Elizabeth Hubbard
Written By Amy Nichols

Salem Witch Trials in History and Literature
An Undergraduate Course, University of Virginia
Spring Semester 2001

Elizabeth Hubbard was one of the original girls to begin the witchcraft accusations, and she continued to be a leading accuser throughout the summer and fall of 1692. Although little is known about Elizabeth, her name has stood out through history due to her violent fits under the affliction of the "witches" and her active role as an accuser.

Elizabeth, like most of the other afflicted girls, was detached from her parents and family of birth. She went to Salem to live with her great-aunt Rachel Hubbard Griggs and her husband, the town physician Dr. William Griggs who diagnosed the original girls as being under the affliction of an "Evil Hand". As a physician Dr. Griggs and his wife were viewed as a family of social standing. But Elizabeth was known as a servant to the household and not as an adopted daughter.

In 1692 Elizabeth was around 17 years old, making her one of the oldest of the original set of afflicted girls. Along with Elizabeth Parris, Abby Williams and Anne Putnam, Elizabeth started the accusations with claims of being tortured by specters of certain members of the community. The reasons behind the start of the accusations are somewhat unclear. There are many theories of why the young girls accused people of witchcraft ranging from the hysteria to the social and economic set up of the village of the time. In The Devil in the Shape of a Woman, Carol Karlsen researched some of the accusing girls and suggests that they may have behaved as they did due to the fact that many of them felt that their future was uncertain. As orphans, society looked at them in a different light. Most of the girls had no monetary or emotional support from direct family members. As Karlsen states, that the frontier wars, "had left their father's estates considerably diminished, if not virtually destroyed. Little if anything remained for their dowries. With few men interested in women without dowries, the marriage prospects of these women, and thus their long-term material well being, looked especially grim (227)". Elizabeth Hubbard, like most of the other accusing girls, was a servant with very dismal if any prospects for the future. Karlsen goes on to suggest the afflicted were able to use their dramatic possession performances to "focus the communities' concern on their difficulties". This was the one situation in which Elizabeth Hubbard and the others accusing girls had the respect and attention of the community. Karlsen thinks that this was the girls way of dealing with the oppression they felt as orphans within Puritan society (226-230). We can never know exactly why Elizabeth Hubbard accused so many people of witchcraft but from the documents we can read some of her testimony and draw conclusions about the kind of girl she was.

By the end of the trial Elizabeth Hubbard had testified against twenty-nine people, seventeen of whom were arrested, thirteen of those were hanged and two died in jail. As a strong force behind the trials, she was able to manipulate both people and the court into believing her. One way she and the other girls did this was through their outrageous fits in the courtroom. The fits, they would claim, were brought on by the accused. Elizabeth was especially known for her trances. She spent the whole of Elizabeth Procter's trial in a deep trance and was unable to speak. The original documents state that Elizabeth testified that in April 1692 "I saw the Apperishtion of Elizabeth procktor the wife of john procktor sen'r and she immediately tortor me most greviously all most redy to choak me to death....and so she continewed afflecting of me by times till the day of hir examination being the IIth of April and then also I was tortured most greviously during the time of hir examination I could not spake a word and also severall times sence the Apperishtion of Elizabeth procktor has tortured me most greviously by biting pinching and allmost choaking me to death urging me dreadfully to writ in hir [devil's] book" (Salem Witchcraft Papers). At the trials in which she was able to speak, she usually charged the accused with pretty much the same thing. An example is the case of Sarah Good. She testified "I saw the apprehension of Sarah Good who did most greviously afflect me by pinching and pricking me and so she continuewed and then she did also most greviously afflecct and tortor me also during the time of her examination and also severall times sence hath afflected me and urged me to writ in her book." This type of spectral accusation was typical of all the girls. Elizabeth's used it against the twenty-nine people.

However, some witnesses came forward and testified against the character of aggressive Elizabeth. She was not charged as a witch but James Kettle and Clement Coldum both took the stand and attempted to show that Elizabeth was religiously deviant. Coldum stated that one night when he was taking Elizabeth home form church on his horse "she desired me to ride faster, I asked why; she said the woods were full of Devils, & said ther & there they be, but I could se none; then I put on my horse, & after I had rid a while, she told me I might ride softer, for we had out rid them. I asked her is she was not afraid of the Devil, she answered me no, she could discourse with the Devil as well as with me, & further saith not; this I am ready to testifie on Oath if called thereto, as witness my hand." Elizabeth was a girl with a vivid and powerful imagination. However, the fact that she was not afraid to speak about her relationship with devil is also intriguing since by May 29th (the date Coldum claimed the event took place) she had already begun to help to condemn people for committing witchcraft and conspiring with the Devil. Another member of the village, James Kettle, stated that Elizabeth "speack severall untruths in denying the sabath day and saying she had not ben to [church] meeting that day but had only bean up to James houltons this I can testifie to if called: as witnes my hand." He seems to be trying to infer that Elizabeth may not be as pious as others had seen her. However, statements such as this did not discredit Elizabeth as a truthful witness to the court. She continued throughout the entire trials to be a leading accuser.

The combination of a lonely upbringing in which there was little hope for a future and Elizabeth's vivid imagination and fascination with the devil contributed to her actions which lead to the unjustified executions of many. Nothing is known of what happened to Elizabeth Hubbard after the trials were over.


Paul Boyer & Steven Nissenbaum, eds., Salem Witchcraft Papers, 1977.

Karlsen, Carol. The Devil in the Shape of a Woman, 1998