Dry Tinder with Author Janice C. Thompson – Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast
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Meet author Janice C. Thompson. Her debut historical novel, Dry Tinder tells the story of Sarah Towne, aka Sarah Cloyce. We share an interesting conversation with Janice about the book, the characters, the meaning behind the title and the founding of Framingham, Massachusetts. She shares her experiences researching and writing historical fiction and self publishing. You will sense her love for local history and fascinating, character-driven stories as we discuss Salem Witch Trial events and individuals. Drawing from her metaphor of a tinder box ready for a spark, we address reasons why we witch hunt, how we witch hunt and how we stop hunting witches. Dry Tinder is out now, order your copy today. Purchasing link is below.
[00:00:20] Josh Hutchinson: Hello, and welcome to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. I'm Josh Hutchinson. [00:00:26] Sarah Jack: And I'm Sarah Jack. [00:00:28] Josh Hutchinson: Today's guest is Janice C. Thompson, author of the historical novel Dry Tinder: A Tale of Rivalry and Injustice in Salem Village. [00:00:37] Sarah Jack: Dry Tinder is a chance to step back in time and use your imagination to be with the Towne family and their experiences. [00:00:49] Josh Hutchinson: That's right. We're gonna learn about the Towne Sisters. [00:00:53] Sarah Jack: Learn about the daughters of William and Joanna Towne, Rebecca, Mary, and Sarah. [00:01:00] Josh Hutchinson: Especially Sarah. We'll also learn about the Putnam's and Thomas Danforth. [00:01:09] Sarah Jack: A magistrate we don't often hear of or talk about. [00:01:13] Josh Hutchinson: Who was at the examination of Sarah Cloyce, the protagonist of Dry Tinder. [00:01:22] Sarah Jack: And who also founded the town that some of the refugees from the Salem Witch Trials reestablish themselves in. [00:01:31] Josh Hutchinson: We learn about the founding of Framingham, Massachusetts, where Sarah Cloyce and her husband Peter settled after the Salem Witch trials and changed their last name to Clayes. [00:01:46] Sarah Jack: There isn't much there historically to tell the story, but there is a road named Salem End Lane. [00:01:57] Josh Hutchinson: And one thing that we keep encountering is just how much people care about the legacy of the Towne sisters, even people with no relation. And we know that there are quite a lot of descendants. The Towne Family Association is very active and regularly does trips back to Salem and Framingham. [00:02:22] Sarah Jack: Yes, there are individuals who have contributed to the preservation of the history, the physical history of the Towne family, as well as, making sure the story is told. [00:02:38] Josh Hutchinson: One thing that really interested me in this interview, as a writer, is we got to talk to Janice about her experience as a first time author and first time writing a historical fiction work and the challenges involved in that and the self-publishing process. [00:03:02] Sarah Jack: And now you get to hear from her, Janice Thompson, a writer and also the co-founder of Harpswell News in Harpswell, Maine. She's a lover of local history and fascinating character-driven stories. Her first novel, Dry Tinder, is based on the true story of the Towne sisters-- three innocent, godly women falsely accused of witchcraft in 1692. As told through the perspective of Sarah Towne, the story becomes personal. [00:03:28] Josh Hutchinson: Can you tell us a little bit about your background? [00:03:32] Janice C Thompson: Sure. First I have no relation to the Towne family, to my characters. People are thinking, they call me cousin, the Towne family descendants, which is cute. [00:03:43] Josh Hutchinson: I just wanted to mention that Sarah and I are both Towne descendants. [00:03:48] Janice C Thompson: Oh, nice. [00:03:49] Josh Hutchinson: I'm a Mary Esty, and she's Mary and Rebecca. [00:03:53] Janice C Thompson: Okay. Wonderful. Well, A lot of people are, and I thought, why am I so obsessed with this story? So I actually, I did that genealogical. I'm like, I must, this blood must be in me. But it's not, but I feel like I'm an honorary Towne at this point [00:04:11] Sarah Jack: I love that. There tends to be this draw and protection towards those sisters from even outside the family. And it always means a lot to me to see that. I think that's really amazing. [00:04:25] Janice C Thompson: I play in the local concert band. I play trombone. And there is a Nurse in the band, and I gave her the book at the end of the rehearsal last week, and I was in tears. I'm like, "you really need to have this book." So it's meaningful to me, too. [00:04:42] Josh Hutchinson: You said you've been working on this book for 20 years. How did you come to write this? [00:04:47] Janice C Thompson: In 2004, my then husband and my two year old child moved into a home in Ashland, Massachusetts, which is about 25 miles directly west of Boston. It's a bedroom community for Boston, a commuter town. And it abuts, it's right next door to Framingham. Most people know of Framingham, not Ashland. It's between Framingham and Hopkinton. Hopkinton is where the Boston Marathon starts, so people know that and they know Framingham. But anyway, one of the things that really sold us on this house is that it abutted 800 acres of conservation forest with marked trails. Actually, there was a trailhead, like a trail spur that went right into our yard. So we'd often see people come out, they're like, oh, we shouldn't be here. But anyway, just very quickly, after we bought the house, some neighbors came over and we had some coffee, and they said, "oh, have you been to the witch caves out back your house?" And I said, "I don't know what that is." And they said, "oh, yes, it's, the witches escaped from Salem during the trials, and that's where they lived. They hid out in those caves." And I'm thinking, "that's weird because I'm 30 miles southwest of Salem and Salem Village, Danvers, and why would they do that? That seems really weird." So I looked into it thinking that it was probably an urban legend. Come to find out there was some truth to it, that the story goes that Thomas Danforth, who was the deputy governor the year before, during the trials, good friends with Samuel Sewell, oversaw Sarah's initial examination. This was