On this episode of The Sofa King Podcast, we explore one of the bloodiest chapters in the history of New England, the Salem Witch Trials. The Salem Witch Trials are a complex phenomenon that coupled puritanical fanaticism with fear of not only the devil, but life in the new world. The laws that led to the persecution of witches in New England date back to 1484, when Pope Innocent VIII wrote a papal bull called Summis Desiderantes Affectibus (Latin for “Desiring with supreme ardor”). This proclamation said that witches were real and were servants of the devil, and from there, witch-hunting mania was born. A few years later, The Malleus Maleficarum (aka “The Hammer of Witches”) was written by the Catholic clergyman Heinrich Kramer (and possibly a partner, the Dominican Friar Jacob Sprenger). Sprenger and Kramer were both given power by the pope to hunt and kill anyone they deemed a witch. While this sounds like the stuff of really cool video games, it more like rampant sexism and murdering women who didn’t adhere to norms of society. This backdrop of persecution for witches (especially female ones) is what the people living in Salem Village grew up in, back in 1692. At this time, 9-year-old Elizabeth Parris and 11-year-old Abigail Williams (the daughter and niece of Salem Village’s minister, Samuel Parris) started having “fits,” which included violent screaming outbursts and physical contortions of the body. Paranoia spread very rapidly, and eventually, three people were arrested as witches—a slave, an old person, and a homeless beggar. The slave, Tituba, confessed to being a witch and signing “the black man’s book,” and the witch paranoia spread. So, how many people were eventually arrested for witches? How many were killed? What methods did they use to kill them? What made the witch mania stop? Why did it get so bad in Salem Village? What brought the Salem Witch Trials to a close, and how did it involve two key literary figures and a political scandal? Listen, laugh, learn.