It’s not Halloween yet, but let’s get spooky: I’m beyond excited for Jenji Kohan’s new show for HBO about the Salem Witch Trials, The Devil May Know. Kohan, of course, is the creator of Weeds and Orange is the New Black. She’s stated in the past that the main characters of both those shows were “trojan horses”–basically, that putting white women at the centers of shows made them easier to sell. Once on air, she could tell great stories about nonwhite and/or LGBT characters. Might we learn more about Tituba with this new series?
One of my favorite historical theories (because I have several favorite historical theories (yes, I really do)) comes from this era. Some believe that the hallucinatory fervor and lack of good judgment that year are the fault of an entire town gone mad, poisoned by their own food source:
“Caporael, now a behavioral psychologist at New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, soon noticed a link between the strange symptoms reported by Salem’s accusers, chiefly eight young women, and the hallucinogenic effects of drugs like LSD. LSD is a derivative of ergot, a fungus that affects rye grain. Ergotism — ergot poisoning — had indeed been implicated in other outbreaks of bizarre behavior… Toxicologists now know that eating ergot-contaminated food can lead to a convulsive disorder characterized by violent muscle spasms, vomiting, delusions, hallucinations, crawling sensations on the skin, and a host of other symptoms — all of which, Linnda Caporael noted, are present in the records of the Salem witchcraft trials. Ergot thrives in warm, damp, rainy springs and summers. When Caporael examined the diaries of Salem residents, she found that those exact conditions had been present in 1691.”
The real horror story, then, is what would happen today if we did away with the regulatory bodies like the FDA.