A girl is accused during the Salem Witch Trials Bettmann / CORBIS

The Salem witch trials emerged in colonial Massachusetts in between 1692 and also 1693. Much more than 200 world were accused that practicing witchcraft—the Devil"s magic—and 20 were executed. Eventually, the swarm admitted the trials were a mistake and compensated the family members of those convicted. Due to the fact that then, the story that the trials has become synonymous v paranoia and also injustice, and also it continues to beguile the famous imagination much more than 300 year later.

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Salem Struggling

Several century ago, numerous practicing Christians, and also those of various other religions, had actually a solid belief that the Devil might give details people recognized as witches the power to harm others in return for their loyalty. A "witchcraft craze" rippled through Europe from the 1300s come the finish of the 1600s. 10s of thousands of an alleged witches—mostly women—were executed. Despite the Salem trials come on just as the european craze to be winding down, local circumstances describe their onset.

In 1689, English rulers William and Mary began a war through France in the American colonies. Well-known as King William"s war to colonists, it devastated regions the upstate new York, Nova Scotia and Quebec, sending refugees into the ar of Essex and, specifics Salem town in the Massachusetts bay Colony. (Salem village is contemporary Danvers, Massachusetts; early american Salem Town ended up being what"s currently Salem.)


Six females of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and also Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials

Six women of Salem is the very first work to use the lives of a select variety of representative ladies as a microcosm come illuminate the larger dilemm of the Salem witch trials.


The displaced world created a stress, overload on Salem"s resources. This aggravated the currently rivalry between families through ties come the riches of the port of Salem and also those that still relied on agriculture. Controversy additionally brewed over Reverend Samuel Parris, who ended up being Salem Village"s first ordained minister in 1689, and was disliked since of his strict ways and also greedy nature. The Puritan villagers believed all the quarreling was the work-related of the Devil.

In January the 1692, Reverend Parris" daughter Elizabeth, age 9, and also niece Abigail Williams, period 11, started having actually "fits." castle screamed, threw things, uttered strange sounds and also contorted themselves right into strange positions, and a neighborhood doctor blamed the supernatural. Another girl, Ann Putnam, period 11, experienced comparable episodes. Top top February 29, under push from magistrates Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne, the girl blamed 3 women for afflicting them: Tituba, the Parris" Caribbean slave; buy it Good, a homeless beggar; and also Sarah Osborne, one elderly impoverished woman.


The witch no. 1 is a lithograph representation, created by Joseph E. Baker, ca. 1837-1914, that the story of the witchcraft accusations, trials and executions that caught the imagination of writers and artists in the occurring centuries. Wikimedia Commons

Abigail William"s testimony against George Jacobs, Jr., during the Salem witches trial, currently retained by the Massachusetts historical Society. Wikimedia Commons

In this 1876 sculpture Witchcraft at Salem Village, the central figure of the courtroom is usually identified as mar Walcott. Wikimedia Commons

This map that Salem town is a repair of how Salem looked in 1692 at the begin of the witch trials as created in 1866 from historic records through Charles W. Upham Wikimedia Commons
check of a witch by Tompkins H. Matteson, whose paintings are known for your historical, patriotic, and spiritual themes. Dozens of world from Salem and other Massachusetts towns were brought in and put to differing levels of questioning. Wikimedia Commons
"Petition because that bail native accused witches" from the man Davis Batchelder Autograph Collection. Wikimedia Commons
Witch Hill by thomas Satterwhite. A young mrs is brought about her execution throughout the Salem witchcraft trials. Smithsonian academy

Witch Hunt

All 3 women to be brought before the neighborhood magistrates and interrogated for number of days, beginning on march 1, 1692. Osborne declared innocence, as did Good. Yet Tituba confessed, "The Devil came to me and bid me offer him." She explained elaborate images of black color dogs, red cats, yellow birds and a "black man" that wanted her to sign his book. She admitted the she signed the book and said there to be several various other witches spring to damage the Puritans. All three women were placed in jail.

