Bridget Moore was plain. There was nothing about her looks that might be called beautiful at all. She was a wonderful person, a good mother and up until six months ago, a dutiful wife. Her husband Nathaniel succumbed to smallpox, leaving her with seven children and twenty acres of good farmland.
Most of the people in the small town of Salem were helpful, but there were the schemers as well. One in particular, Ezra Barstow, needed the twenty acres of her farm to expand his own growing plantation. Her plot would bring in another small fortune with corn to fill the bellies of the people in Boston, New York and perhaps even Philadelphia. The bothersome trifle in his plan was the fact that Bridget had no desire to sell.
The time was February, 1692. Ezra was about to get help in taking Bridget’s farm in a way he could never imagine. Not far from him, in Salem Village, four young girls were set to create a series of events that would bring Ezra his prize and shame to the new country they lived in. Three women were arrested and charged with a singular crime.
They were accused of tormenting the girls, causing them to have outbursts of demonic influence. Within one month, four more women were arrested. Well, three women and the four-year old daughter of one of the other women. Ezra could see the hysteria rising among his fellow townsfolk and a sinister plan began to form in his head. While Ezra saw hysteria, Bridget woke one night to see a bonfire off in the distance.
In the village, Ezra began telling people about a deal he struck with Nathaniel about buying his farm. Unfortunately, the poor man became ill before it went past the handshake stage. He claimed to have spoken to Mrs. Moore, but plainly the distraught widow was not yet ready for her husband’s last memory to be sold out from under her. All around him, as time passed, the hysteria grew. By the end of April, twenty-seven people stood accused of the crime.
The time was ripe for Barstow to act.
He reached out to his old friend Jonathan Corwin, one of the local magistrates. He led him into the woods that bordered his plantation and the Moore farm. There, he showed Corwin a clearing where a bonfire clearly burned. The ground was littered with articles of women’s clothing, several packets containing bits of cloth, bones and feathers and several slaughtered chickens.
“I saw it with my own eyes Jonathan,” said Ezra. “It was the widow Moore and her two eldest daughters. They were dancing naked and calling upon Satan to bring harm to me and my family. They killed the hens you see here and drew strange symbols on their bodies with the blood. Without our strong love for God, we would be dead by now.”
Three nights later, Bridget sat in the lamp glow of her bedroom. She sat the bible she was reading from down and lifted her hairbrush. Her brush lovingly caressed the length of blond hair she wore, a gift from her Swedish ancestors. She paused, looking at her face. Her cheekbones were high and her skin fair. Her eyes were clear and her teeth strong, as were her bones. The long fingers that held the brush were elegant, the nails clear and manicured. She was plain but not so much that men would not be interested in her.
She thought that perhaps she would go into town on the next day. It had been nine months since Nathaniel died. It was time to let men see her again. Behind her, a soft rapping on her front door alerted her to callers. While she wondered who could be calling at this time, the gentle sound said nothing about danger to her. It would be the last bit of gentleness in her life. On the other side of the door, twelve men stood with torches and a warrant for her arrest.
“You are under arrest Bridget Moore,” said the gruff sheriff as he grabbed her arm. “And your daughters Amanda and Sarah as well.”
When another man roughly pushed past her, the poor woman did what any other mother would do to protect her children. She broke her grip and grabbed the man, desperate to stop him. In exchange for doing her duty, she felt a heavy club strike her head. Moments later, after the black swirl of unconsciousness claimed her, her hooded and bound body was lifted into a waiting wagon. Next to her sat the crying girls, caught between worrying for their mother and their own problems now. A second wagon took the remaining children to the Barstow Plantation. As a sign of his “godliness”, Ezra offered to take them in with him in exchange for the Governor’s Council recognizing his claim to the Moore farm should Bridget be guilty of the charges.
In the town’s jail, a groggy Bridget was pushed roughly into her cell. She opened her mouth to protest but a heavy slap across the cheek stopped the sound before it began.
