01 March 2019

1st March 1692 - Mass Hysteria in Salem

On 1st March 1692, three women were arrested in Salem, for witchcraft: Sarah Goode, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba.

Events started in January 1692, when the niece of the Puritan Minister, Reverend Samuel Parris, began to suffer violent fits for which no physical cause could be found. Others girls got similar symptoms. The supernatural was blamed. The isolated puritan community were on their guard against attacks by the devil. Suspicion first fell upon these three women; all were social outsiders in some way: Tituba was a slave; Sarah Goode was a beggar; and Sarah Osborne was a poor elderly woman who rarely went to church. There was little real evidence against them but they were brought to trial and found guilty.

Goode and Osborne denied the charges, but in desperation Tituba confessed. Others were implicated and the web of suspicion grew. Of the first three woman, only Sarah Goode was executed, but at Salem in total about twenty people were executed for witchcraft during the hysteria that followed, most of them women.

The Salem Witch Trials have become synonymous with mass hysteria and scapegoating, and were brought to the stage in the play The Crucible, by Arthur Millar. You can visit the Salem Witch museum in Salem, Massachusetts. Nearby is the witch house, the witch dungeon, and wax museum.

Thankyou to the book On This Day in History by Dan Snow for the date. For a far more detailed account try https://historyofmassachusetts.org/the-salem-witch-trials/

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