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The Devil of Great Island: Witchcraft and Conflict in Early New England
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The Devil of Great Island: Witchcraft and Conflict in Early New England

3.42  ·  Rating Details ·  74 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
In 1682, ten years before the infamous Salem witch trials, the town of Great Island, New Hampshire, was plagued by mysterious events: strange, demonic noises; unexplainable movement of objects; and hundreds of stones that rained upon a local tavern and appeared at random inside its walls. Town residents blamed what they called "Lithobolia" or "the stone-throwing devil." In ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 15th 2010 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published October 2nd 2007)
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Sep 27, 2013 BCMUnlimited rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
While I love history in general, I have always been fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials. Over the past couple years, that interest has expanded into pretty much every witch trial to ever take place in Europe or North America. I love reading about the superstitions and problems that lead to these outbreaks - to the point that it is going to be the focus of my master's thesis...whenever I narrow it down enough.

Anyway, "The Devil of Great Island" was recommended to me, by a professor actually, an
Nov 03, 2007 Rebekah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This was an interesting case study of an attack of lithobolia or a stone-throwing devil that occurred in colonial America, ten years before the Salem witch accusations. This book carefully dissected the history surrounding the event to see who were the most likely culprits behind the attack on one particular family. There was a lot of research, and the story got bogged down at times because the author threw in every detail imaginable. You could tell he was passionate, but I just wasn't that into ...more
Sep 03, 2016 Ran rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 970s, history, grad-school
Emerson W. Baker explores "lithobolia" or attacks of a stone-throwing demon on Great Island at the mouth of Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1682. Detailing precursory events to the Salem Witch trials, Baker explores the superstitious roots of this prior conflict, examining the tensions of religion, property, and politics to the north of Boston. All the while he provides a great story, braiding the analysis and the narrative with the deft voice of a master storyteller. Baker is particularly adept at ...more
Thomas M.  Burby
Dec 21, 2015 Thomas M. Burby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This well-researched and highly detailed work tells the story of one of the first lithobolia attacks in New England. Lithobolia is stone-throwing from unseen hands, presumably the hands of a ghost, spirit, or devil. The result was an accusation of witchcraft that was never finally settled because the parties involved, long-standing neighbors and enemies, both died.
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 Margaret Sankey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1682 (ten years before the Salem incident) New England, the devil intervened in the ongoing property dispute between the upstanding Puritan family and their Quaker, tavern-running, foreigner-harboring neighbors by throwing rocks at all the principals for six months. And in the context of 1682, this all made perfect sense to everyone involved.
Cheryl Gatling
George Walton owned a tavern on the island of Great Island, New Hampshire. In 1682, which was before the Salem witchcraft trials, stones began flying through the air. Stones slammed into his tavern. Objects were thrown around inside as well. And the stone throwers were never seen. Walton accused his neighbor Hannah Jones, whom he had a property dispute with, of making the stones fly through witchcraft. That seemed to be the generally accepted explanation. The episodes were called "Lithobolia," o ...more
Malia Ebel
Sep 30, 2015 Malia Ebel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Baker's account of the lithobolia attack of 1682 on Great Island (now Newcastle, NH) should appeal to fans of narrative non-fiction and accessible academic writing.

In 1682, a family was allegedly attacked by a rock throwing demon which caused rocks to rain from the sky, damaging their house and tavern. Rocks also allegedly floated around inside the house. The attacks allegedly raged from June through September, and then stopped as suddenly and mysteriously as they started.

Since this was 1682,
Sep 19, 2011 Anne rated it it was ok
I have some mixed feelings about this book. I can't honestly say it was enjoyable, as I found it rather dry (it is an academic book, after all) and I thought that the author rambled a bit for most of the book (although he did wrap things up rather well in the last two chapters, I will give him that). The book could have benefited from some serious editing -- not just to tighten up the author's ramblings, but to fix all the freaking typos! Oh, how I hate that! How is it that books can get publish ...more
Jan 12, 2015 Wayne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent, information-rich book! In "The Devil of Great Island" we get to view a 1682 witchcraft episode in early NH through the greater lens of sectarian strife and general insecurity that plagued much of colonial life. Baker paints a rich picture of the shifting allegiances and litigious nature of our colonial progenitors. He also neatly ties this particular episode with other cases including the much more famous Essex County outbreak of 1692. We end up with a very clear understanding of w ...more
Sep 10, 2009 Heather rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An interesting look at religious and political strife in early colonial America. Well, interesting might be too strong a word here, however I certainly learned a great deal about historical property disputes and the neverending see-sawing of early English/American politics. My guess is that if you don't know much about this period in American history, or don't have much interest in it to begin with, you'll get bogged down in the details and give up after the second chapter. However, for those wi ...more
Aug 01, 2008 Kristy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
It was a very informative and interesting. However, it tended to repeat itself quite a bit and thus got a bit boring. It is very thorough and tells a good story, however, you will learn more than you ever needed to know about New England and stone throwing demons.
Mar 06, 2009 Hannah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stopped-reading
I had to stop reading after trying to will myself to slog through the endless details about property disputes. I understand that the author was trying to get at the reasons behind accusations of witchcraft in the 1600's, but ugh...I just couldn't do it anymore!
Jan 26, 2013 Sorcha rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An interesting story muddled by the description of the dense web of intrigue surrounding the event, which becomes confusing and redundant even with the four page character list at the front as a guide.
More than I ever wanted to know about the politics of New England in the 1600s. The basic premise of the book was interesting but the author just went on and on about really boring aspects of Colonial New England politics and land disputes that had tenuous connections to the stories of witchcraft.
May 02, 2015 Wendy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very well written and researched. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and look forward to reading his other books.
Thomas Clark
This is a decent sociological study of religious fanaticism in early America and its interaction with colonial politics.
Anne Powell
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