An atmospheric, unromanticized retelling of the Salem witch trials--by a descendant of Mary Esty, who was hung on Gallows Hill along with seven others tried and convicted (on the basis of absurd ""spectral evidence"") of practicing the will of Satan. Quaker-born Mary--whose mother was long ago executed for witch-craft--is the 58-year-old mother of nine and wife to Isaac Esty, who's been feuding with neighbor Thomas Putnam. And it's at the Putnams that the trouble begins--with kitchen-slave Tituba's voodoo, with the subsequent convulsions of the disturbed Putnam girls Abigail and Betty (who gain fame and status as their illness spreads to other youngsters). Soon, then, the Putnam girls accuse Mary Esty's sisters of attacking them with their specters, followed by a similar accusation against Mary by trashy Mercy Lewis (who bears a grudge); mere accusation is proof of guilt and the accused must prove their innocence--with a row of bewitched girls falling uniformly into convulsions in court whenever the evidence may be going against them. And vicious Judge John Hathorne is one ghastly jurist, always siding with the bewitched. Eventually, however, rugged Isaac gets Mary freed from Boston prison by collecting signatures from the bewitched exonerating her--except Mercy, who goes into fresh fits of phenomenal screaming, and Mary is cruelly reimprisoned: during a midsummer nightmare the defendants are executed in five separate bunches (one man is crushed to death under stones), and Isaac will spend the rest of his life helping his wife to fight back from the grave and clear her name. Except for that final occulty touch--a convincingly melancholy exploration of legalized superstition, familiar but involving.