History It Happened Once

I Googled the Salem Witch Trials so you don’t have to – and they are hella confusing

As a part of our Halloween series this year, since we’ll be mentioning witches a lot, let’s talk about the Salem Witch Trials and how the events that took place do not make any sense.

Honestly, after reading a bunch about the “trials,” I still do not really understand what happened or why it happened. Suggestions about fungus causing illnesses and other analyses on political issues within Salem at the time are speculations that are often used to try to explain the trials. But, you have to admit that there are a bunch of missing pieces in the story. The whole thing sounds like complete chaos to me!

I have so many questions. Like, why did they randomly believe the claims of young girls without any true evidence? Who really thought that allowing spectral evidence was a good idea? How were the accused supposed to prove to a court that they were not actually witches? And lastly, what were the true reasons and motivations behind this tragedy?

So let me explain what all went down in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 and 1693.  It all began when the daughter and niece of Reverend Samuel Parris, the minister of Salem Village, began having violent fits, intense contortions, and uncontrollable outbursts such as screaming. After a local doctor in Salem could not find anything physically wrong with 9-year-old Elizabeth Parris an 11-year-old Abigail Williams, he diagnosed them and other young girls within the community that showed similar behaviors and symptoms with bewitchment. This first diagnosis of witchcraft led to the imprisonment of over 200 people and 20 hangings throughout Massachusetts.

Puritan pioneers first settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. During this time, the Puritan communities established their own theocratic government systems. Theocracy is a form of government largely led and structured by those who believed to be divinely guided. The government and legal system are structured based on religious law.

You still with me?

The Puritans believed that the Devil could give individuals on Earth powers in return for their loyalty. (and that isn’t even the most ridiculous claim) Those who received powers from the Devil were called witches. The principle of witchcraft became prevalent in 14th century Europe, where between the 1300s and 1600s, thousands of people, the majority being women, were executed for accusations of witchcraft. Under the legal structure in Salem, an individual who consorted with the Devil was considered a criminal. The punishment for committing such a crime was hanging, yikes!

During the time of the Salem Witch Trials, the community was stressed and struggling. The King William’s War put a strain on the community’s resources. Additionally, there was a rivalry between wealthy families and the working class that depended on forms of agriculture. There was also an on-going smallpox epidemic and fear of attack from neighboring Native Americans. The stressful and anxiety-fueled climate of the community led to ongoing tensions and suspicions among the Puritan villagers.

After the diagnosis of bewitchment, a few of the “bewitched” young girls blamed three women for bewitching them. The first is Tituba, an enslaved woman from the Caribbean bought by the Reverend Parris. The second woman was Sarah Good, a homeless beggar.  And lastly, an impoverished elderly woman named Sarah Osborne. Of course, all three of the accused women were considered “outsiders” based on race and/or class. (Is anyone shocked?)

It remains unclear if the girls were persuaded or forced to accuse these three women. However, I think that the social statuses and positions of the women in society should be considered when trying to interpret the potential reasons that these three women in particular were actually accused of the crime of witchcraft.

This is where the whole thing launched full speed into a downward spiral to me. The imprisonment of the three women led to further paranoia in a society that already suffered from numerous stresses. Good and Osborne claimed that they were not guilty; while Tituba confessed and named other witches who were working along with her against the Puritans to receive repentance. In response to Tituba claiming other individuals were also practicing witchcraft, the governor of Massachusetts ordered the establishment of the Court of Oyer and Terminer to pass judgment on witchcraft cases.

The accusations of witchcraft continued to spread across the Massachusetts colonies against mostly women and a few men (which I did not know). Similarly to Tituba, those accused confessed and named others who practiced witchcraft. The court allowed testimony based on spectral evidence. This refers to evidence that is based on visions, dreams, and a person’s spirit. The testimony was based on witnesses claiming that they interacted with or saw a person’s spirit, in place of basing testimony on a person’s physical actions. The trails lacked focus on truth and investigation. Under religious practices, the courts preferred that the accused confessed, asked for forgiveness, and vowed to not engage with the Devil again.

After years and the (unlawful) deaths and imprisonment of so many people, the Court of Oyer and Terminer was finally replaced with the Superior Court of Judicature, the testimony of spectral evidence was no longer allowed, and the trials were deemed unlawful. In 1697, the General Court ordered a day of fasting and soul-searching due to the events that had occurred during the trials. Additionally, in 1711, the families affected received reinstitution and the restoration of the names. However, it was not until the 1950s that Massachusetts formally apologized for the event.

The whole story is definitely a lot to digest, but it did give me a lot to think about.

While many aspects of the Salem Witch Trails are perplexing, within this tragedy remains lessons that should be reflected on and questioned today. It remains crucial to have objectivity, to think about the consequences of unjustly punishing individuals, to be cautious of the use of fear within the justice system, and to foresee the damages of groupthink going unquestioned.

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Music Life

“Walk Beyond the Dark”—an atmospheric black metal album review

If you’ve read my bio, then you know that I love metal. Metal is a genre of music that has a plethora of subgenres and a number of derivative genres. It encompasses a range of sounds like Twisted Sister and Blind Guardian to Immortal. As an older Millennial, I still remember hearing new music on the radio, but I hadn’t acquired the taste for metal yet. This meant that I had to learn how to find new music on the ever-expanding and developing Internet. Fortunately for Zoomers, it’s never been easier to find new music thanks to platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.

