talked about, and can be seen as controversial. A quote by Laurie Carlson shows just how
subtracting as it seems fit.” (1).
Putnam began having hysterical fits after being caught engaging in forbidden fortune telling.
times (2). The fortune telling occurred because they were trying to find out what type of men
they were going to marry. Betty Parris’ father was a reverend of the town on Salem,
Massachusetts. The Reverend, Samuel Parris called in senior authorities to determine if the
participate in the trials, the remaining two girls were joined by other young and old women in
also take interest in these writings because they display some of the characteristics of village
witchcraft as well as some of the features of the European witch craze. Many commentators
have seen the Salem witch craze as the last outbreak of the European witch craze which was
any of Salem’s grudges or problems. As in Europe, there was a belief that the accused were in
league with the devil.
Supposed “experts” went out to do “scientific” studies to diagnose witchcraft.
finding movements in Africa that closely resembled the Salem episode. Typically in these witch
finding movements, the witch finders would come in from outside a village and claim to be able
their region, or whose regions they had moved to. In the cities of central and Southern Africa,
began to be accused who had not aroused any particular jealousies, possibly because they
possessed a peculiar looking item which might be said to contain magical medicine. These
witch finders would then move on to the next town. As witchcraft accusations still occurred in
the areas, we can conclude that the movements did not get rid of witches forever.
Witch Trials 4
especially young women, in the community and the lack of opportunity for any sort of
entertainment are among the psychological explanations which have been offered. Group
that was studied as an option to blame for the symptoms. Calcium deficiency is known to cause
muscle spasms and hysterical states. It has also been suggested that some of the spectral
evidence (claims to have been visited or actually sat upon, choked, etc. by the spectres of
The reasons why witchcraft was blamed for the symptoms, rater than psychological
fifty years later, did experience a similar outbreak of spasms and hysterias in young girls seen as
throughout New England. A core belief held by New England Puritans, which may have led to
the notion of predestination, the belief that God had already determined who was to be saved
and who was to be damned.
of witchcraft. For a true believer, a decision to make a false confession or alibi might really
century after the Salem Witch Trials, the New England Congregationalist church struggled to
reconcile the notion of predestination with a culture to place strong emphasis on individual
diagnosed the Northampton, Massachusetts girls as being visited by divine spirit, rather than
bewitched, eventually was dismissed from his pulpit for insisting that only those who had
experienced conversion, and not those who simply awaited it, might take communion.
Witchcraft confessions were incomplete without reference to attendance at secret
meeting to worship Satan. Acknowledgments that the accused and others had signed secret
clues that at least some people were involved in a Satanic plot. This search might be seen as a
- which were considered “witches teats” used to suckle demons). More controversial was
“spectral evidence”. The afflicted girls and some male witnesses said that they had seen
and that these “spectras” tried to cause harm to them. These actions included choking,
frightening or tormenting them. No doubt, some of those who confessed, and their lives were
spared, were able to justify confessing on the ground that their “spectras” might have done
things of which they were not aware.
also uses some means of “Theological and Psychological views to explain the occurances” (3).
ownership of his home, his supply of firewood, and many other things. Boyer and Nissenbaum
go on to tell that they believe the core of the trouble was a tension between the Salem town and
the Salem village. From what one can capture from “Salem Possessed”, is the idea that it is
possible that the whole situation was taken too far. Since Parris obviously had some enemies,
when the problems with his daughter arouse, people found that this was a way to get back at
Parris. Instead, it actually got back at the entire town. People who were not anti-Parris, were
not aware the rumors about the girls were not all true. Instead, the other residents of the town
panicked, and started pointing fingers at everyone.
One of the earliest people to be arrested, and eventually hung was Bridget Bishop, who
ran an unliscenced cider shop out of her home in Salem village. Boyer and Nissenbaum that
neighboring towns. There was a general potential for schism between those parts of the village
near Salem town vs. the area further away from the town. The authors of “Salem Possessed”
note that most of the accused witches lived in the Salem town side of the village, while most of
the accusers lived in the side that was further from town.
What finally stopped the witch craze was it’s spread beyond Salem, so that important
famous figure Cotton Mather was named at one point, even though he was never formally
charged. There was a breaking point however. This was when the governor’s wife was accused.
The Governor then called an end to the trial. Eventually everyone who was still in jail was
released, and some compensation was paid to the survivors.
obsession in the U.S. during the 1950’s, with a vast, hidden communist conspiracy, threatening
that all was good in America.” (4). This suggestion is trying to show that the girls symptoms
were interrupted as they were because of communism. The kinds of evidence that was used in
the trials could also be looked at by this comment as writings of communism. Miller made
certain alterations to his play for theatrical convince. These alterations tell us something of the
nature of recent witch hunts, as compared to those of the 17th century. The communist fear lead
to many arrests and “blacklisting”. Indeed, many people who worked in industries such as the
himself, already a famous playwright, was at least partially blacklisted until he could prove that
were just as present in the McCarthy era as they are today .
witch trials of 1692. A book by Frances Hill claims to be a “feminist psychoanalytical” reading
of the events in Salem Village, 1692 (5). While this book began with the topic of women, it
veered quickly from the topic, and did no more to prove that this is a feminism case, than it did
to disprove it. Another book, by Carol Karlsen, is another attempt to show the relation to
women and how they were treated, and how it relates to feminism (6). This book does show that
the typical witch was: female, married (at least at one point in her life), without any sons, past
conclusive evidence was given, so rather than further an idea, that might not be completely true,
pick women to be witches because they were women, rather because the prosecutors had a
these women were picked out for who they were, they were not just picked out because they
(1.) Carlson, Laurie Winn. A Fever in Salem: A New Interpretation of the New England Witch Trials. Ivan R. Dee. Chicago. 1999.
(5.) Hill, Frances. A Delusion of Satan: The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials. Doubleday: New York. 1995.