The Salem Witch Trials
Happy Spooky Season everyone! With Halloween coming soon, I thought it was time to talk about the Salem Witch Trials that happened here in Massachusetts. Although it was a very dark time, they heavily shaped modern Halloween movies and culture.
In the town of Salem, Massachusetts, between 1692 and 1693, many people were accused of witchcraft. Looking back, the only thing these people did wrong was have fun and not be 100% normal, but they were still said to be witches.
It all started with a slave woman named Tituba. She worked for Reverend Samuel Parris, the minister of Salem Village, taking care of his daughter and niece. During January of 1962, people started noticing that these girls had frequent outbursts of screaming and laughing. Tituba confessed in a courtroom that she taught the girls witchcraft. While trying to save herself, she said that there were other witches. This started the spread of mass hysteria.
Many people had been accused and confessed to witchcraft while also naming other ‘witches’ along the way. These confessed witches began being executed. Reverend Parris felt that the only way to solve the issue was to get rid of the ‘witches’ causing it. So that's what they did. On June 10 1692, Bridget Bishop became the first of many to be hanged for witchcraft. Not-So Fun Fact: When it’s involving a person, the word is hanged instead of hung. Many more people were hanged and executed, the total ultimately reaching around 20 people.
Eventually, executions stopped and the accusers felt guilty. This led to many working to clear the names of those accused. This came to a head when in 1957, Massachusetts finally issued a formal apology for the trials. Although names being cleared and apologies being made doesn’t remove this from history, it definitely helps the families of those involved.
It’s also important to remember that there wasn’t any ‘witchcraft’ , it was just women having fun instead of being proper and quiet.
The Salem Witch Trials are most known from the movie Hocus Pocus. The movie portrays three sisters from this time period who come to the modern day to terrorize children. This is all so they can live forever. While the movie is a great way to gain interest in this topic, it lacks authenticity. It shows the witches as having powers and broomsticks which gives the illusion that this is what it was like. Without this, the movie would definitely not be as cool, but it does ruin it a little bit when you know the facts.
Overall, the Salem Witch Trials were a very dark time filled with confusion and grief. But, they shaped Halloween as we know it. The popularity of the word ‘witch’ mixed with the growth of modern media led to portrayals of witches like the ones in Hocus Pocus and the Wicked Witch of the West from Wizard of Oz. This also, of course, led to the popularity of those pointy hats that kids wear on Halloween. There’s much more to the history than can fit in this article so I recommend that you do some research on your own or even take a visit to Salem!