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Colonial Earthquakes: Witchcraft or God’s Will? with Kathleen Langone

Colonial Earthquakes: Witchcraft or God’s Will? with Kathleen Langone Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast

Kathleen Langone of the People Hidden in History podcast speaks with us about colonial New England Earthquakes before the 19th century as signs from God. We discussed several historic earthquakes and the colonists' reactions. What did the ministers and other leaders have to say about the tremors? Were earthquakes acts of witchcraft or acts of God? What providences were considered acts of witchcraft? People Hidden in History Podcast Interview with Greater Boston, Josh Hutchinson, and Dr. Emerson Baker (at 15:38)Preservation Connecticut Presentation: Sarah Jack and Josh HutchinsonFox Live Now, Josh Hutchinson and Sarah JackWashington Post, Josh Hutchinson InterviewPetition to recognize those accused of witchcraft in MassachusettsList of those accused of witchcraft in MassachusettsSupport Us! Sign up as a Super Listener!End Witch Hunts Movement Thou Shalt Not Suffer Podcast Book StoreSupport Us! Buy Witch Trial Merch!Support Us! Buy Podcast Merch!Join us on Discord to share your ideas and feedback.WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagramPinterestLinkedInYouTubeTikTokSupport the show

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Show Notes

Kathleen Langone of the People Hidden in History podcast speaks with us about colonial New England Earthquakes before the 19th century as signs from God. We discussed several historic earthquakes and the colonists’ reactions. What did the ministers and other leaders have to say about the tremors? Were earthquakes acts of witchcraft or acts of God? What providences were considered acts of witchcraft? 

People Hidden in History Podcast 

Interview with Greater Boston, Josh Hutchinson, and Dr. Emerson Baker (at 15:38)

Preservation Connecticut Presentation: Sarah Jack and Josh Hutchinson

Fox Live Now, Josh Hutchinson and Sarah Jack

Washington Post, Josh Hutchinson Interview

Petition to recognize those accused of witchcraft in Massachusetts
List of those accused of witchcraft in Massachusetts

Support Us! Sign up as a Super Listener!

End Witch Hunts Movement 

Thou Shalt Not Suffer Podcast Book Store

Support Us! Buy Witch Trial Merch!

Support Us! Buy Podcast Merch!

Join us on Discord to share your ideas and feedback.










