What was the big deal with Witches in Salem, Massachusets?

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sostrowski eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many citizens of Salem, Massachussetts believed that there were people among them who were witches, since they were performing acts that were either unexplainable or just misunderstood in the late 1680s.

The first account of these supposed witches were with Betty Parris and Abigail Williams in 1692 when they began having fits that were unexplainable to the people around them.  Things that would now be explainable by medicine or psychology were then blamed on witchcraft. 

In a series of similar events, women who were with or closely tied to people experiencing strange happenings were blamed for them, being called witches.

Throughout the 1690s, these women were tried to be hung for their efforts as supposed 'witches.'

ronchar eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There were several outbreaks of witchcraft hysteria in 17th-century America, but the episode in Salem, Mass., in 1691-2 was far and away the most dramatic and deadly. Never before (or after) were so many people accused (and killed) in such a short period of time.  The crisis was so extreme that eventually the governor's wife was even accused. Legislators in Boston finally moved to forbid "spectral evidence," which knocked the legs out of most accusations and made prosecution extremely difficult.