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Episode 12: Half-Hanged

2015-08-07 | 🔗

History is full of people who took things too far. Humans are gifted at turning on one another, a skill we’ve honed over the millennia. But when a small town in colonial Massachusetts needed a scapegoat for a dying hero, they discovered a target who refused to go down without a fight.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Simeon Smith, who is one of the early saddlers of New Hampshire in seventeen. Seventy to rebuild the farm there on the border between Wentworth and Warren, been held, the local office, By trade he was a tailor, but like lots of men of the decade, he fought with Continental Army, to look back at Simeon Psmith as the typical pioneer from the late seventeen hundreds. He was patriotic and stereotypical knowing Lindore Fisher, but few people in town liked him. Why you might ask, because Simeon Smith, according to the the The stories was a sorcerer himself,
that Simeon would saddle and bridle a random neighbour and then right, them all over the country side, just despite them when women were having trouble churning butter and it simply wouldn't work. It was because they said Simeon Smith was in the chair, If children in town behave badly, it was because he had bewitched them. You could become a smaller than that and move through the keyhole of your locked doors. He can become Just then a giant and Woodstock through the forest at night, or so they said. Stories like these were common. In early America, they were mixture of fact and fiction of historical truths and hysterical superstition in an effort to explain the unexplained sometimes neighbours and prominent figures were thrown under the proverbial bus. The era between the MID fifty
then lay sixteen centuries was precarious. For many people this wasn't age of Harry Potter, witchcraft wasn't something that was spoken of lightly or with a sense of wonder and excitement because fear it ruin lies. It made good people do bad things all in the name of superstition, I'm Aaron Mahnke- and this is Laura. Superstition was common in the late. Sixteen hundreds, if something odd or unexplainable happened, the autumn the response from most people was to blame. The supernatural, but most scholars agreed,
These beliefs were merely excuses to help people deal with neighbours and family members that they didn't care for. If he didn't like somebody in common to accuse them of witchcraft, In the most famous historical example of this the witch trials of sailor Massachusetts, we can see a clear pattern in the events. Many accused of being witches were wealthy and held religious beliefs that were different from their accusers wants. A suspect was convicted. Their estate would be confiscated by the court and in a community that was known for property spirits, grazing rights and religious arguments. That became a recipe for disaster. what happened in Salem happen elsewhere. All around New England, just the smaller scale neighbours
his neighbors constantly stories were told lives were ruined. There was the way of things, I suppose not ideal, but not uncommon either in one story from Exeter Rhode, Island, a farmer was said to have been carding his lumber to market when a cat ran across the road for some unknown reason, the farmer immediately jumped to the conclusion that the cap, was actually a neighbour of his woman, who he insisted was a which she had transform herself into a cat in order to meddle in his business. Nothing farmer was fast on his feet, not only did he The cat running and then make the connection to his, which he neighbour, but he managed to pull out his gun. He was said to have fired a silver bullet at the cat, something well known at the time to be effective against witches and struck his
target at TAT very moment. According to the story, the suspected which fell in her own home. Breaking her hip in the town of Salem New Hampshire Amanda. That his cow looked strangely different from how he remembered an made the most logical conclusion he was capable of his neighbor was a sorcerer and the man had bewitched his cow folklore dictated the solution. It got off. The cows ears entail and then burn, soon after the farmers, neighbor was found dead victim of a house fire. In West Newbury Vermont, a farmer had ITALY and in for the evening beside his fireplace Ramsay,
in joint something alcoholic and refreshing, or maybe he was trying to read a book while he was there, he witnessed one, he called spectral shapes and dance and moved in the flames. This farmer immediately fond of one particular woman in town. A woman known to be which- and he took some tallow- and these wax in sculpted a careful likeness of her, then taking a branch from the Thorn Bush. He pierced this little figurine before tossing it into the fire. At the same time, across town, the suspected, which apparently tripped on her own stairs and broke neck back in the town of Wentworth, our friend, Simeon Smith, received his own fair share of retribution. It was said local boy them kill. Merrill was struck death by the sorcerer that he began acting strange running up the sides of the house.
