The Salem Witch Trials: The Young and the Powerful Carissa Carrier



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The Salem Witch Trials: The Young and the Powerful

Carissa Carrier

Spring Semester 2015

HIST 395


Dr. Hyser

In the early months of 1692, the sinners of Salem Village filled the pews of the meeting house and prayed for God to protect them from the accusing hands of the most potent force in all of Salem: a group of young girls. The Salem Witch Trials began when Betty Parris and Abigail Williams fell ill with unexplainable symptoms, leading other girls, such as Ann Putnam Jr., to follow in pursuit. Despite being one of the most infamous cases of mass hysteria in history, historians have yet to explain what caused these girls to send New England into a witch-fearing frenzy. In order to understand the true nature of the Salem Witch Trials, examination of why Elizabeth Parris, Abigail Williams, and Ann Putnam Jr. accused people of witchcraft, their rise to power, and their downfall is required.1

Religion dictated every aspect of Puritan society. Established in 1630, the Massachusetts Bay Colony set out to build a ‘City upon a Hill,’ a quote from the Old Testament that best described their religious utopia.2 The Puritans believed that their purpose in life was to serve God to the best of their abilities Every Sunday and Wednesday, the Puritans attended prolonged church services that could last from dawn to dusk. When the Puritans were not occupying their time with church services, they were spending their days performing hard labor, and at night, they were studying the Bible and reevaluating their lives to better serve the Lord. Built in the image of God, men were believed to be both physically and mentally stronger than women, making men natural-born leaders to the women who so desperately needed their guidance. Women were expected to tend to the home, husband, and the children. If a woman was not married, she was frowned upon by society. A woman without a male heir in the household was seen as a threat and such freedom suggested that women were becoming a powerful source in society.3

In a society full of hard working Puritans, there was little time for fun and this was especially hard for the children of Puritan communities. Virtually ignored by the society, children did not receive affection from the adults in their lives. To the parents, children were seen only as an extra set of hands to help with household labor. When adults did pay attention to their children, it was because they believed that all children were in need of moral guidance, so often, the attention these children were receiving came in the form of punishment for the sins they had unknowingly committed. Forced to become adults at such a young age, many children were left without an outlet to express their imaginations, their frustrations, or their fears.

The origins of the Puritan’s belief in witchcraft existed well before the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. According to earlier versions of the Old Testament, the real world and the invisible world co-existed and humans had the ability to interact with both ends of the continuous struggle between God and Satan.4 Those who worshiped God in the real world were considered Christians, while those who practiced the dark magic of the invisible world were witches.5 In the 15th century, England declared witchcraft a punishable crime by law, which the Puritans brought with them to the New World.6 Many of the passages in the bible suggest that witchcraft is a punishable sin, especially Exodus 22:18, which states that, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” and the Puritans incorporated this into colonial law.7 According to K. David Goss, the witchcraft law was enacted in 1641 and stated, “If any person was a witch or consulted with a familiar spirit, they were to be put to death.8

The first witch trials to occur in New England was in 1647, just fifteen years after the Puritans arrived.9 During these earlier witch trials, the magistrate desired two forms of evidence: Direct confession and empirical proof.10 The courts did everything in their power to get a direct confession from the accused. A direct confession not only meant a shorter trial, but the accused were more likely to live after the trial ended. Although this was the easiest option, the accused were often reluctant to confess because they personally believed they were not guilty of witchcraft, which led to physical torture in order to carouse a confession. When a direct confession was not obtainable, the magistrate looked to empirical evidence, which can be translated into meaning the eye witness testimonies of respected community members.11 The magistrate was convinced that if the accused would not repent against the sins he committed, then they would prove his guilt through his neighbors, but neighbors often came forward to testify against the accused out of revenge. Around 1689, spectral evidence became popular in court trials. Spectral evidence was considered any dreams or hallucinations accepted by the court.12 Although this type of evidence was nearly impossible to prove, the Puritans believed that beings of the invisible world were capable of entering a person’s thoughts and dreams as spectrals and did so without leaving any physical marks upon the person’s body.13

