As a direct descendent of a victim of the Salem witch trials, knowing what led to the witch hysteria that ravaged the Massachusetts Bay Colony is important to me. Now, based on findings by researchers at the University of Virginia, I am almost certain I know.
Growing up with a witch in the family caused me to look at the world differently than my peers. You might say it made me a skeptic from a early age. You see, my seven-times great grandmother, Susannah North Martin, was accused, tried, and convicted of witchcraft at Salem, and on July 19 1692 she was hanged. My mother and father thought Susannah was framed—that what it says on the monument in her hometown of Amesbury, Massachusetts, is true—that she was, “An honest, hardworking, Christian woman. Accused as a witch, tried and executed at Salem, July 19, 1692. A martyr of superstition.”
The judges at her trial obviously thought otherwise. For that reason, I did not, and I still do not, accept as true what someone in authority says until I check it out myself, and that is exactly what I decided to do some years ago concerning the witch hysteria.
In the early 2000s I spent quite a bit of time investigating. Fortunately, most of the pre-trial depositions as well as transcripts of trial testimony still exist, and there are quite a few eyewitness accounts concerning what went on. In 2006, my book was published based on what I found entitled, A Witch in the Family, and it enjoyed a good deal of success. It won First Prize for Personal Stories from Writer’s Digest as well as awards from others, and top ratings from reviewers. Nevertheless, it contained only tentative theories and likely possibilities concerning what set the hysteria in motion and then kept it going.
Recently, however, findings by the University have caused the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place for me. This has prompted me to update and revise the book, and let me say I am very happy with how it turned out. The new, second edition is nothing less than a riveting, real-life murder mystery—the ultimate reality show no one who wants to know the truth will want to miss.