Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials

Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials


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Salem, Massachusetts, 1692. In a plain meetinghouse a woman stands before her judges. The accusers, girls and young women, are fervent and overexcited. The accused is a poor, unpopular woman who had her first child before she was married. As the trial proceeds the girls begin to wail, tear their clothing, and scream that the woman is hurting them. Some of them expose wounds to the horrified onlookers, holding out the pins that have stabbed them — pins that appeared as if by magic. Are they acting or are they really tormented by an unseen evil? Whatever the cause, the nightmare has begun: The witch trials will eventually claim twenty-five lives, shatter the community, and forever shape the American social conscience.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416903154
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 08/09/2005
Edition description: Repackage
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 175,010
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Marc Aronson is the acclaimed author of Trapped: How the World Rescued 33 Miners from 2,000 Feet Below the Chilean Desert, which earned four starred reviews. He is also the author of Rising Water and Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado, winner of the ALA’s first Robert F. Sibert Award for nonfiction and the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award. He has won the LMP award for editing and has a PhD in American history from NYU. Marc is a member of the full-time faculty in the graduate program of the Rutgers School of Communication and Information. He lives in Maplewood, New Jersey, with his wife, Marina Budhos, and sons. You can visit him online at MarcAronson.com.

Stephanie Anderson lives in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Her first picture book was Weaving the Rainbow, by George Ella Lyon, in which her art was praised by Kirkus Reviews as "exquisite."

Read an Excerpt

Prologue: Boston, 1688: The Possession of the Goodwin Children


The trouble began in the summer of 1688. Thirteen-year-old Martha Goodwin noticed that some of her family's linen was missing and sharply questioned their washerwoman, who she suspected had stolen it. The laundress's mother was furious and attacked Martha with terrible words. Goody Glover's "bad language" seemed to afflict Martha like a contagious disease. The girl, and soon her three younger siblings, fell into fits. These seemed so painful that the prominent minister who later wrote up the case reported that "it would have broke a heart of stone to have seen their agonies." When the respected physician Thomas Oakes was called in, the only possible explanation he could offer for the children's suffering was witchcraft.

Luckily, it was not hard to guess who was responsible for harming the Goodwin children. Glover -- her first name is not known for certain, though she is often mistakenly called "Mary" -- was made-to-order for the part. An angry older woman, she was just the sort of person whom people suspected of being a witch. In fact, not six years earlier, as a woman lay dying, she had revealed to another woman that Glover had bewitched her to death. And just as the woman who was carrying this secret was preparing to testify against the witch, her son was assaulted by a "black thing with a blue cap" that appeared in his room to torment him. Though Glover was just a poor woman, she seemed able to cause great harm by using the powers of evil. Her imprisonment immediately healed the youngest of the Goodwin children, but when she again railed at them, the other three relapsed.

To face off against Glover and the devil -- the evil one who surely was responsible for the anguish Glover was causing the Goodwin children -- a young but important minister arrived at the household. He was Cotton Mather -- son of Increase Mather, one of the leading ministers and theologians of his day, and grandson of John Cotton, one of the most important ministers and authors in the early history of New England. In his lineage, his already impressive learning, and his presence, Cotton Mather was the ideal person to aid the Goodwin children. If he could entrap Glover and get her to reveal her satanic bond, he could free the young people from her malign influence.

Mather, already in Boston, arrived at their home to try to help four children who lived near the church in which he preached. But he was also there to participate in what he knew was a far larger and more momentous cause. This case was both a test and a potential rallying point for all of New England Puritans.

Of MEETINGHOUSES and the blood of WOLVES: the PURITAN journey

The Puritans' mission in America was clearest in the early days of their New England settlements. The Puritans had arrived on ships. Built of long wooden planks, their churches were like simple wooden boats on land, safeguarding the believers inside. And, as one of their descendants, Nathaniel Hawthorne, wrote, when one of them killed a wolf, he claimed his reward by nailing it "on the porch of the meetinghouse," where the blood would drip onto the doorstep. This balance of simple strength and fierce combat was the essence of Puritanism.

Puritans turned completely away from what they saw as the old props of religion. Rich cathedrals full of statues, stained-glass images, ceremonies where the scent of incense or the sound of ancient chants might set the mood, priests speaking in a foreign language -- all had no place in their religion. Instead, they built their faith on clean, simple planks, like the timber of their churches, on the Word of God as written in the Bible, translated into English, and shared by the congregation.

The Puritans, or "the Godly" as they were often called in England, were pleased with their spare, simple churches with their hard wooden benches. Religion for them was not a moment here or there -- a sermon on the Sabbath Day, a prayer at meals, pious phrases on holy days. Nor were they called "Puritans" because they wanted a pure, clear faith filling every part of life and every moment of every day. Each household was considered a little congregation, with the father as a kind of minister. He would lead the family in prayer and Bible reading, and he would discipline those who needed it. Children were viewed as prideful and stubborn. Their early education involved breaking them of that willfulness and making them more humble and obedient. While in some ways this was a very severe kind of family life, Puritans thought of it as based on love. They believed that husbands and wives should love each other, passionately and intimately. And the harsh treatment of young children only made sense since it gave them the best chance of discovering God's love, which was the greatest gift of all.

The Puritans believed that each person was on the most difficult, dangerous, and uncertain path: the journey toward God. In England they had to struggle against the government even to practice their faith. Their absolute devotion to religion as they understood it, their unwillingness to accept compromise, and their hatred of Catholics clashed with the policies of English kings content with an easier faith that asked less of people. Faced with this kind of opposition in 1603, King James I warned that he would chase them out of the country. But this persecution only strengthened their faith. Puritans who crossed the sea and arrived in New England felt they were participating in a new kind of pilgrimage, the physical epic of starting over in a new land. And the physical was linked to the spiritual growth. Every tree felled, field planted, simple meetinghouse built was a step in the creation of the kingdom of the Lord.

