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Halloween Lesson: Salem Witch Trials

Updated on October 10, 2011

Salem Witch Trials: An illustrated Journey

This Halloween, while everybody is celebrating this wonderful dark holiday, take a minute to learn something. In celebration of the Halloween spirit, we are going to take an insightful journey New England,1692. During this era, finding and executing witches was very trendy in colonial New England. The latest buzz was the Salem Witch Trials. These trials resulted in the trial of 185 people, 26 found guilty prosecutions ,19 were executed. These accounts were later illustrated, however not all instances are accurate.

Tituba - and ye shall fear the the unusual, the abnormal, and they who are different than you


Photo utilized under CC usageWikipedia commons: 1878

Tituba, was the first woman who confessed to witchcraft in the ever notorious Salem Witch Hunt. Slave to Samuel Parris, this woman was indeed different than the colonial population in this setting. In depictions, and illustrations, Her ethnicity has always been debatable. Some have notions that Tituba was of Native American decent, some say she had was Aztec, Guatemalan, or indigenous to some other parts of South America. Other illustrations suggest that Tituba was African American, or Bahamian.

She was a dark-skinned female in a Puritan state, a slave no less, more than enough to make her a prime suspect. When Tituba confessed to witchcraft, this was more than enough to ignite fear in the village of Salem Town. Abigail Williams and Elizabeth Parris accused this woman of enchanting them and manipulating them to a ritual dance in the woods. An act in which Elizabeth and Abigail were caught doing, and an act that began the Salem Witch Trials.


Here Tituba is illustrated in what seems to be Native American, or perhaps Native South American, yet the caption mentions an Obi man, which is in relation to voodoo


Photo utilized under CC usage
Wikipedia Commons: 1902 John W. Ehninger


Buy: Tituba of Salem Village
This illustration found on a book cover depicts Tituba as a black African or African American woman.

Confessions of a loyal or threatened servant? - False accusations, false confession

Tituba, while confessing to the accusations, was never really tried nor executed, A slave, who confesses to witchcraft, yet does not suffer the penalties that were marked for such a crime? (Death). She very well may have made a compromise with the accusers, and made a false confession.

  • Her testimony led to the accusation of two other women. Sarah Good, and Sarah Parris.

  • She was coerced into confessing. Perhaps blackmailed. Many believed that Tituba was African American and practiced voodoo, but all these accounts are only fiction. The actual recorded statements made by the slave woman were not instances practiced in Santeria, Voodoo, nor Native North American witchcraft. In fact her recorded confessions were acts of European witchcraft and superstition, someone told her what to say.

  • If anybody is going to stamp the existence of witchcraft or black magic in a town with cabin fever, the Black / South American / Native American woman would be the perfect candidate to strike fear in the hearts of the gullible. Her confession was the beginning of a hysteric circus.

Giles Corey - Sentenced without a plea


Depiction of Giles Corey
Photo utilized under CC usage Wikipedia commons: 1893

Pictured to the left is Giles Corey of Peabody, MA. Giles & Martha Corey ran a successful farm. This man was an active member of the Salem town church. On March 11, 1692, a day of religious fasting, and prayer, the church elders asked the "witch afflicted" girls to reveal a witch.To everyone's surprise, they pointed out Martha (Goodwife) Corey. An outstanding citizen, and a new member of the church. Upon being questioned, denied witchcraft; she did not believe in witches. Displeased by the attitude she had when questioned, they immediately took her to trial. Her husband Giles mentioned that he had seen his wife with strange literature, therefor solidifying the suspicions.

However, after some thought, or perhaps guilt, Giles took back his testimony, and began to defend his wife's good name. Upon this reversal of opinion, the spiteful girls of the village also accused the elderly Giles of witchcraft.

The girls stated that Mr. Corey's apparition would appear to them by night, and try to get them to sign their name in the "Devil's Book". They said that if they refused, he would then beat them to the point of serious injury.


"Giles Corey" S. Reinhardt 1878
Illustration used under CC license

Giles did not plea guilty, nor did he plea innocent. He remained silent. Law stated that if a person has no plea, then he cannot be tried, but there was a punishment for his silence, which was the act of "peine forte et dure" he would have to lay on a flat slab, face up,with another board placed on top of him, A little at a time, boulders would be placed on top of the board. Before the next boulder was placed, they would ask him if he wanted to confess, or plea. If no plea was made, the torture would continue, and another boulder would be placed on the board.

More Weight - A refusal to surrender all.

Giles Corey Pressed
Giles Corey Pressed

"More Weight"!

Why did Giles refuse to plea innocence? Was he really a warlock? No. The reason behind Giles stone cold silence was because he knew that making a plea would get him nowhere. Pleading innocent, he knew that if he pled innocent, he would be found guilty. The reason he chose not to plea was because if he pled, and was found guilty, all of his estate would be surrendered to the state, instead of his heirs. He was not willing to give that to them, especially since he was considerably wealthy. When he was on the press, they asked him, "what do you have to say now?". He would reply, "More weight!". He was crushed to death, his wife was executed three days later.

Rebeccan Nurse - "We just changed our mind"

Used under Creative Commons Liscence
Used under Creative Commons Liscence

This illustration depicts prominent townswoman Rebbecca nurse, her accusation was also a shock to many, and a lot of key figures in the town petitioned her dismissal. Rebbecca was accused by a rivaling family (Ann Putnam), when they could not resolve land issues. Rebbecca's trial ended in an innocence, however, continued acts of affliction after her judgment caused the state to re-try her, and found her guilty, she was executed on July 30, 1692. Years later, Ann Putnam admitted and apologized to accusing innocent people.

