The infamous Salem witch trials began during the spring of 1692, after a group of young girls in Salem Village, Massachusetts, claimed to be possessed by the devil and accused several local women of witchcraft. As a wave of hysteria spread throughout colonial Massachusetts, a special court convened in Salem to hear the cases; the first convicted witch, Bridget Bishop, was hanged that June. Eighteen others followed Bishop to Salem’s Gallows Hill, while some 150 more men, women and children were accused over the next several months. By September 1692, the hysteria had begun to abate and public opinion turned against the trials. Though the Massachusetts General Court later annulled guilty verdicts against accused witches and granted indemnities to their families, bitterness lingered in the community, and the painful legacy of the Salem witch trials would endure for centuries.
Context & Origins of the Salem Witch Trials
Belief in the supernatural--and specifically in the devil’s practice of giving certain humans (witches) the power to harm others in return for their loyalty--had emerged in Europe as early as the 14th century, and was widespread in colonial New England. In addition, the harsh realities of life in the rural Puritan community of Salem Village (present-day Danvers, Massachusetts) at the time included the after-effects of a British war with France in the American colonies in 1689, a recent smallpox epidemic, fears of attacks from neighboring Native American tribes and a longstanding rivalry with the more affluent community of Salem Town (present-day Salem). Amid these simmering tensions, the Salem witch trials would be fueled by residents’ suspicions of and resentment toward their neighbors, as well as their fear of outsiders.
In January 1692, 9-year-old Elizabeth (Betty) Parris and 11-year-old Abigail Williams (the daughter and niece of Samuel Parris, minister of Salem Village) began having fits, including violent contortions and uncontrollable outbursts of screaming. After a local doctor, William Griggs, diagnosed bewitchment, other young girls in the community began to exhibit similar symptoms, including Ann Putnam Jr., Mercy Lewis, Elizabeth Hubbard, Mary Walcott and Mary Warren. In late February, arrest warrants were issued for the Parris’ Caribbean slave, Tituba, along with two other women--the homeless beggar Sarah Good and the poor, elderly Sarah Osborn--whom the girls accused of bewitching them.
Salem Witch Trials: The Hysteria Spreads
The three accused witches were brought before the magistrates Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne and questioned, even as their accusers appeared in the courtroom in a grand display of spasms, contortions, screaming and writhing. Though Good and Osborn denied their guilt, Tituba confessed. Likely seeking to save herself from certain conviction by acting as an informer, she claimed there were other witches acting alongside her in service of the devil against the Puritans. As hysteria spread through the community and beyond into the rest of Massachusetts, a number of others were accused, including Martha Corey and Rebecca Nurse--both regarded as upstanding members of church and community--and the four-year-old daughter of Sarah Good.
Like Tituba, several accused "witches" confessed and named still others, and the trials soon began to overwhelm the local justice system. In May 1692, the newly appointed governor of Massachusetts, William Phips, ordered the establishment of a special Court of Oyer (to hear) and Terminer (to decide) on witchcraft cases for Suffolk, Essex and Middlesex counties. Presided over by judges including Hathorne, Samuel Sewall and William Stoughton, the court handed down its first conviction, against Bridget Bishop, on June 2; she was hanged eight days later on what would become known as Gallows Hill in Salem Town. Five more people were hanged that July; five in August and eight more in September. In addition, seven other accused witches died in jail, while the elderly Giles Corey (Martha’s husband) was pressed to death by stones after he refused to enter a plea at his arraignment.
Salem Witch Trials: Conclusion and Legacy
Though the respected minister Cotton Mather had warned of the dubious value of spectral evidence (or testimony about dreams and visions), his concerns went largely unheeded during the Salem witch trials. Increase Mather, president of Harvard College (and Cotton’s father) later joined his son in urging that the standards of evidence for witchcraft must be equal to those for any other crime, concluding that "It would better that ten suspected witches may escape than one innocent person be condemned." Amid waning public support for the trials, Governor Phips dissolved the Court of Oyer and Terminer in October and mandated that its successor disregard spectral evidence. Trials continued with dwindling intensity until early 1693, and by that May Phips had pardoned and released all those in prison on witchcraft charges.
In January 1697, the Massachusetts General Court declared a day of fasting for the tragedy of the Salem witch trials; the court later deemed the trials unlawful, and the leading justice Samuel Sewall publicly apologized for his role in the process. The damage to the community lingered, however, even after Massachusetts Colony passed legislation restoring the good names of the condemned and providing financial restitution to their heirs in 1711. Indeed, the vivid and painful legacy of the Salem witch trials endured well into the 20th century, when Arthur Miller dramatized the events of 1692 in his play "The Crucible" (1953), using them as an allegory for the anti-Communist "witch hunts" led by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.
Ergotism is the symptom that develops in humans and animals after eating food or feed with ergot contamination. Ergotism in humans is now rare because of the strict guidelines for allowable ergot bodies in grain. Ergot poisoning from eating contaminated rye flour led to deaths in the Middle Ages. Symptoms include impaired blood circulation, causing alternating burning and freezing sensations, followed by gangrene of extremities. This symptom was referred to as St. Anthony’s Fire. Nervous convulsions can also occur and lead to eventual death. Commercially produced flour and grain products are at very little risk of contamination, but home-grown grain should not be used unless checked thoroughly to ensure it is free of ergot.
At one time, pharmaceutical companies developed some of the chemical compounds found in ergot into medicines to aid in child birth, and for the control of migraines and bleeding. Now these derivatives are made from synthetic forms of the alkaloids. The alkaloid compounds found in ergot are also similar to those found in the drug LSD.
Nigel Farage (UKIP) Speech on the EU, UK & Mass Immigration 2014 03 08
UKIP Nigel Farage Spring Conference speech - 2014
Red Ice Radio:
Nigel Farage MEP - The State of the EU & The Undemocratic Treaty of Lisbon
Labour wins UK by-election as Ukip trumps Tories
The ruling coalition in the UK was dealt a blow in the latest by-election test, as the UK Independence party pushed the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats into third and fourth ...
Pentagon studying Putin’s body language to predict his behavior 2014 03 07
The Pentagon has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years so that researchers can study the body movements of foreign leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, in hopes of predicting future behavior.
An article published by USA Today reporter Ray Locker on Thursday and corroborated by documents discovered by RT provides rare insight into a scarcely-discussed military effort that ...
Pentagon Claims That Climate Change ‘Enables Terrorism’ 2014 03 07 In it’s latest Quadrennial Defense Review the Pentagon has said that climate change and ’erratic’ climate will cause increased terrorist activity.
The four yearly reports highlight threats that face civilization and this years homed in on climate change causing an increase in terrorism.
It also mentioned that rises in sea levels and other issues associated with a warming planet will lead ...
Scientists Control Tiny Mechanical Probes Inside Human Cells 2014 03 07 Nanotechnology doesn’t get as much attention these days as genetic and stem cell approaches to medicine, but all three aim to target the causes of illness with greater precision and less collateral damage in the rest of the body than conventional approaches.
Nanotech breakthroughs have come more slowly than many had hoped, but a recent success shows progress toward the goal ...
Fukushima: The Ticking Nuclear Bomb. Over 800 Tons of Radioactive Material Pouring into Pacific Ocean 2014 03 07
First published by GR in October 2013
In August this column ran a piece claiming that the Pacific Ocean was being poisoned by radioactive material escaping from Fukushima, two years after the devastating tsunami and meltdown at the Japanese nuclear facility. Three months later, shocking evidence points towards a calamity situation.
Silence from the corporate media.
There is growing evidence coming from ...