before the Court of Oyer and Terminer. He oversaw this and put her in jail. And as we all know, Mary and Rebecca were hanged, and Sarah survived just because it was good timing, as we know how. Anyway, so she was let go, and then the next thing, she and her extended family, so there were some Bridges and there were some Nurses and there all the names that we know left Salem Village and they settled this wilderness to the west of Boston that was owned, these acres, thousands of acres were owned by Thomas Danforth. They had been granted to him by the colony, but he was the treasurer of Harvard. So he was always a Cambridge man. He never settled the lands. So these people came, and they settled the place. They built a meeting house, they had a burying ground, and they ended up incorporating the town of Framingham in 1700. And they called it Framingham because Thomas Danforth was from Framlingham in England. I also found out that these people had built their homes and farms along a road that still exists that's called Salem End Road. And that's the reason why, because they were from Salem. [00:07:50] Sarah Jack: Is there anything about the experience of writing a first book that you would like to share? What that is like? [00:08:01] Janice C Thompson: It's really hard. It's harder than I thought. And part of it is because I really wanted it to be authentic. I'm a reader. I love historical fiction. And what my pet peeve is that someone might say, oh, I'm gonna set this story in New York City in the 1880s, say, and then the characters all speak like we do. And you don't really get that sense of place and time. And so I really wanted to be authentic. And as you might have seen in the appendices, I did take liberties with some of the characters just because I can't write about people having 12 kids and having 12 characters. You know, I just can't do that. It was hard, because I was struggling with the truth of it but also having a book that people wanted to read that was accessible. I remember showing it to Margo early on, and she said, "Janice you can't have your characters talk like they actually did, because it's very off-putting, it's not accessible." And then I was also trying to figure out, like we have, we're in the 21st century. We have this cultural and social perspective as a result of being in the modern society. And I count myself as a feminist and I fight the man and all of that. But if you are in, if you're Sarah and Mary and Rebecca, and you're in that society in that time, would you even question anything? Now we know in the fifties and sixties women were starting to say, "no, I don't wanna, I don't like this. I don't, I wanna live a different kind of life. I'm unhappy. I'm unfulfilled." But if you're out 300 plus years ago, and you're in the wilderness, and you don't know if you're gonna make it through the winter, and you are also in this very patriarchal society, would you even complain? So I really wanted Sarah to be this rebel. But I also wanted it to be authentic. So I was really trying to add more nuance to all of their characters, because nothing in this story, as you probably know, is black and white. A lot of people say, "oh yeah, these girls were evil." I think that they would have PTSD, and they were suffering too. It's not black and white. And you see that all the time in movies and plays, and I just didn't wanna write that kind of book. And I also really wanted to set it up, this context, starting 20 years before that sets up this tinderbox. And that's actually one of the reasons why I self-published, because the literary agents who were interested in the story said, "I'll take this on, but you have to cut out everything except for just the drama of what happened in 1692. That's what people wanna read. And it has to be accessible. It has to be mass marketed. It has to, you have to sell a lot of copies." I would love for this to be a bestseller, of course, but I also wanted to write the story I wanted to write. So it was very difficult to say to these professionals, "I think I know better about my book than you do," especially as a first author with a first book. Who am I to do that? So yeah, it was fraught. It was really fraught. I'm starting to write another story that was like set in the nineties in Boston. That's not historic at all. That is so easy. You just say, woo. "What do I want my character to say right now?" It's like I could just make it up. But here I didn't wanna do it, so it was hard, and I don't think I'm ever gonna do it again, not this kind of story. Because I just was so engrossed with it, loved it all, but yeah ready to get it out there into the world. [00:11:50] Josh Hutchinson: I can relate to a lot of that. I started writing my first novel towards the end of 2008, and I haven't got it ready for publishing yet. Other things keep happening and [00:12:05] Janice C Thompson: Oh yeah. [00:12:06] Josh Hutchinson: then you've gotta start over. [00:12:08] Janice C Thompson: That was one of the issues too, 'cause I've always had to have a full-time job. And I have this notebook this thick with my notes, but you're right. You let it go, and then you have to start all over again. You have to say, "who are these characters? I have forgotten." And then you get really into it, but then life happens, and you can't focus on it anymore. So that's the reason why I really didn't wanna work at a day job. I wanted to just get to it. That didn't happen. Since we've been up here, I haven't had a full-time job, so I did have more time to focus on it. [00:12:41] Josh Hutchinson: That's great, and I'm glad that you did it. And I really like the attention to detail in there. And you talked about, you started the story 20 years beforehand to give the background and I think that's so important, because a lot of people just don't understand why the Salem Witch Trials happened. [00:13:04] Janice C Thompson: Yes. [00:13:05] Josh Hutchinson: They try to look at things like Margo's favorite thing, that ergot, and it's not that simple. [00:13:10] Janice C Thompson: love to be in the room when someone asks her about that, because she's very good at hiding her disdain as she responds to that. But yes, and I also find that, in the various depictions and throughout the ages, it's like, it's an anomaly. It just happened and it was mysterious and, yeah, maybe there was poisoning, we don't quite know. But, and