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Ergot: The "Moldy Bread" Myth and Salem

  • The Witch House 310 Essex Street Salem, MA, 01970 United States (map)

What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been: The “Moldy Bread” Myth and Salem. And evening with Margo Burns, Project Manager and Associate Editor, Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt (Cambridge, 2009) 

Science Magazine published an article, “Ergotism, the Satan Loosed in Salem?” in 1976 which posited that the visions and sensations described by the accusers during the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692 could have been the result of eating rye bread made with flour tainted by the ergot fungus. The hypothesis was immediately debunked by experts, but more than four decades later, this interpretation is still pervasive. Burns will explain how it became cemented in the public imagination, a case study in how people come to believe and hold onto myths about historical events.