Thursday, September 20, 2007


During a cold winter night in the small village of Salem a group of young puritan girls between the ages of nine and twenty gather around a container filled with water. Tituba, a slave owned by the Parris’, cracked an egg open and poured it into the water. The girls peered in to see what their future foretold. The image appeared to be of a coffin. The youngest girl Betty (age nine) begun to cry (Bartel 78-81). Within a year 150 people are accused of witchcraft, 19 of the accused are hung, one is crushed to death, and many die in prison awaiting their trial. The tragedies of their deaths are the Salem Witch Trials (Boraas).
There are many theories about how the Salem Witch Trials begun. Some include the combination of church and state, a division between churches, and even the dispute between men and women. The most logical one appears to be that emotional upset of the children in Salem and the insecurities among the villagers.
In the 1600’s Satan was believed to cause many problems. He was associated with disease, horrific events and anything else that classified as bizarre or unable to explain. The puritan life style was strict compared to many other religions. They had to appear in church every Sunday regardless of health. Many laws based on their religion, which is why so many believe that church and state played a large role in the trials (Boraas).
The children of Salem grew up believing that witches, dragons, and other mythical creatures were real. With the world telling them that these things were real, it could be easy to live in fear. To put this in a present day situation it would be the same as telling a child that the monster under their bed is real. The child would probably respond in the same since that Betty did. At first, Betty would cry for no reason. During the end of winter, she would not move then when she was touched she would throw herself around and scream. This caused her to gain attention from others. Soon her cousin Abigail Williams (age eleven) was acting in the same ways. It is probable that Betty’s illness was Abigail’s fault. Abigail could of easily of pressured Betty to remain silent about Tituba and her style of watching the young girls (Bartel).
In January of 1692, the Parris household called for the doctor. After analyzing the two girls, he concluded that witchcraft was the reason that the girls acted so bizarre. Soon a group of girls (most of the girls’ parents died in Indian wars a few years before) started to act the same way that Abigail and Betty were acting. The final number of afflicted girls was eleven. The villagers demanded to know who was tormenting them. Tituba was the first name given. In order for her to save herself, she named off other people in the village. It was easy to believe that the accused were witches, they were lower class, not sociable, and had speech problems. When the accused were in trial, the girls would act strangely and claimed that the spirits of the accused were attacking them. Villagers started believing what the girls were saying. Towards the end of the trials, many people said the girls were lying. During Rebecca Nurse’s trial, she voted innocent but the girls started to act bizarre. One man who was watching the trial claimed that one of the girls was sticking needles in her knee. That did not stop the judges from changing their minds to guilty though (Boraas). There was no way to prove that the girls were lying. They seemed to feed upon the fear of the town’s people.
By fall, what the girls had said affected almost every family. After Governor Phipps’ wife was accused, he ended the trials. After eighteen years after the trials, the government had paid 24 families for their troubles. This also was the last time that spectral evidence was aloud in court (Boraas).
The Salem Witch Trials started out as a child’s fear, but ended as a group of girls hopes of attention. With the adults help the girls got the attention that they desired, though it cost many lives. The explanation of why the events happened may still be unknown, but there is a high probably that the reason they accrued were due to the emotional upset of the children in Salem and the insecurities among the villagers.

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