In the Devil's Snare

by Mary Beth Norton
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According to In the Devil's Snare, how did Abigail Hobbs and Ann Putnam, Jr. connect the witchcraft crisis to the colonists' issues with the Wabanaki?

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The witchcraft accusations, the author indicates, increased in areas where incidents had occurred during the Indian wars. As Mary Beth Norton explains the early phase of the Salem witchcraft investigations, fourteen-year-old Abigail Hobbs was the second person to provide a substantial confession when Judge Hathorne interviewed her. Her earlier behavior and attitudes has rendered her suspect, as she often made jokes about the devil. Ann Putnam (whose mother was also Ann Putnam), another fourteen-year-old, was one of the girls who accused Abigail of pinching them.

Abigail confessed to hurting them, but she said she was acting as or for the devil. She admitted that she had contracted with the devil and that he had appeared to her as a “black man” wearing a hat. He had assumed her shape in order to torment the girls who were afflicted. She said that her earlier meeting had occurred about four years earlier in Maine. Norton points out that this was only a few months before the Wabanakis stepped up their attacks on European colonial settlements. The location of her more recent encounter was in the woods near Falmouth, Massachusetts, which was a town that the Wabanakis had frequently targeted.

Not only did the people hearing her confession associate Satan with the Native Americans, Norton indicates, but the next round of confessions over 36 hours “explicitly linked the witches’ and the Wabanakis’ assaults against New England” (81).

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