The whole episode might have been dismissed, had it not been for Tituba's confession of guilt. She claimed a dark man from Boston had approached her, sometimes appearing as a black dog or hog, whom asked her to sign his book and do his work. She admitted she was a witch and had flown through the air on a stick with four other witches. She also claimed that there were several others in the small village, as yet unknown to the magistrates, were witches. Her confession silenced most of the skeptics.
The witch-hunt ran through Salem Village as swiftly and deadly as a raging fire. Inspired by Tituba's tales and encouraged by her confession, the girls created hysterical scenes, which began in a simple village meeting house. More of the girls began to implicate others of witchcraft. Cotton Mather, the minister from Boston, urged the judges to consider spectral evidence. When the girls described being visited in their sleep by the ghostly shape of one of the accused, that was spectral evidence. Hearsay, gossip and stories were also admissible as evidence. Mather also suggested using the "touching test", where the accused would touch one of the girls to see if it stopped the girl's contortions. They also examined the bodies of the accused for "witches marks", moles or something akin that the witch's familiar might suck.
Deputy Sheriff George Herrick arrested Bridget Bishop, who was the first to hang. Married four times and not a regular at church she was an easy target. Like many of those that partook in the trials though, Deputy Herrick suffered bad fortune later in his life. While unloading a ship, an explosion blew one of his legs off and he died.
In May of 1692, Governor Phips moved the trials from Salem Village to Salem, the county seat of Essex, located about five miles south. Five judges, including close friends of Cotton Mather, were appointed to the court.
Rebecca Nurse, a renowned as a steadfast Christian and outstanding member of the community was accused of Witchcraft. The court found Rebecca not guilty, but commotion from the crowd and ghastly howling from the children caused to court to reverse its verdict and Rebecca was sentenced to death. Rebecca's cry on the stand "Oh God, help me!" fell upon deaf ears. Her sister Sarah Cloyse was also accused of witchcraft and sentenced to be hung. Rebecca's other sister, May Esty tried to defend her two sisters and was therefore believed to be a witch as well, and was sentenced to hang. Everyone who refused to confess to the court was hung.