What Caused the Salem Witch Trial Hysteria of 1692?
It was a perfect storm. The fatal winds that struck Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 that caused the deaths of 20 people between June 10 and September 22 was hangings of 19 people and the pressing to death with stones of one person, all who were believed to be practicing witchcraft. This was because of an underlying faith in the Bible, Devil and witches. In 17th century New England, witchcraft was a serious crime. Puritans took the Bible seriously and believed “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’ which means no witch should stay alive. But what was it specifically about Salem that caused the hangings? There were three main causes: conflict between young girls and older women, lying teenagers and economic and political power divided between two sides of town.
The first of the likely causes of the Salem witch Trial hysteria was the tension between young single girls and older married or widowed women. John Demos presented supporting detail in numbers of the accused vs the accusers. Of the accusers, 29 out of 34 were female, 23 out of 29 were under 20 and 28 out of 34 were unmarried (DOC B). Of the accused, over 80% were female, most were over age 40 and over 75% were married or widowed (DOC B). The real riddle is why? Why this tension between young girls and older women. Was it Jealousy? Was it Cabin Fever? Whatever the reason, the Salem witch trial hysteria involved mostly women.
The second of the likely causes was that the girls in Salem Massachusetts “were great actors” according to Charles W Upham, ...