10 books like Witchcraft in Old and New England

By George Lyman Kittredge,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Witchcraft in Old and New England. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Entertaining Satan

By John Putnam Demos,

Book cover of Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England

While researching and writing My Enemy’s Tears, I found Entertaining Satan on the shelves of a bookstore in New York City. Sure enough, there was a chapter on Mary Bliss Parsons titled Hard Thoughts and Jealousies. A prominent historian studied my 8th great-grandmother’s case and wrote about it. Local gossip was the author’s first subject for exploration—right on, because gossip is what led to Mary’s imprisonment and trial. Demos explores the lives of many accused of witchcraft and the culture that accused them. Anyone interested in the history of women’s lives and the reasons behind the centuries-long belief in witchcraft will love this book.

Entertaining Satan

By John Putnam Demos,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Entertaining Satan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the first edition of the Bancroft Prize-winning Entertaining Satan, John Putnam Demos presented an entirely new perspective on American witchcraft. By investigating the surviving historical documents of over a hundred actual witchcraft cases, he vividly recreated the world of New England during the witchcraft trials and brought to light fascinating information on the role of witchcraft in early American culture. Now Demos has revisited his original work
and updated it to illustrate why these early Americans' strange views on witchcraft still matter to us today. He provides a new preface that puts forth a broader overview of witchcraft and…


Witchcraft, Magic, and Religion in Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts

By Richard Weisman,

Book cover of Witchcraft, Magic, and Religion in Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts

This is another sociologically inflected study, which broadens the context of belief behind witchcraft accusations. Like all the best work of the last forty years, it helps us to grasp the internal logic of witch-beliefs in the minds of intelligent and actually very sophisticated people, rather than falling back on the old chestnuts of hysteria, prejudice and the madness of crowds.

Weisman constantly reminds us that a supposed superstitious consensus (in contrast to the sceptical consensus of the modern world) simply didn’t exist. So much of the furious energy of thinking about witches was generated by disagreement and doubt. We’re also presented with conflicting and complementary opinions about witches, both from below in the neighbourhood, and from above among ministers and magistrates. In the end, as Weisman points out, however enduring beliefs about witchcraft may have been, as a crime it could not survive condemnation of the proofs, including so-called…

Witchcraft, Magic, and Religion in Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts

By Richard Weisman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Witchcraft, Magic, and Religion in Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Salem witchcraft persecutions are one of the most well-known events in history, but there is more to the story. In this book, Weisman explores the social, political, and religious implications of witchcraft. He ventures outside of the usual studies of the Salem trials to provide a comprehensive understanding of 17th-century Massachusetts witchcraft as a whole. In the first section, an attempt is made to explicate the logic and meaning of the two major interpretive frameworks of witchcraft in terms of which the category was understood by inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay. The second and third sections of this study deal…


The Devil in the Shape of a Woman

By Carol F Karlsen,

Book cover of The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England

A ground-breaking work, which demonstrates how the theoretical witch was embodied by real women, and how a seemingly bizarre fantasy was plausible in among the shapes and rhythms of daily life. This influential study is as much a social, economic and cultural history of seventeenth-century New England as it is strictly speaking a history of witchcraft – indeed, Karlsen demonstrates clearly that the latter cannot be assimilated with an appreciation of the former. Context is everything, and without it we just fall back on stereotypes and tired assumptions.

Witches and neighbours were two-sides of the same coin, the former a projection of the hostile emotions of the latter, and, as Karlsen explains, this fraught relationship was fundamentally gendered. To appreciate how some people were accused of witchcraft, we need first to explore relationships between people in the community, including relations between women. Honour, reputation, age, status and so on, were…

The Devil in the Shape of a Woman

By Carol F Karlsen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Devil in the Shape of a Woman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Confessing to "familiarity with the devils," Mary Johnson, a servant, was executed by Connecticut officials in 1648. A wealthy Boston widow, Ann Hibbens was hanged in 1656 for casting spells on her neighbors. The case of Ann Cole, who was "taken with very strange Fits," fueled an outbreak of witchcraft accusations in Hartford a generation before the notorious events at Salem.

More than three hundred years later, the question "Why?" still haunts us. Why were these and other women likely witches-vulnerable to accusations of witchcraft and possession? Carol F. Karlsen reveals the social construction of witchcraft in seventeenth-century New England…


In the Devil's Snare

By Mary Beth Norton,

Book cover of In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692

A fascinating exploration of the Salem witch trials that illustrates how the New England girls whose accusations lead to the wrongful execution of thirteen innocent women and imprisonment of some two hundred more were victims of war trauma in the Maine woods. During the so-called King Phillip’s War, Puritan immigrants who seized land as part of their Massachusetts Bay Colony Charter waged horrific, brutal battles with Native Americans defending their land from coveters and invaders. Their wives and children were there to witness and suffer it. This book was a key to my greater understanding of the land seizure and other events that led to and fueled the Salem Witch trials. 

In the Devil's Snare

By Mary Beth Norton,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked In the Devil's Snare as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Award-winning historian Mary Beth Norton reexamines the Salem witch trials in thisstartlingly original, meticulously researched, and utterly riveting study.

