Salem, 2011 – Witches and Dark History

I knew Salem would be another emotionally charged stop for us, as it’s ground zero for the infamous Salem Witch Trials, a dark time in 1692 where twenty people were executed for crimes of suspected witchcraft. Others who were accused died in prison, and it’s suspected roughly 200 people in total were suspected of witchcraft at some point during the hysteria. The trials were eventually deemed unlawful, and the families of the victims were compensated, though by that time the damage was long done.

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Our day began with some lighter history – a guided tour through the House of the Seven Gables.

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The site is best known for containing the building where author Nathaniel Hawthorne was born. The rooms are all maintained and preserved to retain their original appearance. The accuracy is a bit laughable given that the building in which Hawthorne was born originally wasn’t located at the site. It was moved there in 1958, so that his birthplace would rest next to the home made famous by his novel The House of the Seven Gables.

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We also checked out the first church in Salem, an adorable, castle-like church I fell in love with.

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After that, we turned to Salem’s darker history and visited The Witch House, a museum displaying information about the trials located in the home once owned by Jonathan Corwin, one of the judges during the trials.

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Witch hunts were nothing new to history, of course. If there was even the slightest evidence that you might be a witch in medieval times, you likely didn’t stand a chance. Even the witch hunt in Salem in 1692 wasn’t the first one in the United States.

The Witch House offered countless items detailing the horrors of the trials and what the victims faced in execution. No item hit me harder than the list of the victim’s names and their execution dates, proof of the terrible results unwarranted suspicion can cause. It is particularly hard for me now to not draw parallels to current events and the sometimes unsavory reactions people have had.

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Our final stop of the day was in keeping with the mood set by The Witch House; a graveyard with some notable burials.

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Salem feels like a city whose history is impossible to escape. If you find yourself there, it seems almost mandatory that you check out at least one witch trial related place and immerse yourself in the tragic history spawned by fear of a mistaken enemy.

Have you been to Salem? If so, did you feel the pull of history?

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