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A Delusion of Satan: The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials
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A Delusion of Satan: The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials

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3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  526 ratings  ·  71 reviews
This acclaimed history illuminates the horrifying episode of Salem with visceral clarity, from those who fanned the crisis to satisfy personal vendettas to the four-year-old "witch" chained to a dank prison wall in darkness till she went mad. Antonia Fraser called it "a grisly read and an engrossing one."
Paperback, 296 pages
Published May 30th 2002 by Da Capo Press (first published October 1st 1995)
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12th out of 55 books — 143 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,723)
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Matt
Undoubtedly, the Massachusetts of the 17th century would have been a terrifying place for a Puritan colonist. Beyond the gridded towns and the tended fields, a giant wilderness would have loomed, huge dark forests that hid ferocious bears, stalking panthers, larcenous squirrels, and possibly homicidal raccoons. The forests also would have hid Indians, the most terrifying creatures of all. Possessed of an almost mystical connection to the land, the Indians could appear, strike, and vanish at any ...more
Hannah
Fully fleshed out account of the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690's. Author Frances Hill showcases the factors leading up to, during and following the hysteria, and provides some interesting speculations on why and how it all came to pass. This isn't the definitive book on the trials, but it's a darn good place to start for those readers who know little about this part of American history, or those who want a fuller account. No dry academic reading here.
Kara
Honestly, I am not one for Colonial America. I grew up in Boston, so I've had the Revolution crammed into me. However, I found this book extremely intriguing. It takes a very different approach to the Salem Witch Trials. We always see these trials as a "simple" witch hysteria, but it was so much more than that. Hill does an excellent job at showing all aspects of what really happened in Salem, and presents it in an interesting way. It really kept my interest straight through. It's one of the few ...more
Samantha Penrose
Jun 24, 2009 Samantha Penrose rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone ---especially high school history classes
This book is amazing--it should be required reading for high school history classes!

This book provides an incredibly detailed, up close and personal look at the unbelievable events and people surrounding the witch hunt and trials that took place in Salem. The book, or perhaps just history itself is absolutely mind-blowing, and the book is, for the most part, very well written.

Court documents and personal diaries are used to reconstruct the events and emotions from just before the witch hunt to m
...more
Lynda
This book explores the terrifying secrets of Salem, Massachusetts like no other. It truly does give "the full story" on all accounts with no ulterior motive other than truth.

I began writing a novel five years ago set in my hometown of Salem, and this book was my starting point when researching. Kudos to Frances Hill for gaining so much of the story, and for pointing us in the direction of the truth and how we may have strayed from it.

Chock full of information, this book explores all of the well
...more
Jon
As an academically-minded graduate student in Literature and Theology, I could not get through this book. While it does fulfill the promise of providing a broad overview of the events that did occur, each narrative is flooded with Hill's personal beliefs, beliefs that consistently ignore the contextual and contemporary perspectives. Many phrases like "one can easily imagine" attempt to make the reader believe that Hill's explanation, usually one about a fradulent, fear-mongering Puritan society ...more
J
I remember reading The Crucible in high school, being told it was a "true story" and wondering just how much and which parts were true. With A Delusion Of Satan, Frances Hill has done an outstanding job of examining the bizarre events that began in Salem Village in the winter of 1692 in amazing and enlightening detail. Using what written records exist from the time and examining the background and character of the principal players, Hill turns the story of the Salem Witch Trials into a psycholog ...more
April
This book could have been very good, but it's so one-sided and full of speculation that it's not worth reading in my opinion. Comparing 21st century thinking and living to 17th century Salem just doesn't hold up. The author also has very feminist views which definitely come through and I found to be a turn-off.
Amy
I thought that A Delusion of Satan was perhaps the best book on the Salem Witch Trials that I have ever read. I learned *tons* from this book, and it really expanded my impression of what these trials were, and of what society was like in Massachusetts during this time.

It also renewed my interest in my own family tree, and made me wonder if my Massachusetts Puritan ancestors would have experienced the frenzy of these times, or would have had freinds, family, or neighbors swept up in these events
...more
TPK
When discussing any event three centuries removed from us it becomes difficult to separate fact from fiction, thanks to years of fictitious embroidery on the subject, but the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692 have not just been the subject of numerous fictitious treatments -- they were also based on a fiction. A clutch of bored, theatrical, hysterical girls and women, working alone or in collusion, spread a witchcraft panic through the town of Salem that would eventually result in over 150 impriso ...more
Daniel
This book was great...Hill's analysis of the unique social, political, and psychological factors that led to the mania of the Salem witch trials is incisive, and chilling. Although she tends to extrapolate with her evidence and theorize about people's motivations a little more than I am comfortable with, this was a very engaging and informative book and it is highly recommended. Be warned though, it may do strange things to your mind...my roommate and I have decided to use it as an instruction m ...more
Julie
This non-fiction book not only describes the events during the period of the Salem witch trials but it also looks at the various possible social, psychological, political, and religious reasons that the whole thing happened. Although it was a tad repetative in the descriptions of what the accusers claimed each "witch" did to them, there is a lot of really interesting information in this book. There is a list of people (which could have been more thorough) and a timeline at the end of the book fo ...more
MeriBeth
Apr 30, 2014 MeriBeth rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Historians, History Students, Salem Enthusists
Shelves: history
A Delusion of Satan by Frances Hill is the classic study of the social conditions surrounding the outbreak of the Salem Witch Trials. Ms. Hill expands on previous work by Marion Starkey in her book, The Devil in Massachusetts, by incorporating more recent scholarship into New England society. Bringing a unique perspective to the cases since, as an Englishwoman, she was familiar with the class deference and societal expectations built into them, Ms. Hill gives us what I consider the first in dept ...more
Miklos
A comprehensive narrative of what happened in Salem in the late 1600s and the repercussions from fanatical witch hunting. A cynic would say that it all started because of one 12 year old girl and her credulous exploitative father using her "fits" to justify punishing his enemies. That, in fact, seems really close to the mark. In a world with no understanding of falsifiability or even an impartial court system, 19 people were hanged, hundreds were imprisoned, and countless more were accused. In w ...more
Jeremy Hurd
Hill provides some juicy details and grisly bits that I haven't heard before, but not enough to overcome the personal opinions disguised as facts, unsubstantiated suppositions, and non-essential tangents of the day-to-day drudgery of Puritan lives. The book eventually got very repetitive, using the same phrases and examples over and over. It read very much like an essay heavily padded to stretch it out into book length.
Agnes
This book was hard reading. It was written factually which meant that there was a lot of repitition. About half way through I felt I had the just of it all and did not really need to keep going. But I did. If this interests you, you'll love it..but not for the average reading for pleasure genre.
Michelle Leah Olson
Our Review, by LITERAL ADDICTION's Pack Alpha - Chelle:

