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Ergot Poisoning In Salem Massachusetts Essay

948 words - 4 pages

Nobody can actually tell us what happened during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. We can go over websites and read as many books as we want but everyone has different theories. A different outlook on the Witch Trials from someone else’s perspective is a huge help to curious minds. No matter how many times someone says “oh I came up with a theory to the Salem epidemic”, nobody can actually say what happened in Salem, one of the possibilities was Ergot, a fungus found in rye. Some would say ergot poisoning wasn’t a possibility but some would agree because the weather conditions were right, the symptoms were spot on, and the location of the afflicted matched where ergot grew best.
The weather in Salem in 1691-1692 was said to be horrible. It’s said that the previous winter was cold, then the following planting season was wet and warm, followed by a hot and stormy summer. When the seasons had so many flaws and harvest was bad, Salem turned to rye grain to make their bread. Conditions made things worse in Salem, people started attacking their peers verbally and food was scarce due to bad crops. Rye flour was their only option when weather ruined what they had for food. When Ergot invades rye grain it turns the grain a purple color making it easier for people to notice, but when you manually cut you’re your crops you don’t take the time to go through it. (Linnda R. Caporael says, “Rye contains Stearns which grows in low wet ground; yields ergot in greatest abundance”) (24). Putnam supplied most of Salem’s rye flour when crops went bad. His land was swampy and made the perfect growing conditions for fungus to grow. “Certain climatic conditions, that is, warm, rainy springs and summers, promote heavier than usual fungus infestation” (24). In Samuel Seawalls diary it says they had a bad weather pattern in 1691.
Symptoms of the afflicted girls matched symptoms of ergot poisoning. The afflicted girls could have faked their symptoms, or they could have been facing a poison they had no idea about. (Laurie Winn Carlson says, “between 1689 and 1700 the citizens complained of symptoms that included fits (convulsions), spectral visions (hallucinations), mental “distraction” (psychosis), pinching, pin pricking and bites” on their skin (clonus), lethargy and even death” (Preface xiii). Symptoms of ergot poisoning are crawling sensations in the skin, tingling in the fingers, vertigo, tinnitus aurium, headaches, disturbances in the sensation, hallucinations, painful muscular contractions leading to epileptiform convulsions, vomiting and diarrhea(Linnda R. Caporael) (23). Doctor after doctor, nobody could figure out what was wrong with the girls. One girl would faint and then be sick for days after then the rest of the girls would follow. Some say...

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