S a l e m . w i t c h . t r i a l s - +
In 1692 a small town called Salem became famous when it held the largest trial in history (sorry OJ fans but this was bigger). Over twenty citizens of Salem were executed in the space of a year. Their crime was witchcraft. And in truth, they were all innocent.
There are many beginnings to this story. If you have seen The Crucible then you will probably assume that the accusations were sparked by the jealousy of a young girl who had been refused by her married lover. Perhaps it was the overwhelming influence of religion in the region that started this chain reaction. Salem's inhabitants were mainly Puritans and if someone committed a sin, minor or major, well lets take Hester Prine's punishment as an example of the cruelties that come with one's faith. The point is that it isn't quite certain the accusations really began but the cast of characters are the same, and their end is nothing less than horrifying.
It began on a cold winter day in January. Two girls, Elizabeth Parris and Abigail Williams began to act strangely. They would start to convulse and scream, sometimes it even appeared as if they were trying to fend off some invisible thing that was attacking them. Soon after more girls came down with the same symptoms. The doctors were of course puzzled and when they could not find an answer they blamed Satan. And who else was more capable of calling forth the dark prince than a witch.
All witches were the same. They had a devil's mark, usually a mole or birthmark, that was given upon their apprenticeship, and these men and women were said to be unattractive. If you wanted to prove their real nature, you could test them by placing them in a vat of water. If the witch sank to the bottom then he/she was a witch. Of course many of these judges seemed to forget that not many people knew how to swim in those days. Witches were also believed to meet on All Hallows Eve were they would dance naked around a bonfire and sacrifice a particular animal for Satan. Their incantations were prayers repeated backwards, and in Salem, if you were not liked then you would most probably be accused of witchcraft which, was exactly what ocurred in 1692.
The first person to be accused was Tituba, a slave who was said to cast spells in her spare time. One spell, said the girls, could predict the future. Tituba would fill a bucket with water adding many egg yokes. She would stare into this mixture and call out a girl's name. She would then procede to tell this girl her future. Well of course these accusations were believed. The citizens of Salem were searching for answers and when the local slave was accused, well then Tituba was bound to be the person responsible for the girls' madness. Tituba was examined by the doctors and she later confessed when they told her they would kill her if she didn't tell the truth. The accusations did not stop with her confession.
All over Salem people were accusing each other of witchcraft and many innocent citizens were arrested and put on trial. Those who refused to go to trial were forced to confess through physical torture or they were threatened with a more painful death. Giles Corey died when the judges tried to convince him to stand trial. They crushed him with stones and failed. Rebecca Nurse, a respected woman of the community, was hanged for witchcraft as was John Procter. If a man wanted his neighbors property all he had to do was accuse the other of witchcraft. And the judges who tried these innocent people believed in the intangible evidence of these derranged girls.
By the end of 1692 more than twenty people had been hung.