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Salem Witch Trials: Ann Putnam

By Yona Williams    9/15/10

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One of the sparks that lit the flame towards the Salem Witch Trials was the accusations of a handful of girls, who became known as the 'circle girls.' It was their claims that allowed witchcraft believers, such as Cotton Mather, to scare the people into following their word and actions. In this article, you will learn more about the leader of this group – a 12-year-old girl named Ann Putnam.

In was wintertime in 1692 and the 'circle girls' secretly met at the house of Reverend Parris so they could enjoy an evening filled with storytelling and magic. The Parris slave, Tituba, filled the girls heads with all sorts of tales and play fortune-telling games. One of the activities that the girls took part in was dropping an egg white into a glass of water and then examines what shape it took. One night, Ann saw the shape of a coffin. Soon after, Ann along with the other girls (Betty Parris and Abigail Williams) started to act strangely. They would babble, convulse, and stare blankly into space.
 
Once they were diagnosed as being victims of witchcraft, people wanted to know who had tormented the girls. When asked, Ann identified Sarah Good and Sarah Osburne, as well as Tituba. She stated that an apparition of the West Indian woman had "tortured me most grievously by pricking and pinching me most dreadfully."
 
Ann also accused a well-known member of the church, Martha Corey – claiming that she had been tormented by the spirit of the woman. No concrete proof existed, but nonetheless, Martha was sent to prison and eventually hung. Because such an upstanding member of the religious community had been "involved" in Ann's accusations, the village grew fearful that anyone could be a witch.
 
The coming months passed and Ann continued to point the finger at other people, including a four-year-old named Dorcas Good. Ann was not the only one to accuse townspeople of witchcraft. Her parents gave the name of dozens of people, who were most conveniently enemies of the influential Putnam family. Villagers were also shocked that Ann accused the devout Rebecca Nurse and the former Salem pastor George Burroughs. It was later suspected that old family disputes could have affected her claims.
 
After the witch hunt had passed, Ann was responsible for accusing more than 60 people. She would suffer a difficult life in the years to come. First, she lost both of her parents. This meant that she had become responsible for raising her nine brothers and sisters without any help. Her siblings ranged in ages – from 7 months to 16 years old. She never took a husband.

Later, Ann Putnam would eventually acknowledge her role in the Salem Witch Trials –something none of the other circle girls did. In public, she spoke to the village and in 1706, she stood in front of the church, while the pastor read her apology aloud.

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