Preview

Salem Witch Trial Theories

Best Essays
Open Document
Open Document
2287 Words
Grammar
Grammar
Plagiarism
Plagiarism
Writing
Writing
Score
Score
Salem Witch Trial Theories
Brennyn Mackey

2 May 2011

The Secret War of Salem

Exposing the Culprit behind the Mass Hysteria

The Salem Witch Trials were a series of infamous events that demand an explanation for their occurrence. The trials that took place in 1692 caused neighbors in the community of Salem Village in the colony of Massachusetts to turn on one another out of paranoia, accusing one another of witchcraft. According to Carol Karlsen, a longtime author of the subject, nineteen people were hanged and about 200 others were imprisoned (40). A few theories have been offered in order to explain the root of this mass hysteria. The theories in question need to be examined to see which holds the most credibility.

Most historians who have studied the subject agree on the chronological order of events that set this dark episode of history into motion. They believe it began in the household of Reverend Samuel Parris. Reverend Parris owned a West Indian slave named Tituba. Tituba would tell the young girls stories of her experiences in sorcery when the reverend was away. This small group of girls started with Abigail Williams, the reverend’s niece, and Elizabeth Parris, his daughter. Soon, a few girls from neighboring homes joined. Eventually, the girls began to exhibit exceptionally erratic behaviors. They would have hallucinations and convulsions. A physician checked the girls, but he failed to find a natural cause for their behavior. He attributed their ailments to a supernatural cause (Salem Witch Trials). The girls began to claim they were being afflicted by witches and started making accusations. Thus, the panic ensued. Those who have studied the subject of the Salem Witch Trials have very few disagreements on these events.

Though history may have documented the events, it has not presented a clear underlying cause to their occurrence. Why did the girls act in such a manner? Scholars have presented their own theories for this mystery. One theory that



Cited: Boyer, Paul, and Stephen Nissenbaum. Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft. Harvard, 1974. Print Buckland, Raymond Caporeal, Linnda. “Ergotism: The Satan Loosed in Salem?” Science Vol. 192 (1976) Web. 30 Apr. 2011. Hill, Frances. The Salem Witch Trials Reader. Cambridge: Da Capo P., 2001. Print. Morgan, Sheena. The Wicca Handbook: A complete Guide to Witchcraft and Magic. London: Vega, 2003. Print Orr, Tamra Blackbirch Press, 2004. Print. Saari, Peggy. Witchcraft in America. Detroit: UXL, 2001. Print. “Salem Witch Trials.” In Search of History. History Channel. A&E Television Networks, 1998 Spanos, Nicholas and Jack Gottlieb. “Ergotism and the Salem Village Witch Trials” Science Vol. 194 (1976) Web. 30 Apr. 2011.

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Good Essays

    Salem Witch Trials Dbq

    • 658 Words
    • 3 Pages

    In 1692, Salem, Massachusetts broke out into hysteria all because of an accusation about a witch. When a few teenage girls began accusing the older woman of Salem of witchcraft, suspicions started flying around. Soon neighbors were accusing each other, calling the Puritan church to get involved. After the church got involved many innocents lost their lives. Most of the teenage girls that accused the women of witchcraft, wanted their husbands for land and money. Not that the women did anything to the girls, they were just segregated on opposite sides of town. This made the wives an easy target for the girl’s allegations. Salem Village had self-segregated based on wealth and power and contributed to one of the many reasons the Witch Trials of 1692 came to be.…

