The Salem Journal: The Hysteria

Witches' Remise

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The Hysteria Begins

By Madeliene W, Alice H, and Emma M

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In 1692, Betty Parris and Abigail Williams created a massive hysteria that would cause many innocent people to be accused and executed.

Samuel Parris, a respected minister of Salem, had a nine-year-old daughter named Betty. Abigail Williams was Betty's twelve-year-old cousin. The two girls were great friends, and they were often bored during the day, so they began listening to Tituba's stories for entertainment. Betty and Abigail did not want the adults to know about Tituba's stories, because they knew Betty's father would not approve. The girls' secret began to spread, and other girls joined them. Before long, the group included eleven girls, and the secret could not be kept from the adults any longer.

Shortly after the group of girls began listening to Tituba's stories about the devil, they began having fits and acting like animals. Tituba was a Native American woman who became the Parris family's slave in 1691. By 1692, she had become an old lady with a husband named John Indian. Some say that they also had a daughter named Violet.

The girls were examined by Reverend John Hale. There was no explanation for the girls' fits, so Hale concluded that the fits were caused by the Devil. Many people were frightened and wanted to get rid of the devil as fast as possible, so Salem started the witch-hunts.

After the girls began having fits, they started to accuse woman after woman that they worked for the Devil and that they were practicing witchcraft. The three women that they first accused were Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborne. They both were not very high-class in the community of Salem. Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne both did not go to church, nor were they high rank in the society--Good was a beggar and Osborne looked somewhat like a witch. Sarah Osborne was also the lady who was in her 50's and married a manservant. These things made them easy targets for accusations. Osborne said, "I don't go to Church anymore because I did not want to hear any gossip." The accused women were all rushed to prison as soon as the two girls, Betty and Abigail, accused them.

Tituba, who first denied that she was a witch, was beaten until she confessed. She confessed stories about flying on broomsticks, cursing innocent people, and signing the Devil's book. She confessed because if she pleaded that she was innocent, no one would believe her because there were rumors that she told stories about voodoo and magic, and that she was protecting her husband. She said, "The Devil came to me a few years ago and told me to sign his book. I signed it but as I was signing, I noticed nine names. I only remember two of them, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne. We all rode on brooms together." Sarah Good was swept from prison into the court room. Judge Samuel Sewall told her that Tituba mentioned her name, and she said, "I am not a witch." Sewall continued to push Good to confess. When he finally asked about Sarah Osborne, she said, "Oh, yes. Sarah Osborne is even more a witch than I am!" Then Sarah Osborne was brought into court.

Sarah Osborne refused to confess as well. When Judge Sewall asked her about dreams of Indians because the village of Salem believed that the Natives were the Devil's slaves, she said, "Yes. I have had a dream about an Indian pulling me out of my house, into the freezing night air. This particular dream reappears every night." Sarah Osborne was still persecuted. She had another trial shortly afterwards. Judge Sewall said, "It looks like Good is making her way to Gallows Hill faster than Osborne!"

Judge Sewall thought this because on Sarah Good's last trial, her daughter was brought in, who was also accused of witchcraft. Good's daughter, Dorcas, age five, showed everybody in the court a red snakebite on her finger. Everyone in the courtroom was convinced that little Dorcas Good was a witch so therefore, her mother was a witch too. Sarah Good's own husband, William Good, spoke against his wife, Sarah Good, in her last trial. Sarah Good was hanged on July 19, 1692, and her daughter was let out of prison as soon as her mother was hanged. Sarah Osborne died in prison on May 10, 1692. The death of these women did not especially affect Salem, for they were old, poor, and did not have many friends, neighbors, or family to support them when they were accused.

Following the deaths of Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne, many more people were staring to get accused and hanged. The rate at which people were accused, increased each day, until unbelievable numbers of people were accused by the girls. The girls did not stop accusing, and the Salem community did not stop believing them.

The majority of the villagers knew the girls were accusing innocent people, but they did not have the power to stop the court. However, at the end of the year, a few high-class residents were accused and had the power to make it clear to the court that the girls were going overboard with their accusations.

The girls weren't accusing people no one cared about, like Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne, but people with authority. People started to accuse each other in fear of being accused themselves, and the hysteria began to grow and spread. Betty and Abigail had created a hysteria that had grown so far, that the matter is now out of the Salem court's hands.

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