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Witch Trials of Salem Village - Not Quite
When the Salem Witch Trials are brought up, people naturally think of Salem, Massachusetts. They actively proclaim themselves the "witch city" and the famous, or infamous to some, silhouette of a pointy-hatted witch astride a broom is seen everywhere. And wait until October. The entire month is dedicated to Halloween, building and building until it reaches a crescendo on the 31st when streets are blocked off and extra members of Salem's finest are put on patrol to keep up with the "witchy" revelry.
In Salem one can go see the Salem Witch Museum, the Wax Museum of Witches & Seafarers, the Witch History Museum, or become part of the dramatic recreations of the trials at the Witch Dungeon or the Cry Innocent where the visitors are the jury. The only building however with direct ties to the hysteria of 1692 is Judge Jonathan Corwin's home called the Witch House. But Salem has a lot to offer. There are spell parlors, Count Orlock's Nightmare Gallery, the Hocus Pocus tours, and legend after legend of hauntings on street corners, up in the cemeteries, and even one story of the hanging tree that some can point out to you while others who've researched it simply cannot prove still stands after over 300 years.
But Salem is not the center of the history of the witch hysteria. Salem, as it stands today is not the Salem Village of the late 1600's. The land that the city sits on was called Salem Town. Villagers moved a little bit north to the farmlands known as Danvers Highlands. Petitioning for independance, they became known as Salem Village in 1672 with the Reverand Samuel Parris being the voice of the church in the parish. It was here that the first accusations took place with Rev. Parris's own 9-year old daughter and 12-year old niece being the first of the girls to fall into fits. When the doctor found nothing physically wrong with the girls, he cried witchcraft and the girls readily agreed. They pointed their fingers at three women of the parish: Sarah Osburn, Sarah Good, and Parris's slave, Tituba. No member of the commuity was safe from being accused. One example of upstanding members of the parish being accused is the story of Rebecca Nurse whose home, a fair sized amount of her family's land, and the famiiy cemetery still remain in the shadow of Hathorne Hill where the Danvers State Insane Asylum sits.
It is Danvers that has deliberately taken a back seat to Salem in profiting from the witch trials. At 176 Hobart Street in Danvers, you'll find the Salem Village Witchcraft Victims' Memorial. It is sitting beside the street in front of a ball field. Parking is on the street. As is best, the memorial is simple but powerful. There are two parts. Standing vertical is a three-panel granite wall that has the 17th century spelling of the names of the 24 men and women and one child who died as a result of the witch hysteria. The towns where these victim's were originally from are listed which includes Salem Village, Salem Farmes (Peabody), Salem, Andover, Billerica, Amesbury, Reading, Topsfield, Marblehead and Rowley.
In front of the panels is a granite sarcophagus on which is a slanted, granite Bible box with a book laying open on it. The box itself is carved with several different rosettes typical of the designs found on gravestones all around New England. The open book is inscribed in 17th century typeface with, "THE BOOK OF LIFE." Puritans accused of being practicing witchcraft were said to have signed the "devil's book." But all refused to admit to this hoping that, even if they were put to death, God would know of their innocence and their names would be found in His Book of LIfe. Also on the sarcophagus are a set of large-scale reproduction shackles.
It is a powerful memorial to the victim's of fear, ignorance, avarice, and greed. The Rebecca Nurse homestead is a beautiful, peaceful museum to tour. There are links below to Salem and its many attractions, to the Memorial, and to the Rebecca Nurse Homestead.
- Salem Village Witchcraft Victims\' Memorial
Details and directions to Salem Village Witchcraft Victims' Memorial
- Danvers\' witch history - Boston.com
A link to some photos and brief information about Danvers and the witch trials from Boston.com
- Destination Salem - Official Tourist Guide to Salem Massachusetts
Official Salem tourist website.