A festive celebration of Halloween and fall in New England, more than 250,000 people come to Salem Haunted Happenings each year. Events include a Grand Parade, the Haunted Biz Baz Street Fair, Family Film Nights on Salem Common, costume balls, ghost tours, haunted houses, live music, and chilling theatrical presentations. An ABA Top 100 Event.
March is Women’s History Month, and we’re celebrating the women who have contributed to Salem’s history over the years. This year, 2017, we live in a Salem that has a woman at the helm, Mayor Kim Driscoll; a woman in the State House, Senator Joan Lovely; a woman as the head of the Salem school district, Superintendent Margarita Ruiz; the first woman Chief of Police, Chief Mary Butler; and President Patricia Meservey is leading Salem State University into the future. Salem is a community that nurtures and encourages strong women.
It is only fitting, as we make history going forward, that we acknowledge and celebrate the women in Salem’s past. This weekend, there will be programs at the House of the Seven Gables, Phillips House Museum, and more.
Five remarkable women have already been named here, and they are the women who are actively building Salem’s future. Here are four women in Salem’s history whose stories we tell often:
Mary Spencer created the Gibralter, believed to be America’s first commercially produced candy, which is still sold at Ye Olde Pepper Companie.
Caroline Emmerton purchased the House of the Seven Gables, turned it into a museum, and use the profits from the museum to fund her Settlement House, which provided training for immigrant girls, boys, and adults.
Elizabeth Peabody opened the first Kindergarten in America.
Bessie Phillips establish the Stephen Philips Memorial Trust House as a museum to be enjoyed by all, which today is part of Historic New England and the only home on Chestnut Street that is open to the public.
The thirteen innocent women who were hanged during the Salem Witch Trials, accused of practicing witchcraft, are perhaps the inspiration for many of the bright and strong women who have led Salem ever since. We remember Bridget Bishop, Martha Carrier, Martha Corey, Mary Easty, Sarah Good, Dorcas Hoar, Elizabeth Howe, Susannah Martin, Rebecca Nurse, Alice Parker, Mary Parker, Ann Pudeator, Margaret Scott, and Sarah Wildes.
For more information on the historic women of Salem, explore the Salem Women’s History Trail.
Last year a team of local scholars and researchers were able to confirm the location where the innocent victims of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 were executed. Following this discovery, the City of Salem has worked with a number of individuals and organizations to come up with plans for a permanent memorial at this site. The memorial will come to fruition with the help of landscape architect Martha Lyon, local historians, Salem residents, descendants of the victims involved in the Witch Trials, and organizations like the Salem Award Foundation and the Gallows Hill Project Team.
The intended completion of the project is the spring or summer of this year, in order to line up with the 325th commemoration of the Salem Witch Trials. The City of Salem is also currently working towards securing funding efforts for the building and upkeep of the memorial. The clean-up efforts on both Pope Street and Proctor Street along with the memorial’s configuration and building specs have been funded by a Community Preservation Act grant of $174,000.
On the importance of the site as a memorial, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll states, “Salem is constantly looking to the lessons of its past. Whether it was through the formation of our No Place for Hate Committee and our landmark non-discrimination ordinance, or through the good work of the Salem Award Foundation, the lessons we learn from our history directly inform the actions we take today. Having this site memorialized, especially as we prepared to mark the 325th anniversary of that tragic event, presents an opportunity for us to come together as a community, recognize the injustice perpetrated against those innocents in 1692, and recommit ourselves to the values of inclusivity and justice.”
The memorial’s design is set to feature a downward slope from the ledge where historians believe the executions took place. A stone wall will enclose a circular space towards Pope Street at the bottom of the hill, where the names of the victims will be engraved. Lights will also be projected up from the ground to illuminate each individual name, and an oak tree (symbolic of endurance and dignity) will mark the center of the memorial. Work has already begun on the Proctor Street side of the memorial’s site, where maintaining a safe traffic pattern for visitation has become a priority. Plans are also in development to continue the overall cleanup effort of the site, and devise a plan for the use of plants to create privacy while visiting the memorial.
