20 December 2022

Sleep paralysis in the Connecticut witchcraft trials

Three excerpts:
"After this Thomas Bracy giuing out some words, that he suspected Katherin Gooddy Harrison of witchcraft, Katherin Harrison mett Thomas Bracy and threatned Thomas telling him that shee would be euen with him. After that Thomas Bracy aforesaide, being well in his sences & health and perfectly awake, his brothers in bed with him, Thomas aforesaid saw the saide James Wakely and the saide Katherin Harrison stand by his bed side, consultinge to kill him the said Thomas, James Wakely said he would cut his throate, but Katherin counselled to strangle him, presently the said Katherin seised on Thomas striuinge to strangle him, and pulled or pinched him so as if his flesh had been pulled from his bones, theirefore Thomas groaned. At length his father Marten heard and spake, then Thomas left groninge and lay quiet a little, and then Katherin fell againe to afflictinge and pinching, Thomas againe groninge Mr. Marten heard and arose and came to Thomas whoe could not speake till Mr. Marten laid his hands on Thomas, then James and Katherin aforesaid went to the beds feete, his father Marten and his mother stayed watchinge by Thomas all that night after, and the next day Mr. Marten and his wife saw the mark of the saide afflictinge and pinchinge." 
"Dated 13th of August one thousand six hundred sixtie and eight. Hadley. Taken upon oath before us. HENRY CLARKE. SAMUELL SMITH."

"That about the latter end of November, being the 29th day, 1668, the said Mary Hale lying in her bed, a good fire giving such light that one might see all over that room where the said Mary then was, the said Mary heard a noise, & presently something fell on her legs with such violence that she feared it would have broken her legs, and then it came upon her stomach and oppressed her so as if it would have pressed the breath out of her body. Then appeared an ugly shaped thing like a dog, having a head such that I clearly and distinctly knew to be the head of Katherine Harrison, who was lately imprisoned upon suspicion of witchcraft. Mary saw it walk to & fro in the chamber and went to her father's bedside then came back and disappeared. That day seven night next after, lying in her bed something came upon her in like manner as is formerly related, first on her legs & feet & then on her stomach, crushing & oppressing her very sore. She put forth her hand to feel (because there was no light in the room so as clearly to discern). Mary aforesaid felt a face, which she judged to be a woman's face, presently then she had a great blow on her fingers which pained her 2 days after, which she complained of to her father & mother, & made her fingers black and blue.

During the former passages Mary called to her father & mother but could not wake them till it was gone. After this, the day of December in the night, (the night being very windy) something came again and spoke thus to her, saying to Mary aforesaid, You said that I would not come again, but are you not afraid of me. Mary said, No. The voice replied I will make you afraid before I have done with you; and then presently Mary was crushed & oppressed very much. Then Mary called often to her father and mother, they lying very near. Then the voice said, Though you do call they shall not hear till I am gone. Then the voice said, You said that I preserved my cart to carry me to the gallows, but I will make it a dear cart to you (which said words Mary remembered she had only spoke in private to her sister a little before & to no other.) Mary replied she feared her not, because God had kept her & would keep her still. The voice said she had a commission to kill her. Mary asked, Who gave you the commission? The voice replied God gave me the commission. Mary replied, The Devil is a liar from the beginning for God will not give commission to murder, therefore it must be from the devil. Then Mary was again pressed very much. Then the voice said, You will make known these things abroad when I am gone, but if you will promise me to keep these aforesaid matters secret I will come no more to afflict you. Mary replied I will tell it abroad. Whereas the said Mary mentions divers times in this former writing that she heard a voice, this said Mary affirmeth that she did & doth know that it was the voice of Katherine Harrison aforesaid; and Mary aforesaid affirmeth that the substance of the whole relation is truth." 
"Sworn in Court May 25, 1669. Attest John Allyn, Sec'y."

"John Barlow eaged 24 years or thairabout saieth and sd testifieth that soumtime this last year that as I was in bedd in the hous that Mead Jesuop then liuied in that Marsey Desbory came to me and layed hold on my fett and pinshed them (and) looked wishley in my feass and I strouff to rise and cold not and too speek and cold not. All the time that she was with me it was light as day as it semed to me--but when shee uanicht it was darck and I arose and hade a paine in my feet and leags some time after an our or too it remained. Sometime before this aforesd Marcey and I had a falling out and shee sayed that if shee had but strength shee would teer me in peses."  
"Sworn in court Septr 19, 92. Attests John Allyn."
This is not one of my recommended books; I'm just storing the excerpts here so that I now the book can find a new home via eBay.  These three excerpts (boldface added) present classic examples of sleep paralysis, nocturnal dyspnea, and hypnagogic hallucinations being misinterpreted as witchcraft.  These events in Connecticut obviously parallel the ones occurring in Salem, Massachusetts.  For further context, see the sleep paralysis section of TYKWIWDBI.  Much more on the Salem events to come in future posts - I have 14 relevant books on my shelf.

Taylor, John M. The Witchcraft Delusion in Colonial Connecticut 1647-1697. Baltimore, MD: Grafton Press, 1908.  Online version here.

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