Overview of the Salem Witch Trials

Brief Account

The Salem witchcraft events began in late February 1692 and lasted through April, 1693. All told, at least twenty-five people died: nineteen were executed by hanging, one was tortured to death, and at least five died in jail due to harsh conditions. Over 160 people were accused of witchcraft, most were jailed, and many deprived of property and legal rights. Accused persons lived in the town of Salem and Salem Village (now Danvers) and in two dozen other towns in eastern Massachusetts Bay Colony. Nearly fifty people confessed to witchcraft, most to save themselves from immediate trial. Hundreds of other people in the Bay Colony -- neighbors, relatives, jurors, ministers, and magistrates -- were caught up in the legal proceedings of the trials. In October 1692, Governor William Phips ended the special witchcraft court in Salem. Accusations soon abated and eventually stopped. In January, the new Superior Court of Judicature began to try the remaining cases and eventually cleared the jails. After Salem trials, no one was convicted of witchcraft in New England. During the Salem trials, more people were accused and executed than in all the previous witchcraft trials in New England.

Further Explanation

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