If you are interested in those who were murdered at Salem, I ran across a site you need to see. In fact, I think we need to all see it. It is called “Find A Grave,” I know it sounds morbid but it isn’t. It lists the name of the people who died during the Witch Craze. If you click on each individual’s name, you will be taken to a page with a short biography on each of them. Then scroll down further and you can leave a flower and note in their memory. The site also contains the names of those who persecuted, hanged, stoned and murdered our ancestors. I know it is Divine to forgive but I can’t. I am an old soul. There is a part of my heart and soul that still aches and burns. Perhaps one day, I will be able to forgive but not yet. I want to keep the memories and the horrors of our past alive and never forgotten. Because if we forget our past, then we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.
NEVER AGAIN! NEVER!
Have We Learned the Lessons of Salem?
1. What are the lessons?
——–Children (especially) can be influenced by suggestion and peer pressure to say things that are not true.
——–We should be skeptical of confessions when the confessions are the result of torture or when the person has a self-interest in confessing.
——–A “cooling off period” can sometimes prevent injustices.
——–Trials should be fair: evidence introduced should be reliable, witnesses should be subject to cross-examination, defendants should have legal assistance and be allowed to testify on their own behalf, and judges should be unbiased.
2. Have we had “modern-day witch hunts”?
——–HUAC/McCarthy “Communist hunts” of early 1950s (events that inspired The Crucible)
——–Day care abuse trials of 1980s (child witnesses, accusations multipy, people afraid to support accused, unbelievable charges, hysteria).
——–To read about a modern-day trial with many parallels to the Salem Trials, see The McMartin Preschool Abuse Trial (the longest and most expensive criminal trial in American history).
Nineteen accused witches were hanged on Gallows Hill in 1692:
George Jacobs, Sr.
One accused witch (or wizard, as male witches were often called) was pressed to death on September 19 when he failed to plead guilty or not guilty:
Other accused witches died in prison:
(As many as thirteen** others may have died in prison.)
**sources conflict as to the exact number of prison deaths
CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS RELATING
TO THE SALEM WITCHCRAFT TRIALS
1629: Salem is settled.
1641: English law makes witchcraft a capital crime.
1684: England declares that the colonies may not self-govern.
1688: Following an argument with laundress Goody Glover, Martha Goodwin, 13, begins exhibiting bizarre behavior. Days later her younger brother and two sisters exhibit similar behavior. Glover is arrested and tried for bewitching the Goodwin children. Reverend Cotton Mather meets twice with Glover following her arrest in an attempt to persuade her to repent her witchcraft. Glover is hanged. Mather takes Martha Goodwin into his house. Her bizarre behavior continues and worsens.
1688: Mather publishes Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions
November, 1689: Samuel Parris is named the new minister of Salem. Parris moves to Salem from Boston, where Memorable Providence was published.
October 16, 1691: Villagers vow to drive Parris out of Salem and stop contributing to his salary.
January 20, 1692: Eleven-year old Abigail Williams and nine-year-old Elizabeth Parris begin behaving much as the Goodwin children acted four years earlier. Soon Ann Putnam Jr. and other Salem girls begin acting similarly.
Mid-February, 1692: Doctor Griggs, who attends to the “afflicted” girls, suggests that witchcraft may be the cause of their strange behavior.
February 25, 1692: Tituba, at the request of neighbor Mary Sibley, bakes a “witch cake” and feeds it to a dog. According to an English folk remedy, feeding a dog this kind of cake, which contained the urine of the afflicted, would counteract the spell put on Elizabeth and Abigail. The reason the cake is fed to a dog is because the dog is believed a “familiar” of the Devil.
Late-February, 1692: Pressured by ministers and townspeople to say who caused her odd behavior, Elizabeth identifies Tituba. The girls later accuse Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne of witchcraft.
February 29, 1692: Arrest warrants are issued for Tituba, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne.
March 1, 1692: Magistrates John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin examine Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborne for “witches teats.” Tituba confesses to practicing witchcraft and confirms Good and Osborne are her co- conspirators.
March 11, 1692: Ann Putnam Jr. shows symptoms of affliction by witchcraft. Mercy Lewis, Mary Walcott, and Mary Warren later allege affliction as well.
