The Salem witch trials were held during the year 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts Bay
Colony. Beginning in May of that year, the proceedings led to the hanging deaths of
nineteen suspected witches and the imprisonment of many others over the five months
that would follow. The courtroom episodes of those being tried for witchery were
complete, and utter travesties of justice. Women were actually considered guilty as
accused until proven innocent. In addition to the known hangings, other cruel forms of
punishment such as the burning of “witches” on a stake and the slow torturous human
crushings by brick.
That which is said to have initiated the trials and related hysteria has become an
historical irony in our time and is the subject of many contemporary jokes and theatrical
performances. Caused by the accusations of a few young girls against women in the
Salem community; a special court was convened; and trials grew quickly into socially
stereotypical prejudices regarding any women seen acting out of or performing “witchery”.
Within time the social chaos did not even exclude Salem’s more prestigious women as the
local governors wife was even implicated in accusations of witchcraft. The dramatic irony
is re-exemplified through an examination of the young ladies who intentionally lied to a
religious authority and created the “spark” to cause the fire. Based entirely on their beliefs
and accusations, the fear and ignorance of an entire town led to hundreds of
imprisonments and nearly twenty senseless deaths.
When community leaders did finally begin to cast doubt on evidence; special court was
dissolved and those imprisoned were pardoned.
Eventually indemnities were paid to the
families of those killed yet of the three judges who presided over the trials, only Samuel
Sewall admitted error in a public statement
The Salem witch trials were clearly America’s most notorious episode of witchcraft
By September 22, the court had tried and convicted twenty-seven persons. Nineteen were
hanged and one said to have been pressed to death by stones. In addition, about one
hundred and fifty were in jail.
With the jails overflowing, the hysteria abated. With this support the governor abruptly
intervened and freed all who were in jail. In 1711, heirs of the alleged witches were voted
compensation for their losses.
As one can see the power of superstition and the hearsay
can distort the truth. The Salem witch trials were horrifying and it changes many peoples
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