Salem Witch Hysteria: Relevant Information

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Salem Witch Hysteria: Relevant Information

[Note: English usage in all quotations has been modernized.]

1. Salem Village was about five miles northwest of Salem Town. In 1692 it had 90 houses and about 550 people. (See Figure 3, p. 47.)

2. In addition to farming, some people took up such "winter" occupations as weavers, brickmakers, coopers (barrel makers), and sellers of alcoholic beverages (tavern owners).

3. The people in Salem Village were mostly farmers and had a reputation for quarreling and being stubborn. Their disputes often involved land or church controversies and resulted in ill feelings and long-lasting resentments.

4. Local church disputes were famous in colonial history. From as early as 1672, two groups in Salem Village had carried on controversies over the Village minister. One minister, George Burroughs, was denied his salary.

5. Samuel Parris took over as minister of Salem Village in 1689.

6. Increase Mather, one of the most influential ministers in Massachusetts, challenged the evidence accepted in the Salem Trials. In a sermon to other ministers in Cambridge on October 3,1692, he criticized the Court's acceptance of spectral evidence, claiming, "Better that ten suspected witches should escape than that one innocent person should be condemned."

7. There is no evidence regarding what the accused believed would happen to them if they confessed. In some previous cases, the courts delayed execution when the accused confessed; most were, nevertheless, executed. People in Salem may have believed they could escape execution by confessing.

8. Petty neighbor disputes had helped cause several earlier witchcraft episodes.

9. Although the Salem witchcraft episode was much larger than any other episode in the colonies (because of the large numbers participating and the large numbers hanged), it was small compared to European witch hysterias.

10. In most Salem Witchcraft Trial cases, the accuser and the accused person did not live next to each other and did not know each other well.

11. Reverend Samuel Willard is believed to have anonymously published a pamphlet in 1692 in which he condemned the use of spectral evidence and denounced the accusers as "liars."

12. On June 15, 1692, a group of Boston ministers led by Cotton Mather sent a letter to Governor Phips and his council. The letter urged vigorous prosecution of proven witches but recommended "a very critical and exquisite caution" in the use of spectral evidence.

13. Some of the people who were accused of witchcraft and some of those who were hanged as witches were outcasts in Salem Village. Others, such as Rebecca Nurse, were respected members of the community and of the church.

14. Some people who were accused of witchcraft and some people who were hanged for it lived in Salem Village, but most of the accused did not.

15. One of the afflicted girls, Betty Parris, took no part in the examinations or trials because her father, Reverend Parris, sent her away. Her younger brother, who was born in 1692, later died insane.

16. One of the afflicted girls accused John Proctor's wife of being a witch. Adults who heard the accusation were skeptical of it, and the girl responded, "It [the accusation] was for sport. I must have some sport."

17. In 1720 three sisters in Littletown, Massachusetts, claimed that a witch in town was causing them headaches. There was no trial, and in 1728 the oldest sister admitted that the girls had made up the story to get attention. She said they had picked the woman they accused at random.

18. During the trial of Sarah Good, one of the afflicted girls presented part of a broken knife blade with which she said Sarah had tormented her. A boy then came forward, said the blade part was from his knife, and showed that the broken piece of blade fit perfectly. The judge told the afflicted girl to stick to the facts and had her continue her testimony.

19. Reverend Parris took the official notes at witchcraft examinations and trials.

20. In 1706 Ann Putnam, Jr. admitted that she had been used as an instrument of the devil in the Salem Witch Trials.

21. Robert Calef criticized Cotton and Increase Mather on many occasions other than the witchcraft trials.

22. When accused witches were released from jail in late 1692, the afflicted girls did not become tormented again.

23. In his book Major Symptoms of Hysteria (1907), Pierre Janet, a French doctor, described the major symptoms of hysteria as a pain or strange sensation in some part of the body, often below the stomach, which then spreads to an area just above the stomach, the chest, and the throat (choking).

24. During the Salem Witch Trials, Elizabeth Brown said that a specter in the form of a bird was pecking her legs, then her stomach, and then her throat.

25. John Locke, who lived in England in the 1600s and who was well known for his scholarly books, said that spirits (specters) could appear in the material world: "Spirits can assume to themselves bodies of different bulk, figure, and conformation of parts."

26. Thomas Hobbes, a famous political thinker in seventeenth-century England, wrote: "As for witches, I think not that their witchcraft is any real power; but yet they are justly punished, for their false belief they have that they can do such mischief...."

