On this date, in Salem Village in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Bridget Bishop, the first colonist to be tried in the Salem witch trials, was hanged after being found guilty of the practice of witchcraft two days earlier.In June 1692, the special Court of Oyer and Terminer [“to hear and to decide”] convened in Salem under Chief Justice William Stoughton to judge the accused. The first to be tried was Bridget Bishop of Salem, who was accused of witchcraft by more individuals than any other defendant. Bishop, pushing 60 and known around town for her dubious moral character, frequented taverns, played shuffleboard, dressed flamboyantly (by Puritan standards), and was married three times. When the Salem goodwives were tasked with groping her for bodily disfigurements that might be a witches’ mark, they:
discovered a preternathurall Excresence of flesh between the pudendum and Anus much like to Tetts & not usuall in women
She professed her innocence:
I am innocent I know nothing of it I am no witch I know not what a witch is.
[Both of the above excerpts can be found in the proceedings against Bishop — and other witchcraft defendants — here.]
Nevertheless, Bishop was found guilty and executed by hanging on June 10. Thirteen more women and five men from all stations of life followed her to the gallows, and one man, Giles Corey, was executed by crushing. Most of those tried were condemned on the basis of the witnesses’ behavior during the actual proceedings, characterized by fits and hallucinations that were argued to have been caused by the defendants on trial.