was working on my PhD. And my PhD is in communication, which is basically storytelling. That's the simplest way of explaining it to everybody. But I met a researcher back then, his name was George Gerbner, and he studied the impact of mass media, and people who are always watching a lot of news, taking in a lot of the bad news, often feel like it's a very dangerous world of life, bad living in, and as a result, refusing to interact with other people, refusing to make contact with other people and thinking that the world is a lot worse than it actually is.
[00:41:59] [00:42:00] And it strikes me that we had another event, just 2020, and that was the Black Lives Matter movement, which came up very suddenly and not suddenly. It was interesting to talk to people who are very different. I'm very pale skinned in comparison to the vast majority of this world. I have blue eyes, I've got brown hair, and I found that I had such rich conversations with people who didn't look like me and with people who looked like me, and I learned so much about myself and about the world through those conversations. That's something that's open to anyone to have those conversations, to do that outreach.
[00:42:45] And that's also where a lot of this is going to start. It's dared to have a conversation who isn't like you, who doesn't have the same belief system as you, who might be [00:43:00] different, whether it's economically, it's spiritually, it's sexually, it's ethnically, whatever it might be. Those conversations are so powerful because they teach you something about you at the same time as it opens up to the rest of the world.
[00:43:17] So I think, just like what Cassandra was saying, it's that really that connecting and seeing how you can connect with other people. There's a lot of psychology in this and a lot of opportunity for us to step across those boundaries, to step outside of that fear zone a little bit and go, "hey, this is fun. I like hanging out with you. Let's do this."
[00:43:40] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, that's such an excellent point about connecting with people who could alternatively be seen as the other and avoided. One thing, one big step towards getting rid of this witch hunting behavior is exactly that, embracing [00:44:00] people with different beliefs, different appearances, different backgrounds and connecting. But it's still the problem of how do we get everyone to embrace that?
[00:44:12] Annika Hylmo: I think that we need to open up to curiosity a lot more in this world compared to where we might have been. And I actually think that's a lesson, too, that we have to learn from the 1600s, because their experience was very different with the world compared to ours. Theirs was one of all the senses, and we are not using all of our senses anymore. And with that, we've lost some curiosity. And I think this is actually a really important point that we need to not just go, "oh, we don't wanna be at all like the 1600s" But there are some ways, at least for me, that I wanna be more like the 1600s and that use of all the senses, to me it's really tied to curiosity.
[00:44:54] It's like it's stepping outside, being outdoors a little bit and just check in with your senses. Being curious [00:45:00] about that. What does it feel like? Is it warm? Is it cold? Is it windy? What am I tasting? And sometimes if you're lucky enough that you come across something that you could get a bite of along the way, or that experience that you're touching something touch is so incredible. I love walking up and down the street, and sometimes I'll just grab a bit of rosemary, and I'll smell it, and I'll touch it, and it feels a little bit oily, and it smells really good, and it just pops me, wakes me up a little bit.
[00:45:27] That sense of curiosity with the natural world is something that people had back in the 1600s, because that was part of their life. They didn't have streetlights the way that we do, and so they had to be curious about the shadows at night. They had to be curious about how to grow their crops, about all of those things.
[00:45:49] And I think that kind of curiosity at a very basic level is something that we've lost. But it's a step toward connecting, [00:46:00] cuz that lets us connect with ourself and then connecting with other people as well. That, and that's something that we all have. That's something that people, you're never gonna be able to take that away from us, but as long as all we do is look at a screen all day long, then we'll forget how to do that.
[00:46:15] Cassandra Roberts Hesseltine: I think that there is that connecting, like what she said. And then there's also not labeling too, so there's a thing that we should be doing and something maybe we need to also stop doing. I had to take a whole class as part of my degree on labels and what it does to a society when we label.
[00:46:29] Besides being, through my mother's side being related to the witch trials, I'm also half Mexican through my biological father's side, but a lot of people look at me and think, You're not Mexican. Where's your accent?
