Salem Witch Trials

Time Period
2/1/1692  - 5/1/1693
Description
Prior to the official witch hunt in Salem, several young girls were caught using a crystal ball for fortune-telling. The girls claimed that witches manipulated their behavior. Fear and panic swept over the community, as citizens started to accuse one another of witchcraft. The accused tended to be individuals of lower social status, like widowed or unpopular citizens. Many confessed to signing the "Devil’s book," almost certainly to avoid severe punishment. Despite little evidence, more than 150 people were imprisoned and 20 individuals were executed.

The accusations started to lose credibility when several influential citizens were accused. Moreover, the number of accusations started to diminish after Massachusetts Governor Sir William Phipps abolished the use of "spectral evidence" (dreams and visions) and special court hearings for witchcraft accusations. By the end of the trials, many citizens acknowledged that the accusations were untrue and many accusers admitted ulterior motives for their allegations.
Interactive Timeline(s)
Prominent Religious Events and People in American History
Photographs

Salem Witch Trials- Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-94432

Salem Witch Trials- Internet Archive

William Phips- Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-110821

William Stoughton, Massachusetts Bay magistrate during the Witch Trials- Internet Archive

Samuel Sewall, Massachusetts Bay judge during the Witch Trials - Internet Archive
Source(s)
Queen, Edward and Stephen Prothero and Gardiner Shattuck, 1996. The Encyclopedia of American Religious History. New York: Facts on File.
Web Page Contributor
Benjamin T. Gurrentz
Affliated with: Research Associate, The Association of Religion Data Archives

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