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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/22

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

were condemned to death, and every man, woman, and child brought under a reign of terror. Many lied outright, and one of the foremost citizens of Salem went constantly armed, and kept one of his horses saddled in the stable to flee if brought under accusation.

The hysterical ingenuity of the possessed women grew with their success. They insisted that they saw devils prompting the accused to defend themselves in court. Did one of the accused clasp her hands in despair, the possessed clasped theirs; did the accused, in appealing to Heaven, make any gesture, the possessed simultaneously imitated it; did the accused in weariness drop her head, the possessed dropped theirs, and declared that the witch was trying to break their necks. The court-room resounded with groans, shrieks, prayers, and curses; judges, jury, and people were aghast, and even the accused were sometimes thus led to believe in their own guilt.

Very striking in all these cases was the mixture of trickery with frenzy. In most of the madness there was method. Sundry witches charged by the possessed had been engaged in controversy with the Salem church people. Others of the accused had quarreled with Mr. Parris. Still others had been engaged in old lawsuits against persons more or less connected with the girls. One of the most fearful charges—which cost the life of a noble and lovely lady—arose undoubtedly from her better style of dress and living. Old slumbering neighborhood or personal quarrels bore in this way a strange fruitage of revenge; for the cardinal doctrine of a fanatic's creed is that his enemies are the enemies of God.

Any person daring to hint the slightest distrust of the proceedings was in danger of being immediately brought under accusation of a league with Satan. Husbands and children were thus brought to the gallows for daring to disbelieve these charges against their wives and their mothers. Some of the clergy were accused for endeavoring to save members of their churches.[1]

One poor woman was charged with "giving a look toward the great meeting-house of Salem, and immediately a demon entered the house and tore down a part of it." This cause for the falling of a bit of poorly nailed wainscoting seemed perfectly satisfactory to Dr. Cotton Mather, as well as to the judge and jury, and she was hanged, protesting her innocence. Still another lady, belonging to one of the most respected families of the region, was charged with the crime of witchcraft. The children were fearfully afflicted whenever she appeared near them. It seemed never

  1. This is admirably brought out by Upham, and the lawyer-like thoroughness with which he has examined all these hidden springs of the charges is one of the main things which render his book one of the most valuable contributions to the history and philosophy of demoniacal possession ever written.