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Salem Witchcraft Trials

Spectral evidence coming through the window

Spectral evidence coming through the window

Our trial materials copied from the Justice and Dissent book.

The transcripts that we read in class.

I got the transcripts from Douglas Linder’s The Witchcraft Trials in Salem: A Commentary. There, you can learn more about your roles and read the transcripts of the pre-trial examinations. For example, Sarah Good was one of the accused witches. Linder’s site has a short biographical sketch of her as well as her examination: the questions the judges asked and her answers.

The process of accusing and trying a witch in 1692.


The witch hunters' manual

The witch hunters’ manual

Wikipedia’s Cultural depictions of the Salem witch trials

video: The Real History Behind the Salem Witch Trials

video: History Channel’s Witch Hunt

video: In Search of History’s Salem Witch Trials

textbook for witch hunts: Malleus Maleficarumimages

Wikipedia’s Spectral evidence

a form of evidence based upon dreams and visions. It was admitted in court during the Salem witch trials by the appointed chief justice, William Stoughton. The booklet A Tryal of Witches taken from a contemporary report of the proceedings of the Bury St. Edmunds witch trial of 1662 became a model for, and was referenced in the Trials when the magistrates were looking for proof that such evidence could be used in a court of law.

Close examination to corroborate spectral evidence

Close examination to corroborate spectral evidence

Spectral evidence was testimony that the accused witch’s spirit (i.e. spectre) appeared to the witness in a dream or vision (for example, a black cat or wolf). The dream or vision was admitted as evidence. Thus, witnesses (who were often the accusers) would testify that “Goody Proctor bit, pinched, and almost choked me,” and it would be taken as evidence that the accused were responsible for the biting, pinching and choking even though they were elsewhere at the time.

Thomas Brattle, a merchant of Salem, made note that “when the afflicted do mean and intend only the appearance and shape of such an one, say G. Proctor, yet they positively swear that G. Proctor did afflict them; and they were allowed to do so; as though there was no real difference between G. Proctor and the shape of G. Proctor.”

Rev. Cotton Mather argued that it was appropriate to admit spectral evidence into legal proceedings, but cautioned that convictions should not be based on spectral evidence alone as it was possible for the Devil to take the shape of an innocent person.

more on what people today believe is true

Poll: One-third believe in ghosts, UFOs

34% of people … say they believe in ghosts, according to a pre-Halloween poll by The Associated Press and Ipsos. That’s the same proportion who believe in unidentified flying objects — exceeding the 19% who accept the existence of spells or witchcraft.

Half Of Americans Say God Plays A Role In Super Bowl Winner

Many Americans Mix Multiple Faiths

The religious beliefs and practices of Americans do not fit neatly into conventional categories. A new poll by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that large numbers of Americans engage in multiple religious practices, mixing elements of diverse traditions. … Many also blend Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs such as reincarnation, astrology and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects. And sizeable minorities of all major U.S. religious groups say they have experienced supernatural phenomena, such as being in touch with the dead or with ghosts.

The witch Tituba and the children of Salem.

The witch Tituba and the children of Salem.