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The witch panic that you haven’t heard of (hint: not Salem)

You’ve heard about the Salem witch trials, but probably not this New England witch trial that came before it

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Joyce Cohen, from left, Anne Stewart Mark and Trish Reading play the three witches during Pioneer Theatre Company’s dress rehearsal for “Macbeth” in 2003 in Salt Lake City.

Keith Johnson, Deseret News

The Salem witch trials are arguably the most famous witch trials in history, even though they lasted only one year. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the European “witch craze” lasted from the 1300s into the 1600s, and the Salem witch trials happened in Massachusetts on the tail end of the so-called craze.

There are several different reasons why the Salem witch trials happened. JSTOR listed several potential theories, including the economic situation of the town, outbreaks and contractions of different medical conditions, temperature drops and food shortages.

Even though Salem may be the most infamous, there are other areas that had witch trials. According to Time, Connecticut also had a period of time where residents accused women of witchcraft and even executed some of those women. The Hartford witch panic stopped a few years before the Salem witch trials and remains mostly forgotten to American history.

Who happened in the Connecticut witch trials?

According to the Wethersfield Historical Society, due to the limited number of historical records from the time period, it is difficult to piece together what happened.

  • According to Legends of America, witch hunts in Connecticut began in 1647 and lasted until 1697. The New England Historical Society said that Alse Young was the first person hanged in Connecticut on the basis of a witchcraft accusation.
  • The New England Historical Society stated that nine men and two women were executed between 1647 and 1663. In March 1662, 8-year-old Elizabeth Kelly visited Goodwife Ayres. After Ayres shared broth with her, she had stomach pains for five years and died. A physician said that “she suffered unnatural harm.” Even though the Connecticut witch trials began earlier, this started the Hartford witch panic.
  • According to Scholars Collaborative, during the Hartford witch panic, even more people were executed for witchcraft accusations. “With execution strategies like the water test and hanging, eleven people in total were accused of witchcraft in Hartford’s witch panic; four of which were executed.”
  • Scholars Collaborative also said that the Connecticut Witch trials ended when Katherine Harrison was found not guilty of witchcraft.

The witch trials came to an end in Connecticut and in Salem within a few years of each other. The United Church of Christ has since apologized for the Connecticut witch trials.