Salem Monthly

The Witch Issue 1693

Before the Salem Witch Trials

Certainly the Salem Witch Trials were not the first time someone was accused of working with the Black Man. When troubles like smallpox, war with Indians, and congregational strife came about, people immediately took to their bibles. It was assumed that the troubles were activities of Satan. Who was to blame but these earthly messengers of his wrath: witches. Many women seemed prime candidates for this evil work because of their lack in church attendance, mutterings of supposed "curses", and family difficulties. Young girls began showing signs of being afflicted, such as screaming, throwing things, and uttering strange sounds. Once this occurred, three women were convicted and thus began the Salem witch hysteria.

The Accused

The trials resulted in the executions of twenty-two people, most of who were women. After a citizen would state that a negative happening was caused by a witch, they would have to enter a complaint. The person would then be arrested and would be interrogated by a special court who assembled to hear the cases, to the point of confession. The defendant would then go to trial for their covenant with the Devil and their fate would be determined. Sometimes the person in touch with black magic could be found out using a witch cake that would cause the witch to have various health problems, and would show her/his relation to the afflicted. 19 witches were publicly hanged, 7 died in jail, and poor unfortunate Giles Corey was pressed to death by stones because of his refusal to cooperate. Convicted and executed were Bridget Bishop, Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Good, Elizabeth Howe, Susannah Moore, Sarah Wildes, George Burroughs, George Jacobs, Sr., Martha Carrier, John Proctor, John Willard, Martha Corey, Mary Eastey, Mary Parker, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Wilmot Redd, and Samuel Wardwell, Sr.

Life During the Trials

Hysteria ensued after the supposed "bewitching" of those girls, and nearly 200 people were accused and imprisoned. Girls were pressured into giving names as the town wanted to stay as far away from the Devil as possible. Citizens held regular fast and prayer gatherings for those who were afflicted and shunned those who were accused. Black magic was never something to be taken lightly and many in the town of Salem Massachusetts were beyond frightened by their neighbors who were making a deal with Satan. Several faithful members of the church were accused and people accepted that anyone and everyone around them could be doing the unthinkable. No one was safe. In late 1692, ministers began begging Governor Phips to end the trials once and for all, yet this did not officially stop until 1693, when Phips realized that "many innocent persons might periesh". September 22, 1693 marked the release of the last witches. Thus ended the Salem Witch Trials.