Response Paper #1
Proof, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is 'evidence or argument establishing a fact or the truth of a statement'. One can look at that definition of proof and see that one does not have to have material evidence for it to be constituted as proof. This means that historians can in fact 'prove' things that have happened in history just by having a written account of events. This plays a huge part in the Salem witch trials, and is one of the largest reasons that so many people died in that horrible event in history.
One of the manners of evidence that was collected in the witch trials was 'spectral evidence'. Spectral evidence, according to After The Fact, happened when the accused appeared to another in a dream, in spectral or ghost form, to harass the victim. Using spectral evidence means that many people were accused just because people said they saw these 'witches' in their dreams. According to the Oxford Dictionary, this hardly falls into the realm of 'proof', but people were terrified. They were scared that the devil was going to get them, so they believed what they wanted to believe in order to save themselves.
Another manner of evidence was pure testimonial. The 'victims' could just say they were being inflicted with all manners of pains and other ailments by the 'witch' and the courts would view that as evidence. This could be proof, just based on the facts that the villagers had. They had no way of knowing that it was not the devil himself. It is not like today, where we know that there was no way that this could logically happen. They did the best that they could with what they had.
The last manner of evidence collected was also testimonial.. from the accused themselves. The accused could 'confess', and say that they were sincerely sorry for what they've done to get a reduced or suspended penalty or sentence. This lead to people saying that they were innocent and that they were possessed or otherwise...