[00:46:41] I've actually been told, "where's your accent? Were you born in Mexico?" And I giggle, and I'm like, "no, I read white, I appear white, but I am Mexican too." And stop having these labels and then be curious, as Annika said. Be able to wonder what's going on and inquire. And those same [00:47:00] exact elements that she was talking about with nature. We could do with people too. Find out more about them. Find out what makes them, instead of labeling them as this thing, and then that thing becomes bad.
[00:47:08] Annika Hylmo: The labeling thing is actually a really good thing to look at, and it's an opportunity to look at a little bit for each one of us as individuals, because there's a whole movement now that lets people self identify and self label, right? So do you want, what pronouns do you wanna use? And how you react to that has a lot to do with, or tells you a lot about how comfortable you are in a world that isn't so clear, so specific.
[00:47:37] Again, this is what happened in 1692, that things were not clear, crystal clear to people, something as small or big, depending on your worldview and how, what your comfort level is as having people label themselves, self-identify, and/or asking you what your pronouns are and/or getting [00:48:00] comfortable using those pronouns when you're not comfortable, you've never done it before. It's something completely new to you in a small way. 
[00:48:10] That encapsulates what people were dealing with back in 1692, because there was so much ambiguity around them. And taking that opportunity to really think about that and then to act on it to say, "maybe I am gonna be making it a little bit more effort to step up and use the pronouns that someone else wants me to use and embrace." That's a really small, large step that everybody can take. And that's the kind of thing that I think we need to look for. It's what are the small things that we can do as individuals and hold ourselves personally accountable for.
[00:48:51] Sarah Jack: And when everybody goes out and does these very important things that Annika and Cassandra are [00:49:00] recommending, talk about that experience. I think that once you've had a new experience, be brave enough to talk about it with other people.
[00:49:09] Annika Hylmo: And if you feel like you wanna go to church, if you wanna go to synagogue, you wanna go to mosque, please do. If you wanna be out in nature, if that's where you find your spirituality, please do. If you find that doing something creative, artistic is your spirituality, please do. Whatever it is, talk to animals, go for a long walk, sit on the beach, yoga. Whatever it is, take the time to experience spirituality every day. That will help us a lot too.
[00:49:38] Josh Hutchinson: I personally, I just wanna say I love talking to animals. I find that to be very therapeutic, if nothing else, engaging with them and I love engaging with nature in general. So I'm glad you brought that up and the curiosity with our senses that we need to engage all five again. That's a good [00:50:00] point.
[00:50:00] I think what you're doing with the film and what you've done with the conversation so far today is just so important in so many ways. How can people support the documentary?
[00:50:14] Cassandra Roberts Hesseltine: There's a couple different ways they can. As Annika said, definitely, reach out to us, tell us their stories. It helps educate us, helps us know more of what's going on. We can't be everywhere at all times. We weren't fully aware of everything that was going on in Connecticut until you reached out to us, so helpful. That is so helpful. So that's one way. Following us on all the social medias. If people do that, obviously we hope that everyone uses it for the right reasons, but following where the project is, commenting participating. Facebook, Instagram, we do a little Twitter. And then we have a website. People can, stop and check out and see where we are with the project. 
[00:50:48] And then, if inclined, we always understand this is the awkward part, but we are self-funding as of right now and the contributions and we're working on our funding for the bigger project. So [00:51:00] that's obviously a big way would be help us get it made, help us get the word out by helping contribute to actually the process of making the film. 
[00:51:08] Annika Hylmo: And I would add to that, that if there are nonprofits out there that would be interested in learning more about this project and to see where there is a cause, where there might be an overlay, reach out to us because this is a community effort and there may well be a way that we could partner on this.
[00:51:27] Josh Hutchinson: Great. And we'll have links in the show notes to your website and to your contact form on there, as well. 
[00:51:36] Annika Hylmo: Thank you, and a huge shout out to these kids in Massachusetts. They are incredible, amazing. Were it not for these middle school kids, two years worth of middle schoolers from North Andover Middle School.
[00:51:50] If it weren't for them and the work that they did together with our teacher, Carrie LaPierre, we would not be sitting here today. We would not be making the documentary, and we wouldn't be [00:52:00] having this conversation. So guys, thank you to North and over Middle School, cuz you guys are amazing.
