Bridget Bishop
Bridget Bishop was the first person executed for witchcraft
Witchcraft, in historical, anthropological, religious, and mythological contexts, is the alleged use of supernatural or magical powers. A witch is a practitioner of witchcraft...

 during the Salem witch trials
Salem witch trials
The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings before county court trials to prosecute people accused of witchcraft in the counties of Essex, Suffolk, and Middlesex in colonial Massachusetts, between February 1692 and May 1693...

 of 1692. (All together about 72 people were accused and tried.)

Recent historical interpretation: "A resident of Salem Town"

Bridget Bishop may have been a resident of Salem Town, not Salem Village, where the allegations started. Perhaps she was previously confused with another alleged witch, Sarah Bishop of Salem Village.
However she may have been accused because she owned one or more taverns, played shuffleboard, dressed in provocative clothing, and was outspoken.
One interpretation of the historical record suggests that she was a resident of Salem Town and thus not the tavern owner.
Perhaps she did not know her accusers. This would be supported in her deposition in Salem Village before the authorities stating, "I never saw these persons before, nor I never was in this place before." The indictments against her clearly note that she was from "Salem" which meant Salem Town, as other indictments against residents of Salem Village specified their locations as such.

In the transcripts there is some indication of confusion between Sarah Bishop, wife of a tavern owner in Salem Village, and Bridget Bishop, not a tavern owner and a resident of Salem Town.


She was married three times:

She married her first husband Samuel Wesselbe on April 13, 1660, at St. Mary-in-the-Marsh, Norwich, Norfolk, England. He is referred to in the Boston Public Records as deceased at the time of the birth of their last child there.

Her second marriage on 26 July 1666 was to Thomas Oliver
Thomas Oliver (husband of Bridget Bishop)
Thomas Oliver was the second husband of Bridget Bishop, who on 10 June 1692 became the first victim of the Salem witchcraft trials....

, a widower and prominent businessman. She was earlier accused of bewitching Thomas Oliver to death, but was acquitted for lack of evidence. They had one daughter, Christian (born 8 May 1667), who later married Thomas Mason.

Her last marriage circa 1687 was to Edward Bishop
Edward Bishop (Salem)
Edward Bishop was involved in the witchcraft hysteria of 1692, but there has been some confusion about his identity. There were four men named Edward Bishop living in Salem at the time of the trials...

, a prosperous sawyer, whose family lived in Beverly.

Nature of allegations

Bishop was accused of bewitching five young women, Abigail Williams
Abigail Williams
Abigail Williams was one of the initial accusers in the Salem witch trials of 1692, which led to the arrest and imprisonment of over 150 innocent people.-Salem Witch trials:...

, Ann Putnam, Jr.
Ann Putnam, Jr.
Ann Putnam, Jr. , along with Elizabeth "Betty" Parris, Mary Walcott and Abigail Williams, was an important witness at the Salem Witch Trials of Massachusetts during the later portion of 17th century Colonial America. Born 1679 in Salem Village, Essex County, Massachusetts, she was the eldest child...

, Mercy Lewis
Mercy Lewis
-Brief Overview:Mercy Lewis was born in Falmouth, Maine in 1675 and was a servant in Thomas Putnam’s household. She is also one of the featured characters in Arthur Miller's play The Crucible...

, Mary Walcott
Mary Walcott
Mary Walcott was one of the witnesses at the Salem Witch Trials of Salem, Massachusetts in the years 1692 and 1693....

, and Elizabeth Hubbard
Elizabeth Hubbard (Salem)
Elizabeth Hubbard was one of the original girls to begin the Salem witchcraft accusations, and she continued to be a leading accuser throughout the summer and fall of 1692....

, on the date of her examination by the authorities, 19 April 1692.

William Stacy, a middle aged man in Salem Town, testified that Bishop had previously made statements to him that other people in the town considered her to be a witch. And when he confronted her with allegation that she was using witchcraft to torment him, she refused to deny it.

Another local man, Samuel Shattuck, accused Bishop of bewitching his child and also of striking his son with a spade. He also testified that Bishop asked him to dye lace, which apparently was too small to be used on anything but a poppet, or primitive voo-doo doll.

John and William Bly, father and son, testified about finding poppets in Bishop's house and also about their pig that appeared to be bewitched, or poisoned, after a dispute with Bishop.

There were also allegations that Bishop's specter appeared in the rooms of several men while they slept and attacked them. This, along with the fact that she had worn red outfits, has been used to suggest that the good Puritan men of Salem feared Bishop's sexual prowess. However, as has been noted, red was not an unusual color for Puritan women to wear, Bishop would have been about 60 years old at the time of her trial and was not likely the most attractive woman in town. These incidents bear more of the hallmarks of sleep paralysis
Sleep paralysis
Sleep paralysis is paralysis associated with sleep that may occur in healthy persons or may be associated with narcolepsy, cataplexy, and hypnagogic hallucinations. The pathophysiology of this condition is closely related to the normal hypotonia that occurs during REM sleep. When considered to be a...

 where the victims likely did imagine that Bishop really was there and was attacking them.

All of this together with Bishop's conflicting statements and spiteful attitude during her examination made the case against her appear to be very strong to the jurors and judges. The transcripts of Bridget Bishop's trial have been used in Cry innocent
Cry innocent
Cry Innocent is a theatrical performance based on an episode of the Salem witch trials. The show, which has been running continuously since the mid-1990s, emphasizes interactive theater. The stage is set in 1692. Bridget Bishop has been accused of witchcraft and the audience sits on the Puritan...

, an interactive theater performance that takes place in Salem.

Further reading

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