Massachusetts Bay Colony - 1692

By: Madi Long ; 5th period APUSH

First accusation of witchcraft in Massachusetts Bay Colony

The first people to be accused were a man named John Putnam's, the minister of Salem, slave name Tituba, his daughter Betty, and orphaned niece Abagail. Tituba had been attracting the girls by telling them witchcraft stories from the book Malleus Maleficarum. When John Putnam found out she had been telling them stories of bewitched men and sexual encounters with demons, the puritans believed that this was witchcraft at the hands of the devil. The girls were scared for their lives so they admitted to being possessed by the devil and wanted to let Jesus back into their lives and began blaming other women in the village of Salem of witchcraft. Soon many young girls including Betty Putnam, Ann Putnam, Mercy Lewis, and Mary Walcott became ill and started showing unusual behavior and the puritans suspected this was because of witches putting spells onto the children. The first 3 accused were Sarah Good a homeless beggar, Sarah Osborne whom had a bad reputation for her denying her deceased husband's will of giving their land to their sons, and Tituba a Barbados women accused because she was the one enchanting the girls with her stories of witchcraft . These women were easy targets and that's why they were arrested and jailed. Soon more and more community members were accused by others forced to tell the people who caused the devil to be inside them, and to be saved they placed blame on the others.
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Trials of the accused

After people were jailed they had to prove they weren't witches, because it was you were guilty until proven innocent. There were many ways they used to either get you to confess or prove you weren't a witch. First they were asked to pass a test, such as reciting the Lord's Prayer because witches weren't supposed to be able to speak scripture aloud, but the young girls who attended the trial would scream and roll on the floor in the middle of the test. Also the swimming test, the puritans believed witches would float so they would throw you into a body of water, many accidental drownings happened with this test. Second, was the touch test, this is where the suspected witch of casting a spell on somebody was put into a room with their victim and if their victim reacted to their touch by coming out of their trance they were a witch. A third way of telling if somebody was a witch was physical evidence. If you had birthmarks, warts, moles, or any other blemishes they were believed to be marks of the devil entering your body. Another fourth way was witness testimony, if someone said that they saw the accused person flying around in the sky, or casting spells, etc. they had to be a witch. Last was the confession. They were subjected to many forms of torture so they would confess. These forms were strappado where their hands were tied behind their back and then hung and weights were put on their feet, ordeal by fire, ordeal by water, thumbscrews, pricking, and the rack. Puritans would not always confess because it was a sin to lie and if you lied and said the devil was inside you and you knew he wasn't you wouldn't be accepted into heaven. None of the confessors were executed, instead they were helped to let Jesus back into their soul and having a repentance, which also helped convict others. If you were found guilty of being a witch you were executed by being hanged or pressed.

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By the end of the Salem witch trials 20 people had been executed. Bridget Bishop was the first executed, hung on June 10th. Sarah Good, Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth Howe, and Sarah Wildes were hung on July 19th. Then Martha Carrier, John Willard, George Burroughs, George Jacobs, John Proctor, and another were all hung on August 19th. Mary Eastey, Martha Corey, Ann Pudeator, Samueal Wardwell, Mary Parker, Alice Parker, Wilmot Redd, and Margaret Scott hung on September 22. Lastley Giles Corey was pressed to death in September, some people who were convicted were not sentenced to death due to pregnancy or their sentence was not carried out. This is not including the several people who died waiting for their trial or death while in jail. Over 200 people had been accused, people had become doubtful that these much respected people could be guilty. They eventually realized what they we're doing was wrong and unlawful, they stopped the witch-hunts and witch trials. Samuel Sewall publicly confessed to guilt and apologized and several jurors came forward and said they were "sadly deluded and mistaken" in their judgment. A day for fasting and soul- searching was issued for the lives lost, and the colony passed a bill restoring the rights and good names of the accused and gave money to their heirs.

Later on scientists studied the events of the Salem witch trials and they believe the hysteria and abnormal behaviors were because of fungus ergot, which lives on rye, wheat, and other grains, that when ingested could cause muscle spasms, vomiting, delusions, and hallucinations.

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