At long last “Touched by an Angel” does its Salem witch
trial-themed episode! Well… sorta. See, among my many
TBAA episode wishes was the idea of an historical flashback
episode about the angels’ activities in 1692 Salem Village.
Of course, that never came to pass. After TBAA stopped
production, I toyed with the idea of doing episode-like stories on
JABB (with some Dyeland elements thrown in). However, I
still had a year of college to get through and so that never
really happened. Until May of 2005 during which I wrote “Nor
Bars a Cage” with the help of some of the JABB YahooGroup crowd. The much more
Guest” followed in February 2006. However, it wasn’t
until this past late April/ early May that I finally got around
to tackling the witch trials.
To be honest, I had
written what became a sort of rough draft for the story as it is
now in October of 2005. Some of the elements I took from
that early version were:
~ the Hope and Josiah
(originally George) relationship
~ Andrew as a doctor called in
to examine the “afflicted”
~ Andrew’s dismissal because of
the angel’s distrust of the “afflicted”
~ Nathan’s preference for Hope
over Leah Harding
~ Hope’s subsequent arrest
~ Hannah’s unfortunate death and
its impact on Hope’s fate
and last words
Things that were in my
original version but cut from the story:
was the angel of death in Shiloh. This was, of course,
changed to Henry since I decided Adam
couldn’t know about Andrew’s past with the witch trials in order
to make the Dyeland frame story work
lived years after his daughter’s death and married Constance
“afflicted” were young girls
Things that were
completely new to me when I set down to write this for JABB:
and the part this chapter in history played in his fall
absolutely no where in my original story
no willow tree
original version had no sense of why people began to accuse
their neighbors of witchcraft
Perhaps the biggest shift
from my original intent was that I completely moved the story
out of Salem and to the made-up (but reminiscent) town of Shiloh
and set it earlier than 1692. Well, to be honest, I
originally hoped to write about the European witch trials.
I had a number of reasons for this. Chief among them was
that my ancestors would have been in Europe during the 1600s,
not the colonies. So I thought that would make the story
more personal for me. Also, there were vastly more witch
trials and executions in Europe. Some historians say even
millions died thus accused. In addition, I always liked
when TBAA veered away from the United States (not that Shiloh is
properly part of the United States as we’re talking about a
period over 100 years before 1776). Just cause it was
something different. However, in the end I had to be
realistic and admit that A. I’ve never been to Europe so that
limits my ability to write convincingly of the area, B. I know
next to nothing of witch trials in Europe, and C. I had limited
time and funds for research and the American stuff was more
easily obtained. So I ended up with Shiloh,
Why Shiloh and not
Salem? My reasoning here was that I didn’t want to reuse
the same people and stories so many had heard nor accidentally
offend any actual person nor their descendants. I picked
1651 because outside of 1692 it was one of the most lethal years
in the history of American witch trials. According to this
site 5 people were executed that year, a total of 9
accused (potentially more that are not listed). This site
seems to corroborate with 4 of those executions (the Kendall
execution is there listed as occurring in possibly 1647).
I chose it over the (also very bad) 1662 because I wanted to put
as many years as possible between Shiloh and Salem so readers
wouldn’t think “Well, why wouldn’t one of the Shiloh people like
Nathan Wilkens have said something about how horrible their own
experience was and prevented Salem?” He would have most
likely been dead 41 years after the events in my story. Of
course, it’s doubtful anyone at Salem would have listened,
As for why I chose
Shiloh, I knew I wanted a biblically based name like
Salem. And Shiloh just came to mind first! In a
happy accident, I later was reminded that Shiloh is where the
Ark of the Covenant once was and hence a holy place.
However, according to Psalm 78:60 God abandons Shiloh and sends
the Ark away. I thought that was a really great metaphor
for my own Shiloh, once a place of worship and love of
God. However, in my story it is some of the people that
abandon God’s way and not the other way around.
