The examinations for the first three accused women began with the examination of Sarah Good. During her examination, she did not confess to witchcraft and persistently claimed her innocence; the same went on during Sarah Osborne’s examination; but Tituba’s examination went almost in an opposite direction of the others. When Tituba’s examination began, it started off as usual with her being asked what evils she had committed and if she was responsible for hurting the children. She denied the accusations, but, after a while, she admitted that the Devil had come to her and bid her to serve him.
When asked if she had seen anyone with the Devil when he came to her, she said yes. She said there were some women who had sometimes hurt the children, and among the women were Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne. Tituba went on to explain that the women and the Devil continued to urge her to serve him and hurt the children even though she refused the demands. She then said that the Devil had come to her with a book of people who served him and told her to sign it, and when asked if she saw any other names in the book, she said she saw nine but only remembering Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne.
Since Tituba’s claim that there were more witches in Salem, the witch hunt officially began and hysteria beset the little settlement. As time went by, more and more accusations were made, mostly by the Girls who claimed to be tormented by visions and specters of the people they had accused. Those types of visions were called Spectral Evidence. In March, four more women were accused. In April, twenty-one more were accused, six being men, one of whom was Reverend George Burroughs.
Reverend Burroughs had spoken out against the Girls’ accusations and the existence of witchcraft and was most likely accused because people at the time believed that if anyone defended an accused witch or doubted their existence, they must, themselves, be a witch. Over thirty accusations were made in May, with eight being men. The accusations continued without much dissent until Martha Corey was named. Corey was also a skeptic of the Girls’ legitimacy, but what separated her from many of the other accused people was that she was a very pious woman that was well respected in Salem.
Her accusation made people begin to wonder, ‘if Martha Corey could be a witch, anyone could be’. The doubt towards the Girls’ legitimacy widened further when Rebecca Nurse was accused. Nurse was highly regarded in Salem Village, so much so that the town’s people petitioned to have Nurse released from custody. One openly skeptical people was John Proctor, who, on multiple occasions, had called the Girls out, even though his servant was one of them. He, his pregnant wife, and son were soon after accused. By May 1692, there were almost one hundred people in jail who had been indicted for witchcraft.
That month, the king of England issued a new charter to the Massachusetts Colony which opened the ability for official trials to take place. On May 27, Governor William Phips created the court of Oyer and Terminer because of the ever-increasing number of witchcraft accusations. Under English Law, this special type of court was designed for hearing unusual, but serious, cases. The court consisted of eight judges, and the trials were held in the Salem Courthouse. The first trial was of Bridget Bishop. Bishop had been accused of witchcraft years before the current hysteria, but had been cleared of all charges.
She was brought to court because five of the Afflicted Girls accused her of physically hurting them when trying to get them to sign a pact with the Devil. On June 10, 1692, Bishop was hanged. She was the first official victim of the Salem Witch Trials. A common modern myth about the Trials is that witches were burned at the stake, however, under English Law, the only people who could be burned were men who had been convicted of High Treason. Even then, they could be burned only after having been drawn and quartered first. Convicted witches in Salem, as in England, were hanged. On July 19, 1692, five more people were hanged.
Among them were Sarah Good and Rebecca Nurse. Nurse was originally found to be not guilty, but as soon as the Girls heard the verdict, they began to have violent fits in the courtroom. On account of the fits, presumed to be Nurse’s specter torturing them, the judge asked the jury to reconsider their verdict. A week later, the verdict was changed to guilty. A week later, John Proctor decided to write a letter to the Boston clergy detailing the torture that was happening in Salem and that he wanted his trial to be moved to Boston so it would be more fair. Unfortunately, the clergymen did not help him.
On August 19, 1692, another five were hanged. Among the victims were Reverend George Burroughs, who, just before being dropped to hang, recited the Lord’s Prayer exactly; John Proctor; and John Willard. Willard was a Salem Village constable, who had refused to arrest certain people because he did not believe they could be guilty of witchcraft. He was arrested for witchcraft because he was presumed to be siding with the witches because he secretly was one. One of the witnesses who testified against Willard was an old man in his eighties who claimed Willard was responsible for problems he had been having with his bladder.