[00:00:10] Josh Hutchinson: Welcome to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast, the show that asks the questions, why do we hunt witches? How do we hunt witches? And how do we stop hunting witches? I'm Josh Hutchinson.
[00:00:23] Sarah Jack: And I'm Sarah Jack.
[00:00:25] Josh Hutchinson: Today, we're speaking with Kathleen Langone, host of the People Hidden in History podcast, talking about colonial New England earthquakes as signs of God's wrath.
[00:00:34] Sarah Jack: How did the society respond to earthquakes differently than other misfortunes?
[00:00:46] Josh Hutchinson: And what did the ministers have to say about the potential meaning of the earthquakes?
[00:00:53] Sarah Jack: Kathleen Langone is the creator and host of People Hidden in History podcast. She enjoys telling people about history that isn't commonly known, or possibly people hidden in the shadows of the more famous. Be sure to check out her website,, and find her on X to find out more about these hidden stories. .
Kathleen, we are so happy to have you join us today on our podcast. You've had us twice as guests to talk about witch trials. Thank you for coming.
[00:01:28] Kathleen Langone: I'm delighted to be on this series, and it was always fun to talk to you folks from my podcast series, and just briefly about my series, it's called People Hidden in History, and I cover very interesting but not well known people from the 1600s up through about the 1960s. And there are 20 episodes now, a few more to come. And these are, I would say, longer, more academic episodes, but I would love for some of your listeners to come over and listen to some of these podcasts. Thank you.
[00:02:00] Sarah Jack: I love your episodes. Our listeners will really enjoy hearing them and I just, your podcast has a special place in my heart ,because it was my first experience talking on a podcast and thank you for that. 
[00:02:15] Kathleen Langone: You're welcome.
[00:02:18] Josh Hutchinson: And how did you come to have expertise in New England earthquakes?
[00:02:24] Kathleen Langone: It's an interesting story, folks. I actually had an undergraduate degree in earth science. I got that from the University of New Hampshire, and through a number of circumstances, I connected with New Hampshire Emergency Management, actually in the late 1980s. There was actually money coming into New England to do research on earthquakes, because various people realized in the United States Geologic Survey that there was a pretty extensive history of earthquakes, as we'll talk about, in the 1600s, 1700s, and there was some concern if these were to happen again that there'd be little preparation, in terms of emergency management. So they brought me in and actually hired me. I worked for a couple of different groups to do historical research on earthquakes, and I went through a lot of dusty library shelves and many interesting historical accounts. And that's really how it all started.
[00:03:21] Sarah Jack: At that time, the research would have been really like hands on. You would have been digging in archives and looking at actual documents for that information, not just jumping on the internet.
[00:03:35] Kathleen Langone: Yeah, that was very true. Back then, there was very little that had been scanned in and digitized, so many hours spent in libraries. And my thanks to the many generous librarians that let me hang out in their institutions.
[00:03:48] Sarah Jack: So have earthquakes become less common? They were more common hundreds of years ago. What's the situation on the frequency of earthquakes in New England?
[00:03:59] Kathleen Langone: That's a good question, because I think people today don't really perceive earthquakes as a threat to New England. They were really quite common in the 1600s, 1700s. And even recorded back to the 1500s. So if you look at the major events, there was a major earthquake in 1638, I think was recorded likely up in New Hampshire.
There were two major earthquakes in the 1700s. 1727, epicenter believed to be in Newbury, Massachusetts, which was in northeastern Massachusetts on the coast, and the 1755 earthquake, which was quite large, maybe the epicenter about 25 miles off the coast of Boston. And then there was a break of activity. And interestingly, there were no earthquakes of note during the Revolutionary War. I think had there been, this would have been much more prominent in history. Very little activity in the 1800s, then there were actually twin earthquakes up in Tamworth, New Hampshire in 1940, and not much since then.
[00:05:03] Josh Hutchinson: You talked about earthquakes in the 17th and 18th centuries. How would the colonists have responded to those? How would they have viewed that experience?
[00:05:16] Kathleen Langone: When I first started researching earthquakes, of course, I was aware of the witch trials in the 17th century, the 1600s, and I thought that these would have been attributed to, the devilish acts of these witches, and there was never a connection there. But these events were definitely seen as acts of a vengeful God. So many of these earthquakes created sermons, which we'll talk about in a little bit. So there was a definite division between what witchcraft could cause. They often would attribute things like diseases, stillbirths, dead livestock, things of that nature, to witchcraft, whereas earthquakes, maybe even hurricanes or things of that nature, were of this very powerful, vengeful god.
