Few historical events have fascinated and haunted individuals as much as the Salem witch trials did
Few historical events have fascinated and haunted individuals as much as the Salem witch trials did. However, the Salem witch trials presented many mysteries, but the most important of them all: What happened in Salem? Or more accurately, why did things happen as they did in 1692? In 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, charges of witchcraft separated the good from the evil in the mind of the community, and that includes anyone who is considered an outsider with little standing in the community and who manipulated Puritans’ ministry. The Salem witch hunt began when several girls were discovered in the woods behaving in a bizarre manner and to avoid being punished, they claimed that witches made them do it. “Christ knows how many devils are among us, whether one, ten, or 20…The Devil hath been raised amongst us, and his rage is vehement and terrible,” preached Samuel Parris after the arrest of the first accused, Martha Corey, a farmwife and longtime church member. Ann Putnam Sr. and other girls accused Corey after she made a statement around the village that she thought the witchcraft scare was total buffoonery. When the magistrates questioned Corey, the girls convulsed and cried loudly in the courtroom. Instead of supporting Corey’s defense, Samuel Parris initiated a witch hunt by contributing to these accusations and warned the rest of his church members that even spiritual, religious individuals can be servants of the devil.
Numerous suspects of witchcraft were being dragged to jail in Salem, Boston, and many other communities in the late winter and spring of 1692. Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Cloyce, and Elizabeth Proctor were well- known, respected members of their community and God-fearing Puritans. However, in the early spring of 1692, their reputations would be ruined. All three women were accused and arrested due to suspicions of witchcraft and taken in for questioning. Rebecca Nurse, the oldest of them, was baffled when some of her friends and Ann Putnam Sr. came to her stating that some of the girls claimed that Nurse’s ghost had bit them and almost choked them. Nurse denied such accusations and caused a frenzy in the courtroom.
Thereafter, Nurse’s sister, Sarah Cloyce, was accused by Abigail Williams and John Indian and arrested. Elizabeth Proctor was soon accused after that and during her hearing, the Salem witch hunt included the first male victim, John, Elizabeth’s husband who publicly mocked the girls’ claims of possession. Several village people testified to John and Elizabeth’s ghost coming into their bedrooms at night. These accusations spiraled out of control as new people came forward with claims of bewitchment.
In January 1692 in colonial Massachusetts, Salem Village, Samuel Parris faced a crisis when the two girls in his home began acting strangely, Betty, his daughter and his niece, Abigail Williams were complaining of a variety of painful symptoms, suffering from fevers and hallucinations. Betty, his daughter and his niece, Abigail Williams were complaining of a variety of painful symptoms. The Parrises did what any other concerned parents would do, they cared for the girls while they prayed for hope. These symptoms lasted for weeks and when they became intense, Reverend Parris consulted with a local doctor. After the examination, the doctor and some ministers were convinced that they were not physically or mentally ill but had been possessed by the devil and working with local witches.
After the girls were diagnosed, Reverend Parris and his fellow colleagues discovered that more destruction was brought into the community and they concluded that witchcraft was the cause of the children’s suffering for several long weeks. They knew that witchcraft had the potential to destroying lives of the community. As a result, Parris and others forced Betty and Abigail to name the person responsible for such behavior. With the intimidation of the adults in their home and the community, the girls named Tituba, an enslaved woman whom Parris purchased and brought to the colony from Barbados. On March 1, 1692, Tituba’s confession stated that she had signed a book indicating a formal agreement with the devil and that there were still more witches everywhere. She testified that there were nine marks in the devil’s book. Throughout her testimony, she repeated that if she failed to do his will, she would suffer grave consequences. The significant element of her testimony was not the threat that she had repeated, but the alarming news that there were nine conspirators. Tituba influenced the rise and spread of these witch hunts. She provided enough information that would expand the witch hunt and while the testimony of a slave and the claims of young children were disturbing, it was not enough to cause a real panic.
Tituba was one of the first to testify during these trials and over 150 people were arrested on suspicions of witchcraft. Her detailed descriptions and the names of others, contributed to the banishing of several women and a few men to execution. One man was tortured to death for refusing to go to trial, others spent the rest of their lives in jail, and twenty-four people died. After the trials abated, Tituba was able to escape execution when she recanted her confession. However, she was still punished and jailed for a year. Since she was only confined, it made Parris furious and he refused to bail her out. It is said that once Tituba was purchased by another slave owner and she was never heard of again.
In conclusion, the people of Salem struggled to move on from the tragic events that took place in their town. In 1711, Governor Phips finally admitted to his role of the trials and provided reparations to the victims’ families. Then, several jurors and others who were responsible for this crisis came to realize that were nothing more than a sham, and they publicly apologized and set out to make amends with the families who suffered a loss. Today, many scholars believe that the Salem witch trials was a result of many different factors including the social structure within the community. Therefore, the behavior of the women proved that there were limits to what was acceptable modes of religious expression during that time.