Paranoia is the underlying factor of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Samuel Parris had a great terror of Satan arming his foes to destroy both him and his church. He was obsessed with any sinfulness that he saw.
Although it was not just Reverend Parris that had these beliefs. It was the paranoid society, which he was a member of. The Puritans were paranoid of being different. Conformity was a large part of their life because they were all driven into the same religion. Originality is a natural human characteristic that was stripped of their being. They believed that if they didn’t do what society said was the right thing to do that they would be punished in the afterlife. Because of their geographical location, they could not choose what society they belonged to, whether they liked it or not. If they did try to leave, chances are they would die in the harsh New England wilderness. They also feared the natives of the area. This caused many people to grit their teeth and bear the Puritan ways. Also this was the only way of life these people knew. They had never been in an atmosphere that flourished in new ideas. Therefore, they never had beliefs of their own. They were limited in the choices they made. If it werent for the underlying fears of being different than the Witch Trails of Salem would have never occurred.
Ironically the Puritans were victims of the very society that they traveled across the Atlantic to escape. The roots of evil were still implanted in them. The church was all that had changed, and it had changed for the worse. Bertrand Russell once said, It doesnt matter what you believe as long as you dont believe it completly. Since the Puritans beliefs were absolute, it devestated their society. There was no room for new ideas. New ideas would directly contradict their religion. That is why anybody that was different was considered a witch and consequently killed. They died because of mass paranoia. This paranoia is what drove the young girls into their hysterical state of mind.
Their society revolved around fear, a fear of god. They feared very much what god would do with them once their time one earth was at an end. They justified the entire unknown with their beliefs of god. If they had bad luck or encounters with natural disasters, they thought god was punishing them. Their beliefs were so strong that they would fill in the blank with what they thought they had done wrong. Therefore tunneling themselves into a very narrow way of living. As a result of their narrowly lead lives, hysteria had set in. They condoned science and its explanations. In their eyes, the hand of god directly caused everything.
The girls had no way of expressing their creativity, causing them to experiment with European fortune telling techniques. They used a method that involved dropping an egg into a glass of water. It was believed that the images that were made portrayed your destiny. Most modern day people would view this as harmless and silly. They on the other hand fully believed in evil, and fortune telling was considered evil. So when Abigail saw a figure that resembled a coffin, she fully believed that she was going to die. The fortune telling episode was a factor in the horrible hysteria.
The hysteria that Betty and Abigail suffered from is what the Puritans called, bewitched. The girls suffered from fits that consisted of bending their bodies into naturally painful positions. Because of their mental illness they did not feel any of the pain. The girls also made strange screeching noises that the puritans thought were the voice of the devil.
Anybody different from their society was not trusted and Tituba was the most different of them all. Ironically the Parriss did trust her with their children. Tituba was a dark skinned slave that Parris had purchased in the Caribbean. It was very unusual for people of this are to own slaves. This had set her apart as in the Puritan society. Some believe Tituba was the one that taught the girls witchcraft but chances are she did not cause they used European methods. It is likely that she did allow the girls to perform the fortune telling acts. She was not native to the Puritan ways and probably did not see the harm in what the girls did.
To summarize what caused the hanging of innocent people in Salem during 1692, fear had caused conformity. The conformity lead to hysteria. Then again the factor of mass paranoia directly led to the death of 24 people.