The Salem Witch Trials of 1692
In colonial Massachusetts between February of 1692 and May of 1963 over one hundred and fifty people were arrested and imprisoned for the capital felony of witchcraft. Trials were held in Salem Village, Ipswich, Andover and Salem Town of Essex County of Massachusetts, but accusations of witchcraft occurred in surrounding counties as well. Nineteen of the accused, fourteen women and five men, were hanged at Gallows Hill near Salem Village. Hysteria had swept through Puritan Massachusetts and hundreds of people were accused of witchcraft. Why these accusations came about might account for a combination of an ongoing frontier war, economic conditions, congregational strife, teenage boredom, and personal jealousy among neighbors.* The colonial era was dangerous and the settlers were exposed to much hardship, not only with other inhabitants of the land, but with themselves as well.
The Witchcraft crisis began in mid-January of 1691, when a young girl named Betty Parris living in the household of the Reverend Samuel Parris of Salem Village, Massachusetts, became strangely ill. She had suffered from fits of hysteria and delusions. The Reverend called upon the local physician, William Griggs, whom could find nothing physically wrong with her and ultimately concluded that she had been bewitched. (It is now believed that Betty Parris may have been suffering from stress, asthma, guilt, boredom, child abuse, epilepsy, and/or delusional psychosis.)* Three women were accused of the bewitching of Betty. She accused Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba, the Reverend Samuel Parris’ slave. Both Good and Osborne claimed their innocence, but Tituba confessed to witchcraft – possibly for feeling guilty of practicing fortune telling. All three women were sent to a prison in Boston, where Osborne later died of natural causes. Soon afterwards, mass hysteria ensued. There were many accusations from people across Essex County that they...
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