March 12, 1692: Ann Putnam Jr. accuses Martha Cory of witchcraft.
March 19. 1692: Abigail Williams denounces Rebecca Nurse as a witch.
March 21, 1692: Magistrates Hathorne and Corwin examine Martha Cory.
March 23, 1692: Salem Marshal Deputy Samuel Brabrook arrests four-year-old Dorcas Good.
March 24, 1692: Corwin and Hathorne examine Rebecca Nurse.
March 26, 1692: Hathorne and Corwin interrogate Dorcas.
March 28, 1692: Elizabeth Proctor is accused of witchcraft.
April 3, 1692: Sarah Cloyce, after defending her sister, Rebecca Nurse, is accused of witchcraft.
April 11, 1692: Hathorne and Corwin examine Sarah Cloyce and Elizabeth Proctor. On the same day Elizabeth’s husband, John, who protested the examination of his wife, becomes the first man accused of witchcraft and is incarcerated.
Early April, 1692: The Proctors’ servant and accuser, Mary Warren, admits lying and accuses the other accusing girls of lying.
April 13, 1692: Ann Putnam Jr. accuses Giles Cory of witchcraft and alleges that a man who died at Cory’s house also haunts her.
April 19, 1692: Abigail Hobbs, Bridget Bishop, Giles Cory and Mary Warren are examined. Deliverance Hobbs confesses to practicing witchcraft. Mary Warren reverses her statement made in early April and rejoins the accusers.
April 22, 1692: Mary Easty, another of Rebecca Nurse’s sisters who defended her, is examined by Hathorne and Corwin. Hathorne and Corwin also examine Nehemiah Abbott, William and Deliverance Hobbs, Edward and Sarah Bishop, Mary Black, Sarah Wildes, and Mary English.
April 30, 1692: Several girls accuse former Salem minister George Burroughs of witchcraft.
May 2, 1692: Hathorne and Corwin examine Sarah Morey, Lyndia Dustin, Susannah Martin and Dorcas Hoar.
May 4, 1692: George Burroughs is arrested in Maine.
May 7, 1692: George Burroughs is returned to Salem and placed in jail.
May 9, 1692: Corwin and Hathorne examine Burroughs and Sarah Churchill. Burroughs is moved to a Boston jail.
May 10, 1692: Corwin and Hathorne examine George Jacobs, Sr. and his granddaughter Margaret Jacobs. Sarah Osborne dies in prison.
May 14, 1692: Increase Mather and Sir William Phipps, the newly elected governor of the colony, arrive in Boston. They bring with them a charter ending the 1684 prohibition of self-governance within the colony.
May 18, 1692: Mary Easty is released from prison. Following protest by her accusers, she is again arrested. Roger Toothaker is also arrested on charges of witchcraft.
May 27, 1692: Phipps issues a commission for a Court of Oyer and Terminer and appoints as judges John Hathorne, Nathaniel Saltonstall, Bartholomew Gedney, Peter Sergeant, Samuel Sewall, Wait Still Winthrop, and Lieutenant Governor William Stoughton.
May 31, 1692: Hathorne, Corwin and Gednew examine Martha Carrier, John Alden, Wilmott Redd, Elizabeth Howe and Phillip English. English and Alden later escape prison and do not return to Salem until after the trials end.
June 2, 1692: Bridget Bishop is the first to be tried and convicted of witchcraft. She is sentenced to die.
June 8, 1692: Eighteen year old Elizabeth Booth shows symptoms of affliction by witchcraft.
June 10, 1692: Bridget Bishop is hanged at Gallows Hill. Following the hanging Nathaniel Saltonstall resigns from the court and is replaced by Corwin.
June 15, 1692: Cotton Mather writes a letter requesting the court not use spectral evidence as a standard and urging that the trials be speedy. The Court of Oyer and Terminer pays more attention to the request for speed and less attention to the criticism of spectral evidence.
June 16, 1692: Roger Toothaker dies in prison.
June 29-30, 1692: Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Sarah Wildes, Sarah Good, and Elizabeth Howe are tried, pronounced guilty and sentenced to hang.
