PURITAN SUPERSTITION CONFRONTS AN INDOMITABLE WILL in this richly researched, groundbreaking biography of Goodwife Unise Cole, the woman known as the Witch of Hampton. Unise Cole’s story has great appeal for anyone interested in the history and mystery of the New England witchcraft persecutions and their aftermath. Beginning with her death in 1680, Cole was treated as little more than a stock witchcraft character, a ghostly apparition, a vile old hag with a stake driven through her heart–anything but a flesh and blood woman brimming with needs and desires. Employing a chronological narrative interspersed with speculative accounts, Marked lays a scholarly foundation for the understanding of her motivations, behaviors, and interactions with others.
“It must be so, it shall be so, do what you will.” So muttered Goodwife Unise Cole to her neighbor Abraham Drake as he pondered his mysteriously deceased livestock. The deaths were blamed on her familiarity with the Devil, one of many similiar accusations lodged against her– she bewitched crops; shape-shifted into a dog, a cat, an eagle; had conversations with the Devil; enticed young children; and moved at supernatural speed. Worse, she was blamed for the deaths of a man as he lay helpless in his bed and a child who had been diabolically transformed into an ‘ape.’
Unise Cole’s childlessness, low social status, and tempestuous spirit marked her for persecution as a witch in the puritan town of Hampton, where she endured three decades of accusations, whippings, court trials, and imprisonment, all in an attempt to banish her from the town.
When she was whipped, witch-marks were found on her body and she was put on trial for witchcraft. While in prison she had been cruelly watched for imps. With a vile and reckless tongue she spoke her mind whenever she felt wronged–when the constable served a warrant, when Philbrick stole her salt grass, when Drake killed her cow, when the selectmen refused to give her wood and food, when townspeople testified against her in court.
After her death in 1680 the legend of her life was born, and it grew more fantastic over time. The very mention of her name sent children into paroxysms of fear–she became a terrifying hag, casting spells in a hut beside a magic well near the seashore. When she died the townspeople buried her and drove a stake through her heart. Her unhappy ghost, seen walking the streets of old Hampton, is still reputed to haunt the house that is now the Tuck Museum.
In 1937 the Goody Cole Society was formed, part publicity stunt and part honest attempt to atone for the terrible wrongs of their Puritan forefathers. During the town’s 300th anniversary celebration, Unise was vindicated and restored to her rightful place as an early citizen of Hampton.
In her third non-fiction book about the people and events in the small seacoast town of Hampton, New Hampshire, Cheryl Lassiter shares her passion for detailed historical research to tell the definitive, true story of the woman known as The Witch of Hampton.
—I’m really impressed with both your scholarship and your writing, which is clear and also–rare in this kind of book–entertaining. I loved knowing that Thomas Bradbury of Salisbury had “attractive handwriting” and that Robert and Susanna Smith had an “enchanted oven.” I want you to get famous over this well-written book, Cheryl. Keep writing! – Judge, 22nd Annual Writer’s Digest Book Awards
—Totally engrossing and wonderfully written. – Amelia on Goodreads.
—I truly think this is the most researched tale I have ever read. I loved the historical background, although my first impression was that it was going to be a dry read. I was so very wrong. All the accounts are of value in the telling of Unise Cole sad life. Cheryl Lassiter will amaze you, as she did me with situations and circumstance without opinion. You will decide for yourself whether or not Unise was responsible for any or all of the accusers charges. (At times, I really hoped she was the cause of their misfortune.) – doseofbella on Goodreads.
—I want to thank you for your wonderful work putting together “The Mark of Goody Cole” and “A Meet and Suitable Person.” What a true pleasure to read, and you have my most sincere respect. I love the way you navigate the historical story while you keep and command the mystery and excitement of its unfolding. Thank you! – Jonathan, San Antonio, Texas in an email to the author
“To give readers a complete understanding of Cole’s world, Lassiter provides exhaustive, impressively sourced records of each neighbor and town tragedy, and each instance of persecution of local Quakers and clashes with Native Americans….early America enthusiasts will jump at the chance to read more about pre-Salem witchcraft trials.”
—An excellent story told in wonderful detail, this book beautifully captures life in the 1600s. Goody Cole is at times portrayed as a sympathetic character; she was also her own worst enemy. Painstakingly researched, Cheryl Lassiter also weaves in a contemporary view of the events that surrounded the enigmatic Goody Cole. A treat for anyone who wants insight into the witch mania of early colonial days. – Mike on Goodreads