The Salem Journal: Legal News
The Process of Being Accused of Witchcraft
By Kyle K
The trouble started in 1692, when Tituba (the slave of Rev. Parris) started telling stories to a few girls in Salem village, soon enough they were making crystal balls out of an egg white suspended in a glass, and telling each others" fortune. After one of the girls saw a coffin instead of her future husband the real trouble started. The girls started to see horrible things, some even developed a mental illness called hysteria and began to suffer from convulsive fits.
After being examined by the doctor and other townsfolk, the afflicted girls were begged to speak the names of the people who were "attacking" them. The girls finally admitted that witches were torturing them. But the question still remained, how to identify a witch. Among the accused were Sarah Good, Rebecca Nurse, John Proctor, Tituba, Bridget Bishop, and Giles Corey. Rebecca Nurse, an elderly woman, was a model Puritan. If she could be accused nobody was safe.
Some say that if the accused touched one of the afflicted girls during one of her "fits," and she stopped, then the accused was a witch. Others say that if the accused was tied up and dropped into deep water, and lived, they were guilty, but if they sank then they were innocent. Most did not like this method because most people, if not everyone who was subjected to this method died.
There are many ways of determining if the accused is a witch or not, but if the accused was proven a witch than they would be put in jail to await their trial. Some people went insane and burrowed under the walls or removed the window bars to escape, especially when it was over crowded during the witch trials. Jails were always dirty. One of the Boston's prison's expenses was five shillings to the man who removed 'several loads of dung out of the cells". The people who were sent to jail almost always got sick, and since they didn"t have doctors in jail, most of them died.
People felt that if witches were chained up they would have less of a chance of releasing their specters out to attack people. The witches were put in ankle to neck chains. When the witches were put in jail, the town waited to see if the fits would stop, they did not. Since the fits did not stop the witches would be hanged.
Those sentenced to death- murderers, witches, and other lawbreakers- were hanged in public as a warning to others who might be disobedient. At the gallows the convicted would stand blind folded, hands tied behind them, standing half way up a ladder they would be pushed off and strangled. But death did not always come quick.
If the accused confessed, like Tituba did, it would have saved their life. Confessing witches were not executed. Instead, they were kept apart from other prisoners, to be called upon in trials when their testimony might be helpful to the prosecution. The Puritans believed that if a person made a full confession, his or her fate would be in God's hands, not in mans".