Originally I considered
writing all the flashbacks in the first person from Andrew’s
perspective. However, first person is kind of awkward for
me. Further, I think using Andrew’s voice would have led
to some alterations. He might have sugar-coated things to
protect his listening friends or not admitted his own emotional
states. So, while he tells the story to the Dyelanders,
God is also at work showing them what exactly happened. As
Andrew (later Henry) speaks, the real images come into his
A second language issue was the most obvious. Puritans did
not speak like we do. My way of reflecting that was to do
away with most contractions, change the syntax some, and use
words and phrases we don’t generally now. For example,
“clear” in place of “innocent,” “twas” for “it was,” and “aye”
for “yes.” I’m not claiming I did it correctly but I at
least wanted to try. After some advice from the
Yahoogroup, I decided that amongst themselves the angels would
speak as we think of them speaking, as they did on the
show. So while still very much in the 1600s Andrew, Eben,
Henry, and Sam freely use contractions and a more modern speech
pattern with each other. They do, however, adapt their
speech to match the humans when among them. I hope this
going back and forth wasn’t distracting. I was just trying
to use language to further establish their bonds as angels
thrust into this horrible scenario.
Obviously this is a very
character driven story. But things happened with these
characters that I have never experienced before. These
were darn pushy characters! While some had been with me
for over a year (Hope, Josiah, Nathan, Anna Jacobs, and various
of the accusers) some I never had any intent of giving a role to
or at least not the role they got. So I’m just gonna run
through em all!
The Dyelanders- Because they actually
have relatively small parts in this story I’ll handle them as a
group. Basically I used the Dyelanders’ play as the
impetus for the telling of Hope’s story. I’d like to thank
everyone who let me use their characters and gave me suggestions
about what roles their characters might have in the production
of a play.
One surprising thing that happened with this crowd was the
sandwich scene between Lady Beth, Lady JenniAnn, and Adam.
I actually dreamed that scene the night after Liz and I had a
conversation about Adam. I dreamed basically what you
read: the two women and Adam go off to make sandwiches while
Andrew is taking a break from the story. In the course of
that it comes out that LJA thinks of Adam as a father-figure and
Lady Beth helps her to voice this. I never intended to
have such a scene in the story but the day after the dream I
could not write a single word of the story until I had typed out
that scene. So because of the bizarre way that scene came
to me and Liz’s encouragement, I kept the scene in the story
even though it is a bit of a departure. It does work well
with what I’m trying to do lately with these stories. That
is to show the Dyelanders as a community of people who actually
care a lot about each other. They’re not just a bunch of
people who all like Andrew and tolerate each other. So
there are all kinds of interconnected relationships and
such. Makes it all a lil nicer, I think, than earlier
Adam- He was pretty much only in here
for the occasional bit of humor and supportive remarks to
Andrew. Plus I had a mental image of someone teasing him
about the modest clothing given his anxiety over Monica’s
strapless dress in “Fallen Angela.” So I wanted him in the
frame story just for that. Like I said above, the whole
sandwich scene came out of no where and was definitely never
intended. But I had referred to Adam as the “den father”
of Dyeland in a Commentary piece on Newsletter 163 and did, at
some point, want that role expressed in an actual
newsletter. So it came out in this one!
The Shiloh Accusers- As I said above,
some of these characters have been with me for over a
year. However, they developed a lot in writing this
story. In my original draft they were all very
one-dimensional and I gave no thought to why they were behaving
as they were. Once I realized I was actually going to use
that story I knew I needed at least some depth to these
people. Yet, I wanted this to very much remain a story
about the angels and the accused. So my way of adding
depth was just to give everyone slightly different motives for
I read a book
entitled Witches and
Historians while writing this story. It’s a
collection of essays about the Salem hysteria dating from
shortly after the trials to modern interpretations. It
covers theories from:
girls were basically evil liars.
were witches in Salem and things just got out of hand in
were victims of hysteria brought on by strict religious
principles. Their "fits" enabled them to voice their
repressed feelings and thoughts.
had ingested spoiled rye which led to a serious medical
condition know as convulsive ergotism that can exhibit itself in
the same manner as a LSD trip.
ordeal boils down to economic strife with in Salem.
such a part of European society that, of course, the Salemites
brought the belief with them and it was only a matter of time
before trials erupted in the colonies.
put the children up to this in order to gain property, power,
And several more potential
motives. So I kinda went with a modge podge of some of
those. However, I did not feel the need to touch on the
evil liars, real witches, or ergot hypotheses.
To me the Harding,
Small, and Paine adults are the true villains of the
story. While scholars have debated the motives of the real
accusers, I decided to use old-fashioned greed as mine.
