York, ME
Old York Museum Center
Lecture and Dessert Series 2018, Lecture 2
Thu, October 11, 2018 at 7:00PM (Eastern)
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A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience
Emerson “Tad” Baker
 
Beginning in January 1692, Salem Village in colonial Massachusetts witnessed the largest and most lethal outbreak of witchcraft in early America. Villagers—mainly young women—suffered from unseen torments that caused them to writhe, shriek, and contort their bodies, complaining of pins stuck into their flesh and of being haunted by specters. Believing that they suffered from assaults by an invisible spirit, the community began a hunt to find those responsible for the demonic work. The resulting Salem Witch Trials, culminating in the execution of 19 villagers, persists as one of the most mysterious and fascinating events in American history. Historians have speculated on a web of possible causes for the witchcraft that started in Salem and spread across the region—from religious and political crisis, to ergot poisoning and an encephalitis outbreak. While most agree that there was no single cause, Baker asserts that a unique convergence of conditions—“a perfect storm”—set the stage for events in Salem.
 
This lecture is the second in a four-part lecture series exploring the complex topics of crime, punishment, superstition, and death in old New England. The lectures are followed immediately by dessert, coffee, and tea in Jefferds Tavern.

Emerson W. Baker is professor of history at Salem State University. He is the author of The Devil of Great Island: Witchcraft and Conflict in Early New England, and co-author of an award-winning biography of Sir William Phips.
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