This Story has been given to show how, in those Times, a tolerably severe Case of Hysterics could be magnified by those who had an exceedingly large Maggot of Credulity in their Brains. Groton is only thirty-three Miles from Boston, but the Story, in travelling even that short Distance, had no Doubt swollen into such Proportions, as to have but a faint Likeness to the Original.
The Condition of Elizabeth Knap was probably very similar to that of Elizabeth Barton (the Holy Maid of Kent), who, for her Pretensions to Inspiration, "Convulsions and strange Motions of Body," was put to Death in the Time of Henry the Eighth, 1584. (Pages 132, 133.)
John Willard, who was hung as a witch at Salem on August 19, 1692, had previously lived in Groton. The papers relating to his arrest and trial are still on file in the office of the clerk of the courts for Essex County at Salem, and give many particulars of the unfortunate affair. They are found in the first volume of "Witchcraft Papers," and numbered from 91 to 107 inclusive. The trial was held before a special term of the Court of Oyer and Terminer, of which the records are now lost.
A warrant for Willard's arrest was issued on May 10, 1692, addressed "To the Constable of Salem" and put in the hands of John Putnam, Jr., who made a return dated May 12, that he "went to the house of the Vsuall abode of John Willards and made search for him, and in seuerall other houses and places butt could not find him; and his relatione and friends then gaue mee accompt that to theire best knowledge he was ffleed."
Seven indictments were found against him, and the original copies of four of them are still in existence. These all charge him with practising his sorceries on various spinsters.
According to Robert Calef, in his "More Wonders of the Invisible World " (London, 1700): -
John Willard, had been imployed to fetch in several that were accused; but taking dissatisfaction from his being sent, to fetch up