Now we will look at a documentary on the Salem Witch Trials to continue with our Witch theme. This is an older documentary about the Salem Witch Trials. However, the information is excellent and gives a different perspective on what triggered the Salem Witch Trials. The answer may surprise you.
This is an older Secrets of the Dead episode about the Salem Witch Trials. Were the girls truly bewitched? One scientist dives into the Salem Witch Trials. The answer she found may surprise the viewer. Using her sleuthing skills and historical records, she discovered what triggered the Salem Witch trials as well as similar trials around Europe. In doing so, she may have solved the mystery of a murder.
For three centuries, witch persecution spiraled out of control. 40,000 men, women, and children were killed in Europe. The Vatican sent out warnings against witchcraft. Witchfinders went up and down England finding suspected witches. One witch hunter brought over 100 people to trial in two years. Witchcraft was punishable by death.
Linda Kaperal worked through the evidence. In carefully working through the evidence, she discovered one consistent clue. The evidence fell into place as she explored the records. She connected the evidence to a modern drug. This modern drug gave people horrifying visions and fevered dreams. How could this modern drug trigger the witch hunts that plagued Europe for three centuries?
In 1589 the most brutal witch persecutions happened. The church leaders, doctors, and magistrates were brought to a manor house where there were five children and seven servants who were struck down by a mystery illness. The illness bore all the hallmarks of witchcraft. There were some skeptics, however, they were convinced that witchcraft was in play.
The girls were plagued by visions. They saw animals that were not there. They had violent fits. The girls blamed a woman: Alice Samuel. She was a local misfit. Samuel was tortured into confessing she was a witch. She was hanged after her confession. They hanged her husband and daughter too. It seemed that it was an open and shut case.
Salem, Massachusetts provides a strong set of evidence that would throw this English trial into doubt. The victims suffered from the same symptoms as the girls in England. They had violent fits. They had horrifying visions. The 19 people who were executed could have saved their lives by confessing to being a witch, but they did not.
Many settlers were struck down by an illness. For a year three girls became the most powerful people in Salem. They held the town spellbound with their fits. They pointed out who bewitched them. 150 people were arrested. The prisoners had a choice: confess or die. If you confessed you were going against God. If you refused to confess, you died.
Kaperal looked at the symptoms presented by the girls in Salem. She initially thought that the girls faked their symptoms and wanted to do it for attention. Something did not feel right about this explanation. There was some faking, however, the descriptions on some of the other symptoms could not be faked. The convulsions described were so horrible the girls could not fake those. Other people in the community experienced the same symptoms too. The evidence was there, all it needed was a new set of eyes to look at it. The explanation came to Kaperal suddenly and it surprised her.
To continue to learn about what happened in Salem and to learn about the modern drug that may have triggered the witch trials, continue to watch the documentary.
Show this documentary to a history and science classroom. You can see how science is applied to history to solve a mystery. A history class covers a historical event.
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