When the Puritans founded Salem, they named their small land of hope after the Hebrew word meaning “peace,” but Salem was far from peaceful.14 In the early 1640’s, Salem Town became overcrowded with Puritan immigrants and the availability of farmland was scarce. As a result, farmers moved inland in search of farmland, thus creating Salem Village.15 In the late 1650’s, Salem Village demanded independence from their larger counterpart, Salem Town, but Salem Town continuously denied their requests for independence, causing tension between the two establishments. After years of tension, Salem Town granted Salem Village semi-independence in 1672 which allowed them to build a local meeting house to use as a church and hire a minister to guide them to salvation.16 Although this appeased the people of Salem Village for a short time, the external conflict with Salem Town continued for many years.

With the changes taking place in Salem Village, tensions within the community were high, especially with the new-found freedom of hiring a minister to run the local church. The largest internal dispute in Salem Village was purely economic. After their previous minister was, “hounded out of the pulpit,” the people of Salem Village were in desperate need of a minister who would work for a reasonable salary.17 This led the Village Committee to an unlikely candidate. A failed merchant and Harvard drop-out, Samuel Parris was a man who enjoyed positions of leadership, so when Salem Village offered him a minister position, Samuel Parris had to show the community who was in control and refused to take the job until his conditions were met. After a year of negotiating the terms of his contract, Samuel Parris was not only paid more than any previous minister, but he also obtained the deed to the Minister Home. Even then, Samuel Parris was not satisfied.18

Sometime after Samuel Parris started preaching, the people of Salem Village realized they could no longer afford to pay Samuel Parris his demanded profit, so budget cuts were made. As a result, Samuel Parris became irritated and he took out his anger on the church. In most of his sermons, Samuel Parris revealed his anger by referring to the church members as sinners and anyone caught dozing off was referred to as a ‘dead body.19 ’ In the fall of 1691, the church committee was fed up with Samuel Parris’s irrational behavior and refused to pay his salary in full, leaving the Parris household without lumber for the upcoming winter.20 While some people were satisfied with cutting back the ministers pay, others disagreed, thus dividing Salem Village. The anti-Parris group, led by the Porter family, believed that Salem Village was in desperate need of help from Salem Town in order to solve not only their issues with the minister, but also the economic issues the Village was facing. The second faction, the Pro-Parris group, led by the Putnam family, supported the ideal of an independent community that could thrive without help from outside sources, especially with Parris behind the pulpit. With the Putnam’s on his side, Samuel Parris remained the minister of Salem Village for the time, but their harsh treatment towards him continued. No longer able to take the maltreatment by the village, Samuel Parris was at his breaking point in early 1692. Full of rage, Samuel Parris turned to the church crowd and exclaimed that the Devil was alive in Salem Village, leading some scholars to believe that with this claim, the Salem Witch Trials truly began.21

According to some scholars, towards the end of 1691, Betty Parris and her cousin, Abigail Williams, began dabbling in the practice of fortune telling. In order to discover their potential husbands, the girls cracked an egg into a clear glass and flipped the glass upside down in order to read their fortunes displayed on the bottom. Whether Betty Parris saw a coffin in her fortune, or suffering from the guilt of disobeying the rules of Salem Village, Betty Parris began acting strangely around the house.22 On January 20, 1692, Samuel Parris reported that his nine-year-old daughter, Betty Parris and eleven-year-old niece, Abigail Williams, began displaying strange behaviors that were not familiar symptoms of any known sickness at that time.23 Instead of treating the witchcraft diagnosis as a crime, Samuel Parris wrote to the ministers of neighboring towns and encouraged them to come to Salem Village to help these poor, young girls. News of the girls’ bewitchment soon spread throughout the village, and the witchcraft hysteria outbreak of 1692 took over the Puritan Community.24

Betty Parris was only nine years old when the initial outbreak took place, making her the youngest of the accusers. In theory, Betty Parris was the cause of the Salem Witch Trials.25 Her first and only accusation resulted in the continuation of accusation throughout Salem Village. Although it seems that Betty Parris is to blame for her actions, it was her father, Samuel Parris, who influenced her symptoms.

