Cole, Ann (1 7th century) Accused witch in Hartford, Connecticut, who was believed to be under Demonic Possession. The case was recorded in a letter written by Reverend John Whiting, which in turn was published by Increase Mather in An Essay for the Recording of Illustrious Providences (1684).
Ann Cole was described by Mather as a woman of great integrity and piety. In 1662, she was living in the house of her father — “a godly man” — when she began having bizarre fits, “wherein her Tongue was improved by a Daemon to express things which she herself knew nothing of,” Mather wrote. Sometimes the discourses went on for hours. Cole named other persons as witches and described how they intended to carry out “mischievous designs” against herself and others, by afflicting bodies and spoiling names. The Demons told her to “run to the rock.”
Cole's fits happened in public as well as in private. They were violent physically as well as verbally. She even disrupted church services, causing one person to faint.
At times Cole lapsed into gibberish. Then the Demons said they would change her language so that she could tell no more tales. She began speaking English with a precise Dutch accent, describing how a woman who lived next to a Dutch family had been afflicted by a strange pinching of her arms at night. Cole's Dutch accent was so good that others pronounced it to be genuine and impossible for Cole to imitate on her own.
One of the alleged witches named by Cole was her next-door neighbor, Rebecca Greensmith, who was convicted and executed in 1693. A man and a woman named by Cole were given the swimming test of being bound and thrown into water. They neither floated nor sank, but bobbed like buoys, half in and half out of the water. A witness, protesting that anyone bound with their hands to their feet would not sink (and therefore be guilty), underwent the test himself. He was lowered gently into the water, not thrown in as were the accused, and promptly sank.
It is not known how many others named by Cole were accused of witchcraft and executed; some fled Hartford and were never seen again. Once the accused were dead or gone, Cole recovered and had no more fits. She resumed her life as “a serious Christian.” Twenty years later, Whit- ing reported that she was still devout and free of fits.
One possible explanation for Cole's fits is multiple personality disorder. More likely, her fits were brought on by intense fear of witchcraft, prevalent at the time.
- Karlsen, Carol E. The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England. New York: W. W. Norton & Co, 1987.
- Hansen, Chadwick. Witchcraft at Salem. New York: New American Library, 1969.
- Mather, Cotton. On Witchcraft: Being the Wonders of the Invisible World. Mt. Vernon, N.Y: The Peter Pauper Press, 1950. First published 1693.