Salem Witch Trials: The Salem Witch Trials

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The Salem witch trials were the prosecution of people accused of witchcraft in Massachusetts from June to September 1692 by the Court of Oyer and Terminer. Though the trials were held in Salem, the accused were brought in from the neighboring towns of Amesbury, Andover, Topsfield, Ipswich, and Gloucester as well. To this day the trials are considered the epitome of injustice, paranoia, scapegoating, mass hysteria, and mob justice. The results were almost 200 arrests, 19 executed “witches”, one man pressed to death, one man stoned to death, and two dogs killed because they were suspected to be familiars of their owners who were accused of being witches. (Familiars are evil spirits in the form of animals used by witches to cast spells and perform…show more content…
For instance, many of the accused were important members of the community with moderate wealth. If they were convicted, the law stated the accuser would receive their property so identifying them as a witch would be beneficial to them. Another considered though unrealistic theory was the result of centuries of pent up sexual repression and tension caused them to snap and go after witches who were considered to be promiscuous. Some think the girls may have had epilepsy, were abused, had mental defects, made up the whole thing as a game, or were forced to do it by their parents to get revenge on individuals they didn’t like. Some Historians believe wealth, difference in religious preferences, family feuds, and property disagreements were the basis. Historian Laurie Win Carlson established the theory that it was caused by an outbreak of Encephalitis Lethargica (brain inflammation). Jimson Weed has also been considered as a cause because it grows wild in Massachusetts and when eaten causes visions and abnormal behavior. The theory that holds the most merit comes from Psychologist Linnda Caporael whose theory of ergot poisoning (St. Anthony’s Fire) caused…show more content…
Judges admitted their wrongs and gave public confessions. In 1706 one of the initiating girls apologized publicly as well. January 15, 1697 was the Day of Official Humiliation in Salem where everyone fasted out of respect for the victims. In 1711 legislation was passed exonerating the accused and offering restitution to their relatives. Not all the accused’s names were listed. In 1957 the state apologized and added another name to the list. On the 300th anniversary (August 1992) the Salem Witch Trials memorial was dedicated in Salem. Finally on Halloween (October 31) 2001 in an Act approved by the Massachusetts Legislature the final five women hung unjustly for witchcraft were official cleared by
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