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Sometimes our best just isn't good enough. I have a feeling we can all relate to that, whether it's a test in school, our performance on a new work project or a relationship that's not working out. Sometimes we try and fail. Take the ancient Egyptian pharaohs, Neferu, he ruled over his kingdom around 2600 BCE and like a lot of the rulers of his era, he wanted to build, he was interested in breaking new ground, doing fresh things and setting higher benchmarks.
And for him, that meant mastering the pyramid. His first attempt is known as the maiden pyramid, he had seen what Dozer had tried to build a Sekara, what archaeologists today call the step pyramid and wanted to improve upon it.
But it seems the structure was never fully completed. His second attempt is known as the bent pyramid for a very obvious reason. It's much more smooth in its construction, with the large steps replaced with continuous sides. But you can't miss how the angle of those sides changes about halfway up. It's almost as if Neferu realized that he'd bitten off a bit more than he could chew and became less ambitious. Thus, the pyramid looks blunted as if someone had squashed it a bit.
But on his last pyramid, he seemed to have nailed it, while it isn't as tall as the Great Pyramid, the Red Pyramid has the same classic shape. It looks like a pyramid, which is what he'd been aiming for all those years. It just took him a while to figure it out. Humans are tenacious creatures. We exist because we adapt, we make mistakes, learn from them and then try again. All of our greatest accomplishments and inventions are a result of that tenacity, the written language, the light bulb, space travel.
We people are a lot of things, but persistence is at the top of the list. But every quality has a darker side. Yes, our refusal to give up might have empowered our growth as a species, but it's also driven us to do things that aren't as easy to brag about because sometimes that persistence has turned us into monsters. I'm Aaron Manque, and this is Laura. Just like all of us, William and Elizabeth had been looking for a better life.
He was a craftsman who specialized in making shoes while his wife worked as a midwife, having already had 10 children of their own. Elizabeth had seen it all and had a passion for helping others in her community. But there are always greener pastures, aren't there? So in 1845, the family packed up and moved west. And by west I mean, they left their home in England and sailed to the new world. Arriving in the region north of Boston.
Less than a year later, they were granted four acres of land in the community of Newbury, just a stone's throw from the Bank of the Merrimack River. Elizabeth was 30 years old at the time with a lot of experience behind her, but so much more ahead. And just like back home in England, she settled in to take care of her family and serve the needs of her neighbors. Midwives often meant the difference between life and death for pregnant mothers and their newborns, and they also took care of other ailments.
I can't imagine anyone in town complaining about their arrival. Three decades later. It's easy to imagine Elizabeth and William as fixtures in Newbury. Their children grew up, started families of their own, and life flew by. But two things happened in November of 16 79 that upended their peaceful home life. First, one of their grandsons came back to live with them. I can't find the reason why, although perhaps his parents had passed away. Illness was a lot more brutal back then and life was harsh.
So their grandson John moved into their empty nest and that's when the second thing started to happen. The day after he arrived, a loud knocking began on the outside of the house, William and Elizabeth, now in their early 60s, rushed to the window to peek out and see who it might be, but no one was there. Despite that, Rocks began to help them through the open window, forcing them back into the house. The day after that, William placed one of his leather working tools and all in the cupboard where it belonged.
A moment later, a sound rattled down the chimney and an object scattered to a halt at the base of the fireplace. It was the all how it had gotten there. It was a mystery. But William shook his head and put it back in the cupboard. A moment later, it happened again. The next day, more unexplainable disturbances, stones and small branches fell down the chimney, interrupting the family's meal. The day after that, it happened again and the day after that, too.
Only this time they had company over, including one of the local ministers, Mr. Richardson, and one of Williams own brothers. And these newcomers backed up the family's claims. More alarming than that, their grandson, John, was said to have experienced fits of unusual behavior. At one point he barked like a dog, as if controlled by an unseen force. Then as the disturbances and odd experiences continued into early December. William and Elizabeth Morse only became more and more desperate.
As far as they were concerned, what was happening wasn't natural, it was supernatural, otherworldly and proof that a dark power had targeted their home. And so a hearing was pulled together to listen to the evidence and discuss what might be done and their conclusion. They decided that William and Elizabeth's home was under attack by their closest neighbor, a man named Caleb Powell. No, he wasn't standing outside their house throwing stones and knocking on boards. And no, he wasn't perched on their roof, dropping stolen tools down the chimney.
