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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

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  1,075 ratings  ·  140 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, 269 pages
Published May 30th 2002 by Da Capo Press (first published October 1st 1995)
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Mimi No, it is non-fiction and evidence based (research).

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Average rating 3.71  · 
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 ·  1,075 ratings  ·  140 reviews

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Aug 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 06, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent account of the Salem witch trials. Gives a fantastic feel for teh political climate that gave rise to the circumstances. Although I have to genuinely disagree with the author, who thinks the girls, for the most part, kind of believed what they were saying.

Nonsense. Mary Warren tried to leave the “afflicted girls” group because they were lying and it was weighing on her conscience- she said as much. I think that makes it pretty clear nobody except maybe the youngest actually believed
Samantha Penrose
Jun 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 be
May 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 17, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
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.
Katherine Addison
I recommend strongly that you skip the introduction by Karen Armstrong, which includes such unexamined sentences as: "What Frances Hill's book shows so clearly is that bad religion can be as destructive as the most virulent atheism.")

As her subtitle shows, Hill is telling the story of the trials, from the first "fits" of Elizabeth Parris and Abigail Williams to the anticlimactic struggles of accused and exonerated witches to get released from prison (since in Puritan New England, prisoners had
East Bay J
Feb 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: us-history
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 psychological study of ...more
Keith Parrish
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the founding precepts of the United States is the freedom to practice religion as one sees fit. Some of the earliest settlers of some of the British colonies was the freedom to conduct their religion outside of the constraints of the orthodoxy of the Church of England. Once freed from the bounds of the Anglican Church, however, many of the colonies established their own orthodoxies which was even less tolerant of dissent than anything that had been found in England. Such was the case of P ...more
Oct 26, 2015 rated it did not like it
First book I have ever returned. This was a chore and bore to the end. I question this author's prowess as a Historian first, and her ability to write an engaging piece of work, second. She manipulates and in some cases flat out fabricates historical events to suit her fancy and personal agenda. Through careful use of language she seamlessly weaves a mountain of probabilities through a minute amount of actual historical facts so that it may look like a complete depiction. This could be forgiven ...more
Apr 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Very readable narrativisation of the Salem witch trials. If you're after a chronological account then this is a very compelling option as it follows the key players in the trials and offers some pop psychology explanations for their behaviours and motives (although I found these to be the least convincing parts of Hill's analysis). Her assessment of historical evidence is couched in language that attempts to be cautiously speculative but nonetheless reveals her partiality to a certain reading of ...more
Jul 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 roommate and I have decided to use it as an instruction m ...more
Katie Wilson
Nov 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: summer-2015
I love reading about the Salem witch trials. Obviously anything to do with witchcraft will seem intriguing and is easily sensationalized, but the trials, because the were so confined to a specific time and place make them so interesting to study. Why Salem? Why 1692? These are questions that have bothered American historians. While many are apt to pass over the witch trials or view them as simply an anomaly in American history, there are a number of scholars who have attempted to give this event ...more
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
Jeremy Hurd-McKenney
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.
May 14, 2010 rated it liked it
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.
Mar 16, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Maren Johnson
Oct 16, 2016 rated it liked it
So many historical facts.
May 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
Not well documented, very speculative. Tries to psychoanalyze people, but I am not convinced by her arguments.
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I guess I just have no patience for Puritans.

I had never given it much thought before, but I realize now that I have always been disturbed by stories of the Salem witch trials. Not even Winona Ryder could convince me to watch The Crucible, and parodies from the likes of Elizabeth Montgomery and Marge Simpson left me feeling somewhat unsettled.

Maybe this aversion was due to my evangelical upbringing…an upbringing that taught us that the devil was real and demon possession was serio
Reads like a court transcript from soap opera whodunnit. Very bland. The topic didn't help either. When you have a depressing topic like this, you need something to keep you compelled in it.

I just kept hoping someone would beat the crap out of the "bewitched." Or that someone would come to their senses and realize that their superstitions were all bullshit. I get that this happened back in 1690, but it comes back to *why* it happened at all; religious belief. Without religions causing otherwis
Karen Lynn
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The atmosphere of Salem, Massachusetts New England during the seventeenth century was one of absolute Puritan Church authority. All New England inhabitants, even if their religion was not Puritan, were expected to conform to the rules of the Puritan church.

“Those wretches who broke those rules, more often servants and the poor than better-off citizens, were punished in ways intended to humiliate as well as to hurt physically. Transgressors had eggs thrown at them in the pillory or st
Mandy Szewczuk
Oct 05, 2018 rated it liked it
While very detailed and complete, with explanations as well as actual quotations from contemporary texts, I found that the author seemed to have a very strong sympathy for the 'afflicted.' These women, girls, and several men literally had people executed as the result of their made-up stories and histrionics; regardless of the rigidity of Puritan life and the psychological toll it took on them, the speculatory "poor dears" analysis of the afflicted girls seemed to be too forgiving, especially wh ...more
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
A Delusion of Satan is a very thorough and chilling account of the Salem Witch Trials. I actually bought this book at the Witch Museum in Salem. It is very sad to know that so many people do not know the truth of what actually happened in New England in 1692—there are those who believe that real witches were tried and some know nothing as our history books usually gloss it over. Others believe that The Crucible is the standard narrative for what actually happened (spoiler alert: it’s not). Readi ...more
Kat Heatherington
Feb 09, 2019 rated it liked it
clear, reasonably concise, readable, with a solid bibliography and notes. However, her thesis is that the Salem witch trials were the product of a sort of medical hysteria on the part of the girls who made the accusations, and having just read Robinson's argument that the girls were being manipulated by their fathers/brothers/uncles who were all powerful men in the town with axes to grind against the families of every one of the accused (which Robinson traces carefully), I can't buy the "hysteri ...more
Dec 15, 2018 rated it liked it
A good book even though its quite repetitive....not really because of the author's style, but because of the repetitive nature of the accusations, trial, and imprisonment of a large group of the Salem villagers and townspeople. Most all of them follow more-or-less the same pattern, which can get boring after a while. But, the most interesting part was to view how utterly nonsensical and horrid their judicial process was, which is the tragedy of the book since it led to innocent lives being lost.
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“Like any other human activity, religion can be abused and made to exacerbate our frightened egoism instead of helping us to transcend it.” 1 likes
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