According to his sermons, Samuel Parris cared deeply for his family, more specifically his wife, Elizabeth.26 His relationship with his children was the exact opposite, as Samuel Parris refused to deal with disobedience and such an act would result in physical punishment.27 For Betty Parris, life in Salem Village had its challenges. Like most children her age, Betty Parris primarily spent her time completing her assigned chores around the house. When she wasn’t working, Samuel Parris made sure his young daughter did not become distracted by the devil and gave her large quantities of bible readings, which left Betty Parris with little time for play.

Starting in the early days of January, Betty Parris was forgetting to do the errands she was assigned, she seemed preoccupied, and unable to concentrate on the tasks that needed to be done.28 Such signs would indicate that the child was not following the rules, which would result in punishment, so Samuel Parris began to guide his daughter back on the righteous path. Instead of intended improvement, Betty Parris’ symptoms only worsened. According to the account given by John Hale, Betty Parris would bark like a dog when spoken to, scream when the Lord’s Prayer was read aloud to her, and threw the holy bible across the room.29 Episodes such as this continued for a week or so, and after each one, Betty Parris would cry without prevail and complain of being ‘damned,’ which closely resembled a theme of many Puritan sermons, especially those of Samuel Parris.30

Complaining of being pinched, pricked, and grievously suffered in the beginning, Abigail Williams’ symptoms closely mimicked those of her cousin. From a Puritan stand-point, it is easy to see why Dr. William Griggs suspected witchcraft to be the primary cause for Betty Parris and Abigail Williams’ afflictions. Since mental disorders were not part of the medical knowledge of 1692, the girls’ convulsions, tantrums, and unruly behavior when religious items were present, were all typical signs of bewitchment.31

Since witchcraft was a legal issue, Samuel Parris should have gone to the local authorities in order to find the culprit of the crime. If Parris would have treated the diagnosis as a criminal case, some scholars believe that the witch trials would have never spun out of control, but there is not a direct way of proving such a claim. Nonetheless, Samuel Parris called upon ministers from neighboring towns to solve the witchcraft problem. By doing this, Samuel Parris may have been seeking fame for himself. By calling on ministers from local areas, he had to be aware that they would return home and talk about what they had experienced in Salem with their church communities, much like Cotton Mather did with the Goodwin children three years earlier.

On the other hand, some of the local ministers, like Deodat Lawson, were not convinced the girls were afflicted until a gathering at the Parris house showed him otherwise. As several ministers gathered at the home of Samuel Parris, Abigail Williams had a tremendous fit as the crowd of holy men watched in horror. She flapped her arms like a bird, cried out obscene gestures, and claimed to see a spectral of a witch tempting her with the Devil’s book.32 Deodat Lawson claimed:

“After that, she run to the Fire, and begun to throw Fire Brands, about the house; and run against the Back, as if she would run up Chimney, and, as they said, she had attempted to go into the Fire in other Fits.33

Having witnessed these convulsions, many of the ministers were convinced her symptoms were real and felt only sympathy for the young girls, which was unusual for 1692. John Hale claimed to feel, ‘only compassion,’ towards the afflicted girls and in return, many of the ministers demanded to know who was causing the girls tremendous pain.34

By late-February, Frustrated with the girls’ ongoing behavior, Samuel Parris begged for them to name who among the village had afflicted them, but to no avail. Tituba, Samuel Parris’s slave, made a ‘witch-cake,’ which contained the girls’ urine and was fed to a dog in order to discover the true identity of the witch.35 When Parris found out about this, he physically punished Tituba for practicing dark magic in his household. Unable to hold in his anger any longer, Parris interrogated Betty Parris and Abigail Williams. The girls remained silent until Parris started naming possible suspects.36 Betty Parris named Tituba as the Devil’s advocate, but Tituba was not the only one accused. She went on to accuse two more outcasts of the town, Sarah Osbourne and Sarah Goode. Abigail Williams probably did not know these two women personally, but because these women were social outcasts, they were well-known throughout the community. With support and sympathy of the local ministers, Betty Parris and Abigail Williams had control over the community.