More Illustrations - Select a picture for details

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Taking a witch, 1893. This picture illustrates the arresting of a witch. Notice how many men it took to arrest one old woman. This is an example of Rebbecca NurseMarched from jail for the last time. 1907 John C. Winston Book: A Tale of Old Salem."The Examination of a Witch" Thompkins H. Matteson. 1853 This photo is reminiscent of the prosecution of Sarah Good, Her husband had claimed he saw "the Devil's Mark" on her body. When Sarah Good was hung, she told the "...if you take away my life Go"Accused of Witchcraft"1884 : Douglas VolkTrial of George Jacobs, August 5, 1692 Thompkins H. Matteson. George Jacobs was accused of being a witch by his grand-daughter, after she was accused, she pointed a finger to him. George was a man with a quick temper, and may have not been favored by
Taking a witch, 1893. This picture illustrates the arresting of a witch. Notice how many men it took to arrest one old woman. This is an example of Rebbecca Nurse
Taking a witch, 1893. This picture illustrates the arresting of a witch. Notice how many men it took to arrest one old woman. This is an example of Rebbecca Nurse
Marched from jail for the last time. 1907 John C. Winston Book: A Tale of Old Salem.
Marched from jail for the last time. 1907 John C. Winston Book: A Tale of Old Salem.
"The Examination of a Witch" Thompkins H. Matteson. 1853 This photo is reminiscent of the prosecution of Sarah Good, Her husband had claimed he saw "the Devil's Mark" on her body. When Sarah Good was hung, she told the "...if you take away my life Go
"The Examination of a Witch" Thompkins H. Matteson. 1853 This photo is reminiscent of the prosecution of Sarah Good, Her husband had claimed he saw "the Devil's Mark" on her body. When Sarah Good was hung, she told the "...if you take away my life Go
"Accused of Witchcraft"1884 : Douglas Volk
"Accused of Witchcraft"1884 : Douglas Volk
Trial of George Jacobs, August 5, 1692 Thompkins H. Matteson. George Jacobs was accused of being a witch by his grand-daughter, after she was accused, she pointed a finger to him. George was a man with a quick temper, and may have not been favored by
Trial of George Jacobs, August 5, 1692 Thompkins H. Matteson. George Jacobs was accused of being a witch by his grand-daughter, after she was accused, she pointed a finger to him. George was a man with a quick temper, and may have not been favored by

Witch or not, these men and woman were good citizen's who unfortunately suffered a horrible fate, being accused, and accusing others of an absurd crime . The fear that the accused harbored caused them to blindly make accusations, in order to save themselves, and the fear of the villagers became a hysteria.

As we close this subject, keep in mind that when something different or new comes along, the automatic response is usually fear, this action fear can create a disastrous and tragic reaction. The refusal to try understand the unknown is the true criminal, justice truly was blind in this event of mass hysteria, justice was blind and ignorant. Ignorance is very capable of being the sole destruction of the masses.

Halloween Lesson: - Comment

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    • profile image

      anonymous 

      7 years ago

      It's a shame how they picked on Tituba partly because of her race.

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      7 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      I thought I was here before. Better late then ever. Thanks for adding my Zazzle to your very interesting lens. I would have hate to live in Salem in those days.You have my thumbs up!

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 

      7 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      Great details about a period of time that most of us have heard of but know little about. Lensrolled to my Halloween Travel Destination lens.

    • capriliz lm profile image

      capriliz lm 

      7 years ago

      So much can be said about this time in our history. Definitely a dark period.

    • SacredCynWear profile imageAUTHOR

      SacredCynWear 

      7 years ago

      @indigoj: Thank you! I know.. it's hard to imagine living in those times.. I would have not survived. lol

    • SacredCynWear profile imageAUTHOR

      SacredCynWear 

      7 years ago

      @kerbev: Isn't it wonderful!! Which museum did you go to? I went to the witch museum, the one with the basement ....very creepy

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 

      7 years ago from UK

      This is fascinating... but how horrible! I learned a lot here that I didn't know about the Salem Witch Trials, and I'm glad that I did not live in those times. It was too easy to kill someone based on superstition and gossip.

      Lensrolling to my witch face paint and will also lensroll to ghost lens.

    • kerbev profile image

      kab 

      7 years ago from Upstate, NY

      I've been to Salem and gone through a museum. It is quite a place - especially during October!

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 

      8 years ago from La Verne, CA

      Have you seen The Crucible? I would like to go to Salem and see the historical sites.

    • SacredCynWear profile imageAUTHOR

      SacredCynWear 

      8 years ago

      @aka-rms: Thank you for your blessing, this is a subject that has a lesson, even though it happened so many years ago, we can all still learn from the events of the prosecution of witches.

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 

      8 years ago from USA

      Awesome information about the scandalous Witch hunts. I left you some angel dust.

    • SacredCynWear profile imageAUTHOR

      SacredCynWear 

      8 years ago

      @Rachel Field: Oh I agree, the wrongful death of these men and women was horrible..

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 

      8 years ago

      A very well put together lens!

      Such a horrific time in our history.

    • WhiteOak50 profile image

      WhiteOak50 

      8 years ago

      Very good Cyn!!

    • profile image

      bdkz 

      8 years ago

      Congratulations! You've been SquidBoo Blasted. Happy Halloween!

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