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Salem Witch Trials

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Salem Witch Trials

The hysteria that afflicted Salem, Massachusetts emerged in January 1692; when a group of young girls began to display bizarre behavior. The tight-knit community was at a loss to explain the convulsive seizures, blasphemous screaming, and trance-like states that started to overcome the young. A strong religious community was convinced this was the works of the Devil. To rid Satan from their community outlandish acts were performed. More than 200 people were accused of witchcraft and 20 were executed.

Christians were quick to assume this was the works of the devil. Several centuries before a "witchcraft craze" happened in Europe from the 1300s to 1600s; this belief (witchcraft) still held strong in their community. Most of them were descended from Europe, why wouldn't they believe that the chaos in front of them was the works of Satan. The physicians called in to examine the girls could find no natural cause of the disturbing behavior. In February, the village began praying and fasting in order to rid itself of the devil's influence. The girls were pressured to reveal who in the community controlled their behavior. With not enough information reveled the conclusion was drawn. Witches had invaded Salem!

Cotton Mather's Memorable Providences detailing an episode of supposed witchcraft a year earlier involving an Irish washerwoman named Goody Glover. Mather's book described the symptoms of witchcraft and was widely read throughout Puritan New England. Memorable Providences influence many people throughout the Puritan community; most importantly Samuel Parris, the Salem minister in whose house began the tragic events of 1692.

In January of 1692, Reverend Parris' daughter Elizabeth and niece Abigail Williams started acting out in a peculiar way. They screamed, threw things, uttered weird sounds and put themselves into strange bodily positions. Another girl named Ann Putnam experienced similar episodes. On February 29, the girls were forced to blame someone for their actions by the magistrates John Corwin and John Hathorne. The three woman accused were Tituba (a slave for Parris), Sarah Good (a homeless beggar), and Sarah Osborne (a poor elder women).

The three women were where put on trial. Tituba confessed to seeing the devil, he appeared to her "sometimes like a hog and sometimes like a great dog." In March the afflicted girls accused Martha Corey. The three women previously denounced as colluding with the devil were marginal to the community. Martha Corey was different; she was an upstanding member of the Puritan congregation her revelation as a witch demonstrated that Satan's influence reached to the very core of the community. During the period from March into the fall many were charged, examined, tried and condemned to death.

Bridget Bishop was also accused and thought to be

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