In 1692 the people of Massachusetts were living in fear, and not solely of satanic afflictions. Horrifyingly violent Indian attacks had all but emptied the northern frontier of settlers, and many traumatized refugees—including the main accusers of witches—had fled to communities like Salem. Meanwhile the colony’s leaders, defensive about their own failure to protect the frontier, pondered how God’s people could be suffering at the hands of savages. Struck by the similarities between what the refugees had witnessed and what the…


The Witch of Blackbird Pond

By Elizabeth George Speare,

Book cover of The Witch of Blackbird Pond

My last recommendation veers from adult fiction into children’s. The Witch of Blackbird Pond, a Newbery Award-winning novel set in early colonial America, is a personal favorite and, with regards to its depiction of Puritanism, surprisingly nuanced. After the loss of her grandfather, Kit Tyler sails from Barbados to Connecticut to live with her aunt and quickly finds herself an object of suspicion. The love story between Kit and sailor Nat Eaton is intrinsic to the main story, with Nat acting as a bridge between Kit’s old life and her new one, helping her understand New Englanders’ unfamiliar beliefs and passion for political and religious freedom.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

By Elizabeth George Speare,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Witch of Blackbird Pond as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this Newbery Medal-winning novel, a girl faces prejudice and accusations of witchcraft in seventeenth-century Connecticut. A classic of historical fiction that continues to resonate across the generations.

Sixteen-year-old Kit Tyler is marked by suspicion and disapproval from the moment she arrives on the unfamiliar shores of colonial Connecticut in 1687. Alone and desperate, she has been forced to leave her beloved home on the island of Barbados and join a family she has never met.

Torn between her quest for belonging and her desire to be true to herself, Kit struggles to survive in a hostile place. Just when…


Jane-Emily

By Patricia Clapp,

Book cover of Jane-Emily: And Witches' Children

I’m cheating a little here to call this a spooky romance, but in this case, it was the book that made me fall in love with ghost stories! I still remember this book sweeping the class in fifth grade, all of us scared out of our wits and seeing the evil Emily under every desk and in every mirror. Little did we realize that, by all reading the book at the same time and talking about it nonstop, we were also participating in our very first book club. Elementary school is the magic age to hook readers, and Jane-Emily did the trick.

Jane-Emily

By Patricia Clapp,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jane-Emily as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Emily was a selfish, willful, hateful child who died before her thirteenth birthday. But that was a long time ago.

Jane is nine years old and an orphan when she and her young Aunt Louisa come to spend the summer at Jane's grandmother's house, a large, mysterious mansion in Massachusetts. Then one day . . . Jane stares into a reflecting ball in the garden—and the face that looks back at her is not her own.

Many years earlier, a child of rage and malevolence lived in this place. And she never left. Now Emily has dark plans for little…


Death in Salem

By Diane E. Foulds,

Book cover of Death in Salem: The Private Lives Behind the 1692 Witch Hunt

Diane Foulds, a descendant of one of the victims condemned to death during the Salem Witch Trials, thoroughly researched many of the people involved in the events that led to the execution of 19 innocent victims. I am not a descendant, but these events have fascinated me since childhood, because they were so outlandish and led to such unnecessary tragedy. In this book you will learn about not only the victims, but the ‘afflicted’ young girls whose wild, unfounded accusations and theatrics during the trials convinced the judges that many people were witches. It is easy to connect with each individual, as the book centers on them, to understand why the entire episode was character-driven. It is even easier to sympathize with the victims and appreciate how they suffered. 

Death in Salem

By Diane E. Foulds,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Death in Salem as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Salem witchcraft will always have a magnetic pull on the American psyche. During the 1692 witch trials, more than 150 people were arrested. An estimated 25 million Americans-including author Diane Foulds-are descended from the twenty individuals executed. What happened to our ancestors? Death in Salem is the first book to take a clear-eyed look at this complex time, by examining the lives of the witch trial participants from a personal perspective. Massachusetts settlers led difficult lives; every player in the Salem drama endured hardships barely imaginable today. Mercy Short, one of the "bewitched" girls, watched as Indians butchered her parents;…


Ghosts of the Northeast

By David J. Pitkin,

Book cover of Ghosts of the Northeast

Pitkin writes in a very accessible style. What drew me into this book, in particular, is that he starts the book off with a personal experience. He writes of the incident that turned him from a skeptic into a believer in the paranormal. Intriguing stuff, to be sure ... but this revelation also changed his attitude towards teaching, making him more tolerant of other cultures, and more open to sharing different worldviews with his students. Whereas prior to this experience, he had been dismissive of what he saw as "primitive" beliefs (regarding African belief in witchcraft and the afterlife), he was now more willing to explore alternative belief systems with his students.

Ghosts of the Northeast

By David J. Pitkin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ghosts of the Northeast as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book by Pitkin, David J.


Narratives Of The Witchcraft Cases, 1648-1706

By George Lincoln Burr,

Book cover of Narratives Of The Witchcraft Cases, 1648-1706

This collection of contemporary 17th century works covering (mostly New England) witch-related cases before, during and after the 1692 trials was one of the earliest sources I discovered at my local public library back in the early 1960s. It provides a window into the varying reactions people had to the uncanny and what they did about it.

Narratives Of The Witchcraft Cases, 1648-1706

By George Lincoln Burr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Narratives Of The Witchcraft Cases, 1648-1706 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book has been considered by academicians and scholars of great significance and value to literature. This forms a part of the knowledge base for future generations. So that the book is never forgotten we have represented this book in a print format as the same form as it was originally first published. Hence any marks or annotations seen are left intentionally to preserve its true nature.


Witchcraft at Salem

By Chadwick Hansen,

Book cover of Witchcraft at Salem

While I do not agree with all of the author’s conclusions, this book showed me the prevalence of folk-charms in the culture, as well as the psychological reactions humans have to stress that could explain some of what happened with the “bewitched.”

Witchcraft at Salem

By Chadwick Hansen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Witchcraft at Salem as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Trial documents and contemporary narratives are used in this discussion of the practice of witchcraft in seventeenth-century New England.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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