The infamous Salem Witch Trials began in late February of 1692 after a group of young girls in Salem Village, Massachusetts claimed to be possessed by the devil and accused several local women of witchcraft. The accusations caused a wave of mass hysteria throughout colonial Massachusetts. The people of Salem accused more than 160 men, women, and children of practicing witchcraft, also known as the Devil’s magic. Most of the accused persons faced imprisonment, while others lost property and legal rights. A special court convened in Salem to hear the cases, leading to the execution of twenty people, most of them women, and two dogs. The court first convicted Bridget Bishop and sent her to death by hanging on June 10, 1692. Eighteen others followed Bishop to Salem’s Gallows Hill over the following three months. One accused wizard, Giles Corey, faced death by pressing on September 19, 1692 when he refused to enter a plea in the judicial proceeding. At least four other known people died in prison. Nearly fifty people confessed to witchcraft, mainly to save themselves from immediate trial.
The hysteria declined in September 1692, and Governor William Phibs ended the special witchcraft court in Salem in October 1692. All Salem witchcraft events ended in April 1693 when officials released the remaining victims from jail. Although the Massachusetts General Court later annulled guilty verdicts against accused witches and compensated the families of those convicted, bitterness lingered in the community; many historians view the trials as synonymous with paranoia and scapegoating. The events that took place in Salem in 1692 hold historical significance because they depict the economic hardship, racial perceptions, religious oppr...
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... of the economic changes in the colony. Those who lived near Ipswich Road became merchants, such as innkeepers, carpenters, and blacksmiths; they prospered and supported the economic changes taking place. On the other hand, many farmers who lived far from this prosperity believed the worldliness and affluence of Salem Town threatened Puritan values and sought ecclesiastical and political independence from the Town. The Putnams, a family that became a strong and influential force behind the witchcraft accusations, heavily criticized the economic changes.
Tensions grew worse when the people of Salem Village elected Reverend Samuel Parris, a former merchant and stern Puritan, as their new minister. Parris denounced the worldly ways and economic prosperity of Salem Town as the influence of the Devil. His rhetoric further separated the two factions within Salem Village.
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