Alice Lake


Alice Lake was born in England, and immigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony at some point, and settled in Dorchester, Massachusetts. She was the mother of at least five children, all presumably fathered by her only known husband, Henry Lake. In 1651, those children would have been a girl about ten, a boy about seven, a boy about five, a child about three who likely was a boy, and an infant.

In 1651, Alice Lake’s baby died. Later, she told people that she saw the baby. Maybe she did. Or, maybe she grieved so much that her mind allowed her to imagine that she saw her baby to ease her grief. As painful as the death of a loved one is, a mother’s loss of a child is the most difficult.

The Puritan belief was that the devil was coming to her in the form of her deceased child, and because of that, she was accused of being a witch and brought to trial. Like most of the women accused of witchcraft, Alice was poor. And like most of the accused, she denied being a witch. The records of her trial are lost, but she was apparently found guilty of witchcraft.

The Devil’s Mark
It was widely believed that most witches sported a mark on their body which was placed there by the Devil. The Witches’ mark, Devil’s Mark, or Witches’ teat was the seal of the Devil, given to witches upon initiation. This mark could be a scar, a mole, or a birthmark. If a witch had no mark, it meant that she or he was especially devout to Satan.

Alice was given the opportunity to recant her story on the day of her execution, which might have saved her life. Instead, she said that God was punishing her because she had engaged in premarital sex, had become pregnant, and had attempted an abortion. She had apparently carried the Puritanical guilt for trying to cause the death of her oldest child throughout her life.

Alice faced death, and still she insisted that she had seen her dead baby. Perhaps admitting her child had died was more than she could bear, though her only hope of living was to admit that she knew her baby was dead.

Alice Lake was hanged in 1651 in Dorchester Massachusetts.

From Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England, 1982, Oxford University Press:

Alice LAKE, convicted and executed at Dorchester in about 1650. Her husband Henry moved away at once; his name appears regularly in the records of Portsmouth, RI, beginning in April 1651. Meanwhile the four LAKE children, all less than ten years old, remained in Dorchester. One, probably the youngest, was ‘bound out’ by the town meeting to a local family for a ‘consideration’ of 26 pounds–and was dead within two years. The other three were also placed in (separate) Dorchester households. At this point their trail becomes badly obscured. (One was living as a servant to an uncle–still in Dorchester–in 1659.) Later, having reached adulthood, the same three were found in Rhode Island–and then in Plymouth Colony, where their father had removed by 1673. It appears, therefore, that the family was eventually reunited, some two decades after the event that had broken it apart.

SOURCES
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