[00:06:02] Sarah Jack: And what do the ministers say about his vengeance or what was to follow? What kind of ideas or messages did they have for their churches?
[00:06:17] Kathleen Langone: I think that they almost welcomed these earthquakes, in a way, because to them it was a very clear message that people have sinned and to prevent them from sinning in the future. So these ministers would record these earthquakes, like I said, as acts of a vengeful God. And we'll talk about one minister, Cotton Mather, from 1727, and he's talking about the conditions just before the earthquake and then the earthquake occurring. And he says, "the air was never more calm, the sky never more fair, everything in all imaginable tranquility." But then he says, "was heard in Boston, passing from one end of town to another, a horrid rumbling." 
And let's talk back to 1638. There's a recording from William Bradford, second governor of Plymouth Colony, and this passage was actually written at a time when they were having meetings. The town fathers were meeting about actually expelling some people who were not adhering to whatever the laws were of the community, and during this meeting, the 1638 earthquake occurred, and it states, "as if the Lord would hereby show the signs of his displeasure." So in other words, if earthquake was seen as justification for them having this meeting to expel these people.
[00:07:43] Josh Hutchinson: That's really remarkable timing, the 1638 earthquake happening while you're making a weighty decision. I would definitely see them, how you would interpret that as being a sign of what you're supposed to do.
[00:08:01] Kathleen Langone: I would like to mention another recording from the 1638 earthquake. At the time that occurred, the famous Anne Hutchinson that we know ran up against Governor John Winthrop, et cetera. She, in a sense, had been expelled. She was down in Rhode Island at this point, and she was having a meeting, a religious meeting, if you will, at her home. And when the earthquake occurred, from her perspective, it was almost a justification that she was where she was, that it's good that she was no longer up in Massachusetts. So to her, it was a positive sign. And in a couple of weeks, I hope to have a podcast out on Anne Hutchinson. I've recorded it. I'm still editing it, but that's going to be an interesting story that I think you two will enjoy also.
[00:08:46] Josh Hutchinson: I'm really looking forward to that. There's some witchcraft implications in the case of Anne Hutchinson and her associates, the midwives for bearing the children with congenital disorders that they deemed the monster birth, to use the term of the day. Yeah, and John Winthrop even called one of Anne Hutchinson's friends a witch.
[00:09:20] Kathleen Langone: Exactly, Josh, she did have a monster birth. Sadly, I think when the various trials were going around, she was still in Boston. She did have basically a deformed baby that died, and I'm sure that they pounced on that.
[00:09:33] Kathleen Langone: Now in addition to earthquakes, there were some other odd phenomenon that happened in New England. In 1780, though, much later, there was something called a dark day, and this was attributed, they understand now, to these massive forest fires in Canada, which of course we're very familiar with this year, bringing over these huge clouds of smoke and it's stalling over New England. You can have one of these thermal inversions where the air just doesn't move off to the coast. And there was a minister in Connecticut that actually labeled this as a sign of a judgment day that had come across his community. And, you know, I think that's a very strong statement to actually call this a judgment day. So again, earthquakes and some other less easily explained phenomenon were seen as acts of God.
[00:10:24] Sarah Jack: Some of the other things that impacted the colonists, you wouldn't necessarily feel it, you might see it or hear it, and with an earthquake, you've got all your senses being pulled into it. I think how powerful that must have felt to them.
[00:10:41] Kathleen Langone: Well, I think, following up on what you said, the fearful colonists, I think would want to hear from their ministers, because they would see this as an act of God. They would like to hear that confirmed by the ministers, or maybe know in ways that they can repent. 
So not only was there shaking of houses and everything, there was an odd phenomenon occurred with the 1755 earthquake called earthquake lights that was even more frightening. So in New England, there's a lot of granite. We all know about granite in New England. And when these earthquake waves would come through, and if they were intense enough, they would actually compress the granite and the quartz in the granite would emit sparks or lights. So in the middle of this earthquake, they would actually see lights skitter across the ground. It was recorded as a blue light, and that's even more fearful. And again, an example of something that would not be explained and be very fearful.
[00:11:37] Sarah Jack: How powerful.
[00:11:39] Kathleen Langone: So I just want to bring up a more humorous aspect of a minister talking about the 1755 earthquake. This is Reverend Phillips from Andover, Massachusetts. And I guess before the November 1755 earthquake, there'd been a lot of people who fell asleep in his sermons. And of course he would rebuke them, etc. And after the 1755 earthquake occurred, he was able to say, you better not sleep now, because God's pretty upset with you. And people stayed awake for a while in his sermons.
