Salem Witch Trials

In the Salem witch trials that took place in Massachusetts between 1692 and 1693, many people were found guilty despite not being sought by the authorities. In this process, about 150 people were arrested and imprisoned. Two courts overseeing the trials found dozens of people guilty of witchcraft and sentenced them to death. In addition, five of the criminals died in prison. This is why the Salem witch trials are one of the biggest black spots in American history. Here’s what you need to know about the Salem witch trials.

It started with two girls who had unexplained seizures.

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In mid-January 1692, Elizabeth “Betty” Parris, the 9-year-old daughter of local Reverend Samuel Parris, and the priest’s 11-year-old niece, Abigail Williams, were the first to be affected by witchcraft. The girls twisted their bodies into strange positions, made strange noises and said meaningless things. It was like they were having a seizure.

Soon after, 12-year-old Anne Putnam Jr. and other girls, including 17-year-old Elizabeth Hubbard, began to show similar symptoms. In late February 1692, traditional medicines and prayers did not heal the girls. So the priest summoned William Griggs, a local doctor. He was the first to suggest that girls might be under the evil influence of witchcraft.

The girls questioned said Tituba (an Indian woman enslaved by the Parris family), Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborne were witches. Based on these girls’ accusations, the witch hunt began. On February 29, 1692, official warrants were issued for the capture of Tituba, Osborne, and Good.

2. Tituba was the first to declare her witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials

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Little is known of Tituba apart from her role in the witch trials. He was enslaved as a child after being captured in Barbados and brought to Massachusetts by Reverend Parris in 1680.

Tituba finally confessed to witchcraft. He told a detailed story about how the devil came to him. According to his testimony, the devil asked four women and a man, including Sarah Osborne and Sarah Good, to harm children. He later added various animals to his story.

Tituba’s expression fueled the fire and spun the witch hunt out of control. Because her story confirms that there are other witches out there pursuing evil deeds. They would no longer stop until the authorities found them all.

3. Bridget Bishop was the first person to be executed for witchcraft in the Salem Witch Trials

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The first person to be tried and executed during the Salem witch trials was Bridget Bishop, a woman whose morals were considered questionable. It was known that Bishop rebelled against the puritan values ​​of that time. He stayed out for long hours, had people in his house late at night, and often hosted drinking and gambling parties. Bishop, who married three times after the death of her second husband, was accused of bewitching her deceased husband. However, he was later acquitted for lack of evidence. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last time Bishop was accused of witchcraft.

The Salem witch trials would mark her second accusation of being a witch. Bishop once again claimed innocence during her trial, as she did when she was accused of bewitching her second husband. He said he didn’t even know what a witch was. But his statement could not prevent the death warrant. According to the death warrant, Bishop had physically harmed five women, including Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam, Mercy Lewis, Mary Walcott, and Elizabeth Hubbard, by practicing witchcraft.

4. Animals were also killed during the Salem Witch trials


Tituba wasn’t the only one who thought animals could meddle in the devil’s business. During the trials, two dogs were killed on suspicion of witchcraft. They shot the first dog after he accused him of trying to charm a girl who was having a fever. But after the dog’s death, the local minister said, “if the devil had taken possession of the dog, it wouldn’t have been killed by a bullet.” said. The second dog killed was thought to be a victim of witchcraft.

Interestingly, the role of dogs did not end there. Authorities have also been used to find witches in Salem by testing the dogs with Witch Pie. The urine of the person thought to be a witch was mixed with rye flour and ash, then turned into a cake and fed to the dog. If the dog showed the same symptoms as the victim, this indicated the presence of magic.

5. Dorothy Good was the youngest person accused during the Salem witch trials


Dorothy Good, the 4-year-old daughter of the previously accused Sarah Good, was the youngest person to be accused of witchcraft. According to his arrest warrant, he was summoned to stand trial on suspicion of witchcraft on March 23, 1692, after being accused by Edward Putnam. Ann Putnam testified that Good tried to strangle and bite her. They imprisoned Good from March 24, 1692, to December 10, 1692.

6. A special court was established for the Salem witch trials

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The Oyer and Terminer Court was established in June 1692 for witch trials. Its name comes from the Anglo-French phrase oyer et terminer, which literally means “hear and determine.”

After returning from England, Governor William Phips realized the need for a new court for witch trials. Governor William Stoughton served as chief magistrate and Thomas Newton as Crown Attorney. After the court first convened on June 2, 1692, it rendered the first decision in Bridget Bishop’s case.

7. It was very easy to accuse someone of witchcraft in the days when these trials were going on.


In this era, no proof was needed to accuse someone of witchcraft. It was enough to point a finger at any person as a “witch”. The most commonly used piece of evidence in the Salem witch trials was that the accused committed a crime through ghosts. This evidence was called “spectral evidence”.

For example, Ann Putnam used spectral evidence to indict Rebecca Nurse, In her statement she said, “I saw Rebecca Nurse and she immediately struck me.” Such evidence was also used against Bridget Bishop. Many men claimed that Bishop visited them in the middle of the night in ghost form.

Spectral evidence was considered “inadmissible” only when it was used to indict Mary, the wife of Governor William Phips. The governor tried to stop the lawsuits and dissolve the Oyer and Terminer court in order to save his wife.

8. Men were also accused of witchcraft and tried during the Salem witch trials


Contrary to the stereotype that witchcraft is practiced by women, the people of Salem did not discriminate on the basis of gender. Six of the twenty people executed during the trials were men: Giles Corey, George Burroughs, George Jacobs Sr., John Proctor, John Willard, and Samuel Wardwell Sr.

John Proctor was the first man accused of witchcraft. One of the main reasons why he was suspected was that he supported his wife, who was accused of witchcraft, and that her accusers were lying.

9. A total of 29 people died in the Salem witch trials

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Fourteen women and six men were executed for witchcraft, and five others died in prison during the trials. One of the people who died in prison was a baby. Before being hanged for witchcraft, Sarah Good gave birth to her daughter, Mercy Good, while in custody. The baby died shortly after birth, probably due to malnutrition.

10. Witches were not burned in Salem

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Those found guilty in the Salem witch trials were not burned. Most of the people found guilty were hanged. But the only exception was Giles Corey, who refused to appear in court. Because he refused to comply with the court, he was covered with heavy boards after all the clothes on him were removed. Later, large boulders were placed on top of the planks that slowly crushed it.

11. After the Salem witch trials ended, there was an effort to redeem the accused


After Governor Phips ended the witch trials, many of those who attended the trial expressed guilt and regret about the events that had occurred, including Judge Samuel Sewall and the governor himself. On January 14, 1697, a day of fasting and prayer was held for the deaths that occurred during the Salem witch trials.

In 1702, the court declared the proceedings illegal. The colony passed a bill in 1711 restoring the rights and good names of those accused, and gave their families £600 in compensation. William Good, who lost his wife Sarah and baby Mercy, and whose daughter Dorothy was imprisoned, was one of the biggest beneficiaries.


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