Witch Trials & Vampire Hearts: Connecticut's Superstitious Past

A conversation with historians, a psychologist and an archaeologist.

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Stuart Vyse
Stuart Vyse is a professor of Psychology at Connecticut College in New London and the author of "Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition." Photo:Chion Wolf
Witch Trials & Vampire Hearts: Connecticut's Superstitious Past
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Witch Trials & Vampire Hearts: Connecticut's Superstitious Past

Salem, Massachusetts gets all the notoriety, but Connecticut's prosecution of so-called witches started earlier and may have been more fierce.

In “The Witchcraft Delusion in Connecticut 1647-1697,” John M. Taylor lists thirty-five cases between 1647 and 1697.

There were at least 11 documented executions in Connecticut. The usual explanation is some combination of strong religious beliefs and a long string of hardships like epidemics, floods, and clashes with Native Americans.

Other scholars have suggested other scenarios in which colonies, perched on the edge of total chaos because of greed and feuding, used witch prosecutions as a way of stabilizing the social order -- defining one group as evil outsiders and everyone else as normal. In some cases, seizure of the witch's property may have been an added incentive.

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This program was produced by Nina Earnest.