We have all had to acknowledge the Salem Witch Trials, at one point or another, in this place called USA. To put it simply, the Salem Witch Trials were essentially the American equivalent to the Dark Ages, although the United States was not yet a proper sovereign nation, at the time. The Salem Witch Trials, were over a year worth of people being accused of practicing witchcraft. Take a look below for our list of 10 terrifying truths about the Salem Witch Trials.
1. If The Accused Pleaded Guilty Of Practicing Witchcraft, They Lived, But If They Denied It, They Were Killed
One of the morbidly interesting aspects of the Salem Witch Trials is that if someone suspected of practicing witchcraft denied it, they were executed, whereas if they confessed that they were witches, they lived. In present day, that would never happen, given the law of the land is that you are innocent until proven guilty. But given the fact that people were trying to stomp out witches and witchcraft, shouldn’t those who confessed be the ones killed, and those who denied, live on, if we had to pick a scenario in which a certain group has to die?
2. Animals Were Accused Of Being Witches
If you’re thinking “Well, that’s just plain ridiculous!” I agree, but read on, and it kind of makes sense. For the most part, yes, humans were the majority of the accused, but it was thought that witches had accomplices which could take form as humans or animals. So, felines, canines, and vermines, as well as any other animal, were put on trial This played a large role in black cats being considered bad luck. An instance in which animals were suspected to be witches, a woman said she was being stalked by a red cat and a black cat, which threatened to harm her, if she didn’t harm children. And two dogs were accused of being witches, for unknown reasons. One of them was found innocent. But that was after it was shot.
3. Witch Cakes Were Ways Of Determining Whether You Were Guilty Or Not
If we’re being honest, if something has the key word “witch” in it, odds are it’s really unnerving. Proceed reading at your own risk. These cakes were made with flour and pee from the person being accused of witchcraft or one of the very symptoms that convinced people to start the witch hunt in the first place. The cake was then fed to a dog, and if the dog started showing the same symptoms as the accused, that person was a sorcerer or a sorceress. In this case, the dog would then “point” to which of the accused had gave him the symptoms. For one thing, this is a messed up justice system, to begin with. Not to mention that this sounds like witchcraft in and of itself.
4. People Would Look For The Devil’s Mark On Witches
If you were accused of practicing witchcraft, you had to strip and get searched for the Devil’s Mark, and if you had it you died. The Devil’s Mark could be anything that was a lmark on the skin from birthmarks, blemishes, actual scars, or a tattoo. Why? Witches supposedly got a mark when they made their pact with Satan. The mark was assumed to be numb, so it would not hurt if touched, and it was thought that it could change shape and color. Some people were so determined to not be inspected that they started burning or hacking blemishes off. But in the end, it backfired, as said burning or hacking created more scars for people to say were the Devil’s Mark.
5. You Could Get Accused For Anything
Anyone could accuse anyone of anything, and given the smallpox and the lousy medical knowledge, paranoia had witches living rent-free in the villagers’ heads and accusations were like termites in Salem. Everywhere. Some of of the accused were accused of being witches for being sarcastic, slamming the church door, lifting heavy things, making witch cakes (despite being instructed to do so,) laughing at how stupid the Salem Witch Trials were, and all of these were taken as serious signs that someone is a witch, and you had to die! As a Christian with a bit more intelligence than the imbeciles who ran the Salem Witch Trials, I see those reasons as nonsense. Unfortunately, four hundred years ago, that in and of itself would start a witch hunt for me.
6. Torturing Was A Primary Way To Get A Witch To Confess
This aspect of the Salem Witch Trials was not too different from the Dark Ages. Someone got sandbags piled on them in order to try to get them to confess. It didn’t work, but that was just one form of torture to get a “witch” to confess to their practices of sorcery. Other creative torturing methods used by, and on the people of Salem were also Massachusetts used were the Heretic’s Fork which was kind of what it would feel like to have a pitchfork on your neck, the Pillory, which is where you have your hands and your head hanging out of holes, and even sleep deprivation. There are much more examples, but I’d rather not say some. Plenty of innocent men and women ended up admitting to practicing sorcery, just to make the pain end.
7. The Smallpox Outbreak Played A Role In The Trials
Smallpox played a large role in the Salem Witch Trials, but it’s very possible that nobody was aware of it. The disease is a very lethal one that covers the infected person’s entire body with warts. In Salem 1692, 500 people were died of smallpox, an epidemic that caused symptoms in two girls that people believed were instead caused by witches. And paranoia about smallpox was so gigantic that they made these crazy allegations about witches and the need to find a source of blame larger than the epidemic itself. At the end of the day, there are a few possible causes for what happened in Salem, and it makes sense that all these weird fits that people thought were caused by witches, were actually caused by smallpox.
8. The Touch Trial Was Used To Decide Who The Victims Were
The concept behind this test was that victims of witchcraft would have a physical reaction to being touched by the person- or witch- who had cursed them. So the person suspected to be a witch have to lay a hand upon a possessed person who was delusional, and if no reaction occurred, the accused was deemed innocent. On the other hand, if the “possessed” person suddenly got better or came somehow, it was deemed that the witch had put them under a spell, and she was found guilty. I can’t say I would have come to the same conclusion as those nutjobs who ran the Salem Witch Trials.
9. Whether You Could Swim Or Not Was Indicative Of Whether You Were A Witch Or Not
The cruelest and most infamous test of the Salem Witch Trials was the swimming test. A suspected witch had to strip down to his or her underwear, tied up, and they were tossed into a body of water. If they drowned, they were innocent, and if they floated, they were a witch. Most people thought that the witches all drowned during these cruel tests, and although people were accidentally killed in this test, the witches often had a rope tied around their waist so they could be pulled ashore, if they did sink. This test originated on the assumption that water would drown the bodies of witches because witches were thought to have spurned the sacrament of baptism.
10. The Salem Witch Trials Started Long Before 1692
Many years before the witch trials happened in Salem, technically in 1692, a law was passed in Britain that probably hastened this witch hunt. Under the “Witchcraft Act” from 1562 in Great Britain, anything that was remotely associated with sorcery was deemed illegal. If people wanted to recognize witchcraft, should they stumble upon it, books were published explaining what witchcraft was, or looked like. This was such a serious matter that by 1644, the English government had established the position “Witchfinder General”. The hysteria and objective to track down any potential witches may have caused the idea of witches infiltrating Salem by the Puritans of Massachusetts. Both Europe and North America started searching for witches around the same time.