Like her cousin, Abigail Williams’ symptoms and accusations were influenced by Samuel Parris. Most likely orphaned at an early age, Abigail Williams was forced to live with Samuel Parris sometime during his time in Boston. After traveling with the Parris family to Salem Village, little is known about what Abigail Williams experienced upon arrival, but it is known that she served as more of a servant to the Parris family, rather than a family member, and Samuel Parris made this known to the community.37 With that being said, Abigail would have been considered of lower class status within the community, which left her with little options for the future. Since Salem Village’s overall population was one male for every four females, the only girls to marry at the proper age was those from influential, rich families, while those of lower class, like Abigail Williams, were likely to remain single longer if they chose to remain in Salem Village.38 With little means for moving outside the village, it is likely that Abigail Williams, ignoring the outcome of the trials, would have little chance of prosper in the grips of Salem Village. When she began mimicking her cousin’s odd behavior in January 1692, Abigail Williams did so out of jealousy, and when the community believed her when she made accusations, she continued the odd behavior in order to maintain power that she would, otherwise, never receive. For her actions, Samuel Parris, who was not keen on affection, showed her the concern she had wanted. When Abigail Williams first started having unusual symptoms, she probably did not think it would gain the traction it did, but she was definitely seeking some sort of satisfaction, which was either the affection of her uncle, or to create a place for herself in society that would entitle her to a better future.

Perhaps the most active participant in the witchcraft accusations was Ann Putnam Jr. Out of the nineteen people Ann Putnam Jr. personally accused, she saw eleven of them hang. From the time of her birth, Ann Putnam Jr. had been put on a high pedestal by her parents.39 Because her parents were supporters of the Reverend Samuel Parris, Ann Putnam Jr. was close friends with Betty Parris and Abigail Williams, which explains some of why she was the third person, after Betty Parris and Abigail Williams, to become ‘afflicted.40’ On March 11, 1692, Ann Putnam Jr, or so her father claims, complained of extreme pains on her body, as if she were pricked by a needle.41 As her pains worsened, Ann Putnam Jr’s body convulsed uncontrollably and her family watched helplessly as their daughter’s fit continued. The next day, on March 12, 1692, unlike Samuel Parris initial reaction, Thomas Putnam made his claim with the court, stating Martha Corey to be the culprit for her affliction.42

The Putnam family was one of the two most powerful families in Salem, the other being their rivals, the Porters.43 In Salem Village, the Putnam family included themselves in many of the positions of the church, such as deacons or church elders. The Putnam family was also known for their contributions to the courts, not only at the local level, but at the higher court system in Boston. In short, the Putnam’s knew what they wanted and through the channels they had established, they knew how receive it.44 Shortly before 1692, when the community was beginning to turn their backs of Samuel Parris, the Putnam’s came to Samuel Parris’ rescue. When the village committee decided to vote on whether to keep Parris or not, the Putnam’s voted in favor of Parris, obtaining the majority vote by 24 percent.45 By the time the trials began in 1692, Samuel Parris and Thomas Putnam became close allies. Evident from the court records, Samuel Parris and Thomas Putnam’s names appear together on a majority of the official complaints, and Samuel Parris never filed a single complaint on his own.46 It is possible that Parris knew, that without the signature of one of the most powerful families in Salem Village, Samuel Parris did not stand a chance of influencing the community that the Devil was truly among them. While Abigail Williams and Ann Putnam Jr. seemed to act alone in their accusations and accuse people at random, it is possible that their parents, Samuel Parris, Thomas Putnam and Ann Putnam could have been using the girls as a way of gaining political traction and rise to the top leadership roles of the community.

