THE SALEM WITCHES, and mass hysteria

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cover new england

This is an extract of my article, with small photos. You will find the complete article with full-sized photos in my e-book View America: New England

In the travel series View America, this book describes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Each state is described with its own brief historical background and its main sights, points of interest and tourist attractions.

It is not a traditional travel story, but a non-commercial and more or less objective chronicle of an in-depth exploration of these states. My book does not describe lodgings, restaurants or entertainment, except where these may interact with the narrative. It is illustrated with more than 100 full-sized photos.

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The Witch tribunal

In June 1692, the special Court of Oyer and Terminer (ancient French for "to hear" and "to end") convened in Salem. The chairman was Chief Justice William Stoughton, who was assisted by church magistrates and judges.

Salem witch trial 1 Salem witch trial 2

The first of the accused to appear was Bridget Bishop, who was promptly found guilty. According to the magistrates, she had used her "invisible astral spectrum" to torture the victims... She was hanged on June 10.

Mass hysteria and "Mass Sociogenic Illness"

These remarkable events have since been thoroughly studied in various universities, to learn from this bizarre combination of events and the accompanying mass hysteria. The Judiciary were eager to declare that such a chain of events simply cannot happen anymore. Nevertheless, it is remarkable to discover similarities in modern times.

Orson Welles War of the WorldsIn 1938, Orson Welles presented the radio drama War of the Worlds. A tremendous panic ensued, and many believed that an actual alien invasion was taking place. The crowds of New York and New Jersey could hardly be kept under control by the police.

In the early 1950's, Senator McCarthy's interrogation techniques and hearings about the "communist astral spectra" in the US bore an astounding resemblance to the Salem Witch trials...

In 1992, a group of 150 disabled children received a packed lunch in Florida. One of the girls felt sick, and almost instantly other children also began to complain. Some had headaches, others felt a tingling in their hands and feet, and still others had stomachs cramps. The supervisor was concerned about food poisoning, and promptly removed the lunch packages.

Within forty minutes sixty-three children were sick ! They were transported to hospitals, but within the hour the problems ceased. Not a single test revealed anything wrong with the food, nor did the same packed lunches produce any problem elsewhere.

In June 1999, several Belgian schoolchildren got sick after drinking a can of Coca Cola. In no time at all, some 250 children had similar complaints, in five different schools. In a country plagued by widely publicized reports of transformer oil and dioxin, and PCB's in eggs, chicken, meat, and even in milk, an unusual scent in a bottle or can is apparently enough to provoke a strong headache or severe abdominal cramps. However, tests revealed no trace of any poisoning in blood or urine samples.

Coca Cola Belgium stated that maybe the wrong carbon dioxide had been used in the bottling plant in Antwerp-Wilrijk, but later examination showed no connection between the contaminant and the symptoms. The Belgian Health Council came to the conclusion that the crisis had been due to Mass Sociogenic Illness, a form of mass hysteria.

Coca Cola Enterprises did sue its insurers for more than 132 million dollars, to compensate it for the recall and destruction of millions of bottles and cans in Belgium and Luxemburg...

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