The Salem witch trials all began on January 20, 1692, with nine-year-old Elizabeth “Betty” Parris and eleven-year-old Abigail Williams, daughter and niece of the village reverend Samuel Parris, beginning to exhibit strange behavior, such as blasphemous screaming, convulsive seizures, trance-like states and mysterious spells. Within a short period of time, several other Salem girls began to illustrate similar behavior; physicians resolved that the girls were under the control of Satan. Reverend Parris conducted prayer services and public fasting in hopes of relieving the evil forces that tormented them. In an effort to expose the “enchantress”, one man baked a “witch cake” made with rye bran and the urine of the ill girls. This counter-magic was meant to reveal the identities of the “witched” to the ailing girls.
Pressured to identify the cause of their misfortune, the girls named three women, including Tituba, Samuel Parris’ slave, as witches. On February 29, warrants were dispatched for the arrests of Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborne. Although Osborne and Good sustained guiltlessness, Tituba confessed to seeing Lucifer, who appeared to her “sometimes like a hog and sometimes like a great dog.” What’s more, Tituba certified that there was a collaboration of witches at work in Salem.
On March 1, Magistrates John Hathorne and Jonathon Corwin investigated the three women in the courthouse in Salem Village. Tituba confessed to pursuing black magic.
Over the next few weeks, other villagers came forward and testified that they too had been traumatized by or had seen strange phantoms of some of the village members. As the witch-hunting prolonged, charges were made toward many different people. Frequently unmasked were women whose behavior was somehow disturbing to the social order and formalities of the time. Some of the accused had records of unlawful pastimes, including witchery, but others were faithful churchgoers and people of high status in the society.
From Mid-March to early April, Martha Corey, Rebecca Nurse, Elizabeth Proctor, and Sarah Cloyce were accused of witchcraft. Soon after Corey, Nurse, and Proctor were examined before Magistrates Hathorne, Corwin, Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth, and Captain Samuel Sewall.
During this analysis, John Proctor was also jailed. Then Abigail Hobbs, Bridget Bishop, Giles Corey and Mary Warren were taken into account. The only one to confess was Hobbs. On April 22, Nehemiah Abbot, William and Deliverance Hobbs, Edward and Sara Bishop, Mary Easty, Mary Black, Sarah Wildes, and Mary English were examined before Hathorne and Corwin. Only Nehemiah was cleared of all charges. On May 2, Sarah Morey, Lydia Dustin, Susannah Martin, and Dorcas Hoar were examined, and trying to flee, George Burroughs was arrested in Wells, Maine on May 4.
On May 10, Sarah Osborne died in a Boston prison, just a George Jacobs, Sr. and his granddaughter Margaret were examined by Hathorne and Corwin. Margaret admitted, saying, “They told me if I would not confess I should be put down into the dungeon and would be hanged, but if I would confess I should save my life,” then testified that her grandfather and George Burroughs were both witches.
On May 18, Mary Easty was released from prison, however due to the clamor and protests of her accusers, she was arrested a second time. Shortly after, Governor Phips set up a special Court of Oyer and Terminer consisting of seven judges to hear the witchcraft cases. The Magistrates based their judgments and evaluations on several kinds of abstract evidence including direct confessions, supernatural attributes (such as “witchmarks”), and the reactions of the afflicted girls.
Mysterious evidence was based upon the assumption that Lucifer could enter upon the “phantom” of an innocent person, was counted in spite of its debatable characteristics.
On June 2, at an initial session of the Court Oyer and Terminer, Bridget Bishop was the first to be named guilty of witchcraft and doomed to death. Soon after Bridget’s trial, one of the judges stepped down from the court, unhappy with its transactions. On June 10, Bridget Bishop was hanged in Salem, in the first official execution of the Salem Witch Trials. Just before she was hanged, she uttered, “I am no witch. I am innocent.
I know nothing of it.” Following Bishop’s death, accusations of witchcraft .