27. In Boston in 1688, Goodwife Glover was tried as a witch. Testimony showed that when Glover stuck pins into one of her dolls, one of the Goodwin children fell into fits and convulsions. She was overheard in her jail cell yelling at the devil for having abandoned her at her moment of need in the trial.

28. Abigail Hobbs said that George Burroughs had brought puppets to her, and thorns to stick into those puppets. She also said that she had caused a death by following his instructions.

29. According to one author, "convulsive ergotism" (the type that may have occurred in Salem Village) has occurred almost exclusively in areas where people suffered from a lack of vitamin A.

30. One author says that it is common for all members of a family to develop symptoms of convulsive ergotism during epidemics.

31. Residents of Salem Village lived in an area where fish and dairy products, both good sources of vitamin A, were common.

Salem Witch Hysteria: Glossary of Terms

A number of terms in this lesson might be unfamiliar to you or are used in a particular manner regarding the witchcraft trials. This glossary explains some of those terms; others are explained when they are used in the readings.

Afflicted To be distressed or tormented. In this lesson, it refers to those who appeared to be tormented by witchcraft.

Congregation The members of a particular church.

Devil's Book A book in which the devil was reported to keep a record of the souls he owned. A person who signed his or her name in this book indicated that he or she was now a witch.

Devil's Mark A mark on a witch's body where the devil or familiar sucked the blood of the witch, thereby feeding on her soul.

Examination A pretrial hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to try the accused in court. Similar to an indictment or Grand Jury hearing today.

Familiar A small animal, such as a cat or dog, that served as a messenger between the devil and the witch.

Goodwife (Goody) A title of address for married women; equivalent of Mrs.

Hysteria (medical) Physical ailments, such as pain, itching, or convulsions, caused by a mental state.

2A common use of the term is to describe a person who, due to some upsetting experience, screams or yells uncontrollably.

3 The term is also used in this problem to describe a time of fear and irrationality among a large group of people ("mass hysteria").

Meeting House The place the town gathered for religious services, as well as political matters. Usually the largest building in a town.

Minister The religious leader (also called reverend, pastor, or clergyman) of the Puritan Church in a town or village.

Spectral Evidence Testimony that an accused witch's spirit or ghost appeared to the accuser, sometimes tormenting the accuser.

Theocracy Government ruled and/or controlled by a religion. Iran is a modern-day example.

Witch 1As used in Puritan New England, a woman who had sold her soul to the devil, thereby becoming an enemy of the Christian church.

2 A more general definition is someone who uses magic.

Wizard A male witch.

Salem Witch Hysteria: The Afflicted and the Accused

The Afflicted (Ages in Parentheses)

Betty Parris (9), Abigail Williams (11) ~ Lived with Reverend Parris

Mary Wolcott (16), Susanna Sheldon (18) ~ Close neighbors of Reverend Parris

Ann Putnam Jr. (12), Ann Putnam Sr. (30s) ~ Lived in the home of Thomas Putnam

Mary Warren (20) ~ Worked for John Proctor

Elizabeth Hubbard (17) ~ Worked for Dr. Griggs

Sarah Churchill (20) ~ Worked for George Jacobs

Mercy Lewis (17) ~ Worked for Thomas Putnam

The Accused (Partial Listing; Home Town in Parentheses)

Tituba (Salem Village)

Sarah Good (Salem Village)

Dorcas Good (Salem Town)

Sarah Osburne (Salem Town)

Martha Gory (Salem Town)

Giles Gory (Salem Town)

Rebecca Nurse (Salem Village)

Sarah Cloyse (Salem Village)

Mary Easty (Topsfield)

George Burroughs (Wells, ME; had lived in Salem Village)

Elizabeth Proctor (Salem Town)

John Proctor (Salem Town)

Abigail Hobbs (Topsfield)

Deliverance Hobbs (Topsfield)

William Hobbs (Topsfield)

Nehemiah Abbot (Topsfield)

Bridget Bishop (Salem Town)

Dorcas Hoar (Beverly)

Susanna Martin (Amesbury)

George Jacobs (Salem Town)

Evaluating Viewpoints: Critical Thinking in United States History Book 1 —Colonies to Constitution © 1990 MIDWEST PUBLICATIONS, P.O. Box 448. Pacific Grove, CA 93950

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