Salem, MA, is a city with 2 sides. One is a serene, historic harbor filled with quaint shops and tree-lined streets. The other side is a somber and sordid place where the foreboding presence of the 1692 Witch Trials still looms.
The deadliest and most-far reaching witch hunt in American history ravaged the streets of Salem, MA. Some say the horror of the witch trials was so profound that its supernatural echoes can still be heard on Salem's streets. Hundreds were executed or jailed
The first seeds of trouble arrived with the Puritans in 1630. It was a family dispute in Rev. Samuel Parris' household in 1692 that sparked the hunt. Parris' slave, Tituba, taught his daughters and other women in the community 'witchy' little games that were just intended to be fun and entertaining.
Rev. Parris caught Tituba teaching his children these tricks in the kitchen. His daughters quickly went into wild hysterics and a doctor claimed the girls were 'bewitched.' When asked who 'bewitched' them; they said Tituba. Parris' slave was arrested. She admitted that she was a witch, but she also alleged that two other women in the community were witches. It was also believe that Tituba, also known as the 'Black Witch of Salem,' may have practiced Voodoo, but her ethnic origins remain a mystery today.
Other women showed signs of 'bewitchment' and claimed other members of the community were witches. It was the start of a vicious cycle. Ultimately hundreds were jailed and twenty were put to death. The first woman convicted of witchcraft during Salem's trials was a hot-tempered siren named Bridget Bishop. Bishop owned a notorious tavern where she served alcohol and people gambled. This was seen as unnatural and evil in what was then a very religious community.
Several men claimed that Bridget came to them in their dreams, proving that she was a witch. Bridget Bishop became the first hanging victim of the Salem Witch hysteria on June 10, 1692.
Today, the History Alive Theater Company recreates Bridget's trial each week for tourists. Some say that Bridget's fiery spirit haunts the Lyceum Bar and Grill. Her apparition has been seen in the last window of the bar. The Lyceum is actually the site where Bridget Bishop owned an apple orchard.
By the time the Salem Witch Trials came to a close, more than 150 people had been incarcerated and 19 were hanged. The majority of those tried were women, but there was one 80-year-old man whose story haunts Salem to this day.
Prosperous farmer Giles Corey was an enticing target. In Salem, if you were found guilty of a crime, the Sheriff would take your property and divided it up among the village. Giles was accused of witchcraft, but he never entered a guilty plea; even when the Sheriff placed heavy rocks on a plank on top of Giles to get him to enter a guilty plea. After two days, Giles died uttering his last words, "I curse you and Salem."
Four years later the Sheriff dropped dead of a heart attack. There are chilling reports of Giles' angry ghost lurking around one of Salem's oldest graveyards, the Howard Street Cemetery . Many believe that Giles' ghost is a bad omen, appearing only before a major disaster strikes Salem.
No curse was more potent than that of local beggar woman Sarah Good. Sarah Good was far from the Puritan ideal of a woman. So when she was accused; everyone believed she was guilty. She smoke a pipe, never went to church and she was poor. No one on the trial had a legal background, but her estranged husband testified against her and the court frightened her 5-year-old daughter into testifying against her.
Sarah appeared in front of notorious hanging judge John Hawthorne. He was a very enthusiastic witch hunter. Hawthorne showed no mercy and sentenced Sarah to death, despite the fact that she was pregnant. She was sentenced to 7 months in jail where her newborn died within days. She had no food and no bedding.
Sarah's final words came just before her execution. She told Rev. Noyes that if she was executed, "God will give you blood to drink." Twenty-five years later, Rev. Noyes had an aneurism and it burst - blood flooded his throat and lungs.
To make his right the wrongs of the Salem Witch Trials, Literary giant Nathaniel Hawthorne, grandson of Judge John Hathorne, wrote "The House of Seven Gables." The novel was a chilling reworking of Sarah Good's curse, exposing the famous witch trials as hypocrisy and injustice.
Many people who visit the House of Seven Gables feel a general sense of foreboding and an oppressive atmosphere, or an icy feel to the house. More than a 100,000 visitors cross the house's threshold each year and many report strange encounters, including a rocking chair rocking by itself.
Take a trip to Salem and explore the history and discover the haunts that still exist long after the mysterious Salem Witch Trials.