Witchcraft or Mycotoxin? The Salem Witch Trials

  title={Witchcraft or Mycotoxin? The Salem Witch Trials},
  author={Alan David Woolf},
  journal={Journal of Toxicology: Clinical Toxicology},
  pages={457 - 460}
  • A. Woolf
  • Published 1 January 2000
  • History
  • Journal of Toxicology: Clinical Toxicology
Background: The Salem witchcraft trials of 1692 have been studied by many historians looking for the complex social, political, and psychological determinants behind the community-wide hysteria that led to a travesty of justice and the deaths of 20 innocent Puritans. Recently, ergot poisoning has been put forth by some as a previously unsuspected cause of the bizarre behaviors of the young adolescent girls who accused the townsfolk of witchcraft. In this essay the circumstances behind the ergot… 
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    The journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law
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In 1692 and 1693, in Salem, Massachusetts, more than 150 colonists were accused of witchcraft, resulting in 19 being hanged and one man being crushed to death. Contributions to these events included:
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  • T. Alm
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Medical symptoms compatible with ergotism were recorded in numerous trials, including gangrene, convulsions, and hallucinations; the latter often explicitly stated to occur after consumption of foodstuffs or drink.
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Salem Trials (1692) in History and in Miller’s The Crucible: Investigating truth claims in historical narratives and drama
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Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is, in the first instance, a literary reconstruction of a historical event: the Salem trials that took place in the village of Salem in Essex County, New England (today
The entheogenic origins of Mormonism: A working hypothesis
Historical documents relating to early Mormonism suggest that Joseph Smith (1805–1844) employed entheogen-infused sacraments to fulfill his promise that every Mormon convert would experience visions


Ergotism and the Salem witch panic: a critical analysis and an alternative conceptualization.
  • N. Spanos
  • Psychology
    Journal of the history of the behavioral sciences
  • 1983
This perspective views the Salem crisis as a sociopolitical drama played out in terms of the worldview shared by seventeenth-century Puritans, and the events purportedly explained by the ergot hypothesis are accounted for within a social psychological framework.
Ergotism: the satan loosed in Salem?
The evidence suggests that convulsive ergotism, a disorder resulting from the ingestion of grain contaminated with ergot, may have initiated the witchcraft delusion in Salem.
Report on an Outbreak of Alleged Ergot Poisoning by Rye Bread in Manchester
The clinical characters of the outbreak, so far as they have been recorded, strongly support the view that ergot was responsible; all the necessary factors and conditions for the production of illness were present and it is not surprising that it occurred.
Occurrence of peptide and clavine ergot alkaloids in tall fescue grass.
The results indicate that ergot alkaloids are probably responsible for the toxicity to cattle of this common pasture and lawn grass and that Ergotism-like toxicoses may be caused by clavicipitaceous fungi other than Claviceps.
Mycotoxins: toxicity, carcinogenicity, and the influence of various nutritional conditions*
  • P. Newberne
  • Medicine
    Environmental health perspectives
  • 1974
Alimentary toxic aleukia, which has caused enormous suffering in Russian human and animal populations, is better understood as a result of relatively recent experimental investigations, and Japanese studies have clearly revealed the hepatotoxicity of certain metabolites of Penicillium molds.
Ergotamine absorption and toxicity.
Plasma and urinary ergotamine was measured by radio-immunoassay and pharmacokinetic data derived from the study are presented and their relevance to the therapeutic use of ergotamines are discussed.
Ergot induced myocardial ischaemia in a patient without vasospastic disorder.
The hazards of non-therapeutic anabolic-androgenic steroid administration and their trivial usage should be made clear to all those using such substances to enhance athletic success and physique.
Acute Myocardial Infarction Secondary to Ergot Therapy
The patient described below had received ergotamine tartrate for many years, had no known contraindications to its continued use and had received what is considered to be an obvious overdosage.
Ergot and the Salem witchcraft affair.