They wanted more land and so they attacked their
neighbors. But they weren’t stupid people. They knew
immediately accusing the well-off wouldn’t work. So they
accused socially disadvantaged people first in order to gain
credibility. Once the rest of the town was on their
bandwagon, they started accusing their true targets: those with
land they wanted. Savvy individuals that they were, the
adults realized that there would be greater emotional impact if
their children pretended to be abused by unseen foes.
Andrew voices my
opinion in regards to the younger children. They were
pawns. Their parents told them to behave in a certain way
and they did. And may be they truly felt they were
Also, child rearing
was generally much more strict than it is now. If your
father said to roll around on the ground and pretend like
someone’s attacking you… you would probably do it. If your
mother said witches existed and were attacking you, you would
probably believe that, too. Because everyone from the
preacher to your neighbors to your extended family to your
friends’ parents would have drilled into you the necessity of
obeying your parents. After all, it was a
commandment. Because of this strictness, the children may
have even been eager to participate in this acting out. It
was the release Eben saw it as.
In the end, I’m
sure I presented a very simplified explanation for what would
make a person or group of people accuse others. Especially
knowing full well such accusations could lead to death.
But since I don’t *actually* know any angels who were working
amongst the Puritans in the 1600s, I tried my best!
Sam- Unfortunately, I couldn’t really
think of a way to give Sam a big part. But then since the
story is 32 pages as it is, may be that’s acceptable. I
did, however, put a great deal of thought into the few lines he
does have. The unfortunate fact is, Sam would have been a
liability to Andrew in Shiloh. His being publicly seen
with Andrew would have, most likely, brought a swift accusation
against Andrew. While I did not find much to substantiate
that the Puritans had fear of people of African ancestry, there
are an abundance of cases of Native Americans being associated
with demons by the accusers. Therefore, I didn’t think it
was much of a stretch that someone looking like Sam would have
drawn similar reactions. Sam’s still a vital part of this
story, though. After all, he’s the first to comfort Andrew
Henry- Probably the most surprising
character for me in the story. Originally he was not
supposed to be so much as mentioned in the story. Adam was
supposed to be the AOD in Shiloh. But then I wanted Adam
involved in The Crucible
part of the story so that wouldn’t work. So it seemed only
natural the part go to Henry. But he was absolutely never
supposed to end up in Dyeland and I never considered his telling
part of the story. But I got to the part where Henry takes
over the telling and it was like the character came to me and
insisted it was his part. (No, I’m not saying I actually
heard or saw Henry. I’ve not lost it yet!) He seemed
to say that Andrew had been through enough, he couldn’t possibly
be made to continue. Let him do it. So I did.
And that’s why Henry ended up under the willow tree and telling
the end of the story. I never really cared one way or
another about Henry but in writing this I came to have a
considerable appreciation for him.
Hope- Even though this was set in a
very different time and culture and even country than some of us
know, I wanted my heroine to be as relatable as possible.
Someone that I might have been friends with had I lived in
Puritan New England. I hope Hope is that. Oh!
A word on her name, first. Hope is the only character
whose name just came to me. Hope was always Hope.
Josiah was once George and the other characters took me some
time to name. But not Hope.
Anyhow, so one way
I wanted to make Hope relatable is to make her a real
individual. Not such a big deal now and probly most of you
reading this consider yourselves to be true individuals, not
easily swayed by a group, etc. But for the Puritans,
conformity was a big deal. So I couldn’t have Hope be
completely abnormal or anything. But I did want some
subtle hints that she was her own person. One was her
reluctance to marry. She was a daddy’s girl through and
through. While her peers (like Leah Harding) may have done
all they could to catch a guy, Nathan would have loved to have
married Hope but she wasn’t initially interested. May be
she a little immature or may be she just thought she had plenty
of time for that and sensed on some level she did not have much
time with Josiah. In either case, she wasn’t just going to
marry cause the culture said she should.
I also wanted Hope
to be proud and dignified through out. I was really
inspired by the strength exhibited by the three main women (the
sisters Rebecca Nurse, Mary Easty, and Sarah Cloyce) depicted in
Three Sovereigns for Sarah.
I wanted Hope to be like them. Strong, unbending in the
truth, but also vulnerable. Real people suffered, cried,
felt betrayed, were abandoned, and were ultimately killed.
I wanted Hope to show that. I didn’t want her so aloof as
if to make it seem she didn’t care much about her life.
