A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials

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The Salem Witch Trials occurred in colonial Massachusetts between 1692 and 1693, and nearly 200 people were accused of practing witchcraft. That number is much larger on a global scale, but in the northeast, 200 people in just the town of Salem left a mark. 20 people total were executed by being burned at the stake. Eventually, the colony realized they were wrong and compensated the families of the victims, but the drastic reaction driven by paranoia has since been synonymous with the event. 

Centuries ago, many practicing Christians believed the Devil could directly influence certain people to hurt others, and those individuals were deemed "witches." A "witchcraft craze" made its way through Europe from the beginning of the 1300s to the end of the 1600s, and tens of thousands of supposed witches were executed. Thanks to King William's War, a dispute between England and France in the colonies, the eventual endless unrest and strain on resources drove the townspeople to believe that the constant conflict was work of the Devil. Salem's first ordained minsiter, Samuel Parris, was also widely disliked due to his greedy and cold nature, which didn't help calm settlers' nerves.

In January of 1962, Reverend Parris's young nieces started acting strangely, throwing odd fits, uttering unnatural sounds, and contorting themselves into strange positions. The same happened to several other girls in town, and the local doctor blamed the supernatural. The girls then blamed a homeless woman, a slave, and an impoverished woman for "afflicting them." They were interrogated for days on end by the local magistrate, and the slave named Tituba confessed that she'd been visited by the Devil, thus setting off what would be known as the Salem Witch Trials.

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