What allowed the girls testimonies to gain such traction in the trials was the reaction from the community.47 Even after William Phips arrival and his establishment of an official court, no guidelines were put into place to keep the public out of the trials. In fact, the community was involved in almost every aspect of the trials. People watched as Abigail Williams and Ann Putnam Jr. made their accusations in a public crowed, they were allowed to sit in on the trials and were encouraged to step forward as eyewitness testimonies at any point in the trial. When the accused received death sentences, the hangings became public events that attracted an audience outside of Salem Village.48 The community encouraged the girls’ accusations because the trials were a source of entertainment. If a boundary between public accessibility and the trials had been put in place, the trials would have ended with the verdicts of the first three people accused.49

Under normal circumstances, if a child, let alone a woman, cried out an accusation of witchcraft, that child would have been punished and the person would have never been tried.50 On the other hand, 1692 did not qualify under normal circumstances for Salem Village. Not only were tensions high, but anxiety filled the streets, people were angry with one another, and without any type of official court to solve the dispute, the trials drug on longer than expected. The people of Salem Village were tired of the drama that dominated their lives, and by killing off members of the community, the village believed their problems would disappear. As quickly as the girls’ accusations took traction, their credibility began to deplete just as fast.51

There are two possible reasons the people of Salem Village began to question their credibility. First, the case of Mary Warren caused some concern and alerted the community to the fraud taking place. Secondly, the testimonies and accusations by Abigail Williams and Ann Putnam Jr. fell apart towards the end of the trials due to the targeting of prominent members of the community.

In the spring of 1692, just after the first round of executions, several community members found a note nailed upon the church door that apologized for the lies that had been told and was left unsigned. The following day, the Sabbath, Samuel Parris and several other members of the church called Mary Warren into question.52 Finally, no longer able to withstand the pressure, Mary Warren confessed that she was the one to write the letter, to which the members of the church interpreted as the accusers had been lying.53 Not a single record or primary document reveal that Mary Warren ever stated that she and the others had been lying, but it does not mean that Mary Warren was not a fraud.54

News traveled fast in Salem Village, and by May, an official complaint against Mary Warren was filed with the Court of Oyer and Terminer, establishing a trial for the newest witch of Salem Village. It is assumed that Abigail Williams was the first one to suffer fits that she claimed were brought on by Mary Warren.55 The court records do not reveal who filed the initial complaint against Mary Warren with the magistrate, but if the pattern suits, Samuel Parris, with the help of Thomas Putnam, was most likely the culprit. Mary Warren was not accused because she was a witch, but for the fact that Mary Warren was ruining the power the accusers had over the community, and with so much on the line, and Samuel Parris and Thomas Putnam were not going to let that happen.

The accusers played this up to an extreme level as soon as Mary Warren’s trial began in early May. As the magistrate attacked her with questions, Mary Warren could think of nothing more than to proclaim her innocence, which sent the group of accusers gathered together in the church pews, to thrash their bodies into fits. Not knowing what else to do, Mary Warren fell into a series of fits that rendered her speechless and lead the court to postponing the trials until Mary Warren was able to continue. This continued several times throughout her trial, until finally, Mary Warren realized that her fits would not save her during her own trial.

While in jail, awaiting the magistrates’ verdict, Mary Warren confessed to practicing witchcraft and apologized for partaking in the acts of the devil, in which ultimately set her free from prison and gave her the ability to live. But Mary Warren did not appreciate her second chance of life, because not long after her release, Mary Warren joined the group of accusers yet again. This caused many people to suspect fraud, because as soon as Mary Warren joined her group of accusers, their next target became none other than John Proctor.

Initially, Abigail Williams, and Ann Putnam Jr. went after the people who possibly wronged them, but as time went on, this mold of who was to be accused changed. The girls’ credibility began to fall apart when they started targeting prominent members of New England, some of which did not live within the borders of Essex County during the time of the trials. One such person was infamous Captain John Alden. Alden was known throughout New England for his military command near Quebec, and during the time of the trials, he had stopped in Salem Village on his way back home, which likely caused gossip to sweep through the town.56 Soon, one of the girls, most likely Mary Warren, although no name is mentioned, claimed that the apparatus of John Alden visited her in the night, begging her to sign the devils book.57 As a crowd gathered around her, someone asked the accuser if the man who had afflicted her was in the crowd today, to which she replied yes, and she was then asked to point him out.58 She could not do it. Mary Warren had no clue what Captain John Alden looked like, yet she had told local officials that he was the one who came to her. Eventually, with the help of an adult, who more than likely had strong feelings against Alden, helped the young accuser by pointing in Alden’s direction.59 Subsequently, Alden was then arrested and taken to jail to await his trial.

