Salem Witch Trials (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
In 1692 the community of Salem, Massachusetts, was engulfed in a series of witchcraft afflictions, accusations, trials, and executions. During the course of the year, more than a dozen persons claimed to be afflicted by spells of black magic and sorcery that had been allegedly cast by men and women who had enlisted the supernatural powers of the devil. Most of the persons claiming to be afflicted were teenage girls.
Those persecuted for allegedly practicing witchcraft included Salem residents who deviated in some way from Puritan religious, cultural, or economic norms. Other victims of the witch craze were perceived to be enemies of the largest family in Salem. A few victims were simply weak and sickly people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The legal institutions offered little protection for those accused of witchcraft because the primitive Massachusetts judicial system was still governed by superstitious RULES OF EVIDENCE permitting testimony about malevolent apparitions and broomsticks capable of flight. Although some ordinary Salem residents doubted the credibility of the witchcraft accusations, it was not until they were joined by authorities from Boston that the witch-hunt came to a close.
The outbreak of witchcraft hysteria took place in Salem Village, a small community a few miles inland from Salem Town. Salem Village was not an autonomous entity and...
(The entire section is 2226 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!