Witchcraft trials

Less than a week until Halloween and we definitely do not have a shortage of witches in the news. From Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell’s campaign ad to the Witch’s Wit beer label controversy, October is definitely the season of the witch!

As I’m sure you know Western culture has quite the history with witchcraft. In the United States, we have the notoriety of the Salem witch trials but, to no surprise, the trials held in 1692-1693 were not the first trials nor were they the last. So what about the others?

Wondering this myself, I decided to check out a database the Wheat Law Library subscribes to called The Making of Modern Law: Trials, 1600-1926. A simple keyword search of “witchcraft” turned up some very interesting results!

Included in the results are records of trials, such as Record of the Trial of Grace Sherwood In 1705, Princess Anne County, for Witchcraft N.p., c.1705. This is a seven-page transcript of the procedures which occurred in one case. The language can be a bit hard to follow at times but well worth a look.

Most interesting in the results was a book entitled American Criminal Trials by Peleg W. Chandler, 1841. This 441 page monograph covers what the author sees as the most important cases to date in the United States. Meant for public consumption, it reads more like a piece of literature rather than a case book. In it is a chapter dedicated to the Salem witch trials.

So why not check out The Making of Modern Law and see what you can find? Try other Halloween-related terms for the fun of it and let me know what you discover!

W. Blake Wilson
Instructional & Research Services Librarian