Collects evidence against trial officials

Robert Calef was born in England and arrived in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1688 when he was about forty-eight years old. In Boston he held various jobs, such as cloth merchant, constable, tax collector, and assessor. Known around the city as a witty man, Calef frequently engaged in lively discussions at coffee houses. He had a wide circle of influential friends and was respected for his intelligence. It is not known whether he was married or had children, as most existing records document only his writing and public life. Until his

Theologi eximn, de n

â– PECTHIS, LEMUBiaUS

Theologi eximn, de n

â– PECTHIS, LEMUBiaUS

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Anno M.bC.LlX.

Il'GDlKl BATAV:

Lpud Henricum Vcrbicf

Anno M.bC.LlX.

Many books were being written about witchcraft, but Calef's was one of few that spoke about specific people having to do with the trials, such as Cotton Mather. Reproduced by permission of the Corbis Corporation (Bellevue).

death in 1719 he was an active, respected member of the Municipal Board (a city governing agency).

Shortly before the end of the Salem trials in 1693, Calef began collecting letters and testimony from people who had been involved in or were affected by the proceedings. Having watched events from a distance, he stepped closer to examine specific details and wrote at length about his impressions. His accounts give modern historians a different point of view on the trials because he was not afraid to speak his mind. Although he was considered a pious (very religious) Puritan (a strict branch of Christianity), he was determined to tell the truth about the injustices committed in the name of Christianity.

Calef was most critical of the use of spectral evidence as the primary means of determining the guilt of accused witches. Through spectral evidence, an accuser could claim he or she saw the accused's spirit committing an evil deed. Attacking the courts for permitting such unprovable evidence in the trials, Calef suggested that the officials themselves had been tricked by the devil. He felt that the devil, as the "father of lies," had effectively turned New Englanders against one another by using illusion and fear as his primary agents and thus destroying communities from within. At this time few people except the accused witches and their loved ones were speaking out against the trials, so Calef's allegations were controversial and upsetting.

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