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Salem Witch Trials

The Salem Witch Trials consisted of a sequence of trials and prosecutions of people accused of witchery in ancient Massachusetts. The results of these trials were the executions of twenty individuals, the majority of whom were women. Though known as the Salem Witch Trials, they actually stretched across several nearby towns (the most notable of which was Salem). This event is one of the nation’s most infamous cases of mass hysteria to date, and has been used hundreds of times later to warn against isolationism and taking religious beliefs to the extreme. Here is how and why it all began.

It is generally believed that the Salem Witch Trials began with the sudden illness of girls in the Parris household. Several young women began having unexplainable fits; they would scream, throw things around, make strange noises, crawl under furniture and twist themselves into peculiar positions. They also complained about being pricked (like with pins). Not too long later, other women in the town began showing similar symptoms. It didn’t take long for the village to cast a wary eye on a handful of suspects, the first three of which were women that did not fit into the puritan society all that well.

These first three accused were Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba. Good was a homeless beggar, accused of witchcraft because of her terrible reputation. Osborne was accused because it was believed she had her own self-interests, and the puritans disapproved of her controlling ways. Tituba, a non-white slave, was subject to accusation due to her different ethnicity and her fortune-telling.

Unfortunately, none of these people were given due process. During the course of the trials, the supposedly afflicted were able to take the stand and—via entering a “trance like state”, wherein they could see the faces of those who had bewitched them, condemn the suspects—and accuse the defendants. This was used as a form of “spectral evidence,” which could not be contested.

To this day, the Salem Witch Trials appears to be more about political and religious gain than anything else. That, in itself, is very sad. It shows how desperate some are for power, and what lengths they will go to in order to obtain it. While there is no concrete evidence supporting the use of witchcraft of any of the accused, it doesn’t change the fact they suffered because of this.