The case of John Alden proves that no one in Salem Village, as well as the entirety of New England, was safe from the wrath of a woman or young girl. Not only did the accusing group not know some of who they accused, they also went after respected members of highly elite families, which was what truly shocked the town. This was the point where the Puritan society realized that the girls had gone too far and the witch accusations began to die down.

In a society where children, and more specifically women, were often ignored, it is odd that when the witchcraft hysteria began in 1692, young girls became the most powerful beings in Salem Village. Betty Parris, Abigail Williams, and Ann Putnam Jr. controlled the way Puritan society worked and established a rebellious pathway for women that had never been experienced before. For the first time, Betty Parris, Abigail Williams, and Ann Putnam Jr. had the support and understanding not only from the parental figures in their lives, but the community as a whole. While these factors allowed the girls to gain power within the community, they also contributed to the girls’ downfall. In the end, the young and the powerful of Salem Village were the cause of one of the most famous cases of mass hysteria in witchcraft history.

Annotated Bibliography

Primary Sources


Calef, Robert. More Wonders of the Invisible World: Or The Wonders of the Invisible World Displayed. London: John D. and T.C. Cushing, 1823. Extraordinary look at the trials from a source that was not a minister involved in the trials. Details about the girls' symptoms, the events that took place in court, and the girls' inability to identify John Alden.

Hale, John. A Modest Enquiry Into the Nature of Witchcraft: And how Persons Guilty of that Crime May be Convicted : and the Means Used for Their Discovery Discussed, Both Negatively and Affirmatively, According to Scripture and Experience. Boston: Kneeland and Adams, 1771. An active participant in the Salem Witch Trials, John Hale was the first non-community member to write about his experience with the trials. Some of his discriptions mimic a book written by Cotton Mather in 1689 on the Goodwin Children.

Lawson, Deodat. A Brief and True Narrative of some Remarkable Passages Relating to Sundry Persons Afflicted by Witchcraft, at Salem Village: Which Happened from the Nineteenth of March, to the Fifth of April, 1692. Boston: Benjamin Harris, 1692. Former minister of Salem Village, Lawson provides details of what he witnessed in Salem Village. Expresses his doubts in the girls' credibility, yet he is sympathetic towards them throughout a majority of the narration.

Mather, Cotton. The Wonders of the Invisible World: Being an Account of the Tryals of Several Witches Lately Executed in New-England. London: John Russell Smith, 1862. Famous for his work with fighting witchcraft before Salem Village, the Salem Witch Trials landed a place in history for Cotton Mather. His records of the trials are biased and switches between Latin and English.


Secondary Sources


Boyer, Paul and Stephen Nissenbaum. Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974. Presents an organized, day-by-day explanation of the Salem Witch Trials from a social perspective. Boyer and Nissenbaum suggest that economic tensions between the Porters and the Putnams were the true reason for the Salem Witch Trials

Burns, Margo and Bernard Rosenthal. "Examination of the Records of the Salem Witch Trials." The William and Mary Quarterly , 2008: 401-422. An updated analysis of the Salem Witch Trial court records that were first examined by Boyer and Nissenbaum. The authors do not believe that the accusations of prominent community members do not count as witch trial cases.

Demos, John Putnam. Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England. London: Oxford University Press, 1982. Examines individual accusers and accused witches, rather than putting individuals into groups. Finds similarities between the various witchtrials occuring in New England from 1647 to 1693.

Detweiler, Robert. "Shifting Perspectives on the Salem Witches." The History Teacher 8, No. 4, August, 1975: 456-491. A simplified explanation of various perspectives of what caused the Salem Witch Trials and the various scholars that suggested them. Detweiler tends to lean towards the theory of Samuel Parris leading the hysteria.

