Salem Witch Trials Impact On Society

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America’s Encounter with the Salem Witch Trials: Outburst of Hysteria and the Effect on Social Structure, Government, and Religion in the 1690s and the World Today

The infamous Salem Witch Trials of 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts forever marked the history of the United States. Much more than pointing fingers at so-called witches, these trials were the result of underlying tensions in the Salem community as well as a product of fear and anxiety produced by the Puritan religion. The trials did not simply die as soon as the last gavel was struck— they left behind a legacy that altered life forever. An intense period of hysteria and paranoia, the Salem Witch Trials had a significant impact on social structure, government and religion in the 1690s
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Once accused, the “witch” could not leave the court with a proclamation of innocence. Use of spectral evidence, “a witness testimony that the accused person 's spirit or spectral shape appeared to him/her witness in a dream at the time the accused person 's physical body was at another location” (“Spectral Evidence”), played a key role in condemning citizens in trial. As observed in Bridget Bishop’s trial, spectral evidence was impossible to prove legitimate. Bishop’s trial was one of many where spectral evidence was used as a major deciding factor in the outcome of the …show more content…
. . they [tied] him Neck and Heels till the Blood gushed out of his Nose, and would have kept him so . . . ” (Easty, Mary, and John Proctor). At the time, death was not a legal punishment for practicing witchcraft. The rising panic, however, would not rest until these threats to Puritan society were taken care of. On June 8, 1692, the Massachusetts General Court reinstated the hanging law and opened the floodgates to the rest of the Salem Witch Trials. Just two days later, on June 10, 1692, Bridget Bishop was the first “witch” to be hanged, eventually followed by eighteen other unfortunate souls that were tangled up in the Salem Witch Trials (“Salem Witch Trials and Executions”). The trials and executions feverously continued until October, 1692 when Governor William Phipps dissolved the court and disallowed the spectral evidence and “sensational testimonies” that were crucial to condemning the accused (“Salem Witch Trials and Executions”). The executions stopped, prisoners were released, and those who were sentenced to death were pardoned. By May, 1693, the Salem Witch Trials had finally come to an end (“The Salem Witch Trials:

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