During the middle of the seventeenth century, years before the infamous Salem witch trials, allegations of witchcraft plagued an isolated English colony in New York, now known as East Hampton.
In February of 1658, a sixteen-year-old girl named Elizabeth Gardiner Howell fell ill shortly after giving birth to a child. She was the daughter of Lion Gardiner, who was one of the small town’s most prominent figures.
While she was in a delirious and feverish state, she cried out that a witch was in the room with her. She insisted that the black shadow she saw was none other than Elizabeth Garlick, also known as “Goody” Garlick. Goody was short for “Goodwife,” which was a term used to describe working-class women in Puritan society.
Garlick was a local who often quarreled with neighbors, accusing her of being a witch. A day later, the girl died, and an investigation into Garlick began. The belief in the power of magic prevailed, and it was taken as a fact that all negative occurrences were the work of the devil. Many of the town’s citizens came forward to provide information about Garlick’s activities.
According to the town’s records, which still exist today, Garlick was said to cast evil eyes and send spirits disguised as animals to carry out her supernatural doings. She was even blamed for the death of a baby.
After she had picked the baby up and put it back down, the child became sick and died. Additionally, she was accused of being the cause of many illnesses, injuries, disappearances, and the death of livestock.
Garlick’s husband, Joshua, was also thought to be part of the reason Garlick was made a target. Joshua worked for Lion Gardiner on his estate and was a trusted employee. It was a coveted job, and competitors saw an opportunity to take him down.
The three judges in charge of Garlick’s case, all of whom were men, decided to refer her case to a higher court in Hartford after the village became part of the colony of Connecticut.
The new sheriff, John Winthrop Jr., did not subscribe to the witchcraft craze that overtook most people back then. He was a scholar and healer who was skeptical about the devil’s role in magic.