American History: Salem Witch Trials 1692

In beginning this site, one of my primary concerns is to correct some of the common misunderstandings and misconceptions about this tragic event in U.S. Colonial history. Some of these are so basic that it is surprising that they have become so firmly entrenched in our public consciousness, while others are more abstract, and merit some serious discussion. It is my hope that this might become a forum for some serious discussions focusing on the Salem witch trials, the events surrounding them, and the various theories that have been offered by way of explanation.

See also: Salem Witch Trials: A reference guide



Obscure Latin term clarified 
Thursday, October 27, 2011, 01:30 PM - Common misconceptions, Salem Witch Trials
Posted by Administrator
A rather obscure Latin term found in the proceedings of the Salem Witch Trials was apparently incorrectly transcribed in the 19th century. It has appeared in every other book about the trials published since. After many years, the true meaning of the term has been revealed! To all interested scholars: please refrain from using the word procedeulia (ani). It simply does not exist in Latin:
Medical Latin gone awry

See also:
Latin quotes and phrases
Plymouth Plantation faces some competition. In Salem. 
Monday, June 29, 2009, 03:40 PM - American History, History of Salem, Massachusetts
Posted by The Historian


Salem Pioneer Village is once again open!

The museum underwent a renovation under the supervision of Salem Preservation, Inc. from 2003 until Spring 2008. In June 2009 this living history attraction reopened under new management. On July, 4 they will have a grand opening: visitors "are invited to take part in 17th century song, dance, and games before investigating the new Pioneer Village gift shop. Free period refreshments such as non-alcoholic burnt wine, fruits, and ginger snaps will also be offered at various points within the village. Before leaving, visitors can take home a bundle of fresh herbs from the garden, along with recipes on how to use them."

With Plymouth Plantation being quite overpriced and really out of the way for many tourists who usually include Salem on the list of places to visit when they come to Boston, this newly revamped jewel of Salem's history is a great addition to the city's traditionally strong museum scene.

Museum's website:
Salem Pioneer Village
Cry Innocent: a video 
Thursday, April 2, 2009, 08:18 PM - Salem Witch Trials, Witchcraft history
Posted by The Historian
If you come to Salem during the tourist season, this is a very common sight on the streets of the old town. "Cry Innocent!" is a well known theatrical performance about the Salem witch trials. This electrifying production is one of the very few tourist attractions that are actually based on the events of the 1692 witch hysteria in Salem. Don't miss it! This video shows the pretrial street action, which is an integral part of the performance.


Salem Witch Trials Memorial - a video 
Thursday, December 18, 2008, 08:22 PM - American History, History of Salem, Massachusetts, Salem Witch Trials
Posted by The Historian
You can actually see the stones commemorating many of the victims of the Salem Witch Trials.


Who are the afflicted children in the Salem witch trials? 
Friday, February 22, 2008, 05:14 PM - History of Salem, Massachusetts, Witchcraft history
Posted by The Historian
The central characters of the Salem witchcraft episode are the so-called "afflicted children" responsible for most of the accusations and much of the spectral evidence testimony presented against the victims. They are often referred to as children because---with the exception of two individuals---all of this group were under the age of twenty at the time the episode began.
Why were children regarded as reliable sources of intelligence about suspected witches? Quite simply because, in English tradition, there was a long-standing precedent of using children to identify likely suspects.

In her book, A Mirror of Witchcraft, historian Christina Hole, mentions English villages during the Cromwelliam era which used children with "spectral sight" as witch-finders. Some of these children became quite famous in their own time and their activities were published in contemporary accounts of the English witch hunts of the 1650's.

Closer to New England, bewitched children had been used as sources of supernatural information in the famous Hartford witchcraft trials of the 1660's, and in the popular, published Cotton Mather account of the Goodwin children and Mary Glover in Boston in 1688.
The first two "afflicted" persons were Parris' daughter and neice, nine-year-old Elizabeth "Betty" Parris and eleven-year-old Abigail Williams. After days of displaying characteristics of aberrant behavior including claims of sharp pain, paralyzation, choking, crawling under furniture, staring-into-space, making non-sensical noises and crying out, they were prayed over by Reverend Parris and several local ministers. When this failed to cure them, the local physician, Dr. William Griggs was called in to examine the girls. His diagnosis was that their malady was of a spiritual nature. They were under the "evil hand" of witchcraft.

Ultimately the group of "afflicted" would grow to include many more children. All of these would claim to be "tortured, wasted, pined and consumed" by the spells and invisible specters of local residents who were witches. Altogether, the "afflicted children" would accuse over two hundred individuals, most of whom would escape prosecution. Nearly fifty would save their lives by confessing to the crime of witchcraft, and begging the community's forgiveness.(This group would be asked to turn "state's evidence" and help the court ferret out more suspects.) Twenty would lose their lives through the actions of Salem's Court of Oyer and Terminer, nineteen by hanging and one (Giles Corey) by the torture of pressing.

Besides Elizabeth Parris (9) and Abigail Williams (11), the other afflicted children included: Elizabeth Hubbard (18); Mary Warren (17); Mercy Lewis (19); Mary Walcott (16); Elizabeth Booth (16); Elizabeth Churchill (20) and Susannah Sheldon (18). Three middle-aged women were also adult participants as afflicted witnesses to spectral evidence. These were Ann Putnam, Sr., Gertrude Pope and Sarah Bibber.



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