ON THIS DAY: 14 January 1697

The general court of the Province of Massachusetts Bay ordered a day of public fasting and prayer for atonement because of the legal persecution of witches. Twelve of the jurors of the Court of Ayer and Terminer who investigated over 200 accusations of witchcraft signed a statement of apology for their part in the Salem Witch Trials. As a result of the trials, thirty people were found guilty of witchcraft between February 1692 and May 1693. Fourteen women and five men were publicly humiliated and hanged, and another man, Giles Corey, died under torture. Samuel Sewall was the only judge to admit his unwise actions and, in a statement read out to his congregation, asked God for forgiveness. The Salem Witch Trials were an example of mass hysteria in isolated communities with religious extremism.