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Review: Stacy Schiff’s ‘The Witches’ Filled with Surprises and Lessons

in Nonfiction by

In 1692, at the edge of colonial settlement in the New World—a place that a visitor once called a “remote, rocky, barren, bushy, wild-woody wilderness”—panic had set in. It began during an exceptionally raw Massachusetts winter, when, without warning, a minister’s niece inexplicably began to scream and convulse. It ended less than a year later, after 19 men and women—and two dogs—had been executed for witchcraft. The most educated men and prominent politicians were involved in the terror that swept over the young colony. “A daughter accused her mother, who in turn accused her mother, who accused a neighbor and a minister,” writes Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff. “A wife and daughter denounced their husband and father. Husbands implicated wives;…

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