About Sarah Bibber, Salem Witch Trials
Sarah Bibber aka Vibber (born c. 1658) - Her surname is variously listed as Bibber, Biber and Vibber. Married to John Bibber, she had a four-year-old child in 1692.
As one of the "afflicted" who testified in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, Sarah accused and/or testified under oath against at least fifteen different people. There was also testimony against Sarah Bibber by several individuals. Although her husband John Bibber (Vibber) is mentioned in depositions and indictments and listed as a witness, there does not seem to be any evidence that he testified against any of the accused.
She was been described as a "loose-tongued creature, addicted to fits," a woman who quarreled often with her husband and called him "very bad names," who had "strange fits when she was crossed," a woman of turbulent spirit and "double-tongued." Sarah was observed to be "very idle in her calling" and given to tattling and making mischief among her neighbors.
The testimony of Thomas and Mary Jacobs against Sarah perhaps gives the most insight into her character: "…Bibber would be very often speaking against one and another very obscenely and those things that were false and wishing very bad wishes and very often she wish[ed] that when her child fell into the river that she had never pulled…her child out and Bibber used to wish ill wishes to herself and her children and also to others..."
Sarah Bibber's Accusations
Mary Bradbury: In the indictment against Mary Bradbury, Sarah claimed that she was "tortured, afflicted, consumed, pined, wasted and tormented" by acts of witchcraft by Mary Bradbury. In her answer to the indictment, Mary stated "I am wholly innocent of any such wickedness through the goodness of God that have kept me hitherto. I am the servant of Jesus Christ and have given my self up to him as my only Lord and Saviour…"
Rev. George Burroughs: In her deposition Sarah stated that on 9th day of May 1692, she was going to Salem Village and "saw the apparition of a little man like a minister with a black coat on and he pinched me by the arm and bid me go along with him, but I told him I would not but when I came to the Village I saw there Mr. George Burroughs which I never saw before and then I knew that it was his apparition which I had seen in the morning and he tortured me several times while he was in examinations also during the time of his examination I saw Mr. George Burroughs or his apparition most grievously torment and afflict Mary Walcott, Mercy Lewis, Elizabeth Hubbard, Ann Putnam and Abigail Williams by pinching, twisting and almost choking them to death also several times since Mr. George Burroughs or his apparition has most grievously tormented me with variety of tortures and I believe in my heart that Mr. George Burroughs is a dreadful wizard and that he has most grievously tormented me and the above mentioned person by his acts of witchcraft."
Giles Corey: As in her previous testimony Sarah stated that she had been "grievously afflicted" by Giles Corey or his apparition. She also witnessed Giles afflicting and tormenting Mary Walcott, Mercy Lewis and Ann Putnam. Sarah also believed Giles to be a wizard.
Mary Easty: Sarah "affirmed upon her oath that she saw Mary, the wife if Isaac Easty, upon John Norton's bed when said Norton was ill.
Sarah Good: The indictment against Sarah Good charged that Sarah Vibber had been "tortured, afflicted, pined, consumed, wasted and tormented"
by Sarah Good. "She did immediately afflict my child by pinching of it that I could hardly hold it and my husband seeing of it took hold of the child but it cried out and twisted so dreadfully…" She also stated that several times since the second of May, the apparition of Sarah Good beat and pinched her, almost choked her to death and pricked her with pins.
Dorcas Hoar: Sarah Vibber's deposition stated that Dorcas Hoar of Beverly had tormented her many times with various tortures. On 2 May 1692, the day Dorcas was examined, Sarah saw Dorcas or her apparition torment Mary Walcott, Elizabeth Hubbard, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam and Susannah Shelden, biting, pinching and almost choking them. "and I verily believe in my heart that Dorcas Hoar is witch for since she went to prison she has most dreadfully tortured me with variety of tortures, which I believe if she wasn't a witch she could not do."
Elizabeth How: Sarah's deposition against Elizabeth mirrored several other statements, saying she saw others hurt by Elizabeth. As a result of her being witness to this Elizabeth then "fell upon me and choked me and threw me down and hurt one of my legs very much…"
George Jacobs, Sr.: "Sarah Vibber made oath that she saw him this George Jacobs at the Gallows when Goody Oliver was executed and the black man help him up and that she saw him afflict Mary Walcott and beat her with his staff."
Susannah Martin: As a result of the tortures inflicted upon herself and others, Sarah's deposition stated that she believes said Martin to be a witch and that she was bewitched by her.
Rebecca Nurse: "I saw the apparition of Rebecca Nurse, the wife of Francis Nurse, Sr., most grievously torture and afflict the bodies of Mary Walcott, Mercy Lewis and Abigail Williams by pinching them and almost choking them to death; but I do not know that she hurt me till the 27th June 1692; and then the apparition of Rebecca Nurse did not grievously torment me by pinching me and almost choking me several times."
Alice Parker: "Sarah Vibber upon oath affirmeth to the Jury of Inquest that she had seen Alice Parker afflict Mary Warren, Mary Walcott and Ann Putnam and that said Parker did choke said Warren the last night and griped her about the waist, September 7, 1692 and that she hath afflicted this deponent."
John Proctor: In her deposition Sarah stated "John Proctor Sr., came to me and did most grievously torment me by pinching, pricking and almost pressing me to death urging me to drink; drink as Red as blood which I refusing he did torture me with variety of tortures and immediately he vanished away …"
Ann Pudeator: Under oath Sarah affirmed to the Jury of Inquest that she had seen Ann Pudeator "afflict Mary Warren, Mary Walcott and Ann Putnam" and "she together with Goodwife Parker did afflict the forenamed." Sarah claimed that Ann Pudeator afflicted her as well and she believed her to be a witch.
Job Tookey: Job Tookey had many accusers one of which was Sarah Bibber. They all accused him of afflicting them and telling several that he "had learning and could raise the Devil when he pleased"..."he was not only a wizard but a murderer.."
John Willard: Sarah testified that she saw the apparition of John Willard the day before his examination "come to Mary Walcott and Mercy Lewis and hurt them grievously and almost choked them, then I told of it and immediately the said Willard fell upon me and tormented me grievously and pinched me and threw me down."
Mary Witheridge: Mary was accused of the "detestable arts called witchcraft and sorceries" which she "maliciously and feloniously practiced and exercised in the town of Salem," and "against one Sarah Vibber wife of John Vibber of Salem."
At least once source states that John and Sarah Bibber "had a dau Mercy, baptised at Wenham First Church in 1665". However, Sarah gave her age as about 36 in 1692, which means she was probably born around 1656. It's hard to accept that she had a child at nine years old, especially at a time when the average age of menarche was about 14. It is far more likely that Mercy (baptised 1665 Wenham First Church) was either John's daughter by a previous marriage, or Mercy's younger sister.
Sources and Further Information
- Turk, Marion G. The Quiet Adventures in North America (1983), page 668: "Vibber, John and Sara, res MRB or Salem MA in 1680's. This name is prob Vibert of the C.I. 'pos the ones who testified at the infamous whitch trials...second marriage for both...who also had a dau , and an infant in crib. This fam may have been from Sark. John the immigrant may have d 1714 in Hartford CT.'"
- Burr, George Lincoln. Narratives of the Witchcraft Cases, 1648-1706.
- Lawson, Deodat. A Brief and True Narrative, 1692
- Essex County Archives, Salem - Witchcraft Vol. 1 and 2
- Massachusetts Historical Society
- Massachusetts Archives Vol 135 No 26
- Bowditch Mss. Mass. Historical Society
- Sarah Bibber and The Salem Witch Trials