With the seed of paranoia planted, a present of accusations complied with for the next few months. Charges versus Martha Corey, a loyal member that the Church in Salem Village, greatly concerned the community; if she could be a witch, then anyone could. Magistrates also questioned buy it Good"s 4-year-old daughter, Dorothy, and also her timid answers were taken as a confession. The questioning got much more serious in April as soon as Deputy Governor thomas Danforth and his assistants attended the hearings. Dozens of civilization from Salem and other Massachusetts villages were lugged in for questioning.

On might 27, 1692, governor William Phipps bespeak the establishment of a one-of-a-kind Court that Oyer (to hear) and Terminer (to decide) because that Suffolk, Essex and also Middlesex counties. The very first case carried to the distinct court was Bridget Bishop, an older woman recognized for she gossipy habits and also promiscuity. When asked if she cursed witchcraft, Bishop responded, "I to be as chaste as the child unborn." The defense should not have actually been convincing, due to the fact that she was found guilty and, top top June 10, came to be the first person hanged ~ above what was later called Gallows Hill.

Five days later, respect minister noodle Mather wrote a letter imploring the court no to permit spectral evidence—testimony about dreams and also visions. The court mostly ignored this request and five world were sentenced and hanged in July, five more in August and also eight in September. Top top October 3, following in his son"s footsteps, boost Mather, climate president of Harvard, denounced the use of spectral evidence: "It were better that ten doubt witches need to escape than one innocent human being be condemned."

Governor Phipps, in an answer to Mather"s plea and also his own wife being wondered about for witchcraft, prohibited more arrests, released countless accused witches and also dissolved the Court of Oyer and Terminer top top October 29. Phipps replaced it with a superior Court that Judicature, i m sorry disallowed spectral evidence and only condemned 3 the end of 56 defendants. Phipps at some point pardoned all that were in prison on witchcraft charges by may 1693. But the damage had to be done: 19 were hanged ~ above Gallows Hill, a 71-year-old male was pressed to fatality with hefty stones, several people died in jail and practically 200 people, overall, had actually been accused of practicing "the Devil"s magic."

Restoring an excellent Names

Following the trials and also executions, numerous involved, prefer judge Samuel Sewall, publicly confessed error and also guilt. ~ above January 14, 1697, the basic Court notified a work of fasting and also soul-searching because that the tragedy the Salem. In 1702, the court asserted the trials unlawful. And also in 1711, the colony passed a bill restoring the legal rights and good names of those accused and also granted £600 restitution to your heirs. However, it was not till 1957—more 보다 250 year later—that Massachusetts formally apologized for the events of 1692.

In the 20th century, artists and also scientists alike ongoing to be fascinated through the Salem witch trials. Playwright Arthur fearbut resurrected the tale with his 1953 play The Crucible, utilizing the trials together an allegory for the McCarthyism paranoia in the 1950s. Additionally, countless hypotheses have actually been devised to explain the strange habits that arisen in Salem in 1692. Among the most concrete studies, released in Science in 1976 through psychologist Linnda Caporael, blamed the abnormal actions of the accused ~ above the fungus ergot, which deserve to be uncovered in rye, wheat and other cereal grasses. Toxicologists say the eating ergot-contaminated foodstuffs can result in muscle spasms, vomiting, delusions and also hallucinations. Also, the fungus thrives in warm and also damp climates—not as well unlike the swampy grasslands in Salem Village, whereby rye to be the staple grain during the spring and summer months.

In august 1992, to mark the 300th anniversary the the trials, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel specialized the Witch Trials Memorial in Salem. Likewise in Salem, the Peabody Essex Museum homes the original court documents, and also the town"s most-visited attraction, the Salem Witch Museum, attests to the public"s enthrallment v the 1692 hysteria.

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Editor"s keep in mind - October 27, 2011: thanks to Professor Darin Hayton for pointing out an error in this article. If the exact number of supposed witches eliminated in Europe isn"t known, the best estimate is closer to 10s of hundreds of victims, not hundreds of thousands. We have actually fixed the message to address this issue.