Salem Witch Trials

Salem witch trials
Sabrina Armstrong
April 24, 2010
G.L. Beck

      Salem witch trials: a drug induced hysteria

          What happened in Salem in 1692? The people involved in the Salem witch trials were more than just names, dates and places; they were people with lives and families as well. The Salem witch trials started with three girls falling ill with mysterious symptoms that the doctors could not explain by medical science during that point in history. Many people still wonder today why the hysteria took place.
          Some people believe that, the hysteria was a product of children’s self-delusions. Other people believe that while, the hysteria fueled the Salem witch trials it was not the cause of the trials. A handful of people instead believe that it was drug induce by a toxic fungus called ergot. Ergot is a mold often found on plants such as rye, wheat, and barley, which during the witch trials and still today people made bread from these plants.
          St. Anthony’s fire is also another name for ergotism. Ergot is a type of food poisoning; that during; Medieval Times was frequent. Although ergot does not include LSD, it does contain ergotamine, which is the hallucinogen that LSD derives from. The evidence suggests that digesting food with ergot in it will poison people and make them sick; this was a major aspect in the Salem trials but no one realized this until recently, when historian and behaviorist psychologist Linnda Caporael did a study on the trials (Stefko, 2010, para 1-3).
          According to Caporael, the witch-hunts began when people showed signs of developing ergot poisoning but people believed witchcraft was the cause of their affliction because during that point in history people often thought that it was witchcraft when they could not physically explain it (Caporael, 1976, para. 10).
          Historian Mary Matossian backs up Caporael’s conjecture as well. Caporael and Matossian both have studied the...