The Devil of Great Island

The Devil of Great Island


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In 1682, ten years before the infamous Salem witch trials, the town of Great Island, New Hampshire, was plagued by mysterious events: strange, demonic noises; unexplainable movement of objects; and hundreds of stones that rained upon a local tavern and appeared at random inside its walls. Town residents blamed what they called “Lithobolia” or “the stone-throwing devil.” In this lively account, Emerson Baker shows how witchcraft hysteria overtook one town and spawned copycat incidents elsewhere in New England, prefiguring the horrors of Salem. In the process, he illuminates a cross-section of colonial society and overturns many popular assumptions about witchcraft in the seventeenth century.

Emerson W. Baker teaches history at Salem State College in Salem, Massachusetts. He lives in York, Maine.

“Does a fine job of bringing to life a little-known aspect of the tumultuous Puritan era.” —Kirkus Reviews“Enthralling . . . Baker’s welcome account throws a strong light on an American witchcraft episode that has not hitherto received the attention it clearly deserves.” —The Historian“With deft insights, Tad Baker illuminates a supernatural mystery from seventeenth-century New England. Thoroughly researched and clearly written, The Devil of Great Island leaves no stone unturned, revealing a popular culture of marvels and wonders. And it offers a gripping tale well told.” —Alan Taylor, author of American Colonies

“Thoroughly fascinating and fascinatingly thorough, Baker’s lively narrative of a witchcraft episode in early New Hampshire exposes the many reasons why a ‘stone-throwing devil’ attacked George Walton and his tavern. In learning about life on Great Island, at the mouth of the Piscataqua River, readers also learn much about a part of New England that does not fit our standard Puritan stereotypes and thus about a diverse aspect of our collective past that will now become better known.” —Mary Beth Norton, author of In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692

“The witch trials of seventeenth-century New England have been extensively worked over by historians, and yet, as this fascinating book shows, there are new insights to be gained by moving the focus beyond Massachusetts and the Puritans. In this meticulously researched case study, Emerson W. Baker not only makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of supernatural beliefs in colonial North America, but also weaves an enjoyable and accessible story that leads the reader up to the events at Salem.” —Dr. Owen Davies, author of Popular Magic: Cunning-Folk in English History

“Emerson Baker combines his talents as historian of early New England and historical archaeologist to untangle the web of personal conflicts, property disputes, and tensions political and religious that underlay the events on Great Island. The Devil of Great Island will surely take its place among the must-read books on witchcraft in seventeenth-century New England.” —James Leamon, author of Revolution Downeast: The War for American Independence in Maine

“In Baker’s expert hands, this long ignored witchcraft episode yields important insight into the bizarre imagination and rich social diversity of late 17th century northern New England. Here we encounter the contrasting beliefs of Quakers, Puritans, Baptists, Antinomians, and Godless fishermen as well as the clashing political interests of Native Americans, Europeans, Puritans, and Royalists. This masterful narrative of religious and social pluralism in early New England helps to refocus our vision of the foundations of America and also puts other New England witchcraft events into useful perspective.” —Benjamin C. Ray, Director, Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive, University of Virginia

“Emerson W. Baker tells a fascinating story essential to an appreciation and understanding of stone throwing by the Devil throughout the summer of 1682 in Great Island, New Hampshire…He successfully shows that there was contact between some of those involved in or tangential to this 1682 incident and to the more famous witchcraft trials in Salem in 1692…Baker’s welcome account throws a strong light on an American witchcraft episode that has not hitherto received the attention it clearly deserves.” —P.G. Maxwell-Stuart, The Historian

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Weight 1 oz
Dimensions 1 × 6 × 8 cm