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Salem, Massachusetts, Winter 1692: In the parsonage of Reverend Samuel Parris, two young girls are seated by the fire and play at fortune-telling as snow falls softly outside. What starts as a game sends one of the girls into a hysterical trance, and a small town begins its descent into madness. Accusations of witchcraft would destroy lives and old scores would be settled. Over 150 people would be arrested and imprisoned, with even more accused of consorting with the devil.
In the winter of 1692, a group of girls and young women in Salem Village began to complain of strange symptoms. Soon they accused some of their fellow villagers of tormenting them through witchcraft. This book is a careful account of the Salem witchcraft episode, from the first hints of trouble through the trials and the executions of twenty supposed witches. The author focuses on the Putnams, a family of Salem Village Puritans whose 12-year-old daughter Ann was among the leading accusers.
Against the backdrop of a Puritan theocracy threatened by change, in a population terrified not only of eternal damnation but of the earthly dangers of Indian massacres and recurrent smallpox epidemics, a small group of girls denounces a black slave and others as worshipers of Satan. Within two years, twenty men and women are hanged or pressed to death and over a hundred others imprisoned and impoverished. In The Salem Witch Trials Reader, Frances Hill provides and astutely comments upon the actual documents from the trial--examinations of suspected witches, eyewitness accounts of "Satanic influence," as well as the testimony of those who retained their reason and defied the madness. Always drawing on firsthand documents, she illustrates the historical background to the witchhunt and shows how the trials have been represented, and sometimes distorted, by historians--and how they have fired the imaginations of poets, playwrights, and novelists. For those fascinated by the Salem witch trials, this is compelling reading and the sourcebook.
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