In the early days of Massachusetts, there was a time when good sense and justice seemed to be set aside. Innocent people lost their lives because of group hysteria.
It began in 1692 in Salem Village. This wasn’t the famous town of Salem, but a small village not far from it. The name of the village was later changed to Danvers.
A group of young girls used to spend time with a slave named Tituba, who came from the West Indies. The girls were all under 20 years of age. Tituba told them about magic and fortunetelling. The girls also read books about witches. These were evil things to the people of Massachusetts in those days. They believed that witches did the work of the devil.
Two of the girls became sick. They began to have fits. They said they were under witches’ spells. They said that the witches were Tituba and two unpopular women of the village. Then other girls accused other people of witchcraft. The suspected witches were put on trial. Some people confessed and accused others, so they would not be hanged. Others were executed by hanging.
The search for witches spread to other towns. Over 200 people were arrested. Twenty people were put to death. Many who spoke out against the trials were accused of witchcraft themselves and were arrested.
People finally could tolerate the situation no longer. They still believed in witches. But they thought people should not be hanged because of the kind of evidence that was given. The evidence, they thought, might be fake. And some of the people who were accused and executed seemed like good, honest people.
The governor of Massachusetts ordered the trials stopped. The accused witches were set free. The dark days of the witch hunt were over.
From Scholastic Real World English