Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Enquiry Into the Salem Witch Trials” as Want to Read:
The Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Enquiry Into the Salem Witch Trials
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Enquiry Into the Salem Witch Trials

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  738 ratings  ·  80 reviews
This historical narrative of the Salem witch trials takes its dialogue from actual trial records but applies modern psychiatric knowledge to the witchcraft hysteria. Starkey's sense of drama also vividly recreates the atmosphere of pity and terror that fostered the evil and suffering of this human tragedy.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published August 5th 1969 by Anchor (first published 1949)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.61  · 
Rating details
 ·  738 ratings  ·  80 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Feb 13, 2009 rated it it was ok
In truth, this book is a near-failure.
Historically it sucks, and it reeks of the sense of postmodern superiority often found in books written by social scientists.
Apparently, Ms. Starkey "...applies modern psychiatric knowledge to the witchcraft hysteria," yet that psychiatric element absolutely ruins and undoes any of the actual historical claims from the primary sources which she did cite.
Problem is, she takes an unnecessary and excessive amount of "creative license" and over-characterizes th
Shea Mastison
Dec 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is one of the best bits of evidence I can think of, which shows how people rarely need religion to behave well; but equally, how they can use it to behave poorly. The fanatic persecution of "witches" in the Massachusettes colony is one of the most ominous in early European-American history: it turned family members against one another, and cast an awful suspicion upon one's neighbors and friends.

This historical book reads much like a novel; and presents an interesting interpretation o
Apr 27, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I started doing some genealogy research recently and that I have ancestors that were from Salem Village in Massachusetts and may, possible be descended from a woman who was hanged as a witch. I still have a fair amount of research to prove that, but the possibility got me interested in learning more about the trials and what happened.

Starkey's book is a pretty quick overview of the events though he doesn't limit himself to pure history and tries to "get inside the people's heads." He also claims
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit dated, especially when it comes to the psychology ("hysteria"), but this is the Salem story in very readable journalese. A very fair assessment of what happened and how it was undone (sometimes not in time), with a timely reminder that a great many people did NOT share the hysteria, and worked against it in whatever ways they could find.

One plus of this edition: the cover is terrific, with its spooky illustration of the devil (by Tomi Ungerer).

One negative of this edition: the Time Inc. R
Feb 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Religion is dangerous. So are teenage girls. This seems to be the main theme of this book. Starkey has gathered myriad sources on the Salem Witch Trials and managed to put together a cohesive account which is neither dry nor dense. Though written in 1949, it is comprehensible to the modern reader and also fascinating. Starkey has taken great care not to fabricate action or dialogue in order to add drama to her tale; she hardly needs to. She has copied entire sections of dialogue from court repor ...more
Copperfield Review
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, nonfiction
If you're interested in the Salem Witch Trials and have not read Starkey's book, then I highly recommend it. She takes the events of the trials and weaves them into a narrative, so much so that this is more like reading a novel. If you're researching the trials, she does have a list of the primary and secondary sources she used for reference at the end of the book.
Jenny Price
Apr 23, 2018 rated it liked it
An older book with an older writing style that was sometimes hard to get through. There were times I had to read re-read a line because I wasn't sure it was her writing or words from history. Even so, it was a thoroughly researched and credible piece of work. I can't speak to any inaccuracies, but it was interesting to get to the real story behind the legend of the Salem Witch Trials.
Sarah -  All The Book Blog Names Are Taken
Though it shows it's age, I still enjoyed this read. It is not without its flaws and the prose was sometimes quite irritating, but still interesting and a good overview. Full review to come


Rating: 3 Stars

It utterly baffles me that these events ever even occurred. And not just in Salem, but across the Massachusetts colony, at the time, and even across Europe as well at vario
Erik Graff
Mar 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: witchcraft fans, psychologists
Recommended to Erik by: Mimi Davis
Shelves: history
A woman I had dated introduced me to her best friend, an adult college student who was particularly involved in a study of the witch craze. As is often the case, her interest got me interested enough to do some reading on the subject, specifically this book and the one by Kai Erikson. Both were, as I recall, good reads.
Nov 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Lori by: Tanya
I liked this book a lot, I really enjoyed how the Author separated the people that were involved with The Witch Trials and what they're rolls were in it.

What a sad but fascinating part of our New England history.

Feb 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly informative and an entertaining read. So many myths regarding the Salem trials... Was nice getting to know what actually occurred. Differs greatly from the trials that had occurred in Europe, which I think is where the confusion spawns from. Definitely recommend it!
Feb 12, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Great historical account of the Salem Witch Trials, but very hard to keep track of all the individual characters. Hard to believe that people could be so naive as to believe everything a group of young girls said.
Patrick Murtha
Dec 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Caveats out of the way first: yes, there are some factual inaccuracies in this riveting account of the Salem witchcraft hysteria. Fifty additional years of research will inevitably alter the record. And yes, by virtue of the same fifty years of additional work, certain of Marion Starkey's interpretations (by no means all) are now generally considered to be superseded.

