Almanac: The Salem witch trials

Almanac: The Salem witch trials

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: October 29th, 1692, 325 years ago today … a day of belated justice in a bewitched, bothered, and bewildered American town.

For that was the day colonial Massachusetts governor William Phips disbanded the special court he'd set up several months earlier to conduct the Salem witch trials.

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On October 29, 1692 the governor of colonial Massachusetts disbanded the special court used to try suspected witches. AP

It all began the preceding January, when some folks in the Puritan village blamed the odd behavior of several young girls on witchcraft.

Dozens of townsfolk were then put on trial in a courtroom gripped by paranoid visions and panic, as depicted in Arthur Miller's famous play, "The Crucible" -- and in a 1996 screen adaptation starring Daniel Day Lewis.

Growing doubts about the Salem trials eventually brought them to an end, but not before 20 people had been put to death.

Massachusetts has long since apologized and atoned -- a little too late for the victims, needless to say.

Today, the Salem witch trials serve as a cautionary tale against mass hysteria and persecution.

On the plus side, their memory has also turned modern-day Salem into a popular tourist destination.

       
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