July 19, 1692: Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth Howe, Sarah Good and Sarah Wildes are hanged at Gallows Hill.
August 5, 1692: George Jacobs Sr., Martha Carrier, George Burroughs, John Willard and John and Elizabeth Proctor are pronounced guilty and sentenced to hang.
August 19, 1692: George Jacobs Sr., Martha Carrier, George Burroughs, John Willard and John Proctor are hanged on Gallows Hill. Elizabeth Proctor is not hanged because she is pregnant.
August 20, 1692: Margaret Jacobs recants the testimony that led to the execution of her grandfather George Jacobs Sr. and Burroughs.
September 9, 1692: Martha Corey, Mary Easty, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Dorcas Hoar and Mary Bradbury are pronounced guilty and sentenced to hang.
Mid-September, 1692: Giles Cory is indicted.
September 17, 1692: Margaret Scott, Wilmott Redd, Samuel Wardwell, Mary Parker, Abigail Faulkner, Rebecca Earnes, Mary Lacy, Ann Foster and Abigail Hobbs are tried and sentenced to hang.
September 19, 1692: Sheriffs administer Peine Forte Et Dure (pressing) to Giles Cory after he refuses to enter a plea to the charges of witchcraft against him. After two days under the weight, Cory dies.
September 22, 1692: Martha Cory, Margaret Scott, Mary Easty, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Willmott Redd, Samuel Wardwell, and Mary Parker are hanged. Hoar escapes execution by confessing.
October 3, 1692: The Reverend Increase Mather, President of Harvard College and father to Cotton Mather, denounces the use of spectral evidence.
October 8, 1692: Governor Phipps orders that spectral evidence no longer be admitted in witchcraft trials.
October 29, 1692: Phipps prohibits further arrests, releases many accused witches, and dissolves the Court of Oyer and Terminer.
November 25, 1692: The General Court establishes a Superior Court to try remaining witches.
January 3, 1693: Judge Stoughton orders execution of all suspected witches who were exempted by their pregnancy. Phipps denied enforcement of the order causing Stoughton to leave the bench.
January 1693: 49 of the 52 surviving people brought into court on witchcraft charges are released because their arrests were based on spectral evidence.
1693: Tituba is released from jail and sold to a new master.
May 1693: Phipps pardons those still in prison on witchcraft charges.
January 14, 1697: The General Court orders a day of fasting and soul-searching for the tragedy at Salem. Moved, Samuel Sewall publicly confesses error and guilt.
1697: Minister Samuel Parris is ousted as minister in Salem and replaced by Joseph Green.
1702: The General Court declares the 1692 trials unlawful.
1706: Ann Putnam Jr., one of the leading accusers, publicly apologizes for her actions in 1692.
1711: The colony passes a legislative bill restoring the rights and good names of those accused of witchcraft and grants 600 pounds in restitution to their heirs.
1752: Salem Village is renamed Danvers.
1957: Massachusetts formally apologizes for the events of 1692.
1992: On the 300th anniversary of the trials, a witchcraft memorial designed by James Cutler is dedicated in Salem.
The Witchcraft Trials in Salem: A Commentary
by Douglas Linder
O Christian Martyr Who for Truth could die
When all about thee Owned the hideous lie!
The world, redeemed from superstition’s sway,
Is breathing freer for thy sake today.
–Words written by John Greenleaf Whittier and inscribed on a monument marking the grave of Rebecca Nurse, one of the condemned “witches” of Salem.
From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft. Dozens languished in jail for months without trials. Then, almost as soon as it had begun, the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts ended. Why did this travesty of justice occur? Why did it occur in Salem? Nothing about this tragedy was inevitable. Only an unfortunate combination of an ongoing frontier war, economic conditions, congregational strife, teenage boredom, and personal jealousies can account for the spiraling accusations, trials, and executions that occurred in the spring and summer of 1692.
In 1688, John Putnam, one of the most influential elders of Salem Village, invited Samuel Parris, formerly a marginally successful planter and merchant in Barbados, to preach in the Village church. A year later, after negotiations over salary, inflation adjustments, and free firewood, Parris accepted the job as Village minister. He moved to Salem Village with his wife Elizabeth, his six-year-old daughter Betty, niece Abagail Williams, and his Indian slaveTituba, acquired by Parris in Barbados.