The Puritans were a minority among the English settlers in New England, and from the first, they had conflicts with others who came to North America only to make money or to live according to their own rules. But their sense of what crossing the ocean meant was very influential. Anyone today who feels that Americans have a special destiny as a force for religious faith or democracy or economic opportunity is sharing in and carrying on the Puritans' vision of this land.

Devout Puritans interpreted everything that happened to them on their pilgrimage in the new land -- epidemics of illness, wars with Indians, the sickness or health of their families, earthquakes, even the severity of New England winters -- as judgments of their behavior. They saw themselves as living out the story of the Jews, the chosen people in the Bible, who had to wander in the wilderness after they left Egypt. The stark meetinghouse colored with the blood of a wolf was the modern version of the tents of the Jews, carrying the Word of the Lord to the Promised Land.

Puritans drew great strength from seeing themselves in combat with the world around them. In their wars against the Indians, for example, they could be completely and coldly destructive. For a time they offered bounties for the scalps of murdered Indians. In this sense they were like those fundamentalists of all religions today who can justify extreme measures against others -- whether that be attacking U.S. cities, killing doctors who perform abortions, or settling in occupied territories -- on the grounds that they have a divine right to take them. They considered themselves an outpost of saints in a hostile wilderness. Any victory against their foes seemed to prove the rightness of their mission; any defeat was a sign of God's dissatisfaction.

Seeing themselves as a spiritual community, Puritans especially feared being attacked by the devil, the enemy of God. Those who rejected God entirely and made pacts with the devil were, in the eyes of Puritan believers, a combination of our worst fears of spies and terrorists. Since you could not immediately recognize these traitors, they could pass as the most pious of churchgoing neighbors -- which meant you constantly had to be on guard. Anyone who yearned for a simpler, easier way to happiness could be tempted. According to one woman who confessed to being a witch during the Salem trials, the devil promised her, "We should have happy days and then it would be better times for me." The devil felt equally present to people who thought they were failing God. Like Elizabeth Knapp, they feared they had lost their souls already.

Witchcraft and prayer actually had something very important in common. If the devil was lurking nearby, turning people into witches, then God was equally close at hand, saving souls. The threat of one proved the existence of the other. This equation was very important to Cotton Mather when he came to help the Goodwin children, for on every front the mission that had brought his family to New England was under assault.

Four years before, in 1684, the frighteningly pro-Catholic Charles II had dissolved the original charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which had allowed the Puritan leaders to govern as they saw fit. New England was now being run by an arrogant Englishman named Sir Edmond Andros. Andros was questioning whether long-established farmers really owned their land. Worse, he was insisting that any Christian could come into the community. That meant that Quakers had to be tolerated. All good Puritans knew that Quakers trembled and shook in their meetings and claimed to be in touch with an inner light. To the Godly, this sounded suspiciously like possession. Puritans were being told to allow people who might be directly in touch with the devil into their towns and villages.

Outside New England's borders the news was equally frightening. King Philip's War, a ferocious conflict with the Indians a decade earlier, had led to extremes of death and suffering on both sides. Though unprecedented killing and cruelty allowed the New Englanders to win, the war left scars: disabled men, lost relatives, and the certainty that remaining Indians could see their neighbors only as mortal enemies. Farther north, the Catholic French and their Indian allies were a constant threat. In order to help people picture the danger witchcraft posed, Cotton Mather described the devils themselves as something very like those Catholics. Think of them, he urged, as "vast regiments of cruel and bloody French dragoons [soldiers], with an Intendant [general] over them, overrunning a pillaged neighborhood."

Despite these very serious threats, young people did not seem to need the church in the same ways as their parents. And even those in the older generation paled in comparison to their forebears, who had braved the unknown in an effort to create a model society in a new land. For Cotton Mather, a tangle with a witch was an opportunity to remind everyone in New England of why they were there: They were participants in a great battle, a cosmic struggle as in biblical times, and they could never take their enemy, the true enemy of God, too lightly.

Testing a WITCH

What was a witch? It depended upon whom you asked. On the popular level, judging by the way people told stories and eyed their neighbors and brought cases to court, a witch was a person who could do harm through magical means. A witch, male or female, could curdle milk, hobble animals, and even cause young children to sicken and die. There were many folkways that told people how to figure out if someone was a witch, and how to combat one who had been flushed out. For example, one English folk belief held that if a child or baby was passed through a hole in a natural object such as a rock or a tree, that child would be immune to witchcraft. Apparently, there was a tree in Salem that had a gap of just the right size, and parents continued to pass their babies through it long after the trials. The last recorded case of using the tree this way took place on July 8, 1793.

Some of the methods for telling the future, doing harm to others, and detecting malign forces were part of what Mather called "little sorceries" but which we would no longer call "witchcraft." The year before the Salem outbreak, Mather lamented that "in some towns it has been a usual thing for people to cure hurts with spells, or to use detestable conjurations, with sieves, keys, and peas, and nails, and horseshoes, and I know not what other implements to learn the things for which they have a forbidden, and an impious curiosity. 'Tis in the Devil's name that such things are done."

The rituals Mather cited were the seventeenth-century equivalent of such diversions as checking your horoscope in the daily paper, hunting for four-leaf-clovers, or consulting a Ouija board. For instance, according to a late-sixteenth-century English manuscript, the sieve and scissors were used this way: "Stick a pair of shears [scissors] in the rind [handle] of a sieve and let two persons set the top of each of their forefingers upon the upper part of the shears holding it with the sieve up from the ground steadily; ask Peter and Paul whether A, B, or C hath stolen the thing lost; and at the nomination of the guilty person the sieve will turn around."