like a squirrel and riding in agony. After some trial and error, Killops parents put the perfect combination of ingredients into a witch, A sort of homemade talisman designed to combat sorcery may bury the bottle. beneath their hearth and soon after the town was green, Simeon Smith, these stories of neighbourhood witches and the ways in which the good citizens of the towns defeated them or common all across New England, the border on the cruel and cast these people often simply the poor or nonreligious among them in a horrible light for many people, Suspicion was a convenient excuse, the hate, your neighbour and wish them ill. No other place was that attitude more pronounced, more dominant in more extreme in the town of Hadley Messages,
in Salem, the townspeople worked within the legal system and Hadley. However, the people took matters into their own hands and the results were horrified. When Philip Smith was dying in sixteen eighty four, the town went looking for answers. was hardly blame them to work. Model citizen in leader in the community he had been a deacon at the church. A member of the General Court County court, justice in a town selectman he was respected. Trusted even while mud, the sole suspect in the crime, was an old woman named Mary Webster, she and her husband were poor,
You been a tiny house in the middle of some of the pasture land outside of town, sometimes with things got of the EU needed assistance from the town, we'll era welfare, so to speak easy to blame Mary Webster, she and Smith. not then on the best in terms of a few people Tat were on good terms with her. She was cranky. Easy accounts of events include the Most sarcastic comment that her already poor temper had not been helped by poverty. She was a sour and spiteful woman and she had a tendency to shoot her mouth off. Alot her fears them. And singing tongue had earned her a reputation as the town, which vary she wasn't much of a church goers in that did little to help her case, but the clincher was dead.
She had just gotten back from Boston one year before why well she'd been on trial there for witchcraft. you ve been taken to Boston in chains sometime in late April, one. Eighty three marry an old woman with a foul mouth had been. He used of having Congress with the devil of burying his children and suckling them. These children looked like black cats. They said She had strange markings on her body. They said it was concluded An obvious they said. there were other stories of Mary Webster. It was said that when teams of cattle were driven toward her property, they would panic and bold in the opposite direction. They claim that this happened. The man would approach the house in threatened to whip her, and only then would she let the animals pass. Once Hey toppled over near her home, the driver
wagon, went to Marries house literally with inside and was about to give her piece of his mind when the cart magically righted itself, or so they say. Another story tells how she entered the home of some local parents and when she set eyes on the infant in the cradle. The baby. levitate it out in touch the ceiling not once but three times. There is even a story about some people who were inside one evening, boiling water and getting ready for dinner. All of a sudden alive chicken came down Jimmy and landed in the pot only to escape from the house moments later. The next day it was discovered that Mary herself had been scalded. That night, though, she wasn't telling people how it happened: and so Mary was transferred.
In one hundred miles to Boston, along with a sheaf of those eyewitness accounts that had been written by her accusers and brought before a judge and jury, the jury listened, they read those papers, they looked everything over and did their best as partial, rational individuals. They disgusted amongst themselves and when, returned to the court. They had a verdict. Mary Webster was not guilty. Maybe this pissed off her neighbours maybe they thought they were finally done with her when she had been taken away, I can almost in their surprise. When she wrote back into town smile on her face and fire in her belly, she had beaten the odds, when Philip Smith, her old adversary in Hadley, took sick just a few months after her return.
That newly one freedom look like it might be in jeopardy, The winter after marries returned from Boston. Philip Smith began to look ill bill. Hadley did know what the cause was at first, where they did no was that Smith was in a bad way. He had freedom, seizures in seeing delirious most of the time the people carrying for him, his family and friends and nurses were all deeply concerned. Whatever was that he was suffering from it, didn't appear to be normal effects and appeared to be the work of the devil, What else could possibly cause a man to suffer fits in scream in battle? For our in an unknown language. When Smith could be understood
He cried out than someone was pricking, his arm with nails, hundreds of them over and over painfully His nurses looked for the nails, but they never found anything that could have been causing the pain he claimed. A woman was in the room with them Some of the young men in town have theory, though they had been taught about it for a while and it aside of to give it a test. Is he. Mary Webster was behind the man's illness in their minds. There was only one way to find out. One of the men stayed with Smith, while the others went to marries home three or four times and knocked on her door and bothered her Thinking that, if she was indeed casting a spell over Psmith, this would break her concentration when they returned the man.