One thing I wasn’t
sure about in regards to Hope was her appearing with Henry at
Josiah’s deathbed. Definitely not part of TBAA canon to
have a deceased human come along with the AOD. At least
not that I remember. But it’s part of my personal belief
system and this is my story. So, uh, hope no one had
trouble buying it.
Finally, there was
Hope’s final scene in “Dyeland.” I’ve not yet even decided
for myself if Hope appeared like a spirit in Dyeland. Or
if when Andrew stepped out of Serendipity’s door he actually
moved from Dyeland to a willow tree in Heaven. I’d be
interested to know what people think about that. I had her
appear in modern clothes just cause I like to think once we’ve
passed on we can dress however we want and no one judges.
And, personally, if I’d spent my life all covered up in layers…
I’d go for jeans and a sweater when I could.
Eben- Okay may be *he* was the most
surprising character. My tragic hero. See, way back
I introduced this demonic character onto the Yahoogroup.
Just to shake things up. And I probly wanted a lil variety
after years of the oh-so-sweet Lady JenniAnn. Eben told
the Dyelanders that he had dirt on Andrew that would change how
they thought about him. But the thread died on the
Yahoogroup and I never got the chance to let Eben tell what his
big secret about Andrew was. Probly a good thing since I
hadn’t really thought out what the secret would be!
So when it came to
writing this story I decided to bring Eben in. Originally
I thought he’d be a demon all ready and aiding the accusers,
leading them to sentence innocents to death. But that
didn’t seem right. I did NOT want to give any supernatural
excuse to the accusers when I think the motives were far more
likely greed, hatred, etc. Then I realized that this could
be my chance to not only show why Eben fell but what about
Andrew he thought was so horrible. In the process, I
started to really like Eben. In fact, he ended up being
the character I related to most strongly. Even just doing
research was enough to cause me to feel very worn down and get
angry and even paranoid. Imagine being there and being
powerless to stop the insanity and the murder! And may be
you start to project your powerlessness onto your friend.
So this is Eben’s
“dirt” on Andrew: that because of his suggestion Hope was
killed. But I don’t think, in his heart of hearts, Eben
truly blames his friend. I think he probably felt
protective of Hope having met her even before Andrew. He
was probably still thinking about Hannah Small seeing him
comforting Sarah Anderson. In his mind, that was what
prompted Sarah’s confession. That confession enabled the
trials to continue. Because they continued, Hope was
killed. So Eben blames himself but projects it onto
Andrew. Then it all happened as Andrew explained to Lady
JenniAnn. After distancing himself from Andrew, Eben falls
away from God. Alone and unwilling to reach out, Eben
And just so people
know where I’m coming from in reality: Yes, I do believe in the
possibility of demons. I believe angels and humans both
were given free will. In believing that I have to hold out
the possibility that some will choose to turn from God.
However, I do not believe such a decision is necessarily
permanent. In other words, don’t be surprised when I
decide to redeem Eben. Cause I’m rather attached to and
overprotective of the poor guy.
Andrew- Well… I guess in writing him
I tried to think back on “Beautiful Dreamer” since that’s the
earliest glimpse we get of Andrew that is of any length or
depth. He seemed a bit less sure of himself in that than
in the modern-set episodes. So I figured around 200 years
earlier than even that he’d be even less confident. But
still pretty competent. Competent enough that he wouldn’t
need Sam constantly watching over him even if he might still
want him to.
also posed a problem in that it states that Andrew regarded John
Wilkes Booth’s assassination of Lincoln and then rejection of
God’s forgiveness as his first failure. So I couldn’t have
him actually fail in this story. That’s why Hope’s words
to him on her last night were, I thought, so important for his
character. Because of her words he didn’t see her death as
a failure nor blame himself.
This was also a big
step for Andrew’s relation to Dyeland and its inhabitants.
To the best of my recollection, his breaking down into tears
after telling about Hope’s sentence is the first time he’s cried
in front of them. I wanted to express that he, after being
so long amongst them, has started to feel comfortable enough
with them to not hide his emotions. But I also wanted to
keep his emotions in check. I don’t think he’s a “cry at
the drop of the hat in front of all the nice ladies” kinda
Also important to
me in regards to Andrew was his relationships with Adam and
Henry. But I’ll talk more about that in the following
Just for my future
self’s curiosity: At the time of this writing my favorite
Andrew parts of this story are his last night with Hope in the
cell and the burial scene. Cause I like to think, somehow,
someway, someone (angel or otherwise) buried those poor people.