    • 658 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Better Essays

    Salem Witch Trials

    • 1112 Words
    • 5 Pages

    The Salem Witch Trials has been a debatable topic for many historians enamored by its deviation from the normal as seen in Europe or other European Colonies in North America. As presented in Bryan Le Beau’s book The Story of the Salem Witch Trials, the story of Salem is unique in that it is centered primarily around the communities incapability to harmonize with one another. In the first two chapters, the book introduces its readers to a brief history of witchcraft trials, including how they began in Europe and followed colonists to the New World. In chapter three, the book describes Salem as it was before the trials and its ultimate path to the devastation it eventually created. It describes the division of the community and how that led to “…the point of institutional, demographic, and economic polarization” (p.50). Le Beau’s thesis is that “New England communities…suffered from the economic, social, political, and religious dislocations of the modernization process of the Early Modern Period, but to a greater extent than others,” he believed, “Salem village fell victim to warring factions, misguided leadership, and geographical limitations that precluded its dealing effectively with those problems” (p.43). The chapters following Le Beau’s thesis chronologically present the Salem Witch Craft trials and what was left in the wake the realization that followed.…

    • 1112 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    The Salem Witch Trials are known as a series of people being accused and prosecuted of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts beginning in February 1692 until May 1693. The trials began after a group of girls claimed that they were possessed by the devil. Several local women were accused of witchcraft and this began the wave of hysteria that would forever haunt Salem and leave a painful legacy for a long time to come. Nearly every major school of historians has attempted to explain the answer to the mystery of the trials, trying to understand why they occurred. From Marxists who blame class conflict, to Freudians who believe in mass hysteria, the more ecologically based historians who put the blame on hallucinogenic ergot fungus, and now more…

    • 322 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    SALEM WITCHCRAFT TRIALS

    • 622 Words
    • 2 Pages

    Ergot is a type of toxic fungus, which infects rye and contains alkaloids, which can cause severe problems to humans, such as hallucinations, tingling in the fingers, and convulsions, symptoms similar to those in Salem. It is considered as one of the major interpretations of the Salem Witch Trials, for it was mistakenly being consumed in 1692; time of which in fact the trials were taking place. At first it was a misconception since ergot’s toxins were believed to inactivate after being exposed to the baking process. Later, it was proven by a couple of tests that the alkaloids found inside of the fungus do not completely die when exposed to high temperatures, meaning that ergot could’ve been the cause for women to act as if they were bewitched.…

    • 622 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Bridget Bishop

    • 6102 Words
    • 25 Pages

    “The blackest chapter in the history of Witchcraft lies not in the malevolence of Witches but in the deliberate, gloating cruelty of their prosecutors.” When Theda Kenyon made this observation she was thinking about the atrocious behavior and actions that took place in Salem in 1692. During this tragic event neighbors were turned against one another and no bond was sacred. The men and women of Salem faced accusations from all directions and often the accusers were their close friends, business partners, and even their spouses. Panic filled Salem village and suddenly the slightest discrepancy in behavior became a reason to name someone as a witch. One of the greatest examples of how the hysteria brought upon lethal allegations for some of Salem’s citizen is the case of Bridget Bishop, the first person to be tried and executed for witchcraft in Salem.…

    • 6102 Words
    • 25 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    In 1692, an event called the Salem Witch Trials occurred, because of this, the people from a village called Salem, Massachusetts were fearful because they could be accused a witch. This all started when a group of young girls began to act very strange. The behaviors of the girls’ ranged from, screaming, copying body movements, pain, falling on the floor, twitching, and many other symptoms.…

    • 247 Words
    • 1 Page
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Good Essays

    The year 1692 marked a major event in history in the town of Salem, Massachusetts. During the year 1692, Salem, a colony filled with Puritans who believe in religion very strongly, but as their beliefs grow, the more the people were starting to die. The problem or question is what caused the Salem witch crisis hysteria of 1692? There were many causes for the Salem witch trial hysteria but the possible three main reasons were the conflicts between young and older women, the “afflicted” girls were acting throughout the trial, and the town’s differences in wealth and power.…

    • 595 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    The Salem witch trials were caused by jealousy, paranormia,and teenagers. Jealousy was a huge part because of the rich people having better land or have more money so people accused them to be able to own their stuff. Paranormia was a part of it because people were scared that the devil was entering their body to make them do bad things. Teenages were also part of it becsuse teeagers didn’t get a long with everyone, so when they didn’t they acted like the person was put a witchcraft spell on them. This is why the Salem witch trials in 1692…

