Who Were the Accused Witches of Salem?: And Other Questions About the Witchcraft Trials
By: Laura Hamilton Waxman
Publisher: Lerner Publications
Publication Date: March 2012
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2012
Many of the colonists who settled in Massachusetts were Puritans, a strict religious sect that disagreed with many of the stances that the Church of England took. In order to escape increasingly intense persecution, they fled England for colonial New England in the 1600s. Salem Town, Massachusetts, was a "tight-knit Puritan" community where they could practice their religion the way they saw fit. A smaller community, Salem Village, was a part of the town, but "had a reputation of being a quarrelsome community." Little could anyone have known at the time, that their quarrelsome ways would become deadly ones.
There were numerous differences of opinion between the two communities and among the villagers themselves. Thing began to worsen in 1689 when Samuel Parris, a new minister, churned up animosity by speaking of the devil in his sermons. He was certain that destruction was around the corner and that "the devil and certain wicked people in the community were against them." The peoples' fearfulness grew and became worse during King William's War. The colonists were fighting the Native American population, one that was "somehow connected to the devil."
In 1692 fear of things connected with the devil, especially witches, threw the inhabitants of Salem Village into a fearful frenzy. It was in the January cold that Elizabeth Parris, Samuel's daughter, and Abigail Williams, his niece, fell ill. As things worsened, the village was convinced that the girls were bewitched. As fast as the rumors flew, fingers began to be pointed. It began soon after Tituba and John, slaves of the Parrises were asked "to bake something called a witch cake." The girls became sicker and then accused Tituba of being a witch. In this book you'll learn how other village girls became bewitched, who was accused of being a witch, the arrests, the questioning, the confessions, the trials, the hangings, and you'll learn the answers to many questions surrounding "one of the darkest moments in U.S. history."
Prefacing each section, save the introduction and the first chapter, is a question that gives a hint of what the chapter will be about. For example, one asks, "How many people were put to death during the Witch Trials?" The book is very well researched and written and should draw in even the most reluctant reader. Words such as "jury" and "verdict" are circled and defined in the margins, eliminating the need for a glossary. There are numerous informative sidebars scattered throughout the book, including ones on how the prisoners were treated and the role the Mather family took in the Trials. The book is generously illustrated with photographs, maps, and archival reproductions. In the back of the book is an index, a timeline (1689 to 1972), source notes, a bibliography, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore.
Quill says: This is an amazing overview of the Salem Witchcraft Trials and the impact they had on Salem Village.