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Daily History

March 1 1692 Salem Witch Hunt Begins

On March 1st 1692, in Salem Village in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Sarah Goode, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba, an Indian slave from Barbados, are charged with the illegal practice of witchcraft. Later that day, Tituba, possibly under coercion, confessed to the crime, encouraging the authorities to seek out more Salem witches.

Trouble in the small Puritan community began the month before, when nine-year-old Elizabeth Parris and 11-year-old Abigail Williams, the daughter and niece, respectively, of the Reverend Samuel Parris, began experiencing fits and other mysterious maladies. A doctor concluded that the children were suffering from the effects of witchcraft, and the young girls corroborated the doctor’s diagnosis. With encouragement from a number of adults in the community, the girls, who were soon joined by other “afflicted” Salem residents, accused a widening circle of local residents of witchcraft, mostly middle-aged women but also several men and even one four-year-old child. During the next few months, the afflicted area residents incriminated more than 150 women and men from Salem Village and the surrounding areas of Satanic practices.

In June 1692, the special Court of Oyer, “to hear,” and Terminer, “to decide,” convened in Salem under Chief Justice William Stoughton to judge the accused. The first to be tried was Bridget Bishop of Salem, who was found guilty and executed by hanging on June 10. Thirteen more women and four men from all stations of life followed her to the gallows, and one man, Giles Corey, was executed by crushing. Most of those tried were condemned on the basis of the witnesses’ behaviour during the actual proceedings, characterised by fits and hallucinations that were argued to be caused by the defendants on trial.

In October 1692, Governor William Phipps of Massachusetts ordered the Court of Oyer and Terminer dissolved and replaced with the Superior Court of Judicature, which forbade the type of sensational testimony allowed in the earlier trials. Executions ceased, and the Superior Court eventually released all those awaiting trial and pardoned those sentenced to death. The Salem witch trials, which resulted in the executions of 19 innocent women and men, had effectively ended.

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.


31 thoughts on “March 1 1692 Salem Witch Hunt Begins

  1. Many of the women that were executed were midwives and healers, very sad part of history 😦

    Posted by flamidwyfe | March 1, 2012, 00:08
  2. Not so incidentally, some folks in Salem make a decent living off the trials. 🙂

    Posted by eideard | March 1, 2012, 01:05
  3. Somewhat of a black spot in history. I understand afterwards that there were some people who were thoroughly upset about their participation in the trials. Enjoyed the post.

    Posted by J. G. Burdette | March 1, 2012, 02:08
  4. Fun fact! Not that far away, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, a woman accused her neighbor of using witchcraft–the evil eye–to make her cow go dry. The magistrate, John Howland (who had come over on the Mayflower many years before), fined the accuser for slander, had the woman publicly whipped, and that was the end of the Plymouth witch trials.

    Posted by Naomi Baltuck | March 1, 2012, 02:26
  5. There is an obscure rumor that the Salem Witch hunt was all spawned by ergot poisoning.

    Posted by tripp1237 | March 1, 2012, 02:28
  6. Hi,
    Definitely a sad time in our history. It must of been terrifying to live in those times, you wouldn’t be game to say too much at all in case you upset someone and they decided to brand you as a witch, a terrible way to die. 😦

    Posted by magsx2 | March 1, 2012, 05:07
  7. Definitely sad. It’s interesting to note that one of the driving forces behind the Salem witch trials, Ann Putnam Jr., later came out and said that she was sorry for the part she played in it. Some might say that she got off easy… but the poor girl was only 20 when both of her parents died, and she took on the care of her nine siblings, who ranged in age from a few months old to 16. I can’t even imagine.

    The Salem witch trials are especially interesting to me, because I’m descended from the Putnam family. Ann’s father, Thomas, was my 9th great-uncle.

    Posted by CeCe | March 1, 2012, 14:05
  8. Any woman healer was considered a witch. Often they were also single!

    Posted by incidentallearner | March 1, 2012, 14:27
  9. another tragic story of alleged witchcraft; that could still be found in poor villages and/or countries around the world, making it a fruit of extreme illusions and the well to blame anything of supernatural nature rather than anything that makes sense.

    Posted by Dr. Ahmed Alkhuzaie | March 1, 2012, 20:02
  10. Karol Carlsen- Devil in the Shape of a Woman….great read.

    Posted by sheafferhistorian | March 2, 2012, 14:33
  11. The way man deceive himself! He went to the Americas in order to escape religious persecution and poverty. The Pilgrim Fathers as a body envisioned a New Canaan. It was the big Experiment to which the Worker’s Paradise in Soviet Russia was merely a follow-up. Canaan was a delusion. Soon there would be murder,violence and the Salem witch hunt. The Red scare of the 50’s was nothing new planted from outside. It requires a more thorough study of American psycho-cultural landscape where fear consistently breaks out with periodic frequency. Orson Wells reading of War of the Worlds in Radio in the 30s created another mass hysteria. Well the list is endless.

    Posted by bennythomas | March 11, 2012, 17:43
  12. Women are punished for witchcraft, including stoning, in much of the world today…it’s just so useful against folk you don’t like when you have no honest recourse to use, I guess. Sort of like classifying them as potential terrorists or labeling them racists when they don’t agree with you.

    The upcoming candidates for today’s version of Salem may be the Jews, who appear to be rapidly returning to their pre-WW II status in both Europe and the U.S.

    Plus ca change…

    Posted by jackcurtis | March 12, 2012, 06:58
  13. Gee…my cousin did did a search and found out that one of the accused “men” that was in the Salem witch trials was an ancestor of our family.

    But they let him go.

    Being as we also are descendants of The Adams family (Henry, John, John Q, and Cousin Sam) I did not expect to see any more connections to history…but..since you wrote THIS, I might actaully have to contact my cousin and find out the real story. Like, how come they let him off?

    Women were burned all throughout Europe in the 14th and 15th century. Thousands were burned at the stake. Back then it was because you were a “devil.” Now the word “devil” means the same as “Infidel” and chopping off heads is the new way they deal with it.

    OH…funny comment about your x girlfriend’s mother Craig…too bad there weren’t camera’s back then!

    Posted by joyannaadams | March 14, 2012, 10:53

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