The Salem Witch Trials between 1692 and 1693
The Salem Witch Trials occurred in Massachusetts in the colonial era between 1692 and 1693. The cause for these were very debatable. Some theories lead to Rye poisoning from bread to even people faking it. Everyone had a motive, and all just wanted to save himself or herself. This period caused people to be overwhelmingly selfish and only care for themselves. The most believable claim is that people were faking it due to being orphaned or little no dowries from their families. In a Massachusetts village, called Salem Village, there were nineteen, innocent men and women that had been killed or hanged due to the accusation of being a witch. One of the men were pressed to death and seventeen died in jail. It all started when a couple girls had started experimenting with magic. A woman named Tituba, an Indian slave of the Parris household, was the head of the rituals. The two young girls, Parris’ daughter and niece, became very sick after practicing these rituals. The twitched, cried out, made obnoxious noises and threw tantrums at random times, and huddled in corners.
There were many doctors that were called to help the girls, but nothing helped at all. After all the treatments and strange behaviors, they had concluded that the girls were possessed by the devil. After more and more children became victims of this, the hunting for the witches who were to blame for the girls’ sickness began to get more serious. By the end of February 1692, three witches had been named. These women were Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba, all residents of Salem Village. Sarah Good was described as socially undesirable which made people accuse her of being a witch and practicing black magic. She was known for her weird behavior. William Good, her husband, was a laborer and was not being home enough income. They would beg neighbors for food and other things, accepting charity and sometimes staying with neighbors. Sarah’s behaviors and actions would make them tell her to leave, especially after the neighbors’ livestock started getting sick when they would stay. More than fifteen other families claimed she could make objects disappear and had sickened their livestock. Whenever she was asked about the accusations, she would act aggressive and that would make people believe she was in fact a witch. Sarah Good is only one out of the three accused. Sarah Osborne was also one of the accused of doing spells and possessing the girls. She was from a very wealthy household, unlike Sarah Good and Tituba. Most of the time poor people were accused of being witches but in this case, it was different. The third accused women was Tituba which was the poor servant of the Parris household and the one whom aided with the young girls’ illnesses. All three women were thoroughly examined by Salem officials before being set off to await trial in the Boston jail house. Sarah Good insisted that she was not guilty and did not hurt the innocent girls. She tried to blame everything on Sarah Osborne. While this was taking place, Tituba confessed due to being afraid her master.
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She claimed she had made a pact with the devil and was only returning service and loyalty to him. Tituba told the judge she seen Good and Osborne doing the witchcraft. After Tituba’s confession, the whole town was determined to find the witches. The number of women accused was quite large. Soon enough, every person that was accused of being a witch was jailed just to be sure. There was even a four-year-old child that was accused of seeking revenge on the officials for taking away her parents. Everyone in the town were paranoid. After that, two very wealthy women, seventy-one-year old Rebecca Nurse and forty-seven-year old Elizabeth Proctor, were jailed because their relatives practiced black magic when they were still alive. Family members were more than likely jailed due to the relation. John Proctor was the first man to be accused of being a witch. He stood up for his wife in saying that she was innocent, and he was prosecuted even though there was no solid evidence. But they did not believe him and accused him of lying as well. After John Proctors accusing, there were seven more arrested made. The most shocking was George Burroughs, the pastor of the Salem Village church. Most thought he was the “ring leader of them all.” At this point, close to two-hundred people had been accused and over twenty-four had been killed due to witchcraft. Giles Corey, one of the women’s husband, was pressed by a heavy weight and killed when he refused to talk.
There was another type of tortures where they held the witch’s heads under water for a short period of time. If the person was to come out alive, then they were in fact a witch due to the magical powers saving them then executed. If a person did not survive the drowning, then they were innocent which made absolutely no sense. In October of 1693, the governor of Massachusetts stopped the trials and executions due to lack of evidence and information from the witnesses. They were asking the jailed witches to share names of other witches. The accused were giving out names even if they were innocent. Later in 1694, accused men and women were released and free to return to their homes. The women that were accused ranged from ten to more than seventy years of age. Mostly all confessing witches during this period were females ranging in age from less than ten to more than seventy. Out of the forty-eight possessed, mostly were females. Forty-four percent of the possessed were females between the ages of sixteen to twenty who were “single-women” or “maids” in seventeenth century terms, another 38 percent were over twenty while 18 percent were under sixteen (Carol, 39). Karlsen researched some of the accused girls and suggests that they may have behaved as they did since many of them felt that their future was uncertain. As orphans, society looked at them in a different light. Most of the girls had no monetary or emotional support from direct family members. As Karlsen states, that the frontier wars, “had left their father’s estates considerably diminished, if not virtually destroyed. Little if anything remained for their dowries. With few men interested in women without dowries, the marriage prospects of these women, and thus their long-term material wellbeing, looked especially grim” (227). Karlsen thinks that this was the girl’s way of dealing with the oppression they felt as orphans within Puritan society (226-230). People pondered on what kind of an illness could have been mistaken for the symptoms of possession, but some thought that the possessed were simply liars and fools.