Being a young girl in 1692 must have sucked.
Two young girls in the settlement, Abigal and Betty, started to act strangely. They screamed, wailed, barked. They threw things around the room. They complained of being pinched and scratched. They would fall to the floor and freeze in a twisted position. They would speak gibberish and scream about demons. All around strange behavior for puritans. But an obvious answer to this insanity... no, not insanity. The devil. Oh, excuse me, I mean, THE DEVIL! (cue dramatic music, flip the lights on and off, gasp in apparent horror.)
So I'm sure you know this part that comes next. Lots of finger pointing, more fits, trial after trial. Then bad things.
Maybe they just wanted a little fun in their not-so-event-filled lives. Fun that lead to 20 deaths. But perhaps they weren't just being little brats; perhaps it was something no one thought of... mold.
Ergot. It's a type of fungi that grows on rye and related plants. They have a wide range of effect on humans, from circulation in the limbs to neurotransmission. Ok, that doesn't seem so scary... Well you would be wrong. Think blackened limbs, hallucinations (which leads to irrational behavior), and major and minor seizures. Did I happen to mention the severe uterine contractions? I know that makes me act like a severe bitch regardless of consuming ergot. Oh, and it's a analog to synthetic LSD. So there you go. Good reasons for the demons.
There have been lots of conflicting back and forth about this and who's to say what happened. Not me.
Perhaps the devil did make them do it.
O Christian Martyr Who for Truth could die
When all about thee Owned the hideous lie!
The world, redeemed from superstition's sway,
Is breathing freer for thy sake today.
--Words written by John Greenleaf Whittier