Explore the Salem Witch Trials of Salem, Massachusetts

The tragic truth behind the legend…

You will have blood to drink for your part in this evil day.”

Sarah Good depicted photo by Christa Thompson

Sarah Good depicted photo by Christa Thompson

Sarah Wild cried out these words to Reverend Nicholas Noyes just before she and 4 others were hanged to death (Reverend Noyes ultimately died from a hemorrhage in his mouth). What many of you may think was a trial of witches being tortured and hanged for dancing with the devil, was actually one of the most tragic accounts of false accusations of American History.

And so the story goes…

The year was 1692 in Salem, Salem Village, and a few neighboring towns in Massechusetts. Puritan governed colonies with harsh and irrational rules painted a dark and miserable landscape where, women and children were forbid to find anything even remotely pleasurable. Smiling, singing, dancing and laughing were cause for a scolding, if not more. Children were not allowed toys of any kind, especially dolls. It was a dreadful, dark and horrible time rich with outrageous supernatural beliefs of dark magic and evil. A perfect recipe for hysteria.

from the Library of Congress

from the Library of Congress

It was a cold and snowy winter layered in the blood of the recent Indian massacres. Smallpox was fierce, taxes were high and faith in colonial politicians was running thin. A servant woman of different ethnicity, Tituba, loved to entertain the Parris family children and did so with exotic tales of Malleus Maleficarum. These were tales about sexual encounters with demons, swaying the minds of men, and fortune telling. At a time when laughing and toys were considered an abomination, it was easy to unravel the imaginations of young girls.

Tituba depicted, photo by Christa Thompson

Tituba depicted, photo by Christa Thompson

In January 1692, Reverend Parris’ 9 year old daughter, little Betty Parris and her cousin Abigail Williams felt ill, soon to be called “afflicted”. It wasn’t long until 7 more girls ages 9-19 were “afflicted”, displaying fits of outbursts and contorting their bodies in an unnatural  manner similar to that of a demonic possession.

In mid February, Dr. William Griggs decided the girls were “bewitched”. Pandora’s Box had been opened, and soon and the girls began revealing the names of those bewitching them beginning with Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne and Tituba. This would mark the beginning of the wrongly accused, tried and killed victims of the Salem Witch Trials.

And now Nineteen persons having been hang’d, and one prest to death, and Eight more condemned, in all Twenty and Eight, of which above a third part were Members of some of the Churches of N. England, and more than half of them of a good Conversation in general, and not one clear’d; about Fifty having confest themselves to be Witches, of which not one Executed; above an Hundred and Fifty in Prison, and Two Hundred more accused; the Special Commision of Oyer and Terminer comes to a period.”   -Robert Calef

If you lived in Salem during this time, chances are you would at some point be accused of being a witch. Many adults and children began condemning people for sport and revenge. Two dogs were even condemned to death by hanging because the girls said they were giving them the “evil eye”.

A hanging depicted at the Salem Witch Museum photo by Christa Thompson

A hanging depicted at the Salem Witch Museum photo by Christa Thompson

It wasn’t until Sir William Phipps, Governor of Massachusetts put an end to the tragic trials and witch hunting frenzy in 1693 when his own wife was accused of being a witch by Salem girls.

When I put an end to the Court there ware at least fifty persons in prision in great misery by reason of the extream cold and their poverty, most of them having only spectre evidence against them and their mittimusses being defective, I caused some of them to be lettout upon bayle and put the Judges upon consideration of a way to reliefe others and to prevent them from perishing in prision, upon which some of them were convinced and acknowledged that their former proceedings were too violent and not grounded upon a right foundation … The stop put to the first method of proceedings hath dissipated the blak cloud that threatened this Province with destruccion.”   -Sir William Phipps February 21, 1693

Many of the accused were not cleared until years later, the most recent pardon being signed by Governor Jane Swift in 2001.

Pressed to death- To make him talk he was placed between heavy cement and pressed. Every time they asked him to talk his only reply was "More weight".

