Reverend Hale has been summoned from Beverley by Reverend Parris, who, afraid of persecution and retribution by his own parishioners, has requested that he visit Salem to investigate rumours of witchcraft, or 'unnatural causes' as he chooses to call them, after his daughter Betty had fallen into a coma on being discovered dancing in the woods accompanied by her niece, Abigail, other girls from the village and the reverend's servant, Tituba.
Reverend Parris is paranoid about the fact that others are out to get him and destroy his reputation and has therefore found it imperative to call upon Reverend Hale since he is believed to be an expert in the occult and could therefore dismiss any rumours of 'unnatural causes' and thus absolve him from any guilt.
After Reverend Parris has been informed that the village doctor cannot find any reason for Betty's condition 'in his books' and that the Reverend should look for 'unnatural causes' for her ailment, he states:
... There be no unnatural cause here. Tell him I have sent for Reverend Hale of Beverly, and Mr. Hale will surely confirm that.Let him look to medicine and put out all thought of unnatural causes here. There be none.
Reverend Hale is quite pleased to have been called upon to share his expertise and has rushed over to Salem to conduct his investigation. He has had personal experience regarding this aspect and upon investigation had found that the woman in his village who had been accused of witchcraft, was but a 'mere nuisance' and her supposed victim recovered after he extended her his kindness and an opportunity to recover in his home. The Reverend has made a study of 'the invisible world' and believes himself to be an expert. He relishes this new assignment and sees it as an opportunity to confront the Devil himself.
Reverend Hale has come to Salem fully prepared and he targets the main conspirators, Betty, Abigail and Tituba first. He manages to get a confession out of Tituba, who, traumatised and driven to great anxiety and fear by the whole affair, also implicates others. She names, for example, Goody Good and Goody Osburn. Abigail sees this as an opportunity to absolve herself from blame and also starts 'confessing' naming innocent people. Betty miraculously recovers from her affliction and does the same.
Thus the Reverend Hale goes around the village consulting with all the girls and receiving their confessions, in which they name various individuals. The eventual outcome of this is that many innocent villagers are arrested on charges of witchcraft, jailed and brought before the court.
It is ironic that Reverend Hale only realises much later that he and others were victims of an extraordinarily brutal and tragic hoax by the girls, under Abigail's leadership. It has become too late for his intervention. He withdraws from the proceedings, but the damage has been done, since many have died or have been arrested and many more will suffer the same fate, even though he most vehemently objects.