From Salem to Monty Python: Witch hunt in pop culture

More than 300 years after the Salem witch trials began, witch hunts are still the rage SLIDE SHOW

Topics: slideshow, salem witch trials, Witch Hunt,

From Salem to Monty Python: Witch hunt in pop culture (Credit: YouTube Screenshot)

February 1692 marked the beginning of the Salem Witch Trials. At the time in colonial North America, it didn’t take much to be accused of witchcraft. If someone lived alone, was a bit of an outsider and sometimes talked to his pet, he could be easily accused of having made an unlawful covenant with the devil.

Anyone could file a complaint against an alleged witch with the local magistrates. If the complaint was deemed credible, the magistrates had the “witch” arrested and brought in for a public interrogation, where they pressed the accused to confess. During the trials, more than 150 people were arrested and jailed after being accused of practicing witchcraft. Nineteen people (14 women and five men) were hanged, others died in prison or were crushed to death under heavy stones, including Giles Corey who refused to enter a plea and instead entered history as the man whose last words were: “More weight.”

Since then, witch hunts have received much attention in literature, TV and film. Here’s a look at some of the most renowned witch hunt moments.

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    (Photo Credit: YouTube screenshot)

    Witch-hunt slideshow

    The Crucible
    Director: Nicholas Hytner (1996)
    Arthur Miller's play "The Crucible" was widely acclaimed as a metaphor for Joseph McCarthy's spurious crusade against communism. The play later turned into a Broadway show and was adapted to television and film, including the 1996 drama starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder. The movie follows young Abigail Williams, who, after being spurned by her married lover, stirs up a frenzy of hysteria and fear with accusations of witchcraft. At that time, as the trailer says: “All it takes to be condemned, is to be accused.”

    (Photo Credit: YouTube screenshot)

    Witch-hunt slideshow

    The Witch of Blackbird Pond
    Author: Elizabeth George Speare (1958)
    This classic young adult historical fiction tells the story of Katherine “Kit” Tyler, a young orphan who is marked by suspicion and disapproval from the moment she arrives at the unfamiliar shores of colonial Connecticut in 1687. Kit's aristocratic clothes and roots make her an outsider, but just when she’s about to give up she befriends a kind, elderly woman named Hannah, who was outlawed from the colony because she is a Quaker. When a fever strikes the children of Wethersfield, the residents accuse Hannah of bringing the plague upon the town. Kit too faces accusations of witchcraft, simply for befriending Hannah and she is torn between her quest for belonging and her desire to be true to herself.

    (Photo Credit: YouTube screenshot)

    Witch-hunt slideshow

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    Episode: Gingerbread (1999)
    In the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" episode "Gingerbread," Buffy, Willow and Amy are sentenced to burn at the stake after the apparent sacrifice of two children in an occult ritual causes the town to be consumed in fear and paranoia. While rushing to save them, the Scooby Gang learns that every 50 years throughout history, the bodies of two nameless children have been found dead. Giles explains that this is the work of demons who set off the Salem Witch Trials and thrive on watching humans destroy each other.

    (Photo Credit: YouTube screenshot)

    Witch-hunt slideshow

    Monty Python and the Holy Grail
    Directors: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones (1975)
    In one of the most quoted scenes of the frequently quoted movie, villagers forcibly dressed a woman in stereotypical witch garb and pleaded to Sir Bedevere to let them burn her at the stake. Sir Bedevere, in his infinite wisdom, introduces the peasants to the logic that witches burn -- because they're made of wood. Wood floats. What else floats on water? A duck; therefore, if something has the same weight as a duck it must float. A duck and scales are fetched and when the girl and the duck balance perfectly there is only one obvious conclusion: Burn the witch!

    (Photo Credit: YouTube screenshot)

    Witch-hunt slideshow

    Hocus Pocus
    Directors: Kenny Ortega (1993)
    "Hocus Pocus" received mainly negative reviews from critics during its theatrical release, but the comedy starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy gained a cult following on home video.

    (Photo Credit: YouTube screenshot)

    Witch-hunt slideshow

    Season of the Witch
    Director: Dominic Sena (2011)
    Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman star in this supernatural action drama. The film, which was savaged by critics, takes place in 14th-century Europe and follows a heroic crusader and his fellow soldier as they transport a suspected witch believed to be responsible for spreading the Black Plague.

    (Photo Credit: YouTube screenshot)

    Witch-hunt slideshow

    The Blair Witch Project
    Directors: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez (1999)
    This witch hunt flick gained huge attention after terrifying viewers around the world and becoming the most successful independent movie of all time. Presented as a straightforward documentary, the film tells the story of a witch blamed for a string of murders dating back 200 years, and a couple of filmmakers who march into the woods to do a film project on these "Blair Witch" incidents. After the students disappeared the film pieces together amateur footage found in their video and sound equipment.

    (Photo Credit: YouTube screenshot)

    Witch-hunt slideshow

    ParaNorman
    Directors: Chris Butler, Sam Fell (2012)
    This 3-D stop-motion film tells the story of a oddball boy named Norman, who can talk to dead people. During rehearsals for a school play commemorating their town's historical witch executions, Norman experiences a harrowing vision in which he is being pursued by witch hunters from 300 years ago. Soon Norman realizes his duty to protect their town.

    (Photo Credit: YouTube screenshot)

    Witch-hunt slideshow

    Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters
    Director: Tommy Wirkola (2013)
    In this spin on the fairy tale, 15 years after outsmarting a sinister witch by pushing her into an oven, Hansel & Gretel (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) are now bounty hunters who track and kill witches all over the world. This action-packed film was panned by mainstream critics, but horror genre critics were more positive, viewing it as unpretentious and entertaining.

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