[00:12:09] Sarah Jack: Nobody wants to get rapped on their shoulder for dozing off in a service or class, but how even more upsetting to be rattled by God's hand on an earthquake.
[00:12:24] Kathleen Langone: And I think those sermons back then, Sarah, were a couple of hours. They weren't like the nice sweet and short ones we have now at 45 minutes. These were a couple of hours. So I probably would have fallen asleep, too.
[00:12:34] Josh Hutchinson: They would hold two a day on Sundays. You'd go for morning service, break for a long lunch, and then go back in the evening. And sometimes the evening service, it would be so dark in there that you could hardly see the minister. But these are long hours that you're putting in an uncomfortable wooden bench in a building that's either too hot or too cold. It's rarely just right inside one of those buildings. 
Was an earthquake always a sign of God's displeasure?
[00:13:12] Kathleen Langone: It mostly Josh, for the earlier earthquakes. By 1755, you had some other trends coming in. This coincided with the Age of Enlightenment from Europe, a lot of new scientific thought coming out, trying to explain things in the world with rational scientific explanations. So there were scientists at that time in Boston who were trying to explain these earthquakes by other means.
There was John Winthrop, a scientist from Harvard, that said these earthquakes could be occurred by strange vapors that might explode underground. And he published his theories on that. There were even theories that Ben Franklin's lightning rods were causing these earthquakes, and you could think of conducting that energy through the lightning rod and the house into the ground causing earthquakes, which of course was not the case.
But these more rational thoughts were not met very well by the ministers, because that would take away their messaging that this was a vengeful god, so there was actually conflicts back and forth between some of the Harvard scientists and the ministers at the time.
[00:14:20] Josh Hutchinson: Were there actions or maybe a set of actions that ministers would take following a sign like an earthquake? Would they, their messaging change? What would they be pushing for to happen as a response?
[00:14:39] Kathleen Langone: They would like some sort of sign of repentance from the parishioners, and there were these fast days called where they would be asked to fast for a day. I know for the 1755 earthquake, there were broadsides, basically posters that were posted in and around Boston saying that people should lead a less sinful life, etc. These fast days were very real. 
There were also more frequent sermons and meetings held at the churches. And it's funny what happened with these earthquakes, with any earthquake, of course, there would often be aftershocks. So you'd have your primary shock, and people think it's over. I'll repent. I'll be a good Christian. But then the aftershocks kept coming, and they would think God's still looking at me. I better not sin. And what happened as the aftershocks would decrease with frequency, people would be less apt to go to church. So you'd see this great uptick of people going to the sermons and even though the ministers would keep wanting them to go to church and have more frequent services, the attendance fell down when the aftershock stopped.
[00:15:43] Josh Hutchinson: It's like they had a sense of urgency while the earth was still rumbling, that you let your guard down afterwards.
[00:15:53] Kathleen Langone: And it was to their advantage, really, because it supported their word. Now one other thing I would like to mention of the 1755 earthquake, a few weeks before that earthquake, so the Boston earthquake was November 18th. On November 1st was the very famous Lisbon earthquake that was far more violent and damaging, many people died in that earthquake. It leveled Lisbon. There was a tsunami, all of these various effects. But you have to realize the news of that earthquake reached New England literally right after their earthquake, so if you're thinking of a vengeful god, this would have been even more profound and frightening, because not only did he shake up New England, he shook up Europe, so at that time, they would have thought God was very upset with mankind, and an interesting literary note about the Lisbon earthquake, it was mentioned in the book Candide by Voltaire, And it was an example of how life can turn very horrible, even though you think life is good and God is good, there can be very severe consequences.
[00:16:57] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, so other earthquakes happening in other places, the news of that must also have shaken things up, excuse the pun, in New England for as far as the them interpreting signs of God's displeasure. Hearing of earthquakes in other places must have also affected them.
[00:17:21] Kathleen Langone: Very much and again, I think it, it supported those who saw as a religious angle on this with a vengeful God. It further supported that without question.
