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Notes For Unsolved: Salem Witches (Jonathan Corwin House)

Research notes for Supernatural Season 2 Episode 8

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**Compiled for Ryan & Shane by Rachel Schnalzer on February 3, 2016


Timeline of Events


Summary

  • The Salem Witch trials occurred in the Puritan-populated town of Salem, Massachusetts between 1692 and 1693, just as the craze of witch paranoia was ending in Europe.
  • During the trials, there were over two hundred accusations of witchcraft, which led to the executions of twenty people.
  • Though official numbers vary, it’s possible that a further thirteen people perished while in jail on charges of witchcraft.
  • The jury eventually issued apologies and compensation was offered to the families of the executed.


Historical context

  • In the period of time between the 1300s and the end of the 1600s, the threat of “witchcraft” captivated Europe and led to tens of thousands of “witch” executions, primarily of women.
  • European Christians generally believed that the Devil had the power to bestow humans with power if they were loyal.
  • The exact number of deaths are unknown, but best estimates put the number in the tens of thousands.
  • Throughout Western history, women were more often accused of being witches, in part because it was easier to deem a woman as acting improperly.
  • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marilynne-k-roach/9-reasons-you-might-have-_b_4029745.html
  • New England was founded by an almost entirely Puritan population that hoped to start a society based on their own morals after being persecuted for their faith.
  • The Puritans left for America in 1630 (http://www.pbs.org/godinamerica/people/puritans.html)
  • Following settlement, New England’s governmental systems were often precarious.
  • The threat of clashes with Native Americans was always present.
  • The Puritan’s legal code that was created in 1641 established a hierarchy of crimes.
  • Starting with the most worst, the list goes: idolatry, witchcraft, blasphemy, murder, poisoning, and bestiality.
  • Following the creation of this legal code, over 100 people were indicted with charges of witchcraft.
  • 25% of these people were men (an unusually high percentage for witchcraft charges).
  • King Philip’s War, waged between Native Americans and the settlers, ended in 1676, but not before resulting in the deaths of 1 in 10 adult male settlers (not to mention the loss of Native American lives).
  • King William's War in 1689 exacerbated tensions in the American colonies that may have contributed to the Salem Witch Trials.
  • The war was waged between England and France and created unrest in parts of Canada and northern New York.
  • This unrest created refugees that sought shelter in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, where Salem Village was located.
  • Salem Village=Present-Day Danvers, MA
  • Salem Town=Present-Day Salem, MA
  • According to The New Yorker, the entire population of New England at this time was so small that it could have fit into Yankee Stadium.
  • Interestingly, due to “the last Indian war,” the majority of girls in Salem that claimed to be bewitched were fatherless and half (at least) were orphans.
  • Fathers played an authoritative, but also nurturing role in Puritan society.
  • They were primary caregivers when their children were sick, physically or spiritually.
  • The refugees placed an economic burden on Salem and heightened tensions between the wealthy families associated with Salem’s port and families that relied on farming.
  • Any social infighting in Salem Village was attributed to the Devil’s influence.
  • Religious figures in the Puritan community associated the wilderness of the colony with the Devil and referred to any “other” (be it Native American, Quaker, French, etc.) as devilish, savage animals.
  • Cotton Mather, a religious leader from Boston, called the French “dragons of the wilderness.”
  • When it came to witchcraft, ministers also Exodus’s directive, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”
  • The settlers as a whole relied on and quoted from the Bible in their daily life.
  • In 1688, four children from Boston became afflicted with behavior that caused them to act like animals, pop their joints out of line, scream as if tortured, and resist religious texts.
  • Cotton Mather hosted and observed the one of the children, Martha Goodwin, in his house for a few months, where she continued to act like an animal.
  • She galloped and trotted like a horse and struck those trying to say prayers.
  • Eventually, a local laundress’s mother was suspected to be the witch causing the afflictions.
  • During her trial, she could not recite the Lord’s Prayer, was deemed guilty of witchcraft, and was hanged.
  • What was the New England Puritans’ perceptions of a witch?
  • Witches were generally weak-willed but threatening women (though men could also be witches) who made blood signatures with the Devil and had a blemish on their body as a symbol of their agreement.
  • They practiced magic through ointments, spells, and effigies (often called poppets).
  • They often messed up the house and barn, made eerily fine linen, read unopened letters, charmed beer, and scared cattle.
  • Though some suspected witches were rough and uncouth, others were considered too smart.
  • In 1656, a woman was hanged for witchcraft, with some evidence being that she had “more wit than their neighbors.”


