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By July 1692, the witch hunt surrounding the town of Salem and Salem Village had been raging for four months. The Massachusetts Bay colony’s new governor, William Phips, had established a special court to try the suspected witches and the trials were well under way. No new arrests had taken place for nearly six weeks and residents had every reason to believe the crisis soon would be over. However, a middle-aged woman in nearby Andover lay gravely ill. Her husband suspected witchcraft as the cause and invited some of the afflicted girls from Salem Village to the town, thinking they could determine whether his suspicions were valid. Not surprisingly, they confirmed his supposition. The first person these girls accused in Andover—a frail and elderly widow bereaved by a series of family tragedies over the previous three years—not only confessed, but stated that there were more than three hundred witches in the region, five times more than the number of suspects already in jail. This touched off a new wave of accusations, confessions, and formal charges. Before the witchcraft crisis ended, forty-five residents of Andover found themselves jailed on suspicion of witchcraft—more than the combined total of suspects from Salem Village and the town of Salem. Of these, three were hanged and one died while awaiting execution.
Based on extensive primary source research, In the Shadow of Salem: The Andover Witch Hunt of 1692, by historian and archivist Richard Hite, tells for the first time the fascinating story of this long overlooked phase of the largest witch hunt in American history. Untangling a net of rivalries and ties between families and neighbors, the author explains the actions of the accusers, the reactions of the accused, and their ultimate fates. In the process, he shows how the Andover arrests prompted a large segment of the town’s population to openly oppose the entire witch hunt and how their actions played a crucial role in finally bringing the 1692 witchcraft crisis to a close.
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