[00:17:31] Josh Hutchinson: I know denominations, Catholics and Protestants and Puritans and Anglicans, often used natural disasters politically against each other. Did you ever see anything where say the New England ministers, there was an earthquake, maybe in a Catholic territory, and they pounced on that as a sign that God was unhappy with the Catholics?
[00:17:59] Kathleen Langone: It's interesting that you say that. Because, obviously, Lisbon was predominantly Catholic, and sadly, there were hundreds of lives lost. The number might have even been higher, so the Calvinists and the Puritans in New England might have seen that God was very directly vengeful by killing all those people. Because, if you look at some of the sermons out of Boston of 1755 Earthquake, they cite, a very powerful, vengeful God, but then maybe a kind God in that nobody died in that earthquake or any of the previous earthquakes. So it could be an example that he was directly punishing the Catholics. So you might have a point there.
[00:18:41] Josh Hutchinson: I didn't realize nobody, nobody died in those New England earthquakes. That is quite remarkable.
[00:18:49] Kathleen Langone: Let me follow up on that, because there's a saying among seismologists, "earthquakes don't kill people, buildings kill people." Because if you're just standing out in a field, and even if it's a severe earthquake, at most you're just going to be knocked down. So if you think of the structures up until 1755, they were post and beam. And when earthquakes would come through to these post and beam homes, they could shake and creak a little bit, but they didn't necessarily collapse, because there was some give given the construction. 
In Boston, by 1755, there were a number of brick buildings, and they didn't completely collapse, but definitely there were bricks littering the streets, but still nobody got killed. And you didn't have highway overpasses, you didn't have large, metal bridges. So the things that killed people now simply weren't present back then.
[00:19:41] Josh Hutchinson: I imagine in Lisbon, you had more stone buildings in an established older European city.
[00:19:49] Kathleen Langone: I think that would have been very true, and if you ever read the accounts of that earthquake, it was especially nasty.
[00:19:57] Sarah Jack: Kathleen, we don't have a lot of extra information on the Jamaica earthquake. We saw that Marilynne Roach mentions it in her Day by Day Chronicle, when it happened. 
[00:20:10] Kathleen Langone: I can tell you I know what the physical effects were. It was on one end of the Jamaica Island, and it was a pretty nasty earthquake. Part of the land actually subsided into the ocean, and the land there became like quicksand, and I have an account, it's a little bit gruesome, but it's a realistic account.
Some people who were walking around as this land began to subside, it became wet, it became like quicksand, and people were actually trapped in the land to the point where just maybe their head was above, and nobody could pull them out. And then actually dogs came around and actually ate some of these people. I know that sounds horrible, but it was pretty gruesome.
[00:20:55] Josh Hutchinson: Samuel Sewell mentioned it in his diary in 1692, and so it had some relevance with Salem witchcraft crisis going on. There was a belief that there was a diabolical conspiracy against the Puritans, against their mission in New England. They had warfare going on with the French Catholics and the Native Americans, who they considered to be pagans.
 So they thought that they were being surrounded on all sides by the devil trying to tear down Christ's church. And I know that it was recorded that they did take some solace in that, with the Jamaica earthquake, as terrible as it was, the Puritan minister survived, and no New England vessels were lost in that earthquake. So they took that as solace, but they were still deeply concerned of what the earthquake itself meant.
[00:22:05] Kathleen Langone: Yeah, that's an interesting comment. And again, it goes to the examples where no one died in the New England earthquake. So again, it was a vengeful God, but he spared lives. And I do want to talk a little bit about the 1755 earthquake again. That was during the height of the French Indian War. And a number of accounts are in the accounts of the war, et cetera. So they do mention that earthquake. So it was recorded in journals, if you will, of the French Indian War.
[00:22:39] Josh Hutchinson: That's fascinating how you seem sometimes to have these events compounding, there's just one thing on top of another, and that really gets you wondering, what is this a sign of? Is this maybe the end times?
[00:22:57] Kathleen Langone: Exactly.
[00:22:59] Sarah Jack: You mentioned the dogs at the Jamaica disaster. I was curious if you got to see any other information about animals responses, or if anybody talked about behavior, animal behavior in relation to earthquakes.
[00:23:18] Kathleen Langone: Very good question. There were often recordings of dogs howling just before earthquakes. There's even been some scientific study on that, that before you have the ground motion, there could be some sort of very high frequency waves that can come through an area that animals pick up on. It's been documented many times that dogs and other animals will howl or become restless within a few minutes of an earthquake.
[00:23:44] Sarah Jack: I was also wondering with the fishing, if anybody reported an effect on their fishing.