Utterly captivating, a history book that held my interest like paranormal fiction.

A culmination of several different resources, this book provides a detailed and intimate look at the events that took place in Salem. It was well written, and while there was conjecture, it never felt forced or overplayed. It simply echoed most of the thoughts already going through my mind while I read.

Ms. Hill takes the reader through a factual account of the
...more
Sherise
I have to read this for my History class. It has a lot of really interesting information, it's well written, but I'm having a hard time reading it. It jumps around a lot and sometimes makes no sense.
Constantine Lewis
The actual story is shocking, disturbing and nothing like what I had always thought had happened. It is hard to believe the justification these people had for taking innocent lives during this time period.
Cor
Not well documented, very speculative. Tries to psychoanalyze people, but I am not convinced by her arguments.
Luke
Frances Hill's writing on the Salem debacle is very much worth reading, particularly if the only acquaintance you have with the trials comes through Miller's play. While The Crucible is taut and conveys a lot of the who's-next terror of the event, it also played fast and loose with facts, adding non-existent relationships for dramatic oomph.

So yes, this is a very detailed, largely-taken-from-primary-sources work that examines the trial and the accusations with scholarly rigour. It's dry, though
...more
Richard
Read this for US History to 1877, at Brigham Young University.

Certainly a bleak chapter in American Heritage. A witch-hunt that was based on accusations from girls who became narcissists. Accusations, I believe, were done out of envy of their parents. Rich, educated, and those considered outcasts were the ones who were accused and condemned for witchcraft. The Salem witch trials went out of hand, from accusing local residents in Salem Village to people who were from other areas around Salem.

The
...more
Judy
Previously, all I knew about the Salem Witch Trials is that it happened in some uptight Puritan community and multiple people were put to death due to the crime of "being a witch." This book sets it straight that it was a bit more involved than that.

There was an uptight Puritan community that repressed emotion and gaiety and women. That lead to several young women having hysterical fits. These young women discovered that they could act out and get attention with these fits and their elders disc
...more
K
I recently visited Boston for the first time (what a great city!) and took my kids to the Salem Witch Museum. Although I vaguely remembered brushing over this episode at some point in my education, visiting museum stimulated my fascination with this phenomenon, which inspired me to grab some relevant books on my next visit to the library. This was the first one.

The book is readable, and spins a vivid narrative about the events surrounding the witch trials. The author has clearly done a great dea
...more
Alison
I'm from Massachusetts and every schoolkid does the obligatory trip to Salem, but I don't remember learning much in depth about the witch trials. I read this after having listened to "The Heretic's Daughter" earlier this year -- I wanted to know more about what actually happened during the Salem Witch Trials, and this book delivered. It's a digestible (but not lightweight) look at what happened to cause them, and how they came to an end. There are some interesting societal and cultural aspects o ...more
Anne
This was a good one to read with "In the Devil's Snare," both written a decade or so apart. I liked the different perspectives each gave that the other missed. Hill's book is written tongue-in-cheek, which makes for an enjoyable read, especially regarding the intense subject matter. I would recommend both books.
Raelynn
I really wanted to give this 4 stars because overall I feel it's a well researched addition to the history of the Salem witch trials. However I just can not get over the author's personal 'views as facts' disposition as well as the repetitive descriptions of events. I would still recommend this book to those who have some previous knowledge of puritan 17th century and can think for themselves without falling to simulated scenarios.
Patrick McFarland
One of many books on the subject of the 1692 Salem witch hysteria. Informative but not especially well written, this reads more like a text book than historical non-fiction. Still, all the facts are here along with some intriguing speculation.
TE
Interesting reading and a very comprehensive treatment of the evidence and historical events, which is surprisingly difficult to find given the general interest in the topic, but be prepared for lots of rhetoric about how hysterical women were largely responsible. A recent theory, which I am more inclined to believe, states that ergot poisoning may have caused some of the more extreme symptoms, which then led to a witch hunt. This seems much more credible to me than this author's psychoanalysis ...more
Jackie
I was trying to absorb this book a little at a time, since it is so full of information, sometimes repetitively so. I really appreciated the facts being laid out in such a way that you knew the people involved and the roles they played in the trials. I am still amazed that all of this occured over such a short period of time. I would recommend this book to someone who was looking to learn more about the witch trials in a readable context. I think Hill did a pretty good job of laying out the fact ...more
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