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Analysis of the Evidence Used at Witchcraft Trials of 1692

The bizarre actions of some young girls triggered the outbreak of hysteria in Salem Village. The bizarre behavior was characterized by the appearance of seizures, as well as the afflicted's neck and back pains. In extreme circumstances, victims' tongues were drawn from their mouths as they screamed incoherently. The unusual activity sparked the imaginations and quests of the Salem villagers. Physicians were called on to assess the patients, but no specific physical or medical explanation for the bizarre behavior was discovered. The incapability to identify the cause of the malady and the widespread display of the symptoms by the residents fueled the belief in witchcraft. The residents of Salem village believed that the devil had invaded their village, and religious intervention was required. The villagers prayed and fasted to sway away the influence of the devil�s symptoms, but to no avail. To their surprise, the symptoms grew in stature and was depicted across different zones of the village. Henceforth, the villagers sought to unearth potential witches who perpetrate the bizarre behavior. The hysteria and desperation for solution led to the accusations to people, including those closely tied to the church. The wave of accusations led to the convening of a special court to try the suspects. Several evidence schemes were presented against the witchcraft suspects. The evidence included confessions, witness testimonies, physical evidence and other forms of testimonies. It was through these courts that about 19 people were killed due to the accusations of perpetrating witchcraft in Salem village. The paper will analyze the evidence used to try the suspects at the witchcraft trials of 1692.
One of the accused persons (witchcraft suspects) was Martha Corey. The number of people afflicted with the bizarre behavior at the time of Martha�s accusation were about ten: four married women, three maids and three girls. Martha Corey�s accusation was a shock to the people of Salem as Martha was a new upstanding member of the congregation. Physical evidence and witness testimonies were presented against Martha Corey during her trial. The accusers claimed that they did see a person with Marth Corey�s resemblance when afflicted with the bizarre behavior. They described that Martha Corey came to them during the fits holding a book and a yellow bird that sucked between her fingers. It was believed that the yellow bird was linked to a spirit that attended to Marth Corey. A contentious testimony was the one where Martha Corey claimed their poor and distracted stature accorded little significance to the public and even the spiritual realm. Another set of physical evidence was presented during the hearing. It was observed on several occasions that Marth Corey�s actions affected the afflicted individuals. When Martha Corey bit her lips, the afflicted persons bore marks of being bitten. They presented the marks to the judge during the examination as evidence for Martha Corey�s association with witchcraft. After these, a series of other examinations were done to reiterate the results presented by the accusers. During examination, it was noted that when Martha Corey leaned her breast against the seat in the court, the accusers were afflicted. Mrs. Pope, one of the afflicted persons, described the effect as a serious torment by Marth Corey. She felt like her bowels were completely torn apart when Martha leant her breasts against the seat in the court house. Giles Corey, Martha�s husband was pressed to death by stones as he refused to register a plea during his trial. This was in accordance to the English law which advocated that any person who refused to register a plea was tortured till they registered one or face death by the torture.
Sarah Osborne, Sarah Good and Tituba were implicated of witchcraft by the girls (9 year old Betty Parris and 11-year old Abigail Williams). The three suspects were brought for the trial in the presence of the accusers, amid their bouts of concussions and screaming. Sarah Osborne and Sarah Good denied the claims for witchcraft while Tituba confessed her involvement in the act. Tituba�s confession was one of a kind as they had been no previous self-confessed witches in Salem village. Tituba�s confession deemed her to the noose as witchcraft was punishable by death. Self-confession was a strong evidence in the court as it confirmed the accusers� claims of involvement in witchcraft. In most cases, the self-confessed witches were coerced to name their compatriots in the trade.
Another form of evidence or stance to verify the accused involvement in witchcraft was by association through verbal or actions. Any person who defended the accused individuals or denied the existence of witchcraft was guilty of the act by association. One such victim of guilt of association was Proctor (a farmer). Proctor claimed that the three girls accusing individuals of witchcraft were a scam. Furthermore, Proctor did not believe in the existence of witchcraft. The shunning of the three girls was perceived as offering defense to the accused individuals. The two combined stances, defending the accused and being a critic of witchcraft, fueled Proctor�s accusation. Proctor�s entire family, including his pregnant wife and sister-in-law were brought to trial. Rebecca Nurse�s past inflicted her arrest as a suspect of witchcraft. Rebecca Nurse was a sister of accused witches, Mary Easty and Sarah Cloyce. Also, her utterance regarding association with the cult (through the confession of one of the accused) deemed her to capital punishment as she was later hung for the vice. The hysteria revolving around witchcraft swept rapidly since then across the Salem village.
The evidence used at the trials reveal the existence of the supernatural powers (dark spirits). These supernatural powers are associated with the negative aspects, for example, they are believed to be the primary cause for the bizarre behavior in Salem village. The magistrates used the religious perspective to judge the suspects of witchcrafts brought forth. There was no clear or established link between the existing bizarre behavior and witchcraft. Though it may have been outlawed, the sheer failure by the physicians to diagnose the bizarre behavior, witchcraft was the cause, by opinion. This depicts their strong belief in a supernatural force which antagonized their religion. In the physical evidence presented during Marth Corey�s trial, the people and the judges believe the existence of a force, at Martha�s disposal which influenced the behavior of the afflicted individuals. For example, when Martha Corey bit her lips, the afflicted persons bore marks of being bitten. There was no physical contact between Martha and the afflicted individuals during the trial session, but the afflicted persons depicted marks of being bitten. The people believed that there was a force which transferred Martha�s actions to the afflicted individuals.
Many individuals were brought for trial on account of being witches, but were later acquitted. The people questioned the evidence brought forth against some individuals. The spectral evidence, especially in Martha Corey�s case, relied heavily on testimonies of the accused. The authenticity of such testimony is questionable as there are no subtle means to prove that the accusers are telling the truth. Also, the testimonies could have been enhanced to portray the influence of the accused with the bizarre behavior, for example, Mrs. Pope, one of the afflicted persons, described the effect as a serious torment by Marth Corey during the presentation of physical evidence against Martha Corey. It is not easy to decipher Mrs. Pope feeling during such stances. Also, some of the accused people were staunch members of the congregation, and it was unimaginable for them to be associated with the vice. Their faith and past affiliation and service to the church cast doubt on the evidence brought forth against them. The authors of these documents describe the evidence as based mainly on conviction with no inherent logical reasoning i.e. the evidence could be described as blinded and not sufficient to prove the accused involvement in the vice.
The Salem trials portray the belief in supernatural powers which can be used to harm people. The bizarre symptoms shown by individuals across Salem with no medical explanation strengthened the belief of devil�s hand in the atrocities. Many people were implicated during the trials, and evidence brought forth. The evidence included confessions, witness testimonies, physical evidence and other forms of testimonies. The evidence presented determined the person�s status, whether to be killed or acquitted of the charges. With no scientific or logical backing, some of the evidence presented were blinded and may have served different purpose.