[00:23:52] Kathleen Langone: There was an account with the 1755 earthquake from a ship that was off the coast of Boston, that just after the earthquake, they saw this huge upwelling of dead fish. It might have been some sort of compression of the water waves that might have killed a school of fish, so there was a recording of that.
[00:24:12] Josh Hutchinson: Wow, that is fascinating. You mentioned tsunamis in regards to the Lisbon earthquake. Was there ever a report of a tsunami or anything to that effect in New England?
[00:24:27] Kathleen Langone: There were not. It just happened to be with the angle that these earthquakes occurred, if you will. There's no recordings of that per se. There are recordings of land subsidence, maybe not huge chasms in the earth, but there were recordings of certain areas of land that became depressed. And there was another effect that I'll mention, what happened in the Jamaica earthquake. If you have certain kinds of sandy soil ,and if it's moist, it can become like quicksand. There were incidences of land that would just depress. You might have a hole where the sandy soil was. You might have some trees tilt over, if they were rooted in this sort of soil. There were many accounts of that. 
In fact, what scientists do now, and in present time, they might go to an area that they suspect had this kind of soil. And they would take samples, they would take these ground corings, and they would see through the levels of the sand or the clay or whatever, these explosions, if you will, they're called sand blasts or sand blows. So that would have occurred, and that's a great marker when people do research, because if you have these, you have to have an earthquake of magnitude at least five or above. 
And let me digress for a moment and talk about the magnitude of these various earthquakes, just to give people a reference. The 1638 could have been a very powerful earthquake, maybe 6.8 on the Richter scale. The one in 1727 in Newbury, Massachusetts, maybe a little less, maybe a 5.7 or 5.8 on the Richter scale. The Boston earthquake could have been as powerful as a 6.1 or 6.3 on a Richter scale. And do remember that the Richter scale is logarithmic, simply meaning that if you go from a 6.1 or 6.2, it's a pretty large jump. So it just gives you an idea of the magnitude of these quakes. They were quite appreciable.
[00:26:24] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, 6.8, in modern times with modern structures, would be devastating.
[00:26:33] Kathleen Langone: Most certainly. And there's certainly a lot of predictive models that say these earthquakes will come back, and they will at some point. I don't know if they'll be in our lifetime, but they easily could occur again. And just to give some explanation of how these earthquakes occur, there are no active fault lines that we have here. We're very familiar with the San Andreas Fault in California, etc. But these are called intraplate earthquakes, so they're in between the spreading zones. So you think of the Mid Atlantic Ridge, which you might be familiar with, where you have the earth being formed and the crust sort of pushing both against the North American continent and towards Europe. So as this pressure keeps happening, something has to happen. It's like the middle of a graham cracker cracking, if you will. So this pressure comes into New England and old faults from many eons ago are basically activated, and you have these earthquakes.
[00:27:29] Josh Hutchinson: I didn't know that type of earthquake existed. I was thinking there must, surely there must be a fault. I live out in the West, so I'm much more familiar with the California earthquakes. I've experienced a couple of those. And knowing that there's activity in the middle of a plate, that's brand new.
[00:27:51] Kathleen Langone: Yeah, there is, because all these crusts, you put enough pressure on anything like that, and it's going to crack at some point.
[00:27:58] Sarah Jack: At what point would have they started reflecting on these scientifically, putting data together, would it always have been looking back to get information, or I'm just curious, when you have Governor Winthrop reporting what he saw and what the experience, when did the documenting become more scientific?
[00:28:24] Kathleen Langone: I think that you have to look at the rise of science of geology. I think geology came into its own more so in the 1800s, and maybe there was more scientific recording, etc. So back, I believe in the 1970s, there were seismic networks set up throughout New England and Southern Canada, seismographs, of course. And now we have Weston Observatory, which is basically an earthquake observatory in Weston, Massachusetts. They're associated with Boston College, and they're, if you think of it, a major monitoring station and their instruments will pick up anything in New England, as a matter of fact, anything from around the world. So there's quite a sophisticated network set up now, but I think that's really recent, in the last 60 or 70 years. I don't think there was much monitoring formally done before then.
[00:29:17] Josh Hutchinson: And how are these magnitudes of historic earthquakes, how is the magnitude calculated?