January 1692: 9-year-old Elizabeth Parris (the Reverend Parris’s daughter) and 11-year-old Abigail Williams (Reverend Parris’s niece) began exhibiting strange behavior, including making odd sounds and screaming (“foolish, ridiculous speeches”), contorting their bodies, and throwing objects. 11-year-old Ann Putnam and other girls in Salem began acting similarly shortly after.

  • Elizabeth and Abigail reported that an invisible being was biting and pinching them.
  • They would also skip prayers and interrupt religious sermons.
  • Up until this point, neither had acted this way before, and at night, both slept soundly.
  • Reverend Parris prayed with his wife, sang hymns, fasted, and talked with other churchmen to find a solution, but when nothing helped, he sought advice from a doctor.
  • Reverend Samuel Parris was Salem Village’s first ordained minister and was known for being overly strict and greedy.
  • Their behavior was attributed to supernatural causes, according to a doctor’s diagnosis.
  • There was only one doctor in Salem Village, and he could most likely read but not write.
  • After this diagnosis, the girls’ behavior became worse, but some suspect that this probably pleased Reverend Parris.
  • Puritans believed that instances of witchcraft proved that the area where they manifest was particularly holy. In a way, witchcraft was a “badge of honor.”
  • “Where will the Devil show most malice but where he is hated, and hateth most?”- Cotton Mather
  • The Puritans were also doomsday preppers of sorts. They believed that the apocalypse (complete with devils) was soon to come after the 1650s.
  • Witchcraft supported and validated this belief.


February 9, 1692: The girls accused three women, Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba, for causing their bizarre outbursts after Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne, both magistrates, pressured the girls into naming the people afflicting them.

  • Sarah Good: homeless woman
  • Sarah Osborne: elderly poor woman
  • Tituba: an enslaved woman “owned” by Parris family


March 1, 1692: Local magistrates began questioning the three women over the course of many days.

  • Though Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne professed their innocence, Tituba admitted to afflicting the girls.
  • "The Devil came to me and bid me serve him."- Tituba
  • In her confession, she said that a man in a black coat wanted her to sign his book, which she agreed to do.
  • She also detailed visions of eerie animals, including red cats, yellow birds, and black dogs.
  • Tituba added that other witches were also working to harm the Puritans in Salem.
  • Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba were all jailed following the interrogations.


Background on Tituba: Tituba is one of the most fascinating people involved in the Salem Witch Trials.

  • She was most likely South American Indian and may have come to Salem with Reverend Parris from Barbados (prior to becoming a minister and getting married). She was very close to the family, especially the children.
  • As a slave, it was difficult for Tituba to stubbornly defend her innocence the same way Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne did, though she initially claimed to have never hurt the girls.
  • However, once she began confessing to witchcraft, her vivid descriptions kept the courtroom rapt.
  • Her testimony is the longest in the entire Salem Witch Trials.
  • The detail of her testimony spurred the trials and accusations forward, giving them a purpose and mission (witchcraft confessions were very rare).
  • She was also very accommodating to the judges and claimed to go blind at one moment, a sign that the devil was punishing her for speaking so candidly about him (which showed she was at least trying to fight him).
  • After spending a year and three months in jail, she was not indicted and was the very last of the accused to be released.
  • However, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne both died as a result of the trials (one was executed, one died in jail).
  • She disappeared from record after being released.
  • http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/unraveling-mysteries-tituba-salem-witch-trials-180956960/


March-April 1692: Following the first set of interrogations, more accusations of witchcraft began.

  • Martha Corey, a respected parishioner of the Church, was accused, which further sowed the seeds of paranoia (if the moral Martha Corey was a witch, who else might be a witch?)
  • 4-year-old Dorothy Good (Sarah Good’s daughter) was suspected as well, and when interrogated, she answered shyly and fearfully.The interrogators took this hesitation as a confession.


