In 1692 a pecular form of madness swept over the small farming town of Salem, Massachusetts. Young girls screamed that Satan was attempting to claim their souls with the help of various "witches" in the town. Soon people began seeing their neighbors flying in the night sky, attractive young women were invading men's dreams to tempt them to Satan, and the mumblings of old people were them talking to the devil himself. When it was over, 20 people haqd been executed and 5 died in prison.
How much of this was a children's game gotten out of hand, how much was hysteria and fear, and how much was murder by perjury will never be known for sure.
250 years later and 400 miles south a similar madness swept over a city, but this was no children's game. The Red Scare took over the U.S. government. Whipped up by Senator Joseph McCarthy, anyone who had ever had a curiosity about communism was treated as though they were as evil as those who consorted with Satan. No one was executed, but careers were ruined and lives shattered.
Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible as a vehicle to expose McCarthyism. The absurdities of the accusations of McCarthy were mirrored in the accusations he depicted in Salem. Today we might scoff at the idea that someone might be excuted or ruined because of the wailing of an hysterical girl, but in 1692 and 1950 it was very real. Could it happen again?