The Salem Witch Trials
Many people know about the Salem Witch Trials. Centuries ago, innocent men, women, children, and even animals were accused of witchcraft, and many ended up paying with their lives. Those who didn’t pay with their lives had their families ruined for generations. There are plenty of books and movies about the Salem Witch Trials, but many don’t tell you the whole story. This new evidence exposes the dark reality of the infamous Salem Witch Trials.
Arthur Miller wrote a play about the Salem Witch Trials called The Crucible. In the play, Abigail Williams was a vindictive woman who was the first person to accuse someone of witchcraft. Her cousin, Betty Paris, joined her in the fight. In reality, Abigail was only 12-years-old during the Salem Witch Trials. Also, the romantic angle of her being involved with a married man was pure fiction.
When the girls began wielding their power and accusing people of witchcraft, the townspeople liked the idea and quickly got on board. It wasn’t long before everyone was making these accusations, and the number of alleged witches rapidly grew to 200. It wasn’t long before 140 to 150 people were charged with the crime of witchcraft.
Horrible Jailhouse Conditions
Those who were accused of witchcraft were put in jail. Because the Salem jailhouse wasn’t built to hold so many people, those who were arrested were scattered in jailhouses in neighboring towns. They were shackled to the walls and fed only bread and water. Those who were imprisoned were forced to watch as more and more accused were being brought into the jail, which made their situations seem that much bleaker.
If someone were suspected of witchcraft, the Puritans would call witch hunters, and there were plenty of them. The volunteer witch hunters would knock on doors and force friends and neighbors to betray one another to prove the case.
Landowners in Salem and the surrounding areas discovered quickly how dire it was to be accused of witchcraft. Many found it to be scarier than exorcism. If a landowner were accused of witchcraft, it would ruin their reputation, and the state would seize their land. Without land, residents knew that there was a good chance that they wouldn’t survive long.
Not Your Typical Trial
Most trials have a judge, jury, and lawyers for the prosecution and the defense. During the Salem Witch Trials, this wasn’t the case. Nobody who was put on trial got a fair trial, which is why so many people lost their lives during this dark time.
When a person was on trial for witchcraft, they would have their character trashed, their personal lives dissected, and people would spread lies about the accused person’s evilness. It was not uncommon for the accused to confess. They knew that they were already convicted in the court of public opinion, so point for them to try to prove their innocence.
Many people confessed because they were physically forced to. Reverend Samuel Parris beat his slave, Tituba until she admitted that she was a witch. Later, she said that he coached her through the trials. When she cried about serving Satan, it was what the Reverend forced her to do.
Martha Corey tried to convince her neighbors to see reason when accusing people of witchcraft. Unfortunately, her support ended up getting her arrested. Sadly, she had nobody to stand by her. Even her husband, Giles Corey, testified against her. Later, Giles was accused of witchcraft. Feeling so guilty for selling out his wife, he refused to plead his guilt or innocence. The prosecutors sentenced him to the medieval punishment of pressing. For three days, they stacked rocks on his naked body. They would ask him to declare a plea, but he refused. He just kept asking for more weight until he died.
Witch cakes were made during the Salem Witch Trials, and they were made of rye, flour, and urine of the people targeted by witches. The dog would eat the cake, and would then reveal with witch’s identity.
Dogs weren’t immune to being accused of witchcraft. A young girl claimed that her neighbor’s dog had bewitched her. The dog wasn’t given a trial and was shot immediately.
One test for witchcraft involved tying the accused person’s hand to their opposite foot. They would then be dunked into the water. If they sank, they would be considered a non-witch, but they could have drowned. If they floated, they were found to be a witch. Either way, the accused didn’t have a chance.
The Touch Test
During the touch test, a person afflicted by a witch had regular fits. The accused would touch their heads, and if their tremors and hysteria stopped, they were indicated as being witches.
If a person had a birthmark, it was known as a witch mark or devil mark. The accused would be stripped down in court to look for birthmarks, which would seal their fate.