What caused the the Salem Witch Trial Hysteria of 1692?

Expert Answers
samson98 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many different theories for the Salem Witch Trial hysteria. Some historians believe the girls who began making the witchcraft accusations were lying; they were children who desired attention, and children do not always realize the full consequences of their actions. Alternatively, they may have been lying about witches to escape punishment. Historians support this theory by alleging Tituba, a slave-girl who worked for one of the girls' families, had taught the girls simple magic tricks. Rumors about the girls' activities began to spread, and the girls lied about witchcraft to avoid facing punishment for learning and performing the magic tricks.

Linnda Caporael, a scientist, proposes the witchcraft hysteria may have stemmed from ergot poisoning. Ergot, which can grow on grains such as rye, causes its victims to exhibit LSD-like symptoms. She believes the girls may have succumbed to ergotism, which could explain their hysterical accusations of witchcraft.