Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-sh8wx Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-19T10:44:30.821Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

SPECTRAL EVIDENCE, NON-SPECTRAL ACTS OF WITCHCRAFT, AND CONFESSION AT SALEM IN 1692

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 June 1997

WENDEL D. CRAKER
Affiliation:
University of Georgia

Abstract

It is commonly asserted that people were hanged at Salem on charges of spectral appearance; and the way to avoid hanging was to confess. Non-spectral acts of witchcraft are regarded as inconsequential to the outcome of the trials. Yet it was the non-spectral acts which provided the one magnet that attracted attention from the court. No one charged only with spectral appearance was even tried. The reprieves granted to confessors were the last decisions the court was allowed to make. This profile provides evidence that the standard claims about the court of oyer and terminer's use of evidence are the reverse of what actually happened, and highlights a number of patterns that have gone unremarked, requiring fresh interpretations.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 1997 Cambridge University Press

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Footnotes

The original study, of which this is an extension, was under the direction of Barry Schwartz. Thanks also to Fred Bates, Robert Bogue, Dwight Freshley, Sandy Martin, and Ira Robinson for dialogue and commentary. Richard Weisman provided critical comments on an earlier draft of this argument. Larry Gragg's comments have shaped the outcome, and the argument is sharpened by responses of anonymous referees. The article grew, in part, out of participation in the ‘Perspectives on Witchcraft’ conference, a tercentenary observance of the Salem witchcraft trials, held in Salem, MA, June 1992, sponsored by Salem State College, the Essex Institute, et al. An abbreviated form of this argument was presented at the New England Historical Association, Waltham, Massachusetts, 23 Apr. 1994.