Salem Witch Trials Are Famous: Were There New Jersey Witch Trials?
Everyone remembers learning about the infamous Salem, Massachusetts Witch Trials of 1692 and 1693 in grade school.
What you may never have heard about is reporting that took place on October 22, 1730, in the Pennsylvania Gazette.
Of interest, the article was written by none other than Benjamin Franklin.
Because the young Franklin had a well-known reputation for being a prankster, what remains unknown is whether this article depicts a factual accounting or is it completely made up by Franklin.
The article goes into great depth to describe a witch trial that allegedly took place in Mount Holly, New Jersey.
WeirdNJ.com wrote about the story on their site, "According to the Gazette, locals began fearing the worst when their animals began acting strangely."
It was believed in this era that if a person could control the behavior of animals, it was proof of witchcraft.
“The accused had been charged with making their Neighbours Sheep dance in an uncommon Manner, and with causing Hogs to speak and sing Psalms,” wrote the Pennsylvania Gazette almost 300 years ago.
The townspeople put those suspected of practicing witchcraft through a series of physical tests. First, the accused were weighed against a “weighty copy of the good book (The Bible).”
It was believed that if a person weighed less than the Bible on the scale, this was a surefire sign that they were a witch.
All reportedly weighed in heavier than the good book. But, the townspeople didn’t stop there.
They allegedly took the accused which is to a local pond, whereby they were stripped of all clothing, to make sure that they did not have any hidden weights on them.
Their hands and feet were tied and they were placed in the pond. The belief was if they floated, that would prove that they were witches.
The belief was if they floated, that would prove that they were witches.
It was reported in the Pennsylvania Gazette that a man sank to the bottom and two women floated on the top of the water.
From the Pennsylvania Gazette account of October 22, 1730:
“According to those who doubt the validity of the article, it was a way for Franklin, an enlightened thinker of his day, to poke fun at folk beliefs which still persisted, as well as to have a joke at the expense of Burlington County residents, whom Philadelphians saw as rustic, rural yokels. It may be too convenient to just dismiss the published accounts of witch trials in New Jersey as a joke though.”
“After all, they allegedly took place a mere forty years after the infamous Salem Witch Trials in which twenty innocent men and women were tortured and brutally executed in the name of superstitious beliefs. In reality, there is evidence that these events may have indeed occurred.”
There is no definitive conclusion to the alleged Mount Holly Witch Trials, as there appears to be no published report which details the outcome of the trial.
It’s now an almost 300-year mystery that has been left wide open to debate in terms of the veracity of this legend.
SOURCES: Pennsylvania Gazette & WeirdNJ.com
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