In one of the earliest of the depositions, that sworn by James Hill on the 5th of March, we find an extraordinary incident recorded, which seems to show that at least one of the accused was a victim of religious mania. He states that on the 1st of March, "he being in the house of William Sellar of Island Magee, one Mary Twmain (sic !) came to the said house and called out Janet Liston to speak to her, and that after the said Janet came in again she fell a-trembling, and told this Deponent that the said Mary had been desiring her to go to Mr. Haltridge's to see Mary Dunbar, but she declared she would not go for all Island Magee, except Mr. Sinclair would come for her, and said : If the plague of God was on her (Mary Dunbar), the plague of God be on them altogether ; the Devil be with them if he was among them. If God had taken her health from her, God give her health : if the Devil had taken it from her, the Devil give it her. And then added: O misbelieving ones, eating and drinking damnation to themselves, crucifying Christ afresh, and taking all out of the hands of the Devil !"
Finally the accused were brought up for trial at Carrigfergus before Judges Upton and Macartney1 on 31st March 1711. Amongst the witnesses examined were Mr. Skeffington, curate of Larne ; Mr. Ogilvie, Presbyterian minister of Larne ; Mr. Adair, Presbyterian minister of Carrigfergus ; Mr. Cobham, Presbyterian minister of Broad Island ; Mr. Edmonstone, of Red Hall, and others. The proceedings commenced at six o'clock in the morning, and lasted until two in the afternoon. An abstract of the evidence was made by Dr. Tisdall, who was present in Court during the trial, and from whose letter we extract the following passages—many of the foregoing facts (!) being also adduced.
1 James Macartney became second puisne Justice of the King's Bench in 1701, puisne Justice of Common Pleas (vice A. Upton) in 1714, and retired in 1726. Anthony Upton became puisne Justice of Common Pleas, was succeeded as above, and committed suicide in 1718. Both were natives of co. Antrim.
" It was sworn to by most of the evidences that in some of her fits three strong men were scarce able to hold her down, that she would mutter to herself, and speak some words distinctly, and tell everything she had said in her conversation with the witches, and how she came to say such things, which she spoke when in her fits".
" In her fits she often had her tongue thrust into her windpipe in such a manner that she was like to choak, and the root seemed pulled up into her mouth. Upon her recovery she complained extremely of one Mean, who had twisted her tongue ; and told the Court that she had tore her throat, and tortured her violently by reason of her crooked fingers and swelled knuckles. The woman was called to the Bar upon this evidence, and ordered to show her hand ; it was really amazing to see the exact agreement betwixt the description of the Afflicted and the hand of the supposed tormentor ; all the joints were distorted and the tendons shrivelled up, as she had described".
" One of the men who had held her in a fit swore she had nothing visible on her arms when he took hold of them, and that all in the room saw some worsted yarn tied round her wrist, which was put on invisibly ; there were upon this string seven double knots and one single one. In another fit she cried out that she was grievously tormented with a pain about her knee ; upon which the women in the room looked at her knee, and found a fillet tied fast about it ; her mother swore to the fillet, that it was the same she had given her that morning, and had seen it about her head ; this had also seven double knots and one single one".
" Her mother was advised by a Roman Catholic priest to use a counter-charm, which was to write some words out of the first chapter of St. John's Gospel in a paper, and to tie the paper with an incle three times round her neck, knotted each time. This charm the girl herself declined ; but the mother, in one of the times of her being afflicted, used it. She was in a violent fit upon the bed held down by a man, and, recovering a little, complained grievously of a pain in her back and about her middle ; immediately the company discovered the said incle tied round her middle with seven double knots and one single one : this was sworn to by several. The man who held the Afflicted was asked by the Judge if it were possible she could reach the incle about her neck while he held her ; he said it was not, by the virtue of his oath, he having her hands fast down".
" The Afflicted, during one of her fits, was observed by several persons to slide off the bed in an unaccountable manner, and to be laid gently on the ground as if supported and drawn invisibly. Upon her recovery she told them the several persons who had drawn her in that manner, with the intention, as they told her, of bearing her out of the window ; but that she reflecting at that time, and calling upon God in her mind, they let her drop on the floor".
"The Afflicted, recovering from a fit, told the persons present that her tormentors had declared that she should not have power to go over the threshold of the chamber-door ; the evidence declared that they had several times attempted to lead her out of the door, and that she was as often thrown into fits as they had brought her to the said threshold ; that to pursue the experiment further they had the said threshold taken up, upon which they were immediately struck with so strong a smell of brimstone that they were scarce able to bear it ; that the stench spread through the whole house, and afflicted several to that degree that they fell sick in their stomachs, and were much disordered." The above were the principal facts sworn to in the Court, to which most of the witnesses gave their joint testimony.
"There was a great quantity of things produced in Court, and sworn to be what she vomited out of her throat. I had them all in my hand, and found there was a great quantity of feathers, cotton, yarn, pins, and two large waistcoat buttons, at least as much as would fill my hand. They gave evidence to the Court they had seen those very things coming out of her mouth, and had received them into their hands as she threw them up".