The Salem Witch Trials Began on a Leap Day

Did you know the first warrants in the Salem witch trials were issued February 29, 1692? That was 324 years ago—or 81 leap years ago.

The era of Britain's settlement in the Americas has given history some excellent works of literature and art. Witches, or the people with strange abilities who made some kind of evil bargain with a darker spirit, have been the villains in many of them.


Learn more about the Salem witch trials with last year's wide-ranging history The Witches, which Booklist called "a compulsively readable slice of Americana" in a starred review.

The Witches is available in other formats.

Much has been said about the trials over the years. For example, in the 1970s, a theory came out that the accusing women in Salem all suffered from a fungus-born poison. It is called ergo, and the subsequent madness from ingesting the harmful substance is known as Ergotism. Read more in "Were Witches on a Bad Trip?" And find more general information about the trials in American History Online.


Arthur Miller's classic play The Crucible relates Salem's fear of witches to the era of McCarthyism in which the play was written. Read more about the connection between Salem and the Red Scare in our fall 2007 One Book, One Chicago guide for The Crucible.

Interested in exploring The Crucible further? Read about the play's plot and themes in Literary Reference Center, a great resource for literary criticism or to enhance your reading of a deep novel.

For more stories of witches, try these titles. While written for tweens and teens, these books are gripping for anyone interested in a classic witch's tale.

The Witches is full of Roald Dahl's darkly whimsical humor, and the movie with Angelica Houston is frightening.

Witch Child is written as the journal of a young witch, traveling from Europe to the New World.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond is a Newbery Award winner about a young woman raised in Barbados. When she comes to live with her uncle among the Puritans, she experiences her own form of culture shock.

Witches are not always the boogeymen of fiction. Sometimes, like in the Harry Potter series, a witch's magic is considered a gift.

Check out more titles about witches, good or evil, fantastical or realistic.