The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 occurred in such a short amount of time, this being one of the reasons why they are so horrifically famous, and July 19th is no exception to the reasons.
Eight people were found guilty of witchcraft and hanged on July 19th. Two of the first accused in 1692, Sarah Good and Sarah Wildes, were hanged that day, as well as the only minister to be executed during the trials: the Reverend George Burroughs. It seems he was not only guilty of being a “witch”, but was overdue in repaying his debts to the Putnam’s; a prominent family in Salem Village whose daughter led the girls responsible for the accusations. Elizabeth Howe, Sarah Martin, and Susanna Martin had all previously been accused of witchcraft, their charges dropped due to lack of evidence, but, like numerous historians and history books state, reasons or motives for many of the accusations in 1692 were due to politics and land disputes, making accusations about more than just witches.
Martha Carrier was unfortunate enough to land herself in a deathly land dispute with her neighbor, Benjamin Abbott. After experiencing a disagreement, Abbott suddenly fell ill, and accused Carrier of bewitchment. Not long after the accusation, he accused her whole family and made them testify against her in court. She was hanged on July 19th, 1692.
John Proctor, one of the most famous victims of the trials due to Daniel Day Lewis’ film portrayal, was possibly the most outspoken citizen of Salem Village. He would threaten to beat and whip the afflicted girls, knowing that they were lying and performing theatrics. This was perilous to Proctor, as soon the girls accused his pregnant wife and then him. In a final plea for help during this time of mass hysteria, Proctor composed and sent a letter to the Boston clergy asking them to intervene or move the trials to Boston. This was to no avail for the poor man, as their reply came too late to save his own life, but was helpful in pardoning his wife’s’ and their unborn child’s.
One of the most memorable victims of the trials, was the beloved and pious Rebecca Nurse. A respected woman of Salem Village, Nurse was wrongly accused of witchcraft with no credible evidence against her. “I am as innocent as the child unborn” stated Nurse. 39 citizens of Salem Village risked their lives in signing a petition to save this innocent woman. Dismally, Nurse was given false hope, after first being found innocent there were fits and protests from the afflicted girls and townspeople, forcing the judge to order the jury to reconsider their verdict, resulting in her death sentence.
The fate of Rebecca Nurse might have been what sparked doubt in the people of Salem Village. How could this innocent, good-hearted Puritan woman be hanged for a crime she so clearly did not commit? Were these people really witches?
A month will pass before the next execution day. The Salem Witch panic is far from over.
Hysteria, wrongly accused for a crime you didn’t commit, tried, and hanged; try and picture what life was like in Salem Village, 1692. The people of Salem Village had to face an immeasurable number of elements that constantly worked against them: unpredictable weather with no protection against the bitter New England cold, performed back-breaking daily chores their farmland needed, and maintained the mindset of the Puritan religion: the fear that the devil exists and might very well walk among us.
The courts during that time functioned completely different than the ones we know today, and allowed the inclusion of spectral evidence. Spectral evidence was when the witness would testify that the accused person’s spirit or spectral shape appeared to her/him in a dream at the time that their physical body was at another location. It was because of this “evidence” that 19 people were hanged and one man was pressed to death during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.
The first person to be tried, found guilty, and hanged on June 10, was the innocent Bridget Bishop. Bridget was known throughout the Salem area for her un-Puritan like behavior of flamboyant dress, tavern frequenting, and multiple marriages. In an effort to avoid being hanged, Bridget admitted guilt and denounced her good name in the community. She was found guilty by the testimonials of numerous townspeople (more than any other defendant) and was therefore executed on June 10, 1692.
– Margaret Kazan, Destination Salem
We commemorated the anniversary of the hanging of Bridget Bishop, the first victim of the Salem Witch Trials, on June 10. The Witch House hosted an excellent lecture by historian Margo Burns as well as a brief ceremony at the Witch Trials Memorial. Bridget Bishop was the first of twenty to be condemned and executed during the Salem witchcraft hysteria of 1692.
