Salem Witch Trials


The trials seem to come into greater prominence around October, probably because of Halloween and most newspapers and magazines and blogs will focus on witchcraft during this month.  So I thought I would post some facts about the trials to acknowledge this trend.

  • The trials took place in four towns, not just Salem: Salem Village, Ipswich, Andover, and Salem Town.
  • Not only women were accused, convicted, and hanged–along with nineteen women, there were four men as well.
  • One man, Giles Corey, was crushed to death in an age-old torture/conviction sentence because he refused to admit to anything and stones were placed on top of his chest until he either confessed or died.
  • Over 150 people all together were imprisoned for witchcraft, a capital felony in 1692, and more were accused but never formally charged or tried.
  • “Witches” tended to be unmarried women or land-owning women who had been recently widowed.  Accusing and convicting the later category of witchcraft would have been a convenient way to acquire good land.
  • The magistrates questioned and admitted as a confession the words of a 4-year-old, who had been questioned about her mother.  Based on her “implications” toward her mother, Sarah Good was arrested.
  • The first death as a result of the witchcraft hysteria was Sarah Osborne on May 10, 1692.  She died in prison.
  • The first hanging was Bridget Bishop on June 10, 1692.
  • The last to die from the hysteria was Lydia Dustin on March 10, 1693.  She died in prison.
  • Many of those accused and arrested confessed to being witches.
  • The complaints of the accusers against their “attackers” included: the feeling of pins and needles, forced to undergo unexplained screaming fits or throwing things around, crawling under furniture as if afraid, contorting into unusual positions, and speaking in strange sounds or tongues.  The main “evidence” given against many accused was spectral evidence–meaning, the accusers say they saw their attackers as an image or a shape.

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