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Salem witch trials

The Salem witch trials were the result of a period of Puritan paranoia which led to the deaths of about twenty citizens.

In 1692, in Salem Village, (now Danvers, Massachusetts), a number of young girls, particularly Abigail Williams[?] and Betty Parris[?], accused other townsfolk of magically possessing them, and therefore of being witches or warlocks. The clergy believed the accusations, and sentenced these people to either confess they were witches or be hanged.

Gile Cory refused to enter a plea. By so doing he preserved his property for his heirs: had he confessed or been found guilty, his goods would have been confiscated by the state. The law provided for an application of a form of torture called peine fort et dure, in which the victim was slowly crushed by piling stones on him: in the event, Cory died without entering a plea.

The witch trials ended with intervention of the equivalent of the governor visiting Salem and finding himself appalled at what had become of Salem.

This incident was so profound that it helped end the Puritan faith, and led indirectly to the founding principles of the United States of America.

Clergical participants and commentators:

Afflicted (those who complained of bewitchment):

  • Sarah Bibber
  • Elizabeth Booth
  • Sarah Churchill
  • Martha Goodwin
  • Elizabeth Hubbard
  • Mary Lacey (also an accused witch)
  • Mercy Lewis
  • Elizabeth "Betty" Parris
  • Bethshaa Pope
  • Ann Putnam, Jr.
  • Susanna Sheldon
  • Mercy Short
  • Mary Walcott
  • Mary Warren
  • Abigail Williams


  • Capt. John Alden
  • Daniel Andrew
  • Sarah Bassett
  • Edward Bishop
  • Sarah Bishop
  • Mary Black
  • Dudley Bradstreet
  • John Bradstreet
  • Sarah Buckley
  • Richard Carrier
  • Mary Clarke
  • Sarah Easty Cloyce
  • Sarah Cole
  • Giles Cory
  • Mary Bassett DeRich
  • Rebecca Eames
  • Philip English
  • Ann Foster
  • Dorcas Hoar
  • Abigail Hobbs
  • Elizabeth Howe
  • George Jacobs, Jr.
  • Elizabeth Johnson
  • Mary Lacey (also an afflicted child)
  • Sarah Osborne
  • Lady Phips
  • Susannah Post
  • Elizabeth Bassett Proctor
  • Tituba
  • Job Tookey
  • Hezekiah Usher
  • Mary Withridge



  • Boyer, Paul & Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft, MJF Books, 1974.
  • Starkey, Marion L., The Devil in Massachusetts, Alfred A. Knopf, 1949.
  • Miller, Arthur, The Crucible - a play which implicitly compares McCarthyism to a witch-hunt
  • Norton, Mary Beth, In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692, Knopf, 2002

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