then it just disappeared into thin air. The whole cover of the book is the map of this disputed territory. I actually started it 40 years before, but I did have to cut it down a little bit. And I focused in the original version, I focused more on that boundary dispute, but, I remember it was Marilynne who said, and she read the beginning of it too. And she said, "Janice, you and I are fascinated by this sort of stuff, but it gets very complicated, and I don't think a lot of people would like to know this much detail." So that was one big edit that I did. I cut out like maybe 50 pages. That was painful 'cause I liked the 50 pages, but I did want people to get engaged in it right off the bat. And so when I had this scene come into my head, and it was very clear to me, a nice spring day, Sarah's walking along the river with a baby. And once that hit, once that got into my head, I'm like, okay, this is where I'm going to start. But yeah, it was difficult. And also if my eighth grade creative writing teacher could hear you, that would be very lovely because I just remember he used to say details, throw in the details, make the reader feel and hear what these characters are doing. So I learned that in eighth grade. [00:15:01] Sarah Jack: As a descendant and a, possibly because I'm a female as well, the beginning really did pull me in a very nostalgic way, because you meet Sarah first, her motherhood, she's by herself looking for a little wiggle room from the what's pressing in on the women in that society, just in her own outfit and her hair. And then I got to listen to her and her sisters have a conversation in a kitchen. How amazing was that? I was so fascinated. I loved that I could picture Rebecca, Rebecca taking Hannah, Mary working, Sarah trying to relax from the situation that had just happened with her beverage. I just loved it. [00:15:50] Janice C Thompson: Oh, thank you. I myself have four sisters. I'm in the middle, like Sarah, and this is probably one of the, one of the reasons why I resonated with her, because I'm very close with my sisters. We're a very tight-knit family, and they're a lot different than I am. For example, they're very religious and I'm not, so I was inhabiting Sarah at that point when she said, "why can't I be more like my sisters?" That's an experience that I've had for a very long time. So you have to walk that line between intense love and devotion and frustration, and that's what I wanted to bring out and even in that initial conversation, because Sarah was getting annoyed with them, when they chastised her for taking off her cap. [00:16:39] Josh Hutchinson: That whole episode with the cap is so indicative of the kind of details that you put in there that really ground people in the time. So I think it was very important how you give a subtle explainer of what life is like in the 17th century for women without just doing a big data dump. [00:17:03] Janice C Thompson: Well, and that's why these resources were so helpful. Like I have books, you probably saw in the bibliography, I think there were a hundred listings there, but some of them were like life in the Colony in the 1600s and that's what I really wanted to see. I really wanted to find out. You know how they have those huge fireplaces with the iron thing across it that they hung pots from? I didn't know what that was called, and I didn't wanna say, oh, that iron thing that goes across, so I did a little bit quick research, and it's a crane, it's called a crane. So I'm like, "and so Sarah hung this pot on the crane." And for example, like how did they get around? Did they have a wagon? Did they have to hire a wagon? Did they have horses? Going up to the Rebecca nurse homestead and just being able to sit there and absorb that house, which we're so lucky that it's still there. All of those resources were enormously helpful. And it was fun. I used to like it. It's, "oh, I don't know that. So let's do a little bit of Google research and figure it out." At one point they're doing like, I was wondering about games, for example, did they even have games? And then I learned about this glyphs that it's like the tongue twisters that we have, that was a, that was like what they did in the 1500s. And so I want all of those things I wanted to add into it to just add layers to it. [00:18:34] Josh Hutchinson: It gets you into the world, so you see what the characters are experiencing, what they're up against, and yeah, it's very helpful. So you mentioned that you start the novel early. What years does the novel cover? [00:18:50] Janice C Thompson: It starts 22 years before, so that was 1670. So that was just about the time when William died. And then I play up the whole thing about Joanna being thought of as a witch and it was known that witchcraft it would go from mother to daughter. And I was thinking what was that about? Some scholar had traced that actual scene about when the minister drinks too much ale and that went to trial, and so when, in my book, when they're at trial, some of that is lifted verbatim from that transcript of that particular trial. That's one of the things that I then grabbed onto. It's okay, I wanna make Joanna be a rebel as well, but I wanna also explain whether, if people thought that she was a witch, why didn't she get arrested for it? And in my book, it's because she went inward and she's I'm not gonna deal with anybody anymore because I'm so upset. So I wanted to bring that out. But William had died, and so I figured maybe she went a little bit bonkers in grief, maybe she changed her own personality because now he's gone. And I envisioned that he was a, an evening factor for her but without him she didn't know how to act anymore. So I wanted to bring that in. So I started at 20, in 1670 when, so Sarah is married to Edmund Bridges, and she has just had her first baby, Hannah. [00:20:38] Sarah Jack: I think that is a really relatable time in a family's life that people can connect with. When the head of a family is gone, it's a huge adjustment for the widow, for the descendants. So that would've already started a transition in their lives. [00:21:01] Janice C Thompson: yeah. I was trying to trace all of the, that went down through the years, the uncertainty and the fear, and when people live in that kind of environment, which by the way we're living in today, people make bad decisions, and they act out of fear. And