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Bridget Bishop

First Person Executed in the Salem Witch Trials

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Bridget Bishop Hanged at Salem

Bridget Bishop

Briggs. Co. / George Eastman House / Getty Images

About Bridget Bishop:

Known for: accused as a witch in the Salem witch trials of 1692; first person executed in the Salem witch trials

Dates: about 1632 - June 10, 1692

Also known as: Bridget Playfer or Playford, Bridget Wasselbe, Bridget Oliver

Background, Family:

  • maiden name Playfer or Playford
  • first husband: Samuel Wasselbe
  • second husband: Thomas Oliver
  • third husband Edward Bishop, whose son, also Edward Bishop, and his wife, Sarah Bishop, were also arrested for witchcraft

More About Bridget Bishop:

Bridget Bishop had earlier been accused of witchcraft after her second husband's death, though she was acquitted of those charges.

Some historians speculate that a reason Bridget Bishop was accused in the 1692 Salem witchcraft "craze" was that her second husband's children wanted property that she had possession of as an inheritance from Oliver.

Others classify her as someone who was an easy target because her behavior was often disagreeable in a community that valued harmony and obedience to authority, or because she violated community norms by having associated with the wrong people, keeping "unseasonable" hours, hosting drinking and gambling parties, and behaving immorally. She was known for wearing a scarlet bodice, considered a bit less "Puritan" than was acceptable to some in the community.

William Stacy claimed he'd been frightened by Bridget Bishop fourteen years before and that she had caused the death of his daughter. Others accused her of appearing as a specter and abusing them. She angrily denied the accusations, at one point saying "I am innocent to a Witch. I know not what a Witch is." A magistrate responsed, "How can you know, you are no Witch ... [and] yet not know what a Witch is?" Her husband testified first that he'd heard her accused before of witchcraft, and then that she was a witch.

A more serious charge against Bishop came when two men she'd hired to work on her cellar testified that they had found "poppits" in the walls: rag dolls with pins in them. While some might consider spectral evidence suspect, such evidence was considered to be even stronger. But the spectral evidence was also offered, including several men testifying that she had visited them -- in spectral form -- in bed at night.

On April 18, Bridget Bishop was arrested with others. The following day, magistrates John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin examined Abigail Hobbs, Bridget Bishop, Giles Corey, and Mary Warren.

On June 2, Bridget Bishop was tried before the Court of Oyer and Terminer on its first day in session.

Bridget Bishop was convicted of the charges, and sentenced to death. While she was not among the first to be accused, she was the first to be tried in that court, the first to be sentenced, and the first to die. She was executed by hanging on Gallows Hill on June 10.

Bridget Bishop's stepson, Edward Bishop, and his wife, Sarah Bishop, were also arrested and charged as witches. They escaped the jail and hid until the "witchcraft craze" had ended. Their property was seized, however, and later redeemed by their son.

Residence in 1692: Salem Village

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  2. Education
  3. Women's History
  4. Women & Religion, Including Goddesses & Witches
  5. Witches & Witchcraft
  6. Salem & New England Witches
  7. Salem Witches - The People
  8. Accused Witchs of Salem
  9. Bridget Bishop
  10. Bridget Bishop

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