Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Woman Accused of Witchcraft in 1706 Cleared

It took 300 years, but Virginia's only convicted witch has finally been pardoned.

State Gov. Timothy M. Kaine was asked to exonerate Annabelle Coulter, who was tried by water and accused of using her powers to cause a woman to miscarry. On Monday, the 300th anniversary of the "ducking" trial, Kaine obliged.

"I am pleased to officially restore her good name," Kaine said in a letter that was read aloud by Virginia Beach Mayor Meyera Oberndorf before a local re-enactment of the ducking.

"With 300 years of hindsight, we all certainly can agree that trial by water is an injustice," Kaine wrote.

On July 10, 1706, her thumbs were tied to her toes and she was dropped into a river. She floated, proof that she was guilty because the pure water cast out her evil spirit, according to the belief system of the time.

Written descriptions of the witch have yielded this artist's impression of what she looked like:

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