Accused witch in Hartford,Connecticut, who was believed to be under demonic possession.
The case was recorded in a letter written by Reverend
John Whiting, which in turn was published by
Increase Mather in An Essay for the Recording of Illustrious
Ann Cole was described by Mather as a woman of
great integrity and piety. In 1662, she was living in the
house of her father—“a godly man”—when she began
having bizarre fits, “wherein her Tongue was improved
Witches sacrificing cock and snake to raise hailstorm (Ulrich
Molitor, De Ianijs et Phitonicius Mulieribus, 1489)
Cole, Ann 71
by a Daemon to express things which she herself knew
nothing of,” Mather wrote. Sometimes the discourses
went on for hours. Cole named other persons as witches
and described how they intended to carry out “mischievous
designs” against herself and others, by afflicting
bodies and spoiling names. The demons told her to “run
to the rock.”
Cole’s fits happened in public as well as in private.
They were violent physically as well as verbally. She even
disrupted church services, causing one person to faint.
At times Cole lapsed into gibberish. Then the demons
said they would change her language so that she could tell
no more tales. She began speaking English with a precise
Dutch accent, describing how a woman who lived next
to a Dutch family had been afflicted by a strange pinching
of her arms at night. Cole’s Dutch accent was so good
that others pronounced it to be genuine and impossible
for Cole to imitate on her own.
One of the alleged witches named by Cole was her
next-door neighbor, Rebecca Greensmith, who was convicted
and executed in 1693. A man and a woman named
by Cole were given the swimming test of being bound
and thrown into water. They neither floated nor sank, but
bobbed like buoys, half in and half out of the water. A
witness, protesting that anyone bound with their hands
to their feet would not sink (and therefore be guilty), underwent
the test himself. He was lowered gently into the
water, not thrown in as were the accused, and promptly
It is not known how many others named by Cole were
accused of witchcraft and executed; some fled Hartford
and were never seen again. Once the accused were dead or
gone, Cole recovered and had no more fits. She resumed
her life as “a serious Christian.” Twenty years later, Whiting
reported that she was still devout and free of fits.
One possible explanation for Cole’s fits is multiple
personality disorder. More likely, her fits were brought on
by intense fear of witchcraft, prevalent at the time.