Stones raining on tavern set stage for new book

Posted: Friday, November 02, 2007

NEW CASTLE, N.H. - A 2-foot-high rock wall borders the elementary school near the spot where a satanic spirit purportedly showered George and Alice Walton's home and tavern with stones 325 years ago. It set off a wave of hysteria that foreshadowed the Salem witch trials.

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Could some of the rocks now neatly arranged outside Mabel H. Trefethen School be among those that came crashing down on Walton's property on the night of June 11, 1682, creating the belief that a stone-throwing devil was on the loose?

"Who knows where (the rocks) came from? Your guess is as good as mine," says historian Emerson W. Baker, whose new book, "The Devil of Great Island," uses the historical footnote as an opening to explore witchcraft and devilry in the Colonial New England mind-set.

The moon was full that Sunday night when stones rained onto George Walton and several companions as they headed toward the tavern, according to an eyewitness. The rocks, some as large as a man's fist, continued to fly even after those targeted by the barrage took shelter inside. Some of the rocks were hot, as if they had just been pulled from a fire.

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