Pressed to death- To make him talk he was placed between heavy cement and pressed. Every time they asked him to talk his only reply was “More weight”. From the Salem Wax Museum, photo by Christa Thompson

Pressed to death, Giles Corey depicted at the Salem Witch Museum by Christa Thompson

Pressed to death, Giles Corey depicted at the Salem Witch Museum by Christa Thompson

From the Salem Wax Museum of Witches & Seafarers by Christa Thompson

From the Salem Wax Museum of Witches & Seafarers by Christa Thompson

From the Salem Wax Museum of Witches & Seafarers by Christa Thompson

From the Salem Wax Museum of Witches & Seafarers by Christa Thompson

From the Salem Wax Museum of Witches & Seafarers by Christa Thompson

From the Salem Wax Museum of Witches & Seafarers by Christa Thompson

From the Salem Wax Museum of Witches & Seafarers by Christa Thompson

From the Salem Wax Museum of Witches & Seafarers by Christa Thompson

From the Salem Wax Museum of Witches & Seafarers by Christa Thompson

From the Salem Wax Museum of Witches & Seafarers by Christa Thompson

From the Salem Wax Museum of Witches & Seafarers by Christa Thompson

From the Salem Wax Museum of Witches & Seafarers by Christa Thompson


About Christa Thompson

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Christa Thompson is the Founder and Senior Editor of The Fairytale Traveler. Christa has been traveling the world since 2003 when she attended a summer abroad study at the University of Cambridge in England. Since then, her wanderlust has been fierce. Her three passions in life are her son, traveling, and being creative. The Fairytale Traveler brand gives Christa the opportunity to do all of these things and to live intentionally every day.

“It’s never too late to believe in what you love and to pursue your dreams.” -Christa Thompson

11 Comments on this post

  1. Interesting article again. =)

    And I don’t want to nitpick, but the Malleus Maleficarum was less a book of tales and more a book with a collection of stories of how clerics “recognized” witches, warlocks, werwolves and other people associated with the devil. And while the stuff written in it might sound like a tale, it is what (religious) people really believed the ones in contract with the devil would do….

    On a side note: The picture for the pregnant woman is twice in the article.

    PoiSonPaiNter / Reply
    • Thank you. 🙂

      Tituba was a servant to Reverend Parris and his family. Her ethnicity has been debated but it is said that she is from the Spanish West Indies. Others have thought her to be from the Guianas…then again even her race has been the subject of debate.

      The Malleus Maleficarum was in fact just as you summarized above. In addition it actually was written to debunk sorcery. This doesn’t mean that Tituba was not reading from it… or that she wasn’t using it as a way to debunk the “debunking” lol.

      At the end of the day, it was only after she began teaching these stories and dance to the girls that they began to express signs of demonic possession.

      As described and documented by John Hale, a Reverend from the neighboring town of Beverly which I drove through during my visit to Salem.

      “beyond the power of Epileptic Fits or natural disease to effect.”

      As described by the eyewitness account of Reverend Deodat Lawson of Salem.

      “The girls screamed, threw things about the room, uttered strange sounds, crawled under furniture, and contorted themselves into peculiar positions.”

      Wouldn’t you know, Tituba was never executed. In fact, she was never found once they released her from jail. Tituba confessed to witchcraft and managed to rat everyone under the sun out, pointing fingers at innocent women like Sarah Good who were ultimately executed.

      So who’s to say that she didn’t use that book as a means to prove it wrong….

      • I never doubted she read from the book, but your description of her reading the “tales” from the book was what made me write the comment above. But that is probably just me. 🙂

        Aside from that: Your additional information is quite fascinating. Though I would rather say, she used the book to prove it right, if she indeed managed to enchant/curse the girls through the rituals described in it.
        By the time the “Hexenhammer” was written the belief in witchcraft started to fade and the author tried to legitimate further witch trials by collecting information on how to notice sorcery and show all of the doubters that it was indeed still a threat.
        You could say that if the reading and dancing caused the possession of the girls than his belief in the old ways, helped her to do that.
        Belief is after all one of the most powerful things humanity is capable of.

        • You know that is so true… There is a movie I watched once, a documentary to be precise, What the Bleep do We Know. It is a fascinating telling of scientific data as to how our bodies physiologically assimilate to emotions and beliefs (logic). Our neurons will actually move closer to a synapse and synaptic gaps will shorten to promote the most efficient means of transporting neurotransmitters in order to create an emotion or maintain a logic (if that is an emotion or logic that we are repeatedly feeling or believing). This is how mass hysteria, cult followings, depression, madness, mania and whatever else you can think of becomes chronic…

          You should watch it, it’s on Netflix… drink coffee 🙂

  2. I remember a movie we had to watch in school on this that basically showed some bored girls using what Tituba told them to get some revenge… I don’t know how accurate the movie was but it is never the less a terrible time in history and shows how easily people can be led by fear to make irrational and tragic decisions…

    rgdole / Reply
  3. Remember reading The Crucible many years ago.

    Andy / Reply
  4. these witches were in my family hard to believe but its true

    demi / Reply
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