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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Of witches and curses by Kaye Spencer

Witch Hill, Salem, Massachusetts
Library of Congress - citation below

The place is Salem, Massachusetts.

The year is 1692.

Some 200 people, mostly women, are accused and interrogated.

Approximately 150 men, women, and children are imprisoned. Some escape or are eventually released.

Nineteen people are convicted and hanged: Bridget Bishop – George Burroughs – Martha Carrier – Martha Corey – Mary Easty – Sarah Good – Elizabeth Howe – George Jacobs, Sr. – Susannah Martin – Rebecca Nurse – Alice Parker – Mary Parker – John Proctor – Ann Pudeator – Wilmott Redd – Margaret Scott – Samuel Wardwell – Sarah Wildes – John Willard  – and Giles Corey is pressed to death.

The charge is...


Rebecca Nurse in chains
(citation below)

In January of 1692, the witchcraft hysteria grew during the winter months and gained momentum as the New England year moved into the summer months. On September 22nd, the final eight of a total of twenty people who were  accused, tried, and subsequently condemned of the crime of witchcraft were hanged. But it wasn't until May 11, 1893, that this terrible ordeal ended when the last of the accused witches were cleared by proclamation of the special tribunal.*

Sarah Good was one of the first three women accused of witchcraft, and her life ended on Gallows Hill.** (see Note below) According to legend-based-in-facts, just before her execution, Rev. Nicholas Noyes, Jr. asked her to confess. Her famous last words were, “I am no more a witch than you are a wizard and, if you take away my life, God will give you blood to drink.” Twenty-five years later Noyes died of a hemorrhage and literally choked on his own blood.

Prophecy? Witchcraft? Karma? Coincidence?

Whatever descriptor you choose, Sarah Good's last words held the conviction of her innocence and the belief in her eventual vindication for such a grievous wrong done to her.

Sarah Good's Memorial Stone
(citation below)
Sarah Good's last words are at the heart of my short novella, For Love of a Brystile Witch. The plot for this story developed from these what-ifs..
  • What if a woman hanged as a witch in 1692 New England put a death curse on the hanging judge and a curse of sorrow on the women of the Brystile line in the moments before she was hanged?
  • Then what if, 200 years after the hanging, fate brought together the last living woman from the accused witch's family and the last man from the hanging judge's family?
  • What if love and forgiveness between heredity enemies can end the curse?
  • What if these two strangers have only a month to right this 200-year-old wrong before time runs out for both families and the curse will go on forever?
  • And what if only one of them knows it?
Here is an excerpt.

Colorado – September 1892

Reid needed no urging to mount the steps and, in spite of herself, Mercy kept watching. He ascended with an easy gait, the ball of each polished boot touching lightly upon the next plank. Once on the platform, he turned toward the crowd, head bowed and hat brim throwing a shadow over his features. Sheriff Samuel Dunne and Axel Moser, the valley’s minister of twenty some years stood on either side of the condemned man, and the deputies took watchful positions behind them and off the trap door...

The sheriff’s voice rose above the crowd’s murmurings. “If you have any last words, speak them now.”

For the longest time, Reid didn’t move. The quiet in the street became quieter. A baby cried; a woman shushed it. The autumn breeze ceased blowing. Mercy held her breath, entranced by the scene playing out before her. When he lifted his chin, she sucked in a little gasp of pity. His eyes—such sadness—maybe it was regret. Whatever his pain, it was deeper than the prospect of leaving this life in a few minutes. Did he deserve to die like this? Alone? With no one here to mourn his passing? Certainly, she didn’t know, but she blinked away tears for him nonetheless.

His deep voice resonated through the silent streets. “I hold the world, but as the world…a stage where every man must play a part. And mine is a sad one.”

A gasp of sorrow at his utter hopelessness left Mercy’s lips and, as if he’d heard, he caught her gaze with his, holding it in a way that made her feel he was memorizing her face as the last tender sight he’d take with him to the grave.

Sheriff Dunne waited a few seconds for the man to say more. When nothing came, he addressed the crowd. “As the duly appointed legal authority in Dulcet Valley, I hereby declare this hanging to proceed this first day of October 1892. The condemned will hang by the neck until dead, and his body will be interred in the local cemetery with a gravestone bearing his name, birth, and death dates. As per his signed and witnessed last requests, his epitaph will read, Teach me to feel another’s woe. Reverend Moser will settle his debts and notify next of kin.”

Those words—

She knew the poem and went on in her head with the next lines…to hide the fault I see / that mercy I to others show / that mercy show to me. It was strange that the word mercy, her given name, would show up in duplicate at this moment. Two of any one thing meant balance, partnership or opposites, either way it meant a pairing of something. Since coincidences didn’t exist in her world, Fate was at work here. She swept a hurried glance around the area, searching for other signs she’d overlooked.

“Let it be known the Honorable Judge J. A. Swanson has authorized me to accept a plea of innocent and commute the death sentence.” He leveled a hard gaze on the condemned man. “Reid Leighton Corvane, this is your last chance to save your own life.”

What? A Corvane? Here?” The words burst forth, loud and unbidden. Jolted, stunned to her bones, Mercy grabbed a better hold on the branch to keep her seat. So her months of conjuring had proven fruitful after all.

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer

Writing through history one romance upon a time

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Image Citations:
  • Image of Sarah Good's memorial stone - stone commemorating the death of Sarah Good, hanged as a witch during the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. The stone is part of the Salem Witch Trials Tricentennial Memorial (dedicated in 1992) in Salem, Massachusetts, USA. [no changes made to image - photographer: ] 2017.09-12
  • Image of Rebecca Nurse in chains - By Freeland A. Carter, artist - The Witch of Salem, or Credulity Run Mad, by John R. Musick. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1893. p. 275. See [1], Public Domain, {{PD-US}} – published in the U.S. before 1923 and public domain in the U.S. 2017.09-12
  • Image of Witch Hill, Salem, Massachusetts - Detroit Publishing Co., Copyright Claimant, and Publisher Detroit Publishing Co. Witch Hill, Salem, Mass. [Between 1900 and 1906] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>. 2017.09-12
**Note: Regarding Gallow's Hill: Article about the identification of the location of 'Proctor's Ledge' and the dedication ceremony of July 19, 2017.

Other References
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  1. I absolutely loved this story. So heartbreaking and so redemptive. What a great way to play out the what ifs that history left us. Doris

    1. Thank you, Doris. I often use the 'what if' method to boost my plot ideas when I'm mired down in "I have no idea what to write". lol

  2. Kaye, you have put together a very intriguing story plot. I don't think you can miss having a hit with this one--and the timing is perfect with Halloween just around the corner.
    I loved the little video. The music (Mountain Lake) was beautiful and perfect for your story line.
    I wish you every success with FOR LOVE OF A BRYSTILE WITCH!

    1. Sarah,

      Autumn, and specifically October/Halloween, is my favorite time of year. Thanks for commenting and for your kind words. I appreciate it.

  3. You chose an excellent excerpt that has my imagination and curiosity spinning. I will have to order this book. I think you'll get a ton of sales with this intriguing story.

    1. Elizabeth,

      Thank you so much for your words of support. I'm glad the excerpt caught your curiosity. I appreciate you stopping in to comment.