Salem Witch Trials / Open Lines

Hosted byIan Punnett

Salem Witch Trials / Open Lines

About the show

Paul DeBole is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Lasell University, a small private college just west of Boston. At Lasell, he teaches courses in American government, the American presidency, American political institutions, and perhaps his most popular course, the Conspiracy in American Politics. He joined Ian Punnett (Twitter) to reveal little-known facts about the Salem Witch Trials (1692-1693). DeBole related the Salem trials to the witch burnings that took place in Europe several decades earlier. "It appears as though accusations of witchcraft were a way to get rid of or isolate women that had very strong views," he said, noting when people of the time encountered something they could not explain it was witches or some other supernatural explanation. "You tend to relate to what you know to explain what you don't know," he added.

According to DeBole, spores in the grain supply could have had hallucinogenic effects causing certain people to act out. It is estimated more than 200 accused during the Salem trials, and a convergence of factors may account for the accusations, he noted. After examining historical records, trial transcripts, and literature from the period, DeBole is convinced the coveting of others' land holdings may have played a major role. He referenced the case of Giles Corey, who transferred all of his property in Essex County to another individual before the trials began. Corey implicated his wife in the trials and later died after he was subjected to a torture called pressing, DeBole noted. He also suggested religious leaders and their followers violated several commandments during the trials, including bearing false witness against a neighbor and taking the Lord's name in vain. "I wonder if people really believed [in witchcraft] or they were just kowtowing to the religious orthodoxy of the time," DeBole speculated.


Open Lines followed in the latter half of the program. Cherry from Medford, Oregon, talked about when she was 35 years old and her father was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma. "It didn't seem possible he was dying," she recalled. Cherry revealed she was an atheist at the time but a remarkable incident turned her toward religion and spirituality. According to Cherry, she in a car one morning when her father's voice awakened her from sleep. She later discovered it happened at the moment he died. Braden in Wyoming reported on his UFO sightings, and thoughts about what he thinks they are. According to Braden, UFOs sightings are likely U.S. government experiments, and abduction experiences are caused by evil spirits.

Tim from Carson City, Nevada, told Ian he was a big fan of Coast to Coast AM. In 1995, Tim spent a year and a half working on the Bering Sea. "[My wife] would record Coast to Coast on cassette and mail them out to me, and I'd be out on the ship out on the Bering Sea listening to recordings," Tim remembered. He also told Ian he recently came across a roll of photos from a solo camping trip he took 20 years ago. The odd thing about the photos is there are two shots of Tim sleeping in his tent. "To this day I have no idea who took them," he said.

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