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The Strange Tale of Salem

Page history last edited by milne778 10 years, 9 months ago

     European immigrants brought the belief of witchcraft to the 13 colonies. In Puritan communities, witchcraft is forbidden and is punishable by death. In the Puritan community of Salem, a group of girls began to act very strange. Soon the girls were accused of witchcraft. This would lead to the last witch hunt in America, the Salem Witch Trials.


     The Puritans were very strict about their belief. The Puritans believed in two worlds. The Natural World was the world that could be seen by the naked eye. The Invisible World was the world that was inhabited by the Devil and his subjects. The Puritans also believed that disasters were signs from God. These signs included earthquakes, droughts, wildfires, and plagues of flies. Witchcraft was on of the least favorite beliefs of Puritans. It was punishable by death under English law.


     The Witch Trials had an odd beginning with some roots dating back to the 1640's. Before 1692 only 16 people had been hung for witchcraft in New England. During the 1640's New England settlers were having convulsions and contorted their bodies. The first person hung for witchcraft was Margaret Jones. Samuel Parris was the new minister of the church in Salem. Parris had 2 slaves that were married to each other. Parris also had young daughters and a young niece that lived with him. Parris' slaves would tell stories to the young girls. The slaves would also teach the girls games that were forbidden in the Puritan community. Soon after the salves started telling stories to the girls, the girls' behavior became extremely strange. The girls would hide under tables and mutter things, and they would also have fits where their bodies became contorted. Parris had many disasters happen to him during his early times in Salem. The water in his house would freeze every night, his firewood supply was very little, and he was promised to be paid but he never was. But Parris had begun to notice that something was seriously wrong with his youngest daughter and niece. Within days a homeless woman and her son came knocking on Parris' door. They begged for food and Parris game them a small amount of bread. The woman walked away and muttered something under her breath. Parris had soon called upon William Griggs, the doctor in Salem, who diagnosed the girls as bewitched. Parris blamed the woman who begged for food only days before, but the girls had accused Parris' slave, Tituba, of putting a curse upon them. The girls continued to accuse other people including Sarah Goodson and Sarah Osborn.


     The number of accusations was spiraling out of control but there was a way to escape the seemingly inevitable death punishment. In a period of about a year, over 200 people were accused of witchcraft. Approximately 150 of those people were thrown in jail. Around 15 people died while they were in jail. The accused have a fair chance though. They were to go through three trials before they could be found guilty or innocent. The accused were also searched for witch's marks which were things like birthmarks or warts. Tituba however, found a way to avoid all this.  She simply pleaded guilty to witchcraft. She was not killed. People that were accused soon began to catch to the advantage of pleading guilty. A total of 49 people confessed to being a witch. The people who did not confess however, had to eventually face death. The number of people hung for witchcraft only reached to 19. One man however, was pressed to death with stones.


     The hysteria of this event spread quickly and lost control. Thirty four other towns soon became involved in this event. Between May 2, 1692 and June 6, 1692, 39 people were accused and arrested for witchcraft. Some of the accusations just didn't make sense. Parents would accuse their own children of being witches and people would accuse dogs as well. Soon people figured out that innocent people were being killed. This lead to the interesting question: Were the accusers witches themselves?


     The Salem Witch Trials seemed to end just as quickly as it started. The Royal Governor of Massachusetts finally had returned from his trip to London. What he found was many people were rotting away in jail. At the time there wasn't an official court of law that could execute people for witchcraft. The Royal Governor did establish that court though. Very soon he finally put an end to the arrests for witchcraft. He also released the accused from jail. All stories from the Invisible world were banned. The families of the victims that were hung received compensation from the colony.


     The Salem Witch Trials were the last witchcraft trials in America. Although this mass hysteria ended, there are sure to be others as society evolves. The Salem Witch Trials were an amazing event however, they were sad and cruel. There seem to be many details still unfolding about this sad event.



Works Cited:

1. Zeglin, Sara. The Salem Witch Trials. 2 May 2013 webpath.folletsoftware.com

2. Boyer, Paul. "Salem Witchcraft Trials." World Book S-Sn 2008. ed

3. Schanzer, Rosalyn. Witches! The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster In Salem. Washington D.C. : National Geographic Society. 2011

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