The Salem witch trials — a period of mass hysteria and panic that overtook colonial Massachusetts between 1692 and 1693 — are often regarded as one of the most fascinating episodes of American history. After all, the story is so dramatic and so strange that it almost reads like fiction: Young girls begin having mysterious screaming fits; they are diagnosed as having been bewitched, and soon a hunt begins for the witches. Although the Salem witch trials are now the source of scary stories and creepy TV shows, it’s important that we remember that they were real, and they were terrible: twenty people were killed for being “witches”, and many more were accused and imprisoned.
It’s fairly horrifying to consider how easy it was for a woman to be convicted and executed for witchcraft in the 17th century—and just how little power she had to prove her innocence. As Marilynne K. Roach, historian and author of Six Women of Salem: the Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials, explains, “In 1692 anyone might have been accused of witchcraft.” There are some factors that made one more susceptible to accusations than others, however. Read on to see if you fit the parameters of these supposed “witches” and thank your lucky stars that you don’t live in the 17th century.