The Salem that became the new home of Parris was in the midst of change: a mercantile elite was beginning to develop, prominent people were becoming less willing to assume positions as town leaders, two clans (the Putnams and the Porters) were competing for control of the village and its pulpit, and a debate was raging over how independent Salem Village, tied more to the interior agricultural regions, should be from Salem, a center of sea trade.
Sometime during February of the exceptionally cold winter of 1692, young Betty Parris became strangely ill. She dashed about, dove under furniture, contorted in pain, and complained of fever. The cause of her symptoms may have been some combination of stress, asthma, guilt, boredom, child abuse, epilepsy, and delusional psychosis. The symptoms also could have been caused, as Linda Caporael argued in a 1976 article in Science magazine, by a disease called “convulsive ergotism” brought on by injesting rye–eaten as a cereal and as a common ingredient of bread–infected with ergot. (Ergot is caused by a fungus which invades developing kernels of rye grain, especially under warm and damp conditions such as existed at the time of the previous rye harvest in Salem. Convulsive ergotism causes violent fits, a crawling sensation on the skin, vomiting, choking, and–most interestingly–hallucinations. The hallucinogenic drug LSD is a dervivative of ergot.) Many of the symptoms or convulsive ergotism seem to match those attributed to Betty Parris, but there is no way of knowing with any certainty if she in fact suffered from the disease–and the theory would not explain the afflictions suffered by others in Salem later in the year.
At the time, however, there was another theory to explain the girls’ symptoms. Cotton Mather had recently published a popular book, “Memorable Providences,” describing the suspected witchcraft of an Irish washerwoman in Boston, and Betty’s behavior in some ways mirrored that of the afflicted person described in Mather’s widely read and discussed book. It was easy to believe in 1692 in Salem, with an Indian war raging less than seventy miles away (and many refugees from the war in the area) that the devil was close at hand. Sudden and violent death occupied minds.
Talk of witchcraft increased when other playmates of Betty, including eleven-year-old Ann Putnam, seventeen-year-old Mercy Lewis, and Mary Walcott, began to exhibit similar unusual behavior. When his own nostrums failed to effect a cure, William Griggs, a doctor called to examine the girls, suggested that the girls’ problems might have a supernatural origin. The widespread belief that witches targeted children made the doctor’s diagnosis seem increasingly likely.
A neighbor, Mary Sibley, proposed a form of counter magic. She told Tituba to bake a rye cake with the urine of the afflicted victim and feed the cake to a dog. ( Dogs were believed to be used by witches as agents to carry out their devilish commands.) By this time, suspicion had already begun to focus on Tituba, who had been known to tell the girls tales of omens, voodoo, and witchcraft from her native folklore. Her participation in the urine cake episode made her an even more obvious scapegoat for the inexplicable.
Meanwhile, the number of girls afflicted continued to grow, rising to seven with the addition of Ann Putnam, Elizabeth Hubbard, Susannah Sheldon, and Mary Warren. According to historian Peter Hoffer, the girls “turned themselves from a circle of friends into a gang of juvenile delinquents.” ( Many people of the period complained that young people lacked the piety and sense of purpose of the founders’ generation.) The girls contorted into grotesque poses, fell down into frozen postures, and complained of biting and pinching sensations. In a village where everyone believed that the devil was real, close at hand, and acted in the real world, the suspected affliction of the girls became an obsession.
Sometime after February 25, when Tituba baked the witch cake, and February 29, when arrest warrants were issued against Tituba and two other women, Betty Parris and Abigail Williams named their afflictors and the witchhunt began. The consistency of the two girls’ accusations suggests strongly that the girls worked out their stories together. Soon Ann Putnam and Mercy Lewis were also reporting seeing “witches flying through the winter mist.” The prominent Putnam family supported the girls’ accusations, putting considerable impetus behind the prosecutions.