English settlers brought these practices with them across the Atlantic, but Mather and other leading ministers were trying to eliminate them. On the one hand, they thought these games were dangerous, for they toyed with using the devil's own powers, even if they were not used for devilish ends. The ministers saw no distinction between "white" and "black" magic. The only nonhuman power a person should rely on, they believed, was God. On the other hand, the ministers saw themselves as men of reason who relied on experiment and knowledge, not superstition. To them, spiritual matters were a type of science. Dealing with evidence of the occult required the very same rationality and discipline applied to navigating across the seas or planning how to sow your crops. Folk magic had no place in their world.

To ministers such as Mather, as well as to the law of the day, a witch was a person who had made a pact with the devil. Claims of having been harmed by magic could be used to arouse suspicion about a person. But a witch could be convicted only by confessing or by the testimony of two or more witnesses who were sure they had seen evidence of the diabolical link.

Mather set out to get Glover to reveal who and what she was. At first he tried a simple test: He asked her to recite the Lord's Prayer. Many believed that being in league with the devil would make it impossible for a person to speak these holy words. Glover mangled line after line. This was the seventeenth-century equivalent of failing a lie detector test today, and she was quickly brought to trial. Suddenly, a complication arose. Glover claimed not to understand English, only Gaelic. This was possibly true, as Glover was from Ireland and was a Catholic. But through an interpreter, she confessed all. The court hurried to search her home, and damning evidence was found: "several small images, or puppets, or babies, made of rags, and stuffed with goat's hair." Everyone knew that witches used such props to hurt people from a distance.

The importance of puppets in witch trials suggests something of what witches meant to people at the time. A witch had given up her soul so that she could command Satan's power. In that sense she was a puppet master. She could now use invisible forces to harm her victims. But by deadening her soul, she had also lost her humanity and made herself into a tool of evil. She was now a puppet herself. Either way, as powerful tormentor or as soulless pseudohuman, a witch was terrifying. Not only was she different in that she was a woman living an odd, inexplicable kind of life, not only was she a troublemaker because of her angry words and loud mouth, but a witch was the less-than-human more-than-human force in the village who was personally responsible for anything that went wrong. A witch subverted lives that should have been good. But that was only because God allowed her to do so, as a test of or a punishment for the faithful.

Despite having the crucial evidence found in Glover's home, the judges did not want to jump to conclusions, and they tried yet another test. Glover was in a bad way, but she perked up when her puppets were brought to her. Yet as soon as she held one in her hands, "the children fell into sad fits." Cause and effect: Put a puppet in the hands of a witch and children suffer.

Mather understood that catching Glover presented an exceptional opportunity. Like modern doctors who try to halt the course of a contagious disease by tracing the contact history of a person who is carrying it, ministers would question witches to learn more about the devil and any others he may have converted to his ways. Mather went to visit Glover in jail to question her, and she admitted meeting her prince, the devil, and four others. Mather prayed with her, and he was gratified to report that though she had resisted at first, she wound up thanking him.

Glover was convicted of being a witch and was properly hanged. Witches were never burned in America. Instead of repenting, at the last meeting Glover warned that her death would not help the Goodwin children. According to Mather, as she predicted, "the three children continued in their furnace as before, and it grew rather seven times hotter than it was."

EXPLORING the invisible world

With his one human suspect gone, Mather now had to use the words of the afflicted children themselves to lead him to their remaining tormentors. For it was the property of these witches to show something of themselves as they did their malicious work. Thus eleven-year-old John Goodwin could see that there were four evil shapes in the room with him, and he could almost name them, but not quite.

Again Mather tried a test: If the invisible forms that only John could see emanated from human beings, hitting one of the specters should cause an injury to the person. Rumor had it that an "obnoxious woman" whose identity Mather hid suddenly developed a wound just after the test.

The Goodwin children were in torment, sometimes barking like dogs, sometimes purring like cats; sweating and panting as if they were baking in an oven, then shivering as if drenched with cold water. Red streaks showed up on their bodies where they claimed they were being beaten with invisible sticks. One of the boys would be frozen and immobile, as if he were nailed to the floor. Then, suddenly, he and the others would seem to fly "with incredible swiftness through the air," with only a toe occasionally touching the floor.

Though the youngest among them was already seven, whenever the children had to dress or undress, they would have tantrums like the wildest toddlers. "It would sometimes cost one of them an hour or two to be undressed in the evening, or dressed in the morning. For if any one went to untie a string, or undo a button about them...they would be twisted into such postures as made the thing impossible."

Faced with this extremity of suffering, Mather took young Martha Goodwin into his own home so that he could watch over her and care for her himself. There, daily, he saw her fight invisible presences, go rigid when given food, and struggle to read the Bible even as "her eyes would be strangely twisted and blinded" and her neck seemed on the verge of breaking. Eventually, due to his constant ministrations, she and all the Goodwin children were delivered from the evils that assailed them. Choosing caution over zeal, Mather never revealed the names of any other witches he may have discovered in the process.

Lessons and WARNINGS

Cotton Mather published his account of his experiences with the Goodwin children as soon as he could, but not before their father, also named John, added a written postscript. John Goodwin understood that whatever took place in his family was just. Surely God was afflicting his children because he had failed in "admonishing and instructing" them. Still, that did not make it much easier for him to see his children suffer, "those little bodies, that should be temples for the Holy Ghost to dwell in, should be thus harassed and abused by the devil and his cursed brood." His own helplessness made it worse, for "doctors cannot help, parents weep and lament over them, but cannot ease them." Many people suggested that he try "tricks" -- the kind of folk magic often used against witches -- but Goodwin resisted. And in the end it was fasting and prayer, and the help of the ministers led by Mather, that delivered his children back to him.