[00:29:26] Kathleen Langone: Very good question. Of course, back then, you know, in the 1600s and 1700s, you didn't have the concept of a Richter scale. You had a scale, which we now call the modified Mercalli scale, and that is a scale of felt effects. And I'll give you an example, back to colonial times. If you had, let's say, a pewter goblet fall off the table, that might be a magnitude like a Richter scale four or something like this. So a lot of these reports and what people like myself and many others did, they would record all of these physical effects and say, okay, if I've had a collapse of a chimney, that's maybe at least Richter five. So you would map these physical effects to what that would map into the modern day Richter scale.
And it's funny back then, because if we think of an earthquake coming through, we might say it would sound like a jet coming by or a train, but back then it was carriages coming by, like large, thunderous carriages. So there were different descriptions of how these things were back then.
[00:30:32] Josh Hutchinson: It's interesting.
[00:30:33] Sarah Jack: I'm curious what surprised you while you were researching. Did you have any insights that you didn't expect or what was most impactful to your research for what you found? 
[00:30:49] Kathleen Langone: I think what surprised me the most was the tight correlation between religious life and these events. There was no question when these occurred, people would immediately think it was an act of God. There was no question. There was not a split second, gee, I wonder what that was. It was immediately thought of as an act of God. And how these ministers would use these earthquakes or things like the dark days to bring people into their parish and to help people stay to the way of God's and not be sinners. So again, it was a very integrated thing of these events going into the religion of the time.
[00:31:24] Sarah Jack: Yeah, it really shows how encompassing the interpretation of all the things happening, how tied it was to God's favor or God's displeasure and what their behavior should be. We look at the witch trials, and we see what a major piece of that the religion was, but it's very interesting to look at weather or these natural disasters and see that it didn't take them off guard. They didn't try to find a reason for it. They just knew, hey, this was part of God's working as well.
[00:32:03] Kathleen Langone: Now, from both of your research, what would you say was most frequently perceived that witchcraft would cause? We talked a little bit about that, but what would you say, witchcraft caused this in the village? What would that list of bad things be?
[00:32:18] Josh Hutchinson: Start with the death of animals and children. Death and sickness were the most common issues. There were some reports of weather related to witchcraft. There was one of a ship that was caught in a storm by witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials. There was also a really infamous case, the North Berwick Witch Trials in Scotland, where King James VI of Scotland, who became the first of England,, his bride was on the way over from Denmark to meet him in Scotland to get married. And this huge storm nearly sank the ship and they blamed it on, I believe they ended up rounding up dozens of individuals as witches based on that storm. So there was some of that, but most commonly it was a neighborly dispute that led to an animal dying or was believed to have directly led to an animal dying or a child dying or a mysterious illness, maybe an early death.
[00:33:45] Sarah Jack: Another one that comes to mind is food or anything they might've been preparing, butter. It comes up on all the continents as being bewitched, and then even soup has been a culprit in more than one dispute. 
[00:34:04] Josh Hutchinson: And the pudding in Springfield, Massachusetts, with the case of Hugh Parsons, he was believed to have bewitched a pudding, so it came out of the oven split evenly, as if by magic, and there were in Ireland, I know Andrew Sneddon mentioned the butter thieves and milk thieves that by witchcraft would take the milk from your cow directly. So then when you went to milk the cow, it was dry.
And there's some degree of nature, some degree of magnitude where a witch could cause a minor storm, but God would cause an hurricane or an earthquake, or was often responsible for large fires and plagues. Where a smaller, individual community episode of smallpox might be witchcraft, a grand plague sweeping would've been seen as requiring more power than what the devil could have given to a human.
[00:35:23] Kathleen Langone: Oh, that makes perfect sense. I could see plagues certainly being directly attributed to God and not a couple of weakling witches, if you will. That's very interesting, Josh.
[00:35:32] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, there were limits to the power of witches based on the limits biblically to the devil's powers, because he was the source of all the witchcraft powers, at least in the eyes of the ministers and the elite. Now, the folk beliefs in witchcraft were largely just based on believing that certain people had innate abilities to perform magical feats, but again, that there would be, presumably be, some limits on what a human can do compared to what a demon or a devil or some more advanced being could do.
[00:36:14] Sarah Jack: Katherine Harrison had too much good luck, and they would attribute her cattle responding to her well to her witchcraft.
