Facts in The Devil and Tom Walker
Irving draws on historical people and facts to make his fantastical story more credible. He uses famous legends like Captain Kidd’s treasure and references the famous Crowninshield family in order to mix historical accuracy with legend.
The Salem witch trials occurred in colonial Massachusetts between February 1692 and May 1693. Twenty people were executed after being convicted of witchcraft. These people, predominantly women, were accused of consorting with the Black Man of the Woods (the devil) and using their black magic for evil purposes. Many American authors like Irving and Nathaniel Hawthorne used or referenced the witch trials in their stories.
On November 10th, 1727, a large earthquake with many aftershocks struck New England, a region where earthquakes are not common occurrences. Modern estimates suggest that its magnitude was between a 5.0 and a 6.0 on the Richter scale.