“Right then,” said the man who slapped her. “Where’s your mark witch?”
“What mark?” she sobbed. “I don’t know what you mean! Why are you doing this? Where are my daughters?”
The man nodded to the other two men in the cell. They smiled cruelly as they reached for her, grabbing her and roughly tearing her sleeping gown away. The more she protested and tried to cover her naked body, the rougher they handled her. Their hands left deep bruises on her arms and legs as they pulled and twisted her until the other man found what he was looking for.
There, on the inside of her left thigh, a birthmark sat. It was an innocuous, small irregularity formed by a gathering of pigment cells. To the man who saw it, it was an open volume that spoke of clandestine meetings that led to a pact with the devil. It told the sheriff and his men that Ezra Barstow was truthful in relaying what he saw. Somewhere in the jail, the screams of her daughters echoed throughout the building.
Once more, Bridget was on her feet and attacking the men, trying to find a way out to help her children. One of the men grabbed a handful of hair and yanked her back. When she fell to the ground, he still held the locks, now with bloodied pieces of scalp still attached. The other lifted her and smiled as he allowed a knotted fist to crash into her face, breaking her cheekbone and cracking her eye socket.
Two more hard punches saw several of her teeth broken or knocked out while her cut lips immediately swelled. Blood ran from her broken nose while bruises sprang to life across her face. On her head, small patches of torn skin cascaded blood down through her hair.
“Confess to your wicked deeds woman!” shouted the man.
“God will save me,” she mumbled. “You’re a pig! God will…”
“BLASPHEMY!” yelled the sheriff.
Another hard punch, this time to her midsection, closed her mouth again. She slumped to the floor while the man admonished her to confess again. When she offered no words, heavy boots slammed down on her hand breaking three of her fingers. She screamed in pain as she pulled her hand up and saw the grotesque way those fingers twisted.
The men laughed as they left her cell. They would give her time to think about her situation. When they were done, she would confess. When she did, they would bring her to the magister for her sentencing. Outside, word was spreading of her arrest as the townsfolk woke. Just as with the others, many could not believe that the soft-spoken woman was a witch.
In the jail, away from the eyes of the public, Bridget’s beatings continued. Her attackers continued beating her body now, keeping her in a state of perpetual nausea. Her ribs were broken and maybe even her spleen ruptured. More fingers were broken and her face began taking on the hues of green from her nausea tinged with deep violet bruising around her eyes and cheeks, giving her a sullen, vicious look. Her broken nose swelled making it look twice its normal size as did much of her face.
Every move brought a grimace of pain, but still Bridget held to her belief. She was no witch and certainly no agent of Satan. It was then that they brought her daughters to her. They were naked as she was, but not yet beaten.
“If you won’t confess,” said the jailer, “then one of them must be the witch. Trust me lass, we’ll find who it is and free ya from her spell.”
Her heart broke as he spoke. She knew what he was implying and she knew there was just one way to save the two girls.
“No!” she said weakly. “I’m the witch! I’ll confess it if you let them go!”
The broad smile that crossed his face told her the deal had been accepted. He had the girls placed back in their cells in case Bridget failed to follow through in her confession to the magister. He had the wagon called for and Bridget dressed in rags.
As she was led into the blinding rays of the sun and put in the wagon, she knew the ordeal would soon be done. In just three days, they turned her fair complexion into the green-hued, savage look of a madwoman. They bent and twisted her body until it was unable to stand on its own. She held on to the bars of the wagon with the gnarled, broken fingers causing her face to contort exposing the broken teeth.
Her hair was matted with blood and dangled like the roots of a tree across her face. Her stooped, grotesque look shocked the neighbors that only three mornings ago said the jailers were wrong in arresting her. Now they proudly displayed her as a “witch that now shows her true guise”. They purposely took every bump and hole on their short trip to the magister so that all would see the horror of their captured witch.
