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Town  Portsmouth, NH
Date  1782
Author  Adapted from Charles Brewster

gloss There are many early stories offered by our ancestors as proof of their belief that evil spirits had superhuman powers over morals who fell under their influence . In the time of the American Revolution, when our local almshouse (poor house) was kept by a Mr. March, there was an inmate named Molly Bridget who had quite a reputation as a fortune teller. She was regarded as a witch in those times, and was blamed for many of the evils of the day.

In 1782, when Molly was at the almshouse, there was trouble in the pig sty. The pigs were said to be bewitched. The remedy was to cut off the tips of their tails and ears. This was done, but the "evil spirits" remained, so the tips of all the ears and tails were then burned. A number of fireplaces at the almshouse were kindled and the tips thrown in. Meanwhile Molly ran from room to room in a frenzied manner. Then she ran to her own room and, by the time the fires died out, she was dead.

This, of course, convinced the locals that Molly Bridget had indeed been a witch. In an early attempt at psychoanalysis, mid-19th century Portsmouth author Charles Brewster suggested that, perhaps, Molly believed herself to be a witch. Burning the items were designed to ward off witches. Wrapped in her own imagination, Molly may have become so fearful that she actually died. No one knows, but her sudden demise added fuel to local superstition.

SOURCE: Charles W. Brewster, "Rambles About Portsmouth." (Second Series), 1869, "Witchcraft in Portsmouth".. 344-345.

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