The first three to be accused of witchcraft were Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborn. Tituba was an obvious choice (LINK TO TITUBA’S EXAMINATION). Good was a beggar and social misfit who lived wherever someone would house her (LINK TO GOOD’S EXAMINATION) (LINK TO GOOD’S TRIAL), and Osborn was old, quarrelsome, and had not attended church for over a year. The Putnams brought their complaint against the three women to county magistrates Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne, who scheduled examinations for the suspected witches for March 1, 1692 in Ingersoll’s tavern. When hundreds showed up, the examinations were moved to the meeting house. At the examinations, the girls described attacks by the specters of the three women, and fell into their by then perfected pattern of contortions when in the presence of one of the suspects. Other villagers came forward to offer stories of cheese and butter mysteriously gone bad or animals born with deformities after visits by one of the suspects.The magistrates, in the common practice of the time, asked the same questions of each suspect over and over: Were they witches? Had they seen Satan? How, if they are were not witches, did they explain the contortions seemingly caused by their presence? The style and form of the questions indicates that the magistrates thought the women guilty.
The matter might have ended with admonishments were it not for Tituba. After first adamantly denying any guilt, afraid perhaps of being made a scapegoat, Tituba claimed that she was approached by a tall man from Boston–obviously Satan–who sometimes appeared as a dog or a hog and who asked her to sign in his book and to do his work. Yes, Tituba declared, she was a witch, and moreover she and four other witches, including Good and Osborn, had flown through the air on their poles. She had tried to run to Reverend Parris for counsel, she said, but the devil had blocked her path. Tituba’s confession succeeded in transforming her from a possible scapegoat to a central figure in the expanding prosecutions. Her confession also served to silence most skeptics, and Parris and other local ministers began witch hunting with zeal.
Soon, according to their own reports, the spectral forms of other women began attacking the afflicted girls. Martha Corey, Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Cloyce, and Mary Easty(LINK TO EASTY’S EXAMINATION) (LINK TO EASTY’S PETITION FOR MERCY) were accused of witchcraft. During a March 20 church service, Ann Putnam suddenly shouted, “Look where Goodwife Cloyce sits on the beam suckling her yellow bird between her fingers!” Soon Ann’s mother, Ann Putnam, Sr., would join the accusers. Dorcas Good, four-year-old daughter of Sarah Good, became the first child to be accused of witchcraft when three of the girls complained that they were bitten by the specter of Dorcas. (The four-year-old was arrested, kept in jail for eight months, watched her mother get carried off to the gallows, and would “cry her heart out, and go insane.”) The girls accusations and their ever more polished performances, including the new act of being struck dumb, played to large and believing audiences.
Stuck in jail with the damning testimony of the afflicted girls widely accepted, suspects began to see confession as a way to avoid the gallows. Deliverance Hobbs became the second witch to confess, admitting to pinching three of the girls at the Devil’s command and flying on a pole to attend a witches’ Sabbath in an open field. Jails approached capacity and the colony “teetered on the brink of chaos” when Governor Phips returned from England. Fast action, he decided, was required.
Phips created a new court, the “court of oyer and terminer,” to hear the witchcraft cases. Five judges, including three close friends of Cotton Mather, were appointed to the court. Chief Justice, and most influential member of the court, was a gung-ho witch hunter named William Stoughton. Mather urged Stoughton and the other judges to credit confessions and admit “spectral evidence” (testimony by afflicted persons that they had been visited by a suspect’s specter). Ministers were looked to for guidance by the judges, who were generally without legal training, on matters pertaining to witchcraft. Mather’s advice was heeded. the judges also decided to allow the so-called “touching test” (defendants were asked to touch afflicted persons to see if their touch, as was generally assumed of the touch of witches, would stop their contortions) and examination of the bodies of accused for evidence of “witches’ marks” (moles or the like upon which a witch’s familiar might suck) (SCENE DEPICTING EXAMINATION FOR MARKS). Evidence that would be excluded from modern courtrooms– hearsay, gossip, stories, unsupported assertions, surmises– was also generally admitted. Many protections that modern defendants take for granted were lacking in Salem: accused witches had no legal counsel, could not have witnesses testify under oath on their behalf, and had no formal avenues of appeal. Defendants could, however, speak for themselves, produce evidence, and cross-examine their accusers. The degree to which defendants in Salem were able to take advantage of their modest protections varied considerably, depending on their own acuteness and their influence in the community.
