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Feb 29th...this day in history.....

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Dramatic lithograph of the Salem witch trials produced in 1892

Perhaps the most notorious case of mass hysteria in colonial America, the Salem witch trials saw around 200 people accused of witchcraft, with 19 found guilty and executed. Another man was crushed to death for refusing to plead, while five others died in jail.

The incident began in February 1692 when a group of young girls claimed to have been possessed by the devil and accused other women of being witches. Hysteria spread through colonial Massachusetts and a special court was convened to hear trials of those accused.

By September public opinion turned against the trials and they eventually closed early in 1693. The cases became notorious and were interpreted by later generations as a warning sign against the dangers of religious fanaticism, isolation and lapses in due process. In 1711 the convictions of twenty-two people were reversed by the courts and their families were given monetary compensation.

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