Foster, Stephen. The Long Argument: English Puritanism and the Shaping of New England Culture, 1570-1700. Chapel Hill: Univerity of North Carolina, 1991. Explains Puritan religion, culture, and society from the time they broke away from the English church to the Salem Witch Trials. Helpful for understanding how women and children were treated in the Puritan community.

Godbeer, Richard. The Devil’s Dominion: Magic and Religion in Early New England. New York: Cambridge University Press , 1992. Discusses the supposed magic accused witches were suspected of practicing. In-depth details about certain teminoloy like 'witch cake' and popit.

Goss, K. David. Daily Life During the Salem Witch Trials. Wesport: Greenwood Press, 2012. Provides a chronological outline of the trials and attempts to explain why Puritans reacted to the trials so quickly.

—. The Salem Witch Trials: A Reference Guide. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2008. Fantastic overview of Salem Village before, during, and after the trials. An excellent source of primary and secondary sources to aid research. Includes various historian's interpretation of the Salem Witch Trials.

Karlsen, Carol F. The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1998. Well-researched, feminist explanation of the Salem Witch Trials. Karlsen suggests that the trials were a result of men's oppression of women.

Mixon, Franklin G. Jr.,. "Homo Economicus" and the Salem Witch Trials." The Journal of Economic Education, 2002: 183. Educational article about the connections between Samuel Parris, the Putnam Family, and the economics of Salem Village versus Salem Town. Great explanation of events and excelent sources.

Norton, Mary Beth. In the Devil’s Snare: the Salem witchcraft crisis of 1692. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002. The most recent publication of an explanation for what caused the Salem Witch Trials. Uses many of Carol F. Karlsen's ideals, but states that anxiety over King Philip II's War caused the Salem Witch Trials.

Pavlac, Brian Alexander. Witch Hunts in the Western World: Persecution and Punishment from the Inquisition through the Salem Witch Trials. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2009. Extraordinary insight to witchhunts, views on witchcraft, and trials throughout history, especially in England. When studying beliefs in witchcraft, this is an reference guide into further research.

Ray, Benjamin C. "The Geography of Witchcraft Accusations in 1692 Salem Village." The William and Mary Quarterly, July, 2008. Great article that points out that witch accusations went beyond the boundaries of Salem Village. Ray states that most accused witches did not live within the same plot of land, or even town, as their accusers.

Reis, Elizabeth. Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England. New York: Cornell University Press, 1997. Creative and well-written, this book not only takes the accused witches into consideration, but also looks into the accusers. Does not offer an explanation for the Salem Witch Trials, but has great information about Mary Warren's role.

Starkey, Marion L. The Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Enquiry Into the Salem Witch Trials. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1949. Although outdated, great source that explains the Salem Witch Trials from a psychological point of view. Provides definitions for certain cultural aspects of the trials.

Ulrich, L.T. Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985. Similar to Carol F. Karlsen's book, but provides a through look into women's roles in Puritan society before the Salem Witch Trials began in 1692. Ulrich explains the laws oppressing women, mens' views of Puritan women, and how the community viewed women as a whole.



1 For information concerning Puritans in New England, see Stephen Foster, The Long Argument: English Puritanism and the Shaping of New England Culture, 1570-1700 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1991). For descriptions on how women were viewed in the Puritan community of Salem Village, see L.T. Ulrich, Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985). See Brian Alexander Pavlac, Witch Hunts in the Western World: Persecution and Punishment from the Inquisition through the Salem Witch Trials (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2009), for a history on the trials. For perspectives on what may have caused the Salem Witch Trials, see Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974), and Robert Detweiler, “Shifting Perspectives on the Salem Witches,” The History Teacher 8, No. 4 (August, 1975). For information on the lives of the accusers and the accused, see Elizabeth Reis, Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England (New York: Cornell University Press, 1997), Carol F. Karlsen, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1998), and David K. Goss, Daily Life During the Salem Witch Trials (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2012). For descriptions on how geography effected the witch trials in Salem Village, see Benjamin C. Ray, “The Geography of Witchcraft Accusations in 1692 Salem Village,” The William and Mary Quarterly 65, No. 3 (July, 2008). See Cotton Mather, The Wonders of the Invisible World: Being an Account of the Tryals of Several Witches Lately Executed in New-England (London: John Russell Smith, 1862), and Robert Calef, More Wonders of the Invisible World: Or The Wonders of the Invisible World Displayed (London: John D. and T.C. Cushing, 1823) for useful primary sources.