April 1692: The hearings grow in size, with Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth and his aides beginning to attend. More and more people from the surrounding areas are summoned for interrogations.

  • During this time, even families members turned against one another, with husbands accusing wives, daughters accusing mothers, etc.
  • A few months later, particularly confusing testimonies revealed that a grandmother (Ann Foster), mother (Mary Lacey), and granddaughter (Mary Lacey, Jr.) were all allegedly witches.
  • Moreover, their testimonies had been used in part to implicate one another.


May 27, 1692: The Special Court of Oyer and Terminer (for Suffolk, Essex and Middlesex counties) was established by Governor William Phipps. Eight girls from Salem were afflicted with witchcraft and making accusations.


July-September 1692: 18 more people are found guilty and executed.

  • On July 19th, five women were executed (Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Good, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth Howe, and Sarah Wildes).
  • At this point, people had to take severe precautions to avoid getting accused of witchcraft.
  • Visiting someone already imprisoned for witchcraft increased your chances of being accused, as did questioning the validity of a claim of witchcraft or the decisions of the court.
  • There was no room for skepticism.
  • Many considered making accusations before being accused themselves.
  • In early August, three men were convicted of witchcraft in one court meeting: John Proctor, the first man who was accused of witchcraft in the trials, George Jacobs, and John Willard.
  • At nearly the same time, alleged witches from Andover began naming their fellow witches, including George Burroughs, who they said was their mastermind.
  • George Burroughs was a Harvard-educated minister who also spent time defending dangerous territory in Maine (even fighting a 7-hour battle while serving).
  • According to the afflicted girls, he had murdered women and soldiers, was secretly acting for the French and the Native Americans, and was trying to get children to devote their souls to the Devil.
  • At his hearing, 16 people testified against him and this number grew as the trial process continued.
  • The accusers claimed that he was biting them during their testimony.
  • Their bite marks allegedly matched up with Burroughs’s teeth.
  • Many people in the court, not just the accusers, claimed to see spirits in the room.
  • One girl claimed the spirits were faces of Burroughs’s deceased wives, colored as red as blood, and thirsting for justice to be served to their husband.
  • Cotton Mather reported in the trial that Burroughs “had been famous for the barbarous use of his two late wives, all the country over.”
  • He allegedly verbally assaulted them and read their mail.
  • One of his former brother-in-laws testified that Burroughs had once been lost on a strawberry-picking trip, nowhere to be found. But when the brother-in-law got home, on horseback, he discovered that Burroughs had beat him there, berries in hand.
  • Burroughs had also claimed to know what the brother-in-law had said about him while he was not there.
  • The possibility that Burroughs had used an invisibility cloak, given to him by the Devil, was suggested up by the chief justice.
  • Burroughs was unable to refute these claims clearly and his answers in court had apparent contradictions.
  • As a last resort, Burroughs attempted to use the words of Thomas Ady, an English skeptic of witchcraft, to reason that witchcraft was essentially an old wives tale and a convenient excuse for doctors who weren’t skilled enough to understand a medical issue.
  • However, if Burroughs (and Ady) were correct, that would implicate the court which had already executed six alleged witches.
  • Furthermore, Burroughs had already agreed earlier that he believed witches were a problem in the colony.


August 19, 1692: George Burroughs, George Jacobs, John Proctor, John Willard, and Martha Carrier were all executed.

