May 14, 1878

On May 14, 1878, the last witchcraft trial was held in the United States in Salem, Massachusetts. It was called both, the ‘Salem Witchcraft Trial of 1878’ and the ‘Ipswich Witchcraft Trial’. It was a civil suit and not a criminal case. Lucretia Brown, a 50 year old spinster and adherent of Christian Science, accused fellow Christian Scientist, Daniel Spofford of using his ‘mental powers’ to harm her. She had injured her spine during her childhood and claimed that Christian Science had healed her, but she had suffered a relapse to the injury in 1877 and 1878 and accused Spofford of using his ‘mesmerism’ to ‘interfere’ with the healing. Judge Horace Grey presided over the case and immediately threw it out. He said that even if ‘mesmerism’ was possible, and it wasn’t, then the law didn’t cover it. Ms. Brown appealed, and lost again. Why did she bring such a foolish case to trial? It’s believed that she was encourage to do so by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the religion of Christian Science. Daniel Spofford was at one time one of her favorite disciples, but they had a falling out in 1877. Why? Because of money. He went his own way and started his own brand of Christian Science and she didn’t like it. So, to ruin him, Mary Baker had Lucretia file a civil lawsuit. Unfortunately, by the late 1870s, the American laws no longer recognized magic or supernatural explanations as legal actions or recourse. This was good for ordinary Americans and bad for cult leaders. To keep score, it was now Science and Reason – “1” and Religion and the Supernatural – “1” in the win columns at the Salem Witch Trials. Hopefully if there is ever another Salem Witch Trial, Science and Reason will win to break the tie.

About Joel Byers

Born in North Georgia and educated at some very fine public institutions. Real education started after graduating from college and then getting married and raising two boys. Has the ability to see the funny and absurd in most things and will always remark on it, even if it means getting the stink-eye from his victims.
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