SOUTHINGTON - Forty years before the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts, Connecticut hanged 11 people accused as witches.
Taylor McClure of the Connecticut Historical Society will share the stories of those found guilty in that 17th century climate of fear on Oct. 17 at the Southington Historical Society.
The program will be held from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at at 239 Main St.. It will be a multi-media presentation featuring excerpts from writings of the time and period woodcarvings depicting witches.
The historical society is offering similar programs in October. The program was written by Natalie Belanger and will examine some of the people who were hanged as witches and the common beliefs about witchcraft at the time.
“The time period that we are looking at is the 17th century, from about 1647 to the 1690s,” said Belanger. “Connecticut had the earliest witch trials in New England. There were sporadic trials until the outbreak of hysteria in 1692 in Massachusetts.”
The trials in Connecticut occurred in Fairfield, Hartford, Windsor and Wethersfield.
“About three quarters of those who were officially charged were women and the men who were accused were usually related to women who were accused,” said Belanger. “They were often outliers in their community. They weren’t necessarily crabby old hags, but they were often women who inherited a lot of property. Most of those who were convicted and executed did not have a husband or father to stand up and vouch for them.”
Interestingly, by the time the Salem trials occurred, Connecticut had largely stopped putting witches on trial and stopped executing them altogether.
“People stopped prosecuting witches before they stopped believing in witchcraft,” said Belanger. “The Puritans believed in witchcraft, but they loved the law. They thought that the people in Massachusetts were losing their minds and not meeting legal standards. In Connecticut, the legal standards for how witchcraft was ‘proven’ were much stricter.”
Registration is required, as space is limited. To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or email@example.com.