  • Before being executed, Burroughs made an emotional speech where he recited the Lord’s Prayer without any mistakes.
  • Witches were not supposed to be able to do that, which sowed the seeds of doubt in the crowd gathered.
  • While he was hanging, not quite dead yet, Cotton Mather spoke to the crowd, reassuring them that Burroughs was indeed an agent of the Devil.
  • Despite this hiccup, paranoia continued and Salem took on a legendary status in the colony as a religious site, with the afflicted girls taking the role of oracle.
  • One father from Boston even took his sick child to the girls in Salem to see if they could discern what was causing the illness.
  • On September 19th, Giles Corey was “pressed to death” after refusing to plead guilty or not guilty.
  • The elderly yet obstinate farmer’s death was perhaps the most gruesome in the Salem Witch Trials.
  • It was the only time anyone was executed in this manner in the colony.
  • While being pressed to death, his tongue was “prest out of his mouth, the Sheriff with his cane forced it in again, when he was dying."
  • His wife Martha (later executed) had spoken against the girls’ accusations in March, and was soon faced with accusations herself.
  • Giles Corey was originally accused due to after defending his accused and later executed wife Martha Corey.
  • A Sheriff named George Corwin placed heavy rocks on a board sitting on top of Giles Corey’s chest, trying to force a confession out of him. Corey refused and even said “more weight.
  • He refused to stand trial so that he could never be officially convicted, which meant that his land would likely go to his sons-in-law rather than the government.
  • Giles Corey was buried in an unmarked grave near Gallows Hill, per the instructions of Jonathan Corwin of the Corwin house.
  • His death was instrumental in building public opposition to the trials, and he is now seen as a martyr.
  • http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/PROJECTS/FTRIALS/SALEM/gilescoreypage.HTM
  • Three days later, on September 22nd, eight more were executed (Martha Corey, Mary Eastey, Ann Pudeator, Alice Parker, Mary Parker, Wilmott Redd, Margaret Scott, and Samuel Wardwell)
  • http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/salem/ASAL_DE.HTM
  • However, doubt following Burroughs’s execution spread even to the court, who began to question the violence of their actions.
  • Governor Phipps put a ban on books written about witchcraft, though that excluded books that Increase Mather (father) and Cotton Mather (son) were simultaneously writing.
  • In Increase Mather’s book, he emphasizes that only a “free and voluntary confession” could implicate a witch.
  • He did not put much stock in the girls’ accusations.
  • “I would rather...judge a witch to be an honest woman than judge an honest woman as a witch.”
  • Cotton Mather seemed to feel the opposite. His actions and writing indicated that he would rather see an innocent punished than a witch go unpunished.
  • However, his book, The Wonders of the Invisible World, was interpreted by many as an apology or justification for the Salem Witch Trials,
  • Neither father nor son endorsed the other’s book (which raised eyebrows around the colony), although Increase Mather added a postscript explaining that he had not endorsed Cotton’s book to avoid nepotism and that he certainly still believed in witches.
  • The relationship between father and soon was particularly sacred. Despite the family betrayals that occurred in the trials, no son had ever implicated his father or vice versa.


October 3, 1692: Increase Mather, Cotton Mather’s father and president of Harvard, implored the court not to consider spectral evidence in the trials

October 29, 1692: After Increase Mather’s statement and Governor Phipps’s wife was brought in for interrogation, Governor Phipps released some of the people jailed for witchcraft, halted all further arrests, and replaced the Court of Oyer and Terminer with the Superior Court of Judicature, which was not permitted to consider testimonies of spectral evidence.Out of 56 accused, the Superior Court of Judicature condemned 3.

