Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Salem Witch Trials

Goody Good

If anyone in Salem Village was a witch, it was probably Sarah Good. She was a feisty old woman, somewhere between 40 and 70 years old it was impossible to tell by looking at her, and she had a disposition only the Devil could love. Goodwife Sarah Good had no property to speak of; she supplemented the meager income her husband earned as a day laborer by begging house-to-house. Sarah loved to smoke tobacco that the merchant ships brought up from the southern colonies and she was rarely seen without her pipe. Stuck in the corner of her mouth, the pipe with its rough tobacco smoke had given her eyes a wrinkled, squinting look that only added to her hag-like appearance. Sarah had long been suspected of bringing evil into Salem Village; there were still people who believed she was responsible for a recent smallpox outbreak.

When Ann Putnam the Younger fell ill under an ailment similar to Betty Parris and Abigail Williams, Parris knew Tituba could not be responsible for her enchantment. He asked Ann if it was Goody Good who afflicted her.

Ann Putnam's sworn statement
Ann Putnam's sworn statement

"I saw the apparition of Sarah Good, which did torture me grievously," Ann told him as she recovered from a spell. "I did not know her name until the 27th of February and then she told me her name was Sarah Good, and then she did prick me and pinch me most grievously."

"Is that all, child?" Parris asked.

"Also since she has appeared several times urging me vehemently to write in her book," Ann added.

Parris understood this to mean Sarah Good was trying to get the 12-year-old to sign away her soul.

Next Parris met with 17-year-old Elizabeth Hubbard, who was also under a spell.

"Sarah Good came to me barefoot and barelegged," Elizabeth told Parris. "She pricked and pinched me. I believe Sarah Good hath bewitched me."

Artist's rendering of the trial of Sara Good
Artist's rendering of the trial of Sara

The magistrates ordered Goodwife Sarah Good arrested and brought for examination. Before almost the entire village, the hag was brought forward in chains to stand against the charges. As Goody Good came into the meetinghouse, the afflicted girls there were now about a dozen each erupted into screams of torment. They writhed as if in pain from pinches and needle sticks.

"Sarah Good, what evil spirit have you familiarity with?" Hathorne asked, leaning over the stooped woman from the pulpit.

"None," the woman answered. The girls shrieked in agony.

"Why do you hurt these children?" he asked.

"I do not hurt them," she pleaded. "I scorn it."

Hathorne then turned to the girls who had calmed down somewhat. He had the children look at Good and asked them if she was the one who tormented them. As he did so, they once again started screaming and carrying on. Some fell to the floor in spasms and others merely wept. For Hathorne, the evidence was compelling.

"Sarah Good, do you not see now what you have done?" he asked. "Why do you not tell us the truth? Why do you thus torment these children?"

With little emotion, as if she knew she was a lost cause, Sarah denied the charges again, saying she did not torment them and employed no one to do so. Hathorne persisted. Who is hurting them, he asked.

"Osborne," Sarah said shrugging her shoulders. "You brought in two others with me, it was one of them."

Sarah Good was doomed a little later by the testimony of the wife of the constable who arrested her.

"I took notice of Sarah Good in the morning," said Mary Herrick. "One of her arms was bloody from a little below the elbow to the wrist. And I also took notice of her arms on the night before, and then there was no sign of blood on them."

Hathorne asked when this occurred.

"Why it was the night she visited Elizabeth Hubbard," Herrick replied.

The fear that ran amuck in the Good family must have been awesome in its power. Sarah Good's husband, William, was brought before the magistrates and questioned. He told the court he had noticed "a wart or tit a little below her right shoulder, which he had never seen before." This was apparently a mark of the Devil. Even Dorothy Good, the woman's daughter was brought in to testify against her.

In his notes of the hearing, Hathorne wrote later, "Dorothy Good's charge against her mother: That she had three birds, one black, one yellow and that these birds did hurt the children and afflicted persons." No record remains of how Hathorne managed to pry this information out of Dorothy.



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