A few years ago I read that an epidemic in Northern France where people behaved erratic or were violently ill was produced by an ergot fungus., By coincidence my daughter had recently read that there had been many crop failures around Salem, and surrounding towns in the late 1600's.
Rumors of weird behavior In Salem and other North Shore towns in that time period caused by ergot illness could have produced "the fits" which young girls claimed had been caused by witches. Besides destructive accusations against certain people in Salem area, there might have been sheer jealousy or malice or the need for attention by the "witnesses".
My late husband is descended from the sister of John Proctor Jr, who was a fairly successful man with property and a popular tavern. John was the first man hung as a witch, but his pregnant wife (also accused of witchcraft) was finally freed and then found that their property had been seized by the town officials.
A relative of my husband's (also a Proctor descendent) married a descendent of Rebecca Towne, also accused of witchcraft. Another ancestor was one of the judges at the witch trials. Dane. His descendent married into my husband's Knowlton family. Another ancestor, Henry Herrick, later publicly apologized for being one of the jurors at the trials .
I have stayed away from the annual high jinks in Salem where people don costumes and have a high old time in that town for a wild evening, even though my daughter had lived close by in Ipswich. LHD