In September 1692, more controversy and opposition toward the Trials came following the cruel and gruesome death of Giles Corey, the husband of Martha Corey. He had refused to make a plea after being accused of witchcraft, because if convicted, he knew his large estate would be confiscated and not passed on to his family. Under English Law at that time, if a person had refused to make a plea, they could be tortured them until one was forced out of them. Without his plea, Corey was tortured by being publicly stripped naked, laid on the ground with a board placed on top of him, gradually large stones were placed upon the board.
The extreme pain to and stress on his body were intended to force him into making a plea. He laid there, under the immense weight, for three days until he was crushed to death on September 19. On September 22, the final eight convicted witches were hanged, among them was Martha Corey. Near the end of September, the Girls’ Spectral Evidence and all other types of Spectral Evidence was disallowed as legitimate evidence. However, other legitimate evidence was still valid (e. g. , confessions; the possession of a poppet, a poppet is basically a voodoo doll; books about the occult; and the discovery of a Witch’s Teat).
On October 29, 1692, Governor Phips adjourned the Court of Oyer and Terminer. The fifty-two people that remained imprisoned were instead tried by the Superior Court of Judicate. Since Spectral Evidence was no longer allowed, only three of the remaining accused were convicted. The last of these new trials were in May 1693. Even though the three people were convicted, they were released and pardoned from all charges. The last prisoner was finally released on September 16, 1693. The final statistics of the Salem Witch Trials were: over 200 were accused.
Twenty-four people and two dogs died. Nineteen of those were hanged; one was tortured to death; four died in prison, among them were two infants and Sarah Osborne. The dogs were shot after being accused of witchcraft. Fifty-five people confessed to their witchcraft accusations; and the rest either escaped from prison, evaded arrest, were not convicted or were eventually released and pardoned. Accounts of the Salem Witch Trials show how truly consuming the witch hysteria had become and how everything had become secondary (e. g. , he children’s chores, the women’s housework, the men’s farm work, property, and city buildings). After the hysteria and the Trials ended, food became more scarce, taxes went up and life was all-around significantly harder than before. As time passed, the people of Salem Village began to feel guilt and regret for what had happened during the Trials. The residents believed that they were being punished by God. This idea was reinforced due to the recent influx of near-by Indian attacks, droughts, crop failures and smallpox outbreaks.
In 1694, Reverend Samuel Parris officially apologized for his actions during the trials despite only saying that he “might have been mistaken. ” Regardless of the rather weak apology from Parris, the new reverend, Thomas Green, evicted Parris from Salem Village in 1696. Green spent the rest of his life trying to rebuild the reputation of Salem Village. On December 17, 1697, the new governor, William Stoughton, proclaimed that the whole province should observe January 15, 1698, as a day of prayer and fasting in an attempt to make amends with God.
The day was titled the Day of Official Humiliation, and on that day, Samuel Sewall, one of the judges for the Court of Oyer and Terminer, had the Reverend of Boston publicly read an apology during church. Shockingly, all but one of the Afflicted Girls remained quiet and simply moved on after the Trials. The only Girl who decided to make the public apology was Ann Putnam, Jr. , who had accused over sixty-two people. The apology commented about how she felt responsible for the deaths of innocent people and how she had been deceived by Satan into making the accusations about innocent people during that time.
Even though she was the only one to make an apology, the rest of the Afflicted Girls went on to lead normal lives, and many of them went on to get married and have children. In 1711, the Massachusetts Colony legislature passed a bill that would clear the names of the convicted people and pay about ? 600 in restitution to the families as compensation, approximately $150,000 today. However, some families did not want their victim’s name listed. The bill also stated that any officers involved in the Trials could not be held accountable or sued for their actions during the Trials.