Mass Hysteria Assignment
By: Austin Calhoun
Salem Witch Trials
The Salem Witch Trials began after a small group of young girls in the village of Salem Massachusetts claimed to be possessed by the devil in the spring of 1692. These girls then accused several other women in the community of witchcraft. This caused a wave of mass hysteria to wash over colonial Massachusetts. A special court even convened in Salem just for the trials of witches. By September of 1692 the hysteria had finally begun to dissipate and public opinion quickly turned against the court, but only after more than 150 people had been accused and hanged for witchcraft. Although the General Court of Massachusetts later annulled the guilty verdicts against accused witches and granted compensation to their families, the infamous legacy of the Salem witch trials would endure for the coming centuries.
Poisoning Scare of Milan Italy
During 1630 in Milan Italy their had been a prediction that the Devil would poison the city's water supply. One morning in April, the city awoke and was gripped with fear upon discovering that all the doors on the principle streets of the city had been marked with a strange mark or spot. Soon, there was alarm that these marks where the sign of the predicted poisoning coming to fruition. Rumor had also quickly spread that all of the crops had also been poisoned. The people had become so hysterical that they accused an elderly man who had wiped a stool before sitting upon it of poisoning said stool. He was dragged by the hair to a judge by a mob of angry women, but he died on the way. Another man was accused of conspiring with the Devil after being found with several preparations with unknown potions inside. Under duress, he eventually named several accomplices who were arrested and tortured. All of whom were pronounced guilty and executed.
Salem Witch Trials v. Poison Scare of Milan Italy
The Salem Witch Trials and the Poison Scare of Milan Italy are two extreme cases of mass hysteria. In both cases, a period of mass hysteria caused entire communities to descend into utter chaos. Although the two events began differently, they had similar effects on the community. The population of each city was reduced to a fraction of what it had been before becoming overwhelmed with hysteria. The reputation of each community was also damaged greatly, so greatly that their effects lasted for several centuries.