To John Goodwin, all the misery his family experienced was justified. In part, he believed, it happened because he had not been a good enough father. But in a larger sense, he was sure, it was a lesson to all "that prayer is stronger than witchcraft."

For believing Puritans, the episode with the Goodwin children had been harrowing but ultimately a triumph. A witch had been discovered, led to confess, and killed; four children had been afflicted, but all were healed. A great minister had proven to be a caring man who would go to any lengths to help an anguished parent and four children trapped in invisible chains. Incontrovertible proof that evil was real, that the devil was present, and that witches were dangerous had played out in Boston, and yet those same events proved that stalwart ministers and fervent prayer could defeat the worst of the devil's designs. The clear lesson was to watch out for attacks from the invisible world and to rely on the leaders of the community when these attacks came. For any who might be tempted by the Quakers, here was a warning to stick with the true faith.

For skeptics, both of the time and since, a very different set of events had unfolded. A sick old Catholic woman who couldn't even speak English had religious articles in her home. Her garbled "confession" probably was as much a defense of her Catholic faith as anything else -- even Mather admitted that Glover sometimes called her spirits her "saints." On this flimsy evidence she was executed. Four children underwent some form of disturbance, which perhaps hints of a rebellion against the very admonitions and instructions their father valued so highly. Perhaps they enjoyed racing about and screaming and getting attention more than being well-behaved "temples for the Holy Ghost." Whatever the initial cause of their ills, soon enough their troubles faded away. Since Mather was both a central actor in the events and the author of the sole account of what took place, it is impossible to know exactly what the children experienced. The lesson of the Goodwin children was that children's games could have serious consequences.

Four years later these two views clashed again in Salem, and those events changed New England in ways neither Mather nor his critics could have imagined.

Text copyright © 2003 by Marc Aronson

Table of Contents


Note to the Reader

A Note About the Images in This Book

On Spelling, Word Usage, and Dates in This Book

INTRODUCTION: Of Dark Forests and Midnight Thoughts

"The Queen of Hell"

Two Familiar Fairy Tales

Skittering Shadows

Belief or Fraud?

PROLOGUE: Boston, 1688: The Possession of the Goodwin Children

Mather vs Glover

Of Meetinghouses and the Blood of Wolves: The Puritan Journey

Testing a Witch

Exploring the Invisible World

Lessons and Warnings

CHAPTER I: Two Salem Families, 1641-1692

The Putnams and the Porters

The Theft

A Minister's Warnings

CHAPTER II: Two Mysteries

The First Mystery

The Second Mystery

The Second Mystery Deepens

CHAPTER III: The Mysteries End and the Hearings Begin

The Usual Suspects

Tituba's Confession

CHAPTER IV: The Accuser: Ann Putnam Jr.

Biting, Pinching, and Choking

Of Tests and Wishes

CHAPTER V: The One and the Many

Martha Corey

"Confess and Give Glory to God"

CHAPTER VI: From Hearings to Trials

"Alas, Alas, Alas, Witchcraft"

To Hear and Decide

One Dead: Bridget Bishop

CHAPTER VII: The Man in Black

Vengeful Ghosts

Two Men in Black

CHAPTER VIII: "Choosing Death with a Quiet Conscience"

"If I Would Confess, I Should Have My Life"

A Confused Jury

"Till the Blood Was Ready to Come Out of Their Noses"

CHAPTER IX: "That No More Innocent Blood Be Shed"

Mary Easty

"It Was All False"

"I Do Most Heartily, Fervently, and Humbly Beseech Pardon"

CHAPTER X: "A Great Delusion of Satan"

Ann Putnam Jr. Speaks

Wheels Within Wheels

EPILOGUE: Explaining Salem

Fraud, Witches, Hysterics, Hallucinators

APPENDIX: The Crucible, Witch-Hunt, and Religion: Crossing Points of Many Histories

