Thursday, November 08, 2007

DON'T BLAME SATAN: THERE'S A FUNGUS AMONG US!

Christian County (IL) Genealogical Society Quarterly 24:2 (Summer 2007) has an article on the Salem witch trials of 1692. The articles notes that several researchers are convinced that the troubles in Salem didn’t stem from witchcraft and devil worship, but rather from rye bread infected with the ergot fungus. Ergot poisoning, it seems, manifests symptoms much like those of the possessed girls at Salem: spastic movements without fainting; temporary blindness, deafness, and speechlessness; the sensation of being bitten or scratched; the sensation of flying through the air; and hallucinations. An examination of climactic, geographic, and agricultural conditions in Salem in the witch trials year and the year previous show conditions perfect for the development and spread of the ergot fungus.

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