In the 17th century people were extremely superstitious. They believed in witches and warlocks. They were afraid of them. These beliefs led to the serious consequences. In several towns of colonial Massachusetts (Salem Village, Ipswich, Andover, Salem Town) a group of people was accused of witchcraft. The series of these events took place between 1692 and 1693. Over 150 people were put in a prison, more than 25 were executed and about 200 were accused. Of course many of them were innocent. The Governor William Phips remembered, “When I first arrived I found this province miserably harassed with a most Horrible witchcraft or Possession of Devills which had broke in upon several Townes, some score of poor people were taken with preternatural torments some scalded with brimstone some had pins stuck in their flesh others hurried into the fire and water and some dragged out of their houses and carried over the tops of trees and hills for many Miles together; it has been represented to me much like that of Sweden about thirty years ago, and there were many committed to prison upon suspicion of Whichraft before my arrival” (Boston, 1692). It was the most dishonorable and infamous example of mass hysteria. People were sure that evil spirits were actual and were present. Moreover they believed that people could be obsessed with those evils. All human failures were explained by the devil actions. Some people ostensibly could prove it. And those who didn’t believe in it were accused of being heretics.
In 1692 several girls living in Salem Village had fits. Their actions were uncontrolled. They screamed and murmured strange words, they threw things and misbehaved. It was believed that those girls were afflicted by witches living nearby. Some of these “witches” were children. Thus one of them was 12-year-old Ann Putnam. Some of them were homeless. Another “witch” was accused of afflicting others mainly because she didn’t attend church. For villagers it was a sign she was probably connected to Devil. The other victim was a slave Tituba. So mainly witches were outcast women. And nobody protected them. The most notorious case was accusation of 4-year-old girl Dorothy Good. It was actual mania and hysteria. People were uncontrolled and ready to believe in absurd things.
Some of convicted witches and warlocks were executed by hanging. Several died in prison. The series of trials came to an end in May 1693. But people believed in supernatural powers for some period of time after the trials.