These days TV is all about the witches, especially on the latest, and possibly the best, edition of American Horror Story. The FX hit show is set in Louisiana, where, according to the first episode, the real witches escaped the infamous 1692 Salem Witch Trials. Tonight the witches that remained in Salem are coming to New Orleans to settle a score with Marie Laveau.
As for the real Salem, Massachusetts witch trials in the late 17th century, it all began over a couple of sick girls and two women who dared not to go to church. Reverend Samuel Parris’ daughter, Elizabeth Parris, his niece, Abigail Williams came down with a strange illness in 1691 that could not be diagnosed by doctors. Soon they believed the girls had been bewitched, and looked to Elizabeth’s Native American slave Tituba. Tituba was jailed and then sold to pay for the cost of jailing her, but the girls blamed others: homeless Sarah Good and elderly Sarah Osborne, neither of which had been to church in a while.
Throughout 1692, a growing number of people were accused of witchcraft, including a four-year-old, totaling close to 200 people. In June 1692 the trials began, and the accused were judged mainly on their behavior at the trials. In total 19 people were executed after being charged with witchcraft: 14 women and 4 men were hanged, and one man, Giles Corey, was crushed to death.
October 1692 the special court for witchcraft was dissolved and replaced, which meant that executions ended, and the type of sensationalist testimony allowed at the previous trials were no longer allowed. Eventually all who were sentenced to death were pardoned, and those awaiting trial were released.