"Massholes" are everywhere and not just in the present-day. That curious Boston-area subset of "asshole"—think rude jerk, but with a grating accent and even more disregard for social niceties—has stalked different periods of history.
The early 1690s in Salem, just north of Boston, was one of those periods. The witch trials there still serve three-plus centuries later as a chilling reminder of the damage mass hysteria can wreak—and as one heck of a tourist draw.
Real estate research site NeighborhoodX has sought to explicate the role of the Masshole in the Salem witch trials and also to drill down to the core cause of the calamity:
The Witch Trials were more about real estate than they were about witchcraft. Because an accuser could lay claim to the accused's land and property (sort of a spooky version of civil forfeiture), there was a financial incentive to make accusations. And it was a reminder that the civic figures—many of the judges, ministers, and sheriffs—that could have stopped the trials had a financial motive to keep them going.
And, now, a handy timeline. Happy Halloween.