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Salem Witch Trials: Inside Facts And Conspiracy Theory; Biblog. Includ. Essay, Research Paper

During the year of 1692, suspicion and corruption boiled underneath the halcyon cover of Salem Town, Massachusetts. The explosive ten months of trial condemning innocent townsfolk with witchcraft is one of the most intriguing yet dark chapters of America?s colonial beginnings. Many today know of the happenings that took place. Few, however, are aware of the culture that caused and allowed the horrific hysteria to grow and set the stage for one of history?s most tragic and needless events.

Salem, in its early days was a haven for mass-hysteria. The strict mores of the Puritans considered innocent acts such as dancing, sports, calling a pet by name, or hiking alone suspicious, even questionable activities. The ignorant and hypocritical people of the religion thought of women no more than possessions made to serve and obey their husbands. The crippled, ill, and impoverished were thought to be offspring of the devil and failed to rouse sympathy in the Puritan heart. Because of these and many other traits, the infamous Salem Witch Trials took root amongst the fire-and-brimstone Puritans.

It was late November of 1691; a very stifling time of year for Betty Parris and Abigail Williams (daughter and niece of Reverend Parris), both wild with boredom and in need of an outlet for their youthful energies that their religion so vehemently oppressed. They, and seven other teenaged girls of the village, found their sought after outlet in Tituba. A mysterious and exotic slave brought from Barbados by Rev. Parris, she spent her evenings performing magic tricks, telling fortunes, and stories to dispel their winter monotony and boredom.

The participants of this circle took great delight in this, when something terribly frightening happened. Betty and Abigail began to have ?fits? in which their limbs would become rigid, their bodies would twist into horrific contortions, and erupt in sessions of incoherent gibberish. The frantic examinations by the villages doctors could only procure one probable cause; witchcraft.

The accusations started shortly afterwards. The first accused witch was Sarah Good, a perfect target due to the fact that she was a beggar and estranged. She was brought before Magistrate Hawthorne in the public meeting house. Hawthorne was a brutal prosecutor, never giving the benefit of the doubt, continually pummeling the indicted with condemning and accusing questions. He would never veer from this strategy in all of the trails he took part in. Ann Putnam Jr. who testified had named Sarah Good as a witch, ?I saw the apparition of Sarah Good, which did torture me most grievously. I did not know her name?then she told me her name was Sarah Good and then she did prick and pinch me most grievously?urging me to write in her [witches] book?. She also went on to say that Good had done the same to several other girls. Sarah Good promptly denied all charges, but as she did so, the ?bewitched? girls began to erratically convulse claiming that even though she was physically apart from them, Good was tormenting them ?spectrally?. The next accused witch brought before the Magistrates and Jury was Sarah Osborne. She herself was much like Good; a poor, haggardly woman. The same charges were made against her, and she returned with the same denial. The girls fell into the fits as they had before. Osborne was held for trial later on like Good had.

The next woman brought in was the most interesting of them all. Tituba herself had been called in as a tormenter of the afflicted. However, she did the exact opposite of the two before her. Not only did she confess to everything charged of her, but also named Osborne and Good as witches (ironically, because she confessed she didn?t hang although she was sold to another master).

The trials would rage on until September 22, 1692, the date of the last hanging. Even though the afflicted girls continued to cry out against anyone within reach, the townsfolk?s? tolerance and the novelty of the whole situation was wearing thin. In the end, twenty in all were hanged; thirteen women and seven men. One other man, Giles Cory, was tortured in the old English fashion of being pressed to death (or at least until a confession was made) by rocks or weights being placed on a person. Four women and an unnamed infant had died in prison. The girls that had accused and caused the deaths of so many went on to lead the lives of invalids and mentally unstable women.

A conspiracy theory does lie underneath the reasons to why the trials lasted so long. While Puritans were anxious to purge any evil that threatened their vision of a utopia, many are lead to believe that it was really a battle between the prosperous merchants and straggling farmers of Salem. A striking east-west split in Salem between the accusers and accused witches makes this a credible theory.

Six years later, on January 16, 1697, did the lieutenant governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declare a day of fasting, saying that God was upset with the witch persecution due to the failed harvests, weakening of the people, and sudden deaths the colonists had been suffering. Twelve of the jurors that had served at the trials of Salem signed a petition stating that they had sent wrongly accused men and women to their deaths with a lack of evidence. In this retrospect they all came to see that mass-hysteria and fear had manipulated their own delusional minds and courtrooms.

The trials that occurred in 1692 were and forever will be a dark blemish on the colonial history of America. The Puritans staunch frenzy, distorted view of justice, unyielding ignorance, hate, and unobtainable dreams they though would make them pure as a society only brought on one thing; they death of blameless souls.

Bibliography:

Witchcraft in America

Clifford Lindsey Alderman

Julian Messner

1974

133.4 Ald

The American Nation

James West Davidson and John E. Batchelor

Prentice Hall

1991

The Witchcraft of Salem Village

Shirley Jackson

Random House

1956

133.4 Jac

The Salem Witch Trials

Earle Rice Jr.

Lucent Books

1997

133.4 Ric

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/features/97/salem


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