The first accused witch to be brought to trial was Bridget Bishop. Almost sixty years old, owner of a tavern where patrons could drink cider ale and play shuffleboard (even on the Sabbath), critical of her neighbors, and reluctant to pay her her bills, Bishop was a likely candidate for an accusation of witchcraft (LINK TO EXAMINATION OF BISHOP). The fact that Thomas Newton, special prosecutor, selected Bishop for his first prosecution suggests that he believed the stronger case could be made against her than any of the other suspect witches. At Bishop’s trial on June 2, 1692, a field hand testified that he saw Bishop’s image stealing eggs and then saw her transform herself into a cat. Deliverance Hobbs, by then probably insane, and Mary Warren, both confessed witches, testified that Bishop was one of them. A villager named Samuel Grey told the court that Bishop visited his bed at night and tormented him. A jury of matrons assigned to examine Bishop’s body reported that they found an “excrescence of flesh.” Several of the afflicted girls testified that Bishop’s specter afflicted them. Numerous other villagers described why they thought Bishop was responsible for various bits of bad luck that had befallen them. There was even testimony that while being transported under guard past the Salem meeting house, she looked at the building and caused a part of it to fall to the ground. Bishop’s jury returned a verdict of guilty . One of the judges, Nathaniel Saltonstall, aghast at the conduct of the trial, resigned from the court. Chief Justice Stoughton signed Bishop’s death warrant, and on June 10, 1692, Bishop was carted to Gallows Hill and hanged (LINK TO IMAGE OF BISHOP’S HANGING).
As the summer of 1692 warmed, the pace of trials picked up. Not all defendants were as disreputable as Bridget Bishop. Rebecca Nurse was a pious, respected woman whose specter, according to Ann Putnam, Jr. and Abagail Williams, attacked them in mid March of 1692 (LINK TO EXAMINATION OF NURSE). Ann Putnam, Sr. added her complaint that Nurse demanded that she sign the Devil’s book, then pinched her. Nurse was one of three Towne sisters , all identified as witches, who were members of a Topsfield family that had a long-standing quarrel with the Putnam family. Apart from the evidence of Putnam family members, the major piece of evidence against Nurse appeared to be testimony indicating that soon after Nurse lectured Benjamin Houlton for allowing his pig to root in her garden, Houlton died. The Nurse jury returned a verdict of not guilty, much to the displeasure of Chief Justice Stoughton, who told the jury to go back and consider again a statement of Nurse’s that might be considered an admission of guilt (but more likely an indication of confusion about the question, as Nurse was old and nearly deaf). The jury reconvened, this time coming back with a verdict of guilty(LINK TO NURSE TRIAL). On July 19, 1692, Nurse rode with four other convicted witches to Gallows Hill.
Persons who scoffed at accusations of witchcraft risked becoming targets of accusations themselves. One man who was openly critical of the trials paid for his skepticism with his life. John Proctor, a central figure in Arthur Miller’s fictionalized account of the Salem witchhunt, The Crucible, was an opinionated tavern owner who openly denounced the witchhunt. Testifying against Proctor were Ann Putnam, Abagail Williams, Indian John (a slave of Samuel Parris who worked in a competing tavern), and eighteen-year-old Elizabeth Booth, who testified that ghosts had come to her and accused Proctor of serial murder. Proctor fought back, accusing confessed witches of lying, complaining of torture, and demanding that his trial be moved to Boston. The efforts proved futile. Proctor was hanged. His wife Elizabeth, who was also convicted of witchcraft, was spared execution because of her pregnancy (reprieved “for the belly”).
No execution caused more unease in Salem than that of the village’s ex-minister, George Burroughs. Burroughs, who was living in Maine in 1692, was identified by several of his accusers as the ringleader of the witches. Ann Putnam claimed that Burroughs bewitched soldiers during a failed military campaign against Wabanakis in 1688-89, the first of a string of military disasters that could be blamed on an Indian-Devil alliance. In her interesting book,In the Devil’s Snare, historian Mary Beth Norton argues that the large number of accusations against Burroughs, and his linkage to the frontier war, is the key to understanding the Salem trials. Norton contends that the enthusiasm of the Salem court in prosecuting the witchcraft cases owed in no small measure to the judges’ desire to shift the “blame for their own inadequate defense of the frontier.” Many of the judges, Norton points out, played lead roles in a war effort that had been markedly unsuccessful.
