20 People Executed in Actual 'Greatest Witch Hunt' in US History


On the first anniversary of the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller to investigate potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, President Trump reiterated on Twitter this morning that there was "no collusion" and called the investigation the "greatest witch hunt in American history."

In his 1987 book "The Art of the Deal," then-businessman Trump made a point to say that exaggerating reality -- what he called "truthful hyperbole" -- was a "very effective form of promotion."

That must be what the president is up to today because the actual greatest witch hunt in American history, the Salem Witch Trials in 1692, led to the deaths of more than 20 people. 

According to The Smithsonian magazine, the trouble in Salem, Massachusetts began in January 1692 when two young daughters of the local reverend, Samuel Parris, began having "fits." As the Smithsonian describes it, the 9- and 11-year-old girls "screamed, threw things, utter peculiar sounds and contorted themselves into strange positions."

Soon after, another town girl experienced similar fits and, when asked to explain themselves, the girls blamed three women for afflicting them with... something. After days of questioning, two of the women maintained their innocence, but the third, a Caribbean slave, said that the Devil came to her and "bid [her] serve him."

That was enough to send the village into a frenzy. In May an older woman "known for her gossipy habits and promiscuity" was accused, tried, found guilty and, the next month, hanged for purported sorcery-related crimes. Five more people were hanged in July, five more in August and eight in September -- some based on testimony based on dreams and visions.

Only after his own wife was questioned, Governor William Phipps prohibited further arrests. But by then, in addition to the 19 hanged, an old man had been crushed to death under heavy stones and several others had died in prison. Two dogs were also put to death for their alleged connection to nefarious supernatural occurrences.

Read More: The Witches of Salem (The New Yorker)

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