Exerpts from an article in "The New Yorker" magazine, published 07 Sep 2015, pertaining to the interrogations of Ann Alcock Foster, her daughter Mary Foster Lacey and granddaughtrer Mary Lacey, Jr, during the Salem Witch Trials.
A month later, Ann Foster, a seventy-two-year-old widow from neighboring Andover, submitted to the first of several Salem interrogations. Initially, she denied all involvement with sorcery. Soon enough, she began to unspool a fantastical tale. The Devil had appeared to her as an exotic bird. He promised prosperity, along with the gift of afflicting at a glance. She had not seen him in six months, but her ill-tempered neighbor, Martha Carrier, had been in touch on his behalf.
At Carrier's direction, Foster had bewitched several children and a hog. She worked her sorcery with poppets. Carrier had announced a Devil's Sabbath in May, arranging their trip by air. There were twenty-five people in the meadow, where a former Salem village minister officiated. Three days later, from jail, Foster added a malfunctioning pole and a mishap to her account. The pole had snapped as the women flew, causing them to crash, Foster's leg crumpling beneath her.
She appeared entirely cooperative, both in a jail interview with a minister and before her interrogators. The justices soon learned that Foster had failed to come clean, however. It seemed that she and Carrier had neither flown nor crashed alone on that Salem-bound pole: a third rider had travelled silently behind Foster. So divulged forty-year-old Mary Lacey, a newly arrested suspect, on July 20th. Foster had also withheld the details of a chilling ceremony. The Devil had baptized his recruits, dipping their heads in water, six at a time. He performed the sacrament in a nearby river, to which he had carried Lacey in his arms. On July 21st, Ann Foster appeared before the magistrates for the fourth time. That hearing was particularly sensational: Mary Lacey, who supplied the details missing from Foster's account, was her daughter.
"Did not you know your daughter to be a witch?" one justice asked Foster. She did not, and seemed taken aback. Mary Warren, a pretty, twenty-year-old servant, helpfully chimed in, a less dramatic witness at Foster's hearing than she appeared on other occasions, when blood trickled from her mouth or spread across her bonnet. Warren shared with the court what a spectre had confided in her: Foster had recruited her own daughter. The authorities understood that she had done so about thirteen years earlier. Was that correct? "No, and I know no more of my daughter's being a witch than what day I shall die upon," Foster replied, sounding as unequivocal as she had been on the details of the misbegotten Salem flight. A magistrate coaxed her: "You cannot expect peace of conscience without a free confession." Foster swore that if she knew anything more she would reveal it.
At this, Mary Lacey was called. She berated her mother: "We have forsaken Jesus Christ, and the Devil hath got hold of us. How shall we get clear of this evil one?" Under her breath, Foster began to pray. "What God do witches pray to?" a justice needled. "I cannot tell, the Lord help me," the befuddled old woman replied, as her daughter delivered fresh details of their flight to the village green and of the satanic baptism. Her mother, Lacey revealed, rode first on the stick.
Court officers removed the two older women and escorted Lacey's seventeen-year-old daughter, Mary Lacey, Jr., into the room. Mary Warren fell at once into fits. At first, the younger Lacey was unhelpful. "Where is my mother that made me a witch and I knew it not?" she cried, a yet more disturbing question than the one posed in June, when a suspect wondered whether she might be a witch and not know it. Asked to smile at Warren without hurting her, Mary Lacey failed. Warren collapsed to the floor. "Do you acknowledge now that you are a witch?" Lacey was asked. She could only agree, although she seemed to be working from a different definition: a recalcitrant child, she had caused her parents plenty of trouble. She had, she insisted, signed no diabolical pact.
The ideal Puritan girl was a sterling amalgam of modesty, piety, and tireless industry. She was to speak neither too soon nor too much. She read her Scripture twice daily.
A majority of the bewitched girls had lost fathers; at least half were refugees from or had been orphaned by attacks in "the last Indian war." Those absences were deeply felt. A roaring girl wrestled aloud with the demons who would assault her the following year: she was well aware that she was fatherless? how often did they need to remind her as much? But she was hardly an orphan. In a heated, one-sided conversation, observed and preserved by Cotton Mather, the seventeen-year-old admonished her tormentors, "I have God for my father and I don't question but he'll provide well for me."
The justices reminded Mary Lacey, Jr., that if she desired to be saved by Christ she would confess. "She then proceeded," the court reporter noted. She was more profligate with details than her mother or her grandmother had been. It was a hallmark of Salem that the younger generation? Cotton Mather included? could be relied on for the most luxuriant reports. It appeared easier to describe satanic escapades when an adolescent had already been told, or believed, that she cavorted with the Devil. The record allows a fleeting glimpse of Mary's sense of herself. "I have been a disobed? " she began, after which the page is torn.
Following Mary's testimony, her mother was returned to the room. The older woman had so often scolded that the Devil should fetch her away. Her wish had come true! Tears streaming down her face, the teen-ager now managed a spot of revenge: "Oh, mother, why did you give me to the Devil twice or thrice over?" Mary sobbed. She prayed that the Lord might expose all the witches. Officials led in her grandmother; three generations of enchantresses stood before the justices. Mary continued her rant: "Oh, grandmother, why did you give me to the Devil? Why did you persuade me and, oh, grandmother, do not you deny it. You have been a very bad woman in your time." The three returned to jail as a clutch of warrants made their way to Andover.
On October 4th, for the first time, seven suspects, all under the age of eighteen, went home on bail. Among the eldest was Mary Lacey, Jr., Ann Foster's headstrong granddaughter.