John Demos is the Samuel Knight Professor of History Emeritus at Yale. His most recent book is The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republic. (December 2015)


Satan in Salem

‘The Trial of George Jacobs Sr. for Witchcraft, August 5, 1692’; painting by Tompkins Harrison Matteson, 1885

The Witches: Salem, 1692

by Stacy Schiff

Satan and Salem: The Witch-Hunt Crisis of 1692

by Benjamin C. Ray
Sometime in the midwinter of 1691–1692 two Salem girls, Betty Parris, the nine-year-old daughter of the town minister, and Abigail Williams, her eleven-year-old cousin, began acting in “odd and…unusual” ways, “getting into holes, and creeping under chairs and stools,…[and] uttering foolish, ridiculous speeches, which neither they themselves nor any others could make sense of.” Their “antic gestures” were noticed by other local girls, several of whom would soon start behaving in similar ways. As the days passed, this little group started having full-blown, convulsive “fits,” in which, according to an eyewitness, “sometimes they were taken dumb, their mouths stopped, their throats choked, their limbs wracked and tormented.”

Killed by the Panic

Witch Craze: Terror and Fantasy in Baroque Germany

by Lyndal Roper
On a September evening in the year 1623, in the small south German village of Marchtal, a group of farmers and their families celebrated the end of the harvest by dancing and singing. Just then an elderly woman approached—one Ursula Götz, suspected locally of being a practitioner of witchcraft. A …