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Salme Witch Trials

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Autor:  anton  24 March 2011
Tags:  Trials
Words: 2346   |   Pages: 10
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“Religion was not a department or phase of social life; it was the end and aim of all life; and to it, consequently, all institutions were subordinate.” For Salem, Massachusetts, religion ruled their lives. In 1692, innocent people were accused of witchcraft. Salem people were very conflicted. Their leaders dealt with their historical influences, the afflicted and the accused had many challenges to face, and that left the rest of the town to deal with the upcoming changes.


The term “Puritans” was created to insult a group of Protestants who did not believe that the English Reformation went far enough in reforming the Anglican Church in the 1500’s. The Puritans sought to “purify” the church by eradicating it of all traces of Catholic influence. According to the Puritans, the church still needed a more “direct personal religious experience, sincere moral conduct, and simple worship services.” It was also known that the Puritans believed that Christianity should be the main focus of human existence as they considered religion to be “a very complex, subtle, and highly intelligent affair.” All of their requests to make more intense changes (such as abolition of all bishops) were ignored by higher authorities, which caused the Puritans to feel repressed. This led these people to immigrate over to America, and leave their oppressive homes behind.

By the early 1700’s, many Puritans had traveled to New England to live in a colony of their own, away from the religious restrictions that had been pressed upon them before. They created a place called Salem Village, which seemed to isolate them from the rest of the world so that they could enjoy their newfound freedom. This appeared to be a place of freedom and fairness, but that simple, hope filled view would soon change as life continued in this Puritan town.

Puritan Beliefs

Church and town life were all the Puritans knew as their existence. Religion was by far the biggest part of Puritan society. The Salem Puritans thought that the Devil was as powerful as God and was just as willing to interfere with human affairs. They believed that the Devil sought out people that were considered weak, such as women, children, the elderly, and the sick. Since the Devil could affect people as God could, all Puritans believed in bewitchment. If you did not believe in bewitchment, then you were thought to be a witch and you were trying to protect yourself. As soon as people announced they did not believe that the afflicted were actually being afflicted by witches, they were abruptly accused. A person might as well claim to be an Atheist than admit they did not believe in the Devil’s power to afflict and bewitch.

Since church was such a big part of life, it directly affected the town’s people and their styles of life. Although Puritans followed the Bible very closely as it was their “guiding light”, donations to the church were very important. Even though the Bible clearly states, �give what you can afford to give’, the people who did not donate were accused of witchcraft. Another aspect of town life around the time was the two separate factions. The town was split between the pro-Parris and anti-Parris groups. Parris was the town’s pastor and as you might be able to tell, some supported him and others did not. The anti-Parris populace was victimized by the pro-Parris group as the pro-Parris group often accused the anti-Parris members of involvement with witchcraft. The town was also divided by a person’s status. Everyone was supposed to blend into the masses. This meant working hard no matter what your job was. People were also supposed to completely repress their emotions and personal opinions. Being opinionated was one way to draw attention to one’s self, which would cause one to be accused. Another main rule of blending in is to not look or sound different. Everyone dressed in dark colors, mostly in black as to not draw attention to themselves with flashy or vibrant colors. Also, a person’s ways of talking was watched closely. For example teens nowadays use slang terms like "oh pits" if something doesn't go their way. If people in Salem used words that were considered blasphemous to the church or towards other people, I can safely say that they would be accused. As you can see, things as minuscule as dialect and church donations can affect a persons chance of being accused.

The Afflicted

In the witch trials, the people who accused others of being witches were known as the afflicted. In the Salem Witch Trials there were about 43 of these afflicted with Ann Putnam leading as the most well-known accuser. It has been said that Ann and a group of her close friends who were known as the “Circle Girls”, started the Salem Witch Trials.

They first said they were victims of witchcraft when they started to behave oddly because of whatever witchcraft had begun to possess them. Some of this odd behavior included babbling, convulsing, and blank stares. Soon after these strange behaviors occurred, the Circle Girls began to accuse people living in Salem Village of the witchcraft that had been harming them. Many times the villagers were shocked at who was being accused; a few of the people were very important in the community. Often, there was no evidence to support their accusations, but the accused were still imprisoned.

By the time the Salem Witch Trials were over, Ann and her Circle Girls had accused about 62 people. Not long after the trials ended, Ann lost both of her parents. This led to her having to raise her nine brothers and sisters by herself. Some people believed she deserved it for all the trouble she had caused the people of Salem Village. In 1706, Ann wrote a letter apologizing for what she had done and the pastor of the church in Salem read the letter aloud to the congregation. Ann Putnam is the only afflicted person to ever apologize for what she had done.

Victim 1

One of the victims accused of witchcraft by the Puritans was a woman named Sarah Good. Sarah's childhood was cut short when her father died when she was only 17. Sarah was left with no money and no family. She eventually got married to William Good. They were held responsible to pay past debts, which led them to sell their land and become homeless.

When Sarah became homeless, it changed the woman that she was. Sarah requested money donations from the townspeople, and when she was denied, Sarah would become enraged with anger. She would scold and curse at her neighbors which, in their minds, was a perfect example of a witch. They thought she was siding with the devil because she never attended church services and to put the icing on the cake, her very own daughter turned against her and accused Sarah of being a witch.