yes, you're absolutely right, when it's this close-knit family and the patriarch has died. And I think of this family, this extended family, as a very close family that's a little bit different than other families, because they just kept having babies because they needed to people to till the fields and all of that. Children were seen and not heard. But I envisioned the Towne family as somewhat different than that. Again, totally fabricated. This is the fiction part, that how do they do that and still be in this very rigid society? But I do think that William's dying was a catalyst for at least Joanna getting into trouble. [00:22:06] Josh Hutchinson: And I wanted to ask what's the significance of the title, Dry Tinder? [00:22:12] Janice C Thompson: Yeah. When that, it's funny because whenever I do marketing all the time, and so I'm always thinking of designs and headlines and when we do an appeal for the annual fund, or we're doing this kind of brochure or we're doing this e-blast and whatever, and usually my creative process with that is it just comes to me. It'll just, like, all of a sudden I'll be like, "okay, I want this." We're working on a booklet now. It's a tasting book for an event that I'm doing. And it's okay, I know what it's supposed to be. Throughout the entire writing of this book, the title wasn't coming to me. And I always said, it doesn't matter, because I'm so far away from publication that I don't care. But when I thought of Dry Tinder about a year ago, and I, it really caught on because I'm trying to describe a tinder box. So in the appendices, I say something like a carelessly lit match to dry tinder, the conflagration that follows is not a surprise. So that's where it came from. That said, I had to struggle with it, because one of the many misconceptions about this story is that these people were burned at the stake, and Dry Tinder connotes that. But I was so married to the title that I just decided to do it anyway. [00:23:36] Josh Hutchinson: I think it's apt for the way that the conflagration of the witch trials happened. Starts with little spark and then it just, the flames fan out everywhere. [00:23:50] Janice C Thompson: And I tried to pepper the whole thing with oh, she, the anger that ran through her felt a flame or I tried to bring that theme in a couple of little, a little places. But yeah, I do think that that's the thing that fascinated me the most, because I've been fascinated with this story for whatever reason my whole life. And so when I started doing that research, I researched it back to England in the 1620s. In the beginning, I even had like backstories about William and Joanna when they were just meeting in their church, and because I kept going back, and I kept going, 'cause I can see the thread, but I just figured I have to stop somewhere. In fact, I'm not gonna do this, but it would be fun to to do a prequel to about William and Joanna and where they came from. The whole Thomas Danforth, I cut 50 pages outta that backstory. I had the whole thing about how he grew up in in Framlingham and about his parents and all of this. So there is more on the cutting room floor than is in the book right now. So that's the thing that fascinated me. It's duh, I could've, in hindsight you could see, yeah, something's gonna happen in this society that's not gonna be fun. Makes me worry about today, I have to say. Like, where is this all gonna lead to? I was actually not as interested. The trials were like the same. Every single one was the same. They'd say, "oh, why are you hurting this girl?" "I'm not." "Obviously you are." It, how many times can you write that? How many times can you write it so that it's different every time? That's the reason why I didn't go into the three trials, 'cause they were the same. Some of it had some twists. Like Rebecca, they said she was fine, she was innocent, and then they said, no, go back and try again. So there were little things that were different. But I really didn't, I didn't wanna write that. It bored me. [00:25:49] Josh Hutchinson: We've talked about the Towne sisters. Who were some of the other main characters? [00:25:57] Janice C Thompson: The, so they're the sisters, and then of course there's the Putnam clan. And I set it up, even though we know there are a lot of other people who were living there, I set it up as a rivalry between the Townes and the Putnams and who were their fans or their friends or whatever. So those were the main characters. But then, and this was another choice too, I really wanted to write about Thomas Danforth and Samuel Sewell, because I know that Samuel Sewell is famous. You could read the apology that he's famous for giving a public apology many years later. In fact, I used to work at the Boston Athenaeum, which is right across the street from the State House, and you can see a portrait, a painting of Samuel Sewell in the State House giving that apology. I was so intrigued with what I first found out about, like, why did Thomas Danforth invite this family? I really wanted to talk about Danforth. There's not a lot written about him. And when I was at the Athenaeum, I remember talking to the curator of paintings and sculpture, and he looked into it and he said, "yeah, Thomas Danforth doesn't have a formal portrait done," which is very unusual for magistrates at that time. That's an interesting little tidbit. We hear about Cotton Mather, we hear about Samuel Sewell, but we don't hear that much about Danforth. But he was right there. So I brought him in halfway through and the ministers, and that was another part that that's based on reality that these ministers and these magistrates actually went back and used the Bible, passages in the Bible, to belie the thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. So I just love that sort of intellectual exercise of these ministers. They had a fine line to walk, because they believed in evil, in the devil, in witchcraft, but then they thought maybe that's not happening here, and that's a cognitive dissonance there. So how did they make that dissonance go away? And they did it through biblical texts. So I really wanted to bring those in, those people in, too. I just thought that was interesting. So there were the Boston contingent, the Boston and Cambridge contingent, the power structure. And then it was these poor people in this little village. So those were my