Who had been tasked with watching over Smith, claimed that the sick man was at ease three or four times. While they were gone, there were other things. They noticed The small pot of medicines that had been laid out for Psmith were mysteriously empty, as if some we're stealing their contents. They frequently heard scratching beneath man's bed. Some of and claim to have seen fire on the bed, but when they began to talk about it, it would vanish The details of the events surrounding Philip Smith's illness are rife with superstition and fear these young men even claimed that something as large as a cat would stir under the covers near the sick man, but whenever they try to capture it, it would slip away other. Said that the bed would shake enough to make their teeth rattle. All of this was just too much for them.
Vince that they knew who was causing Smith's illness. The group of young men returned to the home of Mary Webster. This time, though, they had more than disturbing her peace on their mind, drag Mary from her home and out into the snow and cold of the New England winter. They beat her, nay, spat on her. They cursed her in whispers and and shouts and then they carried her to a nearby tree. What the men slung a rope through the branches while another fashion, a noose and their snow covered field outside of her own home. Mary Webster was hanged when she stopped moving them.
cut her down and took her body enrolled in the snow bearing her, and then they left. They walked back into town back to the home of Philip Smith, back to the others who knew what they had done and they waited. They waited for Smith to get better the curse, to lift and for their lives to return to normal. They waited for safety for their superstitions and fears to fade away. Now the Mary was gone, but oh, how wrong they were. The world of the seventeenth century was tentative and harsh, especially for the people try. Carve out in existence in Colonial, New England, the process,
in reformation of the century before had left most Europeans with the belief. The bad things happen because of the devil, everything that went wrong, and I mean everything was caused by something supernatural. This was his high when misfortune loss and even a simple illness would be blamed. The work of witches and sorcerers because of this One in town was on the lookout. Something went wrong. There is always someone to blame. It seems there is a devil in every community. History is full of people who took things too far, events that took place in Hadley in the winter of one thousand six hundred and eighty five are just one of the countless examples of what superstitious people are capable of with her fear gets the better of them. Sadly, though,
Work with friends arrived the next day to look in on Philip Smith. He was dead where they found, though, gave their suspicions new life. it was said that his body was still warm despite the winter called. That is fair, It was black and blue and fresh blood ran down his cheeks. is chest was swollen and his back was covered in bruises and holes from something like and all were, nails. Now they had more questions than answers who be the man overnight, who kept his body warm against the creeping shell of winter and who put those holes in flash of his back while he lay dying in bed.
I imagine the people who visited him that morning were disappointed. He was respected by most of the town. Many people there most likely depended on him for something they done so launch to take care of him even gone as far as to murder, another person, and yet it hadn't worked. Philip Smith was dead and all they had left or questions. Something else would soon disappoint them. No, you see, although Philip Smith heads Mary Webster hadn't. even though she had been beaten and hung from a tree before being buried in the snow and left overnight. Mary had somehow survived.
In fact, she went on to live eleven more years before passing away in her seventies. And it turns out that Mary was also an ancestor of the well known novelist, Margaret Atwood. Ninety ninety five Atwood published a poem entitle half hanged Mary, it was written in Sections each one covering an hour of her torture, beginning with the hanging and ending with her return from the dead. The poem written from marries point of view ends with the line that makes a person wonder before I was not a which now I am one.
This episode of war was researched, written and produced by me. Aaron monkey lore is much more than upon gas. There's. A book series in book doors around the country and online and the secondary, In the Amazon Prime Television show was recently released, check them both out. If you want more lore in your life, Also make two other upon guests, Erin, monkeys, cabinet of curiosities and unobserved, and I think you'd enjoy both each Monica. Bores other areas of our dark history, ranging from bite sized episodes to season long dives into a single topic. You can learn about both of those shows and everything else going all over in one central place, the world of lore, dot com, slash now and,
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Transcript generated on 2022-03-13.