The Salem Witch Trials were a series of prosecutions for witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts between February 1692 and May 1693. The episode is one of the most infamous events in early American history, resulting in the execution of 20 people accused of being witches. The hysteria began after two young girls, Elizabeth Parris and Abigail Williams, claimed to be possessed by the devil and accused several local women of practicing witchcraft. This sparked an investigation that led to numerous arrests and accusations throughout the community.
The court proceedings during this time period were conducted without due process; many defendants were convicted on flimsy evidence or hearsay testimony from their accusers. Despite pleas for mercy from some victims' families, 19 individuals — 14 women and five men — were hanged as punishment for their alleged crimes against God. One man was pressed to death with heavy stones when he refused to enter a plea at his trial; another died while imprisoned, awaiting trial, but before any conviction could take place. In addition, seven other people perished in jail while awaiting trial or sentencing; four others died shortly after they had been released from prison due to poor health conditions caused by harsh confinement practices used during this era.
Today, scholars consider these events an example of mass hysteria combined with religious intolerance that swept through Puritan communities across New England at the end of 17th-century America. It serves as a reminder that even today's justice system must remain vigilant against allowing such miscarriages to occur again under its watchful eye.