Caleb Powell, they claimed, was a wizard. And while they might have been frightened, they also knew exactly what to do. Powell was to be arrested and put on trial and then all their problems would go away. But like so many things in life, this plan had one fatal flaw. It was so much easier said than done. The question was why, what was it about Kayla Powell that drew the suspicion of the community? Well, like most things in life, it was both complicated and incredibly simple.
First, Powell had recently had some sort of argument with William and Elizabeth Morse during that week in November, when all of the unusual things were happening in their home, word about it spread throughout town. And Caleb Powell, being their closest neighbor, decided to pay them a visit. His reason was actually very charitable. He knew that they were older and had recently taken on the care of the grandson, John, and that must have made it more difficult to deal with their troublesome mystery.
So he walked over to their house hoping to offer to care for the boy. He would house him and put him to work free in the Morris household up to handle more pressing matters. It was a common thing to do, actually. Many families did what was called lending out children, but most of the time it was a young family with able bodied kids sending them to the home of an elderly farmer to provide extra hands in the field or around the house.
But here it was, a man offering to take a child off the hands of an elderly couple in order to grant them a bit of peace. But when he arrived, he never had the chance to ask, he found the family in prayer visible through the window from where he stood outside, and as he glanced in, he witnessed something else, too. While the older couple had their heads bowed in prayer, their grandson, John, tossed a shoe at William and then closed his eyes and pretended it wasn't him.
One would think this was good news, Powell had proof that the mysterious disturbances in the house were most likely the work of a bored child. But William and Elizabeth didn't want to hear it, so they sent him away, causing bad blood between them. The second reason Colin Powell was suspected was more complex for a very long time, English folk and their descendants who colonized the New World had a deep suspicion of anything that smacked of witchcraft. There were the obvious things for sure, like muttered curses or books of magic.
But The World of Forbidden also included some things that you and I might be surprised by. It turns out that Powell was more than just a farmer. He had bragged for years about some of the education he had received, two topics in particular, in fact, astronomy and astrology. No, he hadn't set up shop in town to offer services with that knowledge, but he also didn't have the common sense to keep it to himself. Again, we're talking about English settlers.
This is a culture that just a century before arrested a man named John D., the man who would go on to be one of Queen Elizabeth's most trusted advisers and his crime calculating. In other words, even a subject like math was viewed as a potential gateway for the devil. So maybe Powell should have kept his astrology to himself. And there you go, William and Elizabeth Morris had a grudge against Caleb Powell, a man who had bragged for years about his unusual education.
Of course, he was a wizard, right? So he was arrested in March of 680 and quickly put on trial. The jury heard all of the testimony allowed Powell to defend himself with his own explanations and then retired to discuss the case. The verdict they reached was a complicated one. The jury agreed that they didn't have enough solid evidence to convict the man of a serious crime, which is amazing when you remember that this took place just 12 years before the Salem witch trials, a town just 25 miles south of Newburyport.
And yet they couldn't convict Powell on charges of witchcraft. They did, however, agree that Powell had earned his neighbor's anger. And so they ordered him to pay the cost of the trial and then set him free. I can't find record of the amount of that fine. But it had to have stung, especially since it all started with charity on his part. But given the world he lived in, it's clear that he's lucky he escaped with his life.
Fine paid, Powell was released, but if anyone in town expected the unusual occurrences to go away now that the trial was over, they were going to be very disappointed. In fact, everything was about to get worse.
It would have been nice if Colin Powell had been right after all, he had claimed to see the grandson throw a shoe at William, it should have been safe to assume that the boy was behind all the other disturbances as well. But assuming is never safe, is it? Instead, after Kayla Powell walked free, those disturbances continued, but they also spread farther than the more, some making it less and less likely that the grandson was the one responsible.
And the things that started happening were also more difficult to blame on a boy throwing things when no one was looking. Some of the claims came from local farmers insisting their livestock had been bewitched. Jonathan Haynes told the authorities that his oxen had mysteriously refused to do any work. And Joseph Bailey told friends that his cows stood as still as statues in the field and wouldn't move. Frustrating, yes, but easy for our modern minds to dismiss.
