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.

Vice Voices


  1. The oldest child of Alice Lake was Elizabeth. Elizabeth could not have been Henry Lake’s child, but had to have been the child that survived Alice’s attempted abortion. Elizabeth likely has thousands decedents today. She was the only of Alice’s children to have children of her own. The family name of Elizabeth’s children was Butts.

    1. Why could elizabeth not have been Henry’s child? I am a descendant and putting together some pieces. I would like to know how you reached that conclusion. Thanks.

  2. I am one of them. Alice is a 9th great grandmother. What a story to discover.

    1. Omg she is my 9th gma aswell my great gma was leona lake lived in warren she married walter Salisbury my poppy ..if you want touch base with me on fb robert stangelo is how i can be reached then we can message

    2. I am also a descendent. I was adopted when I was 6. I did the ancestry dna and found my bio family. My cousin sent me the information.
      If anyone has anymore information I would love to hear from other descendants.

  3. I, too am one of Alice’s descendants and what happened to her both saddens me and makes me angry. I am proud to be a very great granddaughter of a supposed ‘witch’. As for George Hollister’s assumption that her oldest child was the only one who had children….that is wrong because my descent comes from one of her sons, though I can’t remember which one it is. I would have to find the family tree.

  4. I’m a direct descendant of Alice(9xGG) and Elizabeth(8xGG) Lake- Butt’s.
    Edith Ellis-Earle-Ano was my matrilineal grandmother. But the Butt’s were heavy hitters in Portsmouth, RI, and a very important family within the growing Quaker movement. For a family that was in “tatters” as the author is implying, Elizabeth married well and had a good life. She was married into one of the most prominent RI families of the Newport area, and her children also married well.
    Unfortunately Alice was a victim of her era. And as nonsensical as the witch hunts and trials went, Alice’s story illustrates what type of human she was.
    My innocent grandmother was hanged because she was depressed. She was too trusting. She shared her feelings of grief and horror at losing a child, and was killed for being naive. I’m sure she had such horrible postpartum depression, that at that particular point in time, she didn’t care if she lived or died. And, she probably knew that there was no way around the rhetoric of the day. The politics were decided before they even questioned her. She stood her ground and died for the truth.

  5. I too descend from Henry and Alice Lake. They are my 9th great grandparents through their son David Lake. My paternal grandmother was Eulah May Lake. My line ended up IN Nova Scotia Canada.

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