Witches are one of the most popular Halloween costumes and characters. Many fans of the holiday love a good scary or even comical witch story.
But perhaps one of the most well-known stories of witchcraft and witches is the history of the Salem Witch Trials. Here is everything you need to know about the trials, just in time for the Halloween season.
During colonial times in Massachusetts (1692-1693), more than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft.
Twenty people were executed, the majority of them being women. How did this come to be?
All those years ago, the Massachusetts Bay Colony was filled with fear and suspicion. When they fell on hard times during the seventeenth century and were dealing with things like a smallpox epidemic, inflation, and the removal of their official charter in 1684, many believed that their sufferings were caused by the devil and black magic.
One of the earliest cases of women in Salem being accused of witchcraft happened in 1692. Elizabeth Parris and Abigail Williams, the 9 and 11-year-old daughter, and niece of local Reverend Samuel Parris, began acting strange.
They fell ill and began doing alarming things like having screaming fits, throwing things, making odd noises, and clutching their heads. Their neighbors and family feared for their health.
When no medicine could cure the girls of their behavior, their community began to believe that they were under the influence of witchcraft.
This caused a lot of gossip and fear throughout Massachusetts. Whenever young women had similar episodes, paranoia surrounding witchcraft would spread even further. Women lived in fear of being accused of witchcraft, as it had dire consequences.