Salem Witch Trials Fact vs. Fiction

The witch-hunt

According to History Channel, the infamous Salem Witch Trials began in the spring of 1692, in Salem, MA. The dilemma started when a few young girls claimed to be possessed by the devil. These girls accused other women of being witches, causing their possession (History Channel). The accusations created chaos all across Massachusetts, and eventually led to the creation of a special court to hear the Witchcraft cases (History Channel). The hysteria finally came to an end, but not soon enough, for 20 people were killed, and over 200 where accused (Brooks, 1).


Although there has not been a proven source of why the girls in Salem started the which-craft hysteria, but there are a few theories that could possibly explain it. The first theory is that the girls were simply bored. According to history list, life in the 1600s was dull, so the girls might have created these rumors for fun. Another theory is that the citizens of Salem consumed Ergot, a fungus that grows on rye ( Ergot can cause spasms and hallucinations, which could have been seen as demons or witches (University of Hawaii at Manoa)

The Crucible


Giles and Martha Corey: In The Crucible, Giles Corey was a simple, kind, and learned farmer who lived with his wife, Martha, in Salem. Giles was crushed to death for not answering the court's questions. The reason why Giles did not give an answer in court when asked about his connections to the devil was so his land would not go to the government after his death. In real life, however, Giles was known to be a violent man. Giles was prosecuted and fined for beating a farm hand to death in 1676 (Brooks, 1). Martha Corey was Giles' third wife. She had a mixed son with another man, which caused her divorce. Martha's name was blacked by this incident, although she attended church regularly (Lewis, 1).

John and Elizabeth Proctor: According to The Crucible, John Proctor committed adultery with Abigail Williams, a 17 year old girl. John was a basic farmer, and lived a simple life. In real life, John owned a bar, named Proctor Tavern (Brooks, 1). In the movie, John is a pretty peaceful guy, but according to Rebecca Brooks, he beat Mary Warren when she began her fits.

Abigail Williams: In the movie, Abigail is a 17 year old girl who is in love with John Procter. Abigail was around 11 years old during the time of the trials. Also, in the movie, she is referenced to be Rev. Parris' niece, but there has been no proof of this to be true (Lewis, 1). Abigail disappears after her last accusation, on June 3, 1692, just like the movie.

Rev. Parris and Betty Parris: In the movie, Rev. Parris had one slave. However, Kathy Weiser says on her online article that he had two slaves when he came to Boston. Betty Parris was one of the first girls to have fits, and to accuse people of witchcraft.

Rebecca Nurse: Rebecca was a pious woman who was hanged during the Salem witch trials. She had been a great example of a christian woman, according to Douglas O. Linder. Prior to Rebecca Nurse's hanging, the executions were deemed good, but when a woman of her piousness gets hung, it snaps everyone into the realization that the trials were false.

Ann Putnam: Ann was one of the first girls to join Abigail and Betty. Ann played a crucial role in accusing people of witchcraft (Ray, 1). Fourteen years after the trials, Ann admitted that she had lied about her accusations. Thomas Putnam: Thomas Putnam was father to Ann Putnam. He was seen as a greedy landowner in the movie who just wanted Giles' land. In real life, Putnam was not much more than someone who gave more weight to his daughter's accusations (Ray, 1).

Tituba: Tituba was an Indian girl who was sold into slavery in Barbados, and later brought to Massachusetts. Tituba married another slave named John, and had a son named Violet, who lived in the Putnam house until his death. Tituba was brought into the witchcraft accusations when Mr. Putnam heard about the witchcake she made for his daughter, Betty (Linder, 1).

Comparison & Differences

In The Crucible by Arthur Miller, it is said that Abigail and Betty were dancing in the woods with Tituba. According to Duke Whittaker, he found that they did not dance, but were told stories of witchcraft out of the Malleus Maleficarum, a witchcraft book. This book includes information and stories about bewitching men, general witchcraft, and sexual encounters with demons.

Abigail Williams was a previous servant to the Proctors in the play and movie. She had been fired because she had sex with John Proctor, which was unacceptable, yet they kept it quite. In real life, however Abigail never worked for the Proctor family, and never had a relationship with John proctor (Burns, 1).

In the crucible, we hear, nor see, the previous minister of Salem. But in actual history, he was accused as the ring leader of all witches. His name was George Burroughs, and he was sent to be hanged. When he was awaiting to be dropped, he started to recite the Lord's Prayer. This death is claimed to end the hysteria in Salem, and to bring the realization that the trials were dumb (Ellis, 6).



McCarthyism was the accusations against people who were deemed communist. In the 50's, communism was seen as a serious threat to America. Sen. Joe McCarthy took measures into his own hands by accusing government workers of communism, and created blacklist which accused citizens of communism, making it difficult for them to find jobs (Sowers, 1). These accusation had little proof, as did the witch accusations of Salem in 1692.

The House Un-American Activities Committee

The House Un-American activities Committee (HUAC) searched for communist and other potential threats for nearly 40 years (The Gale Group Inc.,1). The same activity went on in Salem, but it was more of a blind belief of accusations rather than searching for them.

Arthur Miller

Arthur miller wrote the crucible to show the public that the event that were currently going on had already happened in 1692, and caused nothing but pain. The red scare was the false accusation of communism on citizens, and it was basically very similar to the Salem Witch Trials. People could claim you to be a communist and you would be charged. People with grudges could accuse their enemy and make them look bad/ get arrested.


In all, we have seen how without proper trial and reasoning, you cannot prove anyone guilty. In Salem village in 1692, or all across America in the 50's, we have seen how these accusations and lies have ruined communities, families, and ended peoples lives. Today, we look back on these events as comedy, but it was no laughing matter in the days of the accusations.

"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."


Burns, Margo. "Arthur Miller's The Crucible: Fact & Fiction, by Margo Burns." Arthur Miller's The Crucible: Fact & Fiction, by Margo Burns. N.p., 30 Dec. 2015. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.

Ellis, Lacey. "Salem Witch Trials." (n.d.): 1-8. Web.

Linder, Douglas. "The Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692." The Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.

"The McCarthy Hearings and Their Relation to the Salem Witch Trials." The McCarthy Hearings and Their Relation to the Salem Witch Trials. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.

Whittaker, Duke. "The Differences between "The Crucible" and the Real Salem Wi." N.p., 06 Mar. 2014. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.

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