The Demons of Newbury

October 30, 2021

A Most Certain, Strange, and True Discovery of a VVITCH [witch]

Being taken by some of the parliament forces, as she was standing on a small planck [plank] and fayling on it over the River of Newbury:

Together with the strange and true manner of her death, with the prophetical words and speeches she [fled?] at the same time.

Printed by John Hammond, 1643

(internet search)

*it must have been a practice to test for “witchery” by standing the accused on a board to see how they faired…thinking about it, I slightly remember learning about this in elementary school, and how it was possible that some did get away by floating away.

*Since it is Halloween, I figured on telling a tale from American Folklore and Legend, by Reader’s Digest. These are not my words… hope you enjoy!

“In the year 1679 the house of William Morse of Newbury was ‘infested with demons after a most horrid manner’, Mather writes. Bricks, sticks, and stones were thrown at the farmhouse by an invisible hand, and while the family sat at supper, ashes were heaped on their plates and on their heads. When Morse tried to write, his inkhorn was snatched away and his cap torn from his head. The demons pulled his hair, pinched and scratched him, stole his shoes, pricked him with awls and needles, and pelted him with clods of frozen cow manure. Mrs. Morse’s milk pails were also defowled [corrupted/spoiled] with dung, and she was imprisoned in the cellar when an invisible hand shut the trapdoor on her and pulled a table on top of it.
“A little boy belonging to the family suffered most from one demon’s molestations. He was flung about until it seemed his brains would be beaten out, hurled into the kitchen fire, ‘pricked on the back’ with a fork, an iron spindle, and knives. When possessed, he barked like a dog and then clucked. The specter snatched food from him and doused him with the contents of a chamber pot.
“The child complained that a man called P—l had appeared to him and was the cause of it all. On one occasion the boy disappeared entirely, until at last he was found ‘creeping on one side, sadly dumb and lame.’ When he was able to express himself, he said that ‘P—l had carried him over the top of the house and hurled him against a cart wheel in the barn.’ And indeed, traces of barley from the barn floor were found clinging to his garments.
“Before these torments came to an end, ‘the invisible hand which did all these things began to put on an astonishing visibility.’ Witnesses were able to discern a ghostly fist beating Morse saw a vision of a black child. Later, they heard a drumming on the boards and a voice that sang ‘Revenge! Revenge! Sweet is Revenge!’ Now they called upon God for help. ‘Whereupon there followed a mournful note, several times uttering these expressions: ‘Alas! alas! we knock no more, we knock no more!’ and there was an end of it all.”

  • William Morse was a key figure in the only recorded case of supposed witchcraft in Newbury that was subject to full legal investigation
  • the grandson, who lived with them, was a “suspect” by some, but never by William himself
  • Elizabeth, William’s wife was severely attacked during the witch times in Newbury, tried many times, condemned to be hanged, relieved of the sentencing, imprisoned in Boston, finally passing away in her family home.
  • There were many witchcraft trials, going back to the early days of colonial America, Salem is the most famous
Elizabeth Morse Witch of Newbury

Mrs. Elizabeth Morse
Witch of Newbury

1679-1681 arrested, imprisoned and reprieved. Confined to her husband William Morse 4 acre house lot on the SE [south east] side of Market Square until her death.

Morse Society


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