The recent British war with France, a smallpox epidemic, and fear of Indian tribes helped encourage the witchcraft hysteria in Salem, Massachusetts, by creating tension among the settlers as well as a fear of outsiders (Staff). In January 1962, 9-year-old Elizabeth Parris and 11-year-old Abigail Williams began having fits, including violent contortions and outbursts of screaming. Soon after William Griggs, a local doctor, diagnosed bewitchment, other young girls in the community began to exhibit similar symptoms. The three “witches” were brought before the Salem magistrates and were accused by an elderly lady, Sarah Osborn that they had other witches acting against the Puritans with the power of the devil. Soon after this presumption, a hysteria spread throughout Massachusetts, eventually leading to the execution of at least twenty people and accusations of over 200 men, women, and children (Staff).
Although there are many psychological effects upon the settlers which caused superstition, the witch-like behavior may have been from the poisoning from a fungus, the ergot of rye. Ergot is a poisonous fungus that grows in rye and other cereal grains; it thrives in warm, damp, rainy springs and summers. Ergot is ...
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...ght in American History courses, possibly because of the lack of certainty that surrounds the controversy; however, there are still many plausible theories such as ergot poisoning as well as sheer boredom of the settlers. Even though the villagers at Salem had many suspicions about witchcraft, they could have prevented the trials from happening; the least that the settlers could have done was to give them a fair hearing with the use of a quick trial, utilize a jury that did not favor one specific group, and ignore the public’s opinion in regards to the trials. Bottom line, The Salem Witch trials, although incredibly controversial, rightfully deserves to be studied in American History and needs to be considered as one of the pivotal parts of early colonial history: helping us as a culture our previous mistakes and how not to make the same, or similar, mistake again.
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