The Twisted Story Of The Salem Witch Trials

Download Audio

The Salem Witch Trials remain one of the most infamous episodes in American history — hundreds of people were named as witches and 20 people were killed.

The precise reasons behind the outbreak of hysteria remain unexplained. Now, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff is out with a new book, "The Witches: Salem, 1692," in which she take up the story of Salem.


Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Her new book is "The Witches: Salem, 1692." She tweets @stacyschiff.


The New Yorker: The Witches Of Salem: Diabolical Doings In A Puritan Village

  • "In 1692, the Massachusetts Bay Colony executed 14 women, five men, and two dogs for witchcraft. The sorcery materialized in January. The first hanging took place in June, the last in September; a stark, stunned silence followed. Although we will never know the exact number of those formally charged with having 'wickedly, maliciously, and feloniously' engaged in sorcery, somewhere between a 144 and a 185 witches and wizards were named in 25 villages and towns. The youngest was 5; the eldest nearly 80."

The New York Times: Stacy Schiff's 'The Witches' Shines A Torch On Salem Trials

  • "It started with a prickling sensation on their skin. Then Abigail Williams, 11, and her cousin Betty Parris, 9, complained of feeling pinches and bites. They howled, writhed, went rigid and spoke gibberish. Friends and neighbors gathered in their house to pray and sing psalms...The ensuing hysteria that engulfed Salem, Mass., over nine months in 1692 is infamous. Well over 100 men and women in the Massachusetts Bay Colony were accused of witchcraft and taken into custody. 19 were hanged. (Contrary to popular myth, none were burned.) One suspect refused to confess and was tortured to death, crushed slowly under rocks."

This segment aired on October 28, 2015.


More from Radio Boston

Listen Live