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Residents would often attribute her visits to death of livestock. They believed the mumbled words she spoke under her breath were curses against them for not showing her charity. The negative reputations and low social standing shared by these three women clearly made them believable suspects for witchcraft. Now that three Salem Village residents stood accused of witchcraft, an investigation of the charges was in order.

What Caused the Salem Witch Trials?

Two magistrates from Salem Town, John Hathorne, the great-grandfather of famed writer Nathaniel Hawthorne Nathaniel added a "w" to his name to help disassociate himself from this great-grandfather and Jonathan Corwin, traveled to Salem Village to investigate the cases of witchcraft. During the questioning of the three accused, Betty, Abigail, and six other girls would often scream and tumble on the floor of the meetinghouse.

Even with the harsh questioning by the two magistrates and the unusual actions of the afflicted girls, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne maintained their innocence. Tituba, however, confessed for three days. She stated that the man clothed in black made her sign in a book, and that Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne and others, whose names she could not read, had also signed this book.

It is not exactly clear why she confessed to witchcraft. She might have thought that she was guilty since she practiced fortune telling, which was considered a form of "white magic," or perhaps thought that the judges would be lenient if she confessed. Whatever her reason, a confession was not likely obtained from her by torture. Although physical torture was employed in Europe to elicit confessions from accused witches, there are no confirmed cases of it being used in Colonial America for the same purposes as New England law did not sanction it.

Sarah Osborne would later become the first victim of the Salem witch trials when she died two months later of natural causes while still in jail. The accusations of witchcraft continued despite the jailing of three accused witches. Why the accusations continued is still debated to this day. A recent small pox outbreak, the revocation of the Massachusetts Bay Colony charter by Charles II and the constant fear of Indian attacks helped in creating anxiety among the early Puritans that God was punishing them.

Salem Witchcraft, Volumes I and II by Charles Wentworth Upham - Free Ebook

This fear of punishment established a fertile atmosphere in which a case of possible witchcraft, let alone three, could easily be interpreted by the Puritans as the cause of God's wrath. Due to this belief and fear, they would want to make sure that every last witch be discovered and punished in order to end His anger.


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However, some historians and scientists argue that the girls continued with their accusations because they suffered from hysteria. Hysteria is known to cause strange physical symptoms in a person of good health.

Whether it was fear of God's wrath or hysteria, the accusations did not relent. Even though Martha Corey attended church regularly, she was not very popular in the community. She was outspoken, opinionated and also mothered an illegitimate mulatto that still lived with her and her second husband, Giles. Despite her excellent church attendance, her character made her a prime candidate for the charge of witchcraft.

Rebecca Nurse was the next person to be accused of witchcraft. However, the year-old woman did not make for a likely witch. She was a kind and generous lady that was well liked by the community. Ann Putnam and the other girls testified that her specter would float into their rooms at night, pinching and torturing them. When Rebecca was notified of these charges, she responded, "What sin has God found in me unrepented of that He should lay such an affliction upon me in my old age?

James Allen over the boundary of their neighboring properties, and often did not respond when spoken to because of poor hearing. As the accusations of witchcraft continued to increase, some started to doubt the truthfulness of the afflicted girls. One such person was a year-old farmer and tavern owner from Salem Town by the name of John Proctor. When his maidservant, Mary Warren, began to display the same uncanny behavior as the afflicted girls, he threatened to beat her.

This threat temporarily cured her afflictions. He believed the afflicted girls would, "make devils of us all," and that their behavior could easily be corrected with harsh discipline. With such opinions, it was not long before he and his wife, Elizabeth--whose grandmother, Ann B. Lynn, was once suspected of witchcraft--were jailed in Boston under charges of witchcraft.

A shocking accusation came when Ann Putnam accused the former Salem Village minister, George Burroughs, as being the master of all witches in Massachusetts. He was also identified by the afflicted girls as the "Black Minister" and leader of the Salem Coven. Despite being a minister, he did not have a character of an angel. He left Salem Village after serving as its minister from due to a dispute over his salary.

