IPT Book Reviews

Title: A Delusion of Satan 
Author: Francis Hill
Publisher: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1995

Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.
1540 Broadway
New York, NY 10036
(800) 223-6834
$23.95 (c)

In 218 pages the author, a journalist, covers the Salem witch trials in great detail.  His research is very extensive and this book may well be one of the best written on the Salem, Massachusetts witch trials.  In this dark era of history, a group of children began to tell each other's fortunes; but this soon turned to hysterical fits where neighbors were accused of being witches.  Before the end, 19 persons were hung, one was killed with heavy stones, and over 100 were jailed, where many were tortured and lost their minds.

Many who fought for their innocence were acquitted, but one was hung for recanting.  Most were presumed guilty before their trials.  Afterwards, the families of those hung by mistake were denied restitution and officials refused to expunge their records.  Judges, sheriffs, and bailiffs closed ranks and refused to accept blame.  Eventually, the death of 20 innocent persons was blamed on the "delusion of Satan" (p.216) in an hysterical community.

The comparison to the current day care hysteria is unsettling and disturbing.  In the introduction the author observes that witch trials are a form of civil war and that a "sense of injustice. . . can fester and explode into destructive violence" (p. x).  He sees modern witch hunts as the most savage in history.

The book closes with a good set of footnotes, good references, and a useful index and is highly recommended.

Reviewed by LeRoy G. Schultz, Professor Emeritus, West Virginia University.

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