Genetics and Evolution

How have genetics been linked to the Salem witch trials held in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts?

It is believed that some of the early English colonists that settled in New England may have had Huntington’s disease. Huntington’s disease is an autosomal dominant disorder characterized by late onset symptoms (age 40 to 50) such as mild behavioral and neurological changes; as the disease progresses, psychiatric problems develop that frequently lead to insanity. Early descriptions of the odd behavior included names such as “that disorder” and “Saint Vitus’s dance” to describe involuntary muscle jerks and twitches. Many of the witches who were on trial for possession may have had Huntington’s disease, which causes uncontrollable movements and odd behavior.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Science Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App