Essay on Salem Witch Trial Theories

2283 Words10 Pages
Brennyn Mackey

2 May 2011

The Secret War of Salem

Exposing the Culprit behind the Mass Hysteria

The Salem Witch Trials were a series of infamous events that demand an explanation for their occurrence. The trials that took place in 1692 caused neighbors in the community of Salem Village in the colony of Massachusetts to turn on one another out of paranoia, accusing one another of witchcraft. According to Carol Karlsen, a longtime author of the subject, nineteen people were hanged and about 200 others were imprisoned (40). A few theories have been offered in order to explain the root of this mass hysteria. The theories in question need to be examined to see which holds the most credibility.

Most historians who have
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According to their research:

Ergot poisoning in individuals with adequate vitamin A intakes leads to gangrenous rather than convulsive symptoms. Vitamin A is found both in fish and in dairy products. Salem Village was a farming community and Salem Town, which bordered the village, was a well-known seaport; cows and fish were plentiful. There is no evidence to suggest a vitamin A deficiency in the diet of the inhabitants, and it would be particularly unlikely for the so-called "afflicted girls," some of whom came from well-to-do farming families. The absence of any instance of gangrenous symptomatology makes it highly unlikely that ergot played any role in the Salem crisis (Spanos).

The theory that there was an ergot infestation does not seem to hold up to the accounts of Spanos and Gottlieb. The theory of ergot infestation has slowly lost credibility due to these pieces of evidence.

Another theory that attempts to explain the paranoia is the theory that witchcraft was being practiced in the community. The word “witch” came into English from Wicca, an Anglo-Saxon word that means “wise one” (Buckland 26). Witches have been viewed throughout history as servants of Satan, spreading misfortune. This is an exaggerated stereotype similar to the misconception that witches fly around on broomsticks and transform into
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