Sarah was arrested, put on trial, and found guilty. Sarah did nothing to slow down her sentence; she knew her fate was sealed. On July 19th, 1692, Sarah was hung and showed no remorse. The unusual thing about Sarah's situation was that when Minister Nicholas Noyes asked her one final time to confess to being a witch before being hung, instead of confessing, Sarah placed a curse on him saying, “You are a liar. I am no more a witch then you are a wizard, and if you take away my life God will give you blood to drink." Sarah's curse apparently came true, because the minister died of an internal hemorrhage, bleeding profusely at the mouth.

Victim 2

Mary Towne was born in England to William and Joanna Towne along with her seven siblings. They moved to America in 1640 where Mary met and married the farmer, Isaac Eastey in 1655. The couple had seven children and were well respected in Salem Village, so everyone was especially shocked when Mary was accused of being a witch. On April 22, 1692, they held an examination of her. During the examination, Mary was very calm and respectful as she clasped her hands together, but even that casual action caused a stir. One of the afflicted, Mercy Lewis, claimed she was unable to release her hands until Mary released her own. Also, when she leaned her head back, a group of afflicted girls accused her of trying to break their necks. When Mary was asked how far she had complied with Satan, she replied by saying, “Sir, I never complied but prayed against him all my days, I have no compliance with Satan, in this I am clear of this sin.” Mary was sent to prison and then released after only two months for unknown reasons. Two days after being released, Mercy Lewis, supported by other afflicted girls, claimed Mary’s specter was afflicting her. That night, a second warrant was issued and Mary was put back into prison. After Mary was arrested, Mercy stopped throwing fits. On September 22, Mary was hung. She had sent a letter to the judges saying, “No more innocent blood be shed” and prayed for the witch hunt to end as she stood at her death place. After Mary’s death, a woman named Mary Herrick testified that Mary Eastey had visited her and told Herrick that she was innocent of witchcraft and was going to be wrongfully put to death. Mary Eastey’s family was given 20 pounds by the government for their wrongful execution.

Torturing and Punishments

During the witch trials, people who were convicted of witchcraft died a terrible death. The most common way to die was by the infamous hangings. Imagine this; you’re standing on a platform with a noose around you neck. Thoughts begin to race through your head, but the next thing you know, the floor beneath you drops and you’re life is suddenly over. Your body is left dangling with your neck broken. It’s too late; you’re dead. If the court decided hanging wasn’t an acceptable punishment, being burned was the next option. They would tie the hands and feet of the so-called witch up and put them above a fire pit full of fuel and glove wood. They chose glove wood because it is a slow burning wood and they wanted the accused to have a long agonizing death. They would light the fire and watch them scream and suffer. The last option, if found guilty, was a floating test. They would toss the tied up accused into the river. If they floated, they were pronounced a witch, and if they didn’t float, they were not. Either way they died because the accusers usually couldn’t pull the accused out of the lake in time.

The people of Salem also had different methods of torture to make a person confess of being in conjunction with the devil. Pressing was one of the modes of torture. Pressing is when huge rocks are placed on top of the chest and more pressure is added, allowing less and less oxygen into the lungs. The lack of oxygen to the brain caused the whole body to go numb until the last of their life is pressed out of them. Another example would be hot irons. Hot irons were mainly placed on the feet and remained there, burning the skin while the tortured screamed and cried for mercy. Iron maidens were also used in some cases. Iron maidens are small rooms, sometimes shaped as a person, with glass, needles and other sharp objects sticking out of them. A person would have to stand inside an iron maiden for however long it took them to either die of lack of oxygen or of massive blood loss, unless of course, they confessed of being involved with witchcraft.


The witch trials had a greater aftermath then anyone could foresee. After the trials ended, the imprisonment did not cease even though everyone knew they were not witches. Prisoners had to pay for their freedom or it was taken from them. Life in the prisons was not cheap, internees had to pay for food or they did not receive any. Many families were left homeless and penniless. Can you imagine a family member who is serving time but is innocent, how would you feel?

The commotion of witches caused many things to be left unattended. Houses had become dirty and plants began to overgrow in the yard. The main source of food and money was ignored. Fields began to overgrow while other plants started to die. The effect of one bad harvest lasted several years on the economy. These people almost stopped their lives completely so they could join in on the ridiculous witch hunt.

The politics of Salem changed for the better. The Anti-Parris Committee reformed and wanted Samuel Parris out of office. They were successful when Joseph Green replaced him in the ministry. Parris's family then left Salem and their troubles behind. For the victims, everyone dealt with their pain in their own way. Some families forgave those people who condemned them and asked to return to the church. Others wanted nothing less than to sever all ties to Salem Village and the church. One man named Philip English, tried to get back at the church by going against everything it believed in. Philip and his wife had been accused of witchcraft and as a result they lost their land and soon after, his wife died. Philip put his energy into his revenge and by helping to found the St. Peter's Episcopal Church, he did just that. No one could predict the aftermath that this witch hunt caused to the people in Salem Village.


People’s unwillingness to understand the importance of tolerance, fairness, and knowledge ultimately leads to death. It was no different for the Salem Witch Trials. Herbert Schneider was correct. The Puritans did not learn from their past and stayed firm to their beliefs and customs. The historical leaders, victims, accusers, and townspeople all had their own story to tell about the tragic witch hunt that led to the victimization of innocent people. Hopefully, we will learn from their mistakes and never repeat them again.

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