EuniceCole (17th century) was a New Hampshire woman accused repeatedly of witchcraft, who was staked like a vampire when she died.
Eunice Cole of Hampton, New Hampshire, was in her 70s when she was found guilty of witchcraft in 1656. She was sentenced to a flogging and life imprisonment in jail in Boston. Her 82-year-old husband, William, was too frail to take care of their farm by himself. He also could not keep up with the eight pounds a year that he was be- ing charged to pay for Eunice’s keep in jail.
In 1662, he went to court to beg for the release of Eunice. The court refused. The selectmen of Hampton stepped in to pay her jail costs, but they also fell behind and were arrested for nonpayment. To avoid being put in jail himself, one of the selectmen, named Marston, confiscated the Cole property. William, thoroughly broken by then, died soon thereafter.
Eunice appealed to the court for her release, and the court this time agreed — provided that she live outside of the court’s jurisdiction. In 1670, the selectmen of Hampton allowed her to live in a small hut by the river. The townspeople gave her food.
Barely a year later, Cole was charged with witchcraft once again. Her alleged crime was hurling a Curse at a boat passing by on the river. The boat went asunder on rocks, and everyone aboard drowned. The incident was so heavily publicized that poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a poem about it, The Wreck of Rivermouth.
By the time the case came to court in 1673, Cole was in her 90s. This time she was found not guilty of witch- craft and sent back to her hut. However, she was shunned by the townspeople, who stopped giving her food and aid. Cole died soon thereafter.
Townspeople found her dead. Her body was carted to a roadside and a shallow pit was dug. A stake was pound- ed into her chest to prevent her spirit from walking about, and a horseshoe was tied to the stake in order to repel any evil spirits, such as familiars that might be lurking around her. Then her corpse was set afire. While her body burned, the townspeople danced and celebrated.
FURTHER READING :
- Cahill, Robert Ellis. Strange Superstitions. Danvers, Mass.: Old Saltbox Publishing, 1990.
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