The Salem Witch Trials occurred in the colonial Massachusetts between the years of sixteen ninety-two and sixteen ninety-three. It was during this time that more than two hundred individuals were accused of practicing witchcraft, (that is the devil's magic) and at least twenty people were executed. However, the colony eventually admitted that the trials were held mistakenly and families of those persons who were convicted. Since that time, the story of these trials became synonymous with injustices and a lot of paranoia. It has also continued to be beguiling the common imagination for the issue that happens more than three hundred years ago
. This study provides some of the events that led to the trials of the witches in Salem and how the entire process was executed.
In a number of centuries, ago many practicing Christians, and people from other religions had a strong belief that the devil had powers to give some individuals the power and ability to harm others in return for their loyalty. Back in the years of thirteen hundred to sixteen hundred, witchcraft had people across Europe significantly. More than ten thousand supposed witchcrafts especially women were killed, although the Salem trials came when the European craze was going down with the many local situations explaining their onset
Additionally, later in the late years of sixteen hundred, the rulers (Mary and William) started a war with the people of France in the American colonies. This war was then referred to as King William's war to the colonies, and it was so intense that it ravaged several states such as Nova Scotia, Quebec, and New York. Most of the people who were affected by this war especially the refugees freed to neighboring nations such as Essex, in the village of Salem which was located in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Most of The Salem's resources were used and strained by the displaced persons: this issue highly aggravated the already existing rivalry among families, which had ties to the wealth of the port of Salem while the others depended on the agricultural practices such as rearing cattle and growing food
There were also controversies between a reverend and some villagers. This reverend was the first of Salem's village to be ordained as a minister and many people did not like him because of his greedy nature and rigid way. Most of the Puritan villagers believed that all the arguing and quarreling among the villagers was the work of the devil. Early 1962, the reverend's daughter aged nine and his niece aged eleven started having fits. They had extremely strange and weird behavior: they could scream, throw away things, cornered themselves in strange positions, and said extremely weird sounds. However, what is peculiar is that the local doctor then blamed supernatural witchcraft. Another girl with a relatively the same age as the reverend's children experienced the same episodes. After a lot of pressure from the magistrate, the three girls blamed three women as a cause of their problem. The three women were Sarah Osborne who was an impoverished woman, Tituba who was a Paris' Caribbean slave, and Sarah Good who was a homeless beggar
After the three women stood before a tribunal for several days' interrogation, Osborne was declared innocent and so did Good. However, the other woman Tibuna confessed and said that the devil had come to her and commanded her to serve him. She said that when that happened, she would see extremely many weird images of red cats, black men, black dogs, and yellow birds. The black man always wanted her to sign his book, and after some time, she succumbed to the commands and signed the book. She also added and said that other women had been bewitched, and they sought to destroy the Puritan society. All the three women including the two who had been declared guilty were all jailed.
People now strongly believed that there was real witchcraft, and, therefore, for the next few months extremely many accusations followed. A woman by the name of Corey Martha who was a loyal member of a local church in Salem was also charged with being a witch. Young children too were not spared as Sarah Good's four-year-old daughter was also accused of being a witch. These cases became more and more intense as the local leaders together with villagers from Salem, and other Massachusetts villagers came to the hearings
When these hearings became extremely intense, the governor then ordered for the setting of a special Court of Oyer, which was a court for the hearing, and Terminer as the court for the deciding. These courts were set in Essex, Suffolk, and Middlesex nations. The first person to be tried in these courts was an elderly woman who was known for her wayward gossiping habits and promiscuity. However, when she was asked she denied the charges and said that she was innocent. The defense was not convincing enough since she was found guilty and was later sentenced and hanged
After the woman was murdered, it did not take long before the minister implored the court not to allow people to provide spectral evidence testimonies about visions and dreams. However, the court did not consider this request, and later that year, five more people, were sentenced and hanged in three consecutive months. The son to the minister too denounced the use of these spectral evidences. In his argument, he said that it was better for at least ten witches to go free than for one innocent person to be killed or condemned.
However, the governor responded to the minister's plea and his own wife being accused of witchcraft. This stopped further arrests from being made; many people who had been arrested on the bases of being witches were released while the two Courts Oyer and Terminer were dissolved. The governor then replaced the two courts with a superior court of Judicature, and this court disallowed the use of spectral evidence and only three out of about sixty-five defendants were condemned. In May 1963, the governor pardoned all persons who had been imprisoned on witchcraft charges
This neither brought the lives of those who had been killed back and nor forgave those who had been wrongfully convicted. The damage had already been done since more than twenty people had been hanged, while others who included some elderly men of about seventy years were stoned to death, others died while in prison, and more than two hundred people accused of practicing witchcraft
After the long trials and executions of people who had been found guilty, many people especially the judges who were involved in these trials confessed of being guilty. Perhaps, this was the reason why the entire court declared or set a certain day aside when people around the village were expected too fast and have a serious soul searching amongst them on the unfortunate tragedy that happened in Salem. In addition, all the trials that had earlier been made on witchcraft were all declared as unlawful in 1701
. It was in 1711 when the colony passed a bill that restored the rights and the good names of all persons who had been previously accused: more than six hundred dollars given to their heirs in cases where they were dead. However, it was until more than two hundred years after the incident when Massachusetts apologized for the events that occurred in 1692
Many people across the globe have continued to be fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials, and most especially the scientists and other artists. Some artists such as Arthur Miller brought the tale back when he wrote his play in the year 1953 known as "The Crucible." He used the trials as an allegory for the McCarthyism Paranoia in the 1950s. In 1692, many hypotheses have been brought out to explain the strange and weird behavior that occurred in Salem. However, in some concrete studies that were conducted by some psychologists, the abnormal habits of the accused individuals were blamed on the Fungus ergot, which can be found in rye, wheat and other cereal foods
According to the toxicologists back then, ingesting food that has been contaminated by ergot can lead to muscle spasms, delusions, vomiting and hallucinations. Additionally, different types of fungus thrive in climates that are extremely warm and damp. They do not thrive in areas that have swampy meadows in Salem village. This is the place where rym was the staple grain during periods of spring and summer. August 1992 marked the three hundredth anniversary of the Salem Witch Trials. Back then, Nobel Lureate Elie Wiesel dedicated all persons who went through the Salem Witch Trials in Salem. In addition, there is also a museum in Peabody Essex, which has been hosting some of the original court documents for the longest time now. This is the town's most visited sites of attraction; they attest to the public enthrallment with the year's…