Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials by Marc AronsonSalem, Massachusetts, 1692. In a plain meetinghouse a woman stands before her judges. The accusers, girls and young women, are fervent and overexcited. The accused is a poor, unpopular woman who had her first child before she was married. As the trial proceeds the girls begin to wail, tear their clothing, and scream that the woman is hurting them. Some of them expose wounds to the horrified onlookers, holding out the pins that have stabbed them -- pins that appeared as if by magic. Are they acting or are they really tormented by an unseen evil? Whatever the cause, the nightmare has begun: The witch trials will eventually claim twenty-five lives, shatter the community, and forever shape the American social conscience.
A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials
One accused person lived in Salisbury, one in Amesbury, six in Haverhill, and a whopping 45 in Andover, which is where some of the preliminary hearings were held. Some scholars go as far as to claim that the trials were the moment when our early theocratic government crumbled, and the notion of separation of church and state was born. One: PTSD may have been a factor. These unfortunate girls had seen their families brutally murdered during the conflicts. Two: Middle-aged women were at most risk for being accused of witchcraft.
All rights reserved. These trials happened in Salem, Massachusetts, during the winter and spring of When it was all over, suspects, both men and women, were tried as witches. Nineteen were executed by hanging. One was pressed to death by heavy stones.
Partly, this is because we now know that virtually anyone could be accused of witchcraft for no reason at all and sentenced to death with no proof at all. A doctor decided they had been cursed by a witch, a conclusion that the little girls went along with. Little did they know, this conclusion of theirs would change history. And so the first three accused witches -- Sarah Goode, Sarah Osborne, and an Indian slave from Barbados named Tituba -- were charged with practicing witchcraft on the cousins. Following their accusations, more and more people became "afflicted," and more and more people were accused, jailed, tried, and punished for being witches.
The Salem witch trials of the late 17th century were a formative episode in America's . An important minister in Boston named Increase Mather was one of these.
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2. Was is really against the law to be a witch?
It's almost Halloween yay! There are many mangled myths and mixed-up misconceptions flying around about the Salem witch trials. So we took it upon ourselves to throw away the broomsticks and the black cats and get some straight answers.
Here are 42 wicked facts about the Salem witch trials. Just when did the Salem witch trials take place in the timeline of American history? They began in , a full 73 years before the start of the American Revolution and some 40 years before George Washington was even born. When all was said and done, 25 people lost their lives because of the trials. Two of the casualties were babies. Which, yes, is a little ironic.
Add in the numerous films and television series that reference Salem, and things get even more distorted. Being burned at the stake was an occasionally used method of execution in Europe, when one was convicted of witchcraft, but was generally reserved for those who refused to repent of their sins. No one in America has ever been put to death this way. Instead, in , hanging was the preferred form of punishment. Twenty people were put to death in Salem for the crime of witchcraft. Nineteen were hanged, and one—elderly Giles Corey—pressed to death.
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