torch.jpgSalem Witch Trials: Were the Accusations True?

Some people today sometimes say that unsolved mysteries like Bigfoot or Stonehenge are a waste of time to study. I don’t agree. I believe studying unsolved mysteries are worth both the time and effort. These mysteries should be solved because they are an important part of our history and culture. One of the most important historical mysteries is the Salem witch trials. This report will explain the background of that mystery.

The Salem Witch Trials started in 1692 and ended in 1693. During the trials, nineteen people were hung and 150 imprisoned for being witches. Some of those people were Mary Easty, Rebecca Nurse, and Martha Cory. Giles Cory was even pressed to death by large stones for refusing to say if he was innocent or guilty. Towards the end of 1693, when the Salem Witch Trials ended, the hangmans-noose.jpgpeople who were still in jail were set free. Before the Salem Witch Trials, sixteen people had been hung in New England.

These kinds of witch trials had gone on before, they happened in England. Salem Village, Massachusetts was an English colony so the people who moved there from England brought with them English beliefs. English laws said that witchcraft was punishable by death. Many people from England wondered, “What are witches and witchcraft?” These are some explanations. A witch is “one that works by the Devil, or by some devilish curious art, hurting or healing, revealingdevil.jpg things secret or foretelling things to come, which the Devil has devised to entangle and snare men’s souls unto damnation.” It is said that witchcraft was “an art which, by the power of a contract entered into with the Devil, some wonders are wrought which pass the common understanding of man.” (Boyer) or “A certain evil art, whereby with the assistance of the Devil, or evil spirits, some wonders, may be wrought which exceed the common understanding of man.” (Boyer) Another definition for witchcraft is “Witchcraft is the doing of strange, and for the most part ill, things by the help of evil spirits, covenanting with the woeful children of men.” (Boyer)

For a while there was no government in Salem Village. Some people would come and be governors from all different places. The governors would try and try to lead and organize the people. Sometimes governors would make it, sometimes they would give up. If there were no government officials, you might ask, how do they tell who is a witch and who isn’t? How would you know who was breaking a law or were there even laws to be broken?

There were many ways that you could be seen as a witch. Some characteristics of being a witch included throwing fits or talking nonsense. Telling the future or seeing the devil and dead people were also signs. Add some claims of flying on broomsticks, changing witches.gifshape, and reading minds, and you were accused of being a witch.

Many priests worked hard to stop the craziness of the witch trials. Without these men, the Salem Witch Trials would have gone on for a lot longer than one year. The reason that priests were the ones who helped the most is because witches were considered to be “controlled by the devil”, and since the devil is an enemy of God, so is a witch. The devil would sometimes pick one person and make them become especially strong in their faith, like Martha Cory. Sometimes, innocent girls would be sitting in church and Martha would squeeze her fist or scratch herself, and the girls would be able to feel it and they would cry out in pain. So then they were accused of being a witch because they would randomly cry out when they could feel someone else’s actions.

There wasn’t ever a fair trial, if they had one at all. Someone would accuse a person and let the person confess. It wouldn’t matter if you confessed or not, you would still be executed. Usually it was women who were accused of being a witch, but sometimes men were accused of being wizards.

images.jpgDuring the witch trials, many “witches” and “wizards” were put in jail but less than half of them were hung. The Salem Witch Trials was the largest witch-hunt America has ever recorded in history. Salem, Massachusetts is filled with interesting history. If you want to visit the location of the Salem witch hunt you need to go to Danvers, Massachusetts The Salem witchcraft incidents began there in 1692; more than half of the victims were from Danvers.

My opinion: I don’t really know the meaning of witchcraft but I do know one thing, no one ever had a fair trial. I personally think that the people who accuse a person of being a witch just didn’t like them. I really doubt that there is such a thing as magic. No matter what I think, the Salem Witch Trials are a great mystery worth studying.

Robinson, Enders A.. The Devil Discovered. New York: Hippocrene Books, Inc., 1991.
Boyer, Paul, and Stephen Nissbaum. Salem Possessed, The Social Origins of Witchcraft. United States: Harvard University Press, 1974.
Boyer, Paul. "Salem witchcraft trials. “World Book. 2000.
“Hangman’s knot” Online image. 2/8/07>“Witches” Online image. 2/8/07
“Witches” Online image. 2/8/07
“Torch” Online image. 2/8/07
“Witch devil” Online image. 2/8/07