Happy Halloween! We are releasing Tuesday’s episode early because how could we NOT? Next Tuesday is soooo close to Halloween, and we just wanted to end the month of October with a doozy of a story. Most people know about the Salem Witch Trials, but not everyone has a direct connection to the participants in that very sad time of American history. Well, to be honest LOTS of people might be connected, but not every Mugly Truth Podcast cohost has that connection. Yep, you have a 50% chance of guessing which of us has a very infamous ancestor and how said great, great, great, great, great, great, etc. grandsomebody or other wasn’t exactly the nicest person in the village. Can’t pick your family, amirite?
In our research we both realized that the truth about the Salem Witch Trials was so much darker than the history we learned eons ago in grade school. Back then it was a watered-down skimming of the story, topped at one point by reading Arthur Miller’s dramatic and largely fictionalized, The Crucible. As adults, naturally we have learned more about life and the bonkers things that people do—regardless, we sure had our eyes opened about the true horrors of 329 years ago.
The truth was embroiled in many factors affecting the colonies, particularly Massachusetts, in the 1600s: extreme weather resulting in a very cold winter; government and judicial dysfunction; deadly pushback from local indigenous people; archaic, oppressive superstitions and religious beliefs; lack of scientific knowledge of illnesses both physical and mental; extreme racial, gender, and social class prejudice; and lots and lots and lots of land envy. Some even believe that the aftermath was actually the first government cover-up in American history since so many of the documents and “evidence” obtained during the trials were destroyed.
Aside from the government-sanctioned murders of 20 innocent men and women, three accused people died while awaiting trial in jail. Many who survived the experience of being accused, and/or jailed (which often included torture) had their reputations, which were sacrosanct in those times, destroyed. There were no treatment resources to help cope, heal and recover after the trials ended. Dorcas Good, for instance, was only 4 when she was jailed alongside her mother Sarah and her siblings. She died at the age of 16, reportedly mentally ill and homeless.
Tituba, enslaved – and beaten – by village Minister Samuel Parris, was the first to be accused by Parris’ daughter Betty and niece Agibail Williams. She was jailed for a year only to be released to a new “master” who was willing to pay her jail fees.
Some who took part in the accusations repented of their horrible part in the affair. Ann Putnam, one of the original accusers, apologized after her parents died. Judge Samuel Sewall begged forgiveness for his sins relative to the trials. Yet, others thrived and spent the rest of their lives denying any wrong-doing (Betty Parris, Judge William Stoughton, we’re looking at you).
Even though the government later attempted some form of restitution to the families of those who were executed, it was a fairly hollow gesture since not everyone involved in the accusations were brought to justice. People such as Sherriff George Corwin profited nicely from the proceedings. Corwin never returned the property he illegally “impounded” (aka stole) from those who were thrown into his jail. However, he did die at the age of 30 only a few years later. Karma? Who knows (but in our opinion, yeah, kinda).
Today we understand the long term ripple-effect of such horrific trauma. We can also look back and identify the possible psychology and science behind the girls’ behavior (mass hysteria, teenage hormones, possible fungal poisoning, mental/emotional abuse or oppression, the list is so long) whereas back in those days anything other than piousness was chalked up to bewitchment. It was a terribly sad and horrific point in America’s history (among many others…#enslavement). Yep, we definitely did NOT learn the whole truth in school.
Even though we now know more than the we did as children, we realize we have only learned about and recounted a very small part of this entire saga. And even then there are likely inaccuracies in today’s conversation.
We also want to acknowledge that although we are releasing this on Halloween, we know there is no connection between the “witches” we celebrate during Halloween today and the innocent men, women, and children (and two dogs) who were ruined on so many levels in the name of witchcraft in 1692.
As we said in the episode, we want to visit Salem, MA someday but will do so with a more sober perspective than we had before we started learning the deeper truths. The history of Salem is vast and there are many documentaries, books, podcasts, and YouTube videos out there, some better than others. So if what you hear on our episode today piques your interest, we encourage you to do your own research…it’s a huge rabbit hole to jump into so good luck with your sleuthing!
Sources We Mention in Our Episode
- The Smithsonian video both Kris and Kym watched on YouTube, which highlights the Salem historians who deduced the true location of the witch hangings, is America’s Hidden Stories: Salem Secrets.
- The book Kym referenced is called The Salem Witch Trials: A Reference Guide by K. David Gross.
- The YouTube video Kym suggested watching is called Ancient Mysteries: DARK HISTORY OF WITCHES (S4, E5). BECAUSE LEONARD FREAKING NIMOY. Say no more.
- Letters by Thomas Putnam referenced by Kym can be found here and here.
- Ancestral Mathematics at lyricalzen.com is a quick look at how many people it took to make YOU.
- Eh, take this YouTube video from The Geographic Channel with a grain of salt, especially Kris’ comment regarding the location of accusers and accused overlaying the regions of where people who were for and against building a new church: History Channel’s Salem Witch Trial Full Documentary.
- Kris also cited nydailynews.com article Deadly Spells: Little Known Facts About the 1692-1693 Salem Witch Trials.
- Kris cited this findagrave.com page for little Dorcas Good, but this article provides a bit more information (albeit not much more).
- For “wicked facts” check out Wicked Facts About the Salem Witch Trials at fascinate.com.
- Robert Calef interviewed Tituba (wherein she confirmed Samual Parris beat and coerced her to confess to witchcraft) after the trials, and gathered documentation about the trials into a compendium titled More Wonders of the Invisible World: Being an Account of the Trials of Several Witches, Lately Executed in New-England. This included Cotton Mather’s Wonders of the Invisible World which can be read here at gutenberg.org. This is another account of Calef’s role in documenting the trials.
- For information about Tituba, visit Wikipedia‘s page for her, and check out this smithsonianmag.com article.
- Was Governor William Phips’ wife Lady Mary accused of witchcraft? Yes. Yes she was. And shortly thereafter the brakes were skrrtskrrrted on the trials and executions.
- For more information on the origins of the persecution, torture, and execution of accused witches prior to the Salem Witch Trials, visit Witch Trials in England – Wikipedia.
- For information on some but not all the people we mention in the episode, see: Ann Putnam, William Stoughton, George Corwin, Mercy Lewis, John Proctor, Giles Corey, Thomas Putnam, Samuel Sewell, Betty Parris, Abigail Williams, Sarah Osborne, Sara Goode, and Bridget Bishop. Yes, yes, lots of Wikipedia there. We know. In truth, much of our information was taken from the videos mentioned above, as well as historyofmassachusetts.org
- For information about the “mini ice age” referenced by Kris, read Did Cold Weather Cause the Salem Witch Trials? at livescience.com
- To learn more about Proctor’s Ledge Memorial, please visit salemwitchmuseum.com
- Some people pronounce Tituba’s name as “Ti-TOO-ba” or “TI-too-ba” or ‘TITCH-oo-ba”. We’ve always heard it as the latter, and therefore that’s how we pronounce it, but if you google it, it varies between all three. So, like everything else in the world, it just depends on where you live, and who you learned from.
- For information about the living history museum Pioneer Village (which served as the location for Thackery Binx’ home in the film Hocus Pocus, visit the Pioneer Village website.
Thank you for visiting our blog and HAPPY HALLOWEEN! If you like what you read, please tell a friend or two, you can even share the article. It all helps! If you haven’t listened to the episode yet, give it a go…we think you’ll like it.
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Intro and outro music, Clever as a Fox by Espresso, Inc. through premiumbeats.com.
Outtake music At the Fair by The Green Orbs, courtesy YouTube Audio Library.
Featured photo of Creepy Forest by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com