How many people died as a direct result of the Salem witch trials?
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People have been fascinated with the events of the infamous Salem Witch Trials of 1692-1693 for hundreds of years. Dozens of works, both non-fiction, fiction, and plays have been written about this dark year in American history. (One of the best known works is Arthur Miller's Tony Award-winning play, The Crucible.) Just this month, historian Marilyn Roach has released a new study, which gives heretofore unknown details about the trials from diaries, journals, and letters she discovered. (Watch her appearance on the January 20, 2014 episode on The Daily Show here.)
As to the number of persons executed, a total of twenty people died. Nineteen were hung, fifteen women and four men. One man was pressed to death with stones. The deaths began in June and continued through September of 1692. The following people were convicted of, and hung for, the crime of witchcraft:
George Jacobs, Sr.
The one man who was pressed to death was Giles Corey, one of the many real, historical names from the Salem Witch Trials that Arthur Miller uses in his play. The other real-life names of the condemned that Miller employs are Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Goode, John Proctor, and Martha Corey.
Here is one of the death warrants, which was issued on July 19, 1692 for Sarah Good, Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth Howe, and Sarah Wilds:
To Goerge: Corwine Gent'n High Sheriff of the county of Essex
Whereas Sarah Good Wife of William Good of Salem Village Rebecka Nurse wife of Francis Nurse of Salem Village Susanna Martin of Amesbury Widow Elizabeth How wife of James How of Ipswich Sarah Wild wife of John Wild of Topsfield all of the County of Essex in thier Maj'ts Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England Att A Court of Oyer & Terminer held by Adjournment for Our Severaign Lord & Lady Kind Wiliam & Queen Mary for the said County of Essex at Salem in the s'd County onf the 29th day of June [torn] were Severaly arrigned on Several Indictments for the horrible Crime of Witchcraft by them practised & Committed On Severall persons and pleading not guilty did for thier Tryall put themselves on God & Thier Countrey whereupon they were Each of them found & brought in Guilty by the Jury that passed On them according to their respective Indictments and Sentence of death did then pass upon them as the Law directs Execution whereof yet remains to be done: Those are Therefore in thier Maj'ties name William & Mary now King & Queen over England &ca: to will & Command you that upon Tuesday next being the 19th day for [torn] Instant July between the houres of Eight & [torn] in [torn] forenoon the same day you Safely conduct the s'd Sarah Good Rebecka Nurse Susann Martin Elizabeth Howe & Sarah Wild From thier Maj'ties goal in Salem afores'd to the place of Execution & there Cause them & Every of them to be hanged by the Neck untill they be dead and of the doings herein make return to the Clerke of the said Court & this precept and hereof you are not to fail at your perill and this Shall be your sufficient Warrant given under my hand & seale at Boston th 12't day of July in the fourth year of Reign of our Soveraigne Lord & Layd Wm & Mary King and Queen &ca:
Annoq Dom. 1692
Salem July 19th 1692
I caused the within mentioned persons to be Executed according to the Tenour of the with[in] warrant
*George Corwin Sherif
There are other deaths attributed to the trials; as many as thirteen persons perished in prison, but the exact number has been disputed
Twenty people died after being found guilty of witchcraft. Nineteen of them were hung, and one was pressed under heavy stones (Giles Corey). There were others that were accused and jailed, but only twenty died in those panic-stricken months of 1692.
Over 150 people were arrested and imprisoned and even more were accused but not formally charged. Twenty-nine people were convicted of the capital felony of witchcraft. Nineteen of those were hanged. One man, Giles Corey, was crushed to death in an attempt to get him to confess. Probably seven more of the accused died in prison. The lives of many others were changed forever as a result of the witchcraft scare.
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