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<i>The Devil Made Me Do It</i>: A Look at The Salem Witch Hunts (Video) <i>The Devil Made Me Do It</i>: A Look at The Salem Witch Hunts (Video)

<i>The Devil Made Me Do It</i>: A Look at The Salem Witch Hunts (Video)

by Charlie Annenberg Weingarten
October 28, 2010

This film and excerpt come from Explore, a multimedia organization that documents leaders around the world who have devoted their lives to extraordinary causes.

Many people were persecuted and slain in America and Europe in the late 1600s, but the Salem witch hunts of 1692 are uniquely haunting. A town named for peace or “Shalom,” Salem, Massachusetts, still serves as a reminder of the dark side of human nature and our human history of persecution of innocent people who don’t follow the norm. It’s also a good example of how fear can be the quicksand of society and spread into blood-stained pandemonium—something we can still find examples of to this day. 

As part of a look at the tapestry of American experiences, we traveled to Salem to speak with experts on that period, and view the fields of Gallow Hill where 19 women and men, some as old as 70, were put on trial and killed. In a time of chaos that coined the term “the devil made me do it,” those who confessed to witchcraft had a better chance of living than those who denied it.

Filming this reminded me of the modern day iterations of the same paranoia and persecution model. From the McCarthy hearings and the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans in WWII or more subtly in places such as school bullying and even our politics where the term “witch” is trending—fear of those who are “different” is still a sword by which many innocent people are attacked. It makes me wonder, what is the nature of fear? And what are we afraid of anyway?

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