Puritan superstition confronts an indomitable will in this first-ever biography of Goodwife Unise Cole, the woman known as the Witch of Hampton.
“It must be so, it shall be so, do what you will.” So muttered Goodwife Unise Cole to her neighbor Abraham Perkins as he pondered his mysteriously deceased livestock. The deaths were blamed on her familiarity with the Devil, one of many similar accusations lodged against her: bewitching crops, ovens, and small children; shape-shifting into a cat, a dog, and an eagle; moving at supernatural speed; hastening the death of a man as he lay helpless in his bed. Grown men observed her talking with the Devil, muttering incomprehensible things.
Childless and alone, she was suspected in the death of a child who had been turned into an ape. When she was whipped, witch-marks were found on her body and she was put on trial for witchcraft. While in prison she had been cruelly watched for imps. With a vile and reckless tongue she spoke her mind whenever she felt wronged–when the constable served a warrant, when Philbrick stole her salt grass, when Drake killed her cow, when the selectmen refused to give her wood and food, when townspeople testified against her in court.
For over a quarter-century the Puritans of Hampton kept up a barrage of witchcraft accusations, trials, whippings, and imprisonment, all meant to purge her tempestuous spirit from the town. After her death in 1680 the legend of her life was born, and it grew more fantastic over time. The very mention of her name sent children into paroxysms of fear–she became a terrifying hag, casting spells in a hut beside a magic well near the seashore. When she died the townspeople buried her and drove a stake through her heart. Her unhappy ghost, seen walking the streets of old Hampton, is still reputed to haunt the house that is now the Tuck Museum.
In 1937 the Goody Cole Society was formed, part publicity stunt and part honest attempt to atone for the terrible wrongs of their Puritan forefathers. During the town’s 300th anniversary celebration, Unise was vindicated and restored to her rightful place as an early citizen of Hampton.
In her third book about people and events in the small seacoast town of Hampton, New Hampshire, Cheryl Lassiter brings her passion for detailed historical research to tell the definitive, true story of the woman known as The Witch of Hampton, who truly has left her mark on the town.
—I’m really impressed with both your scholarship and your writing, which is clear and also–rare in this kind of book–entertaining. I loved knowing that Thomas Bradbury of Salisbury had “attractive handwriting” and that Robert and Susanna Smith had an “enchanted oven.” I want you to get famous over this well-written book, Cheryl. Keep writing! – Judge, 22nd Annual Writer’s Digest Book Awards
—An excellent story told in wonderful detail, this book beautifully captures life in the 1600s. Goody Cole is at times portrayed as a sympathetic character; she was also her own worst enemy. Painstakingly researched, Cheryl Lassiter also weaves in a contemporary view of the events that surrounded the enigmatic Goody Cole. A treat for anyone who wants insight into the witch mania of early colonial days. – Mike on Goodreads
—The author has taken a subject surrounded in mystery and has assembled extant documents concerning the life of this woman accused of witchcraft in a 17th century New England town. Ms. Lassiter gives a picture of colonial life and the people who embellished their superstitions into crimes resulting in torture and imprisonment of what we might today call a “batty” old lady. It is a fun read for those who are interested in early times in America. I thank the author and Goodreads for a complimentary copy. – Gail on Amazon.com
Special offer for book clubs and groups! For the kids: download free Goody Cole coloring pages.