The Salem witch trials have been marked as one of the most notorious cases of mass hysteria ever recorded. In 1962 at least twenty individuals were convicted and executed in Salem Massachusetts for allegedly practicing witchcraft, hundred other suspects were jailed and a handful died in prison in following the Salem witch trial. The Salem witchcraft crisis began in 1961 and proceeded to 1962 summer. What happened in Salem witchcraft trials have been a troubling subject in historical debates for decades. So what really caused the Salem witchcraft hysteria?
Events leading to Salem witch trials are quite dubious, though the Salem witch trials were fueled by multiple existing phenomena’s. One, Salem was considered as a quarrelsome village with a fractious populous, impending political and religious fragmentations and the belief in supernaturalism and witchcraft.
Such tensions coupled with resentment and suspicion between the natives and the immigrants fueled the witch trials in Salem. While the Salem witch trial events are explained by varying accounts the common consensus is that in early 1962, two girls began having fits that comprised violent contortions, writhing, spasms and uncontrollable screams(contemporary medics suggest that the girls could have probably been suffering from mental illness, epilepsy, boredom or a disease occasioned by eating fungus infested rye). Meanwhile, a local doctor diagnosis revealed that the two girls were possessed and bewitched. The two girls accused three women of witchcraft. Following, the diagnosis other girls in Salem also exhibited similar symptoms. What followed were multiple suspicions, questioning and arrest warrants.
Initially, the Salem trial arrested three women suspected of witch-crafty, Tituba the Caribbean slave girl, Sarah Osborne an old woman and Sarah Good a homeless beggar. Tituba, unlike the others, confessed to her guilt, probably, with the intention of saving herself. Nonetheless, Tituba admitted to not being the only witch in Salem. She named dozens. Like Tituba dozens, others that were accused also confessed and named others. Tituba’s confession induced hysteria, panic and sparked a massive witch hunt. The basis of selecting the Salem witches has been quite contentious.
Other arguing that Salem ‘witches’ were purely selected on religious and socio afflictions while other maintains that the alleged Salem witches were indeed guilty. In retrospect, subsequent events in Salem witch trials were marked by dozens of tortures, trials, convictions, and executions. Hysteria continuously ravaged rapidly in Salem community following the witch trials. The number of accused witches in Salem rose over time; the accused comprised both children and even staunch church members.
Over time, as the number of accused intensified, the Salem witch trials began to overwhelm the judicial system. A special court was fortified to distinctly handle Salem witch trials. These courts resulted in many other convictions and executions. As time went on, it becomes quite apparent that most witnesses presented dubious spectral testimonies. Nonetheless, the concerns were unheard in initial stages. However, amidst public outcry the Salem witch trials dwindled over time.
Finally in 1967, the general courts of Massachusetts deemed the Salem witch trials as being unlawful. They annulled guilty verdicts, and the presiding judge publically apologized for his role in Salem witch trials. Years later, in 1711, Massachusetts State passed a legislation that saw the financial restitution and restoration of the good names of Salem witches that were initially condemned. Could the Salem trials have been avoided? Certainly! If there were means to analyses witnesses accounts. Nonetheless, the answer to the question is objectively debatable. On the positive side, the Salem witch trial crisis provides a cautionary tale. It cautions us against superstitions, religion extremism, false accusations and the need for fair trials.