In January of 1962, numerous girls who lived in Salem Village, Massachusetts, started behaving erratically.
And it was this uncharacteristic behavior that raised supernatural suspicions and laid the groundwork for the infamous Salem Witch Trials.
One of the earliest young girls who started exhibiting odd behavior included Elizabeth “Betty” Paris, who was only nine years old at the time and the daughter of Reverend Samuel Parris.
Another, Abigail Williams, was a mere twelve years old and the orphaned niece of Reverend Parris. Both girls lived together and, at the same time, began complaining of convulsions and fevers.
Their father’s first instinct was to pray for help and salvation. Reverend Parris also turned to other members of the congregation and local clergy in hopes that the power of prayer would cure the girls’ affliction.
After their efforts yielded no results, though, Betty and Abigail’s father turned to his last resort. The Reverend brought in a local physician named William Griggs and another minister named John Hale.
Both men analyzed the girls and observed their symptoms, searching for any logical cause. But, once they could not determine any physical reason why they had fallen ill, the pair suggested that witchcraft was the cause.
It was at that point that Mary Sibley, one of the Parris family’s neighbors, suggested the idea of baking a witch’s cake in order to reveal whether or not witchcraft was truly to blame.
Back in seventeenth-century England and New England, “witch cakes” were believed to have a magical power that could reveal if physical symptoms were the result of witchcraft or some other illness.