Logo   Salem Witch Trials - 1692
The Salem Witch Trial Memorial off Charter Street in Salem MA commemorates the 24 people who died as a result of the Salem witch hunts of 1692.




Fear of witchcraft was common during the 1600s. Many people had been charged, tortured, found guilty and burned at the stake in Europe in centuries past.

The belief that a person could make a pact with the devil and gain extraordinary powers was brought with the Puritans to the colonies of Massachusetts Bay. Reverend Cotton Mather, the fiery hellfire-and-damnation Puritan preacher, wrote what many believed to be the definitive book on witchcraft, its methods and practices.

Before 1692, 44 people in Massachusetts Bay had been accused of witchcraft, and three had been sentenced to death and executed.

In March 1692, two girls near Salem, Betty Parris and her cousin Abigail, perhaps influenced by Cotton Mather's witchcraft text, began acting as though "possessed" by the devil.

The girls accused a half-black, half-Indian slave woman named Tituba of witchcraft. Under torture and fear of death, Tituba "confessed" to being a witch, begged forgiveness to save her life, and accused two other women of having joined her as witches.

Soon the accusations were being made by everyone, of everyone. Even prominent clergy, merchants and other leading personages were being accused.

Six months after Betty and Abigail started the madness, 156 people had been accused and 55 had pleaded "guilty," implicating others to save their own lives. Fourteen women and five men who refused to confess were found guilty and hanged, and four others died in jail of illness. One man who refused to plead either guilty or not guilty had boards and heavy stones stacked upon him until he was crushed to death.

But when the leading people of the colony began to be accused, they put a stop to the trials, released those awaiting trial, and even paid some restitution to the families of the innocent who had been put to death.

Those who come to Salem each Hallowe'en to revel in the carnival atmosphere of "witches" and "black arts" seem to forget one important fact:

There were never any "witches" in Salem!

There were only ill-informed, misguided, spiritually weak people whose childish hysteria resulted in the tragic deaths of two dozen of their neighbors.

I, for one, wish that the annual celebration would be one of mutual respect, the rule of reason, and true justice: the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven.

But that would be neither fun nor profitable, so it's unlikely to happen.

—by Tom Brosnahan

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Memorial Park, Salem MA

Above, Salem Witch Trials Memorial Park: each stone bench honors a person executed.

Below, good clean commercial fun?
What about the 24 people who died?


Psychic Fair Sign, Salem MA



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