He also was widowed three times, and rumored to have mistreated his wives. Furthermore, when his temper was tested, he sometimes would brag about having occult powers. Even though he was a minister, his actions at times did not reflect it. By the end of May , around people were jailed under the charges of witchcraft.

Almost all of them as a result of spectral evidence. Cotton Mather, son of famed minister and Harvard President, Increase Mather, spoke out against spectral evidence. He felt it was unreliable because the Devil could take the form of an innocent person to do his evil deeds.

The Witchcraft of Salem Village, First Edition - AbeBooks

His warning against the use of spectral evidence was followed by Royal Governor William Phips establishing a Court of Oyer and Terminer to investigate the allegations of witchcraft at Salem Village. The first to be tried under the newly formed court was Bridget Bishop on June 2, This was not the first time she faced the charge of witchcraft.

In she was tried for witchcraft, but was not convicted. Despite not receiving a conviction, she still was suspected of practicing the black arts. When work was being done on her cellar, "poppets" were found in the walls by the workers.

John Proctor (Salem witch trials)

It was testified that the poppets were stuck with pins, and some had missing heads. This discovery and testimony helped confirm the suspicions that she was indeed a practicing witch because it was believed that a witch could harm someone by sticking pins and other objects into a poppet that represented the victim. She was found guilty of witchcraft and hanged June 10, , on Gallows Hill. The one accused who escaped a guilty verdict was Rebecca Nurse. However, when the jurors announced a not guilty verdict in her case, the afflicted girls howled, thrashed about, and rolled around on the floor.

With the courtroom in an uproar, the judges asked the jury to reconsider its decision. When they did, a guilty verdict was returned. Rebecca Nurse, along with the other four convicted women, were hanged July 19, , on Gallows Hill. At the hangings, the Rev.

Nicholas Noyes asked Sarah Good to confess. Twenty-five years later, the Rev. Nicholas Noyes died of a hemorrhage, choking on his own blood. The hangings of six convicted witches did little in abating the spread of witchcraft in Massachusetts during the summer months of More people began displaying signs of affliction.

As a result, accusations and arrests for witchcraft continued to grow in number. Those from all walks of life, rich and poor, farmer and merchant, were now being accused. No one was exempt from being cried out as a witch. As the jails continued to swell with accused witches, the court reconvened to try the Rev. Spectral evidence again played a significant factor in the trials of these individuals.

I scorn it. Although Good never confessed, she did accuse Sarah Osborne of afflicting the girls after witnessing the accusers fall down in fits in the courtroom. Historians generally agree that this accusation by Good was one of the first and strongest legitimizations of the witchcraft trials. Only one person came forth to defend Good. When one of the girls accused Good of stabbing her with a knife and produced a broken knife tip to prove it, a man came forward showing that it was his knife from which the tip had been broken in the presence of the accusing girl.

Far from invalidating the girl's testimony against Good, Judge Stoughton simply asked the girl to continue with her accusations with a reminder to stick to the facts. Good was condemned to hang but was pardoned until the birth of her child. Her daughter Dorcas was accused of witchery and was imprisoned for over seven months. Although the child of six years was eventually released on bond, she was psychologically damaged for the rest of her life. Good's infant died in prison with her before Good was hanged. Her execution occurred on Tuesday July 19, According to local tradition, when Good stood at the gallows prepared to die she was asked once more by Rev.


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  • Nicholas Noyes, assistant minister in the Salem church, to confess and thus save her immortal soul. Far from confessing, Good is said to have screamed, "You're a liar! I'm no more a witch than you are a wizard! If you take my life away, God will give you blood to drink! The way in which Good has been portrayed in literature is worth mentioning because it sheds light upon how the Salem Witch Trials have been popularly imagined and how the accused witches were and are viewed today. Good is always depicted as an old hag with white hair and wrinkled skin.

    She is often said to be sixty or seventy years of age by the same writers who clearly state that she was pregnant and had a six-year-old daughter. Even accounts from Salem Villagers and magistrates at the time refer to her as an old nuisance, hag, and bed-ridden. How did such a misconception arise?

    Perhaps her hard life did have such a physical effect on Good that she did appear extremely aged.