The Visible and Invisible Worlds of Salem

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Salem Village in 1869 was a small town filled with witchcraft, possession and ultimate fear. For ten months trials prosecuting innocent civilians, 19 resulting fatal, took place. Betty and Abigail Williams, two young girls, were the first in this domino effect that took place; claiming that they had been “ bitten and pinched by invisible agents; their arms, neck and backs turned this way and that way, and back again”. Betty soon began complaining of “prickling sensations and feelings of being choked”. These peculiar symptoms that couldn’t seem to be solved by any sort of medical reasoning are what set off the paranoid phenomenon that took place in Salem. More and more trials began taking place, accusing more innocent people of witchcraft. During these trials the magistrates would use “spectral evidence”, which was a victims account of what they had seen during one of their “torments”. Only the victims of witchcraft could see “the shape of the tormentor”; hardly proof at all if you ask me. This evidence was considered to be “the most damning and dangerous kind of proof”. This kind of “invisible proof” and witchcraft was most commonly known as a matter of maleficium. The possessed were thought to have made a deal with the devil himself in exchange for some sort of magical powers. This widespread fear of the unknown and supernatural is what condemned so many innocent lives. However, several philosophers saw these terrifying violent fits as simply a physiological disturbance. Pediatrician Ernest Caulfield found that “the accused were sick children in the worst sort of metal distress-living in fear for their very lives and the welfare of their immortal souls”. People feared that if they did not plead guilty to being a witch then they would be sentenced to death. This severe mental stress and trauma could have very well led to such outrageous behavior as seen in the trials. Sarah Churchill was victim to these extreme pressures as well. She eventually “succumbed to her...
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