Among the thirty accusers of Burroughs was nineteen-year-old Mercy Lewis, a refugee of the frontier wars. Lewis, the most imaginative and forceful of the young accusers, offered unusually vivid testimony against Burroughs. Lewis told the court that Burroughs flew her to the top of a mountain and, pointing toward the surrounding land, promised her all the kingdoms if only she would sign in his book (a story very similar to that found in Matthew 4:8). Lewis said, “I would not writ if he had throwed me down on one hundred pitchforks.” At an execution, a defendant in the Puritan colonies was expected to confess, and thus to save his soul. When Burroughs on Gallows Hill continued to insist on his innocence and then recited the Lord’s Prayer perfectly (something witches were thought incapable of doing), the crowd reportedly was “greatly moved.” The agitation of the crowd caused Cotton Mather to intervene and remind the crowd that Burroughs had had his day in court and lost.
One victim of the Salem witchhunt was not hanged, but rather pressed under heavy stones until his death. Such was the fate of octogenarian Giles Corey who, after spending five months in chains in a Salem jail with his also accused wife, had nothing but contempt for the proceedings. Seeing the futility of a trial and hoping that by avoiding a conviction his farm, that would otherwise go the state, might go to his two sons-in-law, Corey refused to stand for trial. The penalty for such a refusal was peine et fort, or pressing. Three days after Corey’s death, on September 22, 1692, eight more convicted witches, including Giles’ wife Martha, were hanged. They were the last victims of the witchhunt.
By early autumn of 1692, Salem’s lust for blood was ebbing. Doubts were developing as to how so many respectable people could be guilty. Reverend John Hale said, ” It cannot be imagined that in a place of so much knowledge, so many in so small compass of land should abominably leap into the Devil’s lap at once.” The educated elite of the colony began efforts to end the witch-hunting hysteria that had enveloped Salem. Increase Mather, the father of Cotton, published what has been called “America’s first tract on evidence,” a work entitled Cases of Conscience, which argued that it “were better that ten suspected witches should escape than one innocent person should be condemned.” Increase Mather urged the court to exclude spectral evidence. Samuel Willard, a highly regarded Boston minister, circulated Some Miscellany Observations, which suggested that the Devil might create the specter of an innocent person. Mather’s and Willard’s works were given to Governor Phips. The writings most likely influenced the decision of Phips to order the court to exclude spectral evidence and touching tests and to require proof of guilt by clear and convincing evidence. With spectral evidence not admitted, twenty-eight of the last thirty-three witchcraft trials ended in acquittals. The three convicted witches were later pardoned. In May of 1693, Phips released from prison all remaining accused or convicted witches.
By the time the witchhunt ended, nineteen convicted witches were executed (LINK TO LIST OF DEAD), at least four accused witches had died in prison, and one man, Giles Corey, had been pressed to death. About one to two hundred other persons were arrested and imprisoned on witchcraft charges. Two dogs were executed as suspected accomplices of witches.
Scholars have noted potentially telling differences between the accused and the accusers in Salem. Most of the accused lived to the south of, and were generally better off financially, than most of the accusers. In a number of cases, accusing families stood to gain property from the convictions of accused witches. Also, the accused and the accusers generally took opposite sides in a congregational schism that had split the Salem community before the outbreak of hysteria. While many of the accused witches supported former minister George Burroughs, the families that included the accusers had–for the most part–played leading roles in forcing Burroughs to leave Salem. The conclusion that many scholars draw from these patterns is that property disputes and congregational feuds played a major role in determining who lived, and who died, in 1692.
A period of atonement began in the colony following the release of the surviving accused witches. Samuel Sewall, one of the judges, issued a public confession of guilt and an apology. Several jurors came forward to say that they were “sadly deluded and mistaken” in their judgments. Reverend Samuel Parris conceded errors of judgment, but mostly shifted blame to others. Parris was replaced as minister of Salem village by Thomas Green, who devoted his career to putting his torn congregation back together. Governor Phips blamed the entire affair on William Stoughton. Stoughton, clearly more to blame than anyone for the tragic episode, refused to apologize or explain himself. He criticized Phips for interfering just when he was about to “clear the land” of witches. Stoughton became the next governor of Massachusetts.
