In the frontier town of Springfield in 1651, peculiar things begin to happen. Precious food spoils, livestock ails, property vanishes, and people suffer convulsions as if possessed by demons. A woman is seen wading through the swamp like a lost soul. Disturbing dreams and visions proliferate. Children sicken and die. As tensions rise, rumours spread of witches and heretics and the community becomes tangled in a web of distrust, resentment and denunciation. The finger of suspicion falls on a young couple with two small children: Hugh Parsons the prickly brickmaker and his troubled wife, Mary. It will be their downfall.
The Ruin of All Witches tells the dark, real-life folktale of witch-hunting in a remote Massachusetts plantation, where dreams of love and liberty, of a 'city upon a hill', gave way to paranoia and terror, rage and violence. Drawing on unique, previously unexploited source material, Malcolm Gaskill vividly reanimates a strange yet not too distant past, one where lives were steeped in the divine and the diabolic, in omens, curses and enchantments.
Through the gripping micro-history of a family tragedy, we glimpse a entire society caught in agonized transition between superstition and enlightenment, tradition and innovation. We see, in short, the birth of the modern world.