Timeline of Milestones in Puritan History

Important Dates in Puritan History Before 1692

Chronology of Events in the Salem Witch Crisis

Notes and Comments



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Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a high school sophomore who had to do a research project. I really liked how the book showed the prejudice of some people back in 1692. I also liked how the author wrote an actual trial that happened to an innocent woman. What I found most interesting was how some of the pictures in this book gave you a visual of how people thought a witch was supposed to look and act. It even had pictures of a list of women's names who were killed because of false accusations. Also this book answered most- if not all - of my questions on the Salem Witch trials. I would recommend this book to others to read if they had to do an assignment on this subject, or simply wanted to read a good book. The text was very clear and straight forward, without any difficulty reading. The text was also very descriptive that it is almost as if the reader is in the story. I thought this book had a great source of material from the past and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
amclellan0908 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
With a Ph. D. in American history, Aronson seems like the right author to offer insight into a muddled, yet fascinating, time in early colonial America-the Salem Witch Trials. The hysteria of the late 17th century still captivates people, and Aronson methodically works through three phases of the trials- important pre-trial occurrences, the trials themselves, and the aftermath of the witch hunt-in order to see what, if any, sense can be gleaned from the facts. Aronson links family feuds and a fracturing Puritan society together, and while he is able to propose 7 possible reasons for the causation of the trials, no one reason emerges as the total solution. Aronson does show how the victims of the witch hunt were first fringe members of society whom nobody liked, but in the end, even the most respected and established members of the community, like Rebecca Nurse and Mary Easty, were condemned the gallows. I thoroughly enjoyed the text. One criticism I heard is that Aronson jumps from one topic to the next, leaving the reader hanging; however, I read the text more like mini-stories that Aronson wove together in an attempt to create a comprehensive guide or explanation of the witch trials. Of all the books that I've read about the Salem Witch Trials, this one was the most exhaustive and helpful. I think the book is best suited for high school students, given the depth at which Aronson explores the trials (I see middle school students getting lost in the text). I plan to use Aronson's text in conjunction with teaching The Crucible in American literature as a companion piece to the play, perhaps to explain the key differences between nonfiction and historical fiction. I find most of my students want to know more about the trials after reading the play.
DustinB1983 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Aronson¿s approach to the Salem Witch Trials in ¿Witch-Hunt¿ is a focus on the facts of these events. This is a work of scholarship that trades dramatization for accuracy and implied metaphors for real parallels. This book puts on notice other works about these events, specifically ¿The Crucible, which have contributed to so many misconceptions. Instead, Aronson focuses on utilizing and quoting directly only reliable sources and saves his audience wild speculation and superstitions.This is a well-written book, but depth and length is probably beyond middle school level. However, it is completely appropriate for high school students. While all students may not be enthusiastic about diving head-first into this book, I feel that students looking for more information or engaged in research on this topic should be referred directly to this book. This should be utilized as a resource for studying the witch trials and the drama saved for English class.
jamiesque on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In Witch-Hunt Marc Aronson sets the tone for the book early. In his Note to the Reader he states that much of what you, as well as everybody else, know about the Salem witch trials is wrong. Aronson also says that it is impossible to know what really happened as there is a lack of evidence leaving historical holes in events. As a result, old theories must be reviewed and new theories formulated. Subtext of author's Note to the Reader: this will not be an easy read. I appreciate the complexity and detail of the novel. If Aronson's goal is to splay open and examine the heart of this bizarre historical, cultural, psychological event, it is bound to get messy. Following the book's cast of characters and familial affiliations was as complex as working your way through a royal English bloodline in search of an heir. I found it necessary to create a chart on the inner cover of the book, replete with the various families, their outstanding members and individual characteristics and qualms. Its in-depth exploration of the citizens of Salem exposes a tapestry of greed, revenge, allegiances and ambitions and underscores one of the reasons why this tale will not be a straightforward one. However, adding to the complexity of actual events is the hypothetical and supposed one. A large portion of the book is conjecture. It is fair to say that the suppositions and inferences are noted. "If the Putnams were driven to accuse...If the Putnams were engaged in a conspiracy...The only other sense in which Ann might have described herself as an 'instrument' would be if, as Mary Beth Norton argues..." The chapter The Accuser: Ann Putnam is chalk full of hypothesis about Ann, her life and motives. Sometimes the idea of what Ann might have thought or felt is extremely developed, "If we believe what she told the court, her daily life must have been a torment.Ghosts appeared..." and "She could have been a kind of reverse Carrie-of the Steven King novel." Aronson really attempts to delve into Ann's psyche and make concrete connections for the reader. He does this with many of the characters. However, I found myself, towards the end of the novel, tiring of examining every possible rabbit hole.
jenunes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As an avid fan of the Salem Witch Trials and this period of history in general, I saw this book upon the reading list and was thrilled, thinking it would be one of my absolute favorites. I must say this was not the case. I love the illustrations and unique design used for each new chapter. As a student, I would have gravitated to this book without hesitation. The research that has gone into this book is extraordinary and it is clear Aronson did a remarkable job in studying the content as he delved into this time period. However, even for a lover of this time period, getting through the book was a challenge. It is so chock full of information that it was hard to take in all at once. I would say this would be a good book for high school, though would not see myself using it.
chelsea6273 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting book, Marc Aronson's "Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials" tries to uncover many myths that surround an unfortunate aspect of American history. I have always been intrigued by the Salem Witch Trials, as many other people are, so I was very excited about reading this book. While Aronson researched the Salem Witch Trials extensively, making him qualified to write about this subject, I was still somewhat unimpressed with the book. Part of the reason that I think I was unimpressed is because the only other books that I have read on the subject are fiction books; because I was used to the fictionalized aspect of the Salem Witch Trials, I think I felt let down by the nonfiction in this book. Regardless of my opinion, I still firmly believe that this book should be used in conjunction to "The Crucible" because it offers a more analytical, critical view on the Salem Witch Trials. Students need this viewpoint, otherwise they will grow up believing things about the Salem Witch Trials that are blatantly not true--just like I did.