[00:36:26] Josh Hutchinson: That's right. She called to her cattle, and her cattle came to her more quickly than other people's cattles came to them. There were like multiple witnesses to this event. She went out and she said some, something that to the hearers sounded like a magical phrase. It was like a nonsense word. And she just shouted this to her cattle, and then they came at a gallop, according to the witnesses. There were interesting effects with livestock.
[00:37:01] Kathleen Langone: So for your listeners out there, if you Google New England earthquakes, there's a lot of great online resources. There's certainly a web page for Weston Observatory, which I mentioned is a very active observatory now. And for those living in New England, you just might want to know about how to deal with an earthquake if it occurs. It wouldn't be a bad thing to read.
[00:37:22] Sarah Jack: And now for a minute with Mary. 
[00:37:24] Mary Bingham: Sashiprava Bindhani, a lawyer, was the first advocate to meet with me, a board member representing End Witch Hunts. Her beautiful smile lit up my phone screen last July and we have remained in touch. Sashi relayed how she put measures into place to slow the spread of witch hunts in her home state of Odisha, India.
Her reasons? To protect women from witch hunts. After all, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognizes that both men and women deserve equal protection under the law. Before 2014, anyone who accused a woman to be a Dayan or a Dhani, the Odisha words for witch, suffered little consequence.
Sashi's hard work resulted in the Odisha Prevention of Witch Hunting Act and was signed by the governor in 2014. Anyone who now accuses a woman to be a die in could be imprisoned up to three years and or pay a fine of one thousand rupees, which is twelve US dollars. Thank you, Sashi. 
[00:38:27] Sarah Jack: Thank you, Mary.
[00:38:29] Josh Hutchinson: And here's Sarah with End Witch Hunts News. 
End Witch Hunts News. End Witch Hunts is a 501c3 non profit organization. End Witch Hunts is a movement to stop the deadly practice of witch hunting around the world. Our vision is a world without witch hunts, where all victims are exonerated, and modern victims and their families receive justice. Your financial support empowers us to educate and advocate. Your donation is tax deductible. Please keep us in mind when you give your holiday charitable gifts. Thank you for supporting our podcast project. Go to the show notes to see how to donate to our nonprofit organization and podcast.
Our newest project, the Massachusetts Witch Hunt Justice Project, is seeking formal exoneration for those convicted as witches in Boston, and asking for a formal apology for all those documented to have suffered in the colony witch trials. We have researched these individuals, and they each have a story of innocence, injustice, and devastating life altering consequences due to false witchcraft accusations.
We want to address this colony wide miscarriage of justice with an amendment to the previous legislation that has already exonerated those convicted in the 1692 Salem Witch trials. Please sign and then share the petition to show your support.
To learn more about this project and how you can get involved, visit Our podcast creator, Josh Hutchinson, and Professor Emerson Baker had a great conversation last week on GBH News Greater Boston about the Massachusetts Witch Hunt Justice Project. Watch it today to hear about the significance of acknowledging the five innocent women who hanged in Boston for witchcraft. Margaret Jones, Alice Lake, Elizabeth Kendall. Ann Hibbins and Goody Glover. 
An amendment to previous legislation is all that it takes to clear their names. It's the right thing to do. It's an easy thing to do, but someone in the Massachusetts General Court has to initiate the amendment. Thank you for stepping up and making a difference. If you live in Massachusetts, you can share this project with your legislative representatives and ask them to propose the amendment. If you are a voting member of the Massachusetts General Court, we need you to lead or collaborate on this amendment effort now. Please consider reaching out to the project so that we can support you as you propose or support such an amendment. Please take action, and let's work together to help close a chapter of American history that calls out to us all for answers. 
[00:41:04] Josh Hutchinson: Thank you, Sarah.
[00:41:06] Sarah Jack: You're welcome.
[00:41:08] Josh Hutchinson: Thank you for listening to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast.
[00:41:12] Sarah Jack: Join us next week.
[00:41:14] Josh Hutchinson: Please rate and review wherever you get your podcasts and hit that subscribe button.
[00:41:19] Sarah Jack: Go look at our other episodes at
[00:41:24] Josh Hutchinson: Remember to tell your friends about the show.
[00:41:27] Sarah Jack: Support our efforts to help end witch hunts. Visit to learn more.
[00:41:32] Josh Hutchinson: To support the show, please make a tax deductible donation, purchase books from our bookshop or merch from our Zazzle shop, links are in the show description.
[00:41:43] Sarah Jack: Have you considered supporting the production of the podcast? Join us as a super listener. Your super listener donation is tax deductible. Thank you for being a part of our work.
[00:41:53] Josh Hutchinson: Have a great today and a beautiful tomorrow.
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