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The Salem Witch Trials

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The Salem Witchcraft

The Salem Witchcraft trials in Massachusetts during 1692 resulted in nineteen innocent men and women being hanged, one man pressed to death, and in the deaths of more than seventeen who died in jail. It all began at the end of 1691 when a few girls in the town began to experiment with magic by gathering around a crystal ball to try to find the answer to questions such as "what trade their sweet harts should be of ". This conjuring took place in the Parris household where a woman named Tituba, an Indian slave, headed the rituals. Soon after they had begun to practice these rituals, girls who had been involved, including the Master Parris' daughter and niece, became sick. They had constant fits, twitched, cried, made odd noises, and huddled in corners. The family called in doctors, and they were treated for many illnesses. Nothing helped. Many weeks later after running out of reasons for their strange behavior, all of their symptoms seemed to lead to one belief, "The evil hand is upon them." They were possessed by the Devil. At first the families of the children could not find anyone to accuse for being the witch responsible for possessing the children. Then, late in February of 1692, Parris' neighbor, Mary Sibley recommended that Parris' slaves, Tituba and John Indian, should work a spell to try to find the culprits. Even after trying this solution the girls' condition worsened, and the people responsible still had not been found. The girls began to see hazy shadows and believed that these shadows were of the people who had done this to them. After more and more children became victims of this, the hunting for the witches who were to blame for the girls' sickness began to get more serious. By the end of February 1692, not one, but three witches had been named.

These women were Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba, all residents of Salem Village. Sarah Good was a poor "socially undesirable" member of the village of Salem which made her susceptible to accusations of being a witch and of practicing black magic. She was well known in the village for her eccentric behavior, and in the past people had suspected her of being a witch. Her husband, William Good, was a simple laborer and his inadequate income forced the Goods to accept charity and to beg for goods from their neighbors. Sometimes they even had to live with their neighbors, but this never lasted long. Sarah Good's actions and behaviors would often cause unrest in the hosts and their families, and then the Good family would be asked to leave. A few of the villagers they stayed with reported that their livestock would begin to sicken and die after

the Goods were forced to leave. More than fifteen families claimed that Sarah Good bewitched their livestock while others reported that she could make objects disappear into thin air. When Good was questioned about these accusations, her answers were always tight-lipped and aggressive, further leading the people to believe that she was in fact a witch.

Sarah Osborne was also one of the first three women accused of putting spells on the girls and possessing them. Unlike Tituba and Sarah Good, however, she was from a very wealthy household.

Although it is believed sometimes that only poor people were accused of being witches, in the Salem Witchcraft Trials, this was not true, as in the case of Osborne. Women and men accused of being witches were either looked down upon in the community or envied for their land and wealth, as Sarah Osborne was in Salem. Tituba, like Good, was very poor. She worked as a servant in the Parris home and was a Carib Indian born in Barbados in the West Indies. Reverend Parris brought Tituba to New England when he was still a merchant, and after this she married John Indian who also worked as slave for Reverend Parris. Tituba was the person asked to aid with the girls' illnesses by making a witch's cake to find their culprit and after this did not work, she was arrested four days later for being a witch herself.

Each of these three women was examined by local Salem officials before they were sent off to await trial in a Boston jail. The girls, who these witches had supposedly inflicted

sickness upon, were also present during these trials to show the court how much pain the three women had caused. During the trial Sarah Good kept insisting that she was not guilty but rather that she had been wrongly accused. When asked why she hurts the innocent children she responded, "I do not hurt them. I scorn it." Then, she

attempted to shift all blame onto Sarah Osborne who in turn responded with disbelief. She said that she "was more like to be bewitched than she was a witch."

While Good and Osborne were trying to defend themselves, Tituba confessed, most likely in fear of her Master, Reverend Parris. When asked who was to blame for all the possessed girls she responded,

"The devil for aught I know." Tituba told the whole court about her pact with the Devil and the type of wonderful things he gave her in return for her service and loyalty to him. Then, after she was done telling her story, when the magistrate asked her who she had seen doing the witchcraft, Tituba says, "Goody Osborn and Sarah Good and I do not

know who the other were. Sarah Good and Osborn would have me hurt the children but I would not . . . " So according to Tituba there were still witches out there bewitching innocent children.

After Tituba's confession, the entire community of Salem increased their efforts to find the witches who were bringing such horrible events to their village. The children still were not able to come up with names for their perpetrators until a little thirteen-year-old

girl, Ann Putnam,

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