The Falsely Accused Cause of The Salem Witch Trials

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Convulsions, diarrhea, vomiting, skin discoloration, hallucinations, burning and cold sensations, coma, and death are all symptoms of convulsive ergot poisoning (Coll). Ergot poisoning was said to be the cause of the bewitched behavior of the afflicted girls during the Salem witch trials; however, convulsive ergotism only occurs in places lacking vitamin A, the symptoms of ergot were not present in the girls, and the girls were most likely faking all of the symptoms that they did have.

Gangrenous ergotism is the type of ergot poisoning that is contracted when there is plenty of vitamin A in the environment. Salem was a farming town, meaning there was always a well balanced diet; thus making convulsive ergotism very hard to contract. The convulsions the “afflicted” girls were having would not have occurred with gangernous ergot poisoning because they are not part of the symptoms. By gangrenous being completely absent, it is most likely that ergot played any role in Salem. Also, the first bewitched girls were from very wealthy families who could have easily afforded the vitamin rich foods that would have prevented their convulsions, if they were to have contracted ergot poisoning. Ergot is rare, but when it does appear in people, it tends to show up in younger kids much more frequently. “..fifty six percent in the Finnish epidemic were under ten years old; sixty percent of Scrine’s cases were under fifteen years of age...’ (Spanos and Gottlieb) There were only three girls under the age of fifteen out of the eleven girls during the trials. Lastly, it was more common that when one member contracts convulsive ergotism, the entire household usually contracts it. However, during the trials, no entire house was said to be completely “...

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...l the evidence proves that ergot poisoning did not play a role in the salem witch trials. Instead, it was a bunch of teenage girls pretending to be ill to get people in trouble.

Works Cited

Glazer, G., K. A. Myers, and E. R. Davies. "Ergot poisoning." Postgraduate medical journal 42.491 (1966): 562-568.Google Scholar. Web. 26 Feb 2014.

INTeReSTS, DeClARATION Of. "The history of ergot of rye (Claviceps purpurea) I: from antiquity to 1900." JR Coll Physicians Edinb 39 (2009): 179-84. Google Scholar. Web. 26 Feb 2014.

"RootsWeb: SALEM-WITCH-L [SALEM-WITCH-L] Spanos & Gottlieb on Ergotism in Salem." RootsWeb: SALEM-WITCH-L [SALEM-WITCH-L] Spanos & Gottlieb on Ergotism in Salem. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.

Spanos, Nicholas P., and Jack Gottlieb. "Ergotism and the Salem village witch trials." (1976) Google Scholar. Web. 26 Feb 2014.

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