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Salem, Massachusetts

The City Guide
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The Salem Witch Trials

Examination of a Witch, by T.H. Matteson 1853.
Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum
The events which led to the Witch Trials actually occurred in what is now the town of Danvers, then a parish of Salem Town, known as Salem Village. Launching the hysteria was the bizarre, seemingly inexplicable behavior of two young girls; the daughter, Betty, and the niece, Abigail Williams, of the Salem Village minister, Reverend Samuel Parris.
The Witch House
In February, 1692, three accused women were examined by Magistrates Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne. Corwin's home, known as the Witch House, still stands at the corner of North and Essex Streets in Salem, providing guided tours and tales of the first witchcraft trials. John Hathorne, an ancestor of author Nathaniel Hawthorne, is buried in the Charter Street Old Burying Point.

By the time the hysteria had spent itself, 24 people had died. Nineteen were hanged on Gallows Hill in Salem Town, but some died in prison. Giles Corey at first pleaded not guilty to charges of witchcraft, but subsequently refused to stand trial. This refusal meant he could not be convicted legally. However, his examiners chose to subject him to interrogation by the placing of stone weights on his body. He survived this brutal torture for two days before dying.

It is remarkable 552 original documents pertaining to the witchcraft trials have been preserved and are still stored by the Peabody Essex Museum.

Eerie memorabilia associated with the trials, such as the "Witch Pins" used in the examination of witches and a small bottle supposed to contain the finger bones of the victim George Jacobs can be found in the Clerk's Office in the Essec Superior Court House, Salem.

* These short paragraphs are intended only as an introduction to a complex subject about which much has been written

A more provoking commemoration, the Salem Witch Trials Tercentenary Memorial dedicated in 1992, can be found adjacent to the Charter Street Old Burying Point.

Witch Trials Reference Materials
Many of these books are available in Salem Book Stores, and some may be found in your local library.

A Delusion of Satan, The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials, Frances Hill
Cotton Mather on Witchcraft, Cotton Mather
Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England, Elizabeth Reis
The Devil in Massachusetts, A Modern Enquiry into the Salem Witch Trials, Marion L. Starkey
The Devil in the Shape of a Woman, Witchcraft in Colonial New England, Carol F. Karlsen
"The Devil hath been raised", A Documentary History of the Salem Village Witchcraft Outbreak of March 1692, Richard B. Trask
Entertaining Satan, John Putnam Demos
Guide to The Salem Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692, David C. Brown
Records of Salem Witchcraft, W. Woodward
Rebecca Nurse, C. Tapley
Salem Possessed, The Social Origins of Witchcraft, Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum
Salem Story, B. Rosenthal
Salem-Village Witchcraft, Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum
Salem Witchcraft, 2-volume set 1867 Reprint, Charles Upham
The Salem Witchcraft Papers, 3 vols. (out of print), Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum
The Salem Witchcraft Trials, Katherine W. Richardson
Salem Witch Museum Miscellany, Salem Witch Museum
Tituba, Reluctant Witch of Salem, Devilish Indians and Puritan Fantasies, Elaine G. Breslaw
Witchcraft at Salem, Chadwick Hansen
The Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692, Volumes I and II, Leo Bonfanti
Witchcraft, Magic and Religion in 17th Century Massachusetts,Richard Weisman
Witch Hunting in Seventeenth Century New England, A Documentary History 1638 - 1692, David Hall
Witches and Historians, Marc Mappen
Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment, Popular Religious Belief in Early New England, David Hall

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