main characters. [00:28:25] Josh Hutchinson: Which makes me think of your appendices. You also have bios in there for the characters, so something people can refer to as they're reading. [00:28:38] Janice C Thompson: Because I've talked to the people like Margo and Marilynne and Tad Baker and Bernie Rosenthal. I didn't want them to poo poo like to say, ugh, this is just fiction and whatever. So I figured I would bring it up in the appendices about the difference between this story and what was real. Like a beef that I have with The Crucible is that Arthur Miller names that hanging judge, who we know is William Stoughton. He named him Thomas Danforth. And so now a lot of people, they think it's, oh yes, Thomas Danforth was the hanging judge. And that's what happens when you write fiction. People don't understand that it's fiction. So I just wanted to underscore that I want to have some creative license, but I also don't want to perpetuate lies. So that's why I thought it was important to put that in. [00:29:38] Sarah Jack: I think it's so great because we need that creative license. It's a teaching mechanism too, and, but people do need to learn to be able to recognize and do their own look into the history. We want people to have that critical thinking that they can enjoy historical fiction but not get confused, and we have to teach them that. And your book is a great example of how it can be done. [00:30:11] Janice C Thompson: Yeah. Marilynne's book, the Six Women of Salem, does it very well, too, because she does that like those beginning chapters. She would just come up with a scene of, Rebecca was, carrying the water, whatever. You can breathe life into these characters. We don't really know how they work, but we have some evidence, through transcripts and all of that. I just want it to be true to the story, but not mislead. The Crucible thing, Margo talks about this too, that, John Proctor was supposedly having an affair with Abigail. It was not Daniel Day Lewis, that was not John Proctor. So yeah, that was important to me. [00:30:52] Josh Hutchinson: People do get some wrong ideas from historical fiction, interpreting it as history when you know you have to have that creative license, because we don't have a hundred percent of the details of these people's lives. So of course you've got to connect the dots and fill in the blanks. [00:31:15] Janice C Thompson: Yeah. Yep. Absolutely. [00:31:18] Sarah Jack: What would you like readers to take away from your book? [00:31:21] Janice C Thompson: That's a good question. If I look at it from a macro level, I think that I would like for people to think about what ignorance and fear and uncertainty can do to a community. And again, I'm looking through my current day eyes, because we have to really be careful. It could easily happen today. On a more personal level, at the sort of coming down from 30,000 feet, I want people to fall in love with these sisters. I want them to think, "I wish I had those sisters," and I want people to understand how, again, things are not black and white sometimes, and it's important to just remember that. And I just, I want people to really enjoy it, too. It's hard when you're into a story that's based on research to write something that would actually be enjoyable and it's not gonna be like a history lesson. I want people to not be able to put this book down. And a number of people have told me that, and that's what I want. I'm not doing this to get rich. [00:32:42] Josh Hutchinson: People are drawn in to Salem with this kind of glamorous, romanticized view of everything, and it's just so important once they're drawn in to make sure that they're leaving with the right lessons. [00:32:58] Janice C Thompson: But my book, it is pretty serious. I was at a book signing here locally yesterday, and it Harpswell is a very touristy place. It's a tiny little town, but it doubles in population with our summer residents and then tourist, because it's beautiful. It's like a postcard. So I was at one of these gift shops with all the tourists, and somebody said, "why would I wanna read this book? It's so sad. It's so down." I said, "yeah, but it's okay 'cause you'll be dazzled with my writing style. So that'll even out the subject matter." Yeah. [00:33:34] Josh Hutchinson: There you go. [00:33:36] Janice C Thompson: Yeah. And the thing is, too, there is redemption with Thomas Danforth saying, "I apologize." But it is sad, because I think she lost her religion. And it would be nice to say that everyone lived happily ever after, but they didn't. They changed their name to Clayes when they went to Framingham, and the story is that she never left the house, that she became housebound, because she couldn't deal with people and she's, we think that she's in the burying ground. It's 1704 and then it just says S. So she didn't, even if she's even buried there, she didn't want anybody to come visit her. So that's a really sad story. These families were destroyed. I'm hoping that sort of scene with a redemption with Thomas Danforth will be enough of a Oh, okay. Okay. There's some little bright spot at the end, and it's just that it's not that everybody just died and everybody was sad and, yeah, but she only lived like another 10 years. She didn't live very long in Framingham. [00:34:50] Josh Hutchinson: And I know she must have suffered in jail and losing her sisters. The suffering must have been so intense. I can understand why you might be reclusive and not wanna go out where people might accuse you again. [00:35:08] Janice C Thompson: Yes. Yes. Yes, that's what I imagine. Do you know the book, Currents of Malice? It's about Mary, but it's about the whole family. And there are some chapters in the end where the families, the surviving members of the families were trying to get Parris out. They were trying to get recompense, they were trying to get retribution. And Peter was part of that, but he left, the other, they said, "oh, he's left the area." And I imagine that must've been difficult for him, too, because, yeah, you want to be there, you wanna get revenge, you wanna, but then who wants to be in this community? Who you thought was your close knit? You thought they were your family, family in Christ, and who would just turn on you? And then there was no repercussion. Like these people, the accusers were never brought to trial. They just went away, or they