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The Salem Witch Trials: Origin and Effects


The Salem Witch Trials were propagated by the intersection in believes about supernatural evil beings and the authoritarian governance structures in the late 17th century. According to Goss, in 1692 at the homestead of S. Parris, two children developed unique and novel symptoms, displaying torment by unexplainable phenomena. Physicians and preachers were unable to provide explanations and reprieve for the afflictions, culminating in the determination that witch craft was the primary cause. The persecution was based on falsely engineered guilty verdicts on accusations of witchcraft. Ultimately, over 150 persons across various demographics were affected by the trials which culminated in hanging and stoning of 20 in a span of 15 weeks.

Origin of the Witch-hunt

At the time, most of the unexplained mysteries and outcomes were associated with the devil, and a fanatical faction strongly hinged on providing answers has auspiciously formed. At the time, the recent influx of immigrants generated a cross cultural turf fight, with fundamentalists seeking every opportunity to establish a trajectory to ensure dominance. Suspected perpetrators who wilfully confessed were set free, which nullified the sensibility and purpose of the witch trial if confession resulted to freedom. Most of the deliberations were affirmed through testimonial dreams and visions falsely concocted to create a spectrum of evidence.

Outcome of the Witch trials

Adams indicated that the specter of the events during the trials has blotted American industry, probably more than any other event. Eventually, intervention by Governor Hicks, who sought a more transparent approach to handling of the crisis. According to Woolf, scientific advancements in the 20th century aligned a blend of egotism and ergotism as the primary causes of the outcomes of the trials. However, misdiagnosis of the fungal infection 300 years earlier led a society to believe the cause was witchcraft. Climatic changes during the era resulted to development of mycelia on grain-based crops. However, Woolf outlines that there are claims that there exists no evidence of climatic conditions to warrant development of the toxicology based theories. Similarly, the limited geographical expanse over which the cases were reported nullified ergotism as a cause, due to existence of trade.


The vanity associated with the travesty of justice were part of the psychological, socio-cultural and political factors which culminated to the death of 20 Puritans. Although there are conflicting views on what caused the afflictions, the retributive measures implemented by society were excessive by all measures. Timely intervention presented an opportunity for sanity and clear-headedness in society, in addition to saving a society from anarchy and egoistic tendencies.

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