Aftermath

  • Overall, 20 people were executed in the Salem Witch Trials.
  • 19 people were hanged.
  • Giles Corey was executed by having heavy stones placed on him until he died.
  • 6 out of the 20 executed were men.
  • All of the accusers were women between 9 and 20 years old.
  • This was unusual because most witch trials saw men doing the majority of the accusations.
  • https://www.rivier.edu/journal/RCOAJ-Spring-2007/J90-Purdy-Salem-Trials.pdf
  • None of the executed ever admitted to witchcraft.
  • http://www.salemweb.com/witchhouse/
  • Though official numbers vary, it’s possible that a further thirteen people perished while in jail on charges of witchcraft.
  • Some of the individuals involved in the trials admitted their guilt for participating in the tragedy (ex: Judge Samuel Sewall)
  • He mentions his guilt several times in his diary, which the University of Virginia has preserved.
  • On June 12, 1693, he writes, “I visit Capt. Alden and his wife, and tell them I was sorry for their Sorrow and Temptations by reason of his Imprisonment, and that was glad of his Restauration.”
  • (Captain Alden has been accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials.)
  • http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/diaries/sewall_diary.html
  • http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/people?group.num=all&mbio.num=mb45
  • Cotton Mather continued treating cases of witchcraft with psalms and prayers.
  • He still believed that the French and Native Americans were involved in the witchcraft in Salem.
  • Nearly three decades later, he advocated for the use of inoculation during a smallpox epidemic, but no one believed him.
  • His reputation was never salvaged.
  • January 14, 1697: The court institutes a day of remembrance for the Salem Witch Trials.
  • 1697: The Salem Jury writes an apology for its part in the Salem Witch Trials
  • “We justly fear that we were sadly deluded and mistaken, for which we are much disquieted and distressed in our minds, and do therefore humbly beg forgiveness, first of God for Christ's sake for this our error . . . We do heartily ask forgiveness of you all, whom we have justly offended and do declare, according to our present minds, we would none of us do such things again on such grounds for the whole world, praying you to accept of this in way of satisfaction for our offense”- “The Apology of the Salem Jury"
  • http://io9.gizmodo.com/the-real-life-letter-of-apology-written-by-the-salem-wi-1640827487
  • 1706: Ann Putnam, one of the first girls to make accusations of witchcraft (and also the most active accuser), apologized publicly for her part in the trials.
  • "I desire to be humbled before God. It was a great delusion of Satan that deceived me in that sad time. I did not do it out of anger, malice, or ill-will."
  • Throughout the trials, she accused 62 people of witchcraft.
  • http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/PROJECTS/FTRIALS/SALEM/ASA_PUT.HTM
  • 1711: The “rights and good names of those accused” are restored by the Massachusetts Bay Colony and heirs of the accused are paid a restitution of £600.
  • 1953: Arthur Miller resurrected the story of the Salem Witch Trials in 1953 when he published a play called The Crucible.
  • The Salem Witch Trials depicted in the play were meant to draw a parallel to the McCarthy paranoia of 1950s politics.
  • 1957: The state of Massachusetts finally apologizes for the Salem Witch Trials.
  • 1992: The Witch Trials Memorial in Salem was dedicated by Nobel Laureate, author, and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.
  • This was 300 years after the Salem Witch Trials.