jaisidore on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Marc Aronson's Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials is a nonfiction articulation of the dramatic events of the Salem Witch Trials which took place in colonial Massachusetts during 1690's. This work digs into the perceived causes and reasons for the haunting accusations of witchcraft which led to the death of over twenty individuals. From the basis of their Puritan faith, the superstitious lore and struggles of the New World, to the bitter dispute between residents, the citizens of Salem seemed to have led themselves far from the ideals of the hard, sought after, perfect society which motivated their migrations to the New World.Aronson delivers a great depth of historical research which illustrates the shifting paradigms developed to explain the circumstances of the Salem community. Found in the ¿Epilogue¿, is the various reasoning which historians have attributed to the behaviors of those key figures involved in indictments, trials, and executions of "witches". The strength of this work comes from the considerations of these historical paradigms. Aronson, throughout the text, leaves many ideas open-ended. Things such as motives behind the accusations which spark the trials and the practicing of witchcraft by the accused individuals are left to be interpreted by the reader. This provides the opportunity for debate and creative thinking for readers. On the other hand, readers may be too inundated with references for which they may not be familiar. For example, young readers may not be familiar with references to The Crucible or other works alluding to various aspects of the witch trials.This work is very dynamic in its used, and I recommend this work as inclusion to the study of the Puritans, religious ethics, and/or superstitious culture.
jmsummer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book deals with the Salem witch trails that took place in the 17th century in colonial america. The author tries to tell the story of the witch trials. In the beginning of the book, he states how many of the facts that we have taken for granted over the years have become entangled with myth, making the the whole period of history hard to tell the truth from. The book does give the reader the information to make their own decisions about the event. It is a great look into the changes undergoing the Puritan society during that time, both from within and without: war, political infighting, jealousy, mob rule, and rebellion. Aronson does not try to give the answer of what happened. That is for us to decide. He does give many notes and references that allow the reader to continue on with their own reasearch. A good book for an american history class. This book is time consuming for both the class time and the students time. You will need to give your students some background knowledge before reading this book, as well as a dicussion on the differences in language that may cause the students to not understand the transcripts.
smoore75 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Aronson's Witch-hunt recounts the Salem witch trials that began in 1692. His objective in this book was to clear up misconceptions regarding these events and discuss new theories as to the cause of the trials. The book was thoroughly researched using a broad collection of sources and actual testimony. As someone who knew very little about the Salem witch trials and the chronology, I found myself a bit lost at times. It seemed to jump around quite a bit. However, I think this would be a great book for someone having a greater knowledge of these events.
rwilliamson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wasn¿t prepared to like this book but I did. Seeing it on the list, my first thought was why are many high school reading lists made-up of depressing books? That being said I did not find this book depressing. This book is extremely well researched and documented. He includes a timeline, copious notes, bibliography, index. Aronson presents different scenarios that may explain what happened in Salem. Aronson also points out artistic license taken by Arthur Miller in ¿The Crucible¿. Aronson presents different scenarios that may explain what happened in Salem. This was an easy read and many high school students will like it. I would pair it with a reading of ¿The Crucible¿. This lends itself to class discussions and lessons exploring the various explanations.
kratzerliz23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a well written book, but sometimes my interest in reading it wavered. It is a good book for high school social studies or English students to read. The author's account of the trials by relying on facts rather than former hearsay leaves little room for misconceptions. His bibliography allows the readers to check the facts if they would like too. He also makes the reader think about why adolescents were many of the accusers. As a math teacher I would not use this book in my class. It is a good reference book to use when learning about early New England witch trials.
enbrown504 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Witch Hunt is a well researched specialized book with an extensive bibliography investigating the Salem witch trials and its possible explanations. The scope and focus of the book are very acute addressing the causes of this phenomenon and the motivations of those involved. The language level is probably geared toward high schoolers and up. The book is organized as a narrative giving the reader the back story to interpret the events that transpire. A table of contents lists the chapters and subsections, an epilogue, and appendix. Notes and comments, a bibliography and an index are also included. A limited amount of illustrations of individuals or historical sketches are included. I personally liked this book more than I thought I would but I probably would not use it in my science classroom.
Chrisdier on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Salem Witch Trials is one of the most discussed events prior to formation of the United States. I assumed I was somewhat knowledgeable about the topic but like most popular events in history, it is surrounded around myths and exaggerated claims. Marc Aronson¿s ¿Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials¿ does an excellent job and debunking various myths associated with these events. He also raises plenty of vital questions, which he admits he may not have the answers to, but creates a nice narrative for his audience (teens and young adults). Remember, most of the accused were teenagers.I admire how he details a lot of the history surrounding the events. These problems started brewing in the 1680¿s and boiled over until 1692. It wasn¿t just a case of someone acting strange and the town going crazy. It is also important to discuss in depth the Puritans themselves and provide a little background of their lifestyle, which he does in the beginning, since that is very important in the way they operated in regards to witchcraft, or anything ¿foreign¿. They feared anything ¿devil¿-like and seemed to live in constant paranoia (Indians, Catholics, Quakers, etc. all surrounded them). On page 28, Aronson sums up the Puritans in a way we can understand them today-¿¿ they were like those fundamentalists of all religions today who can justify extreme measures against others- whether that be attacking U.S. cities, killing doctors who perform abortions, or settling in occupied territories- on the grounds that they have a divine right to take them.¿This is a much different and realistic view of the Puritans than commonly portrayed in American schools. To give the readers some more insight, he offers a timeline for Puritan history, a plethora of notes and comments, and a nice bibliography, making this book an excellent reference book for anyone interested in the topic.Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I felt like I had more questions at the end of the book than I did in the beginning. He opened up new ideas for me about these events. Unfortunately also, although this is a great book about the topic, I would not require my students to read it. In American History you can¿t go too far into one certain topic or else you wouldn¿t be able to focus on other topics. It is long as well. I would recommend it to my students and read certain excerpts from it, but not use it in its entirety. I recommend this book on anyone interested in this topic before I recommend other books, including The Crucible, which has a lot of fiction and political implications more so than keeping with the facts like Marc Aronson.