The Salem Witch Trials are a fascinating time in American history, and the stories of the victims and their accusers have withstood the test of time, holding the fascination of people from around the world. Any great story changes and evolves as it is told and retold, and from time to time it is good to check back in with the facts. There are many misconceptions of the Trials and the hysteria, as well as frequently asked questions, and the Salem Witchcraft Trials has inspired retellings in literature and film for centuries.
Here is our “top-ten” list of misconceptions, frequently asked questions, and favorite retellings.
It all happened in Danvers, not Salem. The Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692 happened throughout the region, with accused and accusers coming from Salem, Ipswich, Gloucester, Andover, Methuen, and other communities. Salem Village is now the town of Danvers, and some of the sites associated with the trials and hysteria are in Danvers. Salem Town, modern day Salem, is where the trials actually took place, as well as the hangings and the pressing of Giles Corey. The Salem Award Foundation has produced a Visitor’s Guide to 1692, which is available through Destination Salem, the Salem Regional Visitor Center, and several participating sites.
Gallows Hill is a soccer field today. Maybe, but maybe not. There is definitely a soccer field up on a hill in a neighborhood that is called, “Gallows Hill.” That much is true. That said, the location of the gallows or hanging tree (we are not sure which was used) is not on any modern map. We recommend people go to the Witch Trials Memorial, adjacent to the Old Burying Point, to remember the victims and consider the past. Please treat the Memorial with respect when you visit, and note that the Witch Trials Memorial is closed between dusk and dawn.
The House of the Seven Gables was part of the Salem Witch Trials. The mansion does date back to 1668, so it was here during the trials, but the house itself does not have direct ties to the Witch Trials. The Turner family lived in the house in the 17th-century, and they made their fortune at sea. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s great-great-grandfather was Judge John Hathorne, one of the “hanging judges” during the trials, and his involvement with the Witchcraft Hysteria drove Hawthorne to add the w to his name and write The House of the Seven Gables, which is fiction.
The victims really were witches. Doubtful. It is equally doubtful that the accusers were witches. The Salem Witchcraft Trials were a social hysteria that spun out of control.
The accused were “swum” to determine if they were a witch. Not in Salem. The practice of swimming a witch was widespread in Europe, and it was used in Connecticut, but not in Salem.
Victims were burned at the stake. Not in Salem. Burning at the stake was punishment for heresy, a crime against the church, in Europe. Witchcraft was a felony in the colonies, a crime against the government.
The Hysteria ended in October. The Court of Oyer and Terminer was dissolved by Governor Phips in October, and a new Superior Court was convened to try the remaining witchcraft cases. The Superior Court condemned three additional people in January 1693, but Governor Phips pardoned them and all who were still imprisoned on the charge of witchcraft. Not everyone was freed, however, as prisoners had to pay for their imprisonment before being released.
On stage: The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, is a remarkable play that is set in Salem in 1692. Miller wrote the story as allegory for the House on Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) that was having its own social witch hunt for communism in the 1950s. The play is fiction, inspired by actual events and actual people. Historian Margo Burns writes more in her essay, “Picky, Picky, Picky.”
On the big screen: Hocus Pocus is definitely fiction, but it sure is fun. A bigger hit in DVD and on network television each October than it was in theatres when it was released in 1993, the story of the Sanderson sisters, starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimi is one of our favorites, and many of the locations where they filmed in Salem are still here, and were featured in the 2013 Guide to Salem Haunted Happenings.
In literature: The Heretic’s Daughter, by Kathleen Kent, is about Martha Carrier’s family. Told from the perspective of Martha’s daughter, Sarah, it is a wonderful work of fiction inspired by actual events. Katherine Howe’s novel, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, is also an engaging work of historical fiction inspired by the events of 1692.
Resources and References:
The Salem Award Foundation gives the Salem Award for Human Rights and Social Justice annually and maintains the Witch Trials Memorial.
