What were the witch trials in Salem

5 facts about the Salem witch hunt

"This is the biggest witch hunt for a politician in American history!" That was the tweet from US President Donald Trump last week - apparently in response to the Justice Department's appointment of a special investigator to search for links between Trump and his staff Russia should review.

The Salem Witch Trials, which in the United States originated the word "witch hunt" in the sense of the unjustified persecution of a person, took place in Salem, Massachusetts during the winter and spring of 1692-1693.

By the time they finally came to an end, 141 suspects, both men and women, were tried. Nineteen of them were hanged. One was crushed by heavy stones. Many others died in the brutal prisons.

“Our country has a long history of witch hunts, especially during the colonial era,” says Jason Coy. He is a professor of history at the College of Charleston and an expert on witch hunts.

Coy says that the way Trump used the word - assuming a politically motivated campaign against an innocent person - originated in two things: the McCarthy hearings on alleged communists in the 1950s and the successful play "Witch Hunt "(En." The Crucible ") by Arthur Miller from 1953, which was written as an allegory of the hearings.

Here we've rounded up five facts about what we actually know about the real witch hunt:

1. There were complex political, religious and ethnic problems

There was a lot of change going on in colonial America at the time. Salem split into a prosperous city - only surpassed by Boston - and a farming village. These two entities often argued over resources, politics, and religion. In addition, the villagers split into different factions, who argued over whether the village should declare its independence from the city. That made things even more complicated.

In 1689 the villagers finally got the right to build their own church. They chose Reverend Samuel Parris, a former merchant, as their pastor. His indomitable nature and his insistence on remuneration - including his right to own the village rectory - led to further tensions. Many villagers spoke out in favor of evicting Parris. They stopped participating in his salary in October 1691.

During this tense period, Parris ‘nine-year-old daughter Betty and her cousin Abigail Williams enjoyed the fascinating stories of Tituba, a slave from Barbados.

So there were definitely some prerequisites that formed a metaphorical powder keg ...

2. Strange behavior at the time worried Salem residents

In February 1692, the young Betty Parris began to be plagued by seizures that no one could explain at the time. The same was true of Abigail Williams and the girl's friend, Ann Putnam. The doctors and priests watched with horror as the girls twisted, crouched under chairs, and screamed nonsense.

With at most rudimentary knowledge of biology, medicine and psychology, the experts of the time concluded that the girls must be bewitched. They put the children under pressure until they finally began to point with their fingers at female weirdos around them. Tituba was referred to as a witch, as was a disheveled beggar named Sarah Good and old Sarah Osburn.

3. Torture unearthed bizarre confessions

After being brutally beaten, Tituba began to confess and also point her finger.

"The devil came to me and ordered me to serve him," she reportedly said in March 1692.

The villagers listened intently as she spoke of black dogs, red cats, yellow birds, and a white-haired man who ordered her to sign the devil's book. There are several undiscovered witches, she is reported to have said, who sought to destroy the Puritans.

Tracking down these alleged witches turned into a fever that gripped the entire community and spread to the surrounding region.

4. The corpses piled up

As investigators went door to door, the frightened residents called even more alleged witches. The adventurous statements and rumors increased. The accused were tortured and had to answer in court. The trials were hasty matters before a special court that was set up specifically for this purpose.

Nineteen convicted "witches" were hanged on Gallows Hill. The defendant Giles Cory was tortured to death for failing to plead guilty during his trial. Five other people, including a toddler, died in prison.

5. Some condemned the trials ... until they finally stopped

Finally, on October 3, 1692, the Reverend Increase Mather stepped in, President of Harvard College and father of the famous preacher Cotton Mather. He condemned the use of weak evidence and reliance on undetectable supernatural claims.

"Better for ten suspected witches to escape than for one innocent person to be convicted," he said.

Governor William Phips had had enough when his own wife was finally named by the troubled children. Determined to put an end to the madness, he dissolved the special court and replaced it with a new higher court - which did not recognize so-called ghostly evidence. The court convicted only three of the 56 accused. Phips pardoned her along with five others awaiting execution.

In May 1693 Phips pardoned all those who were still in prison on charges of witchcraft. Over time, some of the prosecutors also apologized publicly. The legislature eventually passed a law that restored the good names of some of the damned and granted compensation to their heirs.