Sunday, March 15, 2009

Visit to Salem

I was prompted to visit Salem today after Friday the 13th as part of an assignment for a flickr group that I am a member of. The group encourages members to take photographs in a weekly theme.

I mentioned elsewhere in this blog that my most viewed photograph on Flickr is of Suzannah Martin - one of the Salem Witches who was hanged in 1692.

Salem village was where Danvers is today, and is where most of the trials were held. There is a separate memorial across the road from where the old meeting house was where many of the examinations took place.

Salem was the port

The old burial ground in Salem has the grave of John Hathorne, who was the magistrate and chief interrogator in the infamous witch trials in Salem Village in 1692.

John Hathorne lived at the top of the hill that was to become the Danvers State Lunatic Asylum that HP Lovecraft fictionalized as Arkham Sanitarium and was also used in Batman comics as a tribute to Lovecraft.

The engraving at the top reminds me of an angel of death.

The inscription says: "Here lies inter'd the body of Col John Hathorne Esq, Aged 76years who died May 10 1717". So he lived 25 years after the trial.

Nathaniel Hawthorne the famos author of "The House of Seven Gables" and "The Scarlet Letter" was a relative of his. He added the "w" to his name to dissociate from the witch trials.

Of the victims of the witch hunt, one who has the most striking story for me is Giles Corey.

He refused to plead guilty or innocent in his trial and was subjected to a torture that was supposed to encourage a plea... he had a board placed on him and was pressed to death over a few days by having stones packed on the board. He died on September 19, 1692. He was over 80 years old. Aside from his contempt of the process, a motive for his refusal to plead was that his farm would go to the state if he was found guilty. He wanted his sons to inherited it. He is said to have called for more weight when he was asked to plea during his torture and those were his last words.

His third wife, Martha was hanged for witchcraft on the 22nd of September, 1692.

Legend has it that Giles Corey's ghost appears in Salem before a major catastrophe. A figure was seen walking in the graveyard before the Great Salem fire of 1914.

A Wikipedia article gives a good account of all of this.

There are several countries in the world where people are still being accused, persecuted and killed for being suspected witches. A newspaper article, as recently as 2008, reports of a witch killing in South Africa.

Martha Corey was the wife of Giles Corey and was hanged on Sept 22, two days after he succumbed to being pressed to death for refusing to plead guilty.

Her son was given $50 in restitution for her death in 1723

Sarah Good was one of the three first accused as witches in the Salem Witch hysteria of 1692. She and her husband had been forced to sell their property and were destitute. She was reduced to begging and grew angry with people who were not charitable to her.

A interesting account in Famous American Trails describes how when she was about to be hanged, a minister tried to extract a confession. The article (by Douglas Linder) describes her response "You are a liar. I am no more a witch than you are a wizard, and if you take away my life God will give you blood to drink." Her curse seems to have come true. Noyes died of internal hemorrhage, bleeding profusely at the mouth. Despite the seemingly effectiveness of her curse, it likely just further convinced the crowds of her guilt.

Elizabeth was one of the victims of the Salem Witch hysteria in 1692. She was accused and examined on May 31 by John Hawthorne and two other judges, tried and condemned a month later and hanged with four other women on July 19 of that year.

She said "If it was the last moment I was to live, God knows I am innocent of anything of this nature" in response to the accusations against her.

Her trial and accusation is an interesting example of how far afield the rumors went. She lived in Ipswich which is a fair distance from Danvers - back in those days probably half a day's ride on horseback.

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