Thaumatographia Pneumatica

Cotton Mather

The First Example

Ann Cole, a person of serious piety, living in the house of her godly father in Hertford in the year 1662, was taken with very strange fits, wherein her tongue was improved by a daemon to express things unknown to herself.

The general purpose of the discourse, which held sometimes for a considerable while, was that such and such persons (named in the discourse) were consulting how they might carry on mischievous designs against her and several others by afflicting their bodies or destroying their good names, upon all which the general answer heard among these invisible speakers was, "Ah! She runs to the rock!" After such an entertainment had held for some hours, the daemons were heard saying, "Let us confound her language that she may tell no more tales." Whereupon the conference became unintelligible to the standers-by and then it passed in a Dutch tone, giving therein an account of mischiefs that had befallen divers persons and, among the rest, what had befallen to a woman that lived next neighbor to a Dutch family then in the town, which woman had been prematurely indisposed.

Several eminent ministers wrote the speeches of the spirits thus heard in the mouth of this Ann Cole, and one of the persons therein mentioned as active in the matter then spoken of (whose name was Greensmith), being then in prison on suspicion of witchcraft, was brought before the magistrates. The ministers now reading to her what they had written, she, with astonishment, confessed that the things were so and that she, with other persons named in the papers, had familiarity with a devil. She said that she had not yet made a formal convenant with her devil, but only promised that she would go with him when he called her, which she had sundry times done accordingly, and that he told her that at Christmas they would have a merry meeting and then the agreement between them should be subscribed.

She acknowledged the day following that, when the ministers began to read what they did, she was in such a rage that she could have torn them to pieces and she was resolved upon the denial of her guilt, but after they had read a while she was as if her flesh were pulled from her bones and she could no longer deny what they charged upon her. She declared that her devil appeared unto her first in the shape of a deer skipping about her and at last proceeded so far in that shape to talk with her and that the devil had frequently carnal knowledge of her.

Upon this confession, with other concurrent evidence, the woman was executed and other persons accused made their escape, whereupon Ann Cole was happily delivered from the extraordinary troubles wherewith she had been exercised.