Historical story

The Salem Witches:This Was Their True, Dark History

In the cold winter of 1692, in Salem, Massachusetts, two girls, the Reverend Samuel Parish's daughter, Betty, and his ward, Abigail Williams, began to exhibit strange behavior.

They were talking strangely, hiding under things and crawling on the floor. No doctor could explain the symptoms, until one of them ruled on February 8 that the girls were possessed. So Father Samuel and other pious fellow citizens began to pressure the two girls - and other children who later exhibited similar behavior - to name the people who led them into the paths of the devil.

The first three women to be charged were Sarah Goode, Sarah Osborne and Tituba. Sarah Good was a beggar, the daughter of a French hotelier, who committed suicide when she was still a teenager. Sarah Osborne was a bedridden old woman who took her first husband's property from his children and gave it to her second husband. Tituba was the Indian slave of the Reverend Samuel Parris.

As SanSimera writes, these three women were accused of witchcraft and on March 1 they were taken to prison. Dozens more followed, and as the jails in Salem, Boston, and surrounding areas slowly filled up, a new problem arose:Due to the lack of legal framework, all of these inmates could not be tried.

The solution was given at the end of May by the royal governor of Massachusetts, Sir William Phipps, by deciding to set up a special court for the case. Meanwhile, Sarah Osborne had died, Sarah Good had given birth to a baby girl, and the number of defendants had reached 80, many of whom had fallen ill.

In summary proceedings, all the accused were found guilty and sentenced to death. Only those who pleaded guilty and turned in others were spared execution. A total of 19 people were hanged during the summer, including a respected minister and a former policeman who refused to continue arresting alleged witches. Of these, only six were men.

The witch trials had significant effects throughout the region. Crops were left in the fields and livestock unattended, those who feared capture left the area with their possessions and fled to New York, trade declined, and there were reports that the Indians were preparing to revolt.

The trials were stopped on October 3, 1692, by a decision of the governor of Massachusetts, after an appeal by a group of clergymen from Boston. However, those already imprisoned were not released until the following spring.

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