Theories

  • Scholars still question the culture of paranoia that created the perfect environment for the Salem Witch Trials to develop.
  • Some suggest economic explanations.
  • In the Journal of Economic Perspectives, Harvard Ph.D. student Emily Oster suggests that that the “little ice age” (that lasted between 1550-1800 and intensified between 1680 and 1730) caused economic problems that encouraged the population to blame one another for their hardship.
  • In The William and Mary Quarterly, Benjamin C. Ray suggests that the competition between Salem Village (a lower-income, farming community) and Salem Town (a higher-income, merchant community) caused the Salem Witch Trials.
  • In Salem Village, those who lived farther away from Salem Town may have become prejudiced against those two lived closer to Salem Town and benefited from its economic prosperity.
  • Research note: based on the interactive maps available through University of Virginia, it does appear that the accused tended to live marginally closer to Salem Town. However, it wasn’t so marked a trend that the map alone would support this theory, and there were plenty of exceptions to this rule.
  • Ultimately, this theory would boil down to a tension between the traditionally minded, Puritan mentality and the developing capitalist mentality in the colony.
  • Other suggest medical explanations:
  • Linnda Caporael, a behavioral scientist, suggested in the 1970s that the afflicted girls could have been exposed to a kind of fungus called ergot (which can be found in grains like rye) which caused convulsive ergotism.
  • Convulsive ergotism effects include hallucinations (which are apparently similar to that of LSD), muscle contractions that resemble seizures, vertigo, and crawling and tingling sensations.
  • In addition to rye being commonly grown in the colony, the moisture in the air and the grain’s lengthy storage time could have increased the likelihood of an ergot infestation.
  • However, this theory has been widely disproved for a variety of reasons:
  • The girls showed no other visible signs of this illness (which include disintegrating fingertips).
  • Furthermore, it isn’t likely that the fungus’s poison could have been very powerful given that the diet at the time (which included fish and dairy) would have worked against the poison.
  • In 1999, Laurie Winn Carlson published a book called A Fever in Salem, where she posits that the girls could have been experiencing encephalitis lethargica.
  • Encephalitis lethargica is a condition carried by birds and insects that causes the brain to inflame.
  • Signs of the condition include: “double vision, abnormal eye movements, neck rigidity, behavioral changes, and tremors.”
  • According to Carlson, some of the afflicted showed signs of this condition during the time of the trials.
  • However, this theory isn’t likely because reports indicated that the girls appeared in normal health whenever they were not experiencing any bewitchment.
  • People began offering theories about what caused the Salem Witch Trials shortly after they concluded.
  • Cotton Mather believed that Native American sorcery had caused the Salem Witch Trials.
  • In his opinion, their witchcraft had spurred the people of Salem to attack one another instead of their common enemy, the Native Americans.
  • Research note: Nearly everyone ceased all belief in this theory in the 18th century.
  • A Salem merchant named Robert Calef rejected Mather’s theory, pinning the blame on both Cotton Mather and Reverend Parris in a socio-political explanation for the trials.
  • In this theory, Parris had beaten Tituba into falsely admitting that she had bewitched the girls in an attempt to use the witchcraft paranoia to seize back his own power that was diminishing in Salem Village.
  • Calef also believed that Mather saw Burroughs as a rival and therefore had an interest in Burroughs’s execution.
  • Author Chadwick Hansen made a case for Cotton Mathers’s (relative) innocence in his book Witchcraft at Salem.
  • Both Tituba and Bridget Bishop had allegedly possessed items that were related to witchcraft (a witchcake and voodoo dolls, respectively).
  • Given how seriously witchcraft was taken in Puritan society, it can be argued that Mathers was simply enforcing the society’s rule of law.
  • In this theory, the girls’ hysteria is attributed to their knowledge of the evils of witchcraft and then witnessing its attempted use in their daily life.
  • A book called Salem Witchcraft by Charles Upham suggested that Tituba could have scared the girls with stories and ideas of witchcraft.
  • Hysteria then overcame the girls and both the Parris and Putnam families seized ahold of this hysteria to use against their enemies in the community.
  • According to Mary Beth Norton’s book In the Devil’s Snare, Norton theorizes that the main cause of the Salem Witch Trials was King William’s War.
  • The girls may have been experiencing post-traumatic stress after attacks from Native Americans
  • In addition, the hardships of the war had negatively impacted Governor Phipps’s administration. The specter of witchcraft offered a convenient outlet to place the blame for continuing problems like the number of refugees from the war in Salem.
  • While not necessarily a theory, it also bears mentioning that Salem Village was an extremely patriarchal place, where women were considered particularly susceptible to temptation from evil forces and naturally more sexual than men.
  • In The Devil in the Shape of a Woman, writer Carol F. Karlsen notes that while some men were accused of witchcraft, the majority of those accused were women over 40.
  • She speculates that because they were no longer in the care-giving stage of motherhood, their status as care-receivers made them vulnerable to attacks from the patriarchal society.
  • Also, older women have long been associated with the image of the “hag,” related to popular images of the witch.
  • John Demos’s book Entertaining Satan and his article “Underlying Themes in the Witchcraft of Seventeenth-Century New England,” also suggests that the age and demographic of the accusers and the accused could reveal more about the causes of the accusations.
  • He theorizes that the girls were reacting to the repressive Puritan culture by acting out against the demographic they interpreted as repressing them- mother figures.
  • The “bewitchments” gave the girls an outlet to act out their frustrations with a society that was repressing them.
  • Boys in Salem did not interact as closely with these mother figures, so that could be why they did not participate in the accusations.
  • Demos also suggests that the attacks against the girls (which included biting and sucking) are connected to the breastfeeding associated with motherhood.
  • Mary Ryan, a historian, posited a similar theory, but instead of acting out against their mothers, Ryan suggested that the girls were acting out against the societal pressure of motherhood itself.
  • Marriage and motherhood were the expectations for girls in Puritan society, and the inability to achieve these expectations was seen as a failure.
  • Fear of achieving these goals or fear and frustration with the goals themselves could have inspired the girls to act out their aggression.
  • Some believe that mass hysteria can explain the actions of the girls who made accusations during the Salem Witch Trials.
  • The girls demonstrated signs of mass hysteria, which includes an inability to control emotions that ultimately results in extreme reactions of fear or other emotional reactions, like weeping.
  • Research note: it’s accepted in most literature written about the Salem Witch Trials that some level of hysteria was at work in Salem during this time. The word “hysteria” is used throughout most descriptions of the Salem Witch Trials.
  • Additional Sources: [1] [2] [3]


