Witchcraft Hysteria in Puritan New England

Witchcraft Hysteria in Puritan New England

In 1692, the problems following Massachusetts’s change from Puritan Utopia to royal colony had an unusual increase in the witchcraft hysteria at Salem Village (now the town of Danvers). Although the belief in witchcraft had started a huge problem in Salem, almost 300 New Englanders (mostly lower class, middle-aged, marginal women – spinsters or widows) had been accused as witches, and more than thirty had been hanged.

With this issue in Salem all superiority in its scope and intensity. The general colony’s way of life was experiencing some problems. These problems lead the community to believe that the devil was at work in the village.

A few teenage girls became inlet listeners to voodoo stories told by Tituba, a West Indian slave, and began acting strangely. For no reason at all they started shouting, barking, groveling and twitching. The town doctor had come to the conclusion that they had been bewitched. When the girls were told this, they pointed to Tituba and two older white women as the offenders. The criminals were captured with a panic as word spread that the devil was in their presence. As the three women were being asked questions the possessed girls rolled on the floor in convulsive fits. Tituba shocked everyone when she confessed to the charge but also told that many others in the colony were practicing the devils work.

All this hysteria in the town started causing many problems. The crazed girls began pointing fingers at many residents, including several of the most respected people of the community. Within months, the jail in Salem was over its capacity with townspeople that were accused of performing witchcraft. Seeing how the townspeople believed everything the girls were saying shows how gullible the community is. Ten months later, nineteen people had been hanged, stubborn Giles Corey who refused to plea Guilty or not Guilty was pressed to death by heavy stones, and more than 100 others jailed.

Accusations spread wider and went way beyond the borders of Salem. This worried colonial leaders and they decided that the witch – hunts were out of control. The jury had about seen enough when the girls accused Samuel Willard, the pastor of Boston’s First Church and president of Harvard College, of practicing witchcraft. The governor disbanded the special court and ordered the remaining suspects released when he was stunned that his own wife was accused of worshiping the devil.

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