The Salem Witch Trials were a series of county court trials which accused people of being witches. The Salem Witch Trials involved two kinds of trials. First, court hearings were held before local magistrates; then trials were held in county court. The witch trials were held in Essex, Suffolk and Middlesex Counties of colonial Massachusetts, between February 1692 and May 1693.
In February 1692, two young girls in Salem Village, Betty Parris and Abigail Williams, began twisting themselves into strange shapes and saying words that made no sense. Betty’s father called a doctor, who said that witches had invaded Salem Village and were bewitching the girls. The girls accused people they didn’t like of being witches.
During the Trials, over 150 people accused of witchcraft were arrested and put in jail. Even more people were accused, but were never formally charged by the authorities. Twenty-nine people were convicted (or found guilty) of witchcraft, which was a capital felony. Nineteen of these people - fourteen women and five men - were hanged on Gallows Hill in present-day Salem, Massachusetts. Another man, Giles Corey, refused to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Authorities tortured him to try to force him to confess or enter a plea. Corey was crushed to death under heavy stones. At least five more of the accused died in prison.
The trials were held in Salem. Accused witches from surrounding areas were brought to Salem to be tried for witchcraft. The best-known trials were held by the Court of Oyer and Terminer in 1692 in Salem Town. All twenty-six people who went to trial before this court were convicted. In 1693, there were also four sessions of the Superior Court of Judicature in Salem. During these court sessions, thirty-one accused witches were tried for practicing witchcraft, but only three were convicted.
A much later Ipswich Witch Trial was held in 1878, and was called the second Salem witch trial.