Research Project: The Salem Witch Trials
The Salem Witch Trials in Salem, Massachusetts rocked the town to its core. Hysteria, paranoia, and confusion among the citizens of Salem. Accusing people of casting spells and consorting with the devil. How were the politics and citizenship of this period handled and was it handled correctly? Witchcraft was something very new in the colonies.
In France, Italy, Germany, and England, this has been going on for about 300 years. The bible even says, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” In 1484, Pope Innocent the 8th declared witchcraft a heiracy and the punishment was death. With little being done by the authorities, forty to fifty thousand people were executed in 14th through 16th century alone. Usually with a public hanging, these were called witch hunts.
In 1684, a charter granting independence from the crown and the right to own land was revoked. The charter was restored 5 years later, but the political instability and the further anxiety from the rigid ways of their puritan religious beliefs took its toll on Salem’s residents.
The first trial in Salem to catch the attention of the people was in 1688. There were four Boston children “possessed” by the mother of their family’s servant. Her last name was Glover. The investigator, Cotton Mather, described symptoms of the children and the accused witch in a published book which had a huge effect on the citizens of Salem. The four children were eventually cured through fasting and prayer. Glover was hanged.
On the outskirts of Salem was a small village of 500 people called Salem Village. Hanging on by their fingernails to Salem, they weren’t as politically strong as Salem. There was a witch hunt in 1692. There are about 500 surviving documents pertaining to what happened with the witch trials this year. 160 of these documents contain accusations of witchcraft. Warrants and death warrants were issued. This is how it all started.
Six young girls were showing signs of being under the spell of a witch. They pointed their fingers at a beggar, a slave named Titiga, and an old bed ridden woman. All easy targets. All women. And most importantly, they all didn’t attend church.
The pre trials were trials held in order to figure out if there was sufficient evidence to try these people as being witches. John Hathorn questions one of the accused women, Sarah Good. John: Sarah Good, what evil spirit do you have familiarity with? Sarah: None!
John: Have you made contract with the devil?
John: Why do you hurt these children?
Sarah: I do not hurt them, I scorn it!
John: Who do you employ then to do it?
Sarah: I employ nobody!
John: What creature do you employ?
Sarah: No creature! But I am falsely accused!
Each denial by Sarah was met with convulsive fits and screams by the six girls sitting in the meeting room. This was enough for strong evidence.
The trial that changed the course of the trials completely was Ttiga’s trial. After countless amounts of questions, Titiga confesses, But she has much more to say. She says, “The devil came to me and bid me serve him.” For three days Titiga tells tales of talking animals, night flights on broomsticks, and spectral visits intended to harm the children. Then she says a tall man from Boston got her to sign the devils book in blood. Inside the book there were nine more names from Salem. This sent a shiver through the meeting room. To the citizens, this meant that there were more witches out there in their perfect, puritan town. Paranoia set neighbor against neighbor in the small community.
How many others could there be? There are witches everywhere! Accusations of witchcraft rapidly spread. Unlike before where just lower class citizens were accused, upper class citizens were being brought forward. In 1692, the number of accusations continued to escalate. More than one hundred men and women were arrested. Relatives of these people were also accused and arrested. Even...
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