“There were three women at Salem witch trials, and only one of the three were believed to have been a witch,” explains Dr. Stephen Hales.
“The two who became suspected were Mary Cripe, and Martha Washington Carver.”
The most popular account of this was in 1741 when Salem village witch Dr. Maud Montgomery published her “Account of Witchcraft in Salem” and claimed that “the wickedest Witch of Salem was Mary Cripe.”
“She is the only person ever executed for witchcraft in any part of the world,” said Dr. Hales. “She was a witch.”
Dr. Hales is the former professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and teaches in the department of psychiatry at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. He says that the word has a long history in the history of the study of hysteria and that many times today we use it for an illness but, in this case, it was used for someone who was accused of witchcraft.
What was the effect of being accused?
“It was extremely damaging,” says Dr. Hales. “The whole point of the trials were that you had to prove that the suspect was possessed by the devil, that you were an evil creature. You’d have to prove it to the jury.”
If they were wrong, there was not going to be any trial and there was much suspicion about the entire town due to the charges.
What was the impact on the survivors?
One of the women accused by Martha Washington Carver told the story of when she went walking across the street, she heard a voice speaking to her in the trees calling her a “Witch” and then she ran back outside and her clothes were on fire.
She says he said to her, “Witch, you’re going to burn in Hell! I’ll have that for you!” – but they put her away on charges of murdering her mother.
Mary Carver made two more trips back up to Salem, only to be accused of witchcraft on both occasions – and she was thrown into prison.
“Her case would be so damaging to her that she would never work again [and] he would be sure that he would never marry her,” says Dr. Hales.
Was she really possessed at the time?
“The problem with the evidence against Carver is that her own testimony on two occasions at the trial was that she
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