5 Things Everyone Gets Wrong About the Salem Witch Hunts
One of those factors largely overlooked is that of money. Witch hunts were big business. The accused, innocent or not, were billed for their trial, detention, and all aspects of the legal proceedings against them. Repent of your wickedness and you were allowed a more humane death, but your property was forfeited to the church. It was a wish to leave his heirs with something that led Giles Corey to his grisly death by pressing.
In Salem in particular much of what transpired came about because of the power of the Putman family. Young Ann Putnam was one of the chief accusers, and nearly all of those she accused had some sort of poor connection with her influential father, Thomas... especially members of the Porter family that her uncle had married into taking the rich inheritance that Thomas felt was his with him. Evidence suggests that many of the written accusations came straight from the hand of Thomas Putnam, who managed to eliminate many rivals in the course of the Salem Witch Hunts.
They Were Not Witches: This really shouldn't need saying, but the most important thing about the 20 people who were executed in Salem and the tens of thousands more who met their end in Europe was that they were all perfectly ordinary people caught up in a very baffling and bad time. On the subject of whether or not magic exists in any form I try to keep an open mind, but those who died in these hunts were not the grails of hidden knowledge or possessors of strange powers the popular legacy has made them out to be. They weren't early feminists standing up to the patriarchy or priestesses in a hidden religion.
They were just people. People who found themselves surrounded by a system ready to accuse them of devil worship and horrific crimes and for whom agreement and an easy death were the best options.
And it could happen again tomorrow under the right set of circumstances. It's very important we remember that.