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Hogg wild in New Haven

Two men were tried and one was executed for bestiality in early New Haven. The evidence: the birth of piglets that looked suspiciously like the accused.

Piglet

Petr Kratochvil [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

George Spencer had a bad year in 1642. By all reports quite ugly, and missing an eye, he was notorious in the Puritan colony for his lack of faith. That was not enough to condemn him, but then a piglet was born. Ugly, deformed, with only one eye. At last, the authorities had proof that Spencer had committed a carnal sin – specifically, that he had slept with a sow. I mean, it was incontrovertible! The piglet looked just like him.

Fortunately, the law at the time was clear: no-one could be executed without the testimony of two witnesses. Unfortunately, the law was an ass.

Spencer was pressured to confess, on the advice that he would receive mercy. Surprise! They meant the mercy of God, not the mercy of the law. When he realised that he had become the first witness to his own “crime,” Spencer retracted his confession. And then confessed again. And then retracted it again. But it was too late for backsies.

The authorities had one witness – Spencer – and they decided that the piglet itself counted as the second witness. So, on the 8th of April of that year, Spencer died by hanging. And his partner in crime? The sow was killed by a sword.

Five years later, another resident of the New Haven Colony was accused of the same crime, and with the same evidence: a piglet that closely resembled the accused. The new target’s name was (and I’m not kidding)… Thomas Hogg. Hogg learned the lesson from Spencer, though, and refused to confess. Without two witnesses, they could not convict him and Hogg walked free. After some whipping, because obviously he was a liar.

Categories: Early modern history History North & Central America Places Plants & animals Politics & law Sciences

The Generalist

I live in Auckland, New Zealand, and am curious about most things.

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