Once upon a time, pilgrims planted rye wheat, harvested it to make bread, ate the bread, went batshit crazy, got pissed off, blamed it on the devil’s minions, and sanctioned the killing of a bunch of innocent people.
Let me back up for a moment.
When rye grain goes bad, it develops a fungus called ergot that causes super nifty LSD-like symptoms such as hallucinations… and a few other exciting symptoms like seizures, necrosis, and lots (lots) of death. Recently historians have been investigating the link between ergotism and severe illness/death starting all the way back in 800 A.D. It wasn’t actually recognized as ergot poisoning until the 1800’s, and when we (being intelligent beings and the only Earth-dwelling animals with the ability to use reason and logic) don’t understand things, we tend to make up a bunch of bullshit to explain the problem away.
Enter the pilgrims. A rather somber group with a penchant for monochrome dress, fire-and-brimstone religion, and treating their darker skinned brethren as subhuman, they were not exactly the most tolerant of people. When a few horrible teenage girls started having seizures and hallucinations and subsequently accused some fellow pilgrims of witchcraft, the village leaders were all, “Meh. Seems legit, let’s go do some murder.” I’m paraphrasing, if I’m being completely honest.
The “witches” of Salem weren’t actually burned at the stake (just hanged or crushed, so nbd) but they were definitely killed for no reason. Or, I guess, the reason being ergot poisoning and bad parenting (because what normal teenage girl’s first response to a seizure is to condemn her neighbor to death… well, given teenagers, maybe that’s not so far-fetched). The Salem Witch Trials also weren’t the direct cause of All Hallow’s Eve, which later became Halloween, the one day of the year where we get to dress up as sluts and/or monsters, purposefully take candy from strangers, and carve faces on vegetables. But they did contribute to the history of America’s relationship with stereotyping, extremist religion, jumping to conclusions, and Snicker’s Bars.
Great, now I have a craving for toast.