Works Cited
Richard Godbeer, ed.,. "Document 10." The Salem Witch Hunt: A Brief History with Documents (2011): p. 51-55. Print.
Richard Godbeer, ed.,. "Document 11." The Salem Witch Hunt: A Brief History with Documents (2011): p. 55-60. Print.
Richard Godbeer, ed.,. "Document 12." The Salem Witch Hunt: A Brief History with Documents (2011): p. 60-65. Print.
Richard Godbeer, ed.,. "Document 13." The Salem Witch Hunt: A Brief History with Documents (2011): p. 68-72. Print.
Richard Godbeer, ed.,. "Document 14." The Salem Witch Hunt: A Brief History with Documents (2011): p. 72-75. Print.
Richard Godbeer, ed.,. "Document 15." The Salem Witch Hunt: A Brief History with Documents (2011): p. 75-77. Print.
Richard Godbeer, ed.,. "Document 16." The Salem Witch Hunt: A Brief History with Documents (2011): p. 77-78. Print.
Richard Godbeer, ed.,. "Document 17." The Salem Witch Hunt: A Brief History with Documents (2011): p. 78-80. Print.
Richard Godbeer, ed.,. "Document 18." The Salem Witch Hunt: A Brief History with Documents (2011): p. 80-83. Print.
Richard Godbeer, ed.,. "Document 19." The Salem Witch Hunt: A Brief History with Documents (2011): p. 83-85. Print.
Richard Godbeer, ed.,. "Document 20." The Salem Witch Hunt: A Brief History with Documents (2011): p. 85-87. Print.
Richard Godbeer, ed.,. "Document 21." The Salem Witch Hunt: A Brief History with Documents (2011): p. 87-88. Print.
Richard Godbeer, ed.,. "Document 22." The Salem Witch Hunt: A Brief History with Documents (2011): p. 89-93. Print.
Richard Godbeer, ed.,. "Document 23." The Salem Witch Hunt: A Brief History with Documents (2011): p. 145-147. Print.
Richard Godbeer, ed.,. "Document 24." The Salem Witch Hunt: A Brief History with Documents (2011): p. 147-166. Print.
Richard Godbeer, ed.,. "Document 25." The Salem Witch Hunt: A Brief History with Documents (2011): p. 168-175. Print.

August 09, 2021

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