Escaping Salem( from 1 reviews )
PublisherOxford University Press Usa
Publication date26 November 2020
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Drawing on eye-witness testimony, Godbeer tells the story of Kate Branch, a seventeen-year-old afflicted by strange visions and given to blood-chilling wails of pain and fright. Branch accused several women of bewitching her, two of whom were put on trial for witchcraft. The book takes us inside the courtroom--and inside the minds of the surprisingly skeptical Stamford townfolk. Was the pain and screaming due to natural causes, or to supernatural causes? Was Branch simply faking the symptoms? And if she was bewitched, why believe her specific accusations, since her information came from demons who might well be lying? For the judges, Godbeer shows, the trial was a legal thicket. All agreed that witches posed a real and serious threat, but proving witchcraft (an invisible crime) in court was another matter. The court in Salem had become mired in controversy over its use of dubious evidence. In an intriguing passage, Godbeer examines Magistrate Jonathan Selleck's notes on how to determine the guilt of someone accused of witchcraft--an illuminating look at what constituted proof of witchcraft at the time. The stakes were high--if found guilty, the two accused women would be hanged.
In the afterword, Godbeer explains how he used the trial evidence to build his narrative, an inside look at the historian's craft that enhances this wonderful account of life in colonial New England.
26 November 2020
Oxford University Press Usa