All that admitted, what a gem this book is! I read it as a teenager and it demonstrated the possibilities of historical narrative
Joe Walton
Oct 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I selected this book because it has been a popular subject for many years and I wanted to know more about it.
The "Salem Witch Trials" has been portrayed on the stage, in books, movies and TV. It is a compelling story. Early in the book I was sorry I chose it because of the horror, but was compelled to finish.
When religion/ideology meet ignorance, bad things happen. When combined with hysteria, terrible things happen. We have recorded and witnessed many like events before and since this time, la
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. A compelling read. Starkey knows her primary sources well, and often allows them to speak for themselves. While she can be "wicked" funny (in the modern Massachusetts sense of "wicked"), when she offers judgments, she is quite sober. She does hold some of the actions up to ridicule, but is wiling to offer exculpatory evidence where she thinks it is warranted.
Lori Schafer
Sep 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Being a native of Massachusetts, I'm perhaps more drawn to this particular subject than I otherwise might be, particularly since Salem was a mere two hours away from my hometown and we actually visited the Salem Witch Museum on a school field trip during my formative years. A skeptic even at twelve, I was impressed most by the illogic of the proceedings, in particular the torture devices by which “confessions” were sometimes obtained. But I can’t say I had a fair recollection of the actual histo ...more
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you base your knowledge of the Salem witch trials on "The Crucible", you need to read this book. It places the trials historically in the middle of a troubled time in Massachusetts and tells what happened to the accused, accusers, and judges after the trials were over. Excellent study and based on primary source material.
Jul 12, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was very hard to read, the writing style just did not keep my connected. I am interested in reading about the Salem Witch trials, but will have to read another and different book. I could not finish the book.
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Published in 1949, Ms. Starkey draws from reports, eye witness accounts and trial records of the time for her information. An amazing story about the time of the witch trials in Salem and nearby areas, told with as much objectivity as possible.
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic treatment of the time period and its associated events.
Judy Giguere
Dec 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting. Lots of information about the details of the witch hunts and trials
Äsruþr Cyneaþsson
May 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
Far too much embellishment and conjecture, when combined with a lack of references, made the study barely usable.
Lynda L, Johnaon
Stands the test of time

And older book, but still thoughtfully written. A fair retelling of the events in Salem circa 1692. I would recommend it.
Meredith Allard
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, nonfiction
I loved the way Starkey wove the facts of the Salem Witch Trials into a seamless narrative, so much so that it was more like reading a novel. While other witch hunt books give you the facts of the events, Starkey's books give you a feel for them. If you're studying the Salem Witch Trials as I am, she has a detailed bibliography at the end with both primary and secondary sources.
Feb 24, 2015 rated it it was ok
Given that this originally appeared in 1949, it might be ungenerous to label it as trite supposition, heavily reliant on emotive adjectives and conjecture as much research has been conducted into what went on in Salem Village for several months in 1692 since this first appeared. Starkey claims to be applying 'modern psychiatric knowledge' to the behaviour of the afflicted girls (adults were also involved, though she seems to frequently forget this), but that does not stop her from labelling Abig ...more
Feb 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Today, we put the utmost faith in justice. We hope that the men responsible for any crime will be brought to justice; we decide before a trial is over who is guilty, and are borderline angry if the accused is acquitted. We watch thousands of hours of police shows, we are obsessed with stories of the CIA and FBI hunts, and who can help but admire Sherlock Holmes' deep dedication to finding the source of wrong in the world.

Yet, justice can sometimes be this dark, terrifying thing. In the case of t
Lynette Lark
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Puritans. Good grief.
Amanda Zucksworth
Sep 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
Amanda Zucksworth
English 232

The author's purpose for writing The Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Enquiry Into the Salem Witch Trials was to inform readers of the events of the Salem Witch Trials. The book actually takes it's dialogue from real trial records, but Marion L. Starkey also applies her knowledge of the trials and her knowledge of psychiatry to the book as well.

One theme that is quite prevalent in this novel is that religion can be dangerous. The reason that the trials in Salem even
Cindy Dyson Eitelman
Jan 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013-15
Well, darn. Fascinating book, well researched, well told. The author did her job well, pulling no stops and naming all names. She followed up, too--didn't just stop with the first witch hanged but kept the story moving until the close. Well...there's never really a "close" to history, but you know what I mean. Until the people were moving on with their lives, making amends (or not), and the history was history--not current events.

But I yearned for details, explanations, even theories. When I rea
Oct 21, 2007 rated it liked it
Originally published in 1949, this "modern enquiry" into the Salem Witch Trials attempts to explore the psychology of the people involved. I think someone with a modern psychology background would have a lot more to say about the young girls who were the accusers, but Starkey's interpretation doesn't bog the story down.

Starkey does a good job painting a picture of what Puritan life was like during the Salem witch hunt hysteria in 1692. The text comes off a bit schlocky and dated, but it is stil
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England
  • The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-By-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege
  • Witchcraft at Salem
  • The Salem Witch Trials Reader
  • Judge Sewall's Apology: The Salem Witch Trials and the Forming of an American Conscience
  • The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England
  • Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft
  • Salem Witch Judge: The Life and Repentance of Samuel Sewall
  • Escaping Salem: The Other Witch Hunt of 1692
  • Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials
  • Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England
  • King Philip's War: The History and Legacy of America's Forgotten Conflict
  • In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692
  • Martin's Hundred
  • A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience
  • Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750
  • Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts
  • A Land as God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America
See similar books…
Marion Lena Starkey was Editor of the Saugus Herald newspaper, and a teacher at the Hampton Institute and the University of Connecticut at New London, having attended the Harvard Graduate school of Education. A descendant of Mayflower passenger Peregrine White, Starkey has published extensively on the Salem Witch Trials and the history of New England.
“But Mather's smile faded as he thought of what other provisions the charter contained. What would the godly say when they learned that the electorate was no longer to be limited to members of the Covenant but broadened to include propertied members of every Christian sect this side of papistry? This was a revolutionary innovation, whose consequences would be incalculable. Hitherto the limitation of the privilege of voting to the elect had been the very corner-stone of theocracy. It had been a wise and human provision designed to keep the faithful in control even when, as had long ago become the case, they were heavily outnumbered by lesser men without the Covenant. God who had not designated the majority of men to salvation surely never intended for the damned to rule. Yet now, under the new charter, it very much looked as if they might.” 4 likes
“The one professional school, Harvard, had been founded to provide training for one profession only, the ministry; recently” 1 likes
More quotes…