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THE SALEM WITCHCRAFT TRIALS OF 1692
WITCHCRAFT HYSTERIA • In 1692, the Massachusetts colony fell victim to the fear of witches. • Over 170 people were arrested and accused of being witches. • However, this was not an isolated incident. From 1500 -1700, it is estimated that between one million and nine million Europeans were executed as witches.
POLITICS AS USUAL • Many of the people were accused of and/or executed for witchcraft by political rivals or enemies. • Even King James I claimed that his enemies practiced “the black arts. ” • The fear of witches and black magic gripped the largely uneducated and equally superstitious common man.
ACTUALLY, IT MAKES SENSE • Because of the hardships that settlers faced (bitter weather, sickness, death, drought and insect infestations that destroyed their crops), much of their bad luck was blamed on the Devil. • Puritans whole-heartedly believed that witches were real, and very dangerous.
PURITAN GIRLS GONE WILD! • In Salem Village, the minister’s daughter and several other girls were caught doing fortune-telling with the minister’s slave, Tituba. • When confronted, the girls began having “siezures” and have lapses into “unconsciousness. ”
WHEN IN DOUBT, PICK THE OLD AND THE HOMELESS… • At first, the girls only accused Tituba (the minister’s slave) and two old women of being witches. • Eventually, the accusations spread to many of the prominent and respected members of the community.
THE WITCH TESTS • The “sink test” involved tying rocks to the accused and placing them in water. If they sank, they were proclaimed innocent. If they floated, they were pronounced a witch, and were then hanged. • The Satan's mark test involved a body search for a “black mark of Satan. ” They would look for an odd black mark on the accused witch's body. If found, the black mark was often poked with needles to see if the person felt pain or bled. If they did not, they were pronounced a witch.
MORE WITCH TESTS… • The scales test involved weighing the accused against a metal bound Bible. If they were lighter than the Bible, they were found guilty of witchcraft. If they outweighed the Bible on the scales, they were innocent. • The prayer test was another common test. The accused was asked to recite the Lord's Prayer. If they recited it flawlessly without problem, they were proclaimed innocent. • If the accused stumbled over words, made a mistake or shrieked during their recitation, they were considered guilty of witchcraft.
THE FINAL COUNT • When the hysteria ended, over 170 people had been arrested. Twenty people (men and women) were executed for witchcraft. • Giles Corey, an old man, died by pressing, (being crushed under big rocks). • His last words were “more weight. ” Now THAT’S thug!
HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF • Fast forward to the 1950’s. America is deep in the Cold War. The general public is taught to fear the “evil Communists. ” • Senator Joe Mc. Carthy, leader of the House Committee on Un-American Activites, begins the “Communist Witch Hunts. ” • His “quest” is later named “Mc. Carthyism”.
ARTHUR MILLER STRIKES BACK • Seeing the injustice of Mc. Carthyism, Playwright Arthur Miller writes The Crucible, telling the story of the Salem Witchcraft Trials. • Though it tells the story of true events, everyone sees that the play is really about the Communist Witch Hunts.
THE LAST LAUGH • Miller was called to testify in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. • He refused to give information about some of his friends and was found guilty of contempt ( a sentence later overturned). • Oh, and did I mention he married Marilyn Monroe that year, too?