Ms Ghost asked in Arts & HumanitiesHistory · 1 decade ago

What do you know about the Salem Witch Hunt?

5 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
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    For starters, I wouldn't call it that -- it's "trials" not "hunt"

    I'm tempted to respond to various questionable statements already made (e.g., the "sexist" claim -- it you look closely, for all the wrongs done, it was NOT about "sexism")... but I think it will serve you better mainly to point you to some good sources -

    I've tried to collect a number of sources on this question, esp. online ones. I'll list several below. But along with or even before you look at these, here is a book that I think tries to take a sympathetic look at the various people involved, and unlike many studies, looks at what people did to correct, forgive and heal afterwards. Yes, it's dated (more recent research can counterbalance that), but it tells the basic story well and gives you a sense of the people.

    -- The Devil in Massachusetts by Marion L. Starkey, 1949.

    1) Collections of materials and overview, including court documents.

    "Teaching the Salem Witch Trials

    2) Participants with warnings, misgivings

    a) Some information, often missed, on how the Mathers warned AGAINST the use of "spectral evidence" (Cotton Mather's pamphlet warning against witchcraft is often noted and blamed as a partial cause of events at Salem, but the other side of what he and his father did is too often missed.)

    b) Interesting material on Samuel Sewall, a judge in the trials who, five years later, made a public apology (also an early abolitionist)


    a recent book -

    *Judge Sewall's Apology: The Salem Witch Trials and the Forming of an American Conscience* by Richard Francis (HarperCollins, 2005)

    3) There are a lot of sociological studies that try to explain the BELIEF in witchcraft more generally, how these sorts of trials came about, etc.

    One book I have found helpful in suggesting an explanation for the belief in witchcraft in the medieval and early modern European world is Rodney Stark's *For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery* (Princeton University Press, 2003). One major section of this book is devoted to studying when and where witch-hunts took place, who conducted them, what the results were, etc. (He shows, for instance, that most studies greatly inflate the numbers. He also argues that some sort of belief in witchcraft was "normal" in these times... and suggests this belief is related to their view of a RATIONAL universe, not exactly to the type of superstitions many have blamed it on.)

    There are also some good, recent academic studies on this subject (both the specific history of the Salem case and more general studies of witch-hunting in Europe...), but besides being very heavy, you will probably find them difficult to get your hands on. The books I listed you should be able to find in a school or public library.

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  • 1 decade ago

    The Salem Witch Hunt, of Salem, Massacusetts, took place in 1692 for the identifications, allegations, and punishments of "witches".

    They were the cause of the executions of 14 women and 6 men and the imprisonment of nearly 200 people, at least five of which died in prison.

    They are notorious around the world for the mass hysteria and panic they introduced into Puritan Massachusetts.

    A great deal of the trials was purely sexist. By very nature, a woman was more inclined to engage with the Devil than a man was.

    An unknown illness fell upon the small village of Salem in 1692, in the bodies of Betty Parris, 9, the daughter of Reverend Samuel Parris, and Abigail Williams, 11, the niece of the reverend. Some of their actions were screaming, throwing fits, cowering under furniture, contortions, and such. When the reverend began to preach, the girls would cover their ears, which caused some fairly juicy gossip. (Don't forget, this is the reverend's daughter and niece.)

    Soon, others of the village began having the same symptoms the girls were having. Meanwhile, in Boston, Cotton Mather, a minister and firm believer in witchcraft, noticed four children of a local mason, presumably under the same disease, and declared it as witchcraft under an Irish washerwoman, Mary Glover.

    Back in Salem, the two girls, Betty and Abigail, were still having fits. It soon became assumed in the village that the servant, described as 'Indian', Tituba, would tell the girls about stories, which often included voodoo and magic.

    This assertion is given no evidence to back it up, however. But, after being told the stories, the house-bidden girls and some of their friends would entertain themselves with the occult, trying to see their future spouses' occupations by floating an egg white in water.

    Presumably, one girl saw a coffin and the game began to be "frightening". Soon after, Betty and Abigail began to have fits. It is possible that they may have feigned the fits to deny any involvement with the egg white.

    Mr. William Grigg, the village physician, inaccurately described their condition as bewitchment. After deep prayer, the girls began accusing.

    For the full story, go to

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  • 1 decade ago

    Wasn't it like when they hunted down witches in Salem Mass.?

    Source(s): Peace on this SPHERICAL.
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  • th salem witch hunt was the citicins accused anyone they thought had magical powers was brought to cort and had a death sentince

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  • 1 decade ago

    There were very wet summers.

    The rye probably got a fungus called ergot.

    The ergot infected rye probably caused hallucinations.

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