The witches disappeared, but witchhunting in America did not. Each generation must learn the lessons of history or risk repeating its mistakes. Salem should warn us to think hard about how to best safeguard and improve our system of justice.
Salem Witch Hunt Begins – March 1, 1692
In Salem Village in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Sarah Goode, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba, an Indian slave from Barbados, are charged with the illegal practice of witchcraft. Later that day, Tituba, possibly under coercion, confessed to the crime, encouraging the authorities to seek out more Salem witches.
Trouble in the small Puritan community began the month before, when nine-year-old Elizabeth Parris and 11-year-old Abigail Williams, the daughter and niece, respectively, of the Reverend Samuel Parris, began experiencing fits and other mysterious maladies. A doctor concluded that the children were suffering from the effects of witchcraft, and the young girls corroborated the doctor’s diagnosis. With encouragement from a number of adults in the community, the girls, who were soon joined by other “afflicted” Salem residents, accused a widening circle of local residents of witchcraft, mostly middle-aged women but also several men and even one four-year-old child. During the next few months, the afflicted area residents incriminated more than 150 women and men from Salem Village and the surrounding areas of Satanic practices.
In June 1692, the special Court of Oyer, “to hear,” and Terminer, “to decide,” convened in Salem under Chief Justice William Stoughton to judge the accused. The first to be tried was Bridget Bishop of Salem, who was found guilty and executed by hanging on June 10. Thirteen more women and four men from all stations of life followed her to the gallows, and one man, Giles Corey, was executed by crushing. Most of those tried were condemned on the basis of the witnesses’ behavior during the actual proceedings, characterized by fits and hallucinations that were argued to be caused by the defendants on trial.
In October 1692, Governor William Phipps of Massachusetts ordered the Court of Oyer and Terminer dissolved and replaced with the Superior Court of Judicature, which forbade the type of sensational testimony allowed in the earlier trials. Executions ceased, and the Superior Court eventually released all those awaiting trial and pardoned those sentenced to death. The Salem witch trials, which resulted in the executions of 19 innocent women and men, had effectively ended.
Does any of this sound familiar around here ???
- In the beginning there was the Plan.
- The plan was based on a set of Assumptions.
- And the Assumptions were without substance.
- And thus the Plan could not be sustained.
- And therefore darkness was upon the face of the Workers who are charged with carrying out the plan.
- And they spoke among themselves, saying, “This plan: It is a crock of sh*t, and it stinks of same.”
- And the Workers went unto their Supervisors and said, “It is a pail of dung, and we cannot live with the smell.”
- And the Supervisors went unto their Managers, saying, “It is a container of excrement, and it is very strong, such that none may abide by it.”
- And the Managers went unto their Directors, saying, “It is a vessel of fertilizer, and none are able to abide its strength.”
- And the Directors spoke among themselves, saying to one another, “It contains that which aids plant growth, and it is very strong.”
- And the Directors went to the Vice Presidents, saying unto them, “It promotes growth, and it is very powerful.”
- And the Vice Presidents went to the President, saying unto him, “This new plan will actively promote the growth and vigor of the company with very powerful effects.”
- And the President looked upon the Plan and saw that it was good. And the Plan became Policy.
And this is how sh*t comes to happen.
Astronomy Picture of the Day
Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2016 March 1
Explanation: The party is still going on in spiral galaxy NGC 3310. Roughly 100 million years ago, NGC 3310 likely collided with a smaller galaxy causing the large spiral galaxy to light up with a tremendous burst of star formation. The changing gravity during the collision created density waves that compressed existing clouds of gas and triggered the star-forming party. The featured image from the Gemini North Telescope shows the galaxy in great detail, color-coded so that pink highlights gas while white and blue highlight stars. Some of the star clusters in the galaxy are quite young, indicating that starburst galaxies may remain in star-burst mode for quite some time. NGC 3310 spans about 50,000 light years, lies about 50 million light years away, and is visible with a small telescope towards the constellation of Ursa Major.