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Salem Witch Trial Hysteria

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Max Albaalte

Mr. Farley


Period G

Throughout the late 17th century, the New England town of Salem, Massachusetts experienced a horrific religious episode. The time known as the Salem Witch Trial Hysteria of 1692 cost 20 men and women their lives. One of the contributing factors that led to this hysteria was the social rivalry of the Putnam and Porter families. The Putnam family resented the Porters and blamed them for their loss of wealth and political influence. Puritans who were stubbornly trying to keep grasp of religious power and prestige in New England, did so by casting themselves as the hero every time they persecuted witches, also largely caused the Salem witch trials. Witches were said to have made a contract with the Devil and were therefore able to cause chaos, illness, and even murder. However, the popular New England crop rye was host to a parasitic fungus, containing 10% LSD and easily caused people to have the symptoms who were said to have come from witches. These three components played a key role in causing the Salem Witch Trial Hysteria of 1692.

By 1692, Salem Village had been divided into the supporters of the Putnam family and the supporters of the Porter family. This social rivalry clearly came from the economic and political differences between each family, explained in Paul Boyer's The Enduring Vision (Doc. J). Due to the fact that the Putnam family lived in the western part of Salem village, which was less fertile and minimized the chances of contact with the merchant elite, they lost political influence in the village. However, the Porters were located in the eastern portion of Salem's village and benefited from rich soil and Salem's town prosperity. This caused bitterness between the two families and led the less fortunate Putnam family to make false witchcraft accusations towards residents living in the eastern section. A map of Salem Village in 1692 also shows that more than half of the accused witches came from the eastern side of Salem Village (Doc. I)

The Puritans, being devoutly religious and following the word of the Bible, were no doughty further encouraged since in the Bible it is stated that "Though shalt not suffer a witch to live" (Doc. A) By justifying the killings as simply doing God's wish, the Puritan courts were able to gain a steady foothold in their society. Fearing that witches were all around them, caused the colonists of Salem to fear that their sacred place which "has had his constant worship" is being intruded on by spirits of Satan (Doc C). A cloud of fear soon set in over Salem, as the colonists had begun to fear that possible they had wronged God, and so he had turned his back on the colonists, making it easy for those who had worshiped Satan, to easily set onto their land (Outside info).



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