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To understand some of the reasons behind the hysteria, you have to know a little about the people who settled the area of Salem Village. Mainly Puritans inhabited Salem Village and there were very few other religions at that time. The Puritans left England to escape religious persecution. They believed in the total trust in God and the absolute "sinfulness" of man. Church membership was required for voting rights or to serve on a public board, to disobey with God aroused the entire community to threat of retribution.
All the girls, who were affected in anyway during this, found someone else who they could blame their problems on. In the summer of 1692, hundreds were arrested in connection to witchcraft . Most of the people who were affected by being accused witches or having connection with Satan were female. Later the Superior Court of Judicature would not allow invisible specters, but only solid evidence. In 1706, Ann Putnam came and apologized for causing the deaths of innocent people. She blamed it on "great delusion of Satan" Only accused one time of being a witch, Mary Warren was forced to sign the devil's book. After this, she was forced to take care of the Proctor's five children. It was here where she noticed the Sheriff's seizing all of the Proctors' goods, because this was common practice after being accused. Hill writes that "...the sheriff came into the house and... sold some of the cattle, killed others... and left nothing in the house for the support of the children."
With nothing positive in sight, Mary stood at the bar in court and claimed to be an afflicter. Very emotionally effected she cried "I look up to god, and take it to be great mercy of god!" Under the sway of John Proctors aggressive and protective personality, Mary was freed of her witchcraft accusations and delusion.
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Over the next couple of months, the accusations, jailing, and hangings on Gallows Hill continued with a sick excitement. Though some people began to doubt the hangings and question the hysteria, they were forced to keep their mouths shut. If someone spoke out, they were quickly accused. No person who was tried was ever found innocent. Once the afflicted pointed their finger at a villager, the accused witch/wizard was powerless.
Some other trials of interest were that of Giles Cory and Mary Easty, sister of Rebecca Nurse. Giles Cory refused to stand trial, so he was treated in a customary method. He was made to lie on the ground, and heavy stones were put atop him. When a question was addressed to him, Cory would reply, "More weight." Cory suffered for two days until he was eventually crushed to death. In the case of Mary Easty, she wrote a letter to the court stating, "...I know I must die, and my appointed time is set. But the Lord He knows it is, if it be possible, that no more innocent blood be shed, which undoubtedly cannot be avoided in the way and course you go in...The Lord in his infinite mercy direct you in this great work, if it be His blessed will, that innocent blood be not shed..."
Most of the time, credibility of an accusation was not checked thoroughly, instead the person accused was simply mentally and emotionally effected by being locked up in jail until their trial time came. Even then, if they did not confess to being guilty, they were punished sometimes even killed. Although the law is innocent until proven guilty, and had been practiced before the trials, in the case of the witchcraft trials affected and effected the accused witches that were guilty until proven innocent since none were given the chance to prove themselves otherwise. It is amazing to realize that a myth had such an impact on a small community, but the mix of absurd Puritan rules, horrible lies, and the belief in witchcraft can drive anyone into chaos.