Wednesday, October 26, 2011

WITCH WEEK: Salem Witch Trials

The Salem Witch Trials have always been an interest of mine and I thought that now was the perfect time to dig up information on exactly happened back in  1692.

Approximately twenty-five people were killed during the trials: fourteen women and five men were hanged, one man was crushed to death during torture, and about five died while in prison. This is a great number of people for such accusations.

It all began with two little girls throwing fits - Betty Parris and Abgail Williams. And then a few more girls started acting out and throwing fits. This lead to three people being accused of witchcraft. Anyone who has read The Crucible by  Arthur Miller or who has seen the play will know the name of these accused - a homeless girl (Sarah Good), a woman who remarried someone her peers felt she shouldn't have (Sarah Osborne) and a slave (Tituba). Each one was an outcast for very different reasons, but all were looked down upon by their Puritan peers.  There were many more accused and questioned including men as time went on. Warrants were even put out on those who were evading capture. In total, 62 people were accused by May 1692.

Here are some of the crazy facts I found while researching the Witch Trials.
*After someone concluded that they had a loss, illness of death due to witchcraft all they had to do was lodge a formal complaint against the person(s) they believed responsible.
*If a person was indicted with charges of afflicting with witchcraft of making an unlawful covenant with the devil, they were sent to trial.
*You can find a list of the executed here
*You can find a list of all those accused, executed, pardoned, etc here

What I find most disturbing is that many were not even allowed to be buried on church grounds and some were excommunicated from their respective churches. After their bodies were taken down from the hanging tree, they were tossed into shallow graves. A few were collected by their families in the dead of night and buried on family property, but not much evidence is left to confirm it, as the families did not record these deaths in their family record books.

After all was said and done and years of work - all of the accused and executed have had their convictions reversed. It took many years and many petitions, but as of 1957 they had all finally had their convictions overturned. And the few who were excommunicated from their churches had those rulings reversed as well.

Still after all of these years, it makes you wonder how these people were able to believe that witchcraft was responsible for the goings on in the Salem area. I leave you with a quote from Increase Mather - It were better that Ten Suspected Witches should escape, than the one Innocent Person should be Condemned. (October 1692)

**Information for my research can be found here and here.

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