Today in 1692, the Salem witch trials began in Salem, Massachusetts. Twenty people were killed by the end of the trials, most of them women and some of them children. The trials are now synonymous with mass hysteria. Salem was famously a place where the neighbors didn't get along, and full of Puritan morals. So they could really only equate things like petty theft with evil and magic.
It was downhill from there.
There's more on this at The Smithsonian website. Believe us, it's a fantastic rabbit hole to go down. And science fiction loves a good witch story. Notably:
The Craft (1996)
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
This insane Salem Witch Trial TV movie from 2002 with Kirstie Alley
George Romero's Season of the Witch (1973)
And, of course:
The Witches (1990)
Tomorrow: Not-So-Happy Trails