Thursday, April 25, 2024

Before Salem


Presented by Richard Ross

Thursday, April 27th at 7 p.m.

Free Admission
Stratford Town Hall
Council Chambers

Author of Before Salem, Richard Ross will be discussing the Connecticut Witch Trials that began in 1647, forty-five years before the famed Salem Witch Trials. Ultimately, eleven witches were accused and hanged on the charge of practicing witchcraft. The hangings, but not the trials for witchcraft, ceased upon Governor Winthrop’s return from England in 1663. Learn more about these tragic events that have cast a dark shadow on Connecticut for nearly 400 years.

Decades before the Salem Witch trials, 11 people were hanged as witches in the Connecticut River Valley. The advent of witch hunting in New England was directly influenced by the English Civil War and the witch trials in England led by Matthew Hopkins, who pioneered “techniques” for examining witches. This history examines the outbreak of witch hysteria in the Valley, focusing on accusations of demonic possession, apotropaic magic and the role of the clergy. Although the hysteria was eventually quelled by a progressive magistrate unwilling to try witches, accounts of the trials later influenced contemporary writers during the Salem witch hunts. The source of the document “Grounds for Examination of a Witch” is identified.



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