I would love to visit Salem after a big Italian meal at my grandmother’s house in Wakefield. As a child, I was always fascinated with the city’s history and never tired of visiting the Witchcraft Museum and the Witch Dungeon.
The events which led to the Witch Trials actually occurred in what is now the town of Danvers, then known as Salem Village and not in Salem. 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 local doctor concluded that the children were suffering from the effects of witchcraft, and the young girls corroborated the doctor’s diagnosis. With encouragement from a number of adults in the community, the girls, who were soon joined by other “afflicted” Salem residents.
In February, 1692, three accused women were examined by Magistrates Jonathan Corwin and John Hawthorne. Corwin’s home, known as the Witch House, still stands at the corner of North and Essex Streets in Salem.
During the next few months, more than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft—the Devil’s magic—and 20 were executed.
By early autumn of 1692, Salem’s lust for blood was ebbing. Doubts were developing as to how so many respectable people could be guilty. Reverend John Hale said, ” It cannot be imagined that in a place of so much knowledge, so many in so small compass of land should abominably leap into the Devil’s lap at once.”
In May of 1693, P Governor Phips released from prison all remaining accused or convicted witches. The witches disappeared, but witch hunting in America did not. Each generation must learn the lessons of history or risk repeating its mistakes.
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