Salem Witch Trials

People have been persecuted as witches through the centuries and throughout the world, yet it is the events that took place in a small colonial American town in 1692 that have captured the world’s attention and have come to symbolize the tragic consequences of intolerance and injustice.

A few young girls accused hundreds of community members of witchcraft—of persecuting them, causing bodily harm and pain. There was no tangible evidence, only hysteria and a willingness to believe what could not be proved. For the accused, in the absence of legal protections, there was no way to defend against innuendo, fear and an irrational rush to judgment. Over the course of less than a year, friends were pitted against friends, upright citizens ostracized, forced to flee for their lives or, in the case of 20 men and women, put to death.

Within months, it was over…except for the infamous legacy. More than 300 years later, the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 remain an indelible reminder of injustice. At the same time, however, they have a unique power to inspire us to have the courage to fight against intolerance and the vigilance to protect human rights in our own world today.

To learn more about the Salem Witch Trials and the events of 1692:

Primary Sources:
A primary source provides direct or first hand evidence about an event, object, person, or work of art. Primary sources include historical and legal documents, eyewitness accounts, results of experiments, statistical data, pieces of creative writing, audio and video recordings, speeches, and art objects.

Boyer, Paul and Nissenbaum, Stephen. Salem Village Witchcraft.

Calef, Robert. More Wonders of the Invisible World.

Lawson, Deodat. A Brief and True Narrative of Some Remarkable Passages Relating to Sundry Persons Afflicted by Witchcraft, at Salem Village: Which happened from the Nineteenth of March, to the fifth of April, 1692.

Mather, Cotton. The Wonders of the Invisible World: Being an Account of the Trials of Several Witches Lately Executed in New-England.

Rosenthal, Bernard, ed. The Records of the Salem Witch Hunt. Trask, Richard, ed. The Devil Hath Been Raised.

Hale, John. A Modest Enquiry Into the Nature of Witchcraft.

Current Sources:
Boyer, Paul and Nissenbaum, Stephen. Salem Possessed.

Demos, John. Entertaining Satan. Hall, David. Witch Hunting in 17th Century New England.

Hansen, Chadwick. Witchcraft in Salem.

Hill, Frances. A Delusion of Satan.

Hill, Frances. The Salem Witch Trials Reader.

Hoffer, Peter Charles. The Salem Witch Trials, A Legal History. Karlsen, Carol. The Devil in the Shape of a Woman.

Mappen, Marc. Witches and Historians.

Norton, Mary Beth. In The Devil’s Snare.

Ray, Benjamin C. Satan and Salem: The Witch-Hunt Crisis of 1692

Richardson, Katherine. The Salem Witch Trials.

Roach, Marilynne. The Salem Witch Trials, A Day by Day Chronicle.

Robinson, Enders. The Devil Discovered.

Rosenthal, Bernard. Salem Story.

Starkey, Marion. The Devil in Massachusetts.

Baker, Emerson W., A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Related Works:
Breslaw, Elaine. Tituba, Reluctant Witch of Salem.

Demos, John. The Enemy Within

Hill, Frances. Hunting for Witches, A Visitor Guide.

Miller, Arthur. The Crucible.

Tapley, Charles. Rebecca Nurse, Saint but Witch Victim.

Russell, Jeffrey. A History of Witchcraft.

Weisman, Richard. Witchcraft, Magic and Religion in 17th Century New England.

For Young Readers:
Aronson, Marc. Witch-Hunt (young adult)

Duble, Kathleen. The Sacrifice (grades 5-8)

Jackson, Shirley. The Witchcraft of Salem Village (grades 5-6)

Rinaldi, Ann. A Break with Charity.

Fiction (grades 6-8)

Stern, Steven. Witchcraft in Salem. (grades 4-6)

Yolen, Jane. The Salem Witch Trials, An Unsolved Mystery.

“A Map of Salem Village & Vicinity in 1692”

Shows primary location of the Salem witch trials history, as it looked in 1692. The map is drawn by Marilynne Roach, a Salem witch trials expert.

“Three Sovereigns for Sarah” A partly fictional account of the trials focusing on the three Towne sisters, two of whom were hanged. The production was filmed at locations connected with the trials. 2 1/2 hrs.

“Days of Judgment. The Salem Witch Trials of 1692” A film designed for school and home viewing that answers many of the questions raised by the trials. 1 hour.

“The Crucible” The 1995 film version of Arthur Miller’s play. Screenplay by the author. Filmed on location in Essex County. 2 hours DVD

Online Sources:
Salem Witch Museum, Videos

University of Missouri, KC, School of Law

University of Virginia, Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive

Thank you to the Salem Witch Museum for the use of their Book and Education Resource List.