More difficult to explain was the sudden uptick in sickness throughout the community and Elizabeth Morse, being a midwife with decades of experience, was called to most of them to offer whatever care and advice she could. But that's when the death started and with them, a rise in suspicions. After all, those deaths were only happening in the homes that were visited by Elizabeth. The Ordway family was one of the first to experience loss when their infant suddenly passed away. So, too did a child from the Goodwin House.
Local woman, Mrs. Chandler also became ill. But after a visit from Elizabeth Morris, she took a turn for the worse. And then she did something very odd. She nailed a horseshoe on the outside of her house, directly over the door as counter magic to prevent the midwife from returning. And it worked. Soon enough, the rumors began to draw from a more fantastic well, John Gladding claimed that he saw Elizabeth at two o'clock in the afternoon, as plain as day, but only her top half just sort of hovering over his property.
John Chase swore that he watched Elizabeth enter his house in the middle of the night by climbing in through the keyhole. One man, Jonathan Woodman, was so spooked by the sight of a black cat one day that he struck it with his walking stick. Later on, he learned that the local doctor was called to the Morris house to treat Elizabeth for an injury. It was proof enough for most people a black cat had either been hurt, familiar or Elizabeth herself in her animal form.
All of these accusations added up to an easy arrest warrant. Elizabeth was taken into custody by the authorities and a trial was organized. A short while later. Many of those neighbors who had reported unusual things showed up to repeat those claims for the record. And that list of witnesses included an unexpected name, Elizabeth's husband, William. Now, it would be easy to assume that he turned on her, that sort of betrayal happened all too often in witch trials throughout Europe.
But from what I can tell, it seems more likely that he had been asked to come to the trial and tell everyone about those original disturbances from the previous November. It was the courts and not William who tried their best to connect them to Elizabeth. Given all the testimony, the trial was brief and laser focused on May 27th, Elizabeth Morse was given her sentence by the governor. Elizabeth, you are to go from hense to the place from which you come and thence to the place of execution and there be hanged by the neck until you be dead in the Lord, have mercy on your soul.
A week later, though, in a sudden change of mind, the governor issued a reprieve, they would keep her in jail, but look over the evidence once more with less of a hurry. And that bought William Morris a chance to start working on his wife's freedom. He began to petition the governor over and over for her release. To Williams credit, he never gave up. Over the course of the year between her arrest in May of 16, 80 and the following spring, he returned time and time again to the governor, begging for her to be set free.
And finally, in the middle of sixteen eighty one, it happened. Well, sort of Elizabeth Morris was set free and her execution was cancelled. And all of that is good news. But for the rest of her life, she was ordered to be on house arrest. Specifically, she could not travel more than 16 rods or about two hundred and sixty four feet from her own home without the escort of a pastor or a deacon from the church.
But at least she was home. She had survived an extended period of time in jail in an era when many people died from the horrible conditions their jails in the late 60s. Hundreds were not very comfortable and winters in New England were just as harsh back then as they are today. It's easy to forget that 20 percent of the people who died during the Salem witch trials weren't executed, but simply killed by their time behind bars. So, Elizabeth, survival is an unexpected triumph.
But that joy was short lived less than two years after securing her freedom, her husband William passed away. Elizabeth would go on to live another seven years, finally passing away in 69. And today, her mark can still be felt in town. The area of Newbury that they lived in was closest to the river. And in 1764, it became its own town, Newburyport. And if you visit Newburyport today, there's a plaque near their old property close to a busy Starbucks that tells anyone passing by about her tragic story.
And the message on her gravestone adds a layer of emotion, especially for a woman who spent her final years living as a prisoner inside her own home. Convicted as a witch by her community, may she rest in peace beyond these walls. If you spend a bit of time reading about history, one thing becomes clear humans don't know when to quit. Most of the time that's worked to our favor. But every now and then, our refusal to give up has driven us to do some unspeakable things.
