Endless Witch Trials: Salem, Massachusetts, McCarthy Hearings, and the KKK

Endless Witch Trials: Salem, Massachusetts, McCarthy Hearings, and the KKK

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What is the difference between witches in today’s society and witches in the past? Why were people accused of being witches? What were the punishments people got when they were accused of being a witch and found guilty? How is the witch trials repeated in history?
     When someone talks about witches what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Most people think of witches from movies such as the witch in the “Wizard of Oz” or in “Snow White and the Sevens Dwarfs”. These two witches are looked at as old, ugly and dressed in black from head to toe. People also think of witches in today’s society riding on brooms and chanting evil curses on their enemies. In the past witches could be anyone from the family doctor to the next door neighbor. The word witch comes from the old English word Wicca which means male witch. Witch also means to cast a spell on others. No matter how a witch is looked at, it’s all about mystery and magic.

In Massachusetts there are two Salem’s, Salem town and Salem village. The villager wanted to be separated from the town. The accusing began in the village at the Parris’s home because of Reverend Parris wanting to accuse people. Then the Parris’s allies the Putnam’s started to get accused of witchcraft. In Salem people were accused to be witches because they were different or an outcast in the community. Tituba, who was a slave in the Parris household, was an easy person to accuse of practicing witch craft because she was black, mysterious and had a different religion and traditions. If people didn’t attend church they would also be accused of being a witch. Sarah Good was a beggar who everyone thought was mean spirited and always grumbling things to people even if they did give her money or food. She also smoked a pipe, which also gave people a reason to say she was performing witch craft. Sarah Osborne was another person accused of witchery because she married her servant. Martha Corey, a well known church woman was accused because she was to inherit land from her husband who past way. Other people wanted to take that land from her, so they put a false accession on her. Other people in the village were accused because people didn’t like them or they weren’t in good social standings.

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Endless Witch Trials: Salem, Massachusetts, McCarthy Hearings, and the KKK

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When people were accused of being a witch there were a couple different punishments people could receive if they were found guilty of witchery. The main punishment was to be placed in jail and kept there till further sentencing. After being in jail they were then found guilty. When found guilty they were burnt at the stakes or hanged during the Holocaust. When being burnt at the stakes authorities would place green wood under the person to be burnt and fuel was poured on the wood. “The reason green wood would be used to burn people at the stake was because it burns slower then other wood. The wood is made up of sixty five percent of water, making the wood harder to burn.” (Powell page 3) Being burnt at the stakes is the most popular punishment. One
other major punishment was being hanged. “In 1620-1725 over 350 people were accused of witchcraft in England. More than eighty percent of those accused were women. In Salem, 185 of those cases happened in one year.” (Stein page 60)
Out of the thirty-five, nineteen were killed in Salem, and fourteen were women.
     Does history repeat itself? Of course it does, it may not be an exact event but could have some similarities. One of the main historical events that happened in the past that can be compared to the Salem trials is the Holocaust. The Holocaust happened during World War II. The Nazi regime was the group of people who did the accusing in this incident. Over six million people were taken to Nazi concentration camps. Not only did the Nazis take Jews to these camps but they took Gypsies, Communists, and Jehovah’s witnesses. Just like in the Salem witch trials, incident people were taken to the camps and killed in many different ways. In the concentration camps they killed people four different ways. The two main ways they killed people were burning them in groups or sending then to the gas chambers. The two other ways were starvation, or a person could be shot. The Nazi groups can be compared to the girls in the Salem Trials because both groups of people got many incident people killed for no good reason at all.
Another event in history people compare to the Salem Witch trials in the McCarthy Hearings that took place in 1950’s. The Salem witch trials and the McCarthy hearings are very similar but yet every different. Just like the Salem trials all of the McCarthy accusations were false. The reason people were accused during the McCarthy
hearings was because people wanted their own personal gain in the society, just like the girls wanted in the Salem Witch Trials. During the 1692 Witch trials people were blamed to get away from the problems in society. In the 1950’s the same thing happened. People being accused of being communists were blamed to get out of the societies problems. In both situations people’s reputations were destroyed or lowered to very little social power.
The communist are just like the witches of the 1600’s. People didn’t like them and were also afraid of them.
The McCarthy hearings were different from the Salem trials because no one was killed in the McCarthy hearings. Another difference was the people in Salem did not get to have a “fair” trial because the fair trial law wasn’t around till after the trials had happened.

One other big event in history is the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). The KKK was started in Tennessee in 1866. The people in the KKK went after African Americans. Just like the Salem trials and the McCarthy hearings, people were killed just because of society’s problems. The KKK can be compared to the Salem trials because in both cases people were prejudiced. Both groups use Christianity against the other people that were different than them. The KKK is like the Witch trials because during both times people were being killed by burning and hanging. In Salem people were killed because other people feared them, but in the KKK people didn’t fear nonwhites, but just wanted others killed because of prejudices. No matter what time period you go to there will always be some one who wants other people to die because they are accused of not being like others.
Through the years the way people look at witches has changed. In today’s society people look at them as movie characters or friendly witches from Halloween and from books. In the past any one person could be accused of being a witch. The society has
changed through the years. People are not accused of witchcraft anymore but people are still to this day getting accused of being different and getting punished for it. No one person should get punished for being different because no matter where you go everyone is going to be different in their own way.
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