just stayed there. There was no retribution. I can understand. You just wanna get out of dodge and try to forget it. She was also devastated, and I could understand why she would never wanna go outta the house. [00:36:18] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, we, when we talked to Rachel Christ-Doane, we were talking to her about Dorothy Good's life after the trials and how tragic a story that continued to be. And I think that was sadly the way it was for so many of the families and individuals. How do you just go back to normal life after that? [00:36:42] Janice C Thompson: One of the things that was very inspiring was that PBS Three Sovereigns for Sarah. And I thought it was interesting, because at the end they were talking about, what happened to different people, and those girls did not live good lives afterward. They were pretty tragic. And it also supports the theory that they had PTSD. And I imagine, once the hysteria died down, knowing that you just accused these people probably added to the trauma. Because a lot of them didn't have families. A lot of them were refugees. They were maids. They didn't have any agency at all. [00:37:23] Sarah Jack: I think about the young age of some of the afflicted and even the ones that were women but young. And then you look at the timeline of when hangings ended, with witch accusations, did these girls, women ever look back and think there were adults overseeing what was going on? I don't know. It wasn't like they grew up and then they continued to be part of hanging witches for the rest of their lives. [00:37:50] Janice C Thompson: I think that they were sorely manipulated by their parents. That's why I have the scene where the girls are upstairs and they're hearing downstairs the conversation about Rebecca, and then all of a sudden Rebecca's being called out on. I do think that was probably part of it. And again, there was no sort of social safety net afterward. They didn't have, the Putnams had, they had families, but, I'm talking about Abigail herself and Mary Warren and people who just, they were servants. And I imagine that you get older you know and you think, "oh my God, what did I do?" I also imagine that they probably, they might've been ostracized by the very people who manipulated them. Because, again, the tide was turning, and there were people thinking, "oh, this is was not a good thing after all." So I actually in a way feel sorry for those girls. It wasn't that all of a sudden evil sprang in these kids and then they decided to just put people to death. I don't think that's what happened. [00:38:54] Josh Hutchinson: I think they were such vulnerable people. A number of them you mentioned were refugees from the wars in Maine and had seen their families get killed and managed to escape. But, they're totally devastated like by that for the rest of their lives. [00:39:16] Janice C Thompson: They're alone. They don't have, they have to work, 12 year olds, in a community where, in a society where you don't have any agency as a young person yeah. I do think that there's this sort of group think that happens like that. [00:39:31] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, I'm kin to Mercy Lewis. I appreciate that people taking a more balanced view of the afflicted. We have to understand the accuser side to understand why the witch trials happened and why things like that happen today. You have to understand both sides. You can't only understand the victim side. [00:39:57] Janice C Thompson: Yes. That's right. Yep. [00:39:59] Josh Hutchinson: You mentioned early on that we're living in a time today that's not unlike the times of yesterday. So how, what sort of parallels are you seeing? [00:40:13] Janice C Thompson: Again, when there is a lot of uncertainty and fear, people make bad decisions. And so for example, today there is a lot of economic inequality, and while I don't agree, I understand that people who have suffered the most from that inequality feel angry and afraid. And when you're in that state, it's easier to say, "I'm just gonna find a scapegoat." They're suffering from a bigger picture of inequality, of the money goes to the owners and, blah, blah, blah. So I think that's what's happening. And that's why we're so polarized, because we both think both sides of the politic, like we're, it's the other side that's gonna hurt it. Look at the rhetoric. Some of the rhetoric is just crazy. And you're like, where did you come up with that? But again, if you're acting out of fear and anger, that's what happens. And I do think that's what was happening. I was very interested in, I think it was Nissenbaum and Boyer. They were talking about the sociological aspects of things and the fact that Thomas Putnam, Jr. was expecting a big inheritance from his father. And that's true. The father didn't give him anything. And then it was the same thing that happened with Mary Carr. So these two people who were expecting to be moving up in the world and having all this money now doesn't get the money and God forbid his stepbrother is getting the money instead. And then they look at people like the Nurses who were very poor in Salem Town and then all of a sudden own this big farm. What's up with that? Why are you getting ahead? And that could be very scary. And I think that was what motivated the Putnams, 'cause they were losing power in the community. So I think there are a lot of parallels. [00:42:27] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah. I think what you talked about with the economic stress there is an important factor in why the witch trials happened. What are some of the other key factors we should know about? What was in the Tinderbox? [00:42:44] Janice C Thompson: So there's the economic discrepancies, there's the border disputes that, that south of the Ipswich River. That's why I feature it in the map. There was the strict, the religious restrictions. There were the wars, worried about making it through the winter, and not being able to agree on a minister. That is weird. Because this whole community couldn't figure out, couldn't decide on a minister. And that was unusual in the colony. Usually they would have ministers who would stay there for life, what's up with that? What's going on in Salem Village? But I think the thing that was the tipping point was when the colony lost the charter. Because you've had this government