The Salem Witch Trials began and ended in Massachusetts in the early 1690s. Accused of practicing witchcraft, 200 people were prosecuted and put in prison during this time; 20 of whom were eventually hanged.
These practices originated in New England. Researchers believe these New World settlers got the idea from the late Middle Ages, a period in which thousands of people throughout Europe were executed for "practicing witchcraft."
The practice began in Salem when two girls named Betty Parris, age nine and her cousin Abigail Williams, age 11, began to do strange things like twitch, scream, and make animal noises. They also claimed that they were being stuck by pins. When they started to do these things in Church, the people of Salem thought the Devil was at work. The girls blamed their actions on witchcraft and claimed that three Salem women had cast evil spells on them. After others in town began to experience similar "symptoms," the public grew concerned. Soon after, the trials began.
Council in Salem used six main tests used to determine whether an individual was a witch. The first was a touch test: the supposed witch would touch the inflicted person, or the person showing symptoms, and if they were calmed, the person was determined to be a witch. The second test was dunking: people accused of witchcraft were held underwater until they confessed. Another of the tests involved reciting "the Lord's prayer." If a suspect said this prayer with error, she would be proclaimed a witch.
After more and more people were condemned and the public began to worry that innocent people were being sentenced to death, the trials were put to an end in 1693. The governor of Massachusetts pardoned the accused witches, who were consequently released. And in the early 1700s, the trials were declared illegal.
In 1957, almost 300 years after the trials were stopped, the state of Massachusetts apologized for the incidents. My ancestors were a part of the trials. They were some of the people lucky enough to live. They were put in prison to be executed, and saved by it’s ending in 1693.