A Book of New England Legends
and Folk Lore

(Excerpts In Prose and Poetry)

By Samuel Adams Drake


Goodwife Eunice Cole, the witch of Hampton, was for a quarter of a century or more the terror of the people of that town, who believed her to have sold herself body and soul to the Devil. Whom we hate we also fear. The bare mention of her name would, it is said, hush crying children into silence, or hurry truant boys to school. Although she was repeatedly thrown into prison, she was yet unaccountably suffered to continue to live the life of an outcast, until death finally freed the community from their fears. In 1680 she was brought before the Quarter Sessions to answer to the charge of being a witch; and though there was “noe full proof” that she was a witch, yet for the satisfaction of the Court, which “vehemently suspects her so to be,” and probably too of the people, Major Waldron, the presiding magistrate, ordered her to be imprisoned, with “a lock kept on her leg,” at the pleasure of the Court. As she was first prosecuted as early as 1656, she must have been a very old woman when this harsh sentence was pronounced. For some years–how many it is not known–Goody Cole lived alone in a hovel which stood a little way back from the spot where the Academy now [1884] stands; and in this wretched hut, without a friend to soothe her last moments, she miserably died. Several days elapsed before her death became known; and even then, such was the fear her supposed powers had inspired, that it required a great deal of courage on the part of the inhabitants to force an entrance into her cabin, where she lay dead. When this had been done, the body was dragged outside, a hole hastily dug, into which it was tumbled, and then–conformably with current superstition–a stake was driven through it, in order to exorcise the baleful influence she was supposed to have possessed.

The ballad [The Wreck of Rivermouth] supposes her to have cast the spell of her malevolence over a merry company of villagers who sailed out of the river for a day of pleasure,–soon to be turned into mourning by the drowning of the whole party, the storm in which they perished being raised by Goody Cole.