The Three Main Theories That Caused the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1692

The Salem witch trials happened over a period of ten months in 1692. They took place in Massachusetts Bay Colony. These trials were a horrific occurrence that resulted in the death of 19 people and the jailing of almost 100. In January two young girls, daughter of minister Samuel Paris, Betty Paris, and his niece Abigail Williams started having fits. The cause of these fits was suspected to be witchcraft. After this first scare a long series of accusations, trials, and deaths ensued. There are three main theories as to the start of these events: strict upbringing, ergot poisoning, and pretending.

The first of these theories is the theory that “strict upbringing” caused these two girls to Ergot poisoning is supported in the article “Salem Witch’ Epidemic May Have Medical Root” which was written by Dr. Peter Gott. He discusses the evidence found in the book “Poisons of the Past, Molds, Epidemics, and history” that states that the symptoms the citizens of Salem displayed coincide with symptoms of LSD. LSD symptoms are very similar to ergot. Also, it has been discovered that during the time of the trials many citizens were known to have eaten bread fitting the description of bread that has been contaminated by ergot.

The third main theory as to the cause of the two girls fits is the theory that they were pretending the entire time. Even though there is not, and may never be, any solid proof of this, it does raise the question of how the environment they were surrounded by effected their role in the witch trials. If you imagine their daily lives you can see how easily it could have been for two young girls to develop such a disastrous lie.

There are numerous speculations on how these trials started. With no definite proof, speculating is all we can really do. But even with speculation, facts tell the true story. The facts are, no matter what caused this event, the effect it had on the colony as whole and the individual people who lost loved ones probably never went away completely. Nearing the end of the trials Increase Mather is known to have said, “It were better that ten suspected witches should escape than one innocent person be condemned”. This occurrence changed the way the Puritans looked at the subject of witches and the devil’s role in the trials throughout those ten months.

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