325 years ago today in people in the Salem Village in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, charged Sarah Goode, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba, an Indian slave from Barbados, with the illegal practice of witchcraft. Later that day, Tituba, possibly under coercion, confessed to the crime, encouraging the authorities to seek out more Salem witches.
The trouble in the small Puritan community began the month before, when nine-year-old Elizabeth Parris and 11-year-old Abigail Williams, the daughter and niece, respectively, of the Reverend Samuel Parris, began experiencing fits and other mysterious maladies.
After assessing the girls, a doctor concluded that the children were suffering from the effects of witchcraft. The young girls agreed with the doctor’s diagnosis and took it further. Soon, other Salem residents joined Elizabeth and Abigail claiming they were "afflicted" as well, and as a result the circle of local residents accused of witchcraft grew. Those accused were mostly middle-aged women but also several men and even one four-year-old child. During the next few months, the afflicted area residents incriminated more than 150 women and men from Salem Village and the surrounding areas of Satanic practices.
A few months later, in June 1962, Chief Justice William Stoughton convened a special court to hear and decide the cases of those accused of witchcraft. Bridget Bishop was the first person tried and accused of witchcraft, and she was hung on June 10. Following Bridget's hearing, 13 more women and 4 men were found guilty and hung.
Most of those tried were condemned on the basis of the witnesses’ behavior during the actual proceedings, characterized by fits and hallucinations that were argued to be caused by the defendants on trial.
In response to this, Governor William Phipps of Massachusetts ordered the Court of Oyer and Terminer dissolved and replaced with the Superior Court of Judicature in October 1692. In doing so, Governor Phipps forbad the type of sensory testimony that had characterized earlier trials.
The Salem witch trials, which resulted in the executions of 19 innocent women and men, had effectively ended.