Salem Witch Trials Research Paper

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The Salem Witch Trials were a horrendous event in American History that occurred in the epitome of enlightenment of the New World. In 1692 a group of teenage girls accused over 150 men and women of conspiring with the Devil to become witches. The accused faced consequences ranging from public humiliation to death by hanging. The Salem Witch Trials did not take place in a civilization of wicked simpletons, the Puritans in question were a highly educated and moral people, model leaders in terms of education and religion. However within the Trials, members of the court replace logic and reason with fear and paranoia. The court also ignores the warnings of a respected minister, resulting in the court favoring spectral evidence such as visions …show more content…

Harsh freezing winters, attacks from Indian tribes, a smallpox epidemic and the backlash of the religious revolution that led them to the Massachusetts Bay Colony to begin with, all contributed to short lives full of misery. Winters in Salem, Massachusetts are notoriously cruel and frigid. In January, the time that the Trials began, the average temperature is twenty-six degrees Fahrenheit, with temperatures reaching as low as -1.2 degrees (Weather Underground). In the times predating modern heating, extremely low temperatures such as these could be incredibly deadly. These conditions caused people to become stuck within their homes, unable to venture into the outside world. This inability to travel, led to Salem becoming largely isolated, cut off from the outside world. Isolated and ignorant of what lies beyond their village the Puritans became fearful and suspicious of outsiders. The townsfolk of Salem strongly show their distrust of outsiders when they initially accuse the local minister’s own slave ,who was haled from Barbados, of witchcraft ( Alongside the dreadful winters, attacks from nearby Indian tribes were a constant threat. Attacks such as these alongside catastrophes like a smallpox epidemic caused the already uber religious Puritans to believe that Satan was a prevalent force in their lives. The Puritans had also just ended a religious …show more content…

Examples of irrational behavior could include fainting and feeling phantom pains, the teenage group of girls whose testimony sent 19 people to the gallows , experienced both of these symptoms. These girls also demonstrated irrational beliefs, such as the belief that over 185 people in their small town could be guilty of witchcraft. As for inexplicable symptoms of illness, witchcraft was only ever mentioned after a local doctor was unable to find a physical cause for the original victims Betty Parris and Abigail Williams (Brant). Dr. Gary Small further solidifies mass hysteria as a cause for the Salem Witch Trials with evidence such as the fact that “Most often, the outbreaks afflict children and teenagers, girls more than boys.” Also Dr. Small states that “psychological stress and anxiety are sometimes the cause.” The most likely victims of mass hysteria then are teenage girls living stressful lives, exactly like the teenage group of girls living in the stressful conditions of 17th century Salem. To distill any lingering beliefs that witchcraft could still have been at fault, after the trials the jury members said they did “hereby declare that we justly fear that we were sadly deluded and mistaken” (Brandt). The tendency of mass hysteria cases to dispel once the

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