12 Historical "Facts" That Simply Aren't True

12. The Accused In The Salem Witch Trials Were Not Burned To Death... They Were Hanged


The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 are one of the most infamous incidents in the history of America - yet a common misconception exists that any person found guilty was burned at the stake. In fact, the majority of "witches" were actually hanged. With the hearings and prosecutions taking place between February 1692 and May 1693 in Salem, colonial Massachusetts, 20 people in all were executed - the majority of them women, and almost all of them by hanging.

One of the "witches" was crushed to death by heavy stones though, and a couple died in prison. It is unclear exactly why history has come to falsely suggest that the Salem "witches" were burned alive, but it is likely that popular culture has confused these trials with other previous similar incidents.

For example, burning of accused sorceresses was used by Christians during the witch-hunts of Europe in the 16th Century, with an estimated 40,000-50,000 executed via this method. Salem witches, however, were not executed in such a way.

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NUFC editor for History graduate (University of Edinburgh) and NCTJ-trained journalist. I love sports, hopelessly following Newcastle United and Newcastle Falcons. My pastimes include watching and attending sports matches religiously, reading spy books and sampling ales.