March 27, 2023
My head exploded when I saw images of a rally for Trump with signs behind him in red with the words “Witch Hunt.” The Witchcraft Trials were the foundation for the laws this nation has had since we became free of such nonsense committed by people claiming religious superiority whilst lying and making false accusations.
One of Stoughton’s earliest, and most significant, decisions was to allow the admission of ‘spectral’ evidence (i.e. acts carried out by demons that only an accuser can see). With spectral evidence allowed, Stoughton’s court set about trying and executing witches with astonishing speed.
Stoughton also implemented another rule that moved things along, one that encouraged (or tortured) the accused into confessing that they practiced witchcraft. The court spared those who confessed. Those who would not confess risked death at trial.
And finally, Stoughton sent the jury back to reconsider even when it found an accused witch innocent. The jury, for example, exonerated Rebecca Nourse, Stoughton sent the jurymen back to reconsider, they convicted Nourse and she died on the gallows.
Within two weeks of the court’s establishment, it killed the first alleged witch. Stoughton’s efficiency dovetailed perfectly with the religious leaders’ fervent belief that the devil was attacking the colony. These forces combined to create a powerful killing machine, executing 20 people in just four months with more than 100 prisoners still to try.
End to the Slaughter
The slaughter might have continued had Governor Phips not returned to his senses and put a stop to the lunacy. The bloodshed had finally grown too much for the ministers of the day. They conceded that perhaps innocents were being killed.
The ministers urged Phips to act as the allegations continued to fly, including charges against Phips’ own wife.
In September 1692, Phips ended the court of oyer and terminer, stopping the trials and eventually freeing all the prisoners.
In the aftermath, Phips, as did many of those involved, apologized for his actions. Stoughton, however, never publicly admitted any wrongdoing. A life-long political operator, he continued accumulating wealth and political power until his death in 1701. He willed his estate to Harvard College.
The judges ended up being condemned throughout history however, as we know now, they were not held accountable for all the harm they did. As with the life of Stoughton, he never apologized but was rewarded with power and wealth. He even had a town named after him!
One must wonder how he was so richly rewarded for all the evil acts he committed against innocent people while claiming religious superiority. Since it is Satan himself who is the father of lies, the evidence points to him rewarding Stoughton and not God. If he ever claimed to be blessed or rewarded by god, one should wonder which God he was referring to. Was it in fact God, the same God “who loved the world so much He gave His only begotten Son” or the one so jealous of the Father-God he led a rebellion in Heaven against God?
While it seems all so acceptable for people to use what happened in Salem for their own gains, wealth, power, fame, and attention, the truth is, still the truth.
Kathie Costos author of Ministers Of The Mystery Series. What happened in Salem is one of the reasons why it was written.