The city of Salem, Massachusetts is a place that has embraced their spooky place in history. It's a city that has become the hub of all things scary and macabre around Halloween, and I couldn't wait to go there this year. I love Halloween. From the spooky costumes to the haunted festivities. The city had its first Haunted Happenings Festival in 1982 that attracted over 50,000 people. It feels like that many people were on the streets the day I went there with friends for Halloween in 2017. Halloween Salem and witch trials seem to go hand-in-hand.
Salem is a city located in Essex County, Massachusetts in the United States. Most people associate the city with the Salem witch trial in 1692, which is very much exploited on a touristic level. The accused were actually from the nearby village now known as Danvers. That's where the events unfolded.
The proceedings and the trial itself took place in the city in May 1692. The city had 40,407 people in the 2000 census and a vibrant downtown area with more than 60 restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops.
The Salem Witch Trial is a famous episode in US colonial history that resulted in the conviction and execution of people accused of witchcraft in 1692 in Massachusetts. Generally analyzed as stemming from a period of infighting and puritanical paranoia, this trial resulted in the execution of twenty-five people and the imprisonment of many more.
Before 1692, there had been rumors in some nearby villages of people practicing witchcraft. Cotton Mather was a minister in Boston who wrote a number of pamphlets revolving around his belief in witchcraft. He says he was a witness to witchcraft surround the children of John Goodwin.
The oldest child of Goodwin was “tempted by the devil” when he stole some cloth from Goody Glover. Glover was a cranky old woman and was called a witch by her husband. When the Goodwin children began to behave strangely, the old woman was said to have cast spells on them. The symptoms of their fits included neck and back pain, loud screaming, and flailing of their bodies that couldn't be controlled. These were the symptoms that would overwhelm many people in 1692 and cause the village to call it witchcraft.
Two children, Betty Parris and Abigail Williams, were among the first to be afflicted with these symptoms. The women charged with casting a spell on the two young girls were Ann Putnam Jr., Elizabeth Hubbard, Tituba, Sarah Osborne, and Sarah Good.
It's believed that Sarah Good was accused because she was a beggar without a home. She was accused of witchcraft as well as the rejection of ideas that were Puritan in nature. Sarah Osborne frequently missed church meetings, and believed that she was too interested in herself after her marriage to an indentured servant. Each of the accused women was an outcast from the village in some way.
Salem didn't have a court system in place yet. The court of Oyer and Terminer was established in June 2, 1692. The first case brought to the court was against Bridget Bishop. She was examined during her trial and found to wear odd, black clothing that didn't fit with their Puritan lifestyle. She was executed 8 days later.
Anyone who believed that a recent death or illness was brought about by witchcraft, they would bring a complaint to the magistrates who would arrest the person. The evidence against the accused would often include what was called spectral evidence. The testimony from the accuser would tell of a spectral shape of the accused who afflicted them. It was believed that the Devil had to be invited to use the person's shape, so they were guilty of working with the Devil.
Most of those who were accused of witchcraft were found guilty and hanged. In 1711, the General Court reversed the judgment against 22 of the people who were charged.
Today, there are members of the witch and modern pagan community who make their home in the city. They use October, which is Samhain as an opportunity to share their celebrations and beliefs with the public.
People are drawn to this location every year around Halloween where they're able to participate in spooky ghost tours and guided tours of the graveyard where the accused are laid to rest.
When I visited, there were hundreds of people on the streets. It was a bit past the middle of October, which is deep into the celebration. The graveyard was interesting, but most of the rest was a tourist's nightmare of huge crowds and expensive attractions.
Due to her status as a television witch, at least I'm assuming that, they had a bronze bigger than life statue of the star of Bewitched. I had to take pictures while stretching over people's heads because there was an acapella group singing near her.
There were stones on the benches where the accused were named. Apparently, that's to help them pass into the afterlife. I'm not sure why that's a thing, but there you go.
As a person who absolutely loves Halloween, I expected to love this location. Ironically, it was too close to Halloween to really enjoy the visit.