One thing that I’ve found
myself doing recently is going for particular themes in my
writing. Both in JABB and even in my various other writing
exercises. And the themes don’t necessarily end up being
the ones that I’m going for at all. In writing this, one
quote kept running through my head. It was this from
Shakespeare’s Henry V:
“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.” That line is
from King Henry’s famed “St. Crispin’s Day Speech” which even
found it’s way into a couple TBAA episodes (“The Quality of
Mercy” and “The Penalty Box.”) It became my inspiration
for the male aspects of this story. The line is spoken by
Henry just before his men go into battle. It rallies them
together and spurs them on in the fight. In this case, it
made me think of the three AODs. Just that there would be
such a camaraderie between them. They’re among a select
few who would really know what each other goes through. In
the case of the AODs, I don’t think even other angels of
different types can really “get” them. How often did
Monica seem upset to see Andrew? (Something I projected
onto Andrew in this story just to show how little caseworkers
relate to AODs unless they’ve been one.) How do you think
that made Andrew feel? I imagine he and the other AODs try
not to take it personally and know their non-AOD friends love
them. But I bet after a while it can wear on them. I
bet they would have a support system amongst themselves. I
wanted to show that here. With Adam supporting Andrew and
especially with Henry later taking over the story after seeing
it’s too much for Andrew. Then the three of them just
sitting silently but together. A band of brothers.
Another theme I was
going for was community. I wanted to show how important it
was to the Dyelanders. I wanted it clear that they confide
in each other, love each other, and have a lot of fun
together. They support each other in hard times and, as
with Ladies Beth and JenniAnn, help each other when the words
won’t come. And then I wanted to contrast that with
Shiloh. To show exactly why personal bonds are so
important. I doubt the trials and executions could have
happened if people had forged friendships or at least deeply
felt feelings of mutual respect and care for one’s fellow men
and women. It’s great to gather together under an ideal
(Appreciation for Andrew with the Dyelanders, a deep religious
faith for the Puritans). But if people aren’t also
committed to each other, no ideal’s gonna do much good.
communication was a theme. I think Eben’s “fatal flaw” was
that he didn’t go to anyone with his feelings. He rejected
Andrew’s repeated offers to talk. Andrew, on the other
hand, prayed to God and eventually talked to Sam also.
Then let it all out to his fellow AODs and the Dyelanders (even
if it was hundreds of years later). And I also wanted to
do a lil push for telling people how ya feel about them before
it’s too late a la Lady JenniAnn to Adam and, more drastically,
Hope to Nathan.
The power of story was a sort of communication sub-theme for
me. By hearing Andrew's words, the Dyelanders are changed
for the better. His story of the past immediately effects
their future. It finally allows Lady JenniAnn to voice her
feelings to Adam. It inspires Nadia and Danny to not waste
a moment of their life together. The story reminds Lady
Beth how important it is to talk about things when we're
troubled. Finally, in telling the story both Andrew and
Henry come to terms with what they experienced in Shiloh.
In real life, telling this story meant a lot to me in that it
made characters I thought were lost or at least slipping away
seems very alive and bursting with energy and love and
truth. It also made me grateful to live when and where I
do. Things may not be perfect but I'm a lot more free as a
woman now than many of my ancestresses were.
I relied on lots and lots
of web sites to discover the small details of colonial
life. While I allowed myself some dramatic license, I did
want the little details to be historical accurate. For
example, I didn’t want to feature characters eating food that
would have been rare or even inaccessible to their historical
counterparts. So I found the following sites useful for
learning about colonial life:
For clothing issues
I used Textiles
Clothing. ETA: Sadly, this
web site is no longer available. I leave the link only
because the Way Back Machine may have picked something
up. I'm not sure. Just by chance (okay, really it
was Halloween costume planning) I did find this
site. I haven't perused it too much but it might
be worth checking out.
America proved a good source for very basic information
concerning travel and medicine. ETA:
It appears this one's gone, too... I think this
site may have a lot of the information that other one
used to. When I have a bit more time, I'll looking
forward to looking at it.
To figure out what
food I could and could not have Hope serve I relied a lot on ColonialLife.
also used the Colonial Medicine section there quite a bit for
vocabulary and related medical issues.
web site also had some good links about food. Some
even offer recipes for those so inclined. I think it might
be appropriate for us all to attempt making Johnny Cakes.
