In the late winter and early spring of 1692, residents of Salem Village, Massachusetts, began to suffer from strange physical and mental maladies. The randomness of the victims, and unusual symptoms that were seldom duplicated, led residents to suspect an otherworldly menace. Their suspicions and fears eventually prompted the infamous Salem Witch Trials. While most historians have concentrated their efforts on the accused, Laurie Winn Carlson, A Fever in Salem focuses on the afflicted. What were the characteristics of a typical victim? Why did the symptoms occur when and where they did? What natural explanation could be given for symptoms that included hallucinations, convulsions, and psychosis, often resulting in death? Ms. Carlson offers an innovative, well-grounded explanation of witchcraft's link to organic illness. Systematically comparing the symptoms recorded in colonial diaries and court records to those of the encephalitis epidemic in the early twentieth century, she argues convincingly that the victims suffered from the same disease, and she offers persuasive evidence for organic explanations of other witchcraft victims throughout New England as well as in Europe.
A Fever in Salem is a provocative reinterpretation of one of America's strangest moments, and a refreshing departure from widely accepted Freudian explanations of witchcraft persecution.
Laurie Winn Carlson has written frequently on the history of the West, including Cattle: An Informal Social History; Seduced by the West; Sidesaddles to Heaven; and Boss of the Plains. She lives in Cheney, Washington.
Part 1 Preface xiii Part 2 The Witch Craze in Seventeenth-century New England 3 Part 3 The Afflicted 9 Part 4 The Response 38 Part 5 Mental Illness and the Persecution of Witches 61 Part 6 The Forgotten Epidemic 76 Part 7 What Happened at Salem? 114 Part 8 Alternative Outcomes 147 Part 9 Could Encephalitis Lethargica Return? 157 Part 10 Afterword: Satanic Possession and Christian Beliefs 157 Part 11 Chronology 159 Part 12 Statistical Appendix 167 Part 13 Notes 171 Part 14 Bibliography 183 Part 15 Index 189