www.whyville.net Apr 3, 2004 Weekly Issue



Babyboo4u
Guest Writer

The Salem Witch Trials

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You're sitting in a well-known place, where several people have sat before and none have lived to tell the tale. You gaze into the eyes of the crowd, filled with people you've known all your life -- people you once trusted, the people you once called your friends, the people who have now brought you here to your doom.

You see the jury return. They pierce you with looks of hated. One of the men stands. Within his mouth lays your fate. He begins to speak and lets out those four menacing words that murder the slightest glimpse of hope you had left.

"You shall hang, witch."

Just think of what it would be like if you were accused of practicing witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, in the late 1600s. You could have found yourself in the very same situation as I just described. Becoming a target was pretty easy -- they thought you to be a practitioner of evil if you talked to yourself, not attend church, attended what they considered the wrong church, or even if you were a friend of the most recently accused 'witch' ... or worse, if you accused the afflicted of lying.

What's the difference between the afflicted and the accused? The afflicted were the ones who claimed to be tormented and possessed. The accused were the people who supposedly tormenting and possessing them.


So, here you are, sitting at the weekly trial and you hear an outburst from the back of the crowd. The person in the back begins to wail and cry out violently.

"Who is it that torments you?!" demands the judge, and to your astonishment and horror they cry out YOUR name! Pow! as easy as that, you're trapped in a jail cell with your arms wrapped around yourself to keep warm as the tide washes in around your knees, while you stand, muscles cramping because you don't even have enough room in your cell to sit down. Over 150 young men and women were imprisoned in jail cells like this; many no older than 15 before they even got a trial.

Months after first being thrown into imprisonment, you're finally off to trial. You've considered your options constantly. You've thought of fleeing Salem. Five accused witches escaped prison, but they all had money to help them pull it off; you don't.

Then, there was getting pregnant. As weird as it sounds, even if you were sentenced to hang, the baby inside you was innocent, so your trial was put off for nine months. The only problem was that you're not pregnant and you're currently trapped in a jail cell.

So, what if you just refused to stand for trial? Giles Corey gave this a try and was crushed to death by having heavy stones piled on top of him when he would not answer any questions. This was not the way you wanted to die. Your last two options were to either confess to witchcraft or accuse someone else. You just couldn't bear to have it on your conscience, admitting to something you hadn't done, especially witchcraft, even though it was a sure-fire way to avoid a hanging! If someone confessed to witchcraft, they were kept alive in a jail cell so they could be called upon in other trials, for surely a witch could identify another witch. And you would not force what you've been through on another innocent person by accusing someone else.

So, you're off to trial, where your only plan is to plead innocent.

You hear the heavy footsteps of the jail keeper. He grabs you by the wrists and hauls you off to your trial.

Now, you're sitting on a cold hard bench. The questions start getting fired at you faster and faster, pounding on your mind and you don't even have time to answer them: "Are you a witch? Why do you torment these folk? We know your a witch! How do you know your not a witch!? Confess witch! Confess!"

Does that sound like a fair trial to you? Accused witches had to face trials like that with no lawyer, and no witnesses to call on for their own behalf. Even if they did convince the jury and were proclaimed innocent, the jury would be sent back to reconsider their decision! This happened in the trial of Rebecca Nurse, and her second verdict was... yes, guilty.

Now, you're on your way to the gallows. You've been sentenced guilty for telling the truth. They all heard you plead your innocence: "I can swear before my eternal father that I am no witch!" you had cried. But nevertheless you look up now to see the noose being tied. Just as you feel the pricks of the rope as they slide it around your neck, you hear, "I confess! I'm a witch!" and just barely realize it was you who said it.

Now you will live. You will live in a jail cell only to find more witches... but you will live.

During seven months, 13 women and five men were hung and another 17 died in jail -- which makes a total of 35 innocent people killed -- before the hysteria finally blew over in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692.

To me, it's funny how their minds worked. The mob murdered the innocent, but let the guilty live.


This is Babyboo4u, signing off 'n clicking send...

*clicky-clicky*

 

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