Insane Facts About the Salem Witch Trials
The panic that swept through Salem in the 1600’s would have large consequences for many women and even some men. The accusers performed some pretty bizarre tests and caused a lot of suffering because of it.
We’ve compiled some crazy facts about the Salem Witch Trials that everyone should know!
Accusers Would Throw Suspected Witches into Rivers and Lakes
As part of a “swimming test,” accused witches were dragged to a lake or river, undressed to their undergarments, bound, and forced into the water to see if they would float or sink. It was thought that the water would reject their body and prevent them from submerging, thus proving them a witch.
An innocent person would sink, but a witch would bob to the surface. The victim usually had a rope tied around their waist so they could be hauled from the water if they sank, however, accidental drownings were common.
Fumbling Your Words Had Deadly Consequences
In what was called the “prayer test,” accused witches were made to recite the scripture to perfection. If they were somehow illiterate or nervous and made mistakes, this was seen as strong evidence of their inherent evilness.
Not to mention the accused had to do said test in public! Though one man who was accused recited the scripture to perfection before his execution, as it was seen as the devil’s luck.
The “Touch Test”
The “touch test” was rooted in the belief that an accused witches touch would cause a reaction in those they had cursed. However, one of the most famous touch tests still couldn’t save Rose Cullender and Amy Denny.
Two kids had been having fits that left their fists clenched tight, yet only opened whenever Cullender or Denny touched them. To ensure the reaction was real, judges blindfolded the children and had members of court touch them. The girls unclench their fists, which suggested they were faking, though this wasn’t enough to prove the women’s innocence and they were both hanged as witches.
Skip the Dessert
A wacky form of counter-magic was called the witch cake. If someone showed up mysteriously sick, witch-hunters would take a sample of the sufferer’s urine and mix it with rye-meal and ashes to bake it into a cake.
This disgusting concoction was then fed to a dog or any “helper animal” to the accused witches—in the hope that the beast would fall under its spell and reveal the name of the guilty sorcerer.
Not a Freckle Out of Place
Suspected witches were often stripped and publicly scrutinized for blemishes that witches were said to receive upon sealing their pact with Satan. The “devil’s mark” could change shape and color, making it was easy for even the most minor physical flaws to be seen as something sinister.
Moles, scars, birthmarks, sores, extra nipples, and tattoos were all permissible, so examiners rarely did a useless search. During witch hunts, worried residents would even burn or cut off any marks on their bodies, only to have their injuries labeled as proof of a treaty with the devil.
Don't Prick Me
Witch-examiners used specifically designed needles to repetitively stab and prick at the accused person’s flesh.
In England and Scotland, the “exam” (also known as torture) was eventually performed by well-paid professional “prickers,” many of whom were con men who used dulled needlepoints to identify fake witch’s marks.
The Accused Had to Address the Devil
In the “incantations tests” the accused witch was forced to recite an incantation to tell the devil to release the supposed victim of a spell. In one case, a family of three, called the Samuel family (one child, husband, and wife) were accused of hexing a family of five girls.
They were forced to ask the devil to release the girls. When the girls made an instant recovery, the Samuels were hanged as witches.
Bridget Bishop Was the First Executed “Witch”
Bridget Bishop was spotlighted due to her apparent problematic morals and was the first to be tried and executed during the Salem Witch trials. Bishop often rebelled against the puritanical values of her time, staying out for long hours, having people in her home late at night, and hosting drinking and gambling parties often.
After her second husband died, Bishop was accused of hexing him, along with several other women. She was subsequently executed.
Animals Were Also Thought to Have Deals with the Devil
One poor pooch was shot after a girl tormented from tremors accused it of trying to bewitch her. Nonetheless, after the dog’s death, a local Preacher suggested that if the devil had possessed the dog, it wouldn’t have been so easily killed with one bullet.
The second murdered dog was thought to be a victim of witchcraft by a with who had fled Salem before they could be tried.