Salem Witch Trials


Aden Cole and Brooklynn Barbee

With Halloween coming up soon, many people definitely have horror on their minds. And with Halloween comes many stories and legends- some true, some definitely not. One thing that is very real and very true is the Salem Witch Trials, not a story or a legend, but definitely horrifying. Going all the way back to 1692, what are the Salem Witch Trials? Why did they happen? What started and ended them? What about them made them stay in people’s minds all the way into the 21st Century? I was wondering all the same questions before I started researching, so let’s talk about it.

Do you believe in Witchcraft? I personally don’t, but apparently, people in the 1600’s did. In 1692, a group of young girls claiming to be possessed by the devil started accusing random women in their town of Witchcraft, which sparked the beginning of the Salem Witch Trials. Starting a one-year era of disdain and horror for the innocent women of the town. That town being Salem Village, Massachusetts, hence the name Salem Witch Trials. Causing mass hysteria, this was definitely not a good time in America’s history, leaving a painful legacy that will last forever.

Betty Parris, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam Jr, and Elizabeth Hubbard. These are the names of the main accusers, or “afflicted girls”, who started it all. All of these girls shared similar symptoms: convulsing, barking, and speaking an unintelligible language. They all accused different women around the town. The first woman they accused was an enslaved woman named Tituba. From there the accusers went on to testify against 29 other women, 13 of which were executed because of the outcomes of these trials.

There are a few women who were accused during these trials that are very notable. Bridget Bishop was a local widow in the town, who had already been accused of Witchcraft ten years earlier. During her trials ten witnesses testified against her, she was found guilty, and then sentenced to death. Susannah Martin was a woman accused who did not even live in Salem, following a similar story, she too had been accused of Witchcraft years prior. During her trials, judges decided there was a huge lack of evidence against her, yet they still went on to sentence her to death. Martha Cory did not fit the usual stereotype of the other women accused. She was a woman of the church and very known throughout the community as a respected person. She was accused of Witchcraft after trying to stop her husband from attending other women’s trials. After this, a girl accused Martha of making her go blind. Martha was defiant towards officials and she was quickly found guilty and sentenced to death.

There are some interesting facts when it comes to the history of the Salem Witch Trials. Most of the people who did the accusing were girls under the age of twenty. During this time, the words of women were not taken into consideration much. So the fact that all this hysteria was started by the claims of young girls is very surprising. Also during these trials, courts took, and even relied on, something called spectral evidence. Spectral evidence is the accusation of someone’s spirit or “spectral shape”, meaning if you saw them in your dreams or hallucinated them. This means many people were accused and sentenced to death simply because someone had a bad dream about them. Another interesting fact is that there were multiple different tests that accused women were put through. These tests were used to determine whether the accused were guilty or innocent. The catch is that most of the tests were impossible to pass. One example being the “skin test”, which meant if the accused had any birthmarks, moles, or freckles, they were guilty.

In the end, the Salem Witch Trials were a very troubling time in our history. Leaving a mark that will be around forever, it is very important to remember the trials and victims of this time. These trials were very obviously unneeded and very degrading to the women of this time, and it is good to tell their stories, and leave them respect. One of the biggest rules of history is to teach and learn it, so it will never repeat itself.