The magister read the charges and the eye witness report of Ezra. He was shown the witch mark.
“I ask you now Bridget Moore,” he said sternly, “before God, are you a witch?”
Her eyes looked to the ground as she mumbled a “yes” bringing a loud gasp from those in the room with her.
“Will you repent?” asked the magister.
She shook her head no, bringing him to accepted her confession. Despite her cooperation, her daughters were taken away and three days later, she was taken to the gallows and hung for her crime. Her land was granted to Ezra Barlow who kept her children as indentured servants.
The passing time soon brought the nefarious deeds in Salem Village and the surrounding areas to a halt. Salem saw twenty-five people dead as a result of their hysteria, with Bridget Moore being the lone “forgotten victim”.
Her children were sequestered from the events and kept from the truth so long that they too forgot what happened. Amanda and Sarah were sent away and never heard from again. Everything about Bridget Moore was lost to the winds of time.
And yet her legacy remained however.
When children asked what a witch looked like, even long after the horrors of that time passed, it was Bridget that their parents and grandparents described. Her description was passed down from generation to generation. In the 1800’s, one such description reached the ears of an enterprising young artist. He drew a caricature of Bridget for the greeting card company he worked for. Even today, when people hang Halloween decorations, the sad face of Bridget Moore is there. She has become the iconic Halloween witch, resplendent with her green skin and dark matted hair. Broken and missing teeth show between her unproportioned nose and chin. She flies across the moon with gnarled, broken hands keeping her bent, twisted body on her broom.
Now, when you see this Halloween witch, remember to remember the pain and suffering it took to change a normal woman into the iconic witch and be sure to call her by her proper name; she is Bridget Moore of Massachusetts.
From the Author
Ed Ireland is a very proud product of the streets of South Philadelphia. He draws on his memories of people, places and events from his life there as well as the rest of the world he has known.
His list of home territories includes Pennsylvania, Nevada, Texas, California, Colorado, New Jersey New York, North Carolina and currently, Florida. He has been a sometimes frequent visitor of Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Arizona, and Maryland. Every one of these locations has provided him with people and places that inspire his work. Countless memories from them, some good and some bad, fuel his passion for building people, not just characters in his tales.
Confucius once said. “Wherever you go, go with all your heart”. It has become his mantra and an ideology he embraces fully. His age has not diminished his urge for wandering, although he promises his move to Miami, Fl is the last. He claims he will settle down for good in Florida. Maybe the spirit of Hemingway is calling…
Perhaps the people are drawing him. He has always been a people-person for the wealth of opportunity they provide. He says that “a good variety of people in one’s life is like a rich tapestry of inspiration to a writer. People come equipped with personalities, quirks and tales that keep writers in material for a lifetime.”
Ed was born in 1954 in Philadelphia. He is a doting father of two and is fiercely loyal to the Philadelphia Eagles, The Beatles and classic horror films. He enjoys time in the kitchen as of late, saying that cooking is fun for him now that he understands that it too, is an art. He enjoys photography, playing in Photoshop and he freely admits to his vice of being addicted to World of Warcraft. He is also a huge Walking Dead fan. His passion is animal rights and he campaigns to end the persecution of wolves. His religious and political views are private; nevertheless, they make themselves known throughout his work.
So, that is the author, for all it’s worth. He explains that his sarcasm is described as epic, but also that he is a caring and good man. He says that he’s not sure of that. He says this on the subject…
“I think a good man treats others well no matter what. I treat others as I want them to treat me, but if they don’t then I treat them as they treat me. I prefer to think of myself as a just man. Nevertheless, when we reach our end, what we think of ourselves is worthless. In the end all that matters is what our judges, whoever or whatever they may be think of us. In the meantime, I’ll live life the way I enjoy, I’ll write what I enjoy and I’ll be a smartass for as long as I like.”
Where To Find Ed Ireland
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