;-) ETA: Also gone... But,
happy day!, there's a Johnny Cake recipe here
as well as some others.
my source for biblical texts. The Puritans actually used
the Geneva Bible but as copies of that are few and far between
and certainly not in my possession, I used the King James
Version on that site.
ETA 3-6-11: A visitor to our site, Aubrey, was kind enough to
send me this link on Colonial
America. Obviously, I did not use it in writing the
story since I wrote this tale nearly 5 years ago but those
searching for information may want to check it out.
ETA 9-5-12: I received another great tip from a visitor to the
site. If you'd like to learn more about Colonial-era
dentistry, look no further than Colonial
Dentistry, provided by: Dr. David DiGiallorenzo to get you
started! Thank you to Pedro for finding it and to Susie
for passing word along! God bless! Ya'll give me
ETA 12-22-16: Special thanks to Nancy and her students,
especially Alexa, for adding to the research links here! Alexa
found this site which has some more great information about
colonial dentistry as well as general hygiene practices: https://www.faceliftdentistry.com/bite-correction/a-hygiene-colonial-america-teeth-bathing.html.
Thank you to the awesome crowd in the Reading Room! :-)
ETA 3-13-18: Yet more thanks to Sabrina and her students who
shared that Blood on the River: James Town, 1607 by
Elisa Carbone is their favorite fictional read on Colonial
America. Big thanks to Mia for her discovery of this gem
of a site: https://store.alansfactoryoutlet.com/Colonial-History-Farming-and-Daily-Life-s/1916.htm.
Thanks, kids! :-)
ETA 1-24-19: We have another great find from Charlotte who
discovered this site which has some interesting and informative
links about the Revolutionary War: https://www.topviewnyc.com/packages/new-york-city-and-the-revolutionary-war.
It's also a great reference for anyone in New York City or those
visiting with an interest in colonial America and the
Revolutionary War. Thanks, Charlotte and Andrea!
In addition to the
two web sites I mentioned in the Setting section, I found the
offers an interesting, interactive
site about the Salem witch trials. While I didn’t
use it a whole lot in researching, it was pretty good for
setting the mood I wanted for “For Thou Art with Me.”
One site I enjoyed
one. Again, this isn’t a site I used much for
research. (Although it did help to select books to
purchase.) But I did think it was an interesting
read. The author discusses the historical inaccuracies in
The absolute best, though
not the most modern-reader-friendly, site is the Salem
Trials: Documentary Archive and Transcription Project.
I referred to that page fairly often to determine words that
were likely or unlikely to be used. It’s searchable and
will arrange the documents in a variety of orders (indexed by a
person’s name, by keyword, and alphabetically listed.)
Print & Other Media
everything else I used:
Marc. Witch-Hunt: Mysteries
of the Salem Witch Trials. New York: Simon &
Arthur. The Crucible.
York: Penguin Books, 1981.
Marc. Witches &
Historians: Interpretations of Salem. Florida:
David D. Witch-Hunting in
Seventeenth Century New England. Boston: 1999.
5. The Crucible. Dir.
Nicholas Hytner. VHS. 20th Century Fox, 1996.
6. Three Sovereigns for Sarah.
Philip Leacock. DVD. American Playhouse, 1985.
The above all dealt with
the Salem trials. So I used them more to get a sense of
what the clothes looked like, what the language would have
sounded like, and people’s theories on why witch trials
happen. If anyone is considering doing their own research,
feel free to email me and I’ll give you a better sense of what
each one of the above offered. The two Crucible-related sources I
used mostly just to get a sense of the play itself since I
originally intended to have more scenes involving Dyeland’s
production. In the end, they served mostly to create a
mood for me.
Hall’s Witch-Hunting surveyed
*several* witch trials during the era and was not limited solely
to Salem. In fact, only one chapter covers Salem.
While the densest read on the list, IMO, it was very
The Mappen book
dealt largely with Salem and featured the work of historians,
sociologists, and more. While the focus was on Salem,
there was a fair amount of historical information covering even
the European witch hunts. This book did detail some of the
trial activity but was mostly about theories to explain the
While I created all the
people of Shiloh I did want to note some historical people who
inspired them. The accusers’ afflictions were inspired
largely by the Salem outbreak though various other “afflicted”
in other areas behaved similarly.
accused witch, Alice, whom Hope agonizes over was inspired by
the real life ordeal of Dorcas Good. Dorcas was a
five-year-old girl who was accused of witchcraft and put on
trial in Salem. She was eventually released from jail but
her mother, Sarah, was hanged.
