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The 1962 Salem Conspiracy

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During the year of 1692, the small town of Salem seems to have been in a state of panic and confusion. The book Witchcraft at Salem, by Chadwick Hansen, is about the witchcraft conspiracies the town has experienced. Hansen goes on to explore the truthfulness of the "possessed" young girls. The reason why Hansen wrote the book is to try to set straight the record of the witchcraft phenomena at Salem, Massachusetts, in the year 1692, about which much has been written and much misunderstood. Hansen has a very respectable education. He graduated and obtained a Bachelors degree from the much respected Yale University. He went on to continue his education and obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. Hansen has had many teaching jobs throughout his life. From 1955-60 Hansen was an assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University. From 1965-70 he was a Professor of English and American studies at the University of Minnesota. His most accomplished teaching job was when he was a professor and Director of American Civilization at the University of Iowa. To help with his teaching he was in many history groups. He was a member of the Modern Language Association, American Studies Association, and American Historical Association. Hansen has written numerous books including, The American Renaissance: The History and Literature of an Era, and Modern Fiction: Form and Idea in the Contemporary Novel and Short Story. Hansen has many qualifications to write a historical piece during the American Revolution time period.

In the summer of 1692, many strange and out of the ordinary events were taking place in Salem. Several young girls and young women began to have strange fits. They were eventually examined by doctors. "Dr. William Griggs examined Elizabeth Paris and Abigail Williams and came to the conclusion that the evil hand is upon them." With this analysis he was informing the patients that they were the victims of witchcraft. Before the girls were examined many members of the Salem community came to the conclusion that witchcraft was the reason the girls were having the strange fits. Following this was a series of hearings and trials, which resulted in the death of 20 people. This was not an uncommon practice used during that time. "Approximately nine hundred witches were burned in the single city of Bamberg, and approximately five thousand in the single province of Alsace." Using contemporary accounts and the trial documents, Hansen relates the usual details of the rise and fall of the terrible dealings that took place that year in Salem Village. He shows how early in the year two young girls, the daughter and niece of Samuel Parris, the local minister, inexplicably fell ill and began experiencing terrible fits and suffering visions of nocurnal visitations by what the girls claimed were local witches. Hansen takes the view that several of the accused, notably Tituba, Bridget Bishop, and the Rev. George Burroghs, and others, were practicing some form of witchcraft. He claims that while there is no direct evidence of witchcraft or pacts with the Devil. Several of these individuals could have been practicing forms of folk magic that would have gave the other villagers a reason to accuse them. He also brings into the book into the field of psychology to add a different angle to his interpretations of the trials.

Hansen's goal was to give a truthful consensus as to what really happened at Salem. He wanted to inform his audience that a psychological problem, hysteria, attributed to the witch trials. Hysteria might be thought of as a broad term, but when used in the field of psychology it has a very clear definition. Psychology defines hysteria as any physical symptoms that occur without an organic cause. "While it is quite possible that one or even a few people suffered from this psychological disorder, there is no way this can be historically proven." Psychologists today have a hard enough time diagnosing patients they can examine themselves. There is no way to tell if the girls from the witch trials did have an organic cause for their afflictions. "His other main purpose of the book seems to be to put the clergy of Boston in a more favorable light then previous history has done." Hansen did a good job of incorporating his primary source research into his idea that the clergy was opposed to the way the trials were carried out. One of the major issues that the clergy and the courts disagreed on was the weight the courts should give to spectral evidence. Spectral evidence during the trials was when one or more of the afflicted girls claimed they saw a specter of a person. The claim was that the specter was sent by the person, who must be a witch, to torment one or more of the girls. This put way



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