Have you ever been to Salem, MA? I have, a number of times. I love its Old World feel and narrow - sometimes cobblestone - streets. I love it's shops, both quaint and magickal. And the town is totally rife with history.
Between February 1692 and May 1693, The Salem Witch Trials took place. During this dark period in American history, nineteen people were hung and one person was pressed to death with stones. Many more people were accused of witchcraft and sent to prison.
Americans were definitely not alone in their fear of witchcraft. From 1560 to 1670, the rest of the world conducted persecutions on people suspected of having trafficked with the Devil. It was a very common belief that demons would prey on those that were not pious enough. And science was no where near what it is today, so infant deaths, illnesses in general and crop failure were all looked at from a supernatural point of view.
When two girls in Salem Village began to act in, what was then thought of as strange ways, suspicions of witchcraft were raised. The first women accused of witchcraft were Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne and Tituba. All three women were considered outsiders and had no one to stand up for their good characters.
The trials proceeded, spiraling out of control. I don't intend to review the entire set of trials here - there are whole books and courses set aside for just that. However, I would like to note that the cause behind the Salem Witch Trials is still unknown.
Was there a family feud that became so big, the entire town suffered for it? Did a strange illness infect everyone in the area? Did a few kids just want to stir up some mischief and have a fun time? We will probably never know.