the 17th century, most people believed in the existence of witches.
When people suffered from fires, floods, windstorms, droughts,
and epidemics, there was a tendency to blame these problems on
the Devil or on those human beings who had sold their soul to
1692, prosecution of witches had been sporadic and few were executed.
Before 1692, New England prosecuted 93 witches but executed only
16. In 1692, in contrast, formal charges were brought against
38 men and 106 women from 22 towns. Prosecutors obtained 54 confessions,
and executed 14 women and 6 men.
and adolescent girls were those most likely to make witchcraft
accusations; older women were those most likely to be accused.
Why might this have been the case?
explanations have been advanced to explain the Salem Witch Scare.
Social explanations focus on the tensions between farmers and
merchants. Medical explanations assert that ergot poisoning
caused hallucinations and paranoia. Feminist interpretation
suggest that the witch hunters sought to punish assertive, aggressive,
and quarrelsome women.
of these explanations make most sense to you?
3: Current Events
political, social, military, and economic events were going
on around 1691-1692 that might have contributed to the witch
lessons can we draw from the Salem Witch Scare?
Were the Salem Witch Hunts a one-time event, or have their been
other episodes of mass hysteria in American history?
What might the Salem Witch Hunts tell us about whether innocent
people might confess to crimes they never committed?