laurenryates on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Marc Aronson wrote a book full of facts and used many primary sources to document his research on the Salem witch trials. While the book was full of useful information (at least what is known historically), there were some spots where I felt bogged down by the facts and found the storyline hard to follow. Aronson explains that there are a lot of holes in the history of what is known about the era, but he did an excellent job of using his sources to come to conclusions about what really took place. There is an index, bibliography, timeline and a notes and comments section at the end of the book to assist the reader. I found I had more questions after reading this book than I did before, but maybe that was Aronson's point in writing the book. All in all, the book is a good read for high school students studying Puritans or the trials themselves, but I feel as though the book is a little advanced for anyone younger.
bpoche on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Aronson's Witch-Hunt is a thoroughly researched account of the events that took place surrounding the witch trials that took place in Salem, Mass., 1962. This book may be well researched by a brilliant historian, but it was a burdensome read. I could not get through 20 pages without having to stop and wonder where the story was and how it got here.A contributing factor to this was the overload of specific information, which many adolescent readers may find daunting. There were so many persons and little bits of events that overlapped making it difficult to get a hold on the narrative. The valuable details of these happenings are described, and the main theme of `why did this occur¿ is supported throughout, but the limited historical evidence surrounding these events lends itself to some very detailed speculation by Aronson. Aronson is an outstanding researcher and historian, and I would have no qualms about presenting his work for a lesson on historical research and using it to fill in the gaps.
ertreada on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is an interesting book that brings to light new perspective of the Salem Witch Trials. Entertaining and informative, this book appeals to both adults and teens. This book is a refreshing take on The Crucible and I believe will engage students much more so than previous work on this topic.
wackermt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As a book written to appeal to teenagers fascinated by witches, Witch Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials is quite engaging, and likely serves its premise well. However, I found the writing to be in many places overly casual and lacking objectivity, as though Aronson is trying to convince his reader that this all makes sense his way. It felt at times like he was talking down to his audience. Often times, his writing feels disjointed, as though he is having a conversation with you, and I kept expecting him to write "come on, you know what i mean...?".This book professes to allow you to make up your own opinion about the events of the Salem Witch Trials, but I found it to be nevertheless very leading in its objective. It was informative, and had good information for the reader, however should not be used as an objective, stand alone text, and provides little addition insight if used as a supplementary text.In all, I would keep looking for a book on the subject to use in my classroom.
KeithMaddox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an in-depth presentation of the Salem Witchcraft trials of 1692, in which Marc Aronson attempts to address misconceptions and get to the facts of a defining incident in American history. The book contains extensive author's notes and bibliography, an analysis of scholarly approaches to the trials, another analysis of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, and a timeline and notes describing how he will translate old documents and how he will address the issues caused in dating by the Puritans' refusal to adopt the Gregorian calendar. The book is excellent for students in that Aronson accompanies his narrative of the events with an on-going description of his methodology as a historian. I had a few problems with the book. I really wanted to give it four stars, but the incredible scholarship of its construction caused me to (begrudgingly) yield the additional half a star. One issue that is perhaps minor but still irritates me (not that Aronson has done something wrong but that I cannot make a satisfying answer with the book) is that in his note on dating, Aronson points out that New Year's Day was March 25th for the Puritans, and thus interestingly while we record the events at Salem as happening January-October, 1692, the Puritans themselves considered them to occur January-March 24th, 1691, and from March 25th-October, 1692! Interesting and perhaps not important perhaps (Aronson does an excellent job of noting this is the case through the narrative without distracting the reader) except that an event happens February 29th of that year (leap year). Now the February in which the events take place occured for the Puritans in 1691, which would not be a leap year, even if it was for the rest of the world. February 29th for them should have occured next year, long after the trials had run their course. I feel that if Aronson would introduce the complexity of calendrics into the book, that he should have addressed this. A few other minor problems I had included the use of chapter heading illustrations that depicted sinister-looking puppets that were supposed to stand for the state of the trials at that point in the narrative. Admittedly, towards the end, I enjoyed the story-telling through them a little more, but i do feel they were sensationalistic, and did not make the book visually more interesting. In general I found the book visually dense and off-putting. I felt that the way the author discussed some of the broader threads (such as different researcher's paradigms for examining the case) was unyieldy, and though when I found the notes and explanations at the end of the book I felt a little better about this, I felt the author could have used tables, charts or something to organize these ideas. I think it would be unfair for a child to have to read and understand all of this. My serious problem with the book was a failing in the author's writing style. He begins by desclaring that he wants to stick to the facts and not read too much into what records there are, which of course I find laudable. And he does keep coming back to this idea in the text, which is great. BUT, so many times in the book, and sometimes without stating it outright, Aronson does editorialize and read into the text. He goes into psychoanalysis that might have some truth to it, but as an adult reader of the juvenile literature, I become slowly horrified when he tells us what so and so may really have been thinking, though we cannot know for sure, though maybe someone in collusion with some one else, may have considered something like this, though it may have come from deep in their subconscious, maybe possibly from a deep pschosocial wound that maybe certain actions might be trying to heal? Aronson could have stuck more to the facts, like he said he would. That star-reducing concern stated, this book is very excellent. It is (mostly) clear, unbiased and balanced and well-researched. Most of Aronson's opinions and beliefs w
cjohn64 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
With-hunt was an all right book. It went into much more detail than I wanted. I knew a lot about the Salem witch trials before reading this and I didn¿t feel like I learned anything new. The book had a lot of great resources and a lot of explanation for how the author worded blocks of text, but I was bored reading it. I don¿t know of any use for this book specifically for a classroom.
ydraughon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Marc Aronson tells the story of the Salem witch trials of 1692. In a narrative book form, Aronson retells the story of the Salem accusers and their accused, tried, and executed victims. The book also provides some history of the Puritans and their religion, social rankings of the accusers and the accused, and the wars with the Indians. The back of the book has a timeline of the Puritan History, notes and comments abou each chapter, an extensive bibliography and an index. Although the book could be read by 9th graders up, I found it very boring and hard to read. I would not use it in a classroom; however, I would suggest it to students that are interested in this subject.