Salem Witch Trials Documents Archive and Transcription Project, University of Virginia
17thc.us, Historian Margo Burns
Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth Century New England, David D. Hall
In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692, Mary Beth Norton
The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-By-Day Chronicle of a Community under Siege, Marilynne K. Roach
Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt, Bernard Rosenthal
Salem Award Foundation For Human Rights & Social Justice :
Tent Talks: Every Thursday in June at Noon. Beneath a tent on the grounds of the Salem Witch Trials Memorial on Charter Street.
Confirming Proctor’s Ledge: the Site of the 1692 Executions
Tad Baker, Professor of History, Salem State University
These 15-minute talks bring visibility to the issues of human rights and social justice in contemporary society.
All talks are on Thursdays at noon. Rain or shine.
Salem has three cemeteries that are significant to the Witch Trials of 1692. The Howard Street Cemetery is said to be where Giles Corey was taken to be pressed to death, a torture chosen because he refused to stand trial. George Corwin, who served as the high sheriff of Essex County in 1692, and his brother Jonathon Corwin, the Salem merchant who lived in the “Witch House” when he served as magistrate during the trials, are both buried in the Broad Street Cemetery. A white obelisk marks their grave.
The Charter Street Cemetery is the final resting place for at least two members of the Court of Oyer and Terminer, including physician Bartholomew Gedney and magistrate John Hathorne, who was the great-great grandfather of writer Nathaniel Hawthorne. Also buried here is Mary Corey, the first wife of Giles Corey, who died in 1684. Giles’ third wife, Martha Corey, was hanged for Witchcraft during the trials.
These three cemeteries, and the Witch Trial Memorial, which is behind the Charter Street Cemetery, are open to the public from dawn to dusk. We ask that visitors treat the graves with respect, and appreciation for their age and solemnity.
The new feature film THE WITCH was released nationwide today after a series of premiere events that culminated in a fantastic evening of history and horror in Salem last night. Writer/Director Robert Eggers and star Anya Taylor Joy came to Salem to attend the screening at CinemaSalem in addition to several media events. Eggers and Joy visited The Witch House, attended a reception at the Salem Witch Museum, and answered questions during a panel immediately following the film.
There is a lot that can go wrong with a film like THE WITCH, which is the story of “one family’s frightful unraveling,” set in 17th century New England. The history, the setting, the dialect, the dialog, the witch could all be horribly portrayed. But they are not. With painstaking detail, this film gets it all right. It is terrifying and accurate and it transports the audience to a place of, to quote one of the audience members at the Salem screening, “abject terror” that was the reality of 17th century New England.
My visceral reaction to the film aside, the historians in the theater agreed: this film is excellent. (As one historian said, “So very may films have gotten the history so very wrong, we were all prepared for the worst.”) If you want to know what the afflicted children went through in 1692, see THE WITCH. If you want to grasp the importance of religion and faith in a Puritan family, see THE WITCH. If you want to feel the fear that pulsated through the family’s farm in exile, see THE WITCH.
Eggers has created a beautiful, haunting film that will stay with me for a very long time, and Anya Taylor Joy is mesmerizing as Thomasin. It was a pleasure having them in Salem for the screening.
The film is in wide release, but we think you should see it at CinemaSalem, of course.
Lots of people are writing about THE WITCH. We really like Brunonia Barry’s perspective, which was posted on Huffington Post: The Tangled, Feminine History of The Witch
CinemaSalem and History Alive! have collaborated to create something brand new and unique in Salem: The True 1692, a 3D film which tells the true story of the Salem Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692. Historically-accurate, suspenseful, and emotionally-captivating, this new film immerses the audience in the dangerous realities of life in Salem Village at the end of the 17th Century and dramatically reveals the odd coincidence of forces, external and internal, which set in motion the tragedy of the witch trials.
Filmed and edited entirely in 3D, and shot in some of the actual locations, this memorable film allows the viewer to re-enter the world of Salem of 1692, and to relive the most famous witch story in history.
Check website for updated daily showtimes.