For Caleb Powell and Elizabeth Morris, the tenacity of their community was a curse. First, they tried to convict Powell as a wizard, but the weakness of the evidence failed to do the job. So then they moved on to put Elizabeth under the microscope and found much more solid ground. Well, solid as far as they were concerned, I suppose. It's easy to look back on events like this over three centuries later and shake our heads. There was so much fantasy, so much superstition and so much willingness to sacrifice human lives for a little peace of mind.
But like it or not, this was how their world operated. All we can hope is that we've spent those three centuries becoming better human beings. Thankfully, the community wasn't the only player in this drama with a bit of persistence, Elizabeth's husband showed his own incredible tenacity through it all, even after being forced to testify against her. He fought tirelessly to win her freedom because he knew just how ridiculous her alleged crimes really were. William personally reviewed all the testimony from her trial and found ways to point out flaws in those stories.
He even reached out to local ministers asking them to be character witnesses on Elizabeth's behalf. One of those ministers, it turns out, was John Hale from the nearby town of Beverley, the very same John Hale, who would be pulled in to the Salem trials a decade later. Persistence dragged her into tragedy and it also pulled her out. But there's one final bit of the story that I find absolutely fascinating, and it has to do with the sick woman I mentioned a few moments ago, the one history remembers only as Mrs.
Chandler because her story didn't end with that horse. You remember, the world of witchcraft was fairly nuanced. Yes, there were practices that everyone agreed were fully evil, like the witches Sabbath or deals with the devil. But there were other areas of magic that people were more comfortable with counter magic. And the horseshoe was one of those traditions. It was believed that if a witch was bothering you, all it took was a horseshoe hanging over the entrance to your home to keep the witch away.
The idea dates back to the 10th century legend about a blacksmith named Dunstan, who removed a horseshoe from the devil's own foot as payment for his services. Dunstan was promised that the devil would never enter a home with the horseshoe nailed to the door frame. Mrs. Chandler, after realizing that Elizabeth visit made her more sick, had simply followed that tradition. And as I said before, the midwife never returned. So it's easy to assume her counter magic had worked, if that's the sort of thing one might believe in.
But a short while later, one of Mrs. Chandler's more pious neighbors passed by and noticed the horseshoe and in a fit of anger, ripped it from the House. Whether or not it was meant for good, it was a charm, and the devil's work had no place in their community. We don't know if Mrs. Chandler was aware that the horseshoe had been removed, but we do know what sort of effect it had on her safety and well-being. A short while later, Mrs.
Chandler passed away. And in doing so, she helped add fuel to the stories making one truth crystal clear, folklore is quite the persistent thing. Stories of witchcraft have a lot of texture. Sometimes they show us the worst in humanity or reveal how firmly those lives were guided by superstition. But I found one more story that promises to do more. Stick around after this brief sponsor break to hear all about it. This episode of law was made possible by Casper resolutions, you can do them in your sleep literally because 20 21 is your chance to rest harder and sleep smarter.
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No long term commitments or contracts. Just go to Stamps.com, click on the microphone at the top of the whole page and then type in the word law as Stamps.com offer. Kotler Stamps.com never go to the post office again. She was the granddaughter of a wizard and a legend in her own right, but looking back, she probably saw that coming. Mary Diamond was born in 1736 in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Like a lot of the craftsmen at the time in New England, her father made shoes.
It was a trade that would persist until the industrial revolution, when factories took over what cobblers once did alone. Her father, it was normal compared to his own father, the legendary, a holy, a diamond, that man was said to be a wizard and could often be found standing in the local graveyard high up on a hill where he could see the ocean when storms blew in. He would stand up there in the rain and cast spells that saved the ships and the sailors who manned them.
It was a gift he claimed to have inherited from his own grandfather and so on down the line into the depths of the past. So while Mary was raised in the normal home of a common shoemaker, there was always that hint in the background that she was special, that she was born to do something greater. She married one of her father's apprentices, a man named Richard Pitcher, in 1760, and it was sometime a short while later that she began to make a name for herself.
Now, I'm going to stop here for a moment and warn you, if you do some Internet searching, you're going to find her portrayed as a haggard old woman with a twisted face and a bent nose. You know, the typical image anyone conjures up when they think about witches. But Mary picture was not that woman and she didn't even go by Mary. Neighbors and customers all called her Moll Moll pitcher. And all they said was beautiful. She's described in early accounts as tall, thin, dark haired and elegant.