[00:52:07] Josh Hutchinson: This has been such a great conversation. In many ways don't want it to end. I thank you both for your powerful insights into humanity and the things that we can be working on to improve ourselves. Thank you for that.
[00:52:24] Sarah Jack: Welcome to this episode's Witchcraft Fear Victim Advocacy Report, sponsored by End Witch Hunts News. You have been hearing Witch Hunt Happenings in Your World from me. Who has heard about these crimes from you? Have you looked up any news? Have you checked out the Africa advocacy links in our episode show notes? Who did you say you have mentioned it to? 
[00:52:45] This week I attended the Colorado Podcaster's Meetup events sponsored by Podfest Expo and others at the Great Divide Brewery in Denver. I enjoyed meeting other creative conversors out here in the West who run various podcasts of their own. Check Thou [00:53:00] Shalt Not Suffer's podcast social media to see all of us. 
[00:53:03] I had the chance to tell these podcasters that witch hunts are a very relevant conversation. I talked about the Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project, and that Alice Young, the first accused Witch, executed in the American colonies, died in Hartford 375 years ago and is still waiting for her good name to be restored.
[00:53:23] She was not using witchcraft to harm others. Neither were the dozens of others accused in the Connecticut colony. If she and the other 10 hanged for witchcraft are exonerated by the state of Connecticut, it will be because we advocated for them. Also, those who have been cleared and memorialized by Massachusetts were not harming others with witchcraft. This week, our episode was about Elizabeth Johnson, Jr. of Andover, Massachusetts, and how she was finally advocated for after she remained overlooked in previous Salem Witch Trial exoneration efforts. Each of these exoneration efforts happened because of advocacy from humans like you. It didn't just occur [00:54:00] for Elizabeth because she was actually not a harmful Witch, but it happened because a mighty, collaborative effort from the community spanning young and old came together to make it happen. Likewise, efforts to stop the witch attacks in Asia and Africa must come from other people, people who can use their voice to talk about it and to stand against it. 
[00:54:20] This month, a woman lost her life due to superstition fears in the Gaia District of Bihar in the Jarkhand state of India. She was burned alive at her home after neighbors accused her of being a witch. She was 45. You can find a news link in our episode notes. 
[00:54:38] Pre-pandemic, Global Journalist reported this, "for many, witch trials may seem like a relic of early colonial America. But in fact witch-hunting is still a feature of rural life today around the world. One place where it's prevalent is India. On average, an Indian woman is killed every other day after being accused of witchcraft, according to government [00:55:00] statistics. Many are tortured or publicly humiliated before being burned, stabbed or beaten to death."
[00:55:07] I will be researching and reporting more in India. While we watch and wait, let's support the victims in India and across the world where innocent people are being targeted by superstitious fear. Support them by acknowledging and sharing their stories. Please use all your communication channels to be an intervener and stand with them.
[00:55:24] The world must stop hunting witches. Please follow our End Witch Hunts movement on Twitter @_endwitchhunts. And visit our website,
[00:55:35] Josh Hutchinson: Thank you, Sarah, for that moving and powerful update.
[00:55:39] Sarah Jack: You're welcome. 
[00:55:41] Josh Hutchinson: And thank you for listening to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast.
[00:55:45] Sarah Jack: Join us next week for our guest, Greg Houle, an author writing a book about the Salem Putnams.
[00:55:53] Josh Hutchinson: Subscribe or follow wherever you get your podcasts. 
[00:55:56] Sarah Jack: Visit often.[00:56:00] 
[00:56:00] Josh Hutchinson: And join our Discord for discussion of our episodes. Link in the show notes. 
[00:56:06] Sarah Jack: Follow us on social media, links in description.
[00:56:11] Josh Hutchinson: And remember to tell your friends and family and coworkers, and shout it from a mountaintop, about Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast.
[00:56:22] Sarah Jack: So long for now.
[00:56:23] Josh Hutchinson: Have a great today and a beautiful tomorrow. 
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