    • 436 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Good Essays

    Witch trials were mainly caused by young girls hallucinating that some people were witches and that they were being attacked by their specter. This hallucination was caused by ergotism which is a fungus that grows on…

    • 635 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Salem Witch Trials

    • 611 Words
    • 3 Pages

    The Salem Witch Trials, of 1692, occurred in Salem Massachusetts. This is a case where people accused other people of witchcraft. Salem was a town governed by strict Puritan religion, and to have such a charge labeled against you could cost you your life. There were many worldly reasons for the events that happened so many years ago. In this essay, I will explain why I think this tragedy occurred. One of the reasons why I think this took place was because of social problems. Another reason why this disaster might have happened could have been because of young girls recklessly lying. And the last reason why I think this happened was of town division.…

    • 611 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    During the time period of the “Salem Witch Trials” in 1692, there were believes that the devil was present in the small village. The main cause of this outbreak begin with Abigail Williams, a girl with has an “Endless capacity for dissembling” (Bonnet) out of a lust for John Proctor and jealousy for his wife Elizabeth Proctor. Witchcraft in Salem started when Abigail and a group of girls were caught dancing in the woods bye Reverend Parris the minister of the church. Abigail wasn’t only caught dancing but drinking blood to kill Elizabeth Proctor. In fear of rumors and being punished for their actions the girls denied everything, some even acted sick. When accused of their actions they said the devil made them and that they saw other people in the village with the devil. The outbreak begins, in a puritan religion this would not be accepted nor tolerated. Something had to be done, and the way to relieve these problems was to hang people guilty. Witchcraft in Salem didn’t just involve a couple people but it involved a whole town. It was more than the accusations of the devil being present in the village but “A long overdue opportunity for everyone so inclined to express publicity” (Miller). This could finally express there long held hatred for their neighbors and take vengeance on them.…

    • 674 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Detweiler, Robert. "Shifting Perspectives on the Salem Witches." The History Teacher 80 (1975): 596-610. JSTOR. 10 Oct. 2007 <http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0018-2745%28197508%298%3A4%3C596%3ASPOTSW%3E2.0.CO%3B2-P>.…

    • 2259 Words
    • 10 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Dbq Salem Witch Crisis

    • 325 Words
    • 2 Pages

    The Salem Witch Crisis began during the winter of 1691-1692. In Salem Village, Massachusetts, when Betty Parris, the nine-year-old daughter of the village’s minister, Samuel Parris, and his niece, Abigail Williams, fell strangely ill. The girls complained of pinching, prickling sensations, knifelike pains, and the feeling of being choked. Some weeks later, three ore girls showed similar symptoms. Doctors began to suspect that witchcraft was the reason of the girl’s symptoms.…

    • 325 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Good Essays

    Dbq Salem Witch Trials

    • 459 Words
    • 2 Pages

    I am writing this report today to explain the major reasons behind the horrific witchcraft trials that took place in Salem, Massachusetts in the years 1692 and 1693. For years this event has been ignored. However, after analyzing the evidence in the case, I have some startling news to share. First, I will explain to you several theories that make the most sense. Then, I will tell you what I believe caused the Salem community to respond in such a cruel and violent way.…

    • 459 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Mass hysteria consumed the people of Salem in 1692 due to eight mischievous girls accusing neighbors of witchcraft. Fear, vengeance, arguments over land, sexual restraint, and the placement of ergotism were the ignition of the fire in Salem. Consequently, there is a wide variety of symptoms in ergotism therefore leading to many different cases of the disease. Ultimately, the girls were impaired due to the outbreak of encephalitis, which was an inflammation of the brain. Even today, there are very few people that believe those hanged actually practiced witchcraft. All in all, this shows that a reason behind calling someone a witch was for personal gain or…

    • 987 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays