The Salem Witch Trials Pt. 4: An Affliction & An Accusation
So as we can see so far, all of these double, double toil and troubling events are slowly starting to form together. I am hoping my explanations are helping shed light on the fact that this wasn’t just a random outbreak of calling people witches, in a way, it was planned.
So now we have the daughter of Samuel Parris, Elizabeth Parris around age 9, along with his niece, Abagail Williams around age 11, brought into the mix. They, who both lived in the Parris household, along with their friends, one being Ann Putnam Jr. around age 8, would often times spend their afternoons together. What would they do? Listen to Tituba’s stories of her time back in Barbados.
Now what many people don’t realize is that the events of the Salem Witch Trials started to take place around early (January-February) 1692. Salem had just endured a very severe and long winter which for this time period lead to extremely dangerous conditions for the local population. On top of that we have a group of girls who are barely allowed to speak in public, let alone play or giggle. In the wise words of Buzzfeed Unsolved Member Shane: these girls were very bored. So it clearly makes sense why they would be fascinated with Tituba’s stories, because they were unlike anything they have ever heard before. It was also no surprise that they started to take after her words and attempt things such as various rituals (of course without letting the local public know).
Then things started to change. No one really knows what caused the start of the girls’ ‘fits’. Was it influence by Samuel Parris and Thomas Putnam? Or maybe they were caught performing one of these ‘rituals’ and had to cover it up somehow to protect themselves? Or was it just as Shane said and these girls suddenly found an outlet to express themselves apart from the strict Puritan rules of life? The only thing we do know is that it was Abagail Williams and Elizabeth (Betty) Parris who started showing signs of ‘affliction’ first.
These fits included periods of screaming, rage, contorting their bodies, speaking in possible tongues or gibberish, as well as random ‘bites’ or ‘markings’ on various parts of their body. Soon it wasn’t just the two girls within the Parris household. The affliction and mysterious fits soon spread to Ann Putnam Jr., as well as other girls they were known to have spent time with.
When these fits became unmanageable, it was a neighbor known as Mary Sibley who suggested Tituba create a ‘witch cake’ in order to determine if their afflictions were related to witchcraft. What is a witch cake you may ask? A delicious pairing of flour and, well for lack of a better word, pee of the afflicted. This cake was then suppose to be fed to a dog and if it too shared the same symptoms, then clearly it proved that witchcraft was involved. I don’t know what poor dog was forced to eat that thing but low and behold, the dog showed no signs of fits. But of course that didn’t stop Samuel Parris from stating in church that witch cakes were not an accurate or in-depth investigation towards whether or not witchcraft was involved in this ordeal. He, instead, called in local doctor, Dr. William Griggs, to examine the girls only. It was then, along with follow up examinations by other local physicians, that witchcraft was clearly the cause of the girls’ afflictions.
But of course the girls couldn’t be the cause of their own erratic symptoms, right? No, no, they clearly had to be the victims of another’s cruel intentions within the community. This meant there was evil among the villagers and it was up to Parris, Putnam, and other local officials to discover just who was responsible for this outbreak. Soon the girls were pressured to admit the names of those who they believed were causing the afflictions upon them, and that they did. They, in fact, accused not just one person, but three. Those three would be Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborne.