New England’s Other Witch Hunt
Length: 45 minutes
Topics: Witchcraft, Hartford Witch Hunts, Early Modern Culture, 17th Century New England, Religious History, Legal History, Alchemy, Magic, Puritan Society, Salem Massachustts
Everyone knows about the witch hunt at Salem in 1692. But few people know that in the years before Salem, Connecticut was New England’s fiercest witch prosecutor. The first person hanged for witchcraft in New England came from Windsor, and every single person indicted for witchcraft in Connecticut in its early years was convicted and hanged.
Walt Woodward brings this extraordinary and nearly forgotten story to life in a lecture that begins with the Protestant Reformation and traces its history all the way through the Hartford Witch hunt of the 1660’s – a nightmare of trials and executions that preceded Salem by a generation. He also shows how Connecticut’s Governor John Winthrop, Jr. and his friend Rev. Gershom Bulkeley intervened to transform Connecticut from New England’s most aggressive witch hunter to a colony that completely ended executions for witchcraft thirty years before they even began at Salem.
Along the way, he answers all those questions you’ve wondered about the early witch hunts, and explains why almost everyone in the 1600s believed that witchcraft was very real, and terribly dangerous.