for what, 40, 50, 60 years. You've created courts, you've created structures. And then now it's okay, you don't have a charter. You might get a charter, or you might not. So your governmentless at that point. And I think that was the tipping point and then also, by the way, the whole thing about the halfway covenant that was happening in the church as well, that. It's just so funny because when you hear the rhetoric then about, oh, kids these days, they're worse than we were. That's happening today. It happens with every, single generation. So there were some people, some ministers who said, let's come up with this Halfway Covenant so that we can bring more people into the church, because there's now more lying and fornication and thievery and all of that sort of stuff. People are moving away from God, which is another one of those pillars that people count on, and you take that away, too, and so then there were the conservative ministers like Parris saying, Uhuh, we're not gonna have the halfway Covenant. You need to follow those laws. You need to have evidence for your conversion experience and all of that. So there was a lot of tenuousness in the church, as well. I think those are the elements to the tinderbox. [00:44:50] Josh Hutchinson: I think that's so important you brought that point up, because we think of Puritan Massachusetts as being this very homogenous society where the rules were set from the top, but no, you had different congregations, and they weren't always in agreement with each other. [00:45:11] Janice C Thompson: I also think it's the town and country thing. In Salem town, this is a port city, and so you're getting ships coming from Spain and Barbados, and there were black people, there were people speaking different languages. There were the merchant class who were making money off of building a ship and then getting a piece of all of that haul. And that's what happens today here, too. It tends to be the cities on the coasts. It's more diverse. And so when you're rubbing shoulders with people who are very different from you, you learn how to get along, like that there are actually other ways of looking at the world, but then you're dealing with Salem Village, and they're the farmers, that's why I tried to have when Sarah went with Edmund to have their ordinary in Salem town, like she was hearing a lot of that stuff. So she was, in my mind, she's like more worldly than the Putnams, say. And again, that's what's happening today. So when you don't have diversity of thought you can very easily just have not necessarily good or truthful ways of looking at the world. When you're not in a diverse area, you're not encouraged to think differently. For me, in my life, I grew up in upstate New York and in a very religious family. I just didn't know anything different, because it was quite an insulated, insulated community. And then when I go to college, Oh my God. At lunchtime people would be coming from their classes and say, oh my God, did you hear about Prohibition? Or, oh, I just learned about this new mathematical theory or whatever. It like leads to this kind of intellectual discussions, which some people hate. But for me, it opened up my whole perspective, because I started talking with people who are not me, who are not like me. And when you don't have that opportunity, it's easy to be insular in your thinking. [00:47:28] Josh Hutchinson: I thought that ordinary was such a good setting to have early in the story, because of that very reason. There's all these different people from different backgrounds. It shows you that it wasn't just the English Puritan people [00:47:46] Janice C Thompson: Yes. [00:47:46] Josh Hutchinson: Salem. There were other people from, and people in Salem had been to far -flung places. [00:47:54] Janice C Thompson: And that part of the story was actually true. But it also was a great construct, because a woman in the colony would not be interested or even have access to discussions about politics. And but Sarah had her overhearing the magistrates who were coming. And so that was that. She set me up with a great construct to do that. [00:48:18] Josh Hutchinson: Did you have anything in particular you wanted to be sure to talk about today? [00:48:24] Janice C Thompson: I really hope that people enjoy it, and I hope people will get something out of it. Genealogical connection is so important to me, even though I'm not a descendant. I think, again, spending time with the Towne family, there's this continual closeness in this family. And people get very emotional about it. Marker [00:48:45] Janice C Thompson: When I was back in Framingham, I was the president of the Framingham History Center and we did this program called Voices in the Burying Ground around Halloween, even though it wasn't scary, and I reenacted Sarah complete with the outfit and everything. So we had the people of note who were buried in that cemetery. The tour would go around and visit the different graves, and we would talk about this and everything. And a bunch of the Towne Family Association members came up from Connecticut to see this. And this little girl, eight year old girl, comes up and says, "oh, hi Aunt Sarah." And she starts asking me questions and that's so cool. At the same time, I want this story to resonate with people who are not Townes, and so far that seems to be happening. Marker [00:49:38] Janice C Thompson: And I want people to write me reviews on Amazon, because that's the thing. I'm selling a lot of books myself, but those reviews are the things that get the public to be interested. This has really been a labor of love, and I hope that comes through. [00:49:55] Josh Hutchinson: We encourage listeners to please do that. Pick up a copy of the book, read it, review it. That will help get the story out there. And where can people pick up the book? [00:50:09] Janice C Thompson: It's in hardcover, paperback, and ebook on Amazon. I do sell it directly. People can contact me through my website janicethompson.net. And I'm also here in Maine. A lot of the local shops and the independent bookstores have taken it. And so if you're in Maine, I always say go to the bookstores and get it, because I want people to support independent publishing. And also if they buy it from these stores, the stores will buy more from me. [00:50:39] Sarah Jack: And now for a minute with Mary. [00:50:51] Mary