It so happened that one day I was looking for something new on Spotify and up popped this unassuming album called Walk Beyond the Dark by Abigail Williams (named after one of the girls who accused people of witchcraft and kicked off the Salem Witch Trials). I looked them up and learned this particular album was atmospheric black metal. That’s exactly the kind of genre that’s perfect for listening while writing.

What’s atmospheric black metal (aka ambient black metal)? It’s a variation on black metal that utilizes long musical interludes and repetitive thematic elements to create an atmospheric feeling from which it gets its name. It takes pre-existing components of black metal and exaggerates them to create a specific feeling that demands the listener stay with whatever sensations are brought to the fore. It’s the kind of music that one listens to the whole album from start to finish rather than to a couple of tracks on repeat or on a playlist.

Black metal is a genre that developed as a reaction to the polished sound of glam and heavy metal. Like death metal and punk, vocalists employ screams and growls as a technique that has become a hallmark of the genre. Early pioneers of the genre often recorded in lo-fi or otherwise tried to make their sound raw, like in Bathory’s Under the Sign of the Black Mark. Lyrically the music had references to Satan, violence, depression, and suicide. While all of these can still be found in black metal today, there has been a dramatic broadening of scope in terms of what black metal sounds like musically and lyrically.

Walk Beyond the Dark crosses off a lot of checkmarks that make it an album worth listening to again and again. Although it has moments of aggression and frenetic instrumentation, Abigail Williams seems more concerned with creating a world of ominous shadow. It feels much like getting on a rowboat and traveling down a calm stream… and then the music starts. The journey is creepy, like looking at a shadow and being too scared to find out what’s hidden within it. It’s also meditative, somber, and brutally morose.

On a handful of tracks, there’s a haunting strings part that comes and goes. The eerie tonal shrieks and melodic shifting between notes punctuate the unquiet stillness underpinning the album’s whole soundscape. The use of any instrument beyond drums, bass, and guitar deviates from traditional black metal, but atmospheric black metal has a lot more freedom in terms of its creative constraints. It mirrors violin usage in the progressive metal band Ne Obliviscaris’ The Citadel but unlike fellow atmospheric black metal outfit Panopticon. I found that the band had shown remarkable restraint by not putting string instrumentals on every track and that restraint paid off in a big way.

What characterizes Walk Beyond the Dark isn’t any particular performance of one instrumentalist nor the lyricist, but in Abigail Williams as a band to create a cohesive sound that carries throughout the album. This is the hallmark, for me at least, of a great atmospheric black metal album. If even just one part were out of balance, the focus of the entire album would be on that one band member’s musicianship or lack thereof.

Instead, the album is a sonic tapestry where no single thread is out of place.

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Politics The World

This double-murder has all of Indiana in a complete frenzy – and I’m from that town

Liberty German, 14, and her friend, Abigail Williams, 13, were found murdered on February 14th  in the small town of Delphi, Indiana. The town of Delphi is two hours southeast of Chicago with less than 3000 inhabitants.

The two teens were dropped off at the Delphi Historic Trail on February 13th, 2017. They were reported missing by their families when Liberty and Abigail to meet them at the designated place and time later on. Their bodies were found the next day less than a mile from the location they started their hike from.

I remember visiting my dad within the day it made news in Indianapolis. There was the signature blurry photo of this man in his jeans and blue jacket on the screen. At first, it was assumed this man had seen the girls at some point, and the police were asking him to come in for questioning.

Delphi Murder Suspect
Indiana State Police

Time passed and the news started reporting that the man had not come in yet. More people were admitting that they felt suspicious towards the man who had supposedly done nothing wrong. Finally, the Indiana State Police came out to say that this man was, in fact, a suspect.

Every few days, Hoosiers see in the news that the police have a search warrant for this house or that house for the Delphi murder case and at first, we all thought, “Wow, they found the killer quick!”

The police have been empty-handed so far, however; many are realizing that this is not the open-and-shut case we all suspected it would be.

About a week after the murder, the Indiana State Police held a press conference, and they released audio of the presumed murderer saying, “Down the hill” from Liberty German’s cell phone. They also admitted the infamous photo of the possible perpetrator was also from Liberty’s phone and that the FBI were getting involved with the case.

Indiana State Police Sgt. Tony Solcum said investigators are interviewing other potential suspects and witnesses almost every hour, but they are being ruled out.

Quite a few rumors revolve around this case. It actually got so bad that the authorities issued a statement reminding concerned citizens not to share unverified information on the case.

The cash reward for this case currently sits at over $96,000. Since the audio came out, phone calls have been pouring into the police department and to the FBI.

Currently, near 10,000 tips have been reported since the incident. Local law enforcement and more than 20 outside agencies field through every tip to determine what is valuable. Some tips have come in from all over the world, including Australia.

Anyone with information about this case, no matter how insignificant, is encouraged to call the Delphi Homicide Investigation Tip Line at (844) 459-5786. Information can also be reported by calling the Indiana State Police at (800) 382-7537, or the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department at (765) 564-2413. Information can also be emailed to

Delphi Murder Case
Abigail Williams and Liberty German –