• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

How Can We Explain The Salem Witchcraft Episode of 1962?

Extracts from this document...


How Can We Explain The Salem Witchcraft Episode of 1962? Jennifer Langley Salem, a small village in Massachusetts, USA, was overwhelmed by mass hysteria in 1962, started by strange, unexplainable behaviour in young women and leading to the accusation of witchcraft. This fear gripped the whole village, rumours spread, the numbers of 'possessed' victims increased and accusations flew. This hysteria, however, was not just confined to Salem village, it spread to other villages across Massachusetts. Also, it was not just women who were accused of being witches and not just lower class outcasts, men and women who were well respected in the community were also tried for witchcraft. There have been many books written about this outbreak, some containing trial hearings and eyewitness accounts of the supernatural goings on in Salem. The extent of the notoriety of the scare is shown by the use of the term "Salem Witch Hunt" today, to describe scape-goating by groups of people emphasizing hysterical, blindly illogical and intolerant actions or expressions1.Also, many conclusions have been drawn and speculations made to explain the phenomena, which this essay will investigate. This episode in 1962 marks a significant time in early North American Colonial history of when Puritan beliefs and fear of the supernatural were at its peak. ...read more.


Others had also accused him of being the ringleader, a wizard or conjurer and it was documented that "During his examination, the suffering of the afflicted girls was so extreme that the magistrates ordered them removed from the court house for their own safety."5 This would appear to be a fabricated case, initiated by the Putmans with the girls pretending, supported by the admission of one of the witnesses, even before his death, that her accusation was "groundless and made out of fear"6. Also Burrough's family later received compensation from the Government for his wrongful death. This highlights the fact that not all cases were real, in fact many believe that most of the people hung were probably innocent, and that the events were full of "fraud and imposture"7. But still, nineteen men and women died for the sake of their faith, as, if they had admitted to being witches their lives would have been spared. It is clear that these false accusations, made for various reasons, fuelled the mass hysteria and were the reason for the witch hunt being of the scale that it was. However it does not explain the episode as the accusations began after Griggs suggested witchcraft as being responsible after finding no other explanation for the victim's behaviour. ...read more.


This was not the original cause but was the catalyst, along with extreme fear and scaremongering that lead to the vast number of hangings, both male and female. Suggestions as to the reasons, listed in various texts, for the explanation of the witch hunting were that 'it resulted from the pranks of bored adolescents, the influence of oligarchical and power-hungry clergy, local petty jealousies and land grabs, mental aberrations, spiritualist goings-on, political instability, a conspiratorial holding action against the disintegration of Puritanism, mass clinical hysteria, a continuation of the suppression of certain types of women, and even physical reactions to ingested fungus.'14 After researching these possible causes, with the added advantage of hindsight, due to overwhelming evidence, it would appear that the Salem Witchcraft Episode of 1962 was, although affected by the various factors listed, primarily begun by Ergotism. The similar symptoms, the evidence of Ergot in the Rye in Salem, and the fact that Ergotism tends to affect women more than men, as was the case, are just some of the evidence presented that make a logical, valid explanation. However Salem was taken over by witchcraft, conjured up in the minds of the people and made worse by fear. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Arthur Miller section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Arthur Miller essays

  1. Who or what was responsible For the Salem Witch trials?

    Hale quits the court as he cannot bear to here the courts lies and the fact that the court won't look to common sense i.e. when Proctor tries to prove his wife's innocence when she is named falsely by Abigail. He announces to the court of his affair with Abigail.

  2. The Reverend John Hale embodies the growing awareness of the illegality and immorality of ...

    send Proctor home and let him come back with a lawyer: (Act III, page 80) 'send him home and let him come again with a lawyer'. Hale is worried that Proctor is going to say the wrong thing. Hale tells the court how he had such troubles signing away Rebecca

  1. Why Did the Salem Witch Hunt Occur Many American colonists brought with them from ...

    Of these nine girls, only one is related to me, Ann Putnam. Her grandmother was Priscilla Gould, the sister of Zaccheus Gould. Ann was born in 1680 to Thomas Putnam and Ann. The affair, which led to the Witch Trials, as a matter of fact turn out in what is

  2. The Salem Witchcraft Trials occurred because of the depth of Salem Puritans' belief in ...

    Gossips and rumors were enough to accuse them. Tituba3 was a dark skinned slave who lived in the household of the Reverend Samuel Parris. She was familiar with the West Indian Voodoo and practicing magic. In the evenings Tituba entertained little Betty and her cousin Abigail Williams by the kitchen fire.

  1. How would you explain the outbreak of witch persecution in New England towards the ...

    With one half of Salem becoming wealthy whilst the other half faced certain decline it appeared a way of not only exorcising guilt and rage but also bringing the successful into disrepute. Salem does not reflect other witch trials in that a normal neighbourly quarrel wouldn't result in an accusation,

  2. Exploring the importance of religion to the community of Salem

    During act 2 Reverend Hale visits John Proctors house to look around and inspect it to see if the accusations of Abigail's are true. He asks John and Elizabeth some questions to see whether it is likely that they are witches.

  1. Everyone has heard of the Salem witch trials, but what were they? Why did ...

    Jail was the more common punishment although most think that it was execution. If a woman was set free without any charges she was allowed to go back and live like before but because she had been through the trial the town usually shunned her and regarded her as an

  2. Write about the character of Danforth and his exercise of his judicial powers in ...

    However despite Danforth saying this, it is evident that he seems to think the girls are right and that they have seen spirits. This could be because off how religious he is and also how he considers himself to be God's agent in some way.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work