Bingham: Two weeks ago, four days after I was told that I had to move because my lease was going to be up in June of 2024, a tree fell and took out the courtyard attached to my apartment and damaged the overhang, missing my window by about a foot. It will cost hundreds of dollars to repair the courtyard and the overhang, I'm sure. If this was colonial times, I could have been accused of witchcraft. That's right. If this was the late 1600s, my landlord could say that my specter somehow caused that tree to fall, causing considerable damage to the property on purpose. On a more serious note, in 1688, Rebecca Nurse confronted her neighbor, Sarah Holton, because the Holton's pigs kept breaking through their fence, charging into the Nurses' fields and destroying their crops. That was serious, destroyed crops meant less food for the Nurses. Shortly after this confrontation, Sarah Holton's husband, Benjamin, became ill and sadly died. Sarah doesn't say anything until four years later, when she offers a deposition against Rebecca in 1692. Really? Why wait? One can only speculate. Maybe Sarah believed all along that Rebecca's specter caused harm to her husband. It could be that Benjamin's illness was unknown to the doctor and that Sarah needed to believe that something caused her husband's death. This was not an uncommon belief amongst the Puritans. They believed that everything happened for a reason. Four years later, Rebecca was accused, arrested, and removed from her home and sent to jail. Maybe it was then that Sarah said, "aha. That's it. Rebecca's specter caused my husband to die." This belief in bewitchment or someone manipulating nature to cause bad weather conditions, crop failures, harm to another person's environment, and most sadly, death to a family when scientific evidence was not known, had deadly consequences, such deadly consequences that one accused could hang. This was only one element in the case of Rebecca nurse, but it was an element of many of the cases in colonial British America. Sadly, it is an element in many of the cases of deadly witch hunts today. Luckily, I will not be accused of bewitchment because that tree fell onto the courtyard, but others living in Africa, Ghana, India, Papua New Guinea and other places are accused of affecting nature to cause harm to others at an alarming deadly rate. Please educate yourself regarding ongoing witch hunts. Thank you. [00:53:59] Sarah Jack: Thank you, Mary. [00:54:02] Josh Hutchinson: Here's Sarah with End Witch Hunts News. [00:54:12] Sarah Jack: End Witch Hunts, a nonprofit 501(c)(3), Weekly News Update. Thank you for being a part of the journey of discovery around witch hunts past and present. Take a look at our episode catalog. It is amazing. It is amazing because historians, authors, academics, economists, advocates, artists and descendants of accused witches have generously given us insightful and meaningful conversation week after week and entrusted Josh and I with their message to you. Have you read any of our guest's books? Have you pulled up their research and articles to continue learning? Please do. Josh and I are constantly reading to bring you the best research and conversations on witch hunts. You can be reading and talking about it, too. Find links to articles in our show notes. Find and follow our team and guests like Dr. Leo Igwe and Mary Bingham on social media. Many are sharing blogs and articles regularly. Are you following Margo Burns? She has many presentations coming up this fall. Share the links with your friends. Buy books for gifts. Find our guest titles in our nonprofit bookshop, also linked in the show notes. Buy titles at your local independent bookshop or directly from the guests. There are so many great reads, and we are very grateful that each of these academics and researchers have given their time to talk about their work on this podcast. We want this podcast to reach the world with news that witch hunts are real but that witches are not causing harm with supernatural attacks. That witch hunting is complex and nuanced but not a mystery. Witch hunting is a current crisis, and we all need to be educated on the ways societies find themselves scapegoating those that cannot possibly be the cause of suffering. The targeted individuals become innocent sufferers themselves due to anger and fear. Every week, Thou Shalt Not Suffer podcast brings both the history of the past witch trials and news and education about the current global effort of ending modern witch hunts. I hope you are being transformed by the education around witch hunts. Are you talking about our End Witch Hunts advocacy questions? Why do we witch-hunt? How do we witch-hunt? How do we stop hunting witches? Thank you for being a part of the Thou Shalt Not Suffer podcast community. We appreciate your listening and support. Keep sharing our episodes with your friends, have conversations with them about what you are learning and how you want to jump in and end witch hunts with your particular abilities, influence, and network. Community development that works to end witch hunts is an ongoing, long-term, collective effort for all of us to participate in. You can learn more by visiting our websites and the websites listed in our show notes for more information about country specific advocacy groups and development plans in motion across the globe. Get involved. Visit endwitchhunts.org. To support us, make a tax-deductible donation, purchase books from our bookshop, or merch from our Zazzle shop. Have you considered supporting the production of the podcast by joining us as a super listener? Your super listener donation is tax-deductible. Thank you for being a part of our work. [00:57:18] Josh Hutchinson: Thank you, Sarah. [00:57:20] Sarah Jack: You're welcome. [00:57:21] Josh Hutchinson: And thank you so much for listening to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. [00:57:27] Sarah Jack: Join us next week. [00:57:29] Josh Hutchinson: Hit the subscribe button wherever you're listening to this podcast. [00:57:34] Sarah Jack: Find more episodes at thoushaltnotsuffer.com. [00:57:38] Josh Hutchinson: Remember to tell everyone you know and everybody you meet about Thou Shalt Not Suffer. [00:57:44] Sarah Jack: Support our efforts to end modern witch hunts. Visit endwitchhunts.org to learn more. [00:57:49] Josh Hutchinson: Have a great today and a beautiful tomorrow.