kharding on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is loaded with information- from an introduction that explains sources and varying historical viewpoints, a detailed narrative including pictures and informative captions, an epilogue, a timeline of events and notes and comments on sources. It is very clear that Aronson has done his research and is very passionate about this event in history. While the missing details (always acknowledged by Aronson) can be frustrating they also add to the level of mystery that intrigues readers about the Salem Witch Trials. For young readers I think this book accomplishes two important objectives outside of learning about this time period. First, it forces readers to understand how history involves a lot of interpretation (the epilogues goes into great detail on this.) It also asks the reader to think critically and draw their own conclusions about the evidence. While Aronson has his own interpretation, he reveals all the possibilities and allows the reader to stray from his story for at least to question the evidence. It is very important that students understand that there are always gaps in history and that we need to think critically to fully understand the evidence we have. Further, Aronson asks us to apply this particular story to other instances in history of questioning in the time of crisis. If this book were to be used in a history class it would be imperative to draw connections between 9/11, the Cold War among other events. The lesson would not be solely on the 17th century and Puritainism, but also to larger themes in social action and psychology. While these connections are evident, Aronson doesn't reveal them until the end of the book. For this reason this text might be too in-depth for a history class, especially whereas the Salem Witch Trials are a very small portion if even covered at all in U.S. history courses. However, I would strongly consider using this book if I taught a Psychology course. There is an opportunity to go into greater depth about the motivations of all the individuals in this book, as well as to examine the social dynamics of the group. This would be a great book for students to think critically about human action and thought. There were several times when I had big questions while reading- but how do the girls think they will get away with this? Don't they feel guilt for their actions, especially as they are devout Christians? and other questions. Aronson made me wait until the end to get an answer to my questions. This is an effective draw for the reader to keep turning pages.
DayehSensei on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While the topic presented in Marc Aronson's book "Witch Hunt" is certainly fascinating and the information presented is thoroughly, artfully, and exhaustingly researched, the actual narrative of this history of the Salem witch trials is confusing and scattered. As an adult, I had trouble following the text-- which jumped back and forth and seemed to dwell on insignificant details-- so I can only imagine how middle/high schoolers would feel. This text would be very ambitious to share with adolescent students-- it would require a signficant amount of scaffolding, supplemental literature, and careful planning that could take months to execute. The questions raised-- why did the girls do it?-- and the analysis of how they did it would keep many students focused, but the text would probably prove too challenging to navigate. I think this is much better suited for a college-level history or literature class. I am in awe of Aronson's devotion and energy put into his research-- I just wish the actual storytelling were more coherent and focused.
deargreenplace on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is described on the back as a "narrative" rather than a history book. Perhaps that explains my disappointment with it. Evidence of the author's actual research only became apparent in the notes section on the back pages - otherwise, it read as a non-academic, fictionalised piece of speculation, full of the words "might" and "perhaps" and the like. I find the subject fascinating, which is why I persevered until the end and didn't give it fewer points, but my goodness, the writing style was not to my taste at all. Okay, it's aimed at young adults, but why assume that they're not going to want claims backed up in the text, instead of having to wade through the notes in the back. I kept hearing my dissertation supervisor saying "substantiate! substantiate!" and wishing I had a red pen. There were also references to daytime talkshows and the Stephen King book Carrie.I have two main reasons for this book leaving a bad taste in my mouth: firstly, the author criticises other authors for factual inaccuracies in their research, though he relies strongly on others for the bulk of his own work. Near the start of the book he tells the reader not to bother with [The Crucible] as it will only tell them about 1950s America and very little about 17th century Salem. He criticises [[Arthur Miller]] for bringing McCarthyism into a book that was supposedly about something else entirely. But then in the notes at the end he seems to change his mind about this and calls it a wonderful work.As a librarian, my own view is that young adults are perfectly capable about making up their own minds about a subject when presented with several points of view, and as he acknowledges in the back section, the Salem Witch Trials can be read from a feminist as well as a political perspective. Given that the events took place in the 17th century, and that reliable evidence about the events is thin on the ground, it is only to be expected that writers will draw their own conclusions based on what has gone before. The text did not sufficiently warn of how history can be entirely subjective, depending on who is telling the story. I would also have liked more emphasis in the text about the importance of looking at evidence from more than once source where this is possible.My second issue was with the references throughout the book to 9/11. Hello? It's a book about witch trials and there's a time and a place, mate. Then again, perhaps this was the reason for the about-turn on his opinion of [The Crucible]. Personally, I don't have a problem with the witch-hunts in Salem being compared to those in the 1950s - there are similarities after all, and I believe that it is a significant piece of work that young students would do well to read for themselves. The main point to remember here is that Miller was not claiming historical accuracy in his depiction of Salem, and was not particularly obliged to, given that his play is essentially a work of fiction. Aronson's "narrative" however, masquerades as academic research, and this is where accuracy and substantiation should be important. I suspect that he suddenly gained respect for [The Crucible] by the end of his book because he realised that he himself had been continually referring to contemporary political events and had to somehow justify himself. Unfortunately, he didn't take his musings anywhere and the references to 9/11 were left sticking out of the book like sore thumbs. If you want to comment on it then please do Mr Aronson, but I don't think that a book about 17th century Salem was the correct place to mention it if you weren't going to develop your theories or inform the reader why you thought that the trials could be compared to 9/11. Sorry, but overall this was disappointing. I'm going to look up some of the older research instead.
RangerRoss on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this book geared at younger authors, Marc Aronson looks at the history surrounding the Salem Witch trials using historical records from the time. Aronson describes what is known about the events and separates fictional events (such as the ones described in The Crucible) from what we know about the time and the people who lived through it.This book would be useful for teachers who want to expose high schoolers to the work of historians. Aronson has an easilly readable style and gives students a glimpse into the science of recreating historical contexts. Instead of just reading what happened in history, students will be exposed to how researchers peice the puzzle together to test hypotheses about the underlying questons of history.
karenestockton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
4P"When even the sharpest logic could have no effect on the judges, Mary realized that her trial would be a formality and that she would soon die. ... Mary petitioned: "I question not but your honors do the utmost of your powers in the discovery and detecting of witchcraft and witches and would not be guilty of innocent blood for the world. But by my own innocence I know you are in the wrong way."