Salem, Massachusetts is a town known for witchcraft trials and mass execution in which nineteen men and women were hung, one man was pressed to death, and the death of more than seventeen individuals wile imprisoned. Historians and scholars through out the centuries have pondered why the mass hysteria occurred during the seventeenth century and why it happened in Massachusetts. To better understand the events of the witch trials, one must examine the economical, religious and social factors of life in the Massachusetts Bay colony. The events of 1962 took place during a difficult and confusing period for Salem Village.

At this time, the colony was waiting for a new governor and had no charter to enforce the laws. Salem was divided into two district parts: Salem Town and Salem Village. Residents of Salem Village were mostly poor farmers who made their own clothing, raised meat, and made living cultivating crops in the rocky terrain. Salem Town, on the other hand, was a prosperous port town filled with wealthy merchants. For many years, Salem Village tried to gain independence from Salem Town. Many of the farmers, primarily in the western part of the village, believed that the worldliness and affluence of Salem Town threatened Puritan values.

In 1672, Salem Village was granted the right to have their own minister. Tensions became worse among the already separated Salem, when after two previous attempts to fulfill the minister position; Salem Village elected Reverend Samuel Parris, a Puritan Caribbean sugar farmer who graduated from Cottrell 2 Harvard and moved to Boston to become a minister, in 1689. Parris denounced the worldly ways ands economic prosperity of Salem Town as an influence of the Devil. Puritanism refers to the movement of reform, which occurred within the Church of England during the Elizabethan settlement of 1559 and ended at the end of the Rump Parliament with the ascension of Charles II to the British throne in 1660. They sought to cleanse the culture of what they regarded as corrupt, sinful practices.

They believed that the civil government should strictly enforce public morality by prohibiting vices like drunkenness, gambling, ostentatious dress, swearing, and Sabbath-breaking. American Puritans clearly understood that God's word applied to every aspect of life. In January of 1692 the daughter and niece of Reverend Samuel Parris became ill, as did Tituba. Tituba was a Carib Indian slave from Barbados who lived in the Parris house and played with Rebecca and Abbygail.

The young girls would gather to experiment with "magic" and crystal balls to get answers of questions like: What trade would their sweetheart be? , Would they have lots of children? After conducting these rituals, the girls began to have constant fits, uncontrollable twitching, cried, made noises, and huddled in corners. William Griggs, the town doctor, treated the girls for many different illnesses. After many weeks and much deliberation, Griggs concluded the Elizabeth, Abbygail, and Cottrell 3 Tituba's behavior lead to one belief, "The evil hand is upon them". The girl's condition became worse.

They began to see hazy shadows and claimed the shadows were the persons responsible for their illness. With all their options elieviated, Reverend Parris asked Tituba to aid in the process of finding the culprit by concocting a "witch's cake". When this method failed, Tituba was arrested for witchcraft herself. After more and more children became victims, the hunting of witches began to get more serious.

By the end of 1692 Rebecca and Abbygail had announced that Sarah Good as well as Sarah Osborne was the responsible parties for their sickness. Reverend Parris's Carib Indian slave, Tituba, was arrested on March 1, 1692 and plead guilty to the charges of being a witch, while Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne tried to place blame on other individuals. Local Salem officials examined the three women before being sent off to Boston jails, to await trial. Many believed that only undesirable women and poor people could be witches. This was not true in Sarah Osborne's case. Sarah married Robert Prince, a Salem Villager who purchased a 150-acre farm next to Captain John Putnam's.

After Robert incurred a premature death in 1674, Sarah hired an Irish indentured immigrant by the name of Alexander Osborne. After their marriage, Sarah attempted to overtake her children's part of the inheritance and seize control of the estate, breaking her dead husbands will. Many of the accused witches were perceived as upsetting established "patterns of land tenure and inheritance. By endeavoring to gain full ownership of her late husband's Cottrell 4 estate, she disregarded her society's set practices of inheritance and land tenure, challenging the tradition of strong, extended family alliances; thus plunging her into the stereotypical profile.