The time is fast approaching when everything turns to Halloween town, and I can’t wait! The costumes are fun, candy is awesome, and the decorations turn everything into a spooky wonderland. Naturally, there are people frightened by the ghost tales or the decor, but real life can be far more terrifying.
What I find most frightening in life is the human capability to take advantage of others; to use libel and slander to bring harm to friends or even family. One of the most intricate cases of foul play brought about by deceit is the Salem Witch Trials. Most of us are exposed to this episode of colonial history through The Crucible in English class, but perhaps time has faded the dreadful details from your mind. Do you love a good bit of drama? Do you frequently argue with neighbors? If so, I know the perfect quaint village for you! Salem Village had a reputation in the area for being home to a variety of quarrelsome folk. Local conflict, ignorance, and a good helping of religious zeal made a perfect breeding ground for small issues to be take, way, way out of proportion.
It all began when Abigail Williams and Betty Paris, two young girls began to have fits that supposedly could not be explained by medicine. Soon, other young women in the town began to behave similarly, uttering odd sounds and contorting as if demon possessed. Multiple theories as to why this behavior began have surfaced over the years. As you can imagine, in a puritan society there isn’t much fun to be had. Perhaps the children were feeling mischievous and eventually became so enthralled in their own lies that they couldn’t escape? Could it be that there was a mold in the bread that caused the children to hallucinate? Maybe they were being used to further the objectives of conniving adults? Whatever the answer, things heated up quickly. The young women started pointing out people who were purported to be afflicting them with these fits. Unsurprisingly, each of the accused just so happened to be an outcast from the strict puritanical society. Sarah Good was a homeless beggar, accused of witchcraft for rejecting Puritan ideals. Sarah Osborne stood accused of witchcraft for not attending church regularly. Ann Putnam- another accused witch, just so happened to be involved in a bitter family feud, leaving the opposing family to gain from her being out of the way. Then there was also Tituba, a woman with ethnic differences who had in the past entertained the children with tales of fortune telling and fantasy. The list only continued to grow from there.
The Salem Witch trials lasted from February 1692 to May 1693, leaving twenty people dead and I can only imagine the emotional scars left on their families. These trials have become known as one of the most notorious cases of mass hysteria in Colonial America. Please bear in mind that my opinion is that of a skeptic, but a skeptic that enjoys playing devils’ advocate all the same. So, if the accused were involved in witchcraft and therefore had supernatural powers, could they not utilize them to get the fuck out of there? What did these outcasts have to gain from supposedly making children do all kinds of really silly things? Obviously, if someone is disturbed and could harm themselves or others, they should be given medical care, but it seems that time and time again, people who are just different are labeled as a danger to society. We can learn a great deal from people who come from unique backgrounds and cultures. We can also learn to sympathize and care for those struggling with financial or health problems. There is a whole world full of interesting people and places to explore right outside your door!
But don’t take candy from strangers though.