The Untold Truth Of The Salem Witch Trials

The people of Salem seemed to start experiencing mysterious symptoms and blaming their neighbors for them overnight. The events that followed have shocked and horrified people ever since. Some have looked for physical explanations for the panic.

In 1976, Dr. Linnda Caporael, a behavioral scientist, proposed an explanation. As described by Britannica, Caporael suggested that the cause was actually ergotism. The fungus ergot grows on rye, causing dark purple growths. At the time, it wasn’t understood to be dangerous, so it would likely still have been eaten. Eating the fungus can cause extreme hallucinations and delusions, along with convulsions and other physical symptoms.

As described by the Washington Post, however, the truth is not so simple. While some of their symptoms are similar to ergot poisoning, many of the accusers described the same visions, making hallucinations almost impossible. The physical symptoms, like seizing up, did not get worse over time as one would expect with repeated poisoning. Instead, they seemed to react to specific stimuli, like seeing the “witch” or touching religious items. As horrific as the idea of dozens of people eating a toxic substance is, the likely truth is even more disturbing: through groupthink and religious mania, normal individuals were driven to persecute and murder their friends and neighbors.

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