Friday, October 25, 2013

Of Witches and Wizards in Salem, Massachusetts...

With a Halloween theme of "Witches and Wizards," I certainly have to include a blog on the notorious Salem, Massachusetts witch trials. My husband and I have several ancestors who lived in Massachusetts during the witch hunts and though none of them lived in Essex County, they lived near enough to know about them. I wonder what they thought. Did they believe the accused were actually witches and warlocks, or did they think the whole thing utter nonsense? I suppose I'll never know, but I'm hoping they kept a level head during the months of mass hysteria.

"Examination of a witch" by Thompkins H. Matteson 1853

Between February of 1692 and May of 1693, nineteen people were hanged, one man met his death under a heavy load of rocks, and five died in jail.  Over a hundred more were accused and imprisoned. Some were condemned, but not executed, and some even confessed to the charges of witchcraft. However, many of them, such as, Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Sarah Wildes, Elizabeth Howe, Sarah Good, and Bridget Bishop, stood before their accusers and vehemently proclaimed their innocence.

With such goings on, it's no wonder that Salem, Massachusetts is considered one of America's most haunted cities.

Take the Old Salem Jail, for instance. This is one of the most haunted buildings in Salem. In this building, a black figure is said to walk through walls, while various other apparitions meander around and throughout the structure.  There are those who believe that, besides many victims of the witch trials, the spirits of several civil war soldiers reside here as well.

Inside the Joshua Ward House, the spirit of Sheriff George Corwin, who rounded up the accused witches, haunts this place, and so does Giles Corey. Giles is the man who was pressed to death under a pile of rocks after spending five months inside a filthy prison, locked in chains.  And, oh, by the way? George conducted (by direct order) the torture inflicted upon Giles in an effort to make the man confess. Giles never did, though.  

What an unlikely pair they must make...especially since Corey's last words in mortality is purported to have been, “Damn you Sheriff. I curse you and Salem." Now the interesting thing about this curse is that every succeeding Sheriff occupying the office either died from a heart attack while serving, or contracted some type of blood ailment that forced him to retire.
1720-Title page of "A Modest Enquiry into the Nature of Witchcraft"

Speaking of curses, Sarah Good, one of the victims of the Salem Witch trials, said to the Reverend Nicholas Noyes (minister and participant in the Salem witch trials), "God will give you blood to drink."  In the year 1717, the Noyes died from an internal hemorrhage and choked on his own blood, thus fulfilling Sarah's prophecy.

Any thoughts on the Salem Witch Trials? I'd love to hear them...


  1. The Salem Witch Trials were such a dark period in our history. It's hard to believe that sane, rational adults succumbed to such mass hysteria and fear. I still shudder when I read the tales of those times.

    I was able to visit Salem years ago in the month of October, and there was plenty of spookiness and history to be found in the streets, though I don't recall visiting any of the buildings you mentioned. The tales of Giles Corey and Sarah Good are mesmerizing. It's hard to write off Noyes demise and the fate of all the sheriffs who followed Corwin as coincidental.

    A great Halloween post, Debbie!

  2. I agree on the coincidence issue...A fate well deserved? Thanks for stopping by Mae! I love your visits and comments!