The History of Salem Witches
Do you believe in witches? Three hundred years ago the people of Salem, Massachusetts did. The Salem Witch trial happened during the years 1692 and 1693. There were over two hundred community members suspected of practicing witchcraft, and 20 people executed. After a while, people realized that the trials were a mistake and the hysteria died down. More than 300 years later people find themselves still fascinated by these events and visit Salem, Massachusetts to learn the truth of the hysteria that happened in 1692 and how it changed the lives of many people. The history of Salem has given insight to many on the repercussions of wrongful accusations.
In February, 1692 the magistrates, Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne pressured the involved girls to explain the cause of their behavior. The girls blamed Tituba (the Parris’ slave), Sarah Good (a homeless beggar) and Sarah Osbourne (an elderly woman) (Blumberg, 2007).
The court brought the three women in to face Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne on March 1, 1692(Blumberg, 2007). During their interrogations, Sarah Good and Sarah Osbourne said the accusations were false; however, Tituba admitted to the charges by saying, “The devil came to me and bid me to serve him”. She spoke of seeing strange animals and a dark man who made her pledge her loyalty by signing a book. She also said there were other witches who wanted to destroy the Puritans (Blumberg, 2007). Some people say that Tituba confessed to save herself from hanging by becoming an informant. All three women went to jail.
As paranoia spread, so did the accusations. A loyal member of the church, Martha Corey was the next person to be arrested. This scared the people of the community because of her good standing in the church. They felt that if she could be accused of witchcraft then anyone could be next. Corwin and Hathorne even questioned the daughter of Sarah Good who was only four years old, and because she was very shy with her answers, they considered her shyness as a confession. People were pointing fingers at each other. Many historians believe some of the accusations had to do with money and property because many of the accused were more financially secure. These historians feel that religion and property conflicts played a major part in the witch trials (Brooks, 2013). A 71 year old man, Giles Corey, refused to speak when accused. The magistrate, in order to get him to enter a plea, laid a wooden plank on top of Corey and placed heavy rocks on top of it. He continued to remain silent, and they slowly pressed him to death. Giles Corey was a very smart man throughout this event. Before they arrested him, he signed all of his property over to his sons so his property would remain in the family.
On May 27, 1692, Governor William Phipps established a special court. This court, known as the Court of Oyer (to hear) and Terminer (to determine) oversaw the proceedings in the counties of Suffolk, Essex and Middlesex counties. This court had seven judges. Those judges were William Stoughton, John Hathorne, Jonathan Corwin, Waitstill Winthrop, Samuel Sewall, John Richards, Nathaniel Saltonstall, Bartholomew Gedney and Peter Sergeant (Brooks, 2013). Bridget Bishop, known for her gossiping, fighting with her neighbors and promiscuity was the first to be brought to trial at the special court. Previously accused of witchcraft in 1679 and 1687, they cleared her then of the accusations. This time the accusations made were by five of the young girls having fits. They told the court that Bishop tormented them physically and tried to make them pledge their loyalty to the devil by signing...