John ProctorWitch Trial Defendant
Born: c. 1632
Died: 19 August 1692 (execution by hanging)
Best known as: The first man executed in the Salem witch hunts
John Proctor was the real person who inspired a character of the same name in The Crucible
, Arthur Miller
's 1953 play about witch trials in Massachusetts. In 1692, doctors and ministers in Salem blamed Satan
for a coma-like sickness affecting two village girls. More reported "afflictions" resulted in a trial of some two dozen citizens for witchcraft, largely based on the testimony of pre-teen girls. Proctor, a tavern keeper on nearby farmland, publicly criticized the hysteria and found himself accused. He was among 20 people executed for refusing to confess. Portrayed as 30 years old in The Crucible
, he was really about 60. He had 18 children by three wives: Martha (died 1659), Elizabeth Thorndike (died 1672), and Elizabeth Bassett, also accused of witchcraft but spared execution because she was pregnant.
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