The Salem Witchcraft Trials Of 1692: The History, Proceedings, And Legal Consequences Of The Mass Hysteria

2217 words - 9 pages

The first bout of panic came about in January of 1662, when a few young women and girls had a series of violent and hysterical fits. They claimed that they were being “tormented” by apparitions of members of the community. Many members of the community were horrified by the violence of these fits, as well as the anguish that the women and girls went through (Godbeer).
On January 20th, Reverend Parris’ 11year-old niece and 9 year-old daughter respectively, Abigail Williams and Betty Parris started to have fits that were quite horrifying in nature. They were far beyond just a simple epileptic fit or disease (Godbeer). The two young girls twisted and contorted themselves into strange positions, threw objects around the room they were in, made odd sounds, and screamed. This was all according to Reverend Deodat Lawson, a former minister in Salem who saw such behavior for himself. To only make the unsettling behavior worse, Abigail and Betty also told of being pinched, as well as having the feeling of being jabbed with pins. Reverend Parris, in mid-February, took the girls to see doctor William Griggs. However, there was no physical evidence left on the girls’ bodies in the form of marks to attest to their claims, as Griggs found when he examined the two girls. As there was no illness known at that time that could explain away the fits and complaints that plagued the girls, the only seemingly logical cause for the girls’ behavior was witchcraft, as Griggs diagnosed (“Salem Witchcraft Trials.”).
Strangely enough, more girls and young women within Salem also began to show behaviors that were similar to Abigail and Betty’s fits; most importantly, Ann Putnam Jr., who was only 12 years old, and Elizabeth Hubbard. It grew to be that when Reverend Lawson held sermons within the village’s meeting house, he was interrupted and forced to stop numerous times due to outbursts from those who were afflicted by the fits (Goss). A close neighbor of the Parris’ named Mary Sibley told Tituba’s husband, John Indian, of a way that involved English folk “white magic” to find out who was using witchcraft against the afflicted girls. A “witch cake” made of rye meal and the girls’ own urine was to be fed to a dog. History does not reveal if this was effective in identifying the girls’ tormenter, but it was not long afterwards that Elizabeth Parris identified Tituba herself as the one who was causing her to act so strangely. Later, the other girls, including Elizabeth, accused Sarah Good and Sarah Osbourne of using witchcraft against them.
On February 29, warrants were issued by magistrates John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin based on complaints from Salem villagers Thomas and Edward Putnam, Joseph Hutchinson, and Thomas Preston to arrest the three accused women for using witchcraft to afflict the four tormented girls (“Salem Witchcraft Trials.”).
Sarah Good, Sarah Osborune and Tituba were held and interrogated by John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin from March 1-7. Tituba was...

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