History of Witchcraft:

Witch Trials


Woman with noose around her neck

The Connecticut Trials resulted in the conviction of 37 people, 11 of which were executed. They were the result of “Blue laws” stating that witchcraft was a capital crime. Only a single witness was required for conviction. There were beliefs that after the war with the Native Americans that had already inhabited the land the colonists had settled on had been bewitched. That the floods and various diseases that had plagued the people and land were at the hands of an evil force. These witch trials were an attempt to find someone or something to blame for their misfortunes. 

Alse Young of Windsor was the first person to record to be executed in the 13 American colonies when she was hanged in 1647 in Hartford, Connecticut. The first recorded confession in Connecticut was by Mary Johnson in 1648. Mary was a servant whose legal troubles began around 1646 when she was accused of theft. Under pressure from the minister Samuel Stone, and after extended whipping, Mary confessed that she was guilty of witchcraft. Many more convictions and/or executions were to follow:

John and Joan Carsington

Goodwife Bassett

Goodwife Knapp

Lydia Gilbert

Rebecca and Nathaniel Greensmith, 

Mary Sanford

Mary Barne

hands in chains


The most famous fit of hysteria against witchcraft in the United States was during the Salem Witch Trials. It was also the best documented case of witch trials. The famous trials were not just a singular event since many separate accusations occurred before and after these trials. But it mainly began after one particular incident involving many young girls accusing each other for a variety of reasons. The events took place in a largely Puritan British colony, preaching that women were to be subservient and were more likely to be “seduced” by the devil than by men. In the village of Salem, they had formed their own congregation lead by the ordained minister Reverend Samuel Parris. In 1692 nine-year-old Betty Parris (the minister’s daughter) and her cousin, eleven-year-old Abigail Williams, began to be afflicted with strange fits. These fits involved screaming and other strange sounds, contortions, and complaints of being pinched and pricked with pins. Doctors could find no reason or cause for these ailments. Soon other young women, including Ann Putnam and two seventeen-year-olds, Mercy Lewis and Mary Walcott, began to portray similar behaviors. They became some of the most dramatic accusers, influenced by personal vendettas against family members or other people of the village.

This lead to the first three people accused of witchcraft; Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborne. Tituba was the first accused, being a slave of Samuel Parris and already hated by most in the village. The main connection between all of them was that they didn’t participate in the same practices as those of the church, were poor, or both. Tituba admitted to being a witch accompanied by Good and Osborn among others, leading to further investigations.

The list of those accused became longer and longer. With no evidence, libelous testimony and coerced confessions, dozens of people (mostly women) ended up in jail as witches. In several cases, women who started off as accusers were eventually accused and tried themselves. By the end of 1693, the trials came to an end since many of the trials were dismissed and accusations were pardoned. But by the end of the trials, many people were wrongfully executed


Sarah Good

Sarah Osborne

Rebecca Nurse

Susannah Martin

Elizabeth Howe

Sarah Wildes

George Jacobs Sr.

Martha Carrier

George Burroughs

John Proctor

John Willard

Giles Corey (pressed)

Martha Corey

Margaret Scott

Bridget Bishop

Mary Easty

Alice Parker

Ann Pudeator

Wilmott Reed

Samuel Wardwell

Mary Parker


It is unlikely that all of these people actually were witches, making this event another example of people want to be more powerful and take down those that didn’t fit within their expectations.

With the last group of executions in Europe in Poland in 1793, witches began to keep their practices secret to avoid persecution until a resurgence of witchcraft in the Modern Period.