This is my Empire State College Capstone Project entitled Virtual Tours in History.
PART 1: SALEM MASSACHUSETTS – View the Virtual Tour
Salem, MA is located about 25 miles north of Boston. It was founded in 1626 making it one of the oldest towns in the United States. Salem is best known for the witchcraft hysteria of 1692. This is one of the darkest episodes in U.S. history, and modern parallels can be found to “witch hunting” such as McCarthy hearings on communism in 1954.
In 1692 Salem was a rigid Puritan community and there was widespread belief in the supernatural. There was controversy brewing between the residents of Salem Town and Salem Village regarding property rights and the appointment of a local minister. The Village residents were unhappy with the choice of Reverend Samuel Parris as minister for several years prior to the beginning of the witchcraft allegations.
When a group of young girls, including Parris’ daughter Betty, began exhibiting signs of mysterious emotional episodes with convulsions, blasphemous screaming, and trancelike states, Satan was blamed for their condition since no medical reason could be found. The Puritans believed that Satan could attack a victim through an intermediary such as a witch. The girls said they had visions of three local women who appeared to them as apparitions and tried to harm them. The cycle of accusations began in earnest when more townspeople came forward to say they had been personally harmed by servants of the devil. More than likely the accusations were just a ploy to take their neighbor’s land or settle personal scores.
Today there is only one building standing which was directly affiliated with the Salem Witch Trials. It is called the “Witch House” and in 1692 it was the home of Magistrate Jonathan Corwin. Many pre-trial examinations of the men and women accused of witchcraft were held at this location. The original house was built circa 1642 and this current incarnation was restored by the city in 1946. The Witch House has since become a major tourist attraction in Salem, but offers visitors a unique experience of what life was life in 17th and 18th century New England.
The photos from inside the Witch House show the Corwin’s parlor or best room, where he would conduct business or entertain at social events. The fine furnishings are an indicator of Corwin’s high standing in the community. The documents shown are reproductions of those dealing with the witchcraft trials. The Hall was the most frequently used room in the house and was used as a kitchen during the winter months. Photos in the tour show some of the items used on a daily basis by members of the family. There is one set of narrow stairs to ascend to the second floor of the house. In one of the upstairs rooms there are some items related to textile production including a wool spinning wheel and a large flax loom. Rope beds consist of mattresses stuffed with straw or feathers which were laid across a set of ropes. The photo of a bed in another room demonstrates how drapes were used to keep out light, dust and drafts. The drapes also offered a little privacy for the parents. The bed is actually a trundle bed where young children could sleep near their parents.
As a result of the witchcraft hysteria over 150 people were arrested from Salem and the surrounding communities. Twenty-five people would lose their lives: nineteen were executed, one pressed to death on the court’s order, and another five would die in jail. The photos in the tour show the location of the Burying Point, the oldest burying ground in Salem dated 1637. Some prominent citizens from Salem’s history are interred here including Justice John Hathorne from the witchcraft trials court.
Adjacent to the Burying Ground is the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. It was dedicated in 1992 and consists of twenty granite benches supported by a low stone wall. Each bench is inscribed with a name for one of the twenty people who were executed. Bridget Bishop was the first person executed on June 10, 1692. An elderly woman, Rebecca Nurse, and four others were executed on July 19. John Proctor and four others followed on August 19. On September 19 Giles Corey was pressed to death with stones for refusing to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. September 22 proved to be the most deadly day with eight executions including Mary Easty, Mary Parker, Giles Corey’s wife Martha, and Wilmot Redd.
Visitors leave coins and flowers on the memorial stones. The victims of the Salem Witch Trials will be remembered…
Geography.About.com. “Oldest Cities in the United States.” Accessed 12.11.15.
Salem.org. “Salem History.” Accessed 12.11.15.
Katherine W. Richardson, The Salem Witchcraft Trials, (The Peabody Essex Museum Salem, MA: 2008), 6-10.
Leo Bonfanti, The Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692 Volume 1, New England Historical Series, (Old Saltbox Publishing: 1994), 15.
Salem Witch House. From photos of posted documentation throughout the site. Visited 10.12.15. http://witchhouse.info/
Salemweb.com. “The Salem Witch Trials Memorial.” Accessed 12.11.15. http://www.salemweb.com/memorial/memorial.php
Frances Hill, A Delusion of Satan, (Da Capo Press, 2002), 229.