And despite growing up in an era when women did not attend school, she could read and write and sign her own name and had a way of absorbing knowledge that gave her more power than any magician could have claimed. Still, her true claim to fame was as a prophet, folks would travel to her house in Lynn, a house that sat at the foot of a cliff called Hierarch to discover their fortunes. She charged for her services and helped a great number of people during her lifetime.
But she did more than help lovers find peace or offer advice to businessmen. She earned a reputation as a witch. Now these are rumors, so keep that in mind. But they're part of the legend of Molle pitcher, and that means I get to share them with you. Grain of salt and all. Whenever a ship wrecked off the coast of Lynn, people whispered that Molle pitcher was to blame. Then again, they also claim that she often warned sailors against leaving port.
She did this so often that captains would have to recruit men from other cities where mauls message hadn't yet spread when the vision of a man was seen walking along the road in another town to the north. A man said to be carrying his own head. Mind you, everyone said it was the work of mall. Another story claims that she somehow caused a dead man still in his coffin to chase another still living person. She caused milk to go bad and wall to turn blue.
If it went wrong, mall pitcher was to blame. Now, had these things taken place a century before, she would have been hanged as a witch, a time had washed away a lot of those violent knee jerk reactions to unusual tales and dark rumours while Pétur didn't fear the stories. In fact, she seems to have welcomed them because stories spread and that was good for business. It said that for a time there wasn't an American ship that didn't pull into a European port and find a crowd waiting, wanting to know what news they carried about the old woman across the sea, others would send requests back with the sailors or board a ship themselves just for a chance to go visit her and have their fortune told MOLLE pitcher, as you might imagine, stayed busy.
What they didn't know was just how creative she was. Visitors would approach her house from Essex streets along a well-worn path through her field and would be greeted at the door by one of her adult daughters, Rebecca. They would be told that mall was not home, but was due back shortly and they were welcome to wait in the large sitting room. While they waited, Rebecca would ask them questions to get a sense for what they needed. But what the visitors didn't know was that in a smaller room just a few feet away, Marshall sat listening, thinking through how she was going to handle the customer when she finally arrived.
She amazed them by revealing things they have never told her. Most of those visitors believed her, paid her the fee and left happy. But there were occasions when customers would try to skip out on the cost. Thankfully, Marshall had a trick for that, too. After leaving the customer and mall to their business, Rebecca would head upstairs to the room directly above them, and she would listen along through the floorboards if they refuse to pay, would threaten to unleash the devil himself upon them.
And at the same moment, Rebecca would grab a large chain used for controlling cattle and then drag its across the floor. Most of the time, that was all the incentive the customers needed to make sure that mall pitcher was paid her due. Looking back, it's clear that Marshall lived a powerful life in an age when few women would even dare to dream of it. She was respected, admired and maybe even a little feared. Her skills of observation were said to have helped the colonists defeat the British in the Revolutionary War.
Sure, she read fortunes and tea leaves, but she also listened and learned she held more power in a cup of tea than most men ever would. Mal died in April of 1813 at the age of 75, and as far as the local historical records show, she never passed on that ancient family gift to her children and their descendants. But they were known to be honorable, hardworking people who were respected and loved by their community, just like Molle.
I think it's fair to say that we all love legacies, fantasy novels have taught us to adore families with mystical powers that seem to span generations. So while it might be disappointing that mall didn't line up with that stereotype, I think she actually did better. Mall pitcher in the end passed on what truly mattered the very best of herself. This episode of law was written and produced by me, Aaron Manque, with research by Ali Steed and music by Chad Lawson, law is much more than just a podcast, though.
There's a book series available in bookstores and online and two seasons of the television show on Amazon Prime video. Check them both out if you want more law in your life. I also make an executive produce a whole bunch of other podcasts, all of which I think you'd enjoy. My production company, Grim and Mild, specializes in shows that sit at the intersection of the dark and the historical. You can learn more about all of the shows we make and everything going on over in one central place, grim and mild dotcom.
And you can also follow this show on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Just search for our podcast, all one word and click that follow button when you do say hi. I like it when people say hi. And as always, thanks for listening.