Background on Jonathan Corwin House

  • The Jonathan Corwin house is the only existing house in Salem with a connection to the Salem Witch Trials.
  • Many refer to the Jonathan Corwin house as “The Witch House,” but this is misleading because no accused witches ever lived there.
  • Judge Jonathan Corwin, a wealthy merchant in Salem, was a local leader at the time who sat on the infamous Court of Oyer and Terminer.
  • In 1675, 24-year-old Corwin purchased the house, which is known for being an iconic example of 1600s architecture.
  • The house remained in his family until the mid-19th century.
  • It was almost destroyed in 1944, but a group of citizens raised money to move the building and restore it to its former glory.
  • According to a Facebook post by Salem State University, the house was moved 35 feet back to allow the road to be widened.
  • Today, the Jonathan Corwin house serves as a museum about both the Salem Witch Trials and life in the 1600s in general.
  • Additional Sources: [1] [2]


Background on Howard Street Cemetery:

  • The Howard Street Cemetery is one of three cemeteries deemed significant to the Salem Witch Trials.
  • The Howard Street Cemetery is said to be the site of Giles Corey’s execution (of being pressed to death).
  • According to USA Today, it is also apparently the site of the “witch dungeon,” although I can’t find any other sources backing that up.
  • According to roadtrippers.com, Giles Corey’s ghost haunts the Howard Street Cemetery and plagues any sheriff of Salem.
  • Legend has it that sheriffs sometimes wake up with feeling a weight on their chests and see Giles Corey’s ghost nearby.
  • The ghost apparently shows himself before any disasters in the town.
  • Some even connect Giles Corey’s ghost to the Great Salem Fire in 1914.


Background on Witch Trial Memorial:

  • In 1992, Witch Trials Memorial in Salem was dedicated by Nobel Laureate, author, and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.
  • The memorial is located near Charter Street Cemetery.
  • None of the executed are buried there, but some of the judges, like John Hathorne, are.
  • The executed were all buried in unmarked graves.
  • Maggie Smith and James Cutler won a competition to design the memorial.
  • Smith and Cutler were inspired by the Vietnam Memorial.
  • The Memorial is made up of stone benches, one for each of the executed.
  • They each say a name of executed, their day of death, and way they were executed.
  • The memorial cost approximately $100,000 to build.
  • Salem is also in the process of adding another memorial where it is believed that 19 of the accused were hanged.
  • It will be designed to be “tasteful place for reflection.”
  • Funds from the “Witch House” will be used for the costs of upkeep at this new memorial.
  • Additional Sources: [1] [2] [3]


Primary Sources:


Additions for Ryan:

  • A judge named John Hawthorne, who was known for presuming guilt before innocence.
  • John Proctor, George Jacobs, and Rebecca Nurse were all reburied by their families, according to Salem State University Professor Emerson Baker.
  • I can’t find any info about where John Proctor is specifically buried.
  • According to legend (explained by Baker), Rebecca Nurse’s son reburied her body on their family’s land in an unmarked grave.
  • Rebecca Nurse was reburied in the Nurse family cemetery on her homestead.
  • It’s possible that George Jacobs’s body was found in the 1900s. The remains found show a potential broken neck as a cause of death.
  • These remains were reburied in their final resting place at Rebecca Nurse’s house.
  • The rest of the victim’s graves could theoretically be anywhere in the area.
  • “If it is in the front yard of a McDonald’s, so much the better. Then they could mark the location and let the people rest in peace.”- Professor Emerson Baker
  • Though initially suspected to be Gallows Hill, Proctor’s Ledge is the site in which researchers believe the 19 witchcraft executions took place people during the infamous Salem Witch Trials.
  • The location is near a Walgreens on Boston Street.
  • No victims are buried at Proctor’s Ledge
  • It is named for a descendent of John Proctor’s.
  • A memorial is currently in construction at this site which should be completed by spring or early summer.
  • Giles Corey was buried in an unmarked grave on Gallows Hill.
  • This account says that George Burroughs was “buried beneath the gallows,” but researchers don’t think that anyone is buried at Proctor’s Ledge. Perhaps it is referring to Gallows Hill?
  • Additional Sources: [1] [2]


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