On first impression, the witchcraft trials of the Colonial era may seem to have been nothing but a free-for-all, fraught with hysterics. Margo Burns explores an array of prosecutions in seventeenth century New England, using facsimiles of primary source manuscripts, from first formal complaints to arrest warrants, indictments of formal charges to death warrants, and the reversals of attainder and rescinding of excommunications years after the fact; demonstrating how methodically and logically the Salem Court worked. This program focuses on the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692 and 1693, when nineteen people were hanged and one crushed to death, but also examines a variety of other cases against women in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.
Margo Burns is the 10th-generation great-granddaughter of Rebecca Nurse, who was hanged in Salem in 1692 on the charge of witchcraft. She is the project manager and an associate editor of Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt, published in 2009 by Cambridge University Press. This work is the definitive collection of transcriptions of the legal records of the episode.