Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Reiner Smolinski - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Thomas L. McHaney

Third Advisor

Dr. John A. Burrison


ABSTRACT Although Cotton Mather, as the official chronicler of the 1692 Salem witch trials, is infamously associated with those events, and excerpts from his apologia on Salem, Wonders of the Invisible World, are widely anthologized today, no annotated critical edition of the entire work has appeared in print since the nineteenth century. This present edition of Wonders seeks to remedy this lacuna in modern scholarship. In Wonders, Mather applies both his views on witchcraft and on millennialism to events at Salem. This edition to Mather's Wonders presents this seventeenth-century text beside an integrated theory of the initial causes of the Salem witch panic. The juxtaposition of the probable natural causes of Salem's bewitchment with Mather's implausible explanations exposes the disingenuousness of his writing about Salem. My theory of what happened at Salem includes the probability that a group of conspirators led by the Rev. Samuel Parris deliberately orchestrated the "witchcraft" and that a plant, the thorn apple, used in Algonquian initiation rites, caused the initial symptoms of bewitchment (39-189). Furthermore, key spectral evidence used at the Salem witch trials and recorded by Mather in Wonders appears to have been generated by intense nightmares, commonly thought at the time to be witch visitations, resulting from what is today termed sleep paralysis (215-310). This dissertation provides a detailed look at some of the testimony given in the Salem court records and in Wonders of the Invisible World as it relates to the interpretation in folklore of the phenomenology of nightmares associated with sleep paralysis. The third chapter of this dissertation focuses extensively on Mather's text as a disingenuous response to the Salem witch trials (320-456). The final section of chapter three posits a "Scythian" or Eurasian connection between Swedish and Salem witchcraft. Similarities in shamanic practices among respective indigenous populations of Lapland, Eurasia, Asia, and New England, caused the devil's involvement in both the visible and invisible worlds to appear more than theoretical to writers like Jose Acosta, Johannes Scheffer, Nicholas Fuller, Joseph Mede, Anthony Horneck, and Cotton Mather, inducing Mather to include a lengthy abstract of the Swedish account in Wonders (404-449).