2 K. David Goss, The Salem Witch Trials: A Reference Guide. (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2008).

3 Carol F. Karlsen, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1998).

4 Goss, The Salem Witch Trials, 2.

5 Goss, The Salem Witch Trials, 2.

6 Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed.

7 Goss, 1-3.

8 Goss, 1-3.

9 Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum.

10 Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, 58.

11 Margo Burns and Bernard Rosenthal, “Examination of the Records of the Salem Witch Trials,” The William and Mary Quarterly 65, No. 3 (July, 2008), Pp. 401-422.

12 Franklin G. Mixon Jr., “"Homo Economicus" and the Salem Witch Trials,” The Journal of Economic Education 31, No. 2 (Spring, 2002): 183.

13 Margo Burns and Bernard Rosenthal, “Examination of the Records of the Salem Witch Trials,” 415.

14 Goss, The Salem Witch Trials.

15 Goss, 2.

16 Goss, 6.

17 Goss, The Salem Witch Trials; From 1672 until 1688, Salem Village hired three ministers. Each minister quit after a short time as the village minister due to a decrease in pay, conflicts with the community, or they were forced out by the community.

18 Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed.

19 Goss, The Salem Witch Trials.

20 Goss, 8.

21 Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed.

22 Mary Beth Norton, In the Devil’s Snare: the Salem witchcraft crisis of 1692 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002).

23 Norton.

24 Richard Godbeer, The Devil’s Dominion: Magic and Religion in Early New England (New York, Cambridge University Press, 1992).

25 Goss, The Salem Witch Trials.

26 Goss, 2.

27 Goss, 3.

28Goss, 3.

29 John Hale, A Modest Enquiry Into the Nature of Witchcraft: And how Persons Guilty of that Crime May be Convicted : and the Means Used for Their Discovery Discussed, Both Negatively and Affirmatively, According to Scripture and Experience (Boston: Kneeland and Adams, 1771).

30 Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed, 37.

31 Boyer and Nissenbaum.

32 Deodat Lawson, A Brief and True Narrative of some Remarkable Passages Relating to Sundry Persons Afflicted by Witchcraft, at Salem Village: Which Happened from the Nineteenth of March, to the Fifth of April, 1692 (Boston: Benjamin Harris, 1692).

33 Deodat Lawson, The Brief and True Narrative.

34 Hale, The Modern Enquiry, 23.

35 Norton, In the Devil’s Snare, 36.

36 Goss, The Salem Witch Trials, 15.

37 Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed.

38 Boyer and Nissenbaum.

39 Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed, 56.

40 John Putnam Demos, Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England (London: Oxford University Press, 1982).

41 Goss, The Salem Witch Trials, 22.

42 Goss, 22.

43 Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed.

44 Boyer and Nissenbaum.

45 Norton, In the Devil’s Snare.

46 Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, eds. The Salem Witchcraft Papers: Verbatim Transcripts of the Legal Documents of the Salem Witchcraft Outbreak of 1692 (New York: DaCapo Press, 1977).

47 Marion L. Starkey, The Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Enquiry Into the Salem Witch Trials (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1949).

48 Goss, The Salem Witch Trials.

49 Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed.

50 Starkey, The Devil in Massachusetts.

51 Elizabeth Reis, Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999).

52 Norton, In the Devil’s Snare.

53 Norton.

54 Reis, Damned Women.

55 Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed.

56 Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed.

57 Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, The Salem Witch Trial Papers.

58 Hale, A Modest Enquiry, 24.

59 Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed.




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