The evening before she died they were taken off as usual ; but this time, instead of being made up in the customary way, they were folded with great care, and laid in a chest upstairs, where they were only found after a great deal of searching.
We now reach the account of the witchcraft proper, and the consequent trial. In or about the 27th of February 1711, a girl about eighteen years of age, Miss Mary Dunbar, whom Dr. Tisdall describes as " having an open and innocent countenance, and being a very intelligent young person," came to stay with Mrs. Haltridge, junior, to keep her company after her mother-in-law's death. A rumour was afloat that the latter had been bewitched into her grave, and this could not fail to have its effect on Miss Dunbar. Accordingly on the night of her arrival her troubles began. When she retired to her bedroom, accompanied by another girl, they were surprised to find that a new mantle and some other wearing apparel had been taken out of a trunk and scattered through the house. Going to look for the missing articles, they found lying on the parlour floor an apron which two days before had been locked up in another apartment. This apron, when they found it, was rolled up tight, and tied fast with a string of its own material, which had upon it five strange knots1 (Tisdall2 says nine). These she proceeded to unloose, and having done so, she found a flannel cap, which had belonged to old Mrs. Haltridge, wrapped up in the middle of the apron. When she saw this she was frightened, and threw both cap and apron to young Mrs. Haltridge, who also was alarmed, thinking that the mysterious knots boded evil to some inmate of the house. That evening Miss Dunbar was seized with a most violent fit, and, recovering, cried out that a knife was run through her thigh, and that she was most grievously afflicted by three women, whom she described particularly, but did not then give any account of their names. About midnight she was seized with a second fit ; when she saw in her vision seven or eight women who conversed together, and in their conversation called each other by their names. When she came out of her fit she gave their names as Janet Liston, Elizabeth Cellor, Kate M'Calmont, Janet Carson, Janet Mean, Latimer, and one whom they termed Mrs. Ann. She gave so minute a description of them that several of them were guessed at, and sent from different parts of the district to the "Afflicted," as Dr. Tisdall terms her, whom she distinguished from many other women that were brought with them. " She was constantly more afflicted as they approached the house ; particularly there was one Latimer, who had been sent from Carrigfergus privately by Mr. Adair, the dissenting teacher ; who, when she came to the house where the Afflicted was, viz. in Island Magee, none of them suspected her, but the Afflicted fell into a fit as she came near the house, and recovering when the woman was in the chamber the first words she said were, O Latimer, Latimer (which was her name), and her description agreed most exactly to the person. After this manner were all the rest discovered ; and at one time she singled out one of her tormentors amongst thirty whom they brought in to see if they could deceive her either in the name or description of the accused person. All this was sworn to by persons that were present, as having heard it from the Afflicted as she recovered from her several fits".
1 A man in the Orkneys was ruined by nine knots tied in a blue thread (Dalyell's Darker Superstitions of Scotland).
2 The Rev. Dr. Tisdall, who has given such a full account of the trial, was Vicar of Belfast. For his attitude towards the Presbyterians, see Witherow's Memorials of Presbyterianism in Ireland, pp. 118, 159. Yet his narrative of the trial is not biassed, for all his statements can be borne out by other evidence.
Between the 3rd and the 24th of March depositions relative to various aspects of the case were sworn to by several people, and the Mayor of Carrigfergus issued a warrant for the arrest of all suspected persons. Seven women were arrested ; their names were :
Janet Mean, of Braid Island. Jane Latimer, of Irish quarter, Carrigfergus.
Margaret Mitchell, of Kilroot. Catherine M'Calmont, of Island Magee. Janet Liston, alias Sellar, of same. Elizabeth Sellar, of same. Janet Carson, of same.
Her worst tormentors seem to have been taken into custody at an early stage in the proceedings, for Miss Dunbar stated in her deposition, made on the 12th of March, that since their arrest she received no annoyance, except from " Mrs. Ann, and another woman blind of an eye, who told her when Mr. Robb, the curate, was going to pray with and for her, that she should be little the better for his prayers, for they would hinder her from hearing them, which they accordingly did." In one of her attacks Miss Dunbar was informed by this " Mrs. Ann" that she should never be discovered by her name, as the rest had been, but she seems to have overlooked the fact that her victim was quite capable of giving an accurate description of her, which she accordingly did, and thus was the means of bringing about the apprehension of one Margaret Mitchell, upon which she became free from all annoyance, except that she felt something strange in her stomach which she would be glad to get rid of—and did, as we shall see presently.
With regard to the woman blind in one eye, we learn from another deponent that three women thus disfigured were brought to her, but she declared that they never troubled her. " One Jane Miller, of Carrigfergus, blind of an eye, being sent for, as soon as she drew near the house the said Mary, who did not know of her coming, became very much afraid, faintish, and sweat, and as soon as she came into the room the said Mary fell into such a violent fit of pains that three men were scarce able to hold her, and cryed out,' For Christ's sake, take the Devil out of the room.' And being asked, said the third woman, for she was the woman that did torment her." Yet Jane Miller does not seem to have been arrested.