Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The legitimacy of spectral evidence during the Salem witchcraft trials

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posted on 2021-11-14, 01:18 authored by Eaton, Rebecca Elise

This paper looks at the use of spectral evidence during the Salem witch trials and examines whether its use was legitimate and in accordance with the evidential standards of the time (1692). Ultimately this paper finds that the use of spectral evidence was legitimate as it followed the slim guidelines available at the time. The court followed a strong precedent and the limited statutory guidance and instructions that were available. However there was acknowledgement at the time that spectral evidence was limiting the rights of those accused and was leading to unjust convictions. As such these trials invoked an acknowledgement of more modern standards of evidence. Therefore spectral evidence was legitimately used given the guidelines of the time despite the unjust effect that it had.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Name

LL.B. (Honours)

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970118 Expanding Knowledge in Law and Legal Studies

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Research Paper or Project



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Law