While other victims
of witch hunts may have recited the Lord’s Prayer prior to their
execution as Hope did, history recognizes Rev. George Burroughs
for reciting it just before he was hanged in Salem. The
belief was real witches could not recite the prayer. This
theme pops up in both The
Crucible and Three
Sovereigns for Sarah.
No one can for sure
say what caused the trials as I stated above. Very few
would probably suggest angels were mistaken for demons as I had
Hannah Small do with Eben as he comforted Sarah Anderson.
In fact, I considered cutting that part because it seemed kinda
“out there.” However, in reading Witch-Hunting, I learned about the strange
case of Mary Parsons. One of her accusers claimed that her
husband, John Parsons, once confided in him that Mary often
walked around at night. And that she was often accompanied
by a strange woman no one could account for. When a court
in Northampton, Connecticut asked him about this, Parsons
answered "God preserves his with his angels” (p. 103).
Whether Mary Parsons was, in fact, accompanied by an angel whom
her husband or anyone else saw, I can’t say. But we do
know that John Parson’s account of the mysterious figure was
introduced as evidence into the trial. Whether imagined or
not, this account and Mr. Parson’s comment to the court about it
was enough to convince me to keep the scene in.
I’m not entirely
clear on what happened to the bodies of the people who were
executed in Salem (let alone elsewhere). I had heard the
bodies were dumped somewhere, unceremoniously. The film Three Sovereigns depicts
this. In a truly heartbreaking scene, Rebecca Nurse’s son
goes to find her body and seeing it flung amongst the woods,
cradles it. That scene really got to me. That’s why
I had Andrew bury Anna Jacobs and help find and bury Hope.
It’s not historically accurate, most likely, but then if Andrew
had been in Salem may be the bodies would have been buried
properly. On a related note, according to this
page there’s a tradition that Rebecca Nurse’s family did
locate her body and give her proper burial. I’d like to
believe that. You can view the memorial that was later set
up for the victims’ at Salem Witch Trials
I mentioned that I was
concerned about the language issue and whether I presented the
Puritans’ speaking as at all realistic. Then the
substitution of King James for the rare Geneva Bible
translation they used. To this I’d like to add that I
majorly simplified the trial process to the point of only
mentioning one hearing per person. Truthfully, there
were multiple hearings before one even got to the trial
proper. However, I didn’t really want the story to get
any longer than it all ready was. Plus I figured anyone
looking for a history lesson or just really interested in the
trial procedures would rather look to the court
documents or a fact-based source for that. I would
hope so, anyway!
Now I'd just like to
say a few words about what I found most difficult about
writing this. One thing I was very surprised to find
myself blanching at was the religious overtones. As a
Theology major, I consider myself to be quite comfortable
writing about religious issues. But this story really
challenged me on that. Especially when the characters
would recite from the Bible. I was concerned people
might take offense and think I was trying to turn JABB into
some sort of Christian missionary project. To date
those fears seem to be in vain. No one has taken the
least issue with the Christian elements of this story.
Looking back, I'm really not sure why I was so
worried. After all, most of the biblical passages are
from the Old Testament/ Hebrew Scriptures and therefore
respected by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Also, I
was writing about Puritans. It would have been
completely ridiculously to have them or the angels working
with them quote any religious texts but the Bible. The
Puritans most likely wouldn't know any others and the angels
would just be needlessly confusing an all ready complicated
situation. The one biblical passage I knew would be in
this story from the outset was “Father,
forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
Another issue I had may sound silly. But I got really
creeped out at times reading and researching this.
Occasionally I thought I heard noises or saw things out of
the window. Once my mom even heard what seemed to be
someone knocking on the door late one evening. No one
was at the door. So may be it wasn't all in my
head. But it really made me consider how suggestible
our minds are. By just reading these frightening
accounts of supernatural phenomena, even while believing
they were made-up, I felt myself getting sucked in.
How can I then be sure, had I lived in the 17th century,
that I might not have turned accuser myself? It's a
really frightening prospect and may be why the witch hunts
are still so interesting to us.
to "For Thou Art with Me"