Cole, Ann

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.

Further Reading:

  • 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.

The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – Copyright © 1989, 1999, 2008 by Visionary Living, Inc.

Cole, Ann
A woman involved in a Possession case in Hartford, Connecticut, that astonished her townspeople and led to the execution of an accused witch. Ann Cole suddenly seemed to acquire preternatural knowledge of the malicious activities of the accused witch, who was a stranger to her. Increase Mather described Cole as “a person of real piety and integrity” in his account in An Essay for the Recording of Illustrious Providences (1684). In 1662, Cole was living in the house of her father— described as “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 persons and described how they intended to carry out “mischievous designs” against her and others, by afflicting bodies and spoiling names. At times, Cole lapsed into gibberish. Then she began speaking English with a precise Dutch accent, describing how a woman who lived beside a Dutch family had been afflicted by a strange pinching of her arms at night. One of the persons named by Cole was a “lewd and ignorant” woman named Rebecca Greensmith, who was in jail on suspicion of Witchcraft.

Greensmith had denied the charges against her but, when confronted by a written account of Cole’s discourses, was astonished and confessed everything. Greensmith said the Devil had first appeared to her in the form of a deer or fawn, skipping about her so that she would not be afraid, gaining her confidence. She had sex with the Devil on numerous occasions and had often accompanied him to Sabbats. She denied entering into a satanic Pact but said that the Devil had told her that they would attend a merry sabbat at Christmastime, during which she would sign a pact with him. Greensmith also said that witches had met at a place not far from her house, and that some of them arrived in the shapes of animals and crows.

The confession was sufficient to convict Greensmith, and she was executed, probably by hanging. Her husband was also put to death, even though he said he was not guilty of any wrongdoing. The court apparently thought that since he was the woman’s husband, he could not help but be involved in her evil activities.

A man and a woman also named by Cole were given the swimming test of being bound and thrown into water, a common test of a witch’s innocence or guilt. They neither floated nor sank but bobbed like buoys, half in and half out of the water. A witness protested that anyone with his or her hands bound to the feet would not sink (and therefore be guilty) and underwent the test himself. He was lowered gently into the water, not thrown in, as were the accused, and promptly sank, proving his innocence.

It is not known how many others named by Cole were tried and executed for witchcraft; some fled Hartford and were never seen again. Ann Cole eventually recovered and had no more fits. She resumed her life as “a serious Christian.” It is possible that her fits were a manifestation of latent psychic ability, a clairvoyance. It was a psychic window that opened suddenly